Hippie Roots & The Perennial Subculture

Hippie Roots & The Perennial Subculture

By Gordon Kennedy & Kody Ryan

Original version posted by Skip at www.hippy.com on May 13th, 2003.

hippie roots
“Wandervogels Abschied” by Fidus, 1900

According to Webster’s dictionary (2003) a “hippie” or “hippy” is: “a young person of the 1960’s who rejected established social mores, advocated spontaneity, free expression of love and the expansion of consciousness, often wore long hair and unconventional clothes, and used psychedelic drugs”.

This mass-media definition of the 1960’s dropouts has eclipsed all pre-1960’s uses of the actual word such as that mentioned by Malcolm X in his famous autobiography. As a 17 year-old hustler living in Harlem in 1939 Malcolm noticed, “A few of the white men around Harlem, younger ones whom we called “hippies”, acted more Negro than Negroes. This particular one talked more “hip” than we did. He would have fought anyone who suggested he felt any race difference”.

This echoes the familiar sentiments of Jack Kerouac from “On The Road” (1955): “I walked with every muscle aching among the lights of 27th and Welton in the Denver colored section, wishing I were a Negro, feeling that the best the white world had offered was not enough ecstasy for me, not enough life, joy, kicks, darkness, music, not enough night”.

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Clearly the actual word “hippie” was a form of Ebonics (black slang) from Harlem that passed it’s way through the beat era into the 1960’s, until Herb Caen of the San Francisco Chronicle used it enough times by late 1965 to describe the young arrivals in their city…that the national media soon swallowed it whole and patented it.

But apart from the slick zoot suit clad “white Negroes” of 1930’s Harlem there actually were long-haired bearded individuals during this same era who wore sandals or bare feet and usually tended to favor mild subtropical places like southern California and Florida where they could forage their meals from the fruit trees that were so plentiful then.

hippie roots
Wandervogel print from the local group in Darmstadt, 1911

“Nature Boys” as they were later called were without exception either German immigrants or American youths whose lives were influenced by transplanted Germans that spread their Lebensreform (life-reform) message to anyone ready for a radical departure from the accepted boundaries of 20th century civilization.

Modern primitives, naturmensch, wandervogel, bohemians, reformers, wayfarers, and vagabonds are all expressions that evoke a tone of something wholly apart from the orthodox.

So why Germany? What was happening there in the 19th century that caused a phenomenon like this to erupt so big?

Germany had always made a virtue of their late submission to Latin civilization and had glorified the natural man and woman with all of their virtues and vices. Over 2000 years ago (about 51 B.C.) Julius Caesar noted of the Germans: “The only beings they recognize as gods are things that they can see, and by which they are obviously benefited, such as sun, moon and fire; the other gods they have never even heard of.”

hippie roots
“Vegetarisches Speisehaus”, 1900

The word “God” was neuter in gender in the Teutonic language (Das Gott, or in old Nordic “gud”) and the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus (98 A.D.) wrote: “According to German outlook, pronouncements of destiny seem to acquire a greater sacredness in the mouth of women. Prophecy and magic in a good as well as an evil sense is by choice the gift of women. If it is inherent in the nature of men to show the female sex a great consideration and respect, then this was particularly shaped on the German people from of old. Men earn deification through their deeds, women through their wisdom.”

Thus the religiosity of the Indo-Germanic people, whenever their nature can unfold itself freely, emerges only in that form which religious science has described as “nature religion” or “earth religions”. To remove the German soul from the natural landscape is to kill it. The Romans knew this so once Christianity had become the state religion of the Roman Empire their missionaries were eager to chop down the German forests and set their temples on fire.

Whenever the church encountered Pagan elements that it could not suppress, it gave them a Christian dimension and assimilated them. These ancestral traditions were reinterpreted and revised, but the church never succeeded in effacing the German Pagan heritage.

Hermann’s victory (9 A.D.) had forestalled Roman colonization, thus Germany had thereby retained its ancient language and avoided early Christianization.

Meister Eckhart (c1260-c1328) possibly represented most strongly the development of the mysticism as a result of the revolt of the Teutonic Indo-European spirit against Roman Christianity.

During the Middle-Ages a group called “Brothers and Sisters of the Free Spirit” existed in Germany and Holland. Also known as the Adamites, they were spiritual descendants of an earlier group, the Adamiani. They held nude gatherings in womb like caverns to achieve rebirth into a state of paradisiacal innocence.

