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Campbell – Introduction to Faith and Freedom in California

William F. Campbell

Louisiana State University

Introduction to Faith and Freedom in California

The Philadelphia Society Regional Meeting

Los Angeles, October 16, 1999


My name is Bill Campbell, Secretary of The Philadelphia Society, and I am
standing in for our stalwart friend, Jim Evans, who has been suffering temporary
health problems and could not be with us today. He wished to say hello to you
all, but particularly to Chuck Hallberg, who not only published Ed Opitz’s book
which you can pick up on the back table, but Chuck also published Jim Evan’s
first book twenty years ago.

After this morning ruminations on music, we can discern a corollary to an old
law: "A rolling stone gathers no mossbacks." Or perhaps as a theme and
variations, as St. Paul might have reminded us, "The Only Grateful Dead are the
Christians."

I wish to continue the theme of music while I set the California stage for David
Keyston who will introduce Ed Opitz. Natalie Merchant, a contemporary singer
who used to be with the "10,000 Maniacs," has a particularly interesting set of
lyrics to her song called "San Andreas Fault." (I promise you that I had
prepared these remarks before the major earthquake that we experienced last
night.) She captures the ambivalent spirit of California in her words of "o
promised land" and "o wicked ground." She continues, "Go west, paradise is
there, you’ll have all that you can eat of milk & honey over there."

California as a paradise has been there from the beginning. European explorers
were looking for gold which they finally found in 1848. We are even reminded
of 18th century utopians in the name of The Berkeley campus of the University
of California. It was named after Bishop Berkeley, who captured the Christian
utopianism with his poem, "Westward the course of empire makes its way."

Slightly more adolescent versions of the California utopia are found in the
Beach Boys, "Surfer Girl," "California Girls," and "Fun, Fun, Fun" from the
early 60s. Slightly less adolescent are the encomiums of praise that one reads
about the Silicon Valley and the promises of modern technology.

In Stephen Schwartz’s recent book From West to East: California and the
Making of the American Mind
, he points out that California has been able to
reverse that tide of history. But his title emphasizes the exports of California to
the larger culture; the title for this program was in reaction to this and
emphasizes the American spirit rather than mind. Spirit is much more
amorphous and it is something formed and not easily made or manufactured.

Southerners have always been distrustful of the Northeast as the "land of
notions," i.e. the world of ideological abstractions, but we don’t know what they
would have thought about California as the "land of lotions." When I found out
that the babes of Baywatch used artificial coloring for their tans, and used 15
strength Sun Tan lotion on the set, then I knew that appearance was not reality.

Some consideration also must be given to the fact that California imports are
usually important for what they export later on. Many foreign intellectuals and
artists migrated to California in the thirties and forties. California, to use an older
expression, is "nuttier than a fruitcake." Among its imports of fruits and nuts
were the British invasion of W.H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood, Aldous
Huxley, and Gerald Heard to whom I shall return later.

A musical group who interacted with the above group were the composers,
Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Darius Milhaud, and others who influenced not only
classical music, but also the jazz worlds of Stan Kenton, Dave Brubeck, and the
cool West Coast jazz-Gerry Mulligan, Laurindo Almeida, Bud Shank, Shorty
Rogers, and Jimmy Giuffre. The influence of the classical music extended to the
fact Stan Kenton added the part of two French Horns to his West Coast
Orchestra in 1956.

Let me return to the lyrics of Natalie Merchant in "San Andreas Fault." She
extols rags to riches, jet-set life, but then judgment is not far behind. "San
Andreas Fault moved its fingers through the ground/ earth divided/ plates
collided/ such an awful sound/ San Andreas Fault/ moved its fingers/ through
the ground/ terra cotta shattered/ and the walls came tumbling down."

Now it was Joshua that blew the trumpets which brought the wall of Jericho
down; Ed Opitz blew the French horn and continues to blow the French Horn
in three orchestras and bands where he now lives in Orleans, Massachusetts.
For a Louisiana citizen like myself, Orleans, Massachusetts sounds
oxymoronic, almost as much as Louisiana citizen or a humorless Stan Evans.

