Beatles Tapped Into Mysterious Force In Rebellious, Raucous Decade Of 'Sixties'
By Michael H. Brown
A great spiritual confusion arrived during the 1960s and in many ways it came most powerfully through music -- especially rock music, which helped cause monumental societal, moral, and even spiritual change.
In a way that often seems hard to peg, a revolution occurred. There was suddenly long hair. There were t-shirts. There were jeans. There was liberation -- from everything conventional, and from tradition. It was the onset of anti-traditionalism. There was freedom to dress any way. There was freedom to flee religion. There was freedom to use drugs (which replaced the spiritual "high"). There was "free" sex. There were often good intentions spurred by excesses in society but there was also the spirit of rebellion during an intriguing and in many ways dark period that was to deeply alter the moral landscape.
None of this is to impugn the goodness of those who enjoyed such music, nor all of those who produced it. Like most things in life, it was a "mixed bag." Dark was with light.
But dark much of it was, if we want to be honest about it. What was it about the music? How did it have such a hold? Why was it that there was such an "explosion" of rock-and-rollers during that decade?
The best place to look, it would seem, is the most prominent group of that era, and here indeed are keys to the mysterious forces at work (and still in play) in our culture -- as well as insights into the spiritual struggles that beset not only musicians, but all of us as individuals.
I speak here of a book called The Gospel According to the Beatles -- which carefully sets forth what many of us (I include myself as a former Beatle fan) suspected: at the base of the music was often an occult or at least an agnostic force that rose from music -- some of it, at least -- like a genie from a bottle, the cork for which was lost long ago, as the genie, in other guises, still roams.
They were four young men with a traditional Christian background who like so many of us strayed from it and brought the culture with them as those forces -- which we can identify as "magical" (recall the hysteria, the screaming, the raucous concert halls, the fainting women) -- took hold in a monumental way.
"In 1967 the film historian Gene Youngblood argued that, 'The allure, the excitement, the glory of Beatle music is the suspicion that the Beatles might just succeed where magicians of the past have failed,'" points out the author, Steve Turner. "Two years later rock critic Dave Marsh, writing in the pages of the rock monthly Creem, concluded that everything before the Beatles now seemed indistinct and unimportant to him. I Want to Hold Your Hand may not seem significant, but to people my age that is a line of demarcation between history and life as we know it.' The poet Allen Ginsberg concluded in 1984: 'The Beatles changed American consciousness.'"
That they did. But in point of fact they were part of a larger spirit that had been moving for years (starting at least as far back as "beatniks," and probably back to the Roaring Twenties), but one that reached a crescendo in the Sixties -- and largely through the Beatles, who caused an hysteria that was greater even than that spawned by Elvis Presley and explainable only when one entered the realm of the spiritual.
"It was as though the culture was involved in a giant ritual in which the Beatles got themselves stirred up with drugs and music and then reported back what they had seen and experienced," writes Turner, a secular biographer. "They were descending to the lower world on behalf of their public."
The famed quotes from a song called Strawberry Fields: "Let me take you down..."
Was there love? There was love. More than the vast majority of groups, the Beatles used the word "love." This tended to the good. There was a goodness in many of their lyrics.
But too often, it is now clear, the power behind it, says Turner, was the power of shamanism. "Although there were no precedents in Western pop music for musicians as spiritual leaders, there were in other cultures. The most pertinent was the tradition of the shaman in areas such as Africa, South America, and Siberia. The shaman was trained to get into an ecstatic state during a ritual, usually driven by music and drugs, and be taken into the spirit world to deal with the spirits on behalf of the tribe."
They were hardly alone. Once a gospel singer, Elvis had a deep interest in the occult, and many bands directly spoke of New Age themes and "black magic" women. The Rolling Stones were far more direct, with albums like "Goat's Head Soup" (a symbol in satanism) and songs like Monkey Man (which all but apologized for being "too satanic").
There have been reports of witches who actually conducted rituals at recording studios, or dedicated songs to the devil.
Indeed, the Beatles were considered too soft for many who followed music of the era -- their lilting and brilliant melodies including classics that orchestras now play: Hey Jude, Yesterday, and Let it Be. More than most bands, they preached what they thought was right.
But they were confused as so many of us were confused and there was a dark underside that helps explain both the hysteria and the fruits of the entire Sixties. Confusion is often the first sign of the devil, and rebellion, says Scripture, is as "witchcraft."
Raised Christian, two of them with backgrounds that involved Catholicism (Paul and George, born to Catholics who married Protestant agnostics), the Beatles showed the danger of seeking spirituality away from the safety of that tradition.
"They were skeptical and even dismissive of the Church, yet many of their core beliefs -- love, peace, hope, truth, freedom, honesty, transcendence -- were, in their case, secularized versions of Christian teachings," notes Turner.
It was John Lennon who came out with the enormously controversial comment that the Beatles were "more popular than Christ" -- and while he later backtracked from that, he also believed that "we're all Jesus and we're all God. Jesus wasn't God come down on earth any more than anybody else was. He was just a better example of a good guy."
