PETALUMA, CA, August 1, 2016 – Nearly 50 years ago, the psychedelic rock musical “Hair” proclaimed to the world that the proverbial “Age of Aquarius” had arrived, a time when we could all expect to see a heightened expression of peace, love, and spiritual enlightenment.
“Harmony and understanding / Sympathy and trust abounding,” sang the tie-dye clad cast during the opening number. “No more falsehoods or derisions / Golden living dreams of visions / Mystic crystal revelation / And the mind’s true liberation / Aquarius, Aquarius.”
As pleasant and as promising as this all sounds, even today, the notion that casual sex and hallucinogenic drugs – two of the musical’s major themes – might somehow play a role in achieving true enlightenment deserves further scrutiny.
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Apparently the last 50 years have done little to diminish the appeal of what were once considered pretty far out ideas. In fact, quite the opposite has happened. LSD, psilocybin, and MDMA or Ecstasy – once banned by the FDA after they were embraced and often abused by a burgeoning counter-culture intent on using them for pleasure – are now being touted as a great way to connect with your inner self, albeit under medically supervised conditions. As for casual sex, what used to be thought of as a largely recreational or, occasionally, procreational activity is being pitched as a vehicle for couples to experience a sense of spiritual connection.
This is not to say that sex and drugs are intrinsically bad. After all, what’s not to like about exploring your inner self, right? The question is whether or not such potentially self-indulgent avenues to acquiring spiritual wisdom can or should be considered genuine.
Call me old-fashioned, but judging from my own experience over the past 50 plus years, I’d say the best way to achieve real and lasting enlightenment is through prayer, that divinely inspired, deeply humble, indescribably peaceful frame of mind that comes without the aid (or potential interference) of any intermediary – physical, chemical, or otherwise.
Granted, there are as many definitions of prayer as there are people in the world. But most would probably agree that prayer is something that, among other things, has the capacity to inspire and enable us to do right by others and ourselves.
“True prayer is not asking God for love; it is learning to love, and to include all mankind in one affection,” writes Christian theologian Mary Baker Eddy. “Prayer is the utilization of the love wherewith He loves us.”
What I like most about such a path to enlightenment is that it’s not the least bit self-indulgent. On the contrary, it can be a catalyst for engaging with others completely unselfishly, for mutual rather than merely personal benefit. Even better, it’s something that I’ve found time and again, in and of itself, leads to mental and physical healing.
But it goes further than that.
Over and above whatever mental or physical regeneration I might experience, prayer continues to provide me with that kind of moral and spiritual grounding that, at least to my sense, can only be achieved through consistent communion with the Divine. It may not be as alluring as either drugs or sex (and that’s a good thing), but nothing can compare to the immediate and completely satisfying impact it can have on our ability to connect with our inherently spiritual selves.
Regardless of whether the Age of Aquarius has actually arrived, the desire to discover the decidedly and exclusively divine source of good in our lives remains forever.
Eric Nelson writes about the link between consciousness and health from his perspective as a practitioner of Christian Science. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. Follow him on Twitter @norcalcs. Continue the conversation on Facebook.