Wednesday, May 15, 2024

The Summer of Love


In fact, the latest quest for transcendence would lead the West into a spiritual freefall. … The plunge began in a corner of Christendom called hippiedom.

The Age of Nihilism: Christendom from the Great War to the Culture Wars, by John Strickland

While rejecting Christianity, this hippiedom couched itself in an expressly transcendent character.  There was an earnest religiosity.  They had their sacraments: sex, drugs, and rock and roll. 

The science of inebriation: Sandoz Laboratories in Switzerland developed the synthetic chemical, lysergic acid diethylamide: LSD.  The firm brought the drug to market, despite – or maybe because of – the chemist who invented it having reported experiencing an assault by demonic beings after taking a sample.

Mescaline.  Aldous Huxley was a big fan.  He would publish an account of his experience.  After graduating to LSD, he spent his days on acid trips and writing about the effects.  Confronted with terminal cancer, he instructed his wife to give him a lethal dose….

Timothy Leary.  He would get high with students at Harvard.  He described drugs as a sacrament: “…a visible external thing which turns the key to the inner doors.”  At his twelve-year-old daughter’s birthday party, he plied the guests with drugs.  One of the guests attempted to rape his daughter, which brought Leary to ponder why such an action is considered wrong. 

The second main element in this culture was sexual promiscuity – a means of linking one’s transcendence with another.  All boundaries of sexuality were dissolved; restraints in place for centuries were abandoned.  Public nudity, movies, adultery, swinging.

The third element was rock and roll.  Rhythm and Blues. Elvis Presley and his hips.  But the main event was to be found in The Beatles, whose career is a microcosm of the changing landscape. 

They started with innocuous songs: “Love, Love Me Do.”  Then they discovered acid.  This moved them into what I have always described as their drug-induced era.  Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band; Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds; A Day in the Life.

The 1967 Summer of Love; Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco.  Are you going, with flowers in your hair?  The Monterrey Pop Festival: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who and their drummer Keith Moon.  All three would soon enough die from a drug overdose.  Nihilism on steroids; sex, drugs, and rock and roll all in one package.  Plenty of sacraments, but no ritual murders…until later: Charles Manson.  Woodstock would follow, in 1969. 

This was in the wake of Norman Vincent Peale and his bestseller, The Power of Positive Thinking, published in 1952.  “The minister of millions,” so wrote one biographer.  Little to do with salvation, but, using Biblical quotes, much to do with achieving the American Dream and the almost limitless potential for self-realization.  I guess this means sanctification, of a sort.

Other Christians wrote in a different manner:

…Richard Niebuhr famously expressed dismay at the liberal theological claim that “a God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgement through the ministrations of Christ without a cross.”

Other notable Protestant leaders would come to a similar point, recognizing a proper relationship between God and man. 

Abortion: Howard Moody, a Greenwich Village Baptist preacher, formed a nationwide Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion, designed to help women bypass state laws that prevented them from ending unwanted pregnancies.  Mainline Protestant bodies would join in: the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church, the United Church of Christ.  The United Methodist Church offered office space in Washington DC.

Others would call into question the doctrine of the Trinity: “excess baggage.”  Out with the Virgin Birth; Joseph was the father.  These claims by an Episcopal bishop resulted in no disciplinary action. 

Roman Catholic higher education.  Mary Daly was a product of two prominent Catholic Universities: Notre Dame, where she earned her doctorate, and Boston College, where she was a full professor.  Women’s liberation, feminism.  She would write a book in which she would dismantle the doctrine of the Trinity.  The Jesuit leadership of Boston College saw her work as a valuable contribution to modern Christianity. 

The great confusion in the church was occurring at the same time that society was falling full-speed into the abyss.  Hindu-inspired neopaganism was offered, with George Harrison of the Beatles being, perhaps, its most well-known proponent.  Hinduism, along with Buddhism, Taoism, and other such forms were offered as the means by which to heal a sick society. 

