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The Last Hippie is the second of seven paradoxical tales in An Anthropologist on Mars (1995) by Oliver Sacks. Its title is a reference to the fact that the main character Greg F. lost his short-term memory, and only remembers his youth of the 1960s. By implication, his medical condition is a result of the lack of treatment and attention that he faced while staying at the Krishna temple, but his physical and psychological experience is so complex, that it would be improper to blame it only on the group of people he lived with and their cult.
Oliver Sacks based the plot on the actual medical case history, one of many in his practice as a neurologist (Twan par.5). Greg joined the cult in the 60s and was enchanted by the atmosphere (Goldsmith 19), or as Sacks describes it the ‘austere and charismatic figure of the Swami himself came like a revelation to Greg ‘ (43). However, the spiritual search is not something that existed only in the 1960s. The only problem here appears when devotees of some movements care less about dominant values (Beckford 92) and more about rituals and a sense of unity with other people. To legislatively ban some malicious cult is curing the symptom rather than the illness since members of those cults are often socially non-adapted people. Rochford claims, that ‘involvement in movement creates a variety of personal problems’ (3 6), people like Greg, who are spiritually unsatisfied, in those cults meet other people, who are vulnerable as well, and they cannot help each other because they are under the influence of the cult propaganda. Unlike secular communities and moderate religious movements, that promote their members to support each other, the cult aims to keep devotees only concerned about their leader and their doctrine.
As it happened with Greg and his music therapy (Nerdrum 14), the best way to recover (or at least, minimize the damage) is to fulfill the spiritual search, and despite cults’ infamousness not to imagine them as pure evil, but try to understand the reason people are vulnerable to them.
Beckford, James A. Cult Controversies: The Societal Response to New Religious Movements. London: Tavistock Publications, 1985. Print.
Goldsmith, Andrea. “Oliver Sacks: Anthropologist of Mind.” Island 54.1 (1993): 18-21. Print.
Nerdrum, Tamara 2014, “Neurobiology of Healing Traumatic Brain Injury: Using Music as the Connecting Chord.” Ph.D. Thesis. Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2014. ProQuest. Web.
Rochford, E. Burke. Hare Krishna in America. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers UP, 1985. Print.
Sacks, Oliver. An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales. New York: Alfred A. Kropf, 1995. Print.
Twan, Mark. “Oliver Sacks, Eminent Neurologist and Awakenings Author, Dies Aged 82.” The Guardian. 2015. Web.