Such demonstrated the erratic course of Lennon, who alternated between atheism or partial belief and a mix of Christianity with Eastern and finally outright occult practices -- the latter his leaning at the time of his death (which also had a strong occult connection; more on this later). The musician's great uncle studied to be a priest, but by the time Lennon was born, Catholicism had left his family line and if there was an influence it was Anglican and Methodist.
Some saw parallels between their effect on crowds and shamanistic ritual or the celebrants at a Pentecostal church "overcome by the Spirit."
I'd stay with the shamanism. The parallel to Pentecostals is not fair to worshippers.
Shamans often used hemp with music -- marijuana -- and for many, the Beatles would famously symbolize the use of drugs.
"The Beatles were a kind of religion," said Lennon, who added that concerts such as Woodstock were more than just concerts; they were as if "a new Church" was forming.
Much the same was expressed by McCartney and Harrison. The product of tragedies early in life, John and Paul met in a church hall but by their later teen years and early twenties had lost belief until taking LSD -- which ironically opened them up to the possibility of God, albeit one they soon sought through methods like those taught in Transcendental Meditation. At one juncture, Lennon thought he was the reincarnation of Jesus. Later, in Imagine, he dreamed of a world without religion (or Heaven afterward).
Although McCartney was more of a musical influence on the group, Lennon largely set the spiritual tone and was descended from a Dublin-born Catholic grandfather who married a woman thought to have "rare psychic abilities," and who spoke of premonitions. Is there a clue here? Is the origin of mediumship at hand?
Later, Lennon would describe himself as more a channeler, a "medium," than a composer -- as would McCartney, who also believed they were in touch with a force outside of themselves.
"The more I go into this spiritual thing, the more I realize that we -- the Beatles -- aren't doing it, but that something else is doing it," said George Harrison.
"We just happened to become leaders of whatever cosmic thing was going on," added McCartney.
As a youngster, Lennon and his friends "thought they heard voices in their heads."
Can we not discern this?
"Another time they were at the church hall fooling around on the Scout band's drums, pretending that the gods were speaking to each other through the beats," says Turner of Lennon and his pre-Beatles friends.
It was the beat of the jungle and a beat that evokes "spirits" in Africa.
It was a spirit more pervasive than just these boys from Liverpool. The "cosmic thing" was in the process of spreading not only drugs and free sex but also a great feminization (one which arguably took the form of men wearing long hair in an age where it was identified as female).
By 1965, McCartney -- who was generally less interested in spiritual matters than Lennon and Harrison -- admitted that he'd "got hung up on seances and the tarot." (Tarot cards are a deeply occult manner of discerning the future.)
At their famous satellite-TV performance of All You Need is Love, a large occult ying-yang symbol was displayed.
Ironically, a number of Beatle songs sounded like delicate hymns to God -- and may have been intended as such by a countervailing force. But in the end, drugs and a straying from Christianity sent them in an occult direction -- and the composition of harsh songs like Helter Skelter, which was cited as an inspiration, among others, to Charles Manson.
Speaking of the lyrics on the "Sergeant Pepper" (which opened like a show, and which is generally described as the defining album of the rock era), Turner observes, "Were we being invited to a show or a form of ritual where we would be taken on a spiritual journey? Was this an invitation or an initiation?"
That album bore a tiny photo of satanist Aleister Crowley on the cover.
There was also the "Magical Mystery Tour." And it seemed to bear them in bad steed -- as would be witnessed most dramatically and predictably with the untold story [coming next] of the death of Lennon.
[While The Gospel According to the Beatles is not in our regular bookstore, we will see if we can make it available for those who here request]
[see also: Hymns replaced by Bono lyrics]
In Mystery Of Beatle John Lennon Was Link To Occult That Factored Into Death
By Michael H. Brown
previously published as beatles2
If there was a danger to the dark side that welled in music in the 1960s, it was perhaps best represented by what happened to one of its icons, Beatle John Lennon.
His was a life that symbolized, and took to an extreme, the spiritual struggles -- and confusion -- of a generation.
As previously reported (above), after years of casting about -- swerving as a youth from Christianity to agnosticism to atheism and then all the way to Eastern meditation -- the famed songwriter settled, in the end, on the occult, as sort of a harbinger for the generation.
Years of taking drugs and meditating without a personal God had led the Beatles -- and society -- on a journey from which they would never fully recover. Their lives raise the question, in fact, of what force, good or bad, they were tapping into to start with.
The same can be asked of the many bands that drew from what seemed like an outpouring of musical spirit, "one-hit" wonders and others who exploded onto the scene during the mysterious Sixties -- and often with far darker lyrics than any found in Beatle music.
But like so many of their generation, John, Paul, George, and Ringo fell into the deception of false gods and seemed to suffer bad "luck" as a consequence. Lennon died at the tender age of 40, George Harrison died at 58 (and had a previous close call when an intruder tried to stab him in his own home), McCartney's wife died young of cancer (which was also what killed Harrison), and Paul also is now wrapped in a vicious divorce battle with his second wife.
