Living the Woodstock Spirit
An Interview with Elliott Landy


As an integral figure of the 60’s Rock ‘n Roll Scene, what did the Woodstock Spirit represent to you back then?

What Woodstock was, was the culmination of the group consciousness of the 60’s that said, " I want to be free; I want to explore new ways of living that this culture hasn’t explored yet". This was in contrast to the culture of the 1940’s and 50’s: The Culture of War; the Culture of Big Business; the Culture of Racism; the Culture of Hypocrisy; the Culture of Lying; and the Culture of Conservative Puritanical Thought. Woodstock was the proof that peace, love and music did work. Music, standing for an element that raised people’s consciousness, just as the I Ching, and many other spiritual books, talk about music as a way to God.

How did you get involved? Would you say you were on a spiritual path back then?

My career began with photographing anti-war demonstrations in New York City, when, by chance, I went to a rock ‘n roll show at the Anderson Theater and I was blown away by the combination of the light show and the music. Back then, we were all trying to change the world. Both the musicians and the audience thought that rock ‘n roll music was going to change the world, and the musicians were the Gods. It was a very exciting scene and I started to photograph these shows.

It was during that period that I became familiar with people like Ram Das, Krishnamurti; I read the I Ching; I read about Edgar Casey. I learned about the reality of spirituality, not in the sense of religion, but in the "essence" that came before religion. In my opinion, all religions come from spirituality, then they are taken by people later, and warped. But in the beginning, it comes from someone’s very deep, spiritual experience.

Did all this new awareness change your perception about rock ‘n roll as the catalyst for change?

Yes. As a result of immersing myself into the spiritual realm, I began to realize that the only way to change the world is to change your Self. That doesn’t mean that you don’t go out there and help people, and get involved with causes. It simply means that we need to work on our Selves first. This awareness caused me to shift gears, as I now believed that the best way for me to help the world was through spreading this spiritual awareness. So, in 1970, I stopped taking rock ‘n roll photographs and opened a spiritual bookstore, in Woodstock.

As someone who’s been around Woodstock for many years, do you think it sits on sacred ground?

Woodstock always was a spiritual center. Before Dylan, the Town of Woodstock was known as a Mecca for artistic purity, which, to me, is the same as spirituality. When I first came here, I had heard that Woodstock was held as a spiritual place, by Native Americans, who first lived here. The Tibetans are here because they found the land to be spiritual, as well. Many people who come here feel the energy. When you get into this little valley, you feel what’s it’s like here. So, yes, I believe the land has a spiritual magnetism, which draws people here. The more thought that goes into something, the more powerful it gets. So, the Spirit of Woodstock has expanded from 1969, and it has taken the form of the Tibetan and Zen Monasteries, and the gazillion other free-form spiritual things that are happening around here.

What is spirituality to you?

To me, spirituality is the most pragmatic thing there is. It isn’t valid unless it works in some way, which can mean that you either feel better because you ate something that made you feel better, or you sat quietly for five minutes which caused you to feel better. It doesn’t matter how it works. There is no one way to enlightenment.

 

 

 

 

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