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I enjoyed your discussion of the Harmonic Convergence [“A New World,” Issue 143]. You made many important points about its hazy objective basis and its misdirected glitziness. Still, it seems to me that, blinded by the lights of UFOs that never arrived, you overlooked the event’s most essential dimension.
During a slow month for news, the Harmonic Convergence was built up as an event of epic proportions. Jose Arguelles’s views on the second coming of Quetzalcoatl were taken literally for the superficial excitement they generated, rather than for their metaphorical depth or the light they shed on contemporary problems. Since the Harmonic Convergence had no immediate material results, it was easy to dismiss it as a fluffy-headed failure.
However, it failed only on the surface level. The only people truly disappointed were the fringe who expected Atlantis to rise again or UFOs to encircle the Pentagon. Setting aside the question of exactly what Jose Arguelles believes, I submit that his incredible and convoluted claims served largely to generate attention. Such an attention-getting device has two major aspects: a carnival aspect and an artistic one. On one hand, a carnival sideshow attracts people with wild promises and then disappoints them with a sordid reality, an overage stripper or a bloated and half-dead python. On the other hand, people are often drawn to great art for similar reasons. For example, Shakespeare’s Hamlet overflows with gruesome murders, necrophilia, madness, and suggestions of incest. Such seventeenth-century glitz is only the surface veneer of a deep and complex drama. What the audience gains from immersion in the tragedy depends on its level of understanding and readiness. At best it can be a transcendent and multifaceted examination of the human condition.
For all the credulous ingenues or cynical media people that Arguelles drew in with his great galactic beams and feathered rainbow discs emerging from Mayan pyramids, he attracted an equal number who cared little about surface phenomena but were interested in serious spiritual transformation.
On an interior level, the Harmonic Convergence was unprecedented. It was a group inner event, the like of which has never occurred. Thousands of people world-wide meditated simultaneously and shared in purifying rituals, not in order to achieve some pre-ordained material result, but to rededicate themselves to ideals and to spirit. They worked at creating a psychic and spiritual energy in their personal lives that would extend to the greater world.
Obviously, the results of this group inner event are also inner. Let us say that only a bit of the purification took hold, that only a bit of the meditation led to increased spiritual development. Even a small result means that the world contains more spiritual rectitude than it did beforehand. The improvement in the lives of the participants, whether little or great, is likely to impinge upon the world in innumerable quiet ways. It is far too early to judge the effects of such an event.
The Harmonic Convergence represents in microcosm what has always characterized the developing spirituality of the Sixties generation: an energy that is inner-directed, invisible, hard-working, and that affects the culture in ways so subtle and varied as to defy analysis.
Here in Canada, where people may be just a little less jaded than in the States, I was as surprised by the vehemence of your reaction against the Harmonic Convergence as I was by the naivete with which people embraced it.
Apparently, many believed they were celebrating the actual time of transition to the new age as pinpointed in aboriginal calendars. Although I don’t know how the event was celebrated at the Grand Canyon and Stonehenge and the Pyramids, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear it was exploited by “new age” entrepreneurs. Still, what most impressed me here in Manitoba was the number of ad hoc celebrations put together by no central authority or profit-making agency. People felt inspired to gather together to meditate and chant and dance.
On the eve of August 17, and the following dawn, I attended a celebration in town open to anyone who wanted to participate. I admit I squirmed when the woman leading the guided visualization announced that “everyone here is now one of the 144,000 rainbow-enlightened beings.” Maybe I take these things too seriously, or maybe I have insufficient faith.
Reading your objection to the role of Jose Arguelles in proclaiming the Convergence, I wondered how else one reaches the public but via a publicist. In any case, Arguelles didn’t originate the message that we’re headed for a critical time of purification. As Bob Dylan said, “You don’t need a weatherman to see which way the wind blows.” Anyone looking at the current state of the world can see that employing our technology in the service of greed has caused the widespread destruction of nature and oppression of people. Our civilization is due to get sick — which may eventually be for the good, but is certainly a hazardous process. The strong point of the Harmonic Convergence was that it emphasized people gathering in the spirit of love, peace, cooperation, and interconnectedness, rather than pointing to a big doomsday blow-out. Perhaps some people were also thinking, “We need to charge our batteries and brace ourselves for the hard times ahead.”
It’s true that we don’t know how the practical changes are to come about. How do we actually go about disarming, or redistributing wealth? Can big business fall away without crushing the small businesses, by which people exchange goods and services on a level that still has meaning? Some things will have to go; some things will have to change. My concern is that The Sun may be more vulnerable than Time. And then there’s my friend who is struggling to establish a macrobiotic bakery. . . .
With the new age affirmations that God is within us comes the danger that we may forget to actually look and listen for that Presence in ourselves and in the person beside us. We can know what is needed for the time to come only if we pay attention and respond to the need of the moment. It may be that many of us in North America are in a position to focus on love, peace, and cooperation; however, if we were living in Nicaragua or Afghanistan, our love and cooperation would be expressed in struggle against the Empire.
It seems to me that the element missing from the Harmonic Convergence celebrations was that of humbleness, of groundedness. There is a way of owning our place in life, while relating ourselves to life greater than our own; a way of making ourselves connectors to the infinite source of compassion and wisdom. This is the way of prayer. If we overlooked it at the Harmonic Convergence, we might do well to remember it now.
I appreciated your clear and eloquent notes on the Convergence. It expressed much of what I feel.
On reading it a second time, I stopped short at your statement that “anticipation of an event that will transform history . . . makes us forget who we are, here and now, blinds us to the rich textures of our existence.” None of the twenty or so people I know personally who celebrated the Convergence were anticipating any history-transforming event; I got the feeling more of casting a vote.
I thought of using your phrase in a different way. In light of the US topic this month on Celebrations, we might understand the Convergence as a celebration in which we chose to “forget who we are,” drop our personal routines, jobs, interests, and in fact awaken to “the rich texture of our existence.” Unlike blinders, which force a horse to focus on the row ahead, the celebration forces our attention outward. We stop. We forget the row and remember the field.
“A New World” was right on. I have no patience with the sloppy thinking, mushy sentimentality, unbridled fantasy, and undisciplined passion that characterize much of the new age movement.
We enter the kingdom through much tribulation. Not masochism, but persistent effort.
Personally I enjoyed the Harmonic Convergence in the same way I enjoy New Year’s Eve. There’s a certain energy in the air whenever there’s so much agreement that a particular time or moment is going to be magical. Without any particular expectations, and without putting pressure on myself to be in the right place at the right time, I can just enjoy the excitement.
On the evening of August 16, I was sitting with some friends, two of whom, Cynthia and Erica, were in the middle of a two-week fast, which they had been talking about in detail. We were ruminating about the Harmonic Convergence, and whether we should all spend the night together somewhere, or camp out, or do something special. I said, “Just think, tomorrow morning at sunrise, thousands of people will be doing whatever they feel is most significant to bring in the new age. Some will meditate, some will make love, some will trip . . . and Cynthia and Erica will be taking their enemas.” It didn’t go over quite as well as I thought it would.