In 1796 Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland of Weimar published his landmark study of aging “The Art Of Prolonging Life” using the word “macrobiotic” in the preface of the book, while the second edition used the word in it’s title. His emphasis on exercise and fresh air, sunbathing, cleanliness, regular scheduling, temperate diet, stimulating travel and meditation were all far ahead of their time.

hippie roots
“Lichtgebet” (“Prayer To The Sun”) by Fidus, 1913

Goethe’s (1749-1832) perspective erased the boundary between man and Nature altogether. The poet of Nature religiosity he believed “God can be worshipped in no more beautiful way than by the spontaneous welling up from one’s breast of mutual converse with Nature”.

Another prophetic quote from Goethe (1832) “Man in his misguidance has powerfully interfered with nature. He has devastated the forests, and thereby even changed the atmospheric conditions and the climate. Some species of plants and animals have become entirely extinct through man, although they were essential in the economy of Nature. Everywhere the purity of the air is affected by smoke and the like, and the rivers are defiled. These and other things are serious encroachments upon Nature, which men nowadays entirely overlook but which are of the greatest importance, and at once show their evil effect not only upon plants but upon animals as well, the latter not having the endurance and power of resistance of man”.

In 1866 Ernst Haeckel of Jena University first employed the term “ecology”, thereby establishing it as a permanent scientific discipline for all future generations. Ecology as a concept had more in common with Buddhism and its recognition of the oneness of all life.

Also in the 1860’s an ex-Protestant minister named Eduard Baltzer published his four-volume book about naturliche lebensweise or “natural life style”. He organized some vegetarians and founded a Free Religious Community, then later published a book on Pythagoras as the ancestor of his movement.


Diefenbach and Fidus at Hollriegelskreuth, Germany, 1887

Baltzer’s writings had a strong influence upon a young painter named Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach (1851-1913) who also went on to form several communities and workshops for religion, art and science. Diefenbach spent the last portion of his life on the Mediterranean isle of Capri, which was a retreat for other life-reformers. Two of his pupils, Fidus and Gusto Graser were to make a tremendous impact with their art and reform messages.

Fidus (1868-1949) was recognized as perhaps the greatest psychedelic artist ever, pre-dating the 1960’s multi-colored posters and albums by over a half century.

Gusto Graser later went on to become a close friend and teacher of the writer Hermann Hesse. Hesse’s report “Among The Rocks- Notes of a Nature Man” (1908) described how he, along with Graser lived the lives of natural men and hermits, sleeping in caves in the Swiss Alps and fasting for days and weeks. The guru-disciple relationship within Hesse’s novel “Siddhartha” (1922) was a mirror of his own association with Graser his teacher. Graser’s poetry appeared in some of the Wandervogel magazines.

In 1870 the population of Germany was 2/3 rural, but by 1900 it had become 2/3 urban. Near the end of the 19th century the German middle class had become superficial, coarse, complacent, gluttonous, materialistic, industrialized, technocratic and pathetic. As a response to this phenomenon many natural healing modalities came into existence and even more youth movements were organized.

In 1883 Louis Kuhne of Leipsic Germany published a book titled “The New Science Of Healing”, and this work laid the foundation for what was later to become known as Naturopathy. Translated into 50 languages it was the inspiration for a whole generation of health practitioners and was also highly praised by Mahatma Gandhi who said it was very popular in India.

In 1896 Adolf Just opened his Jungborn retreat in the Hartz Mountains near Isenburg Germany, which was a model institution for the true natural life, and was meant to show how the most intimate communion with Nature could be re-established.

hippie roots
“Gnadennacht” by Fidus, 1912
In his best selling book “Return To Nature” (1896) Mr. Just spoke out against air and water pollution, meat, vivisection, vaccination, coffee, alcohol, smoking and so-called education in schools. Gandhi again was so moved by Adolf Just’s rebellion against scientific medical treatments that it helped him to formulate his ideology for the future. When he was released from prison is 1944 he opened a Nature Cure sanitarium in India based on Just’s model

In 1904 German author Richard Ungewitter wrote a book titled “Die Nacktheit” (nakedness) wherein he advocated nudism, abstention from meat, tobacco and alcohol. He had to publish it himself, but it quickly became a bestseller. The vegetarian aspect focused on the purity of the body and soul, with adherence to a regular program of fitness. The German attitude towards nudity has not changed too much in 100 years because even now on a warm summer day people along lakes and rivers can be found enjoying themselves in the sunshine without clothing.

hippie roots
Nude Bathing has been popular in Germany a long time. (1916)
In the 19th century hiking societies proliferated in Germany. One group “Friends Of Nature” were into social hiking and used the slogan “Free Mountains, Free World, Free People”.

