Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out: Relationality in Cultural Context

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out: A Case Study of Colin Gunton’s Theory of Relationality

“Like every great religion of the past we seek to find the divinity within and to express this revelation in a life of glorification and the worship of God. These ancient goals we define in the metaphor of the present — turn on, tune in, drop out.”

The Divinity within, a concept that permeates our contemporary culture’s idea of religion. This is clearly an example of what the great evangelical theologian Colin Gunton critiqued in his book The One, The Three and The Many: God Creation and the Culture of Modernity. However, what about the rest of the first statement? There’s clear religious language: revelation leads to a life of the glorification of god. Simple enough right? Surely there is need to express the revelation found in nature, found within our own minds, right? Surely a religion can be founded on the self, the divinity within, self sustenance.

In Leary’s Autobiography Flashbacks, He is quoted saying:

Turn on’ meant go within to activate your neural and genetic equipment. Become sensitive to the many and various levels of consciousness and the specific triggers that engage them. Drugs were one way to accomplish this end. ‘Tune in’ meant interact harmoniously with the world around you – externalize, materialize, express your new internal perspectives. Drop out suggested an elective, selective, graceful process of detachment from involuntary or unconscious commitments. ‘Drop Out’ meant self-reliance, a discovery of one’s singularity, a commitment to mobility, choice, and change. Unhappily my explanations of this sequence of personal development were often misinterpreted to mean ‘Get stoned and abandon all constructive activity

A discovery of one’s singularity?


Let us not forget the relations with which we are gifted in order to develop.


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