The pub was disappointingly empty, so I took my first pint of the evening upstairs, where some sort of New Age society was holding a public talk and discussion. I gave the woman seated just inside the meeting room my £5 entry fee and found a spare seat at the back next to a big bloke with a beard. In the five minutes or so before the talk began, I counted 47 other people in the room, all of them white. Five chaps had advanced male pattern baldness, another had very obviously dyed hair (black). The total number of beards was six, including a goatee. Average age, at a guess, was 50. About ten people were over 70. Only three people had chanced a check or patterned jumper, dress or top; the rest wore plain — boring shades of brown mainly. Only one person was morbidly obese. The atmosphere was mindful and middle class. Gender proportions were about even. I asked the chap I had sat next to what the talk was about. He fished a piece of paper out of his pocket and kindly read the title out to me. It was: ‘The Prophecy of the Condor and the Eagle — rebalancing masculine and feminine’.
‘Golly,’ I said. ‘If you want my opinion,’ he said, looking at me significantly, ‘the CIA are behind all this New Age nonsense.’ The reasoning part of my brain struggled to work out why the CIA would go to all that trouble. The best it could muster was, ‘To deflect us from questioning geopolitical inequalities?’ ‘Precisely,’ he said darkly.
The talk began. A woman aged about 55 stood up and introduced herself as an ‘integrative psychotherapist’ and ‘ecopsychologist’. That is to say, she said, that she believed that we human beings in the atomised, technology-obsessed west can only be truly healed of our madness when we reintegrate with the living planet earth and its (or her) remaining indigenous peoples. The only way to do this, she said, is to sit at the feet of their elders and medicine men and relearn the wisdom and spirituality that we have lost. Principle indigenous spiritual characteristics are integrity, gratitude and respect for Nature and all beings, she said: ours are the very opposite. It was at this early stage in her talk that Shaka, King of the Zulus in particular sprang to mind, and my disbelief, hitherto happily suspended, brusquely reasserted itself.
She then explained to us the prophecy of the Condor and the Eagle. She was a very gentle woman with smiling eyes. Her shining passion for paganism contended with a palpably humble spirit. She was a good advert for what she preached. I tried to remain open-minded and not think about blood-boltered King Shaka, for example, though she appeared to have based her indigenous researches for the most part on the peoples of South America, about whom I know nothing, apart from their having had quite a rough time of it in the past 500 years, and their recreational use of the coca leaf to stave off exhaustion. These people are the Condor of the prophecy. The Condor also represents heart, intuition and femininity. The Eagle is emblematic of the technologically advanced citizens of North America and stands for brain, rationality, masculinity and perhaps the CIA. One day, says the prophecy (which is held in common by many of the indigenous peoples of South America), the Condor and the Eagle will fly wing-tip to wing-tip. One day, in other words, the two factions, the meek and spiritual, and the powerful and superficial, will join hands and the world will sing in perfect harmony once more.
And that’s it. It seemed a bit thin to me, I have to say, and hardly worth a fiver. And beautiful, profound and passionate though this woman’s ideas were, one couldn’t help but feel that she had lost contact with reality. She persuaded us of the truth and relevance of the prophecy for about 20 minutes then took questions. ‘But the Condor and the Eagle are raptors!’ observed a horrified, well-spoken woman. ‘Birds of prey plunging down on their victims and tearing them apart with their talons!’ ‘Condors aren’t raptors, they eat carrion,’ a well-informed man corrected her. But before the discussion about the prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor descended further into pedantry, rationalism and technicalities, the speaker announced a short break. I was first on my feet and darted downstairs and out into the beer garden for a fag. While I was smoking, I felt a sudden urge to urinate, my bladder not being what it was these days, and as a first small step on my road to an indigenous mindset, and oneness with Nature, I pissed gratefully into the nearest ornamental flower tub.