Book Review: Hail Holy Light

June 27, 2012

by Craig Cline

Book Review of Hail Holy Light – A Journey through the Great Awakening of the Sixties by Ken McCormack.

The title of the book is true to the author’s intent:  to explore both the historical and the psychological-social-spiritual events that took place in the 1960s. He makes this exploration personal; a memoir of his own journey and “healing” — from his old self to his new one.

Among his life experiences, Mr. McCormack attended the University of California at Berkeley as a Woodrow Wilson fellow.  He describes himself as “politically active” in the civil rights and peace movements of the 1960s.  More recently, he has served as an associate editor of The PeaceWorker and as a Board member of Oregon PeaceWorks.

Two Cultural Icons

The book begins with McCormack’s observation that two cultural icons, President John F. Kennedy and pacifist Aldous Huxley, both died on the same date, November 22, 1963.  Thus, for him at least, began the 1960s — a period of “extraordinary rebellion and citizen involvement.”

He makes any number of insightful and thought-provoking statements.  Among them are these:

“Surely, a deep meaning of the Camelot myth is that no matter what the ballot decides, the sword and the bullet rule the world.”

“Thus, the greatest evil is done in the name of the greatest Good.”

“Nonviolence does not mean doing nothing.  It means making the enormous effort required to overcome evil with good.”

“In fact, our history seems to be a history of constant war.”

“Ultimately, the Movement never recovered from its slide into the darkside of violence.”

Are We as “Awake” Today?

Readers who are spiritually inclined may well find favor with McCormack’s view as a Christian:  “One thing is clear:  Jesus cannot support war, military buildup, revenge, capital punishment, increases in incarceration, enrichment of the rich and impoverishment of the poor, hatred of Muslims or homosexuals or anyone else, nor any cruel and hateful behavior.”

The book’s title was the product of a quote by the renowned poet John Milton.  Like Milton, Ken McCormack is a deep thinker, and he presents an engaging perspective on the tumultuous times of the 60s.

Incredibly, a full half-century has since passed, and I myself wonder if we the people are still as “awake” today as many of us were back then.  Truth be told, I don’t think so.  Do you?  Φ

Craig Cline is a member of Oregon PeaceWorks and supports its mission to help create a world where peace and justice reign.

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