Another group, called the “Wandervogel”, was founded in 1895 by Hermann Hoffmann and Karl Fischer in Steglitz, a suburb of Berlin. They began to take some high school students on nature walks, then later on longer hikes. Soon a huge youth movement that was both anti-bourgeois and Teutonic Pagan in character, composed mostly of middle class German children, organized into autonomous bands.


Wandervogel, 1926

Wandervogel members, aged mainly between 14-18 years and spread to all parts of Germany eventually numbering 50,000. Part hobo and part medieval, they pooled their money, wore woolen capes, shorts and Tyrolean hats and took long hikes in the country where they sang their own versions of Goliardic songs and camped under primitive conditions. Both sexes swam nude together in the lakes and rivers and in their hometowns they established “nests” and “anti-homes”, sometimes in ruined castles where they met to plan trips and play mandolins and guitars.

Their short weekend trips became 3 to 4 weeks long journeys of hundreds of miles. Soon they were establishing permanent camps in the wild that were open to all. With no thought of pay, the bands worked at improving their campsites and building cabins for which they made the furniture-in all forming a complex of precedents underlying the youth-hostel movement which began in 1907 when Richard Schirmann opened the first hostel in Altena Germany.

Mostly the Wandervogel sought communion with nature, with the ancient folk-spirit as embodied in the traditional peasant culture, and with one another. They developed a harmonious mystic resonance with their environment.

The expression “Lebensreform” (life-reform) was first used in 1896, and comprised various German social trends of the 19th and first half of the 20th century.


Elizabeth Dorr with some of her daughters at Ascona, 1905 (Note the headbands!)

Particularly:

  • 1. vegetarianism
  • 2. nudism
  • 3. natural medicine
  • 4. abstinence from alcohol
  • 5. clothing reform
  • 6. settlement movements
  • 7. garden towns
  • 8. soil reform
  • 9. sexual reform
  • 10. health food and economic reform
  • 11. social reform
  • 12. liberation for women, children and animals
  • 13. communitarianism
  • 14. cultural and religious reform: i.e. a religion or view of the world that gives weight to the feminine, maternal and natural traits of existence

 

Further south in Switzerland, Ascona was a little fishing village on the shore of Lake Maggiore, on the Swiss side of the border with Italy. In the year 1900 a counter-culture renaissance began and lasted until about 1920. Ascona became the focal point for all of Europe’s spiritual rebels.

Life experiments were in vogue: surrealism, modern dance, dada, Paganism, feminism, pacifism, psychoanalysis and nature cure. A few of the participants were Hermann Hesse, Carl Jung, Isadora Duncan, D.H. Lawrence, Arnold Ehret and Franz Kafka.

At the turn of the century Germany had 56 million people, and had as many large cities as all of the rest of Europe combined. Industrialism, technology, pollution and “affluenza” began a crisis amongst the over-privileged German-speaking of that period. The disenchanted began to arrive in Ascona by the hundreds.

The beautiful natural setting inspired urban people to sunbathe in the nude, sleep outdoors, hike, swim and fast. This village quickly developed a universal reputation as a health center.

Hermann Hesse was excited when he saw four longhaired men with sandals walk through his village on their way to Ascona. He followed them, settled in and then took a nature cure for his alcoholism. The year was 1907.


Born July 2, 1877, at the northern edge of the Black Forest in Calw, Germany, Hermann Hesse knew at age 13 that he wanted to be a poet or nothing. Beginning in the 1950′s with the Beat generation, his novels became immensely popular in the English-speaking world, where their criticism of bourgeois values and interest in Eastern spirituality and Jungian psychology echoed the emerging revolt against the unreflected life. In the 1960′s Hermann became the novelist of the decade, with “Siddhartha” (1922) and “Steppenwolf” (1927) selling in the millions, and capturing and shaping an American Audience. Legitimate history will always recount Hesse as the most important link between the European counter-culture of his youth and their latter-day descendants in America. (Photo from 1908.)
The people of Ascona refused eggs, milk, meat, salt and alcohol. Nature cure was a powerful idea in the German mind, and was a widespread and profound rebellion against science and professionalism.

On August 20, 1903, an anarchist newspaper in San Francisco, California published a large article about Ascona, describing the people and their philosophies. This was certainly one of the first times that detailed news of the European counter-culture had reached the California coast.


