Some Aspects of the Contemporary Search for an Alternative Society, [In Glastonbury, England, 1967-1971]

By Irving Hexham, Unpublished M.A. Thesis, University of Bristol, 1981


N.B. When this thesis was written University of Bristol M.A. Theses were limited to a mere 10,000 words.

The following thesis was written under the supervision of F.B. Welbourn.



The Freaks who come to Glastonbury share a set of common assumptions and beliefs. Some have only a very vague understanding of these beliefs, while others are fairly articulate. For most Freaks these beliefs are an accepted part of life, though they would find it difficult to explain them to an outsider. The beliefs are part of being a Freak, they are not an articulated philosophy of life.

Any individual's understanding of these beliefs is usually incoherent and fragmentary. No attempt is made to systematise or to offer a rational defence of them. When questioned Freaks usually cannot explain how the various elements in their beliefs relate to each other nor can they elaborate upon them. Most freaks know a little about all the things which make up the belief-system but are not in possession of any great knowledge about particular parts of their beliefs. It is assumed by Freaks that all other Freaks, and people who associate with them, are aware of these things and believe them [1].

There are three basic types of beliefs to be found among freaks:

(1) Those that may be described as basic presuppositions about the nature of reality and the dawning of a New Age;

(2) General background beliefs which provide the mythology that supports the basic presuppositions; and

(3) Particularised beliefs epitomised in the freaks' interest in Glastonbury [2]

The basic presuppositions which appear to be held by all Freaks about the nature of reality are ultimately of Indian origin. This is recognised by the freaks who tend to revere all things Indian, often failing to realise how "western" their view of India is. But despite the impurity of many of their ideas the acceptance of these presuppositions represents a profound change in the general outlook of a large number of young westerners. A shift in values has occurred which makes a radical change in the approach to reality, and view held of it, between the present young generation and their grandparents.

There is a great difference between the beliefs of the young and those held by the majority of their parents but the ideas accepted by the young are not quite as strange to their parents as they are to their grandparents. This is because many of the beliefs accepted by today's youth, like the belief in reincarnation, have been circulated in the popular mind for many years. The widespread acceptance of these ideas by the young is therefore more understandable [3].

These beliefs are centered on an acceptance of meditation and yoga practices as a means of attaining "spiritual" satisfaction. Western forms of religious expression have been abandoned with a general acceptance that Christianity, as it has been propagated by the Churches, is thoroughly discredited. The belief exists among some freaks that Christ was a great spiritual teacher and that essentially Christianity is true. But this acceptance of Christianity is modified by the belief that the real message of Christ has been obscured by the Church. By the uses of meditation and yoga it is considered that it is possible to return to the original message of Christianity which was, they believe, in accordance with Indian religion [4].

By turning to the East most Freaks are in reality accepting a form of Hinduism or perhaps more precisely a form of theosophy. Some in fact claim to be Hindus in their beliefs, others claim to be Buddhists or to be followers of some other esoteric religion. But whatever their claims most of them hold essentially the same beliefs. These centre on the use of techniques of ecstasy to attain spiritual experiences. The techniques involved are called various names; yoga, meditation, transcendental meditation, etc., but they are basically the same. They provide a unity between the various religious groups with which Freaks associate, as well as a link with more traditional form sof Indian religions [5].

Yoga is a technique of attaining a state of being which can best be described as complete freedom. It is the liberation of the individual from the attachment which he has formed for this transient world. Through yoga and drug-induced experiences the Freaks come to an understanding of the nature of their earthly existence and the desirability of attaining spiritual satisfaction. From drugs Freaks go on to use yoga. They generally regard both drug and yogic experiences as being of the same order but imply that it is preferable to attain liberation through the use of yoga rather than drugs. Liberation is thus the goal of the Freaks. Total freedom from the cares and anxieties of this life is what they seek [6]

With acceptance of yogic means of salvation goes the acceptance of other basic beliefs in Indian origin. These are karma and reincarnation. Both of them are accepted in an unconscious way, as though they were obvious and had always been accepted. They are as real to Freaks as is Father Christmas to young children and are only talked about within a framework of acceptance.

Technically the understanding of these concepts by the Freaks would probably appal an educated Indian or student of Indian philosophy but it seems probably that their understanding is no more distorted than that found at the level of village Hinduism [7].

For the freaks reincarnation and karma are two separate beliefs, of equal standing. Karma is understood as a cosmic law of cause and effect. Whatever is done by a person, it is believed, has some "karmic action" attached to it. So if a freak is unpleasant to someone they believe someone will be unpleasant to him. As you treat other people and things so will you be treated by people and things. It is also believed that people generate "bad karma" which can prevent them from coming to the realisation of spiritual reality.

Thus bad karma is blamed for the unhappy international situation and for the general state of the world. The ecological crisis is taken as a supreme example of the working of karma. For generations men have ignored the workings of nature. Now nature is ignoring man. This explains the popularity of vegetarianism among the freaks. The killing of animals brings bad karma upon men. Yet despite the appreciation of the effects of bad karma in blinding men to spiritual reality, the notion of maya, or illusion, seemed absent from freak beliefs [8]

Reincarnation or more strictly transmigration, has a long history in Hindu thought and has always been seen in relationship to a belief in karma. Karma was the cause of reincarnation. But, for Freaks there appears to be no conscious link between their belief in reincarnation and in karma. Reincarnation is accepted because there is thought to be evidence for it, in the form of the memories of past lives which living people have.

