Thursday, 4 July 2013

Gandalf's Garden

Gandalf's Garden was a London based mystical community, and one of the most wonderfully hippy happenings of the late 1960s. Rejecting the more druggy aspects of psychedelia, the Gandalf's Garden collective instead celebrated meditation, mysticism, occultism and yoga as the path to enlightenment.

The focal point of the movement was a Chelsea craft shop/community centre with event space, homeless respite and free food. Gurus, spiritual teachers and monks from around the world came to speak at the centre about their beliefs and practices. The community was named after the white wizard Gandalf, a character in  J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. When writing his fiction, Tolkien described his intention as being the creation of the ancient poetic legend that the culture of England, having been so continuously invaded and remoulded over the centuries of antiquity, had lost from its oral history. Gandalf's Garden continued in this tradition of imaginative, playful community, and finding new yet traditional meaning for the way we live our lives.

In 1968, Gandalf's Garden's founder, Muz Murray, began publication of a magazine to disseminate the spiritual knowledge and beliefs of the community. In the first issue, Muz expains the choice of the name:

"In the land of middle earth under threat of engulfment by the dark powers, Gandalf unites the differing races, mistrustful of each other through lack of understanding and communication, in a final effort to save the world. The crusader spirit of Gandalf is echoed in the cry of the Now Generation seeking an Alternative to the destructive forces of today's world, by spreading human love and aid, for the unity of the people of earth."

Just as in 1968, we are now living in a time of revolutionary change, and the ideas of Gandalf's Garden are as important, interesting and relevant as they were half a century ago. With this in mind, I've uploaded copies of the Gandalf's Garden magazine onto the magazine and journal hosting site Issuu. Here you can read articles on a wide range of fascinating subjects: humour and satire; art; war; education; diverse mystical approaches encompassing Ghandi, tibetan buddhism and Aleister Crowley; music, featuring John Peel, CY Laurie and Tyrannosaurus Rex; and my personal favourite (in issue 5), a guide to speaking to and cheering up lonely people in parks.

I've uploaded Gandalf's Garden so people can read the magazine and the community's ideas can be disseminated, as I believe this is in the spirit of the original aims of the writers and artists who created it. I haven't however made the issues downloadable. The Garden was established by Muz Murray, who is now a mantra yoga master, and teaches yoga and meditation as well as running a charity and trust in Tibet. 

You can buy a CD and download pack of the full collection of Gandalf's Garden from Muz personally, and although I believe it is in the spirit of the original to share the ideas the magazine contains, I do not want this sharing to mean that the creator of these ideas is not monetarily rewarded for them, especially considering what the money raised by any purchase will be spent on. I therefore urge anyone who discovers and enjoys Gandalf's Garden through these issues to show their appreciation by purchasing the full downloads from Muz, or contributing to his charity.

For only £11.99 (easily payable through Paypal), you can immediately download the full text of all the Gandalf's Garden issues, including contributions from John Peel, Spike Milligan, Joan Baez and poet Christopher Logue. This Download pack also gives you a wealth of resources beyond the six original issues. This includes beautiful unpublished artwork (such as the cover art for the never-made seventh issue), then-and-now photos of the Gandalf's Garden community, lengthy reminiscences from members, press clippings and articles about the Garden published between 1968-1972, and a longform article by the Garden's founder, Muz, on how the community came to be. Despite already having access to all the magazines, I purchased the download and it was the best £12 I have ever spent. I urge you to do the same.

I will be in contact with Muz shortly, and if my uploading has in any way reduced the number of people buying the downloads, I will remove the issues from the internet. Instead, I hope and believe that by sharing of the magazine I will increase its reach, encouraging more people to tune in and helping foster a new generation of Gardeners. If the number of downloads has increased, the magazines will remain open access. As I said before, if I feel my actions are mistaken, and that I'm taking food out of the mouths of Indian orphans by sharing the resource online, they are off in a flash. Therefore, if the Garden pleases you, please contribute to its creators with a purchase, and keep the love a-flowin.

                                                                    Gandalf's Garden by CaseyDeiss

That all being said, you can currently read Gandalf's Garden online here. Unfortunately, due to the poor quality of my scanning, not all the pages can be read in full. I again urge to you purchase the full download so you can enjoy the magazine in all its glory, for less than two pounds per issue. It's both a historical delight and a compendium of spiritual and artistic treasures, and hopefully we will see many new 'Seed Centres' spreading the GG message of love and peace opening around the world in the coming years.