Disillusioned by the hypocrisies prevalent in the practice of Christianity, many people during the 60's and 70's turned to eastern religions for fresh insight into the meaning of life, seeking guidance and direction. In many ways these doctrines did supply alternative ways of thinking that were met with eager acceptance by Americans and others in the west jaded on Christianity.
Spiritual teachers representing eastern philosophies had a long history as keepers of knowledge, gurus that could provide answers and a path that followers could adopt almost like a recipe, delivering the desired result of a spiritual life. This was propelled into mainstream awareness when The Beatles became involved with Maharishi Yogi, whose transcendental meditation offered a secret mantra that one could repeat silently in order to achieve higher consciousness.
Young people by the hundreds began to align themselves with an array of spiritual teachers and the practices of a devotee, adopting the outer appearance by dressing in white, wearing turbans and changing their persona to an array of Indian sounding names.
Having already served as a professor at San Francisco State, Stephen’s conversion to a teacher of spirituality was not a giant leap. About a decade older than most of the young people massing in San Francisco, he was able to address the class with the learned air of authority while calling on the natural maturity that comes from wider life experience. By assuming the role of spiritual teacher, he was in some measure stepping in to fill a void, taking on the responsibility to assemble an avenue of spiritual understanding that did not require assuming the doctrines of another culture.
In many ways his role was to articulate the lessons learned through the application of universal principles in words that could be understood and expressed in the context of modern life. At times this meant interpreting or learning to recognize how these principles of eastern philosophy were also expressed in our western culture, to be brought forward and understood in a new way through the spiritual awareness of counter-culture values.
Spirituality and Religion
For the most part baby boomers of the 60’s and 70’s were raised under the doctrines of two classic religions, Christianity and Judaism. To varying degrees there was a general respect for various elements or expression of certain core concepts, but the historical and modern day hypocrisies and evident shortcomings made it hard to accept these religions as anything other than ancient doctrines practiced through dogmatic rituals with much of the original human values watered down or talked about but not applied.
Although Eastern religions offered new insights, they too came with extra baggage, cultural superstitions and beliefs that had little relevance.
Expressed in basic terms, classic world religions are based on people and events thousands of years ago, rewritten over and over again, each time shifting to match the attitudes of the time. In an effort to explain the unknowable, they ultimately demand unquestioned faith in the unknown, using corresponding illustrious prose to define and describe the afterlife.
In contrast, spirituality can be defined as moral principles that serve as the roadmap one follows throughout life. When faced with life’s decisions large and small, these morals help guide the individual every step of the way.
By acknowledging and putting into practice core spiritual values in everyday life, each person is carried toward their ultimate goal, a sane existence filled with happiness, one that someday ends with a sense of with fulfillment.
Religions typically ask their followers to base their faith on supernatural events that took place in the past, using these as evidence to demonstrate the existence of a higher power. Those who follow a spiritual path are able to use their own direct experiences to influence and guide their life choices and to gain a sense of universal oneness connecting all things.
Symbols are very often used to help express religious concepts. Through imprinting and ritual, religious followers are instructed to absorb and adopt allegiance to their faith by acknowledging the sacraments of their church. Again the sacraments represent events that took place hundreds or thousands of years ago, kept alive through symbols and ritual.
By seeking a path of direct experience, the Church of The Farm Community recognized the sacraments that are present in the here and now, important life transitions which have the ability to touch each person and impart to them a sense of the profound.