Belief in reincarnation also seems to supply the answer to many otherwise unanswered questions. These include: Why are some people apparently born talented? Why are there social differences? How can injustices and misfortune be accepted? But the most important reason for the acceptance of reincarnation is the belief that evidence exists for it; and closely allied to this is the belief of some freaks that they can remember "previous lives" [9].

In their Indian context these presuppositions are accompanied by a rich mythology which gives them popular expression. With a few notable exceptions the freaks, and other groups introducing Indian religious practices to the west, have made little use of the mythology which is found in India. Instead they have developed their own elaborate mythology which substitutes for the Indian one.

This new mythology has many elements incorporating existing western mythologies, and to a lesser extent other mythologies, as well as a popular expression of belief in "science" through beliefs about "flying saucers" and various "lost civilizations" [10]. The rich tapestry of Freak myth may be analysed into three distinct elements. These are:

1. Decline beliefs

2. New Age beliefs, and

3. Other Civilization beliefs.

These will now be examined in turn.

First, decline beliefs reflect the pessimistic aspect of the Freaks' outlook. Arising out of fears about an atomic war and ecological catastrophe there are a series of beliefs about the immanent collapse of modern society. Society as it is now constructed is doomed. It will be destroyed either through war, through ecological disaster or through an economic collapse which will involve the complete breakdown of modern society. Should such a fate be avoided then the Freaks are sure that it will be at the cost of accepting a totalitarian dictatorship. But whatever happens society as we know it will disappear [11].

These beliefs received a great boost from the announcement of the bankruptcy of Rolls Royce aerospace. News like this has tended to increase the freak belief in a general breakdown of society rather than atomic destruction or total ecological disaster. They now tend to believe that though ecological crises will be significant in the destruction of present day society, the first major disaster will follow economic collapse. When such a collapse occurs they believe it will affect the whole world.

They are convinced that modern industrial society is doomed to failure. This failure will cause great suffering and destruction of life, especially in the cities as people fight desperately to survive. Survival will once more become man's prime preoccupation. In such a world the Freaks will be the most fitted to survive, because they have already learnt to live without the "necessities" of modern life [12].

Beliefs like these are very pessimistic and have often been assumed to be the central characteristic of Freak thought. This assumption has caused many commentators to speak about the "despair" to be found among Freaks. Because they see no future it is asserted that they place great emphasis on living "NOW". Life as lived in "straight society" is seen to be pointless and absurd by the Freaks, therefore some assume that the Freaks see all life as pointless and absurd. It is almost impossible to overstate the utter despair which is found among the Freaks. In one aspect of their lives they are true existentialists living in an absurd world.

But, very importantly, this is only one aspect of their thought. Their despair is mitigated by a supreme optimism and faith in man's spiritual destiny. To understand the Freaks it is essential to recognise the dualism found in their thought. Unfortunately too many would-be interpreters, such as Kenneth Rexroth and Francois Schaeffer try to make their optimism "pessimistic". Before these two themes can be evaluated it is necessary to explain the source of their optimism, which is to be found in what may be called "New Age Beliefs" [13].

Second, New Age beliefs are the reverse of the decline beliefs held by the Freaks. They represent both the source and the expression of optimism in freak belief. The principal New Age belief concerns the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. This is based upon the astrological theory that there exist "star ages" during which the earth and its inhabitants are exposed to certain astral influences.

Each star age is said to be about 2,200 years long. During such an age the sun rises on the first day of spring in that area of the heavens which is occupied by the sign of the zodiac which gives the age its character. For the past two thousand years the earth has been under the influence of Pisces, the fish. This sign was identified with Christianity, the symbol of the fish being one of the signs adopted by the early Church. Now however the sun is moving into that portion of the heavens which is occupied by the sign of Aquarius.

Thus the Aquarian Age is due to begin or indeed may have already begun. Exactly when a new star-age begins is difficult to predict. Most astrologers prefer to say that it is between certain dates. Today we are told the Aquarian Age will begin during the present century. This new age will be characterised by humanism, brotherhood and a growth of occult knowledge.

For the Freaks the promise of a new age which will eradicate the remnants of an unhappy past is a great source of confidence. They see themselves as the children of the new age and heralds of its coming [14].

The sense of expectancy which results from a belief in the dawning of the age of Aquarius is increased by various beliefs which Freaks hold about Christ's return. What the Freaks mean by the "return of Christ" is not at all clear. Some obviously expect the bodily return of Jesus of Nazareth but others seem to be looking for some new charismatic leader whom they can identify with Christ, while still others seem to expect some new "spiritual force" to manifest itself on earth.

Many seem to think of Christ's return in all these three ways at once, as well as identifying Christ with King Arthur and Tolkien's fictional character Gandalf from the story The Lord of the Rings [15].

