There must be a cosmic leak


salon ruigoord

Yesterday, I spent some time at Ruigoord. Ruigoord is a small artist enclave in the Western harbour area of Amsterdam. The village is an oasis of imagination, which has been trying to keep the spirit of the 60s alive. Counterculture, a gay anarchism, psychedelic drug culture, artistic expression and some new spirituality values continue to define life in Ruigoord. When you enter the village, white graffiti on one of the houses – which are used by artists as their workspace – reads: “So much inspiration in such a small place; there must be a cosmic leak.”

Of course, you don’t have to be an adherent of a more bourgeois lifestyle to raise criticism about Ruigoord: isn’t the message of Ruigoord a little outdated? Isn’t it more about drugs than about artistic expression? Is everybody really living along that well, or is there also strife and competition? And of course: aren’t commercial interests to exploit the hippie paradise taking gradually taking over the more communitarian values of Ruigoord?

Despite whatever reserves anybody may have, I am a believer of Ruigoord, and as many Christians have recently explained me, to believe you ultimately have to jump. Obviously, it is not very likely that Christ has in fact risen from the dead, but you just have to believe it, right? Centrally located in Ruigoord is “the church”, a former catholic church (already an interesting feature in the protestant north of Holland), which is now used for creative rituals and parties. Next to the church, you find the “municipal” building, which doubles as the consulate of Doel (almost abandoned village in Belgium) and the embassy of Christiania (free state in Copenhagen).

For me, the place which for me is the most authentic contemporary expression of the spirit of Ruigoord is the Salon, opposite the church. Salon Ruigoord is the workspace of Michael, which is used for various experimental public activities, such as poetry performances, music and lectures. These happenings are an eclectic mix of classical hippie philosophy and culture and more contemporary urban worldviews and cultural expressions.

This particular evening I was listening to three fringe thinkers: Thomas Meijer, Leonie Klooster and Joost Emanuel. Devoid of any academic mannerism, they each developed in their own way scholarly theses on truth, meaning, fiction and the insanity. An important topic through all talks was the distinction between the “true” person or soul – the spiritual origin of human beings – and their purported “masks” which we put on or “personae” we play in society. The  message of these philosophers of Ruigoord was not only the worldview of perennialism – the idea that there is a true core in all world philosophies which is ancient and eternal, but also the message of the pure soul corrupted by society.

I am not sure if this particular message is still important in our day and age. Joost Emanuel, a gifted speaker, gave a speech which resembled a sermon. I called him a preacher of the new age and he replied he’d more thought of himself as a preacher of the now age. But do we still live in times in which pretending to have a global message is still possible? Isn’t the appeal to a universal rational truth precisely that element of protestant Christianity we would like to move beyond? It appears to me that Western hippiedom very much resembles precisely the strife for truth and purity of Northern European protestant culture. It had never occurred to me before that hippies are actually the calvinists of the late 20th Century.