- Timeline More from year 1967
- Euston Station, London, UK
More from year 1967
The Beatles and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
The Beatles meet Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
Aug 24, 1967
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On August 24, 1967, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and George Harrison, along with their partners, attended a lecture held by the 56-year-old guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, at London’s Hilton Hotel. Ringo Starr could not attend due to the recent birth of his and Maureen Starkey’s second child, Jason.
Following the session, The three Beatles had the opportunity to meet with the Maharishi in his hotel suite. During this meeting, the Maharishi extended an invitation for the band to join him as guests at a five-day training retreat scheduled to commence the following day in Bangor, located in northwest Wales.
In the late afternoon of August 25, the Maharishi and the four Beatles embarked on a train journey to Bangor, accompanied by Pattie Harrison, her sister Jenny Boyd, Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull. Cynthia Lennon missed boarding the train but was driven to Bangor by Neil Aspinall, with Jane Asher accompanying them.
At Bangor, The Beatles stayed in dormitories in Dyfrdwy, one of the halls in the Hugh Owen Building of Bangor University. Their rooms were simple, containing bunk beds and basic furniture, in stark contrast to the luxuries they were used to.
On the following day, The Beatles and 260 other people attended an initiation course in Transcendental Meditation by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
At first, it was a big outing. We rang our mates: ‘Hey, come and see him!’ It was like a good book you’d read: ‘You ought to read it. I’ll send you a copy!’
I remember Cynthia not making the train, which was terrible and very symbolic. She was the only one of our party not to get there. There’s a bit of film of her not making it. That was the end of her and John, really, weirdly enough. There was a big crowd at the train station, and there was another to meet us in Bangor. We all wandered through in our psychedelic gear. It was like a summer camp.Paul McCartney – From “The Beatles Anthology” book, 2000
I persuaded my sister Jenny to join us. Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull came, also Cynthia Lennon. John had been doing an awful lot of drugs, which Cynthia didn’t like, and I think she was worried about the effect they were having on him, and about their marriage. When he came back from the Hilton lecture full of enthusiasm about Maharishi, who was against drugs, I think she hoped it might lead to something she could share. Maharishi said that through meditation you could attain a natural high more powerful than any a drug could give you. Maureen had just had a baby so she couldn’t come.
We were traveling to Bangor in the same train as Maharishi and caught it by the skin of our teeth. We had traveled up from Surrey in John’s Rolls-Royce and arrived at Paddington to find pandemonium at the station, hundreds of people—passengers, press, police, photographers, and fans. And we were on our own. For the first time, Brian [Epstein] was not in charge, and although he had sent his assistant, Peter Brown, to see us off, we were like children allowed into the park with no nanny. John said it was “like going somewhere without your trousers on.”
Brian had seemed interested in what Maharishi had to offer but it was a bank-holiday weekend and he was committed to spending it with friends at his house in Sussex. He said he would join us later. Neil Aspinall and Mai Evans, the two roadies who had looked after the Beatles since the Cavern Club days and went everywhere with them, were not there either so we had to carry our own baggage and fight our way through the crowds onto the platform.Pattie Boyd – From “Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me“, 2008
In late August 1967, the English rock band the Beatles attended a seminar on Transcendental Meditation (TM) held by Indian teacher Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at a training college in Bangor in north-west Wales. The visit attracted international publicity for Transcendental Meditation and presented the 1960s youth movement with an alternative to psychedelic drugs as a means to attaining higher consciousness. The Beatles’ endorsement of the technique followed the band’s incorporation of Indian musical and philosophical influences in their work, and was initiated by George Harrison’s disillusionment with Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, which he visited in early August.
The British press gave the nickname “the Mystical Special” to the train that transported the Beatles from London to Bangor, and some reacted with suspicion to the band’s sudden devotion to the Maharishi. The four band members were accompanied by their partners and by fellow artists such as Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull and Cilla Black. On 27 August, the Beatles learned of the death of their manager, Brian Epstein, and cut their visit short. The four were impressed by the Maharishi’s teachings and agreed to join him at his ashram in Rishikesh, India to further their studies in meditation.
