#14 The Occult Cauldron Boils Pt. III

“In the pragmatist, streetwise climate of advanced postmodern capitalism, with its scepticism of big pictures and grand narratives, its hard-nosed disenchantment with the metaphysical, ‘life’ is one among a whole series of discredited totalities. We are invited to think small rather than big – ironically, at just the point when some of those out to destroy Western civilization are doing exactly the opposite. In the conflict between Western capitalism and radical Islam, a paucity of belief squares up to an excess of it. The West finds itself faced with a full-blooded metaphysical onslaught at just the historical point that it has, so to speak, philosophically disarmed. As far as belief goes, postmodernism prefers to travel light: it has beliefs, to be sure, but it does not have faith.”

― Terry EagletonThe Meaning of Life

We live in a secular world.  It is hard to live a spiritual life in this age when every household is helmed by a pair of worn-out “dual wage-earners” who bleed themselves dry every day just to keep on living. Does art make it all worth it?  Or is it just a distraction as we wait to expire?

A Nameless Ghoul explains the title of Ghost’s third album Meliora:

“I think that the super-correct translation [from Latin] is ‘for the pursuit of something better,’ or ‘all things better,’ or something like that. It is actually more thematical with the lyrical content and the backdrop that we wanted to paint … a super-urban, metropolitan, pre-apocalyptic, dystopic futuristic thing. The title is more implying, ironically, this zenith that we think that we have reached. We’re always building higher, and we’re always getting a little bit faster, and everybody keeps earning a little bit more money, and everybody gets a little bit taller and a little bit tighter and a little bit… It’s a constant improvement that we’re hysterically trying to achieve.” (Blabbermouth)(parenthetical comment in original)

But the name ‘Ghost’ is also a clear reference to the Holy Spirit, and it is here that the ascension of Ghost and Huntress dovetails perfectly.

There is a Huntress song called “Aradia” on the first album, and one day I looked up the name.  Lore on the net is scarce, but I found a few scattered references to the Italian witch of yore, and at least one reverent tribute. I know no more of the latter’s author, Raven Grimassi, than a wiki will yield, but he seems to be a published authority on witchcraft.  In contemplating Millennial social progress and a new Age receptive to a less monolithic Christian god, Grimassi mentions a Catholic mystic named Joachim of Fiore who existed in the Twelfth century.  I would love to ground the thoughts here with a footnote to some kind of original source material, but I have neither Joachim’s texts nor Latin at my disposal.  Yet, when playing in the realm of myth and archetype, perhaps it is not always necessary to ground every idea with a footnote, but to let the archetype speak for itself.

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It turns out that this Catholic mystic, Joachim, predicted a third Age, a new Age of Reason, when the Age of the Son would give way to the Age of the Holy Spirit.  In this new era organized religion would become redundant, as God’s children would learn to see beyond the literal words of scripture.  Around 1300 A.D., Joachim’s prophecy inspired a cult.  In rather bold contravention of the patriarchal rules of the day, the cult held a lady, one Guglielma of Milan, to be the incarnation of the Holy Spirit.  It also anointed one of its members the female Pope (more on that below).  This sect, Grimassi says, laid the groundwork for the resurgence of the goddess Diana as an object of worship in Italy– and also for the rise of the witch Aradia in the Fourteenth century.

In keeping with this fine millenialist tradition, I would suggest that we do live in The Age of the Holy Spirit, or Joachim’s Age of Reason.  But the emblems of Reason are not the physical fruits of the intellect, the bombs, factories, planes, trains, and automobiles that threaten to hasten our demise on a global level.

Perhaps true Reason owes a debt for the free time rendered possible by those machines of industrialization, and also for the printing press and interlinked computers and the attendant widespread accessibility of knowledge enjoyed by the common man– all which renders possible a level of self-reflection and self-mythologizing that was not readily available to our forefathers.   I might complain about having to work a lot, but I still have an unprecedented power to gather intelligence through all these square portals.

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In a very conditional way, The New Age man of reason also owes a debt to the hard sciences that, in their merciless assault on Western religion, have made it quite easy for many of us to decouple ourselves from traditional religious dogma.

Joachim of Flora describes the “experience of illumination given after mental striving in terms of the city seen intermittently by the approaching pilgrim, or of the spirit breaking through the hard rind of the letter” [of scripture](Britannica).  Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to be badly missing the point.

