The event had all the earmarks of the love-ins of two decades ago:
A four-legged copper pyramid--"Even its presence in your room changes the environment"--was one floor above an astrologer, who sat next to a massage therapist. Near the pyramid was an orange corduroy "energy blanket" used, its exhibitor said, for focusing cosmic energy. In the "peace" room, 50 people held hands and danced in a circle, chanting "Al-lah, Al-lah."
Couples hugged, children played "non-competitive" games and Hare Krishna followers passed out literature. The third annual Heart to Heart Festival, a kind of auto show for the spirit that drew more than 300 people to Silver Spring this week, was a love-fest from the 1960s updated for the 1980s.
The astrologer used a minicomputer to plot the movement of stars and her customers' futures, and several of the 75 exhibitors televised programs on fancy electronic equipment. Lecturers on world peace warned against the threat of nuclear war.
The hippies were few: In the crowd were professionals from Bethesda, Silver Spring and other Beltway communities; many were middle-aged.
"Most of the people here are looking for something deeper in their lives," said Barbara Haug, a federal employe who was one of the festival's organizers. It was sponsored by the Network of Light, a loose coalition of self-help groups in the Washington area.
"These are people who are interested in sharing themselves, in opening up to other people," Haug said. "It's really a celebration of people coming together."
Several hundred persons paid $10 each to gather in the former National Guard Armory, festooned on Sunday and Monday with hundreds of cherry-colored streamers and heart-shaped balloons. (The festival had been scheduled for Valentine's Day, but was snowed out by the blizzard.)
Participants included proponents of Oriental-style exercise, natural healers, acupuncturists, providers of free medical services, members of several communes and Piscataway Indians from Southern Maryland who were there to teach a class in native American spiritualism.
"This country is finally getting in touch with itself--and with its energy," said Theresa Freilicher, who runs a therapeutic massage program called "Rainbow" at White Flint Mall in Kensington.
Freilicher, who said her clients include two federal judges and White House staffers, said Americans are just learning what Europeans have known for years: the healthful benefits of massage.
"Europeans believe in it," Freilicher said. "It's as natural as brushing your teeth."
Down the hall from Freilicher was the Rev. Glen Shue, an ordained minister whose Inner Spiritual Science Center in Silver Spring has five students studying "the hidden aspects of religion," he said.
Shue, 56, a retired chemist-nutritionist for the Food and Drug Administration, said his own psychic experiences had convinced him "that science cannot explain all that goes on in the world around us."
"In 1946, I had a spontaneous out-of-body experience," said Shue, a soft-spoken man, who was wearing a turtleneck sweater and blazer. "I was sitting in a rocking chair and then all of the sudden I was standing up and looking back down at myself five or six feet away."
Another time, after witnessing the bending of metal spoons by mental power, Shue said he went home and lightly pressed the tip of a silverplated spoon. The end of the spoon doubled back, said Shue, who now wears the spoon on a gold necklace.
"My background is deeply grounded in the sciences--chemistry, engineering," said Shue. "My own experiences and gatherings like this show that there is a spiritual and deep psychic domain that we don't understand."
The festival lived up to its billing: Those wandering through the cavernous armory seemed to be a happy, if somewhat subdued lot, intent on renewing old friendships and exchanging new ideas in a relaxed atmosphere.
Wes Groesbeck, a 19-year Army veteran, told the crowd after one session opened with a moment of silence: "It would be nice in places like the Pentagon if we started off with meditation like that."