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Maybe the World WAS Listening

THE WASHINGTON POST

“Moronic Convergence” is how Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau spoofed that August, 1987, weekend, when 144,000 or more chanting, hugging, hand-holding OM’ers gathered at designated sites--from the Great Pyramids to Central Park--to usher in an era of unity and peace.

One flippant editorial described the harmonic convergence, as it was officially known, as “a cosmic Groundhog Day . . .” Time magazine, two weeks after, lamented: “Bummer, man. Maximum bummer. The big Sunday came and went . . . and the world as we know it did not end--amen.”

Maybe two weeks wasn’t a sporting chance. Now, hindsight going on three years, some people are starting to wonder. Crazy as it seems, maybe those true believers weren’t just contemplating their cosmic navels atop Mt. Shasta.

Maybe the fringe dwellers who resonated with the Sedona sunrise or echoed their mani padme hums in the ruins at Machu Picchu were on to something after all.

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Consider the mind-blowing and upbeat happenings since then: European Communism goes belly-up, democracy spreads, freedom rings, superpowers become super buddies, environmental consciousness is awakened.

Why, toss in the Berlin Wall on sale at Macy’s, Morton Downey Jr. canceled, and the Cheddar Melt in Moscow and, by golly, you’ve got the makings of a wholesale Age of Aquarius.

Some folks who take these things very seriously are staking claims in the name of the New Age to the best of recent history.

“Absolutely,” says Carl Bendix, leaving no room for doubt that such dramatic events are the unfolding of convergence energies and prophecies. “It is all a byproduct.”

The director of Ambrosia Productions in Hollywood, Bendix caters to two kinds of stars--on screen and in the sky. But he considers himself a down-to-earth kind of guy, “a very mainstream type of connected person,” he says.

One of the convergence’s ad hoc organizers, Bendix incorporated Earth Celebrations 2000 in 1988 as a nonprofit group for producing entertainment fund-raising events that inspire public action on behalf of the planet.

Like the convergence itself, it is just another piece of the puzzle coming together, he says, from “all of the ancient prophecies, the Native American teachings and the Mayan prophesy--in a New Age philosophy point of view.”

Last month’s nationwide Earth Day shebang? “The harmonic convergence reenacted on the much more mainstream scale . . . which is the core prediction,” says Bendix. “What happens in this movement is that truth catches on and has an impact.”

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Well, some of the truth does. Convergence mastermind Jose Arguelles, the art historian whose 1987 book “The Mayan Factor” touched off the whole thing, did state that if, on the very day that ended the 5,125-year-old Mayan calendar, 144,000 “sun dancers” were to gather at the Earth’s power vortexes and create a psychic grid, Earth’s heavenly path would be corrected and the Galactic Age would click in gear.

OK, fine. They did.

And we got peace, unity and love among the paradigm shifts and quantum leaps.

But what about the extraterrestrials? Telepathic communications? The overwhelming feelings of deja vu ?

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Bendix hesitates. To speak of extraterrestrials is touchy business for someone who just then returned from planning the dedication of the Richard M. Nixon Library. “I feel that, what I look at from a scientific perspective, they have (arrived),” he says of space aliens. “There are so many people who have reported incidents . . . You are dealing with an issue that has to be leaked very gradually.”

For Arguelles, Bendix and some New Age thinkers, that “cosmic joke” is scheduled for 1992, exactly 500 years since Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

Bendix chuckles just thinking that the anniversary of proof that the world isn’t flat will provide another big whammy for earthlings.

According to Arguelles’ “Campaign for the Earth Timetable,” that will be the “Year of the Storm of Universal Climax.” Figure on two-way contact and landing parties of small and select technical crews from elsewhere in the galaxy. “That’s when some of the bewilderments are going to make themselves known,” says Bendix. “There will be a massive exposure of interdimensional reality.”

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Most of this makes good sense to Carolyn Anderson. So did the big crash on Wall Street that occurred two months after the harmonic convergence. “We’re going through global perestroika, " says the co-founder and director of Global Family, who attributes dramatic events to dramatic changes in human consciousness. “It’s not just the Soviet Union that is going through restructuring.”

Headquartered in San Anselmo, Calif., Global Family handled communications for the harmonic convergence.

Now it claims members in 17 countries and is dedicated to “shifting the mind-set” from material to spiritual, from fear and separation to unity and love.

On May 30, Anderson arrives for three days in the Soviet Union, her seventh trip there, scheduled to coincide with the Bush-Gorbachev summit in the United States.

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“We’re all going to meditate at noon each day,” she says, inviting everyone to join in by visualizing the two leaders together smiling, daydreaming for the planet, envisioning world peace. “We believe when there are literally millions of us who do have an awareness that all life is interconnected, that starts to shift the whole collective mind-set.”

But for some New Age activists, the thought of any one group taking credit for the good vibrations turns their auras red. “It isn’t a question of saying, ‘I told you so.’ The so-called New Age would have come in a long time ago if the consciousness had been different,” says Barbara T. Kalivas, director of the Academy of Life Sciences, an esoteric studies center in Falls Church, Va.

Barbara Carpenter, the founder and president of the Network of Light, an organization of 127 spiritual and personal growth groups, headquartered in Washington, says, “I don’t think the New Age groups have a monopoly on spirituality. So it bothers me when I hear them say “We did this.’ ”

The most passive of love-and-peace activists also include those most aggressive in their claims for altering world history. Followers of the Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the impish and bearded wise man who befriended the Beatles in the late ‘60s, don’t flinch one iota when giving full credit for a new and improved planet to “the Maharishi Effect.”

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The basic premise that an individual practicing Transcendental Meditation (TM) receives certain physiological benefits--relief of stress and tension--was shown in studies at Harvard years ago and they don’t let anyone forget it. But, at the Maharishi International University (MIU), the college founded by the guru amid the cornfields near Fairfield, Iowa, experiments are on a larger scale.

“Right before the summit in ’88, Maharishi had said this was going to be the year of world peace and things would change dramatically,” reports David Orme-Johnson, chairman of the MIU psychology department and a lead researcher in statistically proving the power of groups of experienced meditators doing double duty for positive change. “He predicted the end of the Iran-Iraq War, easing of tension of the superpowers and a reduction of terrorism. . . .”

Not everybody buys the claims. “The danger is that so many believe that by positive thinking and meditation, they’ve had a positive effect on the political process, when actually what they are being is politically passive,” chides Robert Basil, editor of the 1989 book “Not Necessarily the New Age,” which takes a skeptical view of the New Age movement.

“When you believe that semi-divine extraterrestrials are going to come down to save civilization, then you really have no reason to be politically active. This whole meditate-for-peace movement makes people politically inert.”

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Basil also scoffs at their taking credit for a better world: “So absurd. There is always at any time a variety of good things happening in the world. To say that you have caused it by TM or any other passive wishful thinking approach is fallacious.

“What happened in Eastern Europe is that people got fed up by the incompetence and the corruption, there was an increased information flow from West to East, there were a lot of reasons--but meditation isn’t among them.”


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