Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Osho) was an Indian mystic who founded the Rajneesh movement, members of which are sometimes referred to as “Rajneeshees” (“Orange People”) because of the orange (and later red, maroon and pink clothes) they used from 1970 until 1985. Osho was opposed to Hindu and Christian morality. He promoted meditation and free love, denouncing marriage as a form of social bondage for women. He criticised socialism and Gandhi, advocating technology, capitalism and birth control. In 1984, Rajneeshee teams engaged in a bio-terror attack in The Dalles, Oregon, poisoning salad products with salmonella at local restaurants and shops, poisoning 751 people. The motivation behind the attack was to rig the local election allowing the Rajneeshees to gain political power in the city and county. As an example of the hippy movement, I can think of no one better. Lofty ideals and progressive thinking evolving into self-centred narcissistic wrongdoing.
For the moment, I’ll concentrate on some of the radical thinking that I agree with. Osho believed that an addiction to personal progress and advancement undermines the joy that life has to offer in the present. We should all value things as they are and not for their pragmatic value. He believed that “Life is a cosmic play, a continuous beautiful game, a beautiful hide-and-seek–not leading anywhere. Nowhere is the goal.” Dwelling on the past or worrying about the future is unlikely to achieve happiness and contentment. If this is our attitude to life, are we deluding ourselves or are we making the most of the short time that we have? What is the best way to live our lives? Indeed, what is the meaning of life?
A revelation about the meaning of life is described in “The Balance”, a Graeme Edge poem on “A Question Of Balance” in which a man, seeking life’s meaning, stumbles upon a delicious orange which caused him to “feel the earth to his spine”. This revelation results in a perception of “magnificent perfection” in the universe. “Whereon, he thought of himself in balance and he knew he was“.
If the first word that springs to your mind, when reading or listening to this, is “bollocks”, then I have some sympathy. On the other hand, living in the present without guilt or anxiety can lead to simple pleasures taking on happy significance.
“Question” is the opening song on the album and, when released as a single, reached Number Two in the U.K. Charts. The song was pieced together from two songs that Justin Hayward had written. When he realised that the faster part of the song concerns a search for meaning in a world filled with hate and the more melodic part describes his yearning for a life partner to help him replace pointlessness with meaning, he pieced the two parts together to form a song that addresses many of the spiritual questions posed by the Sixties counterculture.
Before recording “In Search Of The Lost Chord”, four of the five members of The Moody Blues took LSD. One of the effects of taking hallucinogenic drugs is to alter one’s perception of the universe – reality is not what it seemed to be when sober. Getting high was a significant step on the journey to discover who we are and how the world exists. A common description of a trip is that you “wake up”, your mind appears to be outside of your body and the external world appears as a mixture of interdependent colors and shapes, having no real essence.
“People today are still living off the table scraps of the sixties. They are still being passed around- the music and the ideas” – Bob Dylan (1992)
The second track on “A Question Of Balance” is “How Is It (We Are Here)” and this sets the scene for a search for life’s meaning that permeates the whole album. In fact, it’s a search that The Moody Blues started with “In Search Of The Lost Chord” in 1968, where the penultimate track is a poem called “The Word”, which finishes
“Two notes of the chord, that’s our full scope
But to reach the chord is our life’s hope”
“How Is It (We Are Here)” explores our place in existence. Rather than ask why are we here, Mike Pinder asks how are we here. He suggests that the answer lies in love. “Her love is so much higher it can’t be denied.” This resembles Iris DeMent’s answer in the first song on “Infamous Angel” when she sings “I believe in love and I live my life accordingly, but I choose to let the mystery be.”
There is a great temptation to view this idealism cynically. The phrase “pretentious bollocks” springs to mind. On the other hand, the enthusiastic optimism that is associated with the hippy generation should be embraced, not dismissed, in my opinion.
“Melancholy Man” is a sad song which concerns someone who can find no solace in his life experiences. “When all the stars are falling down into the sea and on the ground… another man is what you’ll see who looks like you and looks like me…his life caught up in misery“.
“A Question Of Balance” is the sixth album by The Moody Blues and their fifth in a creative period between November 1967 and August 1970. The five members of the band all contributed their own songs to the album with Justin Hayward writing three songs and each of the others writing two. It’s pompous, overblown, lofty, overbearing, presumptuous and pretentious and I love it. They are the reasons why I love it.