The October 21, 1967 March on the Pentagon is remembered as one of the most significant political demonstrations of the era.
“Late in the evening of January 14, 1967, a few of the people responsible for turning the seventh decade of the century into the cultural moment known as ‘The Sixties’ were lounging in a small back room of the artist Michael Bowen’s San Francisco painting studio. Allen Ginsberg sat cross-legged on the floor of 1371 Haight Street, passing a bottle of wine with another Beat turned hippie, the Zen poet Gary Snyder. Timothy Leary, the former professor remade as the nation’s high priest of LSD, was also there, as was the anti-war activist Jerry Rubin, who would soon join with Abbie Hoffman to start the Youth International Party, better known as the Yippies. The March on the Pentagon celebrates its 50th anniversary this weekend and is remembered as one of the most significant political demonstrations of the era. But a look back at the gathering of a few of its organizers nine months earlier provides a window on a forgotten religious influence behind its success. The party of about 20 1960s luminaries was a low-key affair to celebrate the day’s Human Be-In, the first large-scale summit of the counterculture, which, until then, had been largely divided between political and nonpolitical communities and other forms of dissent. The evening’s host, a 29-year-old painter and art director of the local street newspaper, the San Francisco Oracle, Bowen was at the time considered ‘Mr. Haight-Ashbury’ by the writer Michael McClure. He had been among the main organizers of the Be-In, but it had not been his idea. According to Bowen, that distinction belonged to the man he called his guru. John Starr Cooke was a well-traveled American living on family money in a village near Cuernavaca, Mexico, where he and a group of followers known as the Psychedelic Rangers ingested Olympian amounts of LSD and other hallucinogens on a daily basis. Bowen had joined Cooke’s hallucinogenic order a few years earlier through an ‘initiation’ that involved eating so many narcotic tolguacha flowers that he was left comatose and hospitalized for a month. After his recovery, Cooke had sent his protégé as a missionary of sorts in search of fellow travelers in New York, London, and most recently San Francisco, where he had found his greatest success rallying people to the cause. …”
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