I have an ex-relative who is bipolar and – in the time honored tradition of many bipolars – about every two or three years he decides to stop taking his medications and blow up his life.
After a certain amount of sleep deprivation during the manic phases he’d start making statements like, “A coven of witches is sending energy beams at my head.” And, because of my belief systems, I’d have to actually stop and wonder, “Well . . . IS a coven of witches sending energy beams at his head?” And, no, they weren’t, probably because he was an obnoxious, shallow, self-centered twit and why bother to curse someone when they’re doing such a good job of it themselves?
It did start me thinking, though, about so many of the things that we take for granted in New Age terminology, things which would have been considered totally loony tunes about 75 years ago.
Auras. Energy fields. Spirit Guides. Telepathic communication. Totem animals. Chakras. These are all so commonplace and accepted today that you can actually go into your therapist’s office and discuss them with him or her. Perhaps they’ll even recommend a therapeutic massage to clear a blocked second chakra.
It was a far different story in the 1950s, though. If you told a psychologist that you saw glowing auras around people, or that you were receiving guidance from invisible entities from another dimension, or that particular animals communicate with you telepathically, you’d be on your way to the nearest locked psych ward. And there you would be rewarded for your beliefs with electroshock therapy or insulin shock or even a lobotomy if you continued to cling to your, “delusions.”
It actually makes me wonder if some of the mental patients back then were simply experiencing phenomena that our society had no explanation for or grasp of at the time. Maybe they WERE talking with angels. Who knows?
A few advanced thinkers such as Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing emerged in the 1960s and suggested that perhaps schizophrenics were actually experiencing EXACTLY what they were reporting and the best, “treatment,” was to just care for them and let them heal on their own. For the most part, though, if you held New Age beliefs in the 1950s or the early 60s, you were MAD, darling. Quite, quite mad.
The Moon is the Tarot card that has traditionally represented psychosis and delusion. The light in the card is murky and objects are out of focus and ill defined. A crustacean crawls out of the still pool of the unconscious while a dog and a wolf bay at the glowing orb overhead. A rope on the ground might be mistaken for a snake, a dark bush for a lurking beast. The lines of reality are blurred and indistinct.
That may well have been the way that a person who was channeling or highly sensitive to psychic phenomenon would have experienced the world in the 1950s. So what happened between then and the emergence of New Age philosophy in the 1970s?
Well, the 1960s happened, obviously. A fairly substantial number of people took a fairly substantial amount of psychedelic drugs and began to view the world and life as magical rather than mundane. There was a reemergence of occultism, Tarot cards became commonplace in any hippie household, and people began to talk a lot about astral travel and, “vibrations,” of energy (“I’m picking up bad vibes, man.”)
I think one of the most defining moments, though, was the publication of, “The Teachings of Don Juan,” by Carlos Castaneda in 1968. A new term entered the common lexicon: “nonordinary reality.”
As Castaneda employed it, it was used to describe the three worlds that shamans pass through on their journeys, but it fit so perfectly with all of the spiritual views that were emerging in the 1970s.
There was suddenly an acceptance that there isn’t just one consensually shared reality. That there can be many, many different realities and they can ALL be just as true and just as valid as the, “reality,” that most people cling to.
Today we recognize the sacred connection that The Moon has with the human body and mind. We watch Her cycles, draw down Her energy, and gather together to celebrate when She’s at her zenith. The,”lunacy,” of the past has become the sanctified vision of the present.
We can finally share those, “nonordinary realities,” with each other and continue to grow and evolve spiritually through that shared knowledge. How sweet is that?
“I’ll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours.” – Bob Dylan