The Big Bang, the Buddha, and the Baby Boom

From Chapter 6: "Flower Children"

by Wes "Scoop" Nisker

Being a hippie was kind of like being in a new religion. We didn’t exactly believe in a god—but we celebrated all of them, and the goddesses too. The ideas of Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung were in the air, and we understood that all the old religious stories were just stories, which meant that we could embrace them all as beautiful creations of human longing and imagination.

If you went to a hippie music concert or commune you might see every spiritual tradition represented: images of Egyptian pyramids, stars of David, Christian crosses, pictures of cherubs, Masonic icons, African tribal masks, Taoist yin-yang symbols, dream-catchers, nature fetishes—and the list could go on. Along with images of a handsome Native American smoking a pipe, and several of the multiarmed Hindu deities, one of the most visible symbols of the hippie religion was the Buddha, in all of his various poses.

The hippies were mythological collage artists, borrowing from various religions and cultures—whatever spoke to us or fit our fancy. Maybe we just wanted to feel connected to something: the universe, our bodies, the natural world, the movement of the planets (what’s your sign?), the mystery itself. Since we couldn’t seem to make these connections in our churches and synagogues, we started looking for them on the fringes of society and in other spiritual traditions. We turned to ancient pagan and mystical practices of meditation, breathwork, sweat lodges, tarot and astrology, music and drugs.

The hippie was full of optimism and sweet innocence and wore clothing of many colors, leading to the designation “flower child.” The beatnik costume had been working class, with old denim and black sweaters and the ever-present sunglasses through which to view the world darkly, and the punks and hip-hoppers would later return to those dark fashions, but only after the colorful hippies had dragged bohemia out of the shadows for a brief moment in the sun. The hippie was a bohemian of a different stripe.

Hippie politics was very simple; some would call it naive. We had no economic analysis or five-year plan: we simply wanted a transformation of consciousness and a world of peace, love, and good vibes. Is that too much to ask? Of course we didn’t know what we were doing, any more than anyone ever does, but we did our best to articulate our vision. As yip-pie leader Abbie Hoffman told me in a radio interview when I asked him for his views on socialism: “I think that all ‘isms’ should be ‘wasms."

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