Wednesday, July 4, 2012





There is something to be said for the emergence of deep interest in the Eastern Philosophies, Martial Arts, Meditation and a quest for meaning of life with 
fascination for new styles of music and dance in the US in 1960's and the debut of
the Beatles. Certainly this was a form of cultural evolution and transformation of collective
consciousness of the new generation which gave birth to the "Hippie" movement in the US.

The flower children and their fascination for psychedelics (LSD, Mushrooms, PCP, etc.) were viewed by some as their liberal attitude and a peaceful rebellion against the conventional
standards and customs of the extant society. Their adventure into music and Woodstock Festival were viewed as cultural innovation resulting form their internalizing the watered down pagan philosophies borrowed from India, Japan and even Viet Nam, may be including the "Kama Sutra" and liberalized attitude towards sex with interest in Tantrism. The creativity of this generation was sadly an expression of disappointment in the hypocrisy unconsciously or consciously perceived by the young who knew their fate was in the hands of the powers they could not control or influence. This form of helplessness was a pre traumatic cultural mass reaction to the threat of "mass destruction" yet to be "counted", but not until too long after the end of sixties the numbers poured out showing that there were 58,000+ Americans dead in the Viet Nam war. Majority of the male flower children were targeted as the subjects of conscription of the day for expansion of the military. They knew nothing of war, had no ROTC training, no military background but they were to become soldiers in a matter of months.

So large a population of young men and women had never experienced such existential anxiety any time before the 60's since the Civil War in the US. The second world war was fought mostly by the voluntarily enlisted armed forces. There were draft boards in every neighborhood in the US in the 60's and until early 70s.  All they knew was that their lives, and their friends' lives will be truncated at short notice and the future for them became extremely unpredictable and uncertain. There was no escape from such threat. Their minds sought escape in one form or the other engrossment, alteration of consciousness, or alternatively attempted to master the anxiety with counter phobic pursuits. The deep interest in the Eastern Martial arts such as Karate, Judo, etc. representing the latter form of coping led to American mastery of these pursuits.

Although Paramhansa Yogananda and Swami Vivekananda had brought the theoretical
glimpses of Yoga to the US in the late 19th Century, and Swami Kuvalayananda's Journal
"Yoga Mimansa" had minimal circulation in the US since 1925 with a Ph D candidate, Dr. Bohanan under his guidance at Yale university, there was no popularized version of Yoga
available to the Flower Children until Maharshi Mahesh Yogi brought his "Transcendental 
Meditation" to the shores of US which spread like wild fire for seeking "peace" after the Beatles saw its intrinsic value.

The credit, however, may not go to the intrinsic value of Yoga, Meditation, Martial Art, and Zen for the birth of New Age Culture in the US but to the threat of becoming the canon fodder in large numbers.

This "pre-traumatic stress" condition deserves to be recognized and reckoned with as the instigating factor behind the drive to reject and oppose the societal conventions, customs and standards as manifested by internalization of features of other cultures in not only their costumes, apparels, and hair styles but also their view of life, attitudes and philosophies.The rejection of the comforts of luxury of the opulent life style by this generation may be compared with the development of the attitude of "vairagya" familiar to
Hindus. It is not quite renunciation or sanyasa but becoming comfortable with less in preparation for anticipated future deprivation if deployed in Viet Nam.

From the mental health point of view such peaceful revolution or cultural evolution
is a form of sublimation of the anger and hostility aroused by devaluing the worth of the lives of so many thousands of men and lack of concern or lower priority for the concern for emotional lives of their loved ones unavoidable in a patriotic higher priority for the war. That aside, the entire cultural phenomenon including the fascination for the recreational drugs
in this era needs to be recognized as the symptom-complex of "Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder".

Are there other examples of such cultural manifestations of "Pre-Taumatic Stress Disorder"
in the history of mankind? Perhaps not.  The fact these interests and pursuits are recognized as symptoms do not render them all pathological. The word sublimation subsumes that such pursuits are highly prosocial and socially acceptable. The question regarding the wide spread fascination for mind altering drugs probably is distinctly different. It is a deep unhealed or non healing wound or a scar permanently left on the American society as a pathological symptom of "Pre-TSD."

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