Monday, December 15, 2014

Searching For God in the Sixties - Dr. Dave Williams Part 6 - Beyond Good and Evil

Welcome to Part 5 (Beyond Good and Evil) of our 6 part series with Dr. Dave Williams, author of  Searching For God in the Sixties. Each part is being presented on Mondays. Dr. Dave is making himself available to answer questions in the comments section.


One of Manson's proudest boasts is that he always spoke what he called the "truth": "I walk a real road. I am a real person. I'm not a phony. I don't put on no airs. I say what I think." What he meant by this is that he does not lie, that he insists on telling it as he believes it. In the parole hearing, he knew what the parole officers wanted to hear. He could have lied; he probably could have even lied successfully. He didn't. Asked what he might do if he was let out, would a hustling con have told the parole board, "I'll cheat. I'll steal. I'll do whatever I have to do to survive, and that's a reality"? But even in simple questions, when pressed for a yes or a no whether he had a family still waiting for him on the outside, he answered "I can't explain it to you man. It doesn't have a yes or no." All he has is what is in his mind. For him to give that up, to lie, would be to surrender the void back to the world, which is what society wants. Instead, he says to the court, "I showed you some strength. I haven't surrendered to this by copping out to yours or telling tales or playing weak…. You've done everything you can to me, and I'm still here."
This is part of the voice from the Infinite which Clem was drawn to. It was a large part of Manson's appeal for kids trying to escape from a sham suburban world of lies wrapped around lies wrapped around lies. "Manson is the only person I ever met who just tells you the truth and doesn't even understand someone having bad feelings about it," said Gypsy. "It's hard to live with a person who tells the truth all the time. Why? Because lots of time we don't want to hear the truth. Manson knows the truth because he knows nothing; he knows the power of an empty head."
But the ultimate irony is that in knowing the power of an empty head and how to use it, Manson also knew the destructive force of a whole civilization of empty heads all playing mindless games. He preached death to liberate his followers from the games of the old culture, games which were leading to wars, famine, oppression, the destruction of the planet. But the death of the old game-playing ego was only a prelude to the rebirth of the new spirit. Manson wasn't just a tree-shaker; he was also a jelly maker. Not just another deconstructionist proclaiming the void in all things, he saw the possibility of creating a new essential narrative. And it is in his horrifyingly honest articulation of his solution to humanity's dilemma that he fulfills Joan Didion's darkest paranoid fear, that out of this army of lost children would arise some fascist leader appealing to the cosmic mind inside everyone for which he was the self-appointed spokesman.
"Whoever is going to put order into the world," Manson tried to explain to Geraldo Rivera, "has to stumble across Hitler." Order is the answer to disorder. If the planet is to be saved from the rapacious destruction of human civilization, then, according to Manson, someone needs to "put order into the world." Manson even for a while set up his own organization with its own webpage ( for this purpose. ATWA stands for Air, Trees, Water, Animals, the life which will be saved when he re-organizes our helter-skelter madness. Asked to explain the swastika he has cut into his forehead, Manson said, "How do you have Peace on Earth? How do you communicate to a whole group of people. You stand up and take the worst fear symbol there is and say, there, now I've got your fear. And your fear is your power and your power is your control. I'm your king of this whole planet. I'm gonna rule this world through ATWA. I want this world cleaned up." But the swastika is more than a symbol of fear. It is also a symbol of Hitler's particular attempt to put order into the world, an order that included each race staying within its own circle. Manson is definitely both anti-semitic and racist, to say nothing of sexist. He freely admits it. His idea of order is in fact more like that of the pre-war generations with which he identifies, than of the flower-children of the Sixties. The older generation had experienced the horror of the depression and the world war and wanted security. So did Manson. His ideas of social and political order were very old fashioned. He also admitted that he preferred the music of Frank Sinatra to the mayhem of Rock and Roll or even the Beatles. He wanted to overcome the chaos around him and restore a sense of order.
Manson once warned his parole board, "If I'm not paroled, and I don't get a chance to get back on top of this dream, you're gonna lose all your money, your farms aren't going to be able to produce. You're gonna win Helter Skelter. You're gonna win your reality." Whether this "I" refers to Manson the man or the universal "I" locked within each of us in the subconsciousness is, as usual, not at all clear. And it makes a difference. But in either case, Helter Skelter is the confusion of a world gone crazy and in need of order. "This dream" is the consciousness of mainstream society that is leading humanity into chaos and suicide. According to Manson, the liberation of the voice of the unconsciousness collective mind to organize all the unconscious minds into one big consciousness can change the dream in such a way as to prevent mankind from destroying the planet.