Ideas about how Christ will return seem very unclear but there is general agreement about what his return, however it occurs, will involve. Christ is coming to change the world: to make it good. The idea of judgement seems to be implied in the beliefs held about Christ's return. In the new age which is dawning good is going to triumph over evil. And this seems to mean that the Freaks will be vindicated while their present detractors will be put to shame. This idea is never expressly stated but it seems to be implied by many things which the Freaks say and the attitudes which they hold towards "the world" [16].

Closely akin to beliefs about Christ are beliefs about King Arthur. These are fairly generally held and are not limited to Glastonbury although they take on a special relevance there. Arthur represents all that is good. He is the past and future king. At his coming Britain will be restored to her former glory. Arthur is the spirit of the British race; and when he returns spiritual values will once more rule our land. Then the new age, one of plenty and happiness, will really have begun. Arthur's character is known from the legends which are told about him and which inspire confidence in his return [17].

Similarly, Gandalf, is seen as the avatar of the new age. He is a Christ figure who represents goodness. In him life triumphs over death, good over evil. When he returns evil will be vanquished and justice restored. In this case belief in an obviously fictitious character has the same effect as belief in figures like Christ and Arthur who are traditionally understood in an historical sense. Beliefs about Gandalf have a more obviously mythic structure than those about Christ and Arthur. But essentially they all represent the same values and function in the same manner within the freak mind. Their value is in the hope in the future which they create among the freaks [18].

These beliers about the Aquarian age and saviour figures are the main basis of the Freaks' optimism about the future. They are reinforced by a number of other ideas which also create confidence in the belief that a new age is dawning. Among these is the notion that the synthesising of LSD in 1943 by Albert Hoffman was providential. this they argue occurred during the darkest hour of the Second World War and is an indication of hope arising out of despair. When men were most lost, when they discovered the most terrible weapon available to man, then too they discovered man's greatest spiritual aid.

Other events like the flying saucer craze during the 1950's are also seen as indicators of the new age. So too was the holding of the "Glastonbury Fair" as a free spiritual festival. To these stories are added others about allegedly "straight" scientists who are discovering evidence for the truth of the freak claims about life and the universe. These beliefs are strengthened by those outlined in the next section [19].

Third, other civilization beliefs form the link between the pessimistic and optimistic aspects of the Freak outlook. They bring together fears about the misuse of scientific knowledge and a basic faith in science. These beliefs, which are drawn from a number of sources, are concerned either with past civilizations or extra-terrestrial ones, with the suggestion that in remote antiquity men had contact with extra-terrestrial beings. Essentially these beliefs are about a past "golden age" from which man has fallen or, to be more correct, a series of "golden-ages" each a little less gilded than the one which preceded it.

During these eras men lived in harmony with nature co-operating with "natural" forces to build their civilizations. At some point, however, men began to misuse their great knowledge and thus followed the destruction of the civilization which had been created [20].

These beliefs are based upon stories about civilizations which are alleged to have existed before our present history. There are a number of these "civilizations" but the main one is Atlantis, that old Platonic chimera. The others are Blavatsky's Lemura, Churchwarden's Mu and the Solar Teachers' Yanini. To these well defined themes are added innumerable legends and other elaborations. Thus Arthur becomes the last representative of a dying race, the guardian of a lost tradition [21].

This view pictures the existence of an "original" high civilization from which all other ancient civilizations derived their knowledge. After the fall of this civilization others were created by its survivors. these included Atlantis, Lemura and Mu, from which the civilizations of Egypt, China, India and South America were in turn derived. Another civilization built by the survivors of the lost high civilization was the vast neolithic kingdom of the race which built the stone circles and Stonehenge.

The evidence for the existence of such an "Ur-civilization" is said to rest in the similarities between all known ancient civilizations plus the achievement by them of feats which, it is claimed, modern science cannot duplicate. The "feats" referred to would include the claim that delicate brain operations were performed and of greatest importance the building of Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid [22].

In citing the example of structures like Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid two distinct claims are made. The first is that today we could not perform such feats of engineering and therefore the builders of such structures must have had access to knowledge which we have lost. The second is that we do not know the purpose of such structures and that on orthodox archaeological evidence they remain an enigma. The claim is then made that if we allow for the existence of an even greater civilization than the one possessed by the builders we can explain these structures in terms of the lost civilization. Such an explanation usually includes hypotheses about space craft and visits from other planets.

Flying saucers provide a link between all these "civilizations" and the experiences of freaks today. They are believed to be manifestations of sources of power of which modern man knows nothing but which were known to the ancients. This power is said to be the "natural" cosmic power of the universe, the knowledge of which has been "lost" by modern man [23].

Many stories exist about the content of this lost knowledge. It is believed to have been used to increase the fertility of the earth, resulting in bumper crops produced without the aid of fertilizers or chemical sprays. But because today men ignore these natural processes the earth is growing infertile and barren. Another use of such power was to heal men who had become ill. Even cancer is said to be curable by these techniques which are spurned by western science. Other uses made of such knowledge were to levitate stones, as for example those used to build Stonehenge, and to make flying machines.

