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Saturday, 23 February 2008

Music Is An Unseen (Occult) Science

Music, being an auditory phenomenon, is not visible, save as a representation on sheet music. It is an occult (unseen) science. It seems to come from everywhere. We interpret it in a congregation (the audience) and it has a wide variety of "secret messages" to it.

In the world music tradition, we have rather extensive history (extending all the way back to the Greeks) of the use of music to induce certain states- modes were thought to have certain qualities. There is even some evidence to suggest that the Egyptians used music as a healing tool This anticipated the later utilisation of these techniques by figures as diverse as Sun Ra, Jimi Hendrix, the Misunderstood, Rudolph Steiner, various "new age practitioners" such as Stephen Levine and the biased experiments tying plant growth to listening to classical music.

These types of customs are utilised in Africa, India, South America and within most native cultures (shamanic cultures from Russia to the Americas to the Pacific) have some kind of tradition of sacred song to them. The links run from the Russian shamanic traditions, the Australian aborigines to East Indian Gandharva Veda and Karnatak musics to Hawaiian chanting, to perhaps the most infamous occult music tradition of all, the Yoruban culture in Africa which found its expression as Voudon (Voodoo) in Haiti and Santeria throughout most of the remainder of South America. This tradition has found its way into contemporary culture through jazz, tango, Cuban music, and of course, blues and rock and roll (more on this later).

Getting back to tradition, in the more mainstream religions, it is valuable to know that Moslem, Hindu and Hebrew prayer is usually chanted, not spoken, and there are literally hundreds of books in all these cultures regarding the power of chanted prayer.

A great many composers also chose subject matter of a more obscure occult/spiritual tilt. Mozart wrote overtly about Masonic principles in his opera "The Magic Flute"; Scriabin seemed under the influence of the Theosophical movement of his day with his Prometheus Symphony; Richard Strauss "Also Sprach Zarathustra" is a piece dedicated to Nietzche but also to the misunderstood principles of the founder of the Zoroastrian religion (considered to be the first continuous monotheistic religion; in its current state it is a realtively small religion practiced pretty much exclusively in Iran and in a small colony (Parsi) in Bombay, India); Erik Satie was a Rosicrusian who applied some of the principles of this secret society to his piano pieces; Dane Rudhyar and Gustav Holst were astrologers; Olivier Messiaen wrote numerous pieces dedicated to his unique form of Roman Catholic mysticism, but borrowed from Indian ragas and birds (St. Francis of Assisi being the Catholic link) and also wrote huge works drawing on Indian and Japanese works; and Schoenberg's most ambitious work was the unfinished opera Moses and Aron. The most anti-mystical composer of the 20th century (he claimed that the imagery of the Rite of Spring was derived from the music, and the large pagan gathering that was this major piece's program was inspired by the music, not vice versa) Stravinsky, wrote at least two major sacred works—the Canticum Sacrum and the Symphony of Psalms.

Among more contemporary composers, Stockhausen has written works about mantra, the creation and the archangel Michael; Penderecki has written religious works and mystical works, as has Ligeti ("Lux Eterna"), John Cage was directly inspired by Zen and Indian thought about music, while the minimal trio (Riley, Reich, and Glass) are well known for their interest in Indian music, African and Hebrew traditions, and Tibetan Buddhism, respectively. As George Crumb wrote the piece "Black Angels," there was definitely an air of foreboding in the late 1960's and early 1970- like "Tubular Bells," this piece did not start out as an "occult" piece but became one by association by virtue of its inclusion in the soundtrack to the Exorcist (an overtly occult piece like Stairway to Heaven was only marginally associated with occultism, by contrast). The mystical tradition that inspired Wagner is well-known. His finest work (also his last) is a opera called "The Comedy at the End of Time" in which the world comes to an end, prophesied by Sibyls and Anchorite monks and Lucifer is finally forgiven by God for his transgressions and accepted back into God's hands

Music, being an auditory phenomenon, is not visible, save as a representation on sheet music. It is an occult (unseen) science. It seems to come from everywhere. We interpret it in a congregation (the audience) and it has a wide variety of "secret messages" to it.

We can go all the way from the meanings that people derive from lyrics or music to the truly insipid interpretation of lyrics by the "Paul is dead" mania of the late 1960's to Geraldo Rivera hearing the words "Son of Sam" in Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" to the even more stupid "backwards masked" lyrics of Led Zeppelin, among others.

Before any of you ever reads too much into a song lyric again, I strongly encourage you to read Julian Jaynes' Origins of Consciousness in the Bicameral Brain. In it, he discusses the cross talk of schizophrenics as the model for messages from the Gods to early cultures. It is a fascinating bit of work and one that should give pause to any one who thinks they hear a message from anywhere—be it from a grizzled singer who can barely pronounce the words he is singing because of a drug-addled state or a "blues" affectation.

