The Plowboy Interview: Stephen Gaskin and The Farm

An interview with Stephen Gaskin, the founder of The Farm commune in Tennessee.

| May/June 1977

It all started in the fall of 1966 when someone decided to start an experimental college in San Francisco ... and way over in the corner of the registration room a guy named Stephen Gaskin put up a little sign which said he'd be teaching something called "Monday Night Class." 

Only six people made it through that first semester with Gaskin. So he began tinkering around with new names for his course. First it was "Group Experiments in Unified Field Theory"  ... then "Magic, Einstein, and God" ... and then "North American White Witchcraft." But what that Monday Night Class was really about all the time was religion and the psychedelic-drug-inspired, long-overdue spiritual reawakening which was then just beginning to stretch, come alive, and sweep across our jaded, materialistic, modern world.  

And ... slowly at first ... then faster and faster, the most aware "flower children" and "hippies" who had come to San Francisco in the 60's because they'd heard that "something" was going on there ... the best and the brightest of these people were attracted to Stephen's class. And as the class grew, Gaskin had to move it from the campus where it had begun ... to a church ... to the Straight Theatre ... to a rock hall. And he had 50, then 250, then 1,000, then 2,000 people filling that hall every Monday night. Two thousand people out of a total congregation of at least 5,000 of the happiest, most joyous souls in San Francisco! Laughing, loving, gentle people who looked into each other's eyes ... and found God.  

And it is still curious that neither the "establishment" nor the "underground" press of the city ever reported much about this magnificent achievement. Instead, they devoted whole pages of every edition of their papers to the false prophets of the day: the warped and twisted prophets who said that The Answer was ever-more-exotic mixtures of reality-altering chemicals ... that The Answer was "kill your parents" ... that The Answer was "drop out, steal, and live on welfare" ... that The Answer was violent confrontation in the streets.  

But some of the rest of the country was not so retarded, and Stephen began getting a trickle — then a flood — of invitations to come and speak at churches and colleges across the United States. And every time he suggested the idea of recessing the Monday Night Class for a few months while he toured the nation to honor these requests, a funny thing happened: Members of what was now a religious congregation kept popping up to ask, "Can we go with you?"  

"When we finally pulled out of San Francisco on October 12, 1970," Gaskin now remembers, "there were about 250 of us in 20 or 30 old buses. We were on the road for four months and the farther we went, the more people there were who joined the caravan. Pretty soon there were three or four hundred of us and the police were meeting us every time we crossed a state line."  

1/31/2018 8:56:28 AM

The Hippies' critique of materialistic culture and their alternative to it was right in many ways, and Stephen Gaskin and The Farm community had/have it right in more ways than most. That sustained/sustains them when others either self-destructed, began exploiting others, or "cut their hair and went square" (which are pretty much all the same). All prophets are flawed, but the endurance of their words and work correlates to the depth of the truth they spoke and lived. The Farm, and the words and work of Stephen Gaskin, will last long.

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