Bowen and Ginsberg at Be-In
Michael Bowen’s human-art-tableau on the flatbed truck was as complete and all-inclusive as he wanted it to be on that magical day. However, those legendary individual egos, summoned by Bowen’s clever manipulation, had to be handled with care. All of those egos on the flatbed truck stage came and participated in the Human Be-In because of Bowen’s personal charm and persuasion. During the Sixties, the ethos of personal freedom and spiritual equality of the human race was an integral part of the era. Bowen had to make sure that the strong egos he invited onstage would each think that they would be the “star of the show”, and at the same time not exalt them in such a way that would make the other 20,000 people feel somehow excluded from also being a star. This enigma was part of the secret Bowen had learned and understood well through many years of involvement with the Beat generation, and application of years of metaphysical study and practice with his mentor John Starr Cooke. Everyone who gathered that day at the Be In, including the human tableau on stage, felt equally empowered by the event. All who attended the Be-In were simply “being” with one another as human equals. Bowen intentionally created the individual and collective exaltation of the day by making sure that the egos on stage did not disrupt or disturb the egos in the audience. A collective experience of “ego freedom” and personal empowerment was accomplished by the bringing together of the various “tribes” to co-exist and be with one another as equals, as genuine brothers and sisters. Everyone who attended the Human Be-In felt and knew, perhaps for the first time, that they were a star; a unique and exceptional human being with distinctive insights, talents, and abilities that were just waiting to be uncovered, released, and then shine forth into the new aeon of awakened humanity. The grand performance art was simple in its essential formula. It was a coming together, a Gathering of the Tribes; a Human Be-In. In this way, each person who was there that day could leave feeling as if they owned the day. Think about that for one moment. Do you own your own day now?
Bowen Life magazine 1967
Michael Bowen felt personal anguish at the use of the word “tribes.” A month prior to the Be-In, when designing the poster that would advertise the upcoming event, there were many other persons around him that insisted upon using “A Gathering of the Tribes for a Human Be-In” – and this is what appeared on the Indian sadhu poster that Michael himself designed. But, Bowen knew the history of the European destruction of the Indian tribes of the North American continent, and although he acceded to the phrase being used, “A Gathering of the Tribes,” he winced every time he heard it. For him, it was a terrible insult to the victims murdered by the ancestors of the people gathering that day. It was an Indian, not a white man, who had showed the polo field to Bowen, and solved the problem of where to hold the Be-In. Thus, Bowen again suppressed his own ego desire, and was able to better handle the paradoxes that One has in store for us all.
The entire tableau on the flatbed truck stage, as well as the other 20,000 participants at the Be-In, sensed that they had now revealed and understood this enigma, even though this “open-secret” has been with humanity throughout recorded history. The truth of this open-secret was exposed for all who wished to understand on the day of the Be-In. This mystery became obvious, and no longer needed to be hidden or repressed; the mystery of human equality, as well as unique star-like qualities and talents that are intrinsic within us all. This perennial truth has been with human civilization since time immemorial. However, on that magical day in San Francisco, this truth became clear and observable to everyone as the large gathering at the Human Be-In simultaneously realized and felt as One. A mystical experience of unity was effectively achieved.
“Every Man and Woman is a Star” Bowen painting Hawaii
One of the Be-In participants, Elizabeth, gives a first hand account of her experience:
“The first great recognition of how many of us there really were sharing this mystical, wordless and magnificent experience of the Rainbow Heart, the infinitely manifest, the wonder and magic of being-ness beyond the individual ego, was the First Human Be-In, January 14, 1967. It was not the speeches of Ginsburg, Suzuki Roshi, Leary and the other speakers on the platform or even the music that touched us with mystic wonder. The wires were cut, and for a long while, there were no speeches, no music. Only the murmur of 25,000 people grooving with each other, with the sunshine which had come in the midst of a rainy month, and with the manifest presence of Spirit. It was so quiet. We knew that we were witnessing a massive blossoming of a new religion in the literal sense of being tied together again. This religion would never have churches or temples; this was a religion based on individual freedom and respect; we ‘dug each others vibes’ and felt the coming together of an ancient family. Time dwindled to a no-point. Heart reached to heart in an almost soundless outpouring of love. So when the music and the speeches started, when the mantra and the rock resounded, it was an ecstatic exclamation point on a massive experience. Call it
heaven or samadhi; it set the parameters for a whole movement during the Summer of Love. We had scratched through the surface of our separateness and recognized ourselves, our surroundings, all things as One. That afternoon, we truly became the Love-Generation.” Excerpt by Elizabeth Gips from Psychedelic Illuminations Magazine
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