Latin was dropped from the Mass; the young people replaced it with chants in Sanskrit.  No matter how far the church would run away from transcendence, young people remained in search of it.

Oprah Winfrey promised to transform people’s lives, with each individual coming to realize: “I am Creation’s son, I am Creation’s daughter, I am Spirit.”  Replacing the great “I AM” with a narcissistic, nihilistic pretender. 

John Travolta and Tom Cruise: the Church of Scientology; Hollywood movies: Star Wars, Cocoon.

Two patently exclusive faiths were brought together, under the made-up name of “Judeo-Christian,” offering excellent protection and unwavering support to the first of these while doing much damage to the second. 

The Episcopalian cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City: in 1975, it hosted an interfaith session that opened with a pagan Egyptian fire ritual; in 1981, a group of women performed modernist dances in honor of an “Earth Mass”; annual animal processions were marched through the nave; every December, the winter solstice was honored; every October, a celebration of the ghouls.

In 1984, a crucifix with a woman representing Christ.  A conference of 2,000 women brought together to discuss “God language,” with worship directed toward “Sophia.”  No need for an atonement theory; no need for anyone to hang on a cross. 

In 1994, Grace Cathedral in San Francisco held a “Rave Mass.”  Deafening music, flashing lights, wild dancing.  In 2004, the “U2charist,” where the songs of U2 replaced traditional hymns during communion service.  I don’t know the songs played, but this would be appropriate in a heretical sort of way:

You're the real thing

Even better than the real thing


When asked by a progressive newspaper, what is wrong with the world today?, G.K. Chesterton responded: “I am.”

While the only proper attitude for a Christian to take, completely contrary to how individuals in the West – nominally Christian or not – came to see themselves by this time.


Orientation: a view toward the orient – the east.  Churches were usually built with such an “orient”ation, an eastward disposition.  Any other disposition would be a disorientation.

Not to expand on this theologically.  I just never considered the word in this context.


  1. A lot of early hippies were into Jesus because He was the Prince of Peace, was anti-establishment, preached love, etc. In some cases, it stuck (like me).
    An other aspect of the hippie movement & the explosion of cults that came out of it has been coming out in recent years, which is the extent to which this was all a covert operation. For example, Owsley got his hands on a kilo of LSD 25 & started the Electric Kool Aid parties nationwide. So where did he get a million doses of an experimental drug?
    The CIA gave it to him.
    There is a free online book called Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine, which goes into the history & details.

  2. The Hippies followed Marcuse's teaching and were a part of the New Left. They were the more non-violent arm of the movement but they were just as destructive as their ideology was completely anti-natural law. They started out as free speech advocates because no one like what they were saying back in the 60s. Normal people knew it was evil and would end in chaos. Most Hippies gave it up in the 80s and became the yuppies, living for money. Either way they lived for the pleasures of the world.

    I also have an anecdote about LSD and the US government. The University of Texas at Austin has had a close relationship with the US Navy for a long time. Back in the 60s professors in the Chemistry department were handing out LSD to whoever came by to take it.

    One of the students who partook was Roky Erickson. He was an artist and musician. He got hooked on LSD and incorporated the experience into his music. He was the inventor of psychedelic rock'n'roll. The Austin police ran him out of town for his drug use, so he went up to San Francisco where drug use was as prohibited. That is where the genre exploded as he influenced other musicians.

  3. "When asked by a progressive newspaper, what is wrong with the world today?, G.K. Chesterton responded: “I am.”"

    This is one theme that I am constantly pounding on. Instead of pointing the finger at someone else and blaming them, we need to look in the mirror. Instead of expecting that a political savior (Trump, for instance) will arise to save us, we need to take responsibility for our own actions.

    Etc., etc., etc.,

    Every collective, every society, every culture begins with the individual. For the collective to change, the individual must first change. Most people, when confronted with this truth, will throw up a defense and refuse to consider what MIGHT be in their own lives which needs to be corrected. They are too busy pointing out the flaws of their neighbors to consider their own.

    People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Unfortunately, this truism is not understood and rarely acknowledged today.