These machines, it is believed, are spoken about in legends and religious epics which are said to refer to "flying ships" and the transportation of men and things over vast distances "through the air". In such stories is also found evidence for natural sources of heat and light as well as engines of great destruction. These stories contain the evidence which, it is claimed, show that these high civilizations were destroyed through war and the use of weapons like the atomic bomb [24].

One of the central beliefs in this matrix concerns "ley lines", known as "leys". These are lines of energy or force which form a grid network all over the world. They are often referred to as the earth's "nervous system". What the nature of this energy is does not seem clear. Various suggestions are made about magnetism and sound. Men must rediscover this "natural power" if they are to improve the world, and avoid disaster.

Another thing which is unclear about ley lines is whether they run under or above the earth. What is certain is that where ley lines meet a "power point" is created. Glastonbury Tor is such a "power point". Evidence for the existence of these lines is found in the "ancient straight pathways" of Britain and in the alignment of ancient buildings especially churches. These buildings are said to be built on ley lines because the energy from the leys strengthened their occupants.

Freaks and Spirituals often try to "discover" ley lines by looking on maps and making alignments of ancient buildings etc. Sightings of flying saucers also support the belief in ley lines because they are believed to fly along such lines from which they draw their power [25].

Freaks are uncertain as to just what flying saucers are. But they know they are important and that the authorities are suppressing information about them. Many freaks obviously regard them as the space craft of another civilization. but others equate them with energy forces and suggest that they may be a manifestation of "cosmic energy". Still others regard them as a form of life. In this connection they are related to stories about dragons. Most Freaks agree that dragon stories refer to what we now call "flying saucers". They disagree however, as to whether they are machines or some form of "space animal". All agree though, that they fly along ley lines and that observing their lines of flight indicates where to look for ley lines as well as demonstrating their potential as a source of power [26].

The founders of the high civilizations of the past, claim the Freaks, knew all about ley lines, built their buildings on them, and tapped their energy. But this knowledge was misused and these civilizations declined. Their secrets were only gradually lost and in the West they were preserved by secret societies until the time of the Reformation, and even after that by a few individuals. But misguided people sought to destroy this precious knowledge and persecuted those who showed an interest in it.

Eastern men preserved some of this knowledge until Europeans subdued their lands and destroyed their ancient cultures. The last place to retain this memory of the past was in China where ley lines were known until the late into the nineteenth century. Today some knowledge of these secrets still exists in a degenerate form among peoples like the Australian aborigines and South African bushmen. More significantly the Freaks are rediscovering this lost heritage of Man [27].

All these beliefs about the world form an essential background to a correct understanding of the beliefs which freaks hold about places like Glastonbury and which may be described as their "particularised beliefs". Glastonbury is a "power-point" at the intersection of ley lines, the Tor being where the ley lines meet, and the Abbey the witness to its great cosmic power.

Around about is the great "Somerset zodiac" thirty miles in diameter, an ever-lasting memorial to a long-forgotten civilization which could mould nature at will. The zodiac and the Tor itself are believed to be the work of these ancients who moved the earth by natural power and built Stonehenge by transporting its stones along ley lines for hundreds of miles through the air [28].

Central to beliefs about Glastonbury are those about Arthur and Christ. Arthur some maintain, sleeps in a cavern beneath the Tor. Others say he is in a cave under some nearby hill, possibly Cadbury. But wherever his body is, Arthur can be known in Glastonbury. His power and spirit permeate the whole area, making him a living reality. Self-identification with Arthur or one of his knights is a common phenomena, as are claims to have "met" Arthur. Arthur can be known now, is known through legends and will be known when he awakens from his slumber.

To hasten this event some Freaks suggest that if they were to search for him he might be found. How these various understandings of Arthur relate to each other is not a question which may be asked. Arthur is real to the freaks as both an historical and a mythical character with the relationship between these two modes of knowledge being left undetermined. You can know the reality of Arthur and you can search for the sleeping king but to begin to ask questions about he "historical truth" of the stories about him is to show that Arthur is not real to you [29].

This acceptance of mythical reality applies to other figures as well as Arthur - principally to Christ and Gandalf but there are also lesser figures who come into the freak outlook. In every case the acceptance of a multiple reality remains the same. Thus Arthur lived in the past with his Knights, is known through legends, is the returning king who may be viewed as a spiritual force and may be understood in terms of stories about flying saucers and space travellers.

All these different and seemingly contradictory interpretations of Arthur may be held by the same person at one time. When analysed they seem to represent a confused mass of details but when told they are a living reality. The believer finds no difficulty in accepting all these views of Arthur. Only the outsider, who wishes to see how they relate to each other, finds inconsistencies in them. To the freak they are a part of life and are accepted as such [30].

The Freaks in Glastonbury expect that Christ will return to Glastonbury. What will happen then they are not sure, but they are convinced that his return will begin in Glastonbury. This belief is the result of a combination of stories which the Freaks have picked up about the second coming of Christ, the legends that Christ visited Glastonbury and Tudor-Pole's "Upper Room". The Upper Room is seen by the Freaks as evidence for their belief that Christ is going to begin his return in Glastonbury.

