Saturday, November 13, 2010

Flashback Downloads: Haight-Ashbury, 1966

posted on by Vintage Tripper, Sylvia Anderson | November 12, 2010

If we had to live in a city again, I wanted a big apartment, close to a park. I found one through a rental agency. It was a five-room flat on the corner of Shrader and Waller streets, a block from Golden Gate Park and within my budget. Great! The fact that it was also a block from Haight Street didn’t mean a thing to me. I was still in my New-Yorker head of thinking that nothing really important could be happening anywhere west of the Hudson, and I had never even heard of Haight-Ashbury. It was Fall, 1966, Little did I know that all Heaven was about to break loose in our new neighborhood, in our apartment, and in my own consciousness.

So Todd, Yogi and I moved into our new digs in the Haight. The apartment was one flight up, over a tool rental store. I actually felt somewhat relieved living in a city again. At least I could walk to the laundromat and grocery store if the van wasn’t running. And living just a block from Golden Gate Park was wonderful. It was a huge park, extending ten miles west to the ocean, with many meadows, forested areas, museums, and a great playground for kids of all ages. Todd especially enjoyed the spiral slide, the petting zoo, and the merry-go-round.

Of course we had to walk Yogi a couple of times a day, so Todd and I checked out the neighborhood. We discovered that a St. Bernard puppy is a great conversation piece, and folks often stopped to exchange a few words with us about him.
One morning our travels took us across Haight Street and a couple of blocks north to the Panhandle. There were tall eucalyptus trees there (exotic to us Easterners), good flat space for Todd and Yogi to run around, and a bench for me to sit on. It was there that I met a woman in her mid-twenties named Mary. She had a son, Christopher, who was a year younger than Todd, and while the boys played together with Yogi, Mary and I sat on the bench and got to know each other.
Mary was slender, with red hair, bright green eyes, and a very metaphysical consciousness. She was also a single mother, and we became friends. Sometimes she and Christopher would come to our apartment, where Mary and I would smoke some grass I had scored from the folks who had grown it. Ten ounces for $100. That sounded good to me. I was used to paying $20 and ounce back east. They said it was “cured in LSD” – whatever that meant. (I had been smoking pot for about three years and had eaten some peyote, some sugar-cube acid, and even some morning glory seeds New York, but grass “cured in LSD” was a new concept for me.)
It was excellent smoke, and I could feel my mind expanding as I stretched to integrate Mary’s spiritual perspective. She talked about God a lot, and the coming of the Aquarian Age. She was truly excited about the changes that were beginning to happen in many minds, and the new spiritual age that was budding.

This was all new stuff to me. I had had a slight interest in astrology in earlier years, when my sister and I would occasionally buy those little Sun Sign books sold at supermarket checkout stands, but I had never heard anything about the Piscean Age or the Aquarian Age.

I could actually feel my mind getting bigger and bigger as we talked. My Higher Self kept coming on stronger and stronger. Finally I just stopped copping to all those neurotic inhibitions that had been hanging me up for so long, and as I did this, I felt myself opening up like a giant jungle flower. I was giving and sharing and being kind and real and unselfconscious in a way that I had never been before, and my mind just kept expanding and expanding and expanding.
Spiritual consciousness was everywhere in the Haight. The Psychedelic Shop had a large open Bible in its window. The Strait Theatre marquis read “PEACE”.

I read, in the introduction to The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ, that there is a 25,820 year cycle, caused by the tilt of the earth’s axis, during which our sun and its planets travel through each of the twelve signs of the zodiac, as seen from Earth. This cycle is called the “precession of the equinoxes.” This 26,000-year cycle is divided into twelve sections, called “ages” or “dispensations”, of about 2,150 years each, determined by which sign of the zodiac the sun is in when it rises on the Spring Equinox. An Avatar appears near the beginning of each age and sets the tone for that dispensation. For the past 2,150 years or so, the sun has been in the sign of Pisces, the fishes, when it rises on the Spring Equinox, so we have been in the Piscean Age. This has been the Christian dispensation, with Jesus arriving on the scene early in the Piscean Age, and fish being a predominant symbol of this dispensation (for example, the miracle of the loaves and fishes, “I will make you fishers of men”, drawings of fish used by early Christians to identify themselves to each other, etc.).

