The needs of the spirit

I’ve never had much time for gurus, although a lot of humans swear by them, and I’m not the sort of ape to pour scorn on another fellow’s interests and hobbies. The Beatles, let’s not forget, spent the best part of a year at the Maharishi’s venerable feet, chanting mantras, practising deep-breathing exercises and oiling their guitar strings with ghee. Now aged 90, the sprightly old swami continues to do his stuff with aplomb, launching his yogic flyers from Holland to spread waves of bliss throughout the galaxy and beyond. I sent him a telegram wishing him every success. I’ve never been engulfed by a wave of bliss, but it sounds like the sort of thing one might develop a taste for after a hard day at the swamp.

I must admit having a soft spot for the Hare Krisnhnas though. Their music is a bit repetitive, it’s true, but we gorillas enjoy that type of thing. I always pack a tambourine in my hand luggage on the off chance of meeting one of their bands on my travels. The last time it happened was in Sydney, when I came across a trio consisting of two girls who were as cute as kittens and one male drum-beater who was as bald as an egg. Quick as a flash, I pulled the tambourine from my rucksack and got into the groove. They absolutely loved it, although I ducked when one of the girls tried to finger my bonce with a bindi. That red dot may symbolise a lot of potent things, but it looks like a ketchup stain on the forehead of a well-groomed gorilla.

I regret to say that my friend Dr Whipsnade is apt to be a little quick-tempered with proselytisers who dare to presume that his lofty soul is in need of salvation. We were walking together in Hyde Park, last time I was in London, when a vivacious young lady with braces on her teeth bounced up to greet us on the walkway.

“D’ya wanna know Jesus?” she asked, offering us a pamphlet.

“Not if he’s a friend of yours!” barked the doctor, marching off briskly before she could respond.

She looked a little crestfallen, but cheered up considerably when I took one of her circulars
and gave her a wink before re-joining my curmudgeonly companion. I skimmed over the document later that evening and found nothing particularly objectionable in it. Go to church, give generously to charity and stock up with tinned food before Armageddon were the main points emphasised in the text. Plain commonsense, I would have thought.

Now I’m aware that a lot of people are very antireligious, appalled by the guilt-mongering and the rabble-rousing and the wild-eyed characters with beards. What they forget is the vital role that religion plays in human recreation. A day out in Rome to watch the Pope address the multitude in St. Peter’s Square is the highlight of the social calendar for many. The trouble with today’s faith industry is that it’s dominated by men, thus getting caught up in the power games in which the male of the species is habitually engaged. Humanity needs to rediscover the old pagan festivals involving wood nymphs, priestesses and vestal virgins that made their ancient religious practices so exciting and enjoyable. I sense that the exposed female bosom may have an important role to play here.

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