Background and introduction to the Maharishi
In the mid-1960s, the Beatles became interested in Indian culture, after the band members, particularly John Lennon and George Harrison, began using the psychedelic drug lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in an effort to expand their consciousness. In September and October 1966, Harrison visited India, where, in addition to furthering his sitar studies under Indian classical musician Ravi Shankar, he developed a fascination for Vedic philosophy. Eager to find meaning in the Beatles’ worldwide popularity, Harrison and his wife, Pattie Boyd, investigated several options in their search for a guru, or spiritual teacher. According to Boyd, in February 1967, she began attending meetings in London held by the Spiritual Regeneration Movement, an organisation that espoused the Transcendental Meditation technique devised by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and she soon shared her discoveries with Harrison. In early August, the couple visited the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, an area that represented the international centre of the hippie movement during the Summer of Love. Harrison was dismayed that Haight-Ashbury appeared to be populated by drug addicts and dropouts, rather than enlightened members of the counterculture. Mindful of the Beatles’ considerable influence on Western youth, particularly after the release of their 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Harrison decided to quit taking LSD. On his return to London, he shared his disappointment with Lennon, who had similarly begun to question the benefits of LSD.
The Maharishi was familiar to the Beatles through his appearances on the Granada Television programme People and Places years earlier. Alexis “Magic Alex” Mardas, a Greek friend of the Beatles, had heard a lecture by the Maharishi in Athens; when it was announced that he was to make a public appearance in London in late August that year, Boyd and Mardas encouraged the Beatles to attend. The London-based sculptor David Wynne has also been credited with the introduction. In Harrison’s recollection, it was Wynne who told him about the Maharishi’s upcoming visit and recommended that Harrison attend.
On 24 August, Lennon, Harrison and Paul McCartney, together with their respective partners, attended the Maharishi’s lecture in the ballroom at the London Hilton, on Park Lane. Ringo Starr was not present, due to the recent birth of his and Maureen Starkey’s second child, Jason. The Maharishi had announced his intention to retire, so this engagement was expected to be his last in the West. The Beatles were given front row seats and then met the Maharishi in his hotel suite after the lecture. During the meeting, he invited them to be his guests at a ten-day training retreat that was to begin the following day, in Bangor in north-west Wales. Impressed by the lecture and meeting the Maharishi, the band cancelled a recording session in order to accompany him to Bangor.
Departure and experience
On 25 August, the Beatles travelled by train to Bangor. In their enthusiasm for the Maharishi, the group had invited friends such as Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull, Cilla Black, and Harrison’s sister-in-law Jenny Boyd. It was the first time for several years that the band had travelled without their manager, Brian Epstein, and their tour managers, and they had not even thought to bring money. Lennon remarked that it was “like going somewhere without your trousers on”. The Beatles arrived at London’s Euston Station late in the afternoon and were caught up in a large crowd, made worse by the fact that it was the Friday before the UK’s late-summer Bank holiday weekend. They were left to carry their own luggage due to the absence of their assistants and were mobbed on their way to the station platform. Lennon’s wife Cynthia became separated from the group and, mistaken for a fan, was then held back by police officers. Peter Brown, an executive at Epstein’s company NEMS, arranged for Neil Aspinall to drive her to Bangor by car.
The band and their entourage were under constant scrutiny by reporters, photographers and television film crews who dubbed the train “the Mystical Special”. During the journey, the Beatles joined the Maharishi in his first class compartment, partly to escape the attention of the press. In Faithfull’s recollection, Harrison and Boyd were the “real spiritual seekers” and Lennon also, “in his own way”, but McCartney was “very cynical” about the venture. All of the Beatles were drawn to the Maharishi’s contention that bliss was attainable through short sessions of meditation, with minimal change to their working day and regular lifestyle. Starr later said of his first meeting with the Maharishi: “The man was so full of joy and happiness and it just blew my mind … I thought ‘I want some of that’.”
