Newly-released correspondence from Lennon’s Aunt Mimi, who had raised him at her home in the Liverpool suburb of Woolton, sheds new light on the cultural gap that the Beatles’ embracing of the mystic East had opened up.
“I don’t understand why they need an Indian, or India to meditate,” Mimi Smith complained of her nephew’s fascination with the band’s bewitching “spiritual adviser”. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
Instead, she suggested, “The basic teachings of their church will give them all they seem to be looking for.”
Mrs Smith appears exercised over the matter in her letter to Eileen Read, a regular correspondent, which will be sold at auction in Liverpool next weekend. It was written less than a fortnight after the death of the Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein.
The band members had been with the Maharishi, founder of the transcendental meditation movement, at a conference in Bangor, North Wales, when they heard the news, in 1967.
“I haven’t seen John. The sad loss of Brian has upset them greatly and altered their plans,” Mrs Smith wrote.
“He will be sorely missed as a good friend and advisor to them. It was a great shock to me also, I knew him very well.”
Referring to the Beatles’ comments on drugs, Mrs Smith wrote: “The boys have not ‘given up drugs’, simply because they have never been drug takers. They tried LSD because there was so much talk about it. They, at least John will not do so again. I’m sure they have decided against any form of stimulant.”