When Manson argued that his consciousness came from a deeper place "beyond good and evil," he at least conjured up in the minds of more learned people an historic parallel. Nietzsche, who used that phrase in a famous book, was also the product of a romantic movement, the culmination of nineteenth-century German mysticism. He was also the son of a Protestant father. His theory of the Superman who existed outside of the merely artificially constructed codes of bourgeois culture inspired the Nazis. Like Nietzsche, Manson saw that the codes of society are artificial, contingent, socially-constructed, and thus unworthy of respect. Like Nietzsche, he believed himself capable of freeing himself from them and living on a higher plane. He saw the void, but rather than surrender to it, he believed he had what it took to fill the emptiness with a new and better structure.
Joan Didion was right. At the end of the antinomian Summer of Love, a rough beast was slouching toward Bethlehem. A potential Hitler was organizing his small but faithful army. More importantly, if it hadn't been Manson, it would have been someone else. All of those ideas were out there waiting to be brought together and applied. Romanticism, as Paglia warns, ends in decadence that then leads to Fascism. The Sixties themselves, though they began on a note of triumphant liberation ended up liberating too much too soon. Like the peasants at Munster in 1535, the counter-culture went too far too fast, not just ahead of society but ahead of itself.

In light of all this, for reporters to harp on the literal facts of who did what when during the murders often seems as absurd as showing "Reefer Madness" to high school kids to keep them from smoking pot. Once again, the adults haven't a clue. Until they address Manson's issues, they won't have any credibility either. Someone needs to address these questions in language that people understand. Otherwise, kids will turn to the Mansons among us for their answers. "A lot of the kids," says Manson, "never met anybody who told them the truth. They never had anybody who was truthful to them. You know, they never had anybody that wouldn't lie or snake or play old fake games. So all I did was I was honest with a bunch of kids." That is a powerful indictment of our society.
However appalled one must be by the literal reality of Manson, it is almost impossible not to also take him on the level of symbolic consciousness. "They don't want to ever let me go," he explains, "because they feel secure as long as they've got me locked up in that cell. They feel like, yeah, they've got THE MAN locked up right there in a box." Perhaps this is only literal; or perhaps Manson has taken over the role in society that black people used to play, the symbol of the terrors of the subconscious. We need to keep our rational consciousness safe from the chaos on the other side. So we lock up the subconscious under what Freud called the censor. And through the power of symbolic consciousness we imagine that by segregating black people, or locking Charlie Manson in a cell, we have the irrational forces of the subconscious under our rational control. We try to keep the conditioning going. We try to make the combine run more smoothly by adjusting everyone's programming so everyone will think and behave as they should. And yet the secondary meanings are always there. The literal continues to point to the symbolic for anyone able to read between the lines of the text. Even when, perhaps especially when it is least intended, the ironic meanings bring us up short.
At his last parole hearing, Manson was of course rejected. The parole board went through a long explanation why and listed a series of problems. The final problem, number five, reads as if a line from Ken Kesey's Cuckoo's Nest, "The prisoner has not completed the necessary programming which is essential to his adjustment and needs additional time to gain such programming."
To which Manson has the final, chilling word, "Can't you see I'm out, man? Can't you see I'm out? Can't you see I'm free?

Since Charles Manson has never himself published anything in his own right, the best sources of his words are the many interviews he has conducted since being sent to prison. 
A book by Nuel Emmons titled Manson: In His own Words (Grove 1986) is not in Manson’s own words at all but in the words of a former cellmate who saw a way to profit off his brief encounter. Tex Watson’s  Will You Die For Me? (Revel 1978), while full of informative information, needs to be read in the context of its author’s attempt to evade his own responsibility. Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter  (Norton 1974) remains the definitive text on the Mason trial, written by the prosecutor himself. It is full of information and reliable quotations. When Manson was still  on trial, an interview with David Felton appeared in the June 1970 Rolling Stone titled "Year of the Fork; Night of the Hunter." It was later published in a collection titled  The MindFuckers: The Rise of Acid Fascism in America (Straight Arrow Books, 1972), to which I made a small introductory contribution. It is an excellent sourcebook. Also excellent is Ed Sanders The Family, (EP Dutton, 1971). Edward George’s Taming the Beast: Charles Manson’s Life Behind Bars (St. Martin’s, 1998) reveals its sensationalist bias in its title, but it does contain transcripts of Manson’s 1970, 1986, and 1992 parole hearings in a lengthy appendix.  Much of this material once could  be found on the website maintained by Manson’s confidant St George at Transcribed lyrics to several of his songs can be found in The Garbage People (Omega Press 1971) by John Gilmore and Ron Kenner.



