Far Out

Miriam Akhtar and Steve Humphries, with Lucy Swingler. Far Out: The Dawning of New Age Britain. 
Sanson and Company in Association with Channel Four Television, 1999.The book of a Channel Four documentary series featuring the memories of those in the occult, spiritualist and related proto-New Age subcultures in the inter-war and early post-war years. Most of the speakers come across as sincere and generally amiable, albeit in many cases a bit, or more than a bit, eccentric. Unlike many of today's New Agers, most of these people seem to have been genuinely idealistic, many committed to social reforms which in their day were highly controversial, and which took a great deal of courage to espouse. They are the last representatives of a time when the New Age movement had a considerable degree of overlap with progressive political movements, which themselves had loftier ideals than managing the masses on behalf of international corporate capitalism in a slightly more humane manner than the Right.

Of course if must be said that this is very much an uncritical account, and that some of the less politically correct features of these movements may have been airbrushed out, for example the antisemitism of elements of the Theosophical movements, the association between family reform and free love on the one hand and eugenics; the voyeuristic flagellism of G. B. Gardner, or that some of these terribly sincere people may actually be con-artists or their dupes. -- Peter Rogerson, from Magonia 73, January 2001

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