Nudists worshipping the Sun, 1926
Perhaps the most central Neo-Pagan element in the German folk movements was sun-worship, believed to be the ancient Teutonic religion. From at least the Romantic era, sun-worship was offered by prominent Germans as the most rational alternative to Christianity. The solar images were at the center of a desire to return to natural Paganism and a natural lifestyle in harmony with the earth.

Eugene Diedrichs Publishing was the highly respected voice of Neo-Paganism and the religious-not the political-arm of the great Volkische movement. Diedrichs envisioned an “organic peoples state” (organischer Volksstaat) and like Carl Jung preferred a return to the nature religion of the ancient Teutons.


“Satana” by Fidus, 1896
No one described solarism better than Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) the prominent scientist who first coined the word “ecology”: “The sun, the deity of light and warmth, on whose influence all organic life insensibly and directly depends, was taken to be such a phenomenon [of naturalistic monotheism] many thousands of years ago. Sun-worship seems to the modern scientist to be the best of all forms of theism, and the one which may be most easily reconciled with modern Monism. For modern astrophysics and geogeny have taught us that the earth is a fragment detached from the sun, and that it will eventually return to the bosom of its parent. Modern physiology teaches us that the first source of organic life on the earth is the formation of protoplasm, and that this synthesis of simple inorganic substances, water, carbonic acid, and ammonia only takes place under the influence of sunlight….indeed the whole of our bodily and mental life depends, in the last resort, like all other organic life, on the light and heat rays of the sun. Hence in the light of pure reason, sun-worship as a form of naturalistic monotheism, seems to have a much better foundation than the anthropistic worship of Christians and other monotheists who conceive of their god in human form. As a matter of fact the sun-worshippers attained, thousands of years ago, a higher intellectual and moral standard than most of the other theists. When I was in Bombay in 1881, I watched with the greatest sympathy the elevating rites of the pious Parsees, who, standing on the sea-shore, or kneeling on their prayer rugs offered their devotion to the sun at its rise and setting.”

As the 20th century dawned many Germans began to feel the weight of oppressive political forces, powers that would later lead their nation into 2 world wars and change the course of European history.

Between 1895 and 1914, tens of thousands of Germans left their homes and families and immigrated to America. After all America was the country of the future, and they saw themselves as pioneers helping to lead a new society by transplanting and nurturing the most valuable ideas from their homeland into their new dreams for the United States.

There were several key individuals who made a substantial contribution, but probably none more than Dr. Benedict Lust.

Born in Michelbach near Baden Germany February 3, 1872 Lust first came to America in 1892, became ill with tuberculosis, then returned to Germany and took a nature cure treatment from the famed Father Sebastian Kneipp. He regained his health and found his true purpose in life, then returned to America in 1896 to become a Kneipp representative in America.

Rightfully called “The Father Of Naturopathy” in America, Lust introduced all of the great naturist movements that were in vogue in Europe; hydrotherapy, herbal remedies, air and light baths, various plant-based diets and he also translated and distributed the German classic health works of Father Kneipp, Louis Kuhne, Adolf Just, Arnold Ehret and August Englehardt.

Near the turn of the century in New York City he founded a school of massage and the Naturopathic Society, then in 1918 he published Universal Naturopathic Encyclopedia for drugless therapy. Nature’s Path Magazine and a radio show devoted to natural healing were also some of his notable achievements.


Dr. Benedict Lust enjoys a sun-bath at “Sonnenbichel” sun and air park in Kneipp-Bad Worishofen, Bavaria, Germany on a return to the Fatherland in the summer of 1926. The “Father of Naturopathy” in America, no single individual contributed more to natural healing and lifestyle in the world than Dr. Lust did through his many schools and publications. Everything from massage, herbology, raw foods, anti-vivisection and hydro-therapy to Eastern influences like Ayurveda and Yoga found their way to an American audience through Lust. Though he was repeatedly harassed by Medical authorities and Federal agents, his devotion to promoting Nature’s methods of healing finaly gained wide acceptance. Like so many others from his generation, he was a tough man. (Photo from Naturopath, February, 1927)


eden ahbez, 1948. Part-time yogi and full-time mystic, this 1940s “hippie” always spelled his name with small letters because he believed that only God and Infinity should be capitalized. (Photo courtesy of Gypsy Boots)

Dr. Lust’s school of Naturopathy was the starting point for hundreds of America’s natural health practitioners, while his magazines introduced the West not only to German Nature Cure, but also ancient East Indian concepts like Ayurveda and Yoga. Paramahansa Yogananda was one of several Indians who wrote articles for “Nature’s Path” magazine in the 1920’s gaining wide exposure to a large American audience.

