Thursday, July 3, 2014

Turn on, tune in, drop out - The iconic Stephen Gaskin dies leaving The Farm and a movement as his legacy

photo by Sanford Pass, Highland Park NJ USA



Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Though I know that evenin’s empire has returned into sand
Vanished from my hand
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping
My weariness amazes me, I’m branded on my feet
I have no one to meet
And the ancient empty street’s too dead for dreaming

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin’ ship
My senses have been stripped, my hands can’t feel to grip
My toes too numb to step
Wait only for my boot heels to be wanderin’
I’m ready to go anywhere, I’m ready for to fade
Into my own parade, cast your dancing spell my way
I promise to go under it

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Though you might hear laughin’, spinnin’, swingin’ madly across the sun
It’s not aimed at anyone, it’s just escapin’ on the run
And but for the sky there are no fences facin’
And if you hear vague traces of skippin’ reels of rhyme
To your tambourine in time, it’s just a ragged clown behind
I wouldn’t pay it any mind
It’s just a shadow you’re seein’ that he’s chasing

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you
~ Bob Dylan
Mr. Tambourine Man
Copyright © 1964, 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1992, 1993 by Special Rider Music



The miracle is not that you can't knock me down[;] my miracle is that I know how to get up. And I can teach you how to get up.
—Stephen Gaskin





Stephen Gaskin was the Guru of a revolution - not the pitchforks sharpened and brandished with angry violence in the streets kind of revolution (though he had been known to brandish a pitchfork, spade, scythe and other tools of a man working with and on the land).  Gaskin was the Guru of a new kind of revolution - one of the true socialist kind - returning to the land, building a commune, feeding the people and expanding the idea throughout the world.

Stephen Gaskin was a real Hippie - not the modern day term used by poseurs and wanna-bes, nor the epithet used by the willfully ignorant and arrogant (though, I am quite certain, he heard the term spat with vile disdain by those who just didn't get it or who were so very threatened by his ideas).  Gaskin was a true hero of the counterculture that sprung from the toxicity of fear and angst - Cold Warring, nuclear bombing, duck and covering, greed and hubris exploding in America post WW II.  Rejecting that fear and angst, a  new/old culture was re-born - a culture sewn with the hope and dreams of re-learning, re-teaching, re-living, re-creating -  low tech, hard work and high reward.... Righteous Right Livelihood.

From the beginning, Stephen Gaskin was special.  An ex-Marine - a veteran of the US war on Korea - moving to the Haight and coming into his own.  He taught writing at San Francisco State College and there his "Monday Night Class" began - a place for rapping, thinking, creating and building a concept that birthed a movement back to the land.

Stephen Gaskin leads the Monday Night Class at the Family Dog in 1970
[Gerald Wheeler]

By 1970, a ragtag group of true believers took off in painted buses, step vans and old bread trucks.  The Caravan - tripping and dancing through the country from San Francisco to Tennessee.


The Farm was born out of the hardship of labor - a new re-birth in honor of the Great Mother - The Earth.


"After a lengthy search, a down payment was made on a 1000 acre former cattle ranch in middle Tennessee. It was called, “The Farm.”  In the beginning there was one house, a couple of barns. Buses were driven and pulled into the woods, down the old logging roads, and people settled in to build a new life."  Farm Community History - The Early Years



From Manhood in the Age of Aquarius: Masculinity in Two Countercultural Communities, 1965–83, by Tim Hodgdon:

As the decade of the 1970s neared its conclusion, Stephen Gaskin, spiritual teacher to a Tennessee commune of more than a thousand residents, put the finishing touches on Haight-Ashbury Flashbacks, a book that recounted some of his most memorable experiences as an acidhead in the Haight-Ashbury. He recalled how he and his peers had had to improvise the LSD subculture of the mid-1960s while trying to make sense of the overwhelming LSD experience: we, today, might liken the process of creating social rules for using acid to traversing the metaphorical "new speedway" of a Grateful Dead song, which described a highway that lacked markings of any kind, and rules of the road as well.

On this unmarked highway, Gaskin took many wrong turns. At first LSD produced for him only pleasant, interesting sensations. His twenty-sixth acid trip, however, truly blew his mind, shaking the foundations of his identity. "My consciousness," he later wrote, "was reduced to zilch, zero, and I crawled back up many times, caught myself putting it back together wrong and kicked it down again, and didn't accept one until I found a direction of growth I . . . could live with." Neither he nor his friends had expected to become convinced of the literal existence of a metaphysical dimension of reality, which they often called God. But his use of terms like astral plane signals immediately that he and his companions did not become conventional Christians. They plunged into an informal study of comparative mysticism, searching the world's religious traditions for the tools that might put tripping into perspective. This was a first step in Gaskin's development of a syncretic but mostly Buddhist spirituality that seemed, to these psychedelic travelers, to reveal the possibility of human transcendence of conflict—war, racism, poverty, and even the battle of the sexes. They dedicated themselves to developing a spiritual discipline that might steer all humanity toward peace through spiritual enlightenment.

By choosing to interpret their LSD experiences as revelations of profound spiritual truth, Gaskin and his followers rejected the Hegelian materialism of the New Left. Inequality, violence, and the degradation of the natural environment certainly required, in their view, a radical response—but these were problems primarily of human consciousness, not material structure. In a 1970 interview, Gaskin argued that "we don't have to change the material plane around. That's just moving the furniture—you change people's heads and you can do all of that. . . . So that's why I'm not political—politics is about changing the system. I'm about changing people."


From High Times:




Stephen Gaskin - guru, father, brother, son; one of the planet and one with the planet - returned to star dust,  July 1, 2014.



 "I'm a teacher, not a leader. If you lose your leader, you're leaderless and lost, but if you lose your teacher there's a chance that he taught you something and you can navigate on your own."
~ Stephen Gaskin

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