USA TODAY hailed her book as “the handbook of the New Age”
Marilyn Ferguson, the author of the 1980 bestseller “The Aquarian Conspiracy” and a galvanizing influence on participants in scores of alternative groups that coalesced as the New Age movement, died Oct. 19 at her home in Banning. She was 70.
The cause was believed to be a heart attack, said her son, Eric, of the adjacent Riverside County city of Beaumont.
In 1975, Ferguson turned an interest in human potential into an influential monthly newsletter, Brain/Mind Bulletin, which reported on new discoveries in neuroscience and psychology. That work led her to discern that a massive “cultural realignment” was occurring, a conspiracy in the root sense of disparate forces all breathing together to produce personal and social change.
“The Aquarian Conspiracy” was the era’s first comprehensive analysis of seemingly unconnected efforts — scientists investigating biofeedback, midwives running alternative birthing centers, politicians encouraging creative government, a Christian evangelist promoting meditation, an astronaut exploring altered states of consciousness — that were “breathing together” in their break from mainstream Western practices and beliefs in medicine, psychology, spirituality, politics and other fields.
The book’s message was optimistic. “After a dark, violent age, the Piscean, we are entering a millennium of love and light — in the words of the popular song ‘the Age of Aquarius,’ the time of ‘the mind’s true liberation,’ ” Ferguson wrote. Aquarians, by her definition, were people who sought a revolution in consciousness, to “leave the prison of our conditioning, to love, to turn homeward. To conspire with each other and for each other.”
Some critics found her views simplistic. R.C. Bealer wrote in the journal Science Books & Films that Ferguson offered “hyperbole of the ‘positive’ thinking huckster.”
Others accused her of undermining Christianity by embracing alternative religions. The book was a favorite target of Lyndon LaRouche, the political extremist whose followers held public protests against it and called it “a challenge to the nation’s grasp on reality.”
But as the activities she chronicled moved from the fringe of society toward its center, Ferguson was embraced as a beacon. Her book became “the most commonly accepted statement of Movement ideals and goals,” wrote J. Gordon Melton in the New Age Encyclopedia.
“Marilyn Ferguson was a very important communicator and networker in this whole movement” to create an alternative consciousness, Fritjof Capra, the Berkeley physicist and New Age figure who wrote “The Tao of Physics,” said last week. Capra’s 1975 book fueled the new thinking by showing parallels between modern physics and Eastern mysticism.
She received thousands of letters from people who were relieved to discover that others shared their passion for Sufism, dream journals, Rolfing or solving world hunger. The most common reaction, she told the Christian Science Monitor in 1984, was “Thank heavens you wrote that book! I thought I was crazy until I read it.”
As she began to lecture around the world, she found loyal readers in a surprising range of fields. As she told the Boston Globe in 1988, one night she addressed 500 farm wives in Alberta, Canada, and the next morning she gave a lecture for members of Congress. Al Gore was a fan of the book and invited Ferguson to the White House, her son said.
Ferguson lived in Los Angeles for 37 years, until 2005, when she moved to San Bernardino. That year she also released a follow-up to “The Aquarian Conspiracy,” called “Aquarius Now.”