Although Ed was not a native of California, Ed was involved as a friend and
supporter of many aspects of the conservative/classical liberal movement in
California during the 1950s and the 1960s. When the theme of this meeting was
germinating in my mind, the idea occurred to me that the importance of
California culture is a bellwether to the nation as a whole. The word bellwether
is chosen carefully since it means "a male sheep who leads the flock…a person
whom others follow blindly." The purpose of this meeting is to reduce the
blindness by opening the eyes of the conservative movement to both the good
and the bad in the California experience. We wish to make our members and
guest more discerning.

To bring it more up to date, let me use the New Age language of Rupert
Sheldrake’s "morphic resonance." In a book by your fellow Californian,
Matthew Fox, the author of another intriguing title, On Becoming a Musical,
Mystical Bear
, 1972, he has Sheldrake opining that "if rats in Sheffield learn a
new trick, rats all around the world should be able to learn it quicker just
because it has been learned there." Fox, an ex-Catholic and as I understand, an
ex-Anglican (thanks be to God) has founded the University of Creation
Spirituality and is currently co-director of the Naropa Institute in Oakland,
California.

If none of this makes any sense to you, The Beach Boys already created a
similar theory in 1966 with their song called, "Good Vibrations."

Ed Opitz has played a large role in preventing the blind from leading the blind.
Both as a Congregational Minister and as a person who followed Leonard Read
from Calfornia to the Foundation for Economic Education, he has been busy
integrating economics and Christianity. Long before anyone else-and I mean,
long before anyone else-he was seeing the important links between good
economics and the realms of the spirit. His economic heroes have been the
Austrian economists, Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, Wilhelm Roepke, and
those influenced by them, Baldy Harper and Leonard Read at the Foundation
for Economic Education.

His cultural heroes have been Albert J. Nock and Rabelais; as Secretary of the
Nockian Society for many years, he had established an ideal for which The
Philadelphia Society has always aspired: "No Officers, No Dues, No Meetings."
Even though we have not achieved the ideal, we can take comfort from another
of Ed’s favorites, G.K. Chesterton who boldly asserted that "if a thing is worth
doing, it worth doing badly."

His spiritual heroes have been the likes of C.S. Lewis who died on the same day
as Kennedy’s assassination and also the demise of Aldous Huxley. The latter
name brings back Ed’s interest in Gerald Heard, one of those mysterious figures
in the conservative movement, both in California and the Midwest. He can be
variously described-religious mystic, historian, and novelist. Or if you don’t like
him, religious eclectic, drug user, and gnostic.

Louis Dehmlow, a mutual friend, and long time supporter of The Philadelphia
Society, who could not be with us today was also a follower of Gerald Heard.
In a letter to me dated April 25, 1969 and copied to Ed Opitz and Norman
Ream, he explained, "I once attempted to get Gerald Heard, Richard Weaver
and Ayn Rand-each of whom I knew personally at the time-to read each others
books. I do have a letter from Weaver about Ayn Rand’s thinking, but I never
was able to reach any other judgment." A consummation devoutly to be wished.
If you believe in universal salvation, they are probably in heaven right now
battling out their differences.

Ed Opitz did a wonderful summary of Gerald Heard’s main themes which I had
received and I had written to him in June of 1969, "I enjoyed very much reading
your synopsis of Gerald Heard’s philosophy. I am glad that you attempted to
do this rather than me. From reading Heard, Voegelin, Strauss, et. al. I am
beginning to appreciate the experiential basis of man’s finiteness which implies
an ‘openness’ to transcendence. With Humility! The difficulty with Gerald is that
he in fact is much more radical all the rest in the demands that he makes upon
you. The Training for the Life of Growth (which incidentally I already have a
copy) is not exactly consistent with my persistent leanings to a Menckenian
bourgeoisee-dom. Is there a via media?"

I never received an answer to that question from Ed, but perhaps for very good
reasons.

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