'The Beatles, Drugs, Mysticism & India' is the detailed story of The Beatles' quest for bliss, self-knowledge and enlightenment through extensive experimentation with drugs, and dabbling in mysticism; their journey through psychedelia to transcendence. The Beatles' involvement with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the practice of Transcendental Meditation is told in great detail, largely by The Beatles themselves and also by a great many others who were with them. The book is a documentary-in-print, profusely illustrated with many previously unpublished colour photos which complement the text in revealing the intimate untold story of those heady times.
According to John, The Beatles first became aware of things Indian during the filming of the movie 'Help!', which coincidentally was also when George Harrison first tried playing a sitar. Their experiences with drugs ushered in a period of intense questioning, and The Beatles became increasingly mystical, looking deeper within themselves and out at the world around them. The Beatles ceased to be a performing group, and whilst making 'Rubber Soul', 'Revolver' and 'Sergeant Pepper', John, Paul, George and Ringo emerged as four distinct individual artists and thinkers, creating new sounds through creative experimentation; making music that stirs both head and heart.
The Beatles met with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in August 1967, and learned about Transcendental Meditation, a simple exercise practised for about twenty minutes or so, twice daily. Almost immediately they renounced the use of drugs and became ambassadors for Transcendental Meditation. Although The Beatles didn't make a record promoting meditation, they recorded a song entitled 'Across the Universe' which includes a reference to 'Guru Dev', Maharishi's guru, who revived the teaching of meditation, not just to monks but to everyday folks too.
In February 1968, The Beatles flew out to India to attend a teacher-training course with Maharishi, at a retreat near the ancient holy town of Rishikesh in a forested area of the Himalayan foothills by the River Ganges. John, Paul, George and Ringo were accompanied by their womenfolk, Cynthia Lennon, Jane Asher, Pattie Boyd, Jenny Boyd and Maureen Starkey, and their road manager, Mal Evans; all of them spent their time in India, meditating, listening to Maharishi, and socialising with other students, some of whom were musicians, such as flautist Paul Horn, singer Mike Love of The Beach Boys, and singer/songwriter Donovan. The musicians would often get together to play and write, and George would play his sitar for his fellow students. Whilst in India, The Beatles wrote many notable songs, some of which appeared on the 'White Album', such as 'Back in the USSR', 'Dear Prudence', 'Julia' and 'The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill', to name but a few, and Donovan also wrote new material, including one about Maharishi called 'Hurdy Gurdy Man'.
John, Paul, George and Ringo all found great inspiration in the spiritual teachings of India, and though John Lennon's attention shifted to his newfound relationship with Yoko Ono, his interest in meditation endured. The break up of The Beatles took its toll on each of them, but come what may, they all seem to have continued to value the practice of meditation, and George, Paul and Ringo all performed at benefit concerts in order to raise awareness of the value of meditation. The Beatles' musical heritage will most likely endure for centuries; hopefully their idealist quest for Peace, Love & Understanding will ultimately prevail and governments will 'Give Peace a Chance'!