A large crowd of fans was gathered at Bangor railway station awaiting the Beatles’ arrival. The retreat was held at Bangor Normal College and served as an initiation course in Transcendental Meditation. The Beatles and around 300 others learned the basics of TM, and each initiate was given a personal mantra. In a 1967 interview, Harrison explained the process:
“Each person’s life pulsates in a certain rhythm, so they give you a word or sound, known as a mantra, which pulsates with that rhythm. By using the mantra … to transcend to the subtlest level of thought … the mantra becomes more subtle and more subtle, until finally you’ve lost even the mantra, and then you find yourself at that level of pure consciousness.“
All initiates were asked to donate a week’s wages. Lennon described the financial arrangement as “the fairest thing I’ve heard of”, adding: “We’ll make a donation and we’ll ask for money from anyone we know with money … anyone in the so-called establishment who’s worried about kids going wild and drugs and all that. Another groovy thing: everybody gives one week’s wages when they join … And that’s all you ever pay, just the once.” […]
Beatles And A Stone To Wales With Mystic, By Tony Barrow
Any good groupie and, indeed, any teenybopper of average intellect would assure you that one of the least likely places top pop people are to be found is a busy city rail terminal at holiday time. But there’s always the exception to the general rule.
The date was Friday, August 25, the beginning of Britain’s August Bank Holiday Weekend. The time was just after three o’clock in the afternoon. The place was London’s crowded Euston rail terminal with thousands of vacationing families bustling about with their baggage and their infant children.
Suddenly, without warning, there were Beatles and a Rolling Stone right there in the midst of the holiday crowds. Suddenly the 3:05 p.m. London to North Wales Express became the grooviest Bank Holiday train to pull out of Euston Station that day, this year or this decade!
But I’d better start at the beginning. The previous day, Thursday, Aug. 24. a 56-year-old Himalayan mystic named Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (alias His Holiness The Master) gave a two-hour evening “transcendental meditation” lecture at the London Hilton Hotel. A few hours before the lecture was due to begin George Harrison decided he’d like to buy a couple of tickets — a dollar each — to hear the saintly, tiny, white-whiskered old man of the East preach his doctrine. Eventually Paul and John went along too and all seemed thoroughly impressed by the theories expounded by the leader of the Kashmir cult. After joining 1500 other believers and intrigued spectators for the lengthy lecture, the three Beatles had a special audience with The Master who sat cross-legged before them in a fine white cloak and brightly colored beads with a little bunch of red roses and carnations clutched in his dark brown hands. He told the Beatles many things. “If you go into your garden and sit down to meditate,” Maharishi Mahesh Yogi explained to Paul, “you must not keep your eyes closed all of the time or you will miss the great beauty of your garden.”
Invitation to Wales
Before they left the Maharishi invited John, Paul and George to be guests at University College, Bangor, North Wales for the next four or five days. Over the August Bank Holiday Weekend the mystic was to give a further series of meditation lectures and the Beatles would be welcome to attend.
At first it didn’t seem likely that they would. For one thing the Beatles had a recording session scheduled.
Twelve hours later, at noon on Friday, John and George determined to postpone all other activities and accompany His Holiness to the North Wales coastal town of Bangor, a 300-mile train ride from London. They contacted Paul who was equally enthusiastic. Ringo decided to delay his journey to Bangor in order to bring Maureen and the week-old baby Jason out of the hospital on Saturday morning. But at the very last moment he switched his plans, after talking to Maureen, and left from Euston station with the rest.
Just before three o’clock. Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull arrived at Euston, an unexpected addition to the colorful party of disciples. Everything had been fixed in such a rush that nobody had reserved seats for the train. Mick and Marianne hadn’t even bought tickets for the trip.
Next to arrive was Paul, riding in Neil Aspinall’s elegant pale blue Jaguar. But there was no sign of the others and the train was due to pull out. Paul, Mick and Marianne got onto the train — along with their silver-haired master and one or two of his Eastern followers.
At seven minutes after three John’s beautiful Rolls Royce drew in beside Euston’s departure entrance. Out piled George and Patti plus Patti’s young sister, Jenny, John and Cynthia and Ringo. Grasping multi-coloured Greek bags and a small assortment of musical instruments shrouded in flower-painted cloth covers, the six walked and then ran through the crowds, past the ticket barrier and onto Platform 13. As they drew alongside the first part of the train, everyone realized that there was no time to look for any particular section. It was a matter of leaping aboard blindly. As they do this the train began to move.
