Lessons learned (or not) from the ‘Summer of Love’

The last 50 years have done little to diminish the appeal of sex and drugs as paths to spiritual enlightenment. In fact, the opposite has happened.

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PETALUMA, CA, Aug. 7, 2017 – It’s been 50 years since San Francisco played host to the Summer of Love, a months-long gathering of mostly young people drawn to the “turn on, tune in, drop out” philosophy of Timothy Leary and other like-minded counterculturists. The time was ripe, it seemed, for this eclectic group of music loving, war opposing “flower children” to band together in a joint affirmation of peace, love, and spiritual enlightenment.

“Harmony and understanding / Sympathy and trust abounding,” sang the tie-dye clad cast of the psychedelic rock musical “Hair,” whose co-authors had spent the early part of that same year in San Francisco. “No more falsehoods or derisions / Golden living dreams of visions / Mystic crystal revelation / And the mind’s true liberation / Aquarius, Aquarius.”

However, as pleasant and as promising as this all sounds, the lingering notion that casual sex and hallucinogenic drugs – two of the musical’s and that summer’s prominent themes – might somehow play a role in someone achieving true enlightenment deserves further scrutiny.

Why now?



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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 those 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.

One can’t help but wonder, then, based on what we’ve seen over the last half-century, the degree to which such potentially self-indulgent avenues to acquiring spiritual wisdom have proven to be either lasting or genuine.

Call me old-fashioned, but judging from my own experience, I’d say the best way to achieve real and enduring enlightenment is through prayer, that deeply humble, indescribably peaceful bonding with God, divine Mind, that results without the aid (or potential interference) of any intermediary – physical, chemical, or otherwise.

“Here’s my instruction,” writes St. Paul (Gal. 5:15 ESV), “walk in the Spirit, and let the Spirit bring order to your life. If you do, you will never give in to your selfish and sinful cravings.”

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 not only has the capacity to inspire and enable us to do good to others, but also to better understand the all-knowing, always present source of such goodness.

“True prayer is not asking God for love; it is learning to love, and to include all mankind in one affection,” writes 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.


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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 proverbial Age of Aquarius has come or gone, 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.

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