Bob Schwartz

Tag: New Age

The Revival of Enlightened and Transformative Politics

Talking about the revival of enlightened and transformative politics is bound to be imprecise.

That concept has never actually been dead. Looking at Christianity, a recent post about Jim Wallis and Sojourners highlights just one instance. A bigger and much more famous current example is Pope Francis. And it is nothing new. The Social Gospel movement, which is still represented (though not always appreciated), aimed to see the realization of the highest Christian principles in everyday practical society.

Keeping with the Christian theme, this is not about what Jesus would say about abortion or gay marriage or prayer in schools or any of these specific arguments—though all have a certain significance. It is about politics as a tool of overall transformation, beyond sectarian concerns.

This is not limited to Christianity. Every one of the traditions has a core of enlightenment and large scale transformation. But each of those traditions has found a way to occasionally devolve that mission into movements and policies and tactics that diverge and even contradict the higher principles and aspirations. It isn’t necessary to point out the wrong turns that, for example, Judaism and Islam have taken along the way to supposedly establish heaven on earth.

In the era of what was affectionately, or for some derisively, known as the New Age movement, this concept of politics as a transformative tool was central. There was the idea that if we kept our eyes on the prize—not just a country but a world elevated above our baser selves—we could together create something better. Politics was one of the tools that would serve that end, instead of enabling smaller personal ambitions and selfish, possibly pernicious, goals.

So here we are. Enlightened and transformative politics is not dead. But it may be missing in action. Each political choice we make—each donation, each tweet, each vote and, yes, each post—might help us find it. Or kill it. It’s up to us.

Bandon by the Sea and Living Forever

Continuum Center
This is about a beach town and the possibility of living forever.

Bandon is a small beach town (about 3,000 people) on the southern coast of Oregon. It is special because of its beauty and spirit, including extraordinary rock outcroppings and stacks of bleached drift logs that hover in the sun and occasional fog. It is also special because few know about it. It is far enough from anywhere—248 miles south of Portland, 465 north of San Francisco—that there are other tourist stops better known and, to some, more exciting.

Bandon 4

The New Age is an ignored topic that deserves more than this brief discussion. In the 1970s, the movement toward a new consciousness coalesced around the concept of a New Age, a new era of human enlightenment and evolution that would move us forward, leaving some of the darkest aspects of our sometimes-sorry history behind. This included not only spirituality and religion, but psychology, art, music, mythology, earth, food, sex—anything that could help transform us and the way we live. By name, “New Age” has fallen into disuse; but as a matter of fact, many of the ideas and expressions are now part of our cultural fabric.

In 1979, philanthropist Hugh Harrison visited the Continuum Exhibit at JFK University in California. The exhibit showcased the Immortality Principle, the possibility of consciousness continuing after death. He was impressed and put the exhibit on tour, and also established a home for it in Bandon, in a building on Main Street called the Continuum Center. It was a splendid multimedia exhibit, state of the art for its time.

Continuum Book
One of faces of the New Age movement that is powerful though sometimes mocked is its music. New Age music was once a common category, though it has fallen into disuse. No good cultural development goes untortured. New Age music at its start and at its best is an attempt to coax, drag, push, pull and otherwise move your consciousness by the ear. In less talented hands it has been oversimplified and underpowered, but no different than with any other musical genre.

When I walked into the Continuum Center in Bandon years ago, I saw the oversized graphics and read about a vision of consciousness. But the very first thing I noticed was the music playing. It was, it turned out, the sublime Angel’s Flight by Shadowfax, and it was the first New Age music I had ever heard. The pictures and text of that visit are a little indistinct in memory, but that song isn’t, maybe because I’ve listened to it a few hundred times since.

A recent visit to Bandon, for the first time in a long time, revealed that not much had changed, a good thing. Maybe it was not a surprise that the Continuum Center as an exhibit is gone. But the building is still there, transformed into a small shopping plaza, but as you’ll see above, the name remains. Spirit abides.

So if any of this is interesting, here’s what to do. Listen to Angel’ Flight and other transportive music by Shadowfax and other worthy New Age artists. Learn a little more about the possibilities of consciousness and change, if you aren’t already doing so. Does consciousness survive death? Who knows, but what a beautiful question.

Last but not least, if your travels take you to the Pacific coast, visit Bandon. Unlike the Continuum Center exhibit, which lasted a few years, the beach and rocks and waves go on and on and on, waiting for you. They will wait forever.