Freaks believe that Tudor-Pole's decision to recreate the Upper Room but with the table set for breakfast was intended by God to welcome Christ when he comes again and to herald his coming kingdom. Although the warden of the Chalice Well discourages their interest in the Upper Room they persist in trying to find out more about it and in telling stories about it. Thus its very existence has become one of the great attractions which Glastonbury holds for the Freaks.

Another belief which they hold about why Christ will come to Glastonbury is connected with the holding of the Glastonbury Fair in nearby Pilton. This "free festival" they believe helped to restore the fertility of the earth and increase goodwill. Thus it prepared the area around Glastonbury to receive Christ [31].

In addition to beliefs about Arthur and Christ some Freaks believe that Glastonbury is really the "Shire" which Tolkien wrote about in The Lord of the Rings. They appear to believe that Tolkien had some "special knowledge" when he wrote his story and that it is a true history of the pre-history of Glastonbury. Having accepted this belief a number of freaks admit to looking for hobbits and elves as well as fairies. Although none have been reported so far it is assumed that this is because noisy humans have driven them into hiding.

Freaks believe that because they are looking for them with the "right spirit", and are friendly some day these shy creatures will reveal themselves to them. Evidence for this belief is found in the claims of the Findhorn Trust to have made contact with the nature spirits and Pan [32].

These beliefs about Glastonbury are strengthened by the many stories which are told about the experiences which Freaks have had in the area. These are particularly concerned with the Tor but not exclusively so. Some claim to have had visions about the "secret passages" under the Tor and of King Arthur's hall where he lies asleep. Others claim other secret knowledge about these passages. Lights are frequently seen above the Tor and are interpreted as flying saucers. Strange sounds are heard from inside the ruined tower and sometimes voices are heard when there is clearly nobody there.

Gigantic figures are seen standing outside the tower and roaming on the slopes of the Tor while other strange people are met and mysterious forces felt to be present although unobserved by the human eye. Such reports frequently originate from freaks who have been tripping on acid. But they are not reported only by these people. Freaks who have not been on acid, as well as some Spirituals and occasionally someone quite unconnected with either of these groups will claim to have had these sort of experiences.

Among the Freaks all these experiences are interpreted in terms of their general beliefs. In addition to stories connected with the Tor, flying saucers have been reported around and strange experiences are said to occur in the Abbey grounds as well as near the Chalice Well [33].

One unexpected development in the Freak outlook is the way in which some particularised beliefs are becoming nationalistic beliefs. Such beliefs, which would centre on places like Glastonbury, Stonehenge, Iona and other "ancient sites", are all linked with Celtic mythology. These myths have given rise to a belief in the "glory of the Celtic race" and in the great "spiritual inheritance" of Britain.

To call these believers nationalistic or patriotic is to use names which would be totally rejected by the freaks but which nevertheless seem appropriate. Although they deny patriotic feelings there is a general aura of patriotism around much of what they believe. Perhaps at present it is too early to call these stories evidence for a revival of nationalism but they are certainly indications that such a revival could take place.

Recently there have been many statements in the "underground press" to the effect that Britain is either the most sacred place in the world or at any rate, contains more sacred sites than anywhere else in the world. To these statements are added stories about folk heroes who typify the glory of the Celtic race and whose deeds are the heritage of Britain. Whether this nascent nationalism will develop or wither away will be the test of the freaks' identity [34].

As may be expected the settlers in Glastonbury are more committed to the beliefs about Glastonbury than are the visitors. These beliefs which are particularised in Glastonbury may be described as aspects of the general Freak belief system located in a particular place where they have been emphasised and developed.

For the Settler they are supported by the more general believers while the Visitor's general beliefs are supported by the beliefs found in Glastonbury. The experience of Vreaks in Glastonbury serve to verify the more general beliefs held by Visitors. Through visiting Glastonbury they come into contact with people whose experiences confirm what they already believe. At the same time their presence in Glastonbury strengthens the conviction of the Settlers that they are living in the "right place", and that what they believe about Glastonbury is confirmed by what other people have discovered in other places like Findhorn [35].

Generally speaking the Freaks are very tolerant in their views. Those who decide to remain in Glastonbury accept that it is not right for everyone to remain in Glastonbury even if they may sometimes imply that they are really superior to the Visitors. Most accept that "you may be able to teach me something and I may be able to teach you something." Usually no attempt is made to "convert" people to a particular viewpoint which is then declared to be "the truth".

The exceptions to this tolerance are the growing numbers of definite "religious groups", such as the Unification Church and Hare Krishna, usually of eastern origin, which seek disciples. Even among these there is the semblance of tolerance. People are rarely declared to be "wrong". More often it is implied that someone who is not a member is missing the real meat and is wasting time on non-essentials. These groups seem to have an authoritarian structure and rely heavily upon a particular guru who has "discovered" the most satisfactory means of attaining spiritual enlightenment.

