The Beatles are widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential bands in the history of rock music. However, their music is also characterized by a deep and abiding fascination with Indian mysticism, drawing on themes from Hinduism and Buddhism to explore the mysteries of human existence. In this essay, we will explore the spiritual awakening of George Harrison, and how his interest in Indian mysticism influenced the Beatles’ music.
George Harrison was known as the “quiet Beatle,” but he was also one of the most spiritual and introspective members of the group. In the mid-1960s, Harrison became interested in Indian spirituality and began studying with the famous sitarist Ravi Shankar. This interest was reflected in the Beatles’ music, particularly in their later albums, which were characterized by a more introspective and meditative sound.
One of the most prominent examples of the Beatles’ interest in Indian mysticism can be found in the song “Within You Without You,” which was written by Harrison and appears on the album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The song features Indian instrumentation, including a sitar and tabla, and contains lyrics that reflect Hindu and Buddhist themes, such as the idea of illusion and the impermanence of human existence.
Another important influence on the Beatles’ music was the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a spiritual teacher who introduced the band to Transcendental Meditation in the late 1960s. The Beatles’ interest in meditation and spirituality is reflected in songs like “Across the Universe,” which contains the lyric “Jai guru deva om,” a mantra that translates to “Hail to the divine guru.”
The influence of Indian mysticism is also evident in the Beatles’ visual style, particularly in their use of Indian-inspired clothing and imagery. This was a reflection of their interest in the larger cultural and social context of the time, which saw a rise in the popularity of Eastern spirituality and a rejection of traditional forms of authority.
It is worth noting that the Beatles’ interest in Indian mysticism was not simply a passing fancy or a calculated attempt to attract attention. Rather, it was a deeply held personal belief that they incorporated into their music and their lives. In this sense, their music can be seen as a genuine attempt to connect with a deeper, more spiritual dimension of reality and to explore the mysteries of human existence on their own terms.
In addition to its impact on the Beatles’ music, the group’s interest in Indian mysticism also had a broader cultural and social impact. Their adoption of Eastern spiritual practices helped to popularize Transcendental Meditation and other forms of alternative spirituality, and helped to pave the way for the rise of New Age spirituality in the decades that followed.
In conclusion, the Beatles’ interest in Indian mysticism, and the influence of George Harrison’s spiritual awakening, was a significant aspect of their music and their cultural impact. The incorporation of Indian instrumentation, imagery, and spiritual themes helped to transform the Beatles’ music from simple pop songs to a more introspective and meditative sound. Their influence on popular culture and alternative spirituality continues to be felt today, and their legacy as musical pioneers and spiritual seekers remains secure.