Age of Aquarius
In the mid-60s and more fully into the 70s, there rose a loose network of innovators from almost every spiritual discipline, practitioners of inner exploration; sometimes based on traditional religious practice or modern psychological techniques, they attracted those followers who sought direct experience of wisdom and truth.
Were you a seeker? Did you achieve a direct experience of truth? What moments on your path were most revelatory?
Ancient practices from Asia and India, such as yoga, tai chi, meditation from Zen to Tantra, are taught in private homes, urban centers, and rustic retreats.
1960s: communes with a shared vision are established, sometimes around a spiritual practice or leader or with the back-to-the-land environmental movement, all with an ethos of equalitarian acceptance and non-violence.
1962, Rachel Carson, author and early environmentalist, publishes Silent Spring and is met with controversy.
Ethel Shariff is the leader of the women’s corps of the Black Muslims, wife of the chief of the elite guard, and daughter of Elijah Muhammad, the spiritual leader of the Black Muslim movement. Black Americans convert to Islam in the 60s, many joining the Nation of Islam and insular African American Muslim communities.
This image is part of the photographic essay on Malcolm X and the Muslims, LIFE, May 31, 1963, accompanied by Gordon Parks’s essay “What Their Cry Means to Me—A Negro’s Own Evaluation.”
1966, Jean Houston, prominent in the human potential movement, develops theories in the deeper awareness and potentials of the human mind, co-authors The Varieties of Psychedelic Experience, and begins cultural research with Margaret Mead.
In 1973 The Brain Revolution: The Frontiers of Mind Research is authored by Marilyn Ferguson, longtime publisher of Brain/Mind Bulletin, a human potential newsletter, and friend and adviser to a wide array of pivotal public figures, from Ram Dass to Al Gore. A second newsletter, Leading Edge Bulletin, finds its culmination in The Aquarian Conspiracy, the seminal work that earns Ferguson a lasting global reputation.
In 1976 Merlin Stone’s groundbreaking book, When God Was a Woman, is published in the UK and has a profound effect on the emerging Goddess Culture of the 1970s. A sculptor and art historian, she paves the way for an appreciation of feminine deities.
1978, Jackie Speier survives the Jonestown massacre while on a fact-finding mission with Congressman Leo Ryan. Peoples Temple members ambush their departing plane; Speier shields herself behind the airplane wheels, but is shot five times and left for dead. She waits 22 hours before help arrives. Speier heroically testifies as a witness to the dark side of a corrupt commune.
Jean Shinoda Bolen publishes The Tao of Psychology in 1979, an integration of Eastern religion and Western psychology and non-rational phenomena—the occult, religious mysticism, parapsychology, to name a few—with popular psychology and Jungian theory in arguing a connection between the inner and outer worlds, between the visible and invisible.
Mother Teresa in 1979 receives the Nobel Peace Prize and was the most admired women in Gallup poles for many years; Mother Teresa established the first Home for the Dying in the city of Calcutta and a religious order of thousands.
Marion Zimmer Bradley publishes The Mists of Avalon in 1979, a retelling of the Arthurian legends from the female characters’ point of view. In her words, she states:
“A religious search of many years culminated in my accepting ordination in one of Gnostic Catholic churches as a priest. Since the appearance of the novel, many women have consulted me about this, feeling that the awareness of the Goddess has expanded their own religious consciousness, and ask me if it can be reconciled with Christianity.”
Gail Straub, a leading authority in the field of empowerment, co-founds Empowerment Training Programs in 1981.
Bolen, Jean Shinoda. The Tao of Psychology. HarperSanFrancisco; 25th Anv. Edition, 2005, ©1979.
Bradley, Marion Zimmer. Mists of Avalon. New York: Del Rey/Ballantine, 2000, ©1979.
Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1962.
Ferguson, Marilyn. The Brain Revolution: The Frontiers of Mind Research. New York: Taplinger, 1973.
—. The Aquarian Conspiracy. New York: J.P. Tarcher, 1980.
Houston, Jean and Robert Masters. The Varieties of Psychedelic Experience. New York: Park Street Press, 1966.
Stone, Merlin. When God Was a Woman. New York: Dial Press, 1976.
—. Ancient Mirrors of Womanhood. Boston: Beacon Press, 1979.