Other methods are declared to be good, as far as they go, but not really suitable for this modern age. Most of these groups seem initially to be difficult to join as a fully initiated member and appear to incorporate some form of initiation ceremony. The rise of these semi-exclusive groups appears to be changing the expression of the freak outlook from implicit commitments to an explicit association with a group and an acceptance of its particular identity [36].

The implications of these beliefs, their origin and our understanding of them will be further discussed in section three.


1. These beliefs seem to be generally accepted throughout the British freak sub-culture. In fact that apparent inconsistencies do not worry the freaks indicates the vitality of their beliefs as a living mythology. This illustrates the inner logic of belief which is found in any living religion. The entering into the community which gives the beliefs their form is all important, hence the significance of Tillich's remark: "the reason for the predominant significance of the community is faith. [is that] Only as a member of such a community - even if in isolation or expulsion - can a man actualise his faith". See Tillich, 1957, p. 24; Winch, 1958, pp. 18 ff; The Listener, May 19th 1966, "Two Contemporary Cults", pp. 716 ff; Schofield, 1971, p. 131.

2. The general beliefs form an essential background for understanding the particularised beliefs from Glastonbury. The content of these beliefs are outlined in the text of Section Three.

3. The understanding of Indian ideas by the Freaks comes through a number of western or semi-western sources. Lobsang Rampa who claims to be a Tibetan Lama, but was accused by a popular newspaper of actually being a Bradford plumber, is very important as a source of Freak ideas about eastern "religion". In viewing the overlap of beliefs between the freaks and their parents the influence of Women's Magazines and Sunday Newspapers, which often carry articles on the lines of "How I Remember My Past Lives", cannot be underestimated. In many ways the freak belief system is an outworking of working class culture and popular superstition. See Hoggart, 1957, pp. 27 ff., and pp. 112 ff; Lobsang Rampa, 1956.

4. Thus one Freak explained to me that when Jesus said: "The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness" (Matthew 6.22-23). He was really referring to the "the third eye" and that unless his teachings were understood in terms of eastern spirituality they would be completely misunderstood. The theory of "the third eye" is expounded by Lobsang Rampa. See Lobsang Rampa, 1956.

5. Yoga provides the central theme in Indian spirituality. See Eliade 1958, pp. 3 ff.

6. Yoga techniques endeavour to attain a quality of consciousness in which the normal mental activities like imagination and perception are suspended. Life is seen as a veil of sorrow to be escaped from through the attainment of complete isolation by the use of yoga. To deliver men from suffering, the practice of yoga denies the ultimate reality of suffering by inducing a state of being beyond all awareness of physical sensation. Through yoga death is anticipated in life. The similarity between drug experience and yogic experiences is discussed by Huxley who argues for their essential oneness. This claim is disputed by Zaehner who defends the uniqueness of "mystical experiences" against comparison with "drug experiences" and argues for the primacy of Christian mysticism. See Eliade, 1958, pp. 361 ff; Huxley, 1959; Zaehner, 1961.

7. See Ling, 1971, Religion, Spring 1971, Part 1, Vol. 1, pp. 44 ff; Martin 1966; The Listener, May 12, 1966, "The Unknown Gods of the English"; Appendix I, p. a3 and p. a17.

8. The unconscious acceptance of these ideas is illustrated in the following incident. While on a visit to Samye-Ling Tibetan Centre I met a girl who was working there as a secretary. She was a graduate who had done social work in London and who had gone there to learn to "meditate". She claimed to be agnostic. In the course of the conversation she told me how her bicycle had been stolen and added quite naturally that this was her "bad karma". She had quite unconsciously accepted a number of Indian presuppositions while believing that she was remaining an agnostic. See Appendix I, p. a3, p. 27 and p. a26; Gandalf's Garden (CG) 5, p. 5, 6, p. 2 and 4, p. 10 f.

9. These ideas have been in circulation among "flying saucer" enthusiasts for a number of years. Before that they were popularised by the Theosophists and other groups. Many of these groups began as offshoots of Theosophy and can be rightly designated as "theosophical". See Blavatsky, 1938; Michell, 1969, p. 167; King, 1961, pp. 116 ff; and Lobsang Rampa, 1956.

10. One group incorporating Indian mythology is the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. The adoption of western mythologies is exhibited in the Gandalf's Garden movement as can be clearly seen in their magazine. A list of useful addresses is given in Appendix IV. See Note 23, Section Three Notes; Michell, 1967; King 1961; GG, No. 1-6; Back to Godhead.

11. The people who emphasise this aspect of Freak beliefs tend to be older men who have had an interest in movements like CND which they took with the utmost of seriousness. In approaching the freaks they read their own reactions into the freak outlook, this is critices by Neville who writes' "The poets blamed the Bomb, but people don't care about dying if the whole world's going to die with them ... For the young, being sad about the Bomb was fund". See Nuttall, 1968, pp. 20 ff; Rexroth, 1970, pp. 183ff; and Neville, 1971, pp. 19ff.

12. This analysis of society probably arises out of the existential situation in which the Freaks find themselves. For them there is no future in modern society. They are forever doomed to the dead-end job. See Roszak, 1970, pp. 15ff; Goodman, 1961, pp. 11 ff and pp. 62ff; CSG. Letters 16.4.71; Gandarf's Garden. No. 5, p. 24 f.