Dr. Lust was “busted” repeatedly by American authorities and medical associations, for promoting natural methods of healing, massage and nude sun bathing at his Jungborn sanitarium. He was arrested 16 times by New York authorities and 3 times by Feds. One news headline read simply “They Have Lust Again”.

As many as 30-40% of the graduates of Dr. Lusts school of Naturopathy were women, and his magazines were full of enthusiastic letters and praise from practicing Naturopaths in India, Jamaica and all over Latin America. No one was more devoted to introducing nature cure to the Spanish-speaking world than Dr. Lust.

Another influential Nature Doctor, Dr. Carl Schultz, arrived in Los Angeles California in 1885 and became the Benedict Lust of the west. In 1905 he created the Naturopathic Institute and Sanitarium and also opened the Naturopathic College on Hope Street. Most of the practicing nature doctors in the west were graduates of this college.


Bill Pester at this palm log cabin in Palm Canyon, California, 1917. With his “lebensreform” philosophy, nudism and raw foods diet, he was one of the many German immigrants, who “invented” the hippie lifestyle more than half a century before the 1960s. He left Germany to avoid military service in 1906 at age 19, for a new life in America. (Photo Courtesy of Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, California)

In 1906 Bill Pester first set foot on American soil having left Saxony, Germany that same year at age 19 to avoid military service. With his long hair, beard and lebensreform background he wasted no time in heading to California to begin his new life.

He settled in majestic Palm Canyon in the San Jacinto Mountains near Palm Springs California and built himself a palm hut by the flowing stream and palm grove.

Bill spent his time exploring the desert canyons, caves and waterfalls, but was also an avid reader and writer. He earned some of his living making walking sticks from palm blossom stalks, selling postcards with lebensreform health tips, and charging people 10 cents to look through his telescope while he gave lectures on astronomy.

He made his own sandals, had a wonderful collection of Indian pottery and artifacts, played slide guitar, lived on raw fruits and vegetables and managed to spend most of his time naked under the California sunshine.

During the time when Bill lived near Palm Springs he was on Cahuilla Indian land, with permission from the local tribe who had great admiration for him. His name even appeared on the 1920 census with the Indians, and in 1995 An American Indian woman Millie Fischer published a small booklet about Palm Canyon that included a chapter on Pester.

The many photos of Pester clearly reveal the strong link between the 19th century German reformers and the flower children of the 1960’s…long hair and beards, bare feet or sandals, guitars, love of nature, draft dodger, living simple and an aversion to rigid political structure. Undoubtedly Bill Pester introduced a new human type to California and was a mentor for many of the American Nature Boys.


Professor Arnold Ehret, taken shortly after his 49 day fast in Cologne, Germany, circa 1905. Ehret later migrated to southern California and helped to spawn a new sub-culture in America, based upon his natural philosophy and lifestyle. His books have never been out of print in over 70 years. (Photo courtesy of Fred Hirsch)

In 1914 another German immigrant, Professor Arnold Ehret arrived in California. The philosophy he preached had a powerful influence on various aspects of American culture. Ehret advocated fasting, raw foods, nude sun bathing and letting your hair and beard grow un-trimmed. His “Rational Fasting” (1914) and “Mucus-less Diet”(1922) were literary standbys within hippie circles in San Francisco and Los Angeles in the 1960’s.

The husband and wife team of John and Vera Richter first opened their Raw-Foods cafeteria the “Eutropheon” in 1917, and during it’s lifetime it hosted thousands of customers and taught many people how to prepare such raw treats as sun-dried bread, salads, dressings, soups, beverages and many other healthy alternatives to the typical Los Angeles cuisine of the 1920’s-1940’s.

John’s powerful lectures were attended by many young health enthusiasts, who later went on to become well known health teachers and authors, and Vera’s recipe book was the precursor to many of the modern Live-Food recipe books.

Some of the young employees of the Eutropheon were Americans who had adopted the German Naturmensch and Lebensreform image and philosophy, wearing their hair and beards long and feeding exclusively on raw fruits and vegetables. The “Nature Boys” came from all over America but usually ended up in southern California. Some of the familiar ones were Gypsy Jean, eden ahbez, Maximilian Sikinger, Bob Wallace, Emile Zimmerman, Gypsy Boots, Buddy Rose, Fred Bushnoff and Conrad. This was decades before the Beats or Hippies and their influence was very substantial. In “On The Road” Kerouac noted that while passing through Los Angeles in the summer of 1947 he saw “an occasional Nature Boy saint in beard and sandals”.