Blues, rock, and jazz, it must be noted, are many times made in the presence of mind-altering substances. To get to the essence of this, it is always useful to recall that alcohol is called "spirits" for a reason. It has a potency that opens us up to very positive or very negative experiences. Also, the grandfather of these musics is a blend of two musics that have profound occult roots—the Yoruban and the Celtic cultures, for blues came out of Africa, jazz came out of Europe and Africa (adding sex from the whorehouses – in the old days there used to be sacred sex temples in various cultures)– and rock coming out of blues and old country. And country came out of the old Celtic folks who settled in Tennessee. Ever wonder why groups like Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull had such an easy time blending rock rhythms into these weird little English folk pieces?

The blues certainly had its share of occult imagery working for it. There is of course the Robert Johnson legend of him going to the crossroads. This is a place in most cultures where demons gather or the devil appears.

Moving into music, it was a well-known custom in certain circles to castrate male choirboys in order to retain the high pitched purity of their voices, although this was apparently, done more for aesthetic reasons than spritual—if only they had been blessed with the falsetto control of, say, Frankie Valli. It happens in certain pagan traditions also- according to one who claimed to belong to a family of witches, Alex Sanders, ritual castration was once part of becoming a witch (he got away with a nicked scrotum, though). In India, certain dovotees of Shiva engage in surgery to eliminate sexual desire to this day, and a very bizarre group—the Harridan—go from village to village looking for male children with either deformed sexual organs or with hermaphroditic tendencies, and claim these children as part of their group. The group dress in women's clothes and have a reputation for being powerful magicians. It is rare that parents refuse their demand for a child, because of the fear of a curse. These individuals take the child, cut away all vestiges of maleness and travel the country, telling fortunes and offering magic remedies to villagers—while seeking new recruits. Power, intoxication and the creative energy of the universe (sex) are difficult to withstand. Many sects call for abstinence, for similar reasons—abstinence builds up energy in most people, which can be transmuted to satisfy the goals of the group or given proper guidance, can be channeled through the body to create higher states of consciousness.

Jimmy Page was fascinated with Aleister Crowley and eastern mysticism (remember "Kashmir"?), but the interest with Crowley lasted for more than a few years. The late Aleister Crowley (aka "the Beast" because, as he remarked, his mother called him that) was born into a fundamentalist Christian family who also owned a brewing company. In his early college years, he essentially started tapping into his family's fortune and quickly spent it all. He was involved in the Golden Dawn, a group of occultists from turn of the century England who also included W. B. Yeats among its members. Crowley was invited in by McGregor Mathers one of the founders of the organization who perceived Crowley as brilliant, and tried to enlist his assistance in a battle for control of the group.

After a long series of disputes within the group, Crowley was out, and formed his own lodge (Mathers was disgraced and died soon after), and the Golden Dawn turned more introspective and cautious. But Crowley was convinced of his special role in the world, engaging in sex magick, drugs, esoteric rituals and demonic possession. Although he still exhibited a high level of influence through the late 1930's (and a great deal of press as "the Most Evil Man in the World"), his influence waned through the 1940's and he passed away in 1947. Although it sounds like he was just a profligate junkie, his contributions to the "new age" movement and occultism were considerable—he was quite brilliant (although incredibly egotistical, nasty and arrogant). He wrote and "ghosted" wrote many significant works of occultism, including jobs for Evangeline Adams (who made headlines as an astrologer in the early twentieth century) and Gerald Gardner (this was the man generally regarded as leading the Wiccan revival in England in the late 1940's, when it was still against the law to be a witch).

Crowley's general decline can be seen as starting when he started to get addicted to opium and heroin, among other substances. Israel Regardie, who served as his personal secretary, allegedly said that Crowley was a genius with the emotional development of a ten year old boy—which, when you come to think of it, is a good description for a great many famous rock performers.

Page's involvement with the Crowley legacy extended to the purchase of one of Crowley's homes, and the symbols that adorned Led Zeppelin IV. "Stairway to Heaven" was certainly a mystical piece of music (it was praised by Kenneth Anger as being the most "luciferian" pieces of Page's work—a definite compliment if you view Lucifer, as Anger did, as a representation of truth and beauty), but Page never made it to the stage of finishing a soundtrack to Anger's movies. There are allegations that some members of the group blamed the death of John Bonham and other untoward events upon Page's involvement with Crowley; but Bonham's drinking was getting out of hand even before Page's involvement with Crowley. The break up of Led Zeppelin probably didn't end Page's involvement with Crowley, but the public knowledge and interest in this probably declined at that stage.

The interesting thing is, in the late 1970's, especially with the advent of punk, a lot of groups seemed to back away from occult (particularly positive occult) involvement, but the advent of "Death Rock" or occult rock, which developed in s slow pattern through the following bands: Black Widow - Atomic Rooster - Black Sabbath Angel Witch - Venom - Pagan Altar - Widow - Witchfynde - Hell Satan - Cloven Hoof – Warhammer- Onslaught - Sabbat – Antichrist-Ragnarok - Cradle Of Filth - Megiddo Bal Sagoth - December Moon – Ewigkeit - Adorior - Hecate - Enthroned - Phantasia - Forefather - Meads Of Asphodel - Reign Of Erebus Thus Defiled - Old Forest - Annal Nathrakh. They all showed a steady but consistent interest in the underworld as a source of inspiration ... (More ...)