I learned that because there are such huge amounts of time involved, it is difficult to determine the exact date that the Piscean Age ends and the Aquarian Age begins, but it is generally agreed that we are now at the cusp between those two Ages (the precession of the equinoxes goes through the signs in reverse order to the order the sun travels through the signs in the course of a year). Pisces is a water sign, and during the Piscean Age humans sailed the oceans of earth; Aquarius, an air sign, rules the airwaves and electricity, and in this new Age, air travel and communication on the airwaves will be developed and expanded. The sign of Pisces carries the energy of vast amounts of sacrifice and struggle; Aquarius energy carries brotherhood and humanitarianism, scientific knowledge, and invention. The old Piscean way of thinking is passing on, and a new way of thinking is being born.
Yes! I could feel that something old was passing away and something new was beginning. Now I understood why. The entire planet was moving out of one energy field and into a whole new one. It wasn’t just me. This was good news!

Todd and I continued spending time with Mary and Christopher, and the more we hung out together, the more I could feel my consciousness growing. We both wanted to raise our boys in the country, so we started talking about renting a house together somewhere rural. In late November the four of us took a trip in my heavenly blue van called “Morning Glory” to find us a new home. We went up to Mendocino county, met some nice people, but didn’t come up with a place to live.

We drank black coffee to stay awake on the return trip and arrived back at Shrader Street well after midnight. The boys were asleep in the back of the van. Mary and I were sitting up front. All the way home I had felt my mind opening in a new way, and now as Mary and I sat in the parked van smoking a bowl while we figured out sleeping arrangements, a young hippie who knew Mary came down the block and crossed in front of Morning Glory. When he saw us sitting there, he made a gesture with his right hand toward the windshield, and I felt a tingling of energy course through my body. His name was Tom, and we rolled down the window and talked with him for a while. He was on acid, and our conversation made sense on at least two levels at once. It was an ordinary conversation on the mundane, material level, but every word also had meaning and made sense on a more subtle, symbolic level – similar to when Charlie had made his remark about not wanting to look backwards anymore, when we were on peyote back in Brooklyn, but this was a more extended, complex conversation. It was like being in two worlds at once, but it wasn’t confusing. It was integrated. Both levels were happening at the same time and in the same space – one was material, one was symbolic. Everything existed on both these levels at once. But, fortunately, I didn’t intellectualize about it at the time. That would have ended the experience and kept me bound to the material-plane-only world. Instead I allowed my consciousness to expand to include this double entendre level where every word, every gesture, every thought was meaningful in more than one way. My mind was unfolding into a whole new awareness that included so much more than I had ever experienced before.
After exchanging a few sentences in this new dimension, Tom drifted on toward Haight Street, and Mary and I carried the sleeping boys up to my apartment and put them to bed. Mary lay down with them, but I was too charged from this new expansion of consciousness to sleep. I sat in the kitchen to see what would happen if I smoked another bowl.
What happened was that my consciousness seemed to leap over a chasm and into a whole different dimension – one that I had never known about before. It’s hard to describe in words, but it was like being in a whole new reality – one even beyond the symbolic plane. I was still in the same apartment - with Todd and Mary and Christopher asleep in the other room - but I was seeing it all from a whole new headspace – a space where everything made perfect sense and fit together into One Perfect Whole.

All the information that had ever come into my head had previously been stashed in separate compartments or categories, almost like file drawers, each neatly labeled by subject matter (psychology, history, religion, sociology, etc.) and separate from every other category. In mundane consciousness, the information in one area often contradicted the information in another, but the compartmentalization itself kept that from being noticed very much. Now, suddenly, all the separations in my mind dissolved, leaving a three-dimensional mandala of inter-related truths, where all paradoxes were resolved as each piece of information was seen from this new, integrated perspective.

This experience of expanded consciousness continued for several days. I was barely functional on the material plane. At one point I was looking down on Earth from some vantage point in space, zooming in on the corner of Shrader and Waller streets, in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, California, USA, and I was laughing at silly little Sylvia and the ludicrous illusion she was all tangled up in. Illusion – the sense of separate self that causes humanity so much suffering – was not something to grieve about – it was something to laugh about! I was being let in on the Great Cosmic Joke, and I laughed and laughed and laughed.

All the Bible verses I had taught my Sunday school classes back in Connecticut came alive for me now. They all made sense in a new way, on a new level. The verses flashed through my mind, one after another – each one a joyous explosion of light and understanding. I laughed deep belly-laughs at the Divine Comedy – the joke of ego, of the sense of separate selves – that the Universe is always playing on us until we get the joke and see that everyone and everything here is just One Beingness, always changing in detail but always remaining the same in essence—One Infinite and Eternal Ground of Being.
I saw my life and the life of Man on earth as a play so intricate and so perfect in every detail that I was humbled before the Mind that was creating it. I saw the history of the world as one great four-dimensional mesh of Cause and Effect – always just, always maintaining perfect balance, always obeying Its own Law. My physical life was energy working itself out. How outrageously hilarious it was that I had taken myself so seriously! There really was no “me” at all. There was only One Being in the whole universe – one Perfection—one infinite and eternal process that is the Source of, and includes within Itself, everything and everybody.

