A series of miscellaneous articles on the Sixties in general and Ann Arbor, Michigan in particular.
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October 20, 2015
By Michael Erlewine (

I am a pre baby-boomer, so when the Hippies came along in the mid-1960s I was already fully present at that time, however as more of an instructor of the Hippies than one of them. That period from the late 1950s until the Hippie Movement actually started in the summer of 1965 has not been written about much or looked at very closely.

Those of us who were coming into our own during that time period kind of bridged the gap between the crew-cut mentality of the 1950s and what came out in the middle-to- later 1960s, which we call The Sixties. As for myself, I wanted to be a Beatnik, but came too late to that party. Yet, I absorbed a lot of beatnik culture and their ethos. One thing we learned from the Beats was European literature and philosophy, perhaps more than we then knew of our own American literature.

For one, we were literate, which can’t be said for the Hippies. We knew art, literature, and music -- classical, jazz, and of course rock n’ roll. I also knew folk music. As mentioned, we were more into the dark European view of things than we were into American culture, although the Hippies soon made short work of that, and with them, love of American music and movies came to the forefront. It was goodbye to the dark night of Europe and the Beats. Hippies were all about full sun and dancing.

So, it was quite natural for the Hippies to look up to us. After all, we were just a few years their senior, so we became a finishing school when they came up short in the liberal arts department. We knew that stuff.

Much of this was before the advent of any available spiritual training; that came with “The Sixties.” However, we still had spiritual experiences back then and an interest in learning more. For example, everyone I knew (or hung out with) loved the mystic poetry of William Blake, pieces like “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.”

If someone has come up without knowing some William Blake, life goes on of course, but they also missed something, quotes like:

“How do you know but ev'ry Bird that cuts the airy way,
“Is an immense world of delight, clos'd by your senses five?” William Blake – from “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.”
Below find the original text to Blake’s work, “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.”

And here is a facsimile of his original illustrated portfolio:…/MarrOfHea ... ke1790.pdf

Those of us who came up reading and studying the psychological and emotional side of literature came into mind training through the back door. Deeply romantic novels like “The Wanderer” by Henri Alain-Fornier or Goethe’s “The Sorrows of Young Werther,” heart moving, are classic examples of what the Germans call “Bildungsroman,” self- building novels. We inhaled those and loved them.

I read the novels of Dostoevsky, all 52 of them. They were another vein of psychological education for me. I even learned to read a little Russian to that end. In music, I gradually moved away from folk music and began to mine the emotional creativity of blues, and the funkier, the better. I was all about the juice in things.

The simple truth is that in all my studies I clung to the psychological and emotive edge of life. Buddhism appealed to me, because, in my eyes it was not a religion, but rather a methodology, a path, and a psychological one at that. I am like a fish in water when it comes to psychology, but in the more arid realms of academic learning, I don’t do as well. I am an addict of the sense world, in particular the sense that language and words make.

In time, I became aware that all language and the words that make it up point to the sense it makes, to action and living, experiences we must have for ourselves. Once I understood that, communication became much easier.

We all know about the inherent dualism in language, in words and sentences, the fact that they have a subject and object, something I learned diagramming sentences in Catholic school. This is dualism in a nutshell, our own language, with its subjects and objects.

That being a fact, then much of our spiritual training, at least our preparation for it, comes down to metaphorically removing that habitual duality in language, eliding consonants, collapsing sentences into a single action, a leap of faith into the sense world of real-life experience. Here is one of what I call a Mantra Poem, something I wrote in the mid-1960s, a tongue-twisting way to skirt the edge of nonsense in order to recreate in the mind the logic of a concept, if pronounced out loud and carefully. I apologize if it is too tightly wrapped.


The form of force enforcing form,
Finds freedom from that form in fact.

And in fact forced is freed,
A form of force with faith in form that finds in fact: Faith itself a force.
Thus, force finds itself in form on faith.

And force enforcing faith in form,
And form informing faith of force,

Faith is that force in form. Faith is our form of force.
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