In my hippy days I was a big fan of Buckminster Fuller, the great inventor and philosopher who was more ‘new age’ than any of us: remarkable considering he was already in his seventies. When he came to London to speak in 1968 in the Central Hall, Westminster, it seemed all the flower people of England had turned out to see him. I remember being perched on a bench in a corner of the balcony, riveted to his words, wearing my usual garb of a floor-length imitation fur coat, bright green bell-bottoms and a collapsible top hat.
I loved his teachings: his insistence that there was enough wealth in our earth to ensure prosperity for every human being, if only it were effectively managed and distributed; his belief that the days of nationality and patriotism were long gone, belonging to the petty rivalries and wars for territory of bygone centuries; and his outstanding theory that we were all living on ‘spaceship earth’, our precious vehicle that travels through the universe in orbit around its sun. It was our vessel and needed caring for — nurturing — to ensure we got the best out of it. How pathetic that the people on the ship were sometimes at odds, even fighting, when we all shared this unique common interest. He went on to say that our bodies were also like ships — space and time ships — and that each of us was a ‘phantom captain’, guiding ourselves through life until the ship could function no longer, at which time we gently abandoned it and, in his interesting phrase, became unit.
Why, I asked myself, couldn’t the whole world see the good sense in this philosophy of peace, love and sharing? It was the same sentiment expressed by another hero, John Lennon, in his beautiful paean to peace, Imagine.
By coincidence, when Prem Rawat came to the West a couple of years after ‘Bucky’, his first large public meeting was in that very same auditorium.
In many ways he had a similar message. Our birthright is peace. Only selfishness, greed and fear prevent the abolition of hunger and war. But he took the whole message one ginormous step further, the thirteen-year-old boy seeming to complete the hopes expressed by the septuagenarian man. He spoke of the missing ingredient in the mix: that quintessential thing that had to be there before true peace could reign on earth. Each of us had first of all to feel peace in our own hearts. Unless that was achieved, it didn't matter how many fine theories for improving the world were propounded: there would not be the basic human will needed to make them a reality. Temporary periods of peace might take place but it wouldn't be long before resentments would emerge, jealousies would reappear, and arguments would break out... hotly followed by threats and then conflict.
But wasn’t that idea — that each of us must find our own peace within — also just a fine-sounding theory? In that hall filled with a generation looking for answers, stillness fell, for it wasn't just a theory. This young man was doing something more than expounding a philosophy. He was offering a practical way to experience that inner peace, which he said was within every human heart, just waiting to be discovered.
Many people who were there that night subsequently learned the techniques he teaches that can help a person find inner peace. I was already one of those people and, while my existence has never been free of difficulties, it has been one filled with enjoyment, happiness and inner fulfillment.
That was a big hall to fill, but now he fills similarly-sized venues every few days in every part of the world. And with each day, I'd like to think that the dream of Buckminster Fuller for a world of harmony, peace and plenty keeps coming just a little bit nearer.
Illustration by Sara Shaffer.