It can be surmised that Joachim, were he among us today, would see the common man’s victory over literal scriptural interpretation to be a boon of our Age.  But on the other hand, Joachim would surely throw down the gauntlet before giving one inch to physicalism, determinism, and cultural relativism, those unfortunate dogmas of our age that are gobbled up as gospel by the Western masses.  Rather, the true hallmarks of the Age of Reason are a collection of more liberating, self-replicating programs for self-actualization:  start with the para-romanticist,  para-millenialist 18th/19th century German metaphysical idealists:  Kant, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel.***

*** (Why do I invoke those well-nigh impenetrable maestros?  Just to be obscurantist and pretentious?  No.  I don’t care how smart or how dumb you are, getting through “classics” like the Critique of Pure Reason or Phenomenology of Spirit is something that is humanly possible– but the will must be there, and the time, and you need to be willing to watch a lot of lectures on-line– and download yet more lectures to listen to on your commute– and invest a little in secondary sources and guides, and finally, actually lose sleep as your brain feverishly tries to solve problems that your  waking mind thought it had abandoned for the night.  But more to the point, those guys represent a major turning point in the history of thought– the watershed being Kant’s own version of the “Copernican Revolution”, wherein the locus of reality was moved out of the “thing” and into the “observer”.  People who find the Copernican metaphor oddly inverted may be taking the metaphor too literally[compare to Heliocentrism, in which any subject we are likely to care about is the one that revolves around the fixed object] —  I think the point of the metaphor is to accentuate the importance of the observer’s position, or alternatively, to signify a massive shift of perspective.  I never actually read the full Critique until this last summer– but “dabbling” in philosophy over the last 20 years has enriched my life.)

Pair the aforesaid with science of a fine vintage.  In the hundred years after Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit was published in 1807, science was busy with the discovery of cathode rays, black-body radiation, and in 1877, discrete energy states. That wave culminated in Albert Einstein’s 1905 explanation of the photo-electric effect, then the theory of Relativity (which was virtually predicted by Kant), and finally, the advent of quantum physics.  While contemporary philosophy and mathematics are only beginning to understand the depth of their interrelationship (see the n lab), I believe that Hegel’s version of natural science and logic is much more compelling in the light of Quantenmechanik.

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To this feast add a final course, its name coined by the great psychiatrist Dr. Carl Jung– SYNCHRONICITY (Paul Levy’s note on synchronicity is as inspiring and as good as any).  As Maynard J. Keenan said in an interview around the time Ænima came out:

You literally have a third eye in your head… It’s your pineal gland and it is an eye. It focuses light. People talk about dolphins and whales being more evolved, because they have a better breathing element. If you do meditation, you understand the idea of the Prana, breathing in light through the pineal gland. In mythology, there’s talk about how people used to breathe that way, but over time, they began to breathe more through the mouth. That’s the connection that we’ve forgotten … Your consciousness is like a radio frequency. If you turn the dial, all those radio stations are there simultaneously. You can dial in to hear what station you want to hear. Consciousness is the same way. Through meditation, you can alter that, you can come upon an alternate reality. Drugs is a shortcut to that. The trick is to really understand the medium you used to get there.

Read More: 19 Years Ago: Tool Conjure Spirituality + Anger With ‘Ænima’

I don’t know if the pineal gland really is a “mind/body” nexus– that’s been a debate since René Descartes.  (Is there anyone out there who is still a Dualist anyway?)  What I do know is that synchronicity works, and it’s not selective perception.  It’s about harmonizing the radio station in your mind with the radio station in your external reality.  Normally, it’s not a power we can actively harness, but a passive phenomenon.  A sign, a gift from the Gods, a startling coincidence.  But by becoming more in tune with yourself– whatever that means– you can sharpen your receptivity to it.    Those patterns enable you and me to discover sense in the comet-size chunk of competing particle-ideas that hurtle through us, and to weave from its tail a meaningful self.  The Kingdom of the Holy Spirit is a sum of souls connected by a higher plane.  Let’s agree on that.  Whether it is necessary to define souls as “bodies” and higher planes as “constructs of language” is up to you.  Let’s also agree that what we need on this rather sad local region of the spacetime continuum named Earth is leaders, spiritual and otherwise, that are in tune with that higher plane.

About twenty years ago, when I was first truly opening my mind to the higher planes (the shortcut mentioned by Keenan played a prominent role), my favorite bands were Alice In Chains and Nirvana.  If “synchronicity” was just a matter of selective perception and wish fulfillment, I feel like those two bands would have figured more prominently in my experiences of synchronicity.  But for some reason, I consistently had experiences of synchronicity that involved TOOL and The Smashing Pumpkins.  I think that might be because the leaders of the latter bands are especially open to synchronicity and magick.  Today my favorite band is Huntress, and I am having music-related experiences of synchronicity again after a very long drought.  Why don’t I have synchronicity involving Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, or Ghost, who I also love?  I think the answer is obvious.  On Easter of 1300, a band of heretics in Milan declared Maifreda Visconti da Pirovano their Pope.  Let’s just say their efforts were a little premature.  But our Age is ready for a female pope, and this time her followers won’t all be burned at the stake.