Seven of California’s “Nature Boys” in Topanga Canyon, August 1948. They were the first generation of americans to adopt the “naturmensch” philosophy and image, living in the mountains and sleeping in caves and trees, sometimes as many as 15 of them at a time. All had visited and some were employed at “The Eutropheon” where John Richter gave his inspiring lectures about raw foods and natural living. The boys would sometimes travel up the California coast some 500 miles just to pick and eat some fresh figs. (Back row: Gypsy Boots, Bob Wallace, Emile Zimmerman. Front row: Fred Bushnoff, eden ahbez, Buddy Rose, ?) – (Photo courtesy of Gypsy Boots.)


Cover of “Nature Boy” songbook, eden ahbez, 1948. Born into a poor Jewish family with 13 hungry children, the orphan from Brooklyn never had to worry about where the money would come from after the success of his #1 hit tune, made famous by Nat King Cole.

But in the spring of 1948 eden ahbez became an internationally recognized personality when his song “Nature Boy” was recorded by Nat King Cole. Photos and story of eden and his wife Anna appeared in Life, Time and Newsweek magazines that year.

Born in Brooklyn New York, April 15, 1908 “ahbez” had walked across America 4 times, hopped freight trains and lived in a cave in Tahquitz Canyon before he penned his #1 hit tune, which was on the hit parade for 15 weeks.

The song itself was part autobiographical but was also a nod to his German mentor Bill Pester who was 23 years his senior and had been a Nature Boy for decades when eden encountered him in the Coachella Valley of southern California.

Another one of the Nature Boys, Maximillian Sikinger was born in Augsberg Germany in 1913 and spent most of his childhood and youth living wild in the environs of various European cities. Through his wanderings, personal contacts and outdoor living he developed a keen interest in various aspects of natural healing; nutrition, water cure, fasting, sitz baths, deep breathing and sunshine.


Nature Boy, Maximillian Sikinger, at home in the Santa Monica Mountains, 1946. Max left Germany in 1935 then made his way to Southern California where he inspired many American kids to become “Nature Boys”. By the 1960s, he was a regular fixture at pop festivals and concerts and was considered a guru to many Topanga hippies.

Max left Europe in 1935 at age 22, arrived in America then eventually made his way west to California where he traveled with the Nature Boys who valued his introspective and philosophical ideas very highly. Maximillian’s world travels and rugged background had given him deep insight into many of life’s puzzles.

But the one Nature Boy to pass the torch from the old era (circa 1930’s-40’s)…into the 1960’s hippie generation was Gypsy Boots.

Born in San Francisco in 1916 to Russian Jewish parents “Boots” grew up in the San Francisco area where he quit school at an early age to travel and live a life close to nature. He met Maximillian on the beach at Kelley’s Cove in 1935 and it was then that his life began to change. Boots noted in his autobiography: ” It was with Max that I first experimented with fasting and special diets, and also learned much about yoga”.

In the 1940’s Boots lived wild in Tahquitz Canyon with all of the Nature Boys, bathing in the cool mountain water, eating fruits and vegetables, sleeping on rocks or in caves, hiking and selling produce in Palm Springs.

In 1953 he married Lois Bloemker, settled near Griffith Park in Los Angeles and had 3 sons. In 1958 he opened his “Health Hut” in Hollywood, which was a big hit, and shortly thereafter began his career as a serious health teacher and example of optimum living.

In the early 1960’s he appeared on the Steve Allen show over 25 times to an audience of some 25 million households. Steve Allen had originally started the “Tonight” show, then began his own show featuring guests like Elvis Presley, Jack Kerouac, Frank Zappa and the psychedelic band Blue Cheer.

When the Beatles and Rolling Stones arrived in Los Angeles in the mid 1960’s their “pudding basin” hairstyles seemed tame when compared to a local rock band “The Seeds” who wore shoulder length hair, thanks to the influence of Gypsy Boots and his ilk. “Seeds” singer Sky Saxon, a vegetarian, had invented a new type of music….”Flower Punk”. Even Jimi Hendrix had a front row seat to a Seeds concert, and the Doors played second bill on a Seeds tour.

When the Love-In’s began in Griffith Park in 1966 some of the Flower Children who were stoned on Owsley acid looked up in the big trees to see Gypsy Boots swinging and climbing from branch to limb, then exclaiming “what’s that guy on…. I’d sure like to have a hit of that!” But Boots “high” was always induced from his sun-charged foods like figs and grapes, as well as his fitness regime.