Among the interviews given by Manson, including his parole interviews, for which I have either VHS videotapes or written transcripts and which I used for this piece are:
1981 "The Tomorrow Show" with Tom Snyder
1985  interview with  "Maurie Povich"
1986 "Nightwatch" with Charlie Rose
1989 "Inside story" with Patti Daniels
1981 interview with Geraldo Rivera
1991 Hard Copy Interview "Charlie Manson Today"
1994 Diane Sawyer  "Turning Point"Interview "The Manson Women"

Parole Hearings:


Robert Hendrickson said...

Dr. Dave: Can you tell me WHY we are taught such distorted truths and out-an-out LIES in grades 1 through 12 and then in College there is usually at least one professor who enlightens us to the TRUTH ? For me it was an anthropology professor who actually revealed in the first day of class some of the BS we were taught about G. Washington, A. Lincol, etc. AND then he added: "Now I will teach you the truth" and boy did HE enlighten me. So two years later when I was introduced to the Manson Family and their TEACHING that most everything we were taught was a LIE - I thought: Oh, this Charles Manson is just like a professor. AND he was !

THUS, the time we waste learning all the LIES, we could have learned how to be a plumber, an electrictian, auto mechanic or someone that had a practical chance of earning a decent living. Today most millionaires are tradespeople - not college graduates.

Of course, we have NO choise in America - IF YOU don't attend class ( grades 1 - 12) and learn the lessons well, you don't graduate and are branded a dunce.

When did all the LIES begin - when the Jews invented GOD?

Dr Dave said...

THE lies began when the snake tempted Adam and Eve and got them thrown out of the garden. Consciousness requires programming data, and thus the void in our minds gets filled with what someone invented. That TRUTH your professor told you was just as much lies as what you were taught about Washington in the 4th grade. The old saying holds true: the more you know the more you know what you do not know. I highly recommend Kurt Vonnegut's classic-sixties short book "Cat's Cradle" in which, with humor, he reveals the folly of believing in any beliefs, though the vacuum which that creates engenders new lies. As Norman O Brown said, "The world is the web we spin to hide the void." The only true truth is the terror of the void, the terror of our unknowing. Or as scripture puts it: "In the Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Perhaps a better way to put it is that religion, properly understood, should be about Absence, not Presence. "God" is a mystery, the TRUTH unknowable. Our cockle shell can never comprehend that sea. But the need to fill that vacuum is what drives us. Hence what Manson calls the power of an empty head.

MHN said...

"Perhaps a better way to put it is that religion, properly understood, should be about Absence, not Presence. "God" is a mystery, the TRUTH unknowable"

I've always tried to tell people - Christians and non-Christians alike - that unless a follower of Christ is fully and permanently 'tuned-in' to the moment when the Messiah resigns himself in physical and spiritual agony to death, calling out to the unresponsive abyss "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?", then they're not doing it right, they're avoiding the darkness and absence that sits at the heart of the belief, an absence that is not cancelled out by the idea of resurrection but exists eternally alongside it (ah, what a beautiful invention the liturgical year is...)

I wonder what Manson's eventual spasm of violence tells us about his ability to cope with these dualities upon which the spiritual (as opposed to the dogmatic) is always contingent.

I envy him as much as I loathe what he did. If Nietzsche were God, Manson would be his holy fool.

Dr Dave, I'd like to say a huge thank you - I've enjoyed every paragraph, it's really given me food for thought, and I look forward to getting my hands on your 'Wilderness Lost'.

MHN said...

"When did all the LIES begin - when the Jews invented GOD?"

Baudelaire - ever the master of the completely jarring non-sequitur - writes in his journal:

'A beautiful conspiracy to be organised for the extermination of the Jewish Race.

The Jews, Librarians and witnesses of Redemption' (my italics)


Words are corruption.

Robert Hendrickson said...