13. The duality of Freak beliefs is recognised in an article in IT, 111, August 26, 1971, "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall". See Rookmaaker, 1970, pp. 180 ff; Schaeffer, 1970, pp. 15 ff; and GG, 3 p. 9 f, 5 p. 4 f.

14. These beliefs may be seen as part of a general "romantic" reaction to the modern world. In many ways they are similar to beliefs which were current prior to the "scientific revolution". See GG, 4, p. 4; Mairowitz, 1969, p. 73 f; Bauer, 1963, pp. 142 ff; Eternity, October 1970, p. 10; Brinton, 1963, pp. 169 ff; Boas, 192, pp. 166 ff.

15. In all of this there seems to be a return to mythological modes of thought. Eliade, 1965; Appendix I, p.

16. When asked why they are living in Glastonbury many of the Settlers reply "Because Christ is going to return here soon". See GG, 3 p. 4; CSG. Letters, 16.4.71; also cf. Psalm 137.

17. Books of stories about Arthur are very popular among the Freaks as are most books of mythology. See IT, 98-100, March 1971, "The Matter of Britain".

18. See GG, 5 p. 10 f; Appendix II, pp. 32 ff; Eliade, 1965.

19. The claim that the appearance of acid was "a sign which appeared during the darkest period of the war" was made by several people including Andrew Kerr and appears to be generally believed. Claims about flying saucers are made by Michell and others. John Shelley thought that the Glastonbury Fair might be the occasion of Christ's return and was certainly an indication that the return was near. Appeals are frequently made to "straight scientists" who "are discovering the truth of these things". This is one of the supports of these beliefs and is the same type of justification for one's beliefs as is found in "working class culture". See McGrath and Scaritti, 1970, p. 183; Mairowitz, 1968, p. 73; Appendix I, p. a18 f; Appendix II, p. 40 f., 44 f., and 45.

20. In some ways this represents a revolt against popular views of evolution as a gradual development of life from "nothing". Michell expressed his opinion to me, that "evolution is dead". But in other ways Freak beliefs are the logical development of a popularisation of "Evolution", as it is expounded in children's comics, the popular press and unfortunately many schools. This reintroduces into the popular imagination of hierarchy of beings similar to that found in European thought prior to the Scientific Revolution. Thus in the name of Science beliefs which are more correctly labeled "magical" are given an aura of respectability. The popularity of Hinduism and other Eastern religions is also partially explicable in terms of the skillful use of evolutionary terminology made by many of their apologists. Hence the claim that while evolution debanks many "Western misconceptions" it confirms the truth of Eastern religions. See Leslie and Adamski, 1953, pp. 69 ff; Michell, 1967, p. 54 ff; von Daniken, 1968, pp. 50 ff; Roszak, 1970, p. 167; Lovejoy, 1960, pp. 242 ff; Back to Godhead.

21. The cause of "lost continents" was taken up by Blavatsky and developed by the early Theosophists. Most of these civilisations were written about in Gandalf's Garden and are a source of great interest to the Freaks. They are examined critically by de Camp. See De Camp, 1970, p. 1-75; Gandarf's Garden, No. 4 and 6; Blavatsky, 1938; Churchwarden, 1931; Michell, 1969 p. 125.

22. Ideas about the Great Pyramid are popular in British Israelite circles from where the Freaks seem to get some of their ideas about this. Early in this century various religious groups took an interest in the great Pyramid and sought a "mystical" significance in it. See Michell, 1969, pp. 125 ff and pp. 90 ff; von Daniken, pp. 27 ff; and Koppejan and Noelderen, 1971.

23. The enigma of things like the Great Pyramid in the popular imagination provides a source of mystification and speculation. This is similar to the speculation about various "hill forts" and ruins in New England. During the 19th Century there was much speculation about the origin of these mounds which are actually only about 400 years old and were built by the Indians. But the puzzle which they created for people in 19th century America was one of the important elements in the rise of Mormoni Joseph Smith gave his contemporaries an explanation for these ruins in terms of a "lost civilisation" the history of which was to be found in The Book of Mormon. See Browdie, 1963, pp. 34 ff; O'Dea, 1964, pp. 24 ff; Michell, 1969, p. 177 f; Von Daniken, 1970, pp. 27 ff; Leslie and Adamski, 1952, pp. 95 ff.

24. These sort of ideas were given wide publicity in 1969 when the Sunday Mirror serialised von Daniken's book Chariots of the Gods? under the title "Was God an Astronaut". This series was read avidly by Freaks. See Von Daniken, 1970; Michell, 1969, pp. 181 ff, cf. p. 76 f; and Rycroft, 1971, p. 17; Leslie and Adamski, 1952, p. 97 and pp. 110 ff.

25. Interest in Ley Lines has been growing among Freaks. A Society has existed for a number of years which has sought to discover leys, it publishes a magazine called The Ley Hunter, its members would fit the description of "spirituals". See Michell, 1969, pp. 24 ff, and 70 ff; IT 104, 19th May 1971; Appendix I, p. 4; and Appendix II, pp. a51 ff; Appendix IV.

