Awakening and the Counterculture
About the age of sixteen I underwent a major
intellectual awakening. It came as a powerful experience that radically changed my
thoughts and perception. Initially it was quite disturbing and disorienting. While some
sort of intellectual ferment had been developing in me for several years, this one
resulted in a profound break from the authorities and ideas of my childhood and the
vestiges of my American education. It initiated a series of studies that encompassed
western intellectual thought and first brought me in contact with eastern spirituality. It
marked an important transition in my life.
At this time I began to write a philosophical type of poetry, which I
kept secretly to myself. I lost interest in science and mathematics that had been my main
mental pursuits. My interest in Europe became stronger but moved from its history to its
thought and culture. America began to seem a rather provincial country, devoid of
sophistication or culture.I looked briefly into rationalist philosophers like Kant, Hegel
or Bertrand Russell but was not drawn to them. I found them too dominated by a dry reason
that seemed devoid of life and creativity. My mind had a certain emotional or artistic
urge and was not content with mere logic or science.
The existentialists at first stimulated me with their deep
questions about consciousness and perception. I began to think about consciousness and how
it works. They were rather depressing as well. Emptiness, despair and suicide were
ideas I could relate to as part of growing up in a world without meaning, but I was not so
morbid in temperament as to be swallowed up by them. Existentialism eventually seemed to
me to be a rather dry and hopeless affair.