Twentieth Century

The 1960s and 1970s were characterized by an extraordinary youth movement of baby-boomers with an intense interest in the cultic and the oc-cult—and by a popularization of drug use within mainstream American society. Some of this interest was fueled by the philosophies and practices of Asia, especially Southeast Asia, where the Vietnam War was being fought; some was inspired by the Shangri-La nature of the lands of the Himalayas, where Buddhism was practiced in secluded monasteries and nirvana was sought. As the ''Greening of America'' proceeded through these two decades, mind-altering joined ALCOHOL and NICOTINE, becoming available on the street, and were no longer confined to the disenfranchised or marginal. There was an increasing juxtaposition of the so-called transcendent religious experience (the mind-expanding experience) with drug use that often became drug abuse.

This juxtaposition had been anticipated by some earlier poets, such as William Blake (1757-1827), Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), and Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891), by the illustrator Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898), andby cult figures such as Aleister Crowley (born Edward Alexander Crowley, 1875-1947). By combining aspects of their own experimentation with hallucinogenic drugs with elements of Transcendental Meditation/ Mahareshi (movements based on Buddhism) in their song ''Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds'' (1967), the much adored singing group called the Beatles (the members born between 1940 and 1943, active as a group from 1960 to 1969) both mirrored and promoted the use of hallucinogens as providing a readily accessible transcendental experience—although in Buddhism the goal of all existence is the state of complete redemption (nirvana, a state achieved by righteous living, not by drugs). Unlike Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), who combined an interest in Vedanta (an orthodox system of Hindu philosophy) and the use of mescaline, the Beatles and their alleged mentor, the Mahareshi Mohesh Yogi, proclaimed the desirability of enlightening the masses rather than restricting enlightenment to a righteous educated elite.

In literary works of that era, such as Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City (1978), characters routinely advocate and use mind-altering substances (especially marijuana) without any apparent appreciation of their darker potential, which was consistent with the general attitude toward TOBACCO and alcohol use at that time as well. In addition, there was no special appreciation that drug use, in and of itself, might encourage cult affiliation, yet this was very much the time of the rapid growth of cults among youth in the United States.

The relationship of such cults to drug use is paradoxical. Deutsch (1983) has noted that prolonged drug use may encourage this type of cult affiliation, and many cult groups offer themselves to the public and to vulnerable persons as quasi-therapeutic contexts where the person will be able to transcend the need for drugs. This aspect of cult-appeal turned thousands of lost and confused free spirits and flower-children into vacant-eyed smiling cultists who signed over to the cult all their worldly goods—to spend their days wandering the streets, airports, and bus or train stations, seeking donations for their cult by shaking bells and tambourines or by offering flowers to passing strangers. Rigorous training programs, called ''brainwashing'' by parents of the lost children and by other skeptics, were fashioned to strip cultists of free will and substitute nodding acquiescence.

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