A cop thought he’d be helpful by closing the door on the last of the party. But, by coincidence rather than design, he prevented Cynthia Lennon getting on. Poor Cyn was left all alone on the platform as the train disappeared from the station. John’s frantic cries as he poked his head from a window and yelled “Jump, Cyn, jump!” were all too late. Cyn burst into tears and the press and TV cameramen went to work again with a great whirling and much clicking.
The grooviest train took nearly five hours to reach Bangor. By that time radio and press news had told the Welsh population what as happening.
“It is all too beautiful” murmured His Holiness accepting a bunch of carnations from a Bangor inhabitant.
“Its all intriguing but I don’t know a lot about it,” replied Mick Jagger when a Welsh reporter demanded to know the Stone’s motives.
“One of the most illuminating and exciting experiences I have had,” Paul summed up when cross-examined about the transcendental meditation thing.
So, the Beatles and their closest friends stayed on in Bangor, turning on to the words of their robed and bearded guru Yogi (“Holiness is just a quality of life”) during his final days in Britain prior to retirement to “a life of utter silence in Kashmir.”
And the brought-down, left-behind Mrs. Lennon? Well, she was driven to Bangor by Neil in his pale blue Jag and Jane Asher joined her for the trip at the last moment so everything was fine and the tension was over.From The Beat – September 23, 1967
The Beatles move in for a quite weekend… but Bangor has other ideas
Bangor teenagers screamed a welcome last night to the Beatles who had moved into the town for a quiet week end of meditation. Even before the train emerged from the tunnel into Bangor station, the screams started. They reached a crescendo, the old familiar, “We want as a thousand throats shouted Ringo.”
On the platform — all armed with flowers — were followers of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Himalayan mystic, founder of the International Meditation Society, who is giving a series of lectures at Bangor. The Beatles will be there to hear him.
As photographers tried to take pictures of the Maharishi, surrounded by the Beatles and Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull, autograph books were handed to the Beatles.
Outside the station more than 1,000 people, young and old, waited, and the screaming and shouting became continuous as the party appeared.
No special arrangements
A dozen policemen vainly tried to keep order as the party drove in taxis to the Normal College where the conference is being held. Outside the college, hundreds more teenagers, screaming and shouting, waited. But even as they arrived there was no certainty as to where the visitors would spend the night.
No special arrangements had been made by the college for the Beatles. “As far as we are concerned, the Beatles are attending this conference as private conference citizens. The conference was booked with us in the normal way,” said Mr Gwyn Thomas, the college registrar.
At the college, the welcome was totally different. The 300 followers of The Maharishi were silently standing around, waiting for the founder of their movement and his guests. Then there was an hour-long meditation session in the John Phillips Hall.
In the centre of the flower-bedecked platform on a white seat was the Maharishi, quietly giving instructions from time to time.
The Beatles sat to his right — probably the first time they had ever been on a platform without having to perform. With a background of flowers they presented a colourful picture. Paul was wearing a flesh-coloured shirt and green trousers, John Lennon was in a bright multi-coloured striped shirt and pink trousers, Ringo Starr in a green floral shirt with dark trousers and George also in a many-coloured patterned shirt with light blue trousers.
In the front row sat Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull and Patti Boyd. The Beatles and other followers at the conference will spend most of the day in meditation, but the Maharishi will talk individually at some time or other with each of the 260 to 300 followers.
Court in the first class
For nearly four hours on the train between Euston and Bangor the Maharishi held court in the first class compartment. His disciples: Beatles, Paul, George, John and Ringo. The four sat, flower shirted and intent in a non-smoker. In the midst squatted the Maharishi, cross-legged on a white bear skin rug and holding a flower. Their conversation ranged from music to Communism — the Maharishi did most of the talking — interspersed with his high-pitched giggle.
The Maharishi and his followers on the train — the Beatles were but a few of the total number – were making a pilgrimage to Bangor. There, the spiritual regeneration movement through transcendental meditation, were holding a seminar. And the Maharishi, affectionately known as His Holiness, is their leader.