 

 

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#13 The Occult Cauldron Boils Pt. II

“Ancillary”:  1.  providing necessary support to the primary activities or operation of an organization, institution, industry, or system. (google)(my emphasis)

It is one of my primary theses in this blog that reviewing lyrics and focusing on album art and music videos can provide almost essential hints to fully apprehending the music.  “Support to the primary activity” of listening to the music itself.

I’ve only listened to Ghost for one year, after hating on them five times as long (I thought they were typical over-hyped Swedish bearers of retro mediocrity; indeed, I ignored that scene so vehemently that I didn’t even realize that the “non guttural male vocals” bore no relationship to the blighted “clean singing” of ’00s emo and metalcore).

I don’t have the answer to the ways that Ghost can be employed for spiritual gain, other than for the strictly “rock & roll” -style Dionysian sentimentality and nostalgia I already mentioned (invoking this Dionysian sentimentality is one of the highest arts, very close to the highest when done right– so mind you I am not marginalizing that meaning).  I do know that we could gain a lot from paying attention to the lyrics.   If you do a  search for the phrase “the meaning and interpretation of the band Ghost”, you’ll get some thought-provoking hits.  In response to a question about the lyrics “I was carried on a wolf’s back / Here to corrupt humanity / I will pummel it with opulence / With corpulence and greed / In god you trust” (“Mummy Dust”), one person pointed out:

Thomas Aquinas (Dominican Priest in the 13th century) described the son of greed (avarice) as “Mammon being carried up from Hell by a wolf, coming to inflame the human heart with Greed”  (Reddit)

Other commentators described how “mummy dust” is a term akin to “snake oil”, something of illusory value, and relate the idea to the entire enterprise of Catholicism, or the stock market.  I prefer the simpler, deconstructed explanation in the Reddit blurb above– it’s about cash money.  Make it rain at the belly dancing club, and sniff up all that mummy dust, because those nice linens aren’t coming with you to the next life.

I was quite impressed with the erudition of my fellow Ghost fans.  I myself don’t have any such insights into the meaning of Ghost lyrics to add, though I will interpret one theme.  Like Huntress, Ghost released a “trilogy” of sorts.  Both bands released the second installment of their respective trilogies in 2013 and third in 2015.  I would refer you to a 2013 interview with Pitchfork:

Pitchfork: How does the new album connect to the last one? Can you discuss the title and the other Latin phrases?

Papa: The first album was about an impending doom, whereas the new album is about the presence of the Devil. The title, Infestissumam, means “the biggest threat” and refers literally to the arrival of the Antichrist, but what it is also is about is what man has traditionally regarded as diabolical presence– namely female form and swagger.

Pitchfork: You say that the first record is kind of building up to the Antichrist in a way and then the new record is the Antichrist or Satan in the every day. Is that the idea?

NG: Yes. That’s basically what I’m talking about. Everything on the first record was about a coming darkness, an impending doom. Whereas the new record is about something present, and literally, the new record deals with the presence of the Anti-Christ, the Devil. But subliminally, the meaning of it is more how mankind– predominantly men– what they have deemed to be the presence of the Devil, throughout history and even nowadays. And that’s why the record is so fueled with sexual themes and females. That’s basically it, the Inquisition was basically men accusing women of being the Devil just because they had a hard-on for them. That was basically that.

http://pitchfork.com/features/show-no-mercy/9107-ghost-bc/

So there you have it.  On their second album, Ghost references the Goddess through the lens of scared Christian hordes who would vilify Her as the Anti-Christ.  We could argue that someone like the lead singer of Huntress, on the other hand– with her long legs and sharp claws– very well is that Goddess.  In that capacity, Ghost ushers out the old with hymns of reminiscence, while Huntress heralds a new way of seeing things.  Huntress is a band embedding passion, ancient wisdom and beauty into musical notes like never before.  Mainlining raw punk energy and idealism, they are utterly in the present; the obverse of the Popestars’ nostalgia.

If you take the Anti-Christ in Ghost as a representation of anima/yin/feminine power, then the Jill-Janus-as-Rockstar entity is that figurative Anti-Christ.  On the other hand, if you take the Goddess as a supernatural entity, well, one might still argue that Jill is the literal embodiment of that entity.

Admittedly there are other perspectives.  I do believe that certain key members of the Decibel and maybe Terrorizer camp (representing an entire metalhead demographic) are in love with bands that are genuinely Satanic in a more traditional sense.  Maybe that’s why The Devil’s Blood were held in higher esteem by those publications than the pagan Blood Ceremony.  Since both bands are amazing, I used to assume that a seemingly nonsensical bias like that could only be  explained by some personal connection between artist and journalist that would disqualify any claim to objectivity.  But a couple years later, and after the whole Ghost hysteria, I think it is something different.  I think it really is about ideas. That would also go a long way towards explaining the obsession with the most musically-irredeemable strains of black metal.  After all, that “we are completely fucked” is not a totally