Thank you Dr. Dave. I too am very stimulated by your comments. I just realized something. You use the story of Manson to hook your book "Searching for God in the Sixties." AND didn't the author(s) of the story of Jesus Christ use the Old Testament to "hook" their new book "The New Testament. ? Today this "hook-up" system is used all the time, but back in the day, probably not so much. Do you know anything about how and when the joining of the OLD and NEW Testaments was created ? IE: was it a promotional tool used to unload the story of Jesus on the Jews ? Were book merchants in that day even aware of how to promote written works ? IF the Jesus Story was never attached to the Old Testament do you think we would even know the name Jesus Christ today ?

Dr Dave said...

The radical Protestants whom I read argue that the OT was a mere book of rules, "the law," and even those who followed the law were still living lies and pretending. So the NT is supposed to represent the spiritual alternative, that we need the spirit of love not obedience to logic and law. "The letter killeth but the spirit giveth life." How we get transformed from our lying selves to this spirit is through negation, absence, the destruction of the lying self with the hope that out of that crucifixion might come a new better vision. Too many Christians today make their religion into a repetition of the OT legal approach. As Manson said, they killed Christ when they wrote it down and made it an institution. My generation of the 60s entered into that void but made the classic mistake of thinking we had found a new truth. Instead we found that even the very selves on the journey across the wilderness are shams. Hence: "Jason sham too."

Robert Hendrickson said...

It seems we ALL have to travel a questionable journey in order to finally understand that the fact we are ALL living LIES is but the only TRUTH. Of course, that SYSTEM also "seems" to be working just fine - except for some collateral damage created along the way.

I still don't get the "searching for God" (the TRUTH in the sixties). BUT then, for me, right there in the US Army Induction Center, in 1965, my whole world changed forever. I actually realized that everything I was taught - including everything I was taught in Sunday School and Church - was an out-an-out fraud. So "searching" for me was OVER - it was now time to have a good time and some laughs before I died in some rice paddy in Vietnam.

Before, the airplane took a few hundred of us off for basic training, two secret service agents visited me at the Center - seems they forgot to debrief me and inform me that I did NOT have to be drafted into the Army - that they could not allow me to go to Vietnam anyway, because of my security clearance and knowledge of government secrets.

The point being, maybe "searching" for the TRUTH is simply like going out for a double-dip ice cream cone when you are a kid. It's the "journey" that provides the most pleasure and life is JOURNEY. Of course, I didn't have to DIE in Vietnam, but some of my friends did and that still hurts. So I imagine, they are somewhere on another plane shouting out to me: "Get'm Robert, tell the whole world the TRUTH - what mother-fucker's that JFK, LBJ and Nixon are. Tell um, tell um the TRUTH, And then after I got out of the Army in 1967, I met Charles Manson, who was providing a hide-out for young boys from the "draft" and filling their heads with some kind of NEW truth, called "evil poison # 9."

So Dr. Dave, there are those of us who greatly appreciate your guidance along the "journey."

BUT don't be afraid to tell it like it really is - what's the worst "they" can do to you ? That's the real SECRET to purposeful LIFE.

MHN said...


This is no doubt a banal and possibly answerless question, but given that you were searching, that Manson seemed to have answers to offer, and those answers turned out to be another form of poison, what do you think of Manson? What is Manson, to you?

You see, Dr Dave has made a compelling case for actually taking Manson seriously, for placing him at one extreme of a great oscillation that snakes and slaloms its way through the ebb and flow of the history of the idea of America. This has been so interesting to me I perhaps see Manson in a different light now.

Taking him seriously, it goes without saying, has nothing to do with reaching any accommodation with the vile things he had his people do. Do you have any sympathy with Dr Dave's reading, or do you maintain that Manson is nothing but another lie, another poison?

Robert Hendrickson said...

Michael - I may have mislead you with "evil poison # 9." It is the label the "establishment" would put on Manson's "NEW truth"
that everything we were "taught" is a lie. But as I mention, it was all over (the searching) for me at the US Army induction Center. I realized then ( 4 years before I met Manson ) that everything we were taught is a lie. I also understand that for us straight guys to declare Manson has a remarkable intellect can be construed to be interpreted as a compliment to him and consequently a detriment to the advancement of our careers.

I know exactly where Dr. Dave is coming from - HE has peeked (from a safe distance) into the mind of Manson and sees a path that could lead HIM back into the Eden of Intellect, BUT he also knows enough to understand that that "path" has many dangerous thorn bushes along the way. So is it worth it to make the journey of a lifetime and stand at the edge of the Abyss ? Is it advisable to enter the Gates of Hell and take a bite of the infamous apple ? Is foresaking ALL else in the quest to experience the beginning and the END while you still have many more years to go, worth the price ?

