A former hippie recounts his 1970s encounter with an unlikely spiritual teacher in this debut New-Age manifesto.
Doorlag’s account of his spiritual odyssey opens with a disturbing scene. On a beach in southern Vancouver Island, at the end of a long, deeply affecting journey, his friend and mentor died. Following JJ’s explicit wishes, the author burned his body on a bonfire, then smashed his bones to dust and pebbles with a hammer. It is a strange and grisly beginning to what is essentially a gentle story of spiritual guidance. Doorlag met JJ (whose moniker stands for his most basic directive, “Just Jump”) in the summer of 1975, when he accepted the man’s request to ride with him on a road trip from California to Canada. The author was a long-haired, bearded college student driving a “baby-blue van with rainbow curtains.” JJ was at least a decade older and worn down by a life he refused to talk about. But over the course of their month-long adventure, JJ did expound daily on his spiritual outlook, teaching Doorlag to embrace a worldview rooted in New-Age values of peace, love, and justice as attainable ideals. Rejecting established religions for their reliance on the “supernatural,” JJ set forth a belief in four miracles. Three of these, the creation of the universe, the beginning of life, and human consciousness, had already happened. The fourth, “peace on Earth for all mankind,” was to be achieved by practicing open-mindedness, questioning authority, and caring for other people, animals, and Earth. After imparting his philosophy, JJ asked Doorlag to write it down and publish it, a promise that took the author more than four decades to fulfill. Doorlag’s picaresque narrative evokes the innocent revolutionary ethos of the ’70s, which becomes especially poignant when juxtaposed with the continuing struggles of the “Occupy” movement of a more world-weary millennial generation. JJ’s teachings of the miracles of life and creation and hopes for peace and human connection propose a positive and well-intentioned cosmology with intriguing details. But the lessons are sometimes simplistic and contradictory. For example, in discussing JJ’s vision of the future, Doorlag asserts that “medical advances in the centuries to come would be pure speculation” while nonetheless going on to predict “birth defects, paralysis, brain trauma, cancer, etc. may no longer be an issue.”
A sometimes-bumpy buddies-on-the-road account of spiritual transformation.