26. There is a general ambiguity in Freak beliefs about UFO's, this is characteristic of much writing about UFO's and is found in Michell. See Michell, 1969, pp. 196 ff; Keel, 1970; Melley, 1970. p. 229.

27. Among many Freaks is a belief that they are developing a real alternative to modern science and technology. See Michell, 1969, p. 24 and 79; Appendix II, pp. a47 ff.

28. Maltwood who was a rich woman commissioned an aerial survey of the area, the results of which are in Taunton Museum. This it is believed "proves" the existence of the "zodiac". Most freaks believe in the zodiac as a fact. The spirituals tend to be more guarded and put it forward, to me at least, as a possibility which should be investigated. A society known as the Research Into Lost Knowledge Organisation - RILKO was formed in the 1960's to "research" into ley lines and phenomena like the "zodiac". This group has the backing of a few academics but seems to be supported mainly by people like John Michell, Andrew Kerr and Mrs. J. Foster, the founder of the Pendragon Society which is an organisation for Arthurian enthusiasts. See Appendix II, pp. a36 ff and 50 ff, and Appendix IV, Tudor-Pole, 1968, pp. 97 ff.

29. It is difficult to know how to react to someone who believes he is one of Arthur's knights. The type of experience described seems similar to those found in the short stories of H.P. Lovecraft whose books are popular among the Freaks. In his stories Lovecraft describes how people come to find an identity other than that of their "waking life". He often says that this "desirable" state was achieved through the use of hashish or some other drug. See Appendix II, pp. a42 ff; Lovecraft, 1969, pp. 50 ff; and Note 33 below.

30. The problem of understanding the beliefs of another culture is discussed by Evans-Pritchard who describes how Azande witchcraft beliefs became a part of his life when he attempted to live among them. The importance of the social context of a belief system is discussed by Winch who takes issue with Evans-Pritchard for his assumption that the Azande witches "do not exist". The plain fact is that many alternative beliefs would give a satisfactory explanation of life. Our acceptance of any one against another seems to depend upon a socially constructed system of legitimation. See Evans-Pritchard, 1937, pp. 63 ff; Winch, 1964 and 1958, pp. 99 ff; Quine, 1961; and Berger and Luckmann, 1967, pp. 13 ff.

31. Freak ideas about religion come from many sources. Their views about Christianity tend to be the result of what they learned in childhood plus ideas gained from groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses. A large number of freaks came from Roman Catholic backgrounds. See Appendix Ii, pp. a 34 ff; and Appendix I, pp. a19 ff.

32. At first claims like these baffled me and I assumed that the people concerned were allegorizing but after a while it became clear that they were not. Some Freaks do allegorize, e.g. Muz Murray the editor of Gandalf's Garden, but not all do. The Findhorn Trust is a group of people living in Scotland who claim great success in cultivating barren sand dunes due to the help of "nature spirits". See Caddy 1967; and GG, 5 p. 10 and 6 p. 12.

33. The noises which are heard on the summit of the Tor can perhaps be explained by the high winds which blow around it and create noises in the tower. The great increase in the frequency of "strange happenings" on the Tor which occur when acid is used can probably be explained by an expectation of such an experience prior to the taking of the drug. Hypersuggestibility and an inability to distinguish between the "real" and imaginary is one of the well known effects of using acid. In his book What is Man? Stafford-Wright makes a number of interesting and imaginative suggestions about possible explanations for the type of phenomena which is appealed to by freaks and spirituals in support of their claims about the nature of reality.

Apart from particular experiences involving things like flying saucers Freaks often report experiences of a more general mystical nature. These experiences fall into two categories:

1. Those which involve a sense of relationship with a person or thing, and

2. The awareness of a sense of awe in the presence of the vastness of the universe.

Thus they can be understood in terms of Martin Bubers "I - Thou" and Rudolf Otto's "mysterium tremendum" in the presence of the numinous. See Stafford-Wright, 1955; Otto, 1923; Buber, 1958; GG, 1 p. 5.

34. While rejecting any straight identification of the Freak beliefs with the Nazi movement in Germany during the 1930's there seems to be some association between the defeat/loss of empire, and the rise of nationalist mythologies. This is an aspect of the Freak movement which could be investigated with profit. See IT, 90-100, 1971, "The Matter of Britain" and IT, 104-106, 1971, "Giants in the Earth"; also Alvalon, No. 2, August 1971.

35. This interrelationship between beliefs and life-style is discussed critically in Section Three.

36. All of this exemplifies Hume's contention that polytheism is more tolerant than monotheism. From time to time the followers of various semi-exclusive groups arrive in Glastonbury to tell the folk there about their "discoveries". But on the whole they make little impact and if they attract anyone it is the visitors not the settlers. Such groups would include the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and the followers of the thirteen year old "guru swami Santji Maharaj. See Hume, 1956, p. 49; GG, 6 p. 3 and 23, 5 pp. 26ff. 4 pp. 24 ff. 3 pp. 16 ff. and 2 p. 16 f; Appendix IV; and Strachan, 1970.