From the archives

Vancouver welcomed 'an age of peace' at 1987 Harmonic Convergence

It was supposed to usher in an era of peace for the entire planet — humankind just needed to gather at "energy centres" around the globe and meditate together to welcome the new age.

More than 200 gathered at Jericho Beach for the synchronized meditation event celebrated worldwide

A few dozen people held hands and walked around Stanley Park to mark the Harmonic Convergence of 1987. (CBC News)

It was supposed to usher in an era of peace for the entire planet — humankind just needed to gather at "energy centres" around the globe and meditate together to welcome the new age.

The date was August 16, 1987, and the so-called Harmonic Convergence brought peaceniks, witches, hippies and pagans to Vancouver's Jericho Beach to welcome the dawn.

Pat Hogan was in her late 30s and had just organized B.C.'s first annual Witchcamp when she joined the synchronized meditation at the beach.

"What was amazing about it was … this is going on worldwide, all over the place. It was supposed to be a time when the planets were in exceptional alignment," Hogan recalled in an interview this week.

"The idea of it was to raise the consciousness of the planet to bring about an age of peace and ... that we were moving into the Age of Aquarius, which was an age of brotherhood."

Vancouverites gathered at dawn in Jericho Park on Aug. 16, 1987 to mark the Harmonic Convergence. (CBC News)

More than 200 people showed up to mark the supposed end of the nine "hell cycles" outlined in ancient Aztec and Mayan calendars, according to a report in the Vancouver Sun.

Some, including Hogan, met at the beach the evening before for dancing, chanting and drumming. Sunrise was greeted with hugs and smiles, and one man told CBC News that he was "just full of extreme happiness."

More than 200 people gathered at dawn in Jericho Beach on August 16, 1987, hoping to welcome a new era of peace. 1:43

Later in the afternoon, 10,000 people were expected to join hands around Stanley Park, but fewer than 50 appeared. Still, they held hands and walked the seawall in a line.

"Man's one commonality is loneliness, and loneliness is what leads to war and confrontation," a participant told CBC at the time.

"By coming together and touching, only for a moment, (we) may chase away some of that loneliness and realize that we're not alone in this world."

A 'totally crackpot' idea

The Harmonic Convergence was the brainchild of New Age author José Argüelles. It was meant to mark the beginning of the last 25 years of the Mayan "great cycle" of history — a cycle that was supposed to end, famously, in 2012.

Celebrities like Shirley MacLaine, John Denver and Timothy Leary all participated in the synchronized meditation at events around the world.

The concept of the convergence was heavily mocked in some corners. Argüelles's ideas were dismissed as "totally crackpot" in the New York Times. An anthropology professor at UBC described participants as "kooks" in the Vancouver Sun.

But for Hogan, it was a special day.

"For the most part it was just people who were just trying to get in tune with what was going on globally, to raise consciousness, to put out good vibes, if you will, for changes in the earth, and to connect with others who were feeling likewise," Hogan said.

Some greeted the dawn with hugs on Aug. 16, 1987. (CBC News)

'Some positive changes'

The convergence came during uneasy times. A nuclear arms race was underway and the ozone layer was rapidly depleting.

Thirty years later, many of the fears of the 1980s are resurfacing. The U.S. and North Korea are trading threats of nuclear annihilation, Russia is flexing its muscles again and the world is starting to feel consequences of climate change.

The Harmonic Convergence didn't bring about any immediate changes in the world, Hogan acknowledged, but she argued that there has been slow progress over the last three decades.

"It's funny that we're talking about it now, with Trump talking about blowing up North Korea," she said. "But I do believe there has been some positive changes over the years, like the fact that we have a huge environmental movement."