Words from Christian hymns flashed through my mind, along with lyrics from Beatles’ songs and from songs that were popular in the 1940’s and ‘50’s. I understood the symbolism of them all, the way we sometimes understand a dream, and they were all saying that God is real, there is an order to the universe, there is a system of justice that prevails eternally. You just have to be seeing the Big Picture to grok it.
If I turned on the radio during that time, I would hear the songs, and even the commercials, speaking to me symbolically about the dawning of a new Age. It seemed as if the radio was speaking directly to me with very personalized messages.

The experience included new understandings not only of Christian Bible verses and hymns, but also of the smattering of Hinduism and dash of Zen that my intellect had acquired over the past year or two. As I said, all the compartments dissolved and everything I had ever learned made sense now in the context of this new understanding, this new level of consciousness. I was experiencing the Oneness of the contents of my own mind, which was a microcosm of the Oneness that is the Mind of the All.

I gazed upon that Oneness – that immense, ever-changing Perfection – and I knew that I was in the presence of God –a great, harmonious, cyclic Flow of Energy, in a continuum of wave lengths, from the density of the material plane to the white light of The Void. It was all the same God-stuff – the same Cosmic Essence - vibrating at varying frequencies, but all the same “stuff”, the same Beingness, the same Source.
This “God” – this Beingness – had created everything and everyone, and there was a spark of this God Beingness within everyone and everything. That’s what Jesus meant when he said, “I was hungry and you fed me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was in prison and you visited me . . . Inasmuch as you have done this even unto the least of these, my brethren, you have done it also unto me.”
The same spark of God that was in Jesus Christ is within everyone - “even unto the least of these, my brethren.” I understood that salvation was not dependent on accepting Jesus as the only true savior and Christianity as the only true religion; it was dependent on recognizing the Christ Consciousness potential within all.
The reality of Spirit flowered in my mind. There is a God, but it’s not a grumpy old man sitting on a throne in the sky! God is Beingness! God is the Unity of Everything! God is All that Is, Was, or Ever Shall Be!
Jesus’ teachings are true if you understand them from Higher Consciousness.

Mankind is being saved!

A new Age of brotherhood is beginning!

And – wonder of wonders! – it is being brought in by the awakened hippies – the underdogs of society, who appeared decadent and irresponsible to the mainstream, but who were actually living their daily lives based on Christ-like compassion.

I’ve never know anything like the joy of that experience – the bliss of knowing for sure that Spirit is real, that everything, ultimately, is okay. I was so happy and relieved that I cried tears of joy at this revelation.
All my chakras must have been open, but I was mostly coming from my heart. Love poured out for all of life. I walked through Haight Ashbury, seeing the dawning of the new Age every step.

When I walked around, all open like that, sometimes I’d feel a little electrical shock run through my body as I passed another person who was full open, too. And sometimes we’d both stop and look into each other’s eyes and talk the kind of talk that makes sense on at least two levels at once. And we would both understand all the levels. Even the street signs spoke to me symbolically.

At one point I had a vision – images projected out of my third eye onto the kitchen wall – of fires and tidal waves and earthquakes. I knew I was seeing the future, and although the scenes were of great devastation, I cried tears of joy because these changes meant a purification, a new beginning for Earth and for humanity. An understanding filled me that I would not physically survive these changes – I was an old soul and was going home – but Todd would survive and help bring in the new beginning.

Another awareness began to dawn upon me in those days, too. My love for all life was a mother’s love, and I began to feel like Mother Earth herself. Everything anyone said to me, I heard through the ears of the Earth Mother listening to her children. And when I answered them, my answers were true to the material plane situation and true also on the archetypal level I was experiencing. This was not intellectually contrived – nothing I thought about and tried to do—it just flowed from where my head was at.

I knew that I was God and so was everybody else. I was one with the Maillol statue in the garden of the Museum of Modern Art. I felt her power – the Earth’s power – swelling within me, and I let it flow out through my heart in the form of unconditional love for all of struggling humanity – for all my children.

