By Ritu Khanna April 1996 New Ager takes Earthman on a journey through time and space Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting that at a distance of roughly 92 million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think cellular phones are a pretty neat idea. This planet has—or rather had—a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but the problem refused to go away. Lots of people were mean and selfish, most of them were miserable, even the ones with the cellular phones. Everyone was looking for some instant cure to solve their problems. And then a terrible catastrophe occurred. This is the story of that catastrophe and its aftermath. It is also the story of a book called The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the New Age, not yet available in bookstores. It is the unauthorized sequel to The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. It is dedicated to, and draws its inspiration from, Adams. The story begins very simply. It begins with a house. The house belongs to Earthman. He is rich, unhappy and fed up with life. To make matters worse, he has just been informed on his mobile phone that his house is to be demolished, to make way for the flyover a certain political party is building, in an attempt to garner more votes. Earthman has a friend called New Ager who has hitch hiked the length and breadth of the Earth. He’s roughed it, slummed it, and has struggled against terrible odds. New Ager has helped with the research for this article and also for the revised edition of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the New Age. Having received some inside information that, along with Earthman’s house, the Earth too is about to be demolished to give way to a greater scheme of things, New Ager rescues his friend. They escape in a dark and dingy flying saucer. ‘New Ager,’ asks Earthman, ‘I don’t know if this sounds like a silly question, but what exactly am I doing here?’ ‘Well, you know that,’ replies New Ager. ‘I have just rescued you from the Earth.’ ‘And what’s happened to the Earth?’ ‘Ah. It’s been demolished.’ ‘Has it,’ says Earthman unbelievingly, longing to grab his mobile and quickly touch base with his Earth-based buddies. ‘Yes. It just boiled away into space. But don’t panic. You come along with me and have a good time. The New Age is a fun place. And, when in doubt, read The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the New Age.’ The ride is bumpy and Earthman is unable to sleep. He decides to take New Ager’s device and opens the book, admires the cover, and begins reading the foreword: ‘What is the New Age? For some, it is a misnomer. It should be called Old Age, they feel. Those who regard it as an anachronism staunchly believe that it has always been there, but we were all too busy to look for it. For others, the New Age is a mistake, sheer fantasy. Things will just get worse, they prognosticate. ‘Then again, there are two kinds of New Age people. There are some who are in the trip just for the heck of it. They are offer the loonies who think of the New Age in terms of UFOs, channels and lost continents. For the true adherents of the New Age philosophy, however, the journey itself is the destination. They look backward only to get ahead. And they are looking to the new millennium for the dawn of a new era of hope and happiness. ‘The New Age gives a new vision to the world. It is about transformation, both individual and cultural. It is the present reality that is in the process of emerging. It is an divisible, unobtrusive movement, a silent revolution as it were. Its focus is on the whole, on sharing, caring and giving. Its emphasis is on the self, on networking, on the…’ A rude jolt, and Earthman’s reading is abruptly ended. We seem to have handed, thinks Earthman, enviously looking at New Ager who is sleeping blissfully. Earthman is not in a good mood—his cellular phone seems to be temporarily out of order. Angrily, he pokes New Ager. New Ager, true to character, is patient and calm. Actually he was not sleeping, he was meditating. ‘ We have traveled in time,’ he says gently. ‘We are both of this world and out of it. I am going to take you to places that you have probably never dreamt of. You have closed your eyes to things around you. Let me be the guide in this, your journey to the New Age. Our first stop is Esalen.’ On the way New Ager informs his friend, if we can really call it that, with its emphasis on environmentalism, feminism and many other isms, grew out of the human potential movement.’ And a lot of New Age thinking can trace its origins to the Easlen Institute on Highway I, Big Sur, California. It was founded in 1962 by Michael Murphy and Richard Price (who were inspired by Aldous Huxley) as an educational center devoted to the exploration of unrealized human capacities. Over the years it has become famous for its commune-like lifestyle, its workshops and its hot springs. Eathman looks horrified. No prude, yet he had not visualized that the New Ager would take him to the hot springs of Esalen, where nudity is the norm. ‘We encourage each individual to choose what is most comfortable, either wearing a swimsuit or not, and emphasize that the environment we strive for at Easlen is one of personal sanctuary and respect for the human body.’ Adds New Ager: ‘The New Age generation is totally fascinated with the body. For them, the body is not a dirty word; on the contrary, the body is real, and never before have they been so aware of it.’ A workshop, Singing Gestalt, is in progress. New Ager suggests that they attend it. The participants are singing loudly, some melodiously, others horribly out of tune. The coordinator explains: ‘Singing Gestalt is singing about yourself, who you are, what you feel. It is about being yourself in front of other people without judging how well you sing. It is not about performance—it is about making contact, feeling, expressing, and being there, with and for yourself and others.’ Earthman, who has skipped breakfast, realizes how hungry he is. Almost reluctant to disturb the joyous singers, he nudges New Ager, and reminds him of lunch. Quite convinced that New Ager would, in all probability, take him to a restaurant at the end of the universe, he suggests that he use his cellular phone to call Domino’s for pizzas and cokes. It is New Ager’s turn to look aghast. ‘In the New Age the process of eating takes on a different meaning altogether.’ He elaborates: ‘For us, the body is a temple. When we think of food, it is usually stuff that is good for us, mostly vegetarian and mostly harmless. We view the human being as a total system of body, mind and spirit—each of them has to be nurtured with care. ‘As for the body,’ he continues, ‘our emphasis here is on health and healing, on proper diet and exercise. When unwell, we turn to alternative methods of therapy, instead of just pill-popping at the slightest pretext. [Earthman makes a mental note of never swallowing his melatonin tablets in front of New Ager] We use music, aromas, crystals, flowers, herbs, even colors, for treatment. We believe in acupressure, acupuncture, ayurveda, biorhythms, chiropractic, homeopathy, iridology, massage, naturopathy, osteopuncture, phrenology, pulse diagnosis, rellexology, reiki, rolfing, shiatsu…’ One look at Earthman’s face, and he stops mid-sentence. They sit together in uncomfortable silence. The spaceship is approaching Hollywood, and soon lands with a loud thud outside House of Blues. They seat themselves at a corner table and order their meal. House of Blues is probable the closest Hollywood has come to having its own exclusive spiritual club. There’s a Buddha Room here, complete with statues of Hindu gods. You can find portraits of Sathya Sai Baba, Om stickers, and slogans that state: On a mission from Godand Who do you love? Earthman looks around, absorbing the almost godly ambiance. To his surprise, he comes across some familiar faces: Sylvester Stallone, Francis Ford Coppola, and yes, the material Girl herself who is said to have written her hit song secret as a tribute to Mother Meera, a mystic living in Germany. He reluctantly tears his eyes away from Madonna, in an attempt to pay attention to what his host, New Ager, is saying. It’s time for some food for thought now. Their next destination is the Bodhi Tree Bookstore at Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, that was opened in 1970 by three aerospace engineers. The world’s biggest store for spiritual literature (it has around 30,000 titles), it also stocks New Age accessories such as cassettes, both video and audio, crystals, tarot cards and incense. On the way to the Bodhi Tree Bookstore, Earthman refers to the glossary in The Hitch Hitch’s Guide to the New Age to find the meaning of some of the esoteric terms that New Ager had rattled off earlier:‘Reiki: A Japanese technique that uses hands to being about an energy transfer to bring about an energy transfer and thus promote healing Rolfing: A muscular realignment therapy for the release of muscles frozen by stress.’ There is a large crowd outside the Bodhi Tree Annex, ‘This is an even bigger gathering than when a scene was shot here for the television adaptation of Shirley Maclaine’s book, Out on a Limb‘, observes New Ager, adding that MacLaine had written about her visits to th
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