In the 1970s and ’80s, Gary Beckman sold revolutionizing devices called the calculator, the cassette tape recorder, videocassette recorders, and the personal computer. By the time I met him, he was beyond selling devices. He was three years into promoting a communications tool. He was hungry. He knew his product was on the cutting edge and he wanted the world — well, at least the Upper Midwest — to know about The Edge.
But what inspired The Edge into manifestation? Perhaps it was meditation. Perhaps it was intuition. Perhaps it was the Harmonic Convergence.
“I remember going out into the field one morning with about 40 people,” Beckman said. “We were all like children out there. This was an interesting group. There were many self-employed people, practitioners, even a few lawyers, a couple teachers, some carpenters, guys like me, marketing guys. It was one of the most spiritual things that I had ever felt or known in my life.”
I spoke with Gary Beckman about the creation of this publication and his experience as one of the leading change agents in the field.
What was your introduction to the spiritual community?
I was in the electronics business and, synchronistically, I got hooked into the Maharishi. The first wave of Transcendental Meditation (TM) started on the West Coast and it went all the way to the East Coast. Then it came to a big hall at the University of Minnesota and I joined a lot of other people in taking up TM. That’s what introduced me to the spiritual community.
I had finally walked away from the computer business and was looking to find something else to do. I didn’t want a job. I wanted something to do that would make me a little bit of money and really have an effect on the population in the United States.
An interesting thing is that as I got into meditation, I found out that this was part of my agreement when I came to Earth — that I would do something to help introduce holistic living, meditation, the different healing modalities to people.
I also got into the mystery schools in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Is that when the idea for The Edge developed?
Yes. One of the ladies at that mystery school came to visit me and she said, “You know, let’s pick up a New Age magazine.”
And, I went, “Oh, yeah?”
We looked. I called a couple of women I knew who were involved in the movement, but such a magazine did not exist. One had started, but it folded within a very short period of time.
That was a big, critical time when the woman I met suggested that I start a publication. I had never been around newspapers, so I figured I had to find an editor. My capabilities were not there. So I turned to Lynn LaFroth, a woman I met when I was selling computers.
Then I found other people to round out the publication. Melissa May was very important, because this was before the days of digital and she was good at cutting and pasting the magazine into form. A woman by the name of Della McGee was a good salesperson for us. And I was extremely active in marketing and selling it.
What were your personal feelings about the creation of The Edge at the time?
I knew it was going to be a winner. Here’s why this worked, Tim. There was no place for a person to find out about things like meditation, things like alternative medicine. That’s what was created. It coalesced the community.
Minnesota is relatively small in population, but this is one of the most respected spiritual, metaphysical communities in the United States.
What reaction did you get when The Edge came out?
Oh, boy! It was huge. But it could have been a folly. Many people who we wanted to sell advertising to, to help them promote their events, truly believed that you did not have to run a business involved in spirituality like a business. They did not know what a spreadsheet was. They didn’t know about profit-and-loss statements. They had no clue. They said you don’t have to advertise. They said they’ll just say a meditation and put it up in the air and then all the people would come to them.
Well, prior to this time no one turned around and mentioned to them that if they want to succeed in what they’re doing it would be quite wise if they would put in a structure and run it like a business. They didn’t know how spirituality and metaphysics could coexist with business. So it was really a growth period for a lot of people.
One of our first advertisers, the Minneapolis School of Massage & Bodywork had been around for a number of years and they were extremely successful, but there was no way to reach their community, their potential instructors and students. That’s what we created.
We created a way — and still do — to bring people with needs together with people offering services. That is the biggest thing that this magazine does — along with the expo. Those are still two of the strongest parts of this holistic community in the Upper Midwest.
What were your own personal feelings at that time? Did you sense that you were putting the perfect product out there at the perfect time for the perfect market?
I did. I would not be telling the entire truth to say it was a bed of roses, but everything seemed to come together. You did. You came magically.
Yes, that was very synchronistic because you had an opening for an editor at the exact time I was wanting to move to the Twin Cities from Missouri.
Right. That is exactly correct. I’ll tell you what, starting this thing and making it grow was synchronistic. I really started to look out for synchronistic things.
It was important that you had a background in the newspaper business, because you realized that you have to run it like a normal business, no matter what the beliefs are. So it was synchronistic that you not only had talent as an editor, but also you understood business and metaphysics.
What were some highlights for you as publisher of The Edge?
Going full color on the cover was a big deal. I had to bite a new bullet. We went color not long after you started as editor, in March 1996. That was big! Jan Adams had the interview with Earl Bakken of Medtronic who had moved to Hawaii to start a healing clinic, and we had an artist with a colorful photo of a volcano.
It all came together so fantastically so my decision was to go with it. It might be one of the smartest things I did to spend the extra money and increase the quality of the product.
A highlight for me was introducing the community to Michael Newton, author of Journey of Souls, writing about his use of hypnosis to discover more about the life between lives.
That’s the only place I ever went with you on an interview. That opened my eyes, too. I believe that that is the template of what happens to us. I do.
A highlight for me overall was the quality of the people that we interviewed and the quality of the people who advertised in The Edge. Advertisers finally began to realize that people involved in spirituality and metaphysics, our readers, also needed things like food, medicine, car repair, a construction company to help them come update their house.
What did the experience of birthing and growing The Edge mean to you personally?
What I didn’t know when I started this is that I had agreed to be a messenger for the holistic lifestyle, the metaphysics factors, before I finished my life. I had the skills to run a business. I had the skills of marketing and selling.
You know what I gained? I received the insight that there is really a lot more out there in this world beyond what our capitalistic society deems the most important — money. The only reason that the money is important is it gives you the ability to do and produce what you want to do. I think it made me a more balanced person, being around the people I met.
The magazine was responsible for birthing Edge Life Expos and Events. We were really bringing in some really good speakers to the Twin Cities at that time, people like Doreen Virtue.
All in all, I think we all worked hard. Got the thing done. One of the stories I like that you told at one of our get-togethers was saying to me, “Gary, we need 11 pages of ads, and have got two days to do it.” And what happened?
You got them.
Got them. It had to be done, so we went out and did it. It’s about communication and working together.
One interesting thing is when I came into this metaphysical community, people were very protective of their knowledge and what they were creating. They didn’t want anybody to steal it, right? They didn’t want anyone to take their idea. I think that the community is working together now much better than it ever had in the past.
I’d like to think our goal when this all started was to reach over one million people — and I truly believe that we have exceeded that by a lot of numbers. It basically was done grass roots — with a marketing plan. There you go, that’s a good tagline.