At the Monterey and Newport Pop festivals in 1967 and 1968 Boots was a paid performer along with acts like the Grateful Dead, Ravi Shankar, The Jefferson Airplane and The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Two of Boots greatest admirers were Mama Cass Elliot of “The Mamas And Papas” and Carolyn (“Mountain Girl”) Garcia, Jerry Garcia’s wife.


German-issue of a rare Capitol 45 picture sleeve single from 1968, “We’re Having A Lovin-In”, recorded by California Nature Boy Gypsy Boots.
Those best informed also agree that Boots’ influence helped inspire members of several Los Angeles rock bands to become vegetarian, notably Randy California of “Spirit” and Arthur Lee of “Love”, as well as Sky Saxon of the “Seeds.” Mickey Dolenz, the zaniest member of the TV pop foursome “The Monkeys” was also a Boots fan, while Frank Zappa appeared in the cult movie “Mondo Hollywood” (1968) with Boots, and they must have been the only 2 bearded long-haired guys in L.A. preaching a “no dope” philosophy in the late 60’s.


The surf scene foreshadowed the hippie period by at least a decade with many common features. This surf-sedan was painted psychedelic in 1962 on Oahu, Hawaii, a half-decade before the infamous “Summer of Love” in San Francisco.

“Surf Bohemians” with shaggy hair, goatees and vegetarian lifestyle, rode their redwood boards on un-crowded waves in the early 1950′s in the Malibu area. The surf scene of the late 1950’s in California and Hawaii was a precursor to the counter-culture that began in 1964, including components like long hair, natural foods, trips to Mexico, psychedelic music, living outdoors, unique vocabulary, anti-authoritarian posture and global travel destinations. A surf band called “The Gamblers” had a hit song titled “Moon Dawg” in 1960, and the B-side was the song “LSD 25. Dick Dale, the undisputed King of the surf guitar had a hit with “Let’s Go Trippin” in 1961, which was later recorded by the Beach Boys (1964). Noted surf artist Rick Griffin later became a respected hippie artist as well.

On the east coast of America professors Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert (Ram Dass) and Ralph Metzner were busy in the early 1960’s with their psychedelic research, first at Harvard University then later at the Millbrook estate in New York. They were quick to recognize the strong correlation between L.S.D. induced archetypes and their many Germanic antecedents available from 20th century scientists, artists and writers.

L.S.D. was first synthesized in 1938 by Dr. Albert Hoffmann in Switzerland. In the fall of 1963 Dr. Leary and his colleague German born Dr. Metzner, published an article in their quarterly magazine “The Psychedelic Review” titled: “Hermann Hesse: Poet of the Interior Journey”. Although Hesse’s novels “Siddhartha”(1922) and “Steppenwolf”(1927) were published in Germany many decades before the 1960’s, they considered them the most important psychedelic literature available. Partly through the influence of this article these two novels sold millions in the 60’s and rode in the backpacks of a whole generation. Nearly all hippies read Hesse!

In 1964 Leary, Alpert and Metzner published their landmark book “The Psychedelic Experience” which was quickly labeled the “bible” of the hippie movement. In the introduction they included a tribute to Swiss psychologist Dr. Carl Jung who had committed himself to the inner vision of internal perception. Dr. Jung, a one time resident of the commune at Ascona (1900) had witnessed first hand many spiritual purifying rituals involving fasting, diet and excessive hiking, that could sometimes induce a psychedelic-type high.


“Herbst” (Autumn), mural sketch by Fidus, 1934
(Note “peace” symbol on top)

As the 1960’s flowered the “peace” symbol (used by Fidus as early as 1934) became a familiar icon in artwork and graffiti…while the Volkswagen bus became the most quintessential symbol for hippie transportation and even lifestyle. The bus was created and engineered in 1949 by technicians of the Wandervogel generation.

Nature Boy eden ahbez sat in on the Beach Boys “Pet Sounds” recordings in 1966. And while the Beatles popularity reached it’s absolute zenith by 1968….most of their fans never knew that the once scruffy bar band from Liverpool received their first big break playing in clubs in Hamburg Germany in 1960. The four English lads with greasy slicked-back 50’s style hair radically changed their image and hairstyles after meeting Klaus Voorman and several of the other German art students who wore shaggy long hair with bangs. George Harrison said that German photographer Astrid Kirchherr “invented” the Beatles with her camera giving them tips on dress and posing, and capturing their images in some priceless early photo shoots.

As a deep heartfelt thanks to their faithful German fans the Beatles later recorded “Komm gib Mir Deine Hand” (I Want To Hold Your Hand) and “Sie Liebt Dich” (She Loves You) singing in German.

