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Stephen Gaskin – Obituary.

Posted 4th July 2014.           Find Full Article and Video Here:-

Stephen Gaskin was a teacher who led a caravan of hippies across America to found a commune built on tradition.

Stephen Gaskin in 1969

Stephen Gaskin in 1969 Photo: ALAMY

Stephen Gaskin, was a self-confessed “professional hippy” who became an unlikely presidential candidate.

As a proponent of love, peace and harmony, he co-founded “The Farm” — a spiritual community of like-minded tie-die clad, vegetarian, pot-smoking pacifists — in Summertown, Tennessee, in 1971. It became the largest hippy community in the world and an example of an effective self-sufficient subculture.

As a potential leader of the free world — campaigning in the primary elections of 2000 — Gaskin was a Green Party hopeful with a mission to introduce universal health care, reform financial institutions and legalise marijuana.

Although he failed to win the Green Party ticket for the presidential poll he fought a frank and funny campaign. “Did you inhale?” he was asked about his personal experience of marijuana. “I didn’t exhale,” he answered.

Stephen Gaskin was born on February 16 1935 in Denver, Colorado, and had a peripatetic, eclectic upbringing that, while atheist, was inclusive of various cultures. His father was variously a cowboy, builder, mail clerk and commercial fisherman and Stephen was raised throughout the south west of America, with periods in Santa Fe, Phoenix, and San Bernardino. “I’d been to so many different places I had to learn how to make friends on purpose,” he recalled. He maintained that his freethinking was hereditary, noting that his grandmother was a suffragette and his great uncle helped the longshoreman’s union in San Francisco.

Gaskin served in the US Marine Corps between 1952 and 1955, during which time he fought in Korea. During the Sixties he lived in San Francisco, where he taught English, semantics and creative writing at San Francisco State University, working under the celebrated linguist and semanticist SI Hayakawa.

Gaskin with one of his Monday Night Classes

Gaskin’s formal teaching grew into a more personal and philosophical pursuit through his experimental “Monday Night Class” — an open discussion group involving up to 1,500 students and held in 1969 and 1970 at a huge auditorium in the city’s Bay Area. His classes ranged from “Group Experiments in Unified Field Theory” to “Magic, Einstein, and God”. In these gatherings he discussed “consciousness, the spiritual plane, religion, politics, sex, drugs and current events” — all viewed through the kaleidoscopic lens of the Sixties counterculture movement (and its psychedelic pharmaceutical refreshments). Unified by the hippy sensibility, the classes formed the genesis of the group that settled at The Farm.

In 1970 Gaskin led 250 people in a caravan of “20 or 30 old buses” from San Francisco to Tennessee on a four-month lecture tour of churches and colleges. “The farther we went, the more people there were who joined the caravan,” he said. “Pretty soon there were three or four hundred of us and the police were meeting us every time we crossed a state line.”

Gaskin’s caravan of hippies crossing America to Tennessee in 1971

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