The Summer of Love Experience: Consciousness

This is the final installment in a six-part series on The Summer of Love, inspired by The Summer of Love Experience exhibit at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco.


8,000 years before Europeans made their way to San Francisco, the people who lived there called it “awaste” or “place by the bay.” The city of San Francisco was founded by Spanish colonists one week before the signing of the US Declaration of Independence. In 1821 Mexico declared its own independence from Spain and San Francisco became part of the Mexican nation, whose government privatized much of the California territory, granting ranchos to some of its most prominent citizens. In 1846, Commodore John Drake Sloat claimed California for the US. Three years later, at the height of the gold rush, San Francisco was the largest city on the west coast.

There is only one thing standing between San Francisco and Asia, but it is the largest geographic feature of the planet. As the largest city on the continent across the Pacific Ocean from Asia, San Francisco was a likely location for eastern philosophies to take root in the new world. 


In the summer of love, Asian cultures integrated with those of Europe, Africa, and the indigenous people of America to form a new culture, distinct from its parts. Borrowing from Indian, Persian, and Chinese sources, the generation coming of age in the summer of love sought a new consciousness, embracing yoga, meditation, vegetarianism, Buddhism, mind-altering drugs, and universal love.

The previous generation, born in the Great Depression and scalded in the most destructive war the planet had ever known, were happy to indulge themselves in instant cakes, frozen steaks, and scotch. For them, the war was over. Their children didn’t have the same luxury. The wars they were living through were broadcast into the living rooms of the ones who weren’t out there fighting them.

Breaking the cycles of war, poverty, and the ingrained stereotypes of race, gender, and sexuality would require new ways of thinking. The commercialism, consumerism, and materialism of post-war America was not getting the job done. Instead, it would take something simpler. A back-to-nature movement was born with organic farming, communal living, a higher consciousness where love is the currency of the realm.

To the small-minded, money is power. For the evil-minded, it’s the ability to hurt others. For the best of us, it’s service to the greater good. It is love. 

The historical event that happened in San Francisco in 1967 was not called the summer of action or justice or peace or youth. It was the summer of love, because love is the highest achievement of human consciousness. Love is the simplest truth. All truth does not come from love, but most of it – and all knowledge – does. Curiosity is love of knowledge. Science is love of logic. Religion is love of the divine. Recognition of love is life’s earliest and most persistent test. Aversion to love creates more emotional cripples than even the most determined hate.

A worldwide community of love is in the grasp of the human race for the first time and that’s got a lot of people freaked out. I believe we’re going to
develop that world, without war, poverty, and bigotry, in spite of ourselves. When we do it will be thanks in part to a group of people who gathered in San Francisco and visualized such a world 50 years ago this summer.


Hold on John
John hold on, it’s gonna be alright
You’re gonna win the fight

Hold on Yoko
Yoko hold on, it’s gonna be alright
You gonna make the flight

When you’re by yourself
And there’s no one else
You just have yourself
And you tell yourself
Just to hold on

Hold on world
World hold on, it’s gonna be alright
You’re gonna see the light

Oh, and when you’re one
Really one
Well you get things done
Like they never been done
So hold on


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