Klaus Voorman designed the cover and drew the artwork for the Beatles landmark “Revolver” (1966) album. The Beatles German period can be viewed in the video “Backbeat” (1994). Psychedelic music exploded from a ferocious British band called The Yardbirds (1963-1968) whose lead guitarists included Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. Virtually every heavy band from Jimi Hendrix and Cream to Black Sabbath and Van Halen used the formula invented by The Yardbirds.


Nature Boy Gypsy Boots getting ready for the Newport Pop Festival in August 1968. Born in San Francisco in 1916 he was the most important living link between the old Naturmensch and the Flower Children of the 1960s. He was a paid performer at many concerts along with acts like the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, but he had been living the hippie lifestyle wild in Nature since the 1930s. (Photo courtesy of Gypsy Boots)
After the 60’s ended the 70’s became the decade when more people went back to the land than any other period in the 20th century.


This California surfer and his girlfriend were some of the young folks who went to live wild in nature during the late 1960s and early ’70s, mostly in California, Hawaii and parts of Europe. This most radical form of communalism was a replay of the Wandervogel and Naturmensch period some 60 years before in Germany and Switzerland (Taylor Park, Kauai, Hawaii, 1971)

The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970, later, July of 1972 saw the first “Rainbow Gathering” near Granby Lake in Colorado. It began as a healing gathering with spiritual nature-loving participants, and according to long time Rainbow focalizer Michael John: ” Our roots are in the Pagan festivals of the Middle Ages, and the time after Christ when the way we celebrate the summer and our union was here, something has called us to that memory, to give us the chance to re-experience that. I think that the Rainbow Gathering is just the resurfacing of the ancient Festivals”. (From: “People Of The Rainbow” Michael Niman-1997)

Also in the early 1970’s many hippies in California and Hawaii embraced the most radical form of earth habitation…living in caves (and sometimes tree-houses) in the wilderness, native style. Most of the larger watercourses in southern California like Tahquitz, Deep Creek, Sespe and The Big Sur River had young cave dwellers in their canyons.

This was an echo of the Naturmensch and Wandervogel with their wild seasonal forays in the Alps and farther south into Italy, some 50 years before…and of Bill Pester who came to California in 1906 to live in Nature.

The “Ferals” of eastern Australia are yet another present day link in the chain of youths who have abandoned urbanism and returned into forested areas where they live mostly in nomadic tipis in the Nimbin/Byron region of New South Wales, sometimes numbering as many as 10,000.


By the mid 1990′s there were as many as 10,000 “Ferals” living in the forests of eastern Australia, many of them in the region surrounding Nimbin and Byron Bay in New South Wales. Small nomadic tipis are the preferred habitation and nearly all of these Gen-X kids come from the big cities like Sydney and Melbourne, and are a modern-day echo of the German Naturmensch and the American youth movements in the 1960s.
After the high times of the 1960’s were over many people began searching for new ways to maintain clarity and health, “graduating” to things like yoga, pure diet, meditation, hiking, environmental activism, etc.

Fred Hirsch, the man who published Professor Arnold Ehret’s books for over 50 years in his office in Beaumont California was host to many “acid heads” who had shifted to “sun-foods” during the 1970’s to maintain their high as well as a strong connection with the plant kingdom.

The Green political Party began in Germany in the late 1970’s as an outgrowth of the 1950’s anti-nuclear movements in Europe, later spread to other parts of the world including America.


“Fruhlingsodem” by Fidus, 1893
For a brief period in the 1980’s the Hippie lifestyle seemed passé and years out of style, but it re-charged itself vigorously in the 1990’s. Even though the media tends to anachronize young hippies, Rainbows and environmentalists as remnants of the 1960’s, anyone can see by looking at the photos that accompany this article that Hippiedom is really just a perennial sub-culture…as old as the first humans that ever walked upright, and as new as the 30,000 plus members on the Hip-Planet site.

That’s why hippies will never go away…because they’ve always been here anyway.

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Gordon Kennedy is the author of Children of the Sun, a book about the origins of the Hippie Movement in Germany and the ideas they introduced to the US in the early 1900s.

Copyright 2003-Kennedy/Ryan Nivaria Press; All rights reserved including the right of reproduction of text or images.[Excerpts taken from “Children of the Sun; A Pictorial Anthology From Germany To California, 1883-1949”-By Gordon Kennedy 1998 ISBN 0-9668898-0-0] Originally posted by Skip at www.hippy.com on May 13th, 2003.

Read Kennedy’s article Still Ehret after all these Years HERE!

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