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Barry Long (1926–2003)

by Clive Tempest

Australia is not famous for its gurus, but among spiritual seekers around the world, Barry Long was known as the Australian voice of a new kind of spirituality, one that doesn't rely on tradition or belief but makes the individual alone responsible for his or her own salvation.

In fact, he used to caution his audiences: 'Don't believe a word I say. I might be a liar or a fool'. Like all great teachers, he wanted people to listen for the ring of truth and test everything he said against their own experience.

He was very evidently neither a liar nor a fool. Long's extraordinary intelligence was always on display in his seminars and public meetings. He could speak for hours on end, answering any question fired at him and his audiences would listen intently, sitting perfectly still.

The words flowed out of him, as long as he was speaking of his stated subjects: life, love, truth, death and God. And he always made it practical, related to everyday life.

Long made a point of telling it like it is, with no concessions to politeness or convention. He was never willing to compromise. Honesty was characteristic of both the man and his teaching. He wanted his audiences to see life exactly as it is and not be deluded by false beliefs, hopes and promises.

His purpose was to get rid of unhappiness and, to him, the greatest cause of unhappiness on earth is that men and women have forgotten how to love one another. And he meant sexual love. "I get right down to the nitty-gritty of your life, here on earth, where love is made."

Others before him had made the same point. What was new was that Long brought God into it. He was not a therapist; he was aiming to teach people how to love God, in all kinds of ways, including through the act of sexual union. Some people, mostly men, found it hard to take. The villain, according to Long, was the sexually predatory male. Long was a romantic at heart and women generally loved him for it.

He was probably better known overseas. People came from many countries to his "Master Sessions" and seminars on the Gold Coast. He had spoken in places as far afield as Jamaica and Russia, crisscrossed the United States many times and had a large following in Britain, Germany, Netherlands and Scandinavia.

All this from a man who was raised in Sydney in the 1930s, with few advantages. But he was never a slouch. He left school, got himself a job as a copy boy in newspapers and soon after was a crime reporter. His talent was spotted by Eric Baume, who appointed him editor of Truth (later the Sunday Mirror). He went on to work at Parliament House as press secretary to Sir Robert Askin.

But a life of conventional success was not for him. It produced no fulfilment. Eventually he was thrown into a classic crisis of the spirit. His mother, to whom he was devoted, pleaded with him to see a psychiatrist. Instead he abandoned everything and headed for India. There, in 1965, he finally went through what he called "the mystic death" and there was no turning back.

He had begun to write books and took the manuscripts to London to get them published. No one was interested. It wasn't until the early '80s that a wider public was ready to hear what he had to say. His Meditation: A Foundation Course is now a bestseller, in seven languages.

In 1984 Routledge published his Origins of Man and the Universe but it was still ahead of its time. Among its many prophetic insights is a forecast of the terrorism that we are so familiar with post-September 11.

Long returned from England in 1986 to live on Tamborine Mountain, Queensland, and later near Mullumbimby. He loved his native land and took great enjoyment from life. He was married three times and had two long-term partners.

For the last eight years he had been living with prostate cancer but continued working until the last months. He died in Coolangatta. He asked for no memorial and wanted to leave nothing behind him except his books and recorded words.

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Citation details

Clive Tempest, 'Long, Barry (1926–2003)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 17 June 2024.

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