This week I visited Ramon Sender Barayon and his wife Judith Levy Sender in Noe Valley, San Francisco. Back in the early ‘70’s, Ramon and I wrote a spiritual and music practice book called Being of the Sun, released as the sequel to Living on the Earth. Published by Harper and Row in 1973, the book’s central premise is each person can find his or her own to way to a dialogue with the Divine, without middlemen, hierarchy, or externally imposed rules of living, while borrowing practices from many traditions to enhance this dialogue. We then offered, as an example, various practices that we found useful.
Ramon’s unique contributions stem from his practices of meditation on sunlight and his background as an avant-garde composer and musician. He was, along with Mort Subotnick, Pauline Oliveros and Terry Riley, one of the composers who formed the San Francisco Tape Music Center in the early 1960’s, and collaborated with audio engineer Don Buchla and Mort Subotnick in the invention of first synthesizer built on the West Coast, the Buchla Box (which was contemporary with the Moog, built on the East Coast).
My illustrations in Being of the Sun are far more lush, imaginative and colorful than those in Living on the Earth, and I bravely offered a drawing of a beautiful young woman defecating into a hole in the earth. Twenty-seven years after its publication, I recorded some of the songs from the book on my first CD, Music From Living on the Earth.
Being of the Sun was initially not well received; in 1973, Rolling Stone declared it “the worst gift book of the year.” However, in the intervening years, it’s become a cult classic, often referenced on Pagan/Wiccan websites, the illustrations pirated into various alternative journals.
The Japanese translation of Being of the Sun from Soshisha, Ltd., originally published in 1972, came back into print in 2007. Since then, I’ve been licensing the illustrations to fashion designers in Japan. Here is a write-up in Japan Vogue from May 25, 2015, about the Salon de Balcony summer fashion line, which includes clothing and accessories printed with illustrations from Being of the Sun (scroll to the bottom of the page).
Here is the synopsis/review on Amazon dot com:
“A do-it-yourself spirituality and music book, Being of the Sun (Harper and Row, 1973), is the sequel to Alicia Bay Laurel’s classic, best-selling guide, Living on the Earth (Random House 1971 and 2000.) Co-written with author, avant-garde composer and solar yogi Ramón Sender Barayón, Being of the Sun provides a guide to creating one’s own religion, and also offers a compendium of spiritual practices the authors found valuable. Similar to Living On The Earth, Being of the Sun is entirely handwritten in Alicia’s flowing cursive script and illustrated on every page with her line drawings, a shining example of her immensely influential original book design. However, unlike the simple brown lines and cover of Alicia’s first book, Being of the Sun’s design features purple ink throughout, a colorful cover, plus a dozen full color illustrations within. Ramón created sheet music of the original spiritual songs and chants he and Alicia wrote for the book. Being of the Sun offers a window on hippie life in the early 70’s, and remains a cult classic among nature-worshippers to this day.”
In 2019, Kachina Ediciones, in Albacete, España, will be releasing a first-ever Spanish edition. Here is the cover!
In 2013, I released “Songs from Being of the Sun,” a CD of a remastered archival reel-to-reel recording made by Ramon in 1973. On it, we are performing some of the sacred nature chants we created for Being of the Sun, just before it was published. It’s available as a physical CD or as downloads from CD Baby.
5 star review on CD Baby of “Songs from Being of the Sun” by Gordon Kennedy, author of Children of the Sun, an astonishing book that reveals the 19th century European roots of the hippie movement in the USA:
“In The Sunshine Of Your Love
“Being of the Sun is an enchanted Solar Mass of relaxing, charming, seductive sounds. If I could pop into the book version like a superflex Gumby this musical soundtrack would rejuvenate me and I can’t wait to meet all of the colorful sun children. I visualized Gods-dog and even she sports a nice tan.
“Inside my sauna the harmonies feed my inner sweat glands with radiant waves of helio-therapy. I surrender.”
Here are some reviews the book, Being of the Sun, from Amazon.com, as of February 2014:
My friend, organic food product pioneer and philosopher Gregory Sams, author of a wonderful book called Sun of gOd, received a copy in April 2017, and posted:
“Being of the Sun” was written 25 years before Sun of gOd. This beautiful book by Alicia Bay Laurel and Ramon Sender taps into the same spirit. Inspirational! All lovingly hand-written and illustrated.
Here is a quilted fan letter from fiber artist Tomoko Yamada, which she sent to me in 2008:
Tigger Wheel was a child living at Wheeler Ranch commune while I was writing Living on the Earth. We’ve stayed in touch all these years; now she and her husband are retired special ed teachers in Texas. She sent me this a few years back:
Another letter to me and to Ramon Sender Barayon from deLIGHTful Gregory Sams:
After an initial delightful rush into it, I have now finally got to the end of your incredible testament, Being of the Sun. Sorry it took so long, but maybe I was waiting for the Summer to kick in. I’m just amazed at how tuned in you two lovers were, and to what a depth, all those years ago! Thinking that perhaps those sacraments and the light of our Sun gave a helpful and loving hand. It is at once a beautiful spiritual work of art and a practical guide to living a good life – a fitting accolade to the true light of all our lives.
I was thinking, going through it, that there were so many pages I wanted to post-it note that it would be silly to do so. And then I see the hand-written index at the back. Astounding! The book covers so very much, even how to hand-make your own musical instruments and wind chimes. Got me wondering if you ever assembled that drone orchestra. Loved your words on food and your expression of the consciousness that pervades all. You both really deserved to retire on that book but hey, you’re happy and Sun still blesses us. I’m really happy to know that a copy of my book is in your hands. They are so different in approach, yet complement each other so well.
Cultural Change Agent, Organic Food Pioneer
Author of Sun of gOd