Being a large woman, I had often felt out of scale with the rest of the world, somehow larger than life, too big for this small planet. Now, as I discovered the archetypal Earth-Mother self within me, I felt incredibly large and powerful, but in a soft, yielding, receptive way. I was fully a woman in a way I had never been before.

One of the most meaningful parts of this experience was a deep understanding that God loves me. And I knew that the level of consciousness I was experiencing was the same level of consciousness that Jesus was speaking from when he had given his teachings. Buddha, too. It wasn’t an ego trip. It was a humble, compassionate consciousness, full of love and reverence for all life.
This journey into other realms of consciousness continued in all my waking hours for five days. During that time I received a phone call from New York telling me that my friend Charlie had died. I felt Charlie’s spirit telling me that there is no death – that life is eternal.
The 1966 Leonid meteor showers were occurring, and Mary and I took the boys out to the ocean one evening to view them. They were spectacular, and for me the event was a celebration of my arrival into this new consciousness. Part of my experience was the feeling that everyone else was already in this new headspace, and I was the last one to get there. But I had made it, and the whole universe was rejoicing!

This awakening continued, through various scenarios and levels of consciousness wherever I went – at home in the apartment, out on Haight Street, in Golden Gate Park, visiting friends of Mary’s. Flashes of new understanding alternated with times of being the Earth Mother herself and loving and blessing all my children.

Todd, too, was having visions. At one point he started crying and when I asked what was wrong, he said, “My pictures! They’re sticking ‘sharpies’ into the Earth, and it’s changing into a different place.” ‘Sharpies’ was our word for sharp items like scissors or needles. I’m not sure exactly what he was seeing, but it sounded a lot like my own visions of that time.

I remember lying face down on the living room floor and hearing what I unmistakably recognized as “the music of the spheres.” I loved that music. It sounded like Home, and I wanted to go to it – to merge with it – to stay there with it forever. But just as I was letting myself go, to fully unite with the music, Todd came in, hungry, and shook my shoulder until I came back into my body and got him some lunch.
While I was spending all this time on the higher planes, my material-plane son was beginning to feel the absence of my attention in his life. The next day Todd started having an asthma attack, and I returned to mundane consciousness to care for him.

After “coming down” from that experience and resuming at least the semblance of normalcy, I began to realize that I had, indeed, witnessed and participated in a totally other reality, but one that was just as valid as the mundane, material-plane reality that I had previously believed to be the only one. I was once again functioning on the material plane, but that other, larger reality was still alive in some part of my consciousness.

I also realized that if I told a shrink about where my head was really at now, he would probably declare me insane and have me locked up in an institution. Still, I knew that the Reality I had just discovered was true and always there, waiting to be tuned in to – like radio waves, always there but inaccessible unless you tune your receiver to the right frequency.

A week or so later I was in the Psychedelic Shop on Haight Street when a small pamphlet caught my eye. In fact, it started buzzing and flashing at me. The title was Who’s Crazy?, and it was by Swami Bhaktivedanta, guru of the Krishna Consciousness movement.
I knew the booklet was for me. I started reading it right there in the store, then bought it (25 cents) and took it home to read fully. It spoke of the experience of union with God. It said that in India people who had that experience were called “enlightened” and were honored and revered, but that here in America, people who had that experience were often considered crazy and were locked up.

That little pamphlet helped me understand my awakening and expand beyond the western, scientific, psychological mindset. It reinforced the validity of my experience and my intuitive feeling that I better not talk about it to the “wrong” people.

So I decided to live my new Earth Mother incarnation instead of talking about it. It was really hard to put into words, anyhow. And besides, I believed that everyone around me had experienced his or her own version of union with the Divine, and I was the last kid on the block to catch on.

That experience turned my life around 180 degrees. My values changed completely. Instead of valuing money and material possessions, I was much more interested in consciousness, especially the multi-layered Oneness that I had lived for five days and could re-experience in varying degrees thereafter. Psychedelics became my sacrament--material objects that facilitated my union with All That Is. I was reborn--not as a Christian, per se, but as a Lover of Higher Consciousness, whatever name It is called by at the moment, and as one committed to do my best to live that Consciousness in every day life.

For me, it was a brand new world seen through brand new eyes.
For me, the new Age of Aquarius--the Age of the Brotherhood of Man and the Earth Motherhood of “silly little Sylvia”--had just begun

1 comment:

  1. I just found this post on your site. This is my grandmother's story about part of experience in San Fran during the 60's. She is such an inspiration and dear to my heart. Thank you for sharing with others. Namaste