What brought the Beatles? They were not at all sure.
Said John: “It is difficult to analyse. I’m not quite sure where it is leading but he is worth listening to.”
George Harrison was equally uncertain of the direction in which transcendental meditation might lead him. But he was more urgent about it. “It is now that matters. And we are listening now. Tomorrow will follow on its own accord.”
The Beatles only just made it on to the 3.05 from Euston. Minutes earlier, His Holiness had arrived, and was greeted on the platform by some of his more anonymous followers with bunches of flowers. In fact they all chose to remain anonymous.
One who said she would rather not give her name, told me it was normal to give flowers to holy men in India. Another— “No, I’d prefer not to tell you my name” — found that meditation had given her a new confidence in herself.
A tremendous influence
“Problems don’t seem nearly so enormous,” she said. “I used to be shy. Now I don’t care a hang.”
Also on the train was Beatle wife, Patti Boyd, and pop singers Marianne Faithfull and Mick Jagger. But they stayed in their first class compartment, with the blinds drawn against the prying eyes of excited holidaymakers.
“I’ve really nothing to say,” commented Mick Jagger. Marianne Faithfull pouted prettily and repeated the formula. Meanwhile, back in the non-smoker, the conversation went on.
“The Beatles,” His Holiness said, “have a tremendous Influence. They must use it wisely. They are ideal to the younger generation. Through this meditation, if they take it up, they could bring up the youth of today to a higher understanding of life.”
Not at all put out by the proceedings was the ticket collector, Mr Edward Kohler, of Princes Park, Liverpool. Fighting his way along the crowded corridor he said: “It’s the first time I’ve had the Beatles on my train. I’ve seen them before, of course, in Liverpool, you know.”
Mr Kohler wore a pink carnation in his button-hole. “In sympathy?” I asked. “No, it was given to me by one of the followers. Got to be with it, you know.”
The wife who was left and Flower power makes its way to North Wales.From Liverpool Daily Post – August 26, 1967
THEY (John, George, Paul, Ringo, Cynthia, Patti, Jane and the Mystic) ARE RIDING DOWN TO BANGOR
Himalayan mystic Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who is lecturing on meditation at Bangor, North Wales, this weekend, will be accompanied by his four famous disciples, the Beatles.
So impressed were they with his lecture at the Hilton Hotel, London, last night, that they have postponed a recording session planned for the weekend and three of them — John, George and Paul, accompanied by Cynthia Lennon, Patti Harrison and Jane Asher — were leaving for the lectures this afternoon. They will travel with the mystic.
Ringo collects his wife, Maureen, and their newly-born son, Jason, from Queen CharIotte’s Hospital tomorrow morning and after taking them to their Weybridge, Surrey, home, will be making the trip to Bangor by car.
The Beatles are expected to remain at Bangor for four or five days and will probably stay at the university.
They will join 260 students of meditation already at the Bangor Normal College for a conference which will last until September 1.
The Beatles, if they decide to stay in Bangor, will probably stay in either the George Hostel on the banks of the Menai Straits of the older Top College, where student accommodation is also being used.
Mr. Glyn Thomas, the registrar of the college, said: “We have had no advance warning that the Beatles are coming to Bangor and no special arrangements have been made for them. As far we are concerned they are coming as private citizens attending a conference for which accommodation at the college has been booked.”
HOW TO MEDITATE
During the conference, the Maharishi will give an introductory lecture on “Transcendental Meditation.” He will speak daily on how to meditate in a way that will bring, it is claimed, released from tension.
Other benefits claimed include improvement of the ability to perform one’s job, and peace and tranquility of mind. Inner contentment and well-being would grow and behaviour begins to change for the better spontaneously.
People attending the conference spend much of their time in meditation. The Maharishi, who will be the only speaker at the conference, advises students to mediate for 20 minutes to half an hour morning and evening.
The Maharishi spent 13 years studying in the Himalayas. During the past nine years he has travelled the world teaching his method. This is his farewell visit to Britain.From Liverpool Echo – August 25, 1967
Last updated on May 21, 2023
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