Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mage Music 21: The Devil Made Me Do It

Have sympathy for the devil, for he does not exist...

How many times have you read that rock & roll is connected with devil worship?  How many times have you read that Stairway to Heaven involves satanic backmasking?*   Black magic is scary, isn't it -  especially when it’s the music you love that is delivering the soul-eating content.  But, ahem…

I know this will break some hearts and maybe crush a few cherished beliefs (or fears), but the truth is that there is no such thing as Black Magick.  For that matter, there’s no such thing as White Magick, either.  I will wait while you wipe the tears from your eyes.

Magick Is Not 'Just Like Magic'
Quite early on I posted that Magick is not about stage shows or illusion, but rather is about transformation of a Mage’s personal reality through supernatural means or through knowledge of occult laws.  The word “occult” means, among other things, “hidden”.  In the case of Magick - although a lot of people like to believe that this means secret - in fact it just refers to the fact that the unknowable of the infinite is hidden from finite human senses.  A Mage is a person who can access the normally unknowable through use of a process incorporating desire, focus and ritual.  No tricks, no illusions… just Reality.

How simple it would be if all a would-be Mage had to do was sell his/her soul to the devil to gain the power of transformation, but alas, it isn’t so.  In fact, Magick turns to seem an awful lot like <gasp> work.

Yes, Magick is Work
I’m fond of definitions because they help us to stay on the same page when we're trying to communicate.  So let’s start with the definition of work: "Activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result”.  This is, of course, a human-centric definition that includes not just the common tasks humans do in everyday life to bring home the bacon, but also the process and end result of an artist's or Mage's efforts (e.g. the work of Picasso or Beethoven, the Works of Aleister Crowley).  Not only that, but the word is used in physics to describe the transfer of energy in the known (to humans) universe - and in Magick it describes the same process in the hidden universe.

Work describes the process of change, regardless of what it is applied to.  Work requires energy - a basic law of the Universe that there is no way around.  It is also a law - and mystery - of the Universe, that although energy appears to be consumed, it is actually never used up.  It only changes form.  From the human-centric point of view of life on this planet it can be said that all things eat, all things are eaten.  Who's doing which matters to individuals involved, but the sum is no energy loss. It takes energy to live - one must eat to live, to live means to change (for example: repairing, replacing, growing cells), which means consuming energy.  Even the sun consumes energy as it burns its own gasses - but that energy is put out as heat and light.  No gain, no loss, just change.

You are there... somewhere
In metaphysical terms - Magick - work is the same.  The exchange of energies obeys the same laws of the Universe.  A Mage has the ability to affect how the energies change in the Universe, and thereby brings about change in the Mage's reality.  The core/central concept to Magick - and life - is that it is all transformation of energy.  In the Big Picture, the Universe knows that everyone who's eating is going to be eaten eventually so it doesn't ultimately matter much about the details.  So far, no devil involved here.

You Say Tomatoes, I say …

Bad boys are not evil boys. 

The notion of good and evil is a human one, used for convenience's sake so we can make sense of what each other is talking about.  These words are descriptions of our preferences, not about the actual properties of the things we’re describing.  A “good” thing is something a person has positive feelings about; a “bad” thing is something a person has negative feelings about.  Unfortunately, humans have a tendency to take the descriptors for their internal preferences and transfer them to external reality.  It doesn't make any difference.

A fact of life is that in a zero sum universe everything has a duality about it:  What’s good for one thing may be bad for another.  When a zebra is killed by a pride of lions, it’s “bad” for the zebra but “good” for the lions because they need to eat.  Nothing lives forever – death is not “bad”, it’s just something humans don’t happen to like very much, although studies of Near Death Experiences (NDEs) now challenge even that point of view.

Human preferences aside, the change from living to dead, from here to there, from young to old, from silence to guitar solo is ultimately just work, the change of form of energy.  When Mages change the nature of their own reality, that’s just work, too, even if we put a capital W on the word.  There is no law of the universe, like that of gravity (okay, okay, I know it's all theory) for good and evil.  Just look once more at that photo of our small, lonely planet Earth, then turn around and look at the next nebula over.  Human preferences only apply when there are humans present.  And thus while there is energy throughout the universe, there is no good or evil there.  That means that there is nothing intrinsically good or bad about a Mage's Work since Magick is a process for using the energy of the Universe, which itself is neither good nor bad – it just is.

Humans: Tool Users

What Mages or musicians or mathematicians plan to do with their work is something else entirely.  It’s all about intent, that is, why they are doing the work and what the desired outcome is.  A surgeon uses a knife to slice open a person to save a life; a murderer uses a knife to take a life.  The good or bad is not in the tool but in the intent of the tool user.  The gift of Lucifer was that of knowledge, symbolized by light.  We know Jimmy Page to be a deliberate and exacting musical artist - it can be no accident that he chose The Hermit, bearing light, to represent him in The Song Remains The Same. If this isn't a clear message about intent, then what is?

Intent is part of the Magickal process; the Mage’s intent is what determines the outcome – and it is up to the individual impacted by it to decide whether it is good or bad, black or white.  Devils?  Demons?  If they exist at all, they are the outcome of a Mage’s choice - not the source of the Magick.  Angels?  Fairies? Beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder.

And that, my friends, is why we all should have sympathy for the devil, for aside from human choice, there is no such thing.  Aside from human intention, there is no evil.  There is only energy of the Universe that Magickal processes use to perform work.  Whatever flavor of Magick it might appear to be, Magick is much, much more than the little labels humans give it.

[Note: Backmasking is a recording technique in which a sound or message is recorded backward to convey a subliminal message.  Ironically, Led Zeppelin isn't one of the groups listed as backmasking satanic content in Wikipedia’s list of same.  And even more ironically, the one song that is constantly cited for backmasking of satanic content everywhere else is Stairway to Heaven - the only song of Led Zeppelin's other than Houses of the Holy that has anything in its title containing spiritual words (good or evil).] 

Future post Hmmm.  I'm thinking maybe it's time to talk about alchemy.  But I might change my mind between now and next week.

This playlist: A little bit of naughty, then to heaven and beyond.

YouTube Playlist - The Devil Made Me Do It

Individual Songs 

1969  Led Zeppelin The Lemon Song (studio) Album: Led Zeppelin II

1975 Led Zeppelin Custard Pie (studio) Album: Physical Graffiti

1976 Led Zeppelin For Your Life (studio) Album: Presence

1977 Led Zeppelin In My Time Of Dying (live) Cleveland

1971 Led Zeppelin Stairway to Heaven (studio) Album: Led Zeppelin IV

1979 Led Zeppelin In The Evening (live) Knebworth August 4 1979  (Jimmy Page's every note here seems to be the cry of a living animal!)

1986 The Firm Dreaming (studio) Album: Mean Business (I'm not a Paul Rogers fan, but Jimmy Page's guitar work here is a nice close to this sequence of songs)

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