Monday, February 05, 2007

Discerning the Spirit of the '60s

ACCORDING TO AN ARTICLE in the Catholic Encyclopedia, "All moral conduct may be summed up in the rule: avoid evil and do good."

The analysis of what impels us to do either good or evil is called the "discernment of spirits", and takes into account our own nature and the influence of things divine and diabolical.

Michael H. Brown discerns the spirit of the 1960s cultural rebellion, in his recent article Re-thinking the Beatles:
A great spiritual confusion arrived during the 1960s and in many ways it came most powerfully through music -- especially rock music, which helped cause monumental societal, moral, and even spiritual change.

In a way that often seems hard to peg, a revolution occurred. There was suddenly long hair. There were t-shirts. There were jeans. There was liberation -- from everything conventional, and from tradition. It was the onset of anti-traditionalism. There was freedom to dress any way. There was freedom to flee religion. There was freedom to use drugs (which replaced the spiritual "high"). There was "free" sex. There were often good intentions spurred by excesses in society but there was also the spirit of rebellion during an intriguing and in many ways dark period that was to deeply alter the moral landscape.
There was a severe change in the culture during in the 1960s, although the various trends had their start in decades (or centuries, or millennia) previous. We should not forget that every time and age has its heresies, but it is always notable when the heretics actually take over society. The shift in culture from the early 1960s to the end of the decade was sudden and dramatic.

At the beginning of the decade, there was a strong social appeal to the virtue of liberality, especially regarding the poor and the status of ethnic minorities. Even though there was much controversy, these issues were of orthodox concern and solving these problems was mainly the concern of religion, much as the opposition to slavery a century earlier also came from religion. Likewise, the early '60s was the optimistic era of the Second Vatican Council, which promised to end the Reformation and spark a renewal that would spread Catholicism like wildfire. Except it didn't work out as promised. By the end of the decade, poverty rates soared, racial tensions were on the brink of civil war, and the Catholic Church imploded.

Satan was unchained during the 20th century: certainly figuratively, and possibly literally, if you believe some mystics (whose visions might be approved, although certainly are not requirements of the faith). Sometime in the 1960s, all Hell broke loose in society, and good liberal ideas were distorted beyond recognition into perversions.

A historian once stated that every political revolution is preceded by a musical revolution, and the 1960s was no exception. Indeed, before the end of the 1960s, it was a matter of controversy about which musical style best represented the youth of America: folk music was squeaky clean, but commie pinko, while rock 'n' roll was red-blooded American but highly immoral. Rock, of course, won, and the rock lifestyle became the societal norm for the youth. In the Church, however, folk music won out, and the impious congregationalism that it implies still lives with us.

This musical revolution was followed by a political revolution, but not one based on the ideals the earlier part of the decade, but rather was based purely on power and ideology, and not goodness.

The only possible defense for the rock musical style is personal preference or perhaps popular acclaim, which are merely subjective factors. There are no objective defenses possible for the style: not from the virtue of art, nor from the goodness of its lifestyle, nor from the ennobling power of its lyrics. Should we be surprised that the culture this style engenders lacks art, goodness, and nobility?

So we get back to discerning the spirit of this change: nothing about it is objectively good, and therefore it cannot be from God. The article continues:
"The Beatles were a kind of religion," said Lennon, who added that concerts such as Woodstock were more than just concerts; they were as if "a new Church" was forming...

Later, Lennon would describe himself as more a channeler, a "medium," than a composer -- as would McCartney, who also believed they were in touch with a force outside of themselves.

"The more I go into this spiritual thing, the more I realize that we -- the Beatles -- aren't doing it, but that something else is doing it," said George Harrison...

As a youngster, Lennon and his friends "thought they heard voices in their heads."

Can we not discern this?
Indeed. Click here for Brown's second article on the subject.

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