Were they evil men? No. I say this as a former fan. Much of their music seemed classic, even hymnal. Were they deceived? Without question -- and that confusion led millions of others into dark corridors.
The occult was all around them. A photograph of satanist Aleister Crowley was on the "Sergeant Pepper" album (he died precisely twenty years before release of the 1967 album, which some believe was commemorated in the lyrics, "it was twenty years ago today"), and at their company, Apple Records, a fortune teller was on the payroll to read tarot cards (as well as do the I Ching).
The song Come Together, on their last album, "Abbey Road," was the name of the 46th hexagram of the I Ching [Eastern occult divination]. The Beatles were ardent followers of astrology. And it was all pure danger.
"The god they would talk about an impersonal force rather than a personal being," recounts biographer Steve Turner in a new book, The Gospel According to the Beatles. "They meditated rather than prayed; believed in the karmic wheel rather than Heaven or hell; favored the I Ching over the Holy Spirit."
In that era, whose eyes had not been blinded? How many of us have been deceived by mediums, astrology, Ouija boards? Let it be a lesson.
But the Beatles were a massive cultural force and when murderer Charles Manson heard their song Helter Skelter, as well as others on the "White Album," he took them as personal messages to kill (in order to provoke a revolution).
The words "Helter Skelter" (if misspelled) would find themselves scrawled in blood at the home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca of Los Angeles -- who Manson's "family," acting on what they believed were Beatle prophecies, killed after taking the life of actress Sharon Tate (whose husband, Roman Polanski, happened to be filming a movie about the devil, Rosemary's Baby, at the time of the killings).
Ironically, the star of Rosemary's Baby, Mia Farrow, was with the Beatles when they were training under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India.
Songs like Helter Skelter alternated in the Beatle repertoire with what sounded nearly like religious music, most tellingly when biblical phrases like "times of trouble" (Psalms 10:1), "the brokenhearted" (Luke 4:18) or "a light that shines" (John 1:5) were used. Not to mention the phrase, in Let It Be: "When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be."
There was goodness in the Beatles. Often, they sought to spread goodwill.
But in the end there was a strong shadowing of drugs and the occult -- and this would take a dramatic when Lennon met future wife and occultist, Yoko Ono (who was similarly misled and whose current album is called "I Am a Witch").
There were UFOs. There were psychics -- hired to hold seances at the couple's apartment in the Dakota. There was a room of Egyptian artifacts. "John became increasingly dependent on and subservient to Yoko and, as a result, dependent on the guidance of occultists," Turner points out.
"After 1975 John sought guidance through using a wide range of occult practices from astrology and seances to numerology and directionalism," reveals the writer.
In March of 1977, says the author, Yoko even traveled to Catagena in Colombia to meet a witch and pay $60,000 for a series of rituals.
Ironically, at this time, Lennon was on the verge of re-embracing the Christianity of his youth -- converting for a short period after watching evangelists such as Pat Robertson, Oral Roberts, and Jim Bakker on television.
Indeed, Lennon baffled those close to him by constantly praising "the Lord" and writing songs with Christian themes -- and even the Lord's Prayer, set to music. Yoko, he began charging, was practicing dark arts -- "telling her that she couldn't see the truth because her eyes had been blinded by Satan," writes Turner.
It was a short respite. After a long stay in Tokyo (a time during which he suffered "terrifying nightmares," and felt as if "spirits" were "passing" through him), John Lennon went back to Eastern and occult practices with a vengeance. Renouncing the Church, he went so far as to read books by Madame H. P. Blavatsky and worked himself into a tirade against Christianity, culminating with the atheistic-themed Imagine. It was the confusion -- and deception -- of a generation.
He now said he was a "born-again pagan."
Around this same time, another confused young man and one-time born-again Christian, Mark David Chapman, became fixated on Lennon. A former fan, he was enraged at Lennon's remark that the Beatles were "more popular" than Jesus, and also at the song Imagine. Deeply troubled, Chapman carried on constant conversations with what he called invisible "little people," and also heard the voice of the devil telling him to kill the famed song writer.
Instead of "imagine there's no Heaven" -- a lyric in the song -- Chapman went around singing, "Imagine John Lennon's dead."
And on December 8, 1980 -- feast day of the Immaculate Conception, the patroness of Christianity, but one long forgotten -- Lennon found himself the victim of gunshots leveled at him by the deeply disturbed Chapman. It was the end of an era, and of a run of music that helped transform society
The last person Chapman saw before he entered the courtyard to kill Lennon on the Upper West Side of New York was a famous actress who was walking her dog.
It was Mia Farrow -- who had starred in Rosemary's Baby, which was filmed at the Dakota, where Lennon lived and where he met his untimely death.
[While The Gospel According to the Beatles is not in our regular bookstore, we will see if we can make it available for those who here request]
[see also: Yoga enters public schools]
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