NOT for everyone.

Dr Dave said...

Michael: Great line: "... for placing him at one extreme of a great oscillation that snakes and slaloms its way through the ebb and flow of the history of the idea of America." I wish I'd said it.
For Robert, a poem from Emily Dickinson who fell into that abyss and never recovered:
If I had not seen the sun
I could have bourn the shade
But light a newer wilderness
My wilderness has made.
I introduce Manson in class by telling my students the joke of the little boy asked why he was standing at the corner crying. His answer: "I'm running away from home but my parents won't let me cross the street." Manson crossed that street. Perhaps, like the puppy in "Cuckoo's Nest" he should have remained in his kennel. Perhaps not. I think of him as road kill: evolution requires that we animals keep testing the boundaries of what we have been told is reality. For a few this is salvation, for the rest disaster.

Matt said...

Dr. Dave, on behalf of MansonBlog I'd like to thank you for taking the time to prepare these thought provoking posts and taking the time to discuss them here. It's not often that we get to interact with a thinker of your stature.

Before we published Part 1 I told Mr. Hendrickson that we had something coming up that is right up his alley. I don't think I've ever been more dead on. I think he and others are really going to miss these exchanges. I know I will.

Hopefully you won't be a stranger. We'd love to see you frequently in the future.

I'll end with one of my favorite quotes:

Great minds discuss ideas.

Mediocre minds discuss events.

Small minds discuss people.

- Eleanor Roosevelt

Robert Hendrickson said...

I too am most appreciative Dr. Dave, for you have added an educated, thus credible perspective to the MANSON mystique. It was Paul Watkins ( Little Paul ) who sings "Are there other worlds to explore" and he wasn't just talking about Mars. I have to comment that all the LIES provide an atmosphere of "creativity" (story telling with creative lie-sense) which is a great thing. AND Charles Manson was kind'a WRONG about "writing" it down and Christ, cause IF the Story of Jesus was never "written" about - HE never would have existed. AND if there was NO Christ, there would be NO Christrmas and if there was no Christmas - well, that's a whole other story.

BUT what we are doing here is: Securing a place in HISTORY for generations to enjoy and learn from the incredible 1960s.

The word from Europe is: that a college "professor" says: "You can't comprehend the 1960s America without understanding the role Charles Manson played in it."

I sure am glad I never took any drugs in the 1960s - 70s - so I could remember them. But I did get really high on some LIES.

AND Matt, thank you for finding Dr. Dave, but Mrs Roosevelt spent her entire married life consumed in a LIE, as did Jackie Kennedy. Of course, that never affected the lives of others - or did it ?

MHN said...

Indeed. Thank you Dr. Dave, Matt, and everyone at the blog. I'd love to chat with you both over a beer - and RH too, of course - but given the inconvenience of the Atlantic Ocean this may be the closest I get. It's been fascinating.

Anonymous said...

My most vivid memories of 1969/1970 are not of the Manson coverage (though I lived just a few miles away), nor of the moon walks - it was as a 9 year old in speechless terror while watching TV as the week's American GI body count was shown on The Huntley-Brinkley Report.

Matt said...

YES! That's what I remember most vividly. The numbers of dead reported on the Huntley-Brinkley Report.

Robert Hendrickson said...

Michael; make mine a Corona !

"Many numbers" and "Matt" So to blog on a website that involves the MAN who "killed" the 1960s and thus consequently helped "end" the Vietnam War - makes sense to me.

BUT for those children, who were born later and deprived - in public school - of even learning about such an EVIL deed, a LOST generation was thus "created." AND they don't even know that by WORD "definitions" an American President(s) joined the ranks of Adolf Hitler, Emperor Hiriheto" Alexander the Great," etc.

Fortunately, or otherwise, at least some did find GOD in the 1960s - stoned.

Anonymous said...

I especially appreciated the Edward Abby and Joseph Campbell references. The only one missing for me was Alan Watts.

Anonymous said...

Robert, for me, and I think for you too, participating here is the absolute definition of serendipity.

Anonymous said...

A very short poem in the Christmas Spirit, and in appreciation for Dr Dave:

Truth seeker find
Red blood of fact
Myth maker bind
True sense of act

Dr Dave said...

It's been real!