An Esoteric View of the 1960s and ’70s

Firstly, I want to make the claim that the evolution of consciousness is central to humanity’s task, which, by the way, is the development of freedom — refer to our creation myth with its starting point of eating from “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” and being denied eternal life and turned from the face of God. We were cut off, as it were, but not needlessly. The journey is long and it’s slow and it’s often a painful thing to witness, but we have an eternity to create freedom for a cosmic order where it doesn’t otherwise exist. (For the whole of the BIG picture you’ll just have to get my book.)

So, some recent historical perspective. When Jiddu Krishnamurti repudiated the claims of the theosophists that he was the new messiah, we assume that this assertion and the course of history prove him correct. With the aid of hindsight, however, we might consider that he has played a unique role in the advancement of our global spiritual consciousness.

In the latter part of the 19th century and into the 20th, Helena Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society was a highly respected form of spiritualism embraced by many of Europe’s intellectual elite. Krishnamurti was spotted by Charles Leadbetter, a Society leader and clairvoyant, who claimed him as a World Teacher and vehicle for the Maitreya. This was quite a claim. Among other things it caused Rudolf Steiner, the great mystic, scientist and pedagogue and at that time head of the German and Austrian branch of the Theosophical Society, to leave it and form The Anthroposophical Society. There would be only the one capital-I Incarnation, he asserted.

From the dim-witted boy he was purported to be, Krishnamurti received a good education both intellectually and spiritually. Although he went on to deny Theosophy’s claims of him, he became a spiritual teacher of great renown in the West, taking up residence in California. Events would conspire to give him a central role in momentous societal shifts.

After two World Wars, the events in Vietnam would become a catalyst for an irresistible peace movement in the West. The staid and stable days of the ’50s were completely turned on their head during the protests of the ’60s and ’70s. John Lennon framed these tumultuous times with the catchcry “All we are saying, is give peace a chance.”

Meditating in Bodhgaya
Thanks to Jakub Michankow for the photo, “Meditating in Bodhgaya

The longing was a moral and spiritual one, but a search for leadership in the West seemed futile. There was no spiritual tradition apart from the very conservative churches, which were as much part of the establishment as the politicos. So the young idealists of the West looked to the East. First a trickle but soon considerable numbers went to the East to discover forms of spirituality which the West hadn’t known before. And gurus from the East ventured forth into our crazy capitalist world. The New Age movement had begun and with it a whole plethora of spiritual programs for the new generation to dabble in. And in the midst of all this sat Jiddu Krishnamurti. His presence is not to be underestimated, along with other significant figures like Paramhansa Yogananda.

While giving talks and writing books over many decades, the core of Krishnamurti’s message was constant — each of us must take responsibility for our own spiritual life in order to transform our individual psyches. Outer leadership — whether through churches, governments or gurus — was contrary to what was needed for our development in this age. In this matter he was indeed the man of the moment, having himself grown up in a time when leadership was based on authority, expertise or social standing. But the ’60s were a turning point, and he was the man with the message.

We with a spiritual orientation have envied the East for its well-integrated spirituality, the very fabric of culture in many societies. While the disillusioned among us may want to disavow our Western materialism and individualism, history might show that we have a spiritual mission which is based on precisely that.

Great mystics like Blavatsky (“The Secret Doctrine,” 1888) and Steiner (“Occult Science: An Outline,” 2009) concur that humanity has a unique task as a co-creator in the universe. Freedom is a quality that does not exist among the other spiritual hierarchies. The Cherubim, Seraphim, Thrones, Archai and others bring us light, form, movement, sound — all the preconditions for our existence. But our job is to bring about freedom. To do this we have needed to be completely divorced from our spiritual natures. When we know what’s “right” with the clarity of spiritual vision, there can be no development of freedom. Being embedded in the physical has been our means. Materialism and individuality have been a necessary result. We need to experience life in all its bewildering confusion and apparent evil in order that we choose, and reflect, and continue to choose and reflect, so that our moral life deepens and becomes imbued with something that eventually arises clearly as an experience of our spiritual self — rediscovered through the exercise of freedom.

What a joy when that becomes clear, and what a rich life ensues.

The task of the West has been to forge an individualised consciousness that can exert a disciplined will and focused awareness which, when combined with a spiritual mindset, will see us into the next stage of our spiritual development. Eastern thought and practice, as it streamed into the West at a time when we were ready for it, provided this seed.

Perhaps Charles Leadbetter had it right. We may quibble over definitions of “world teacher,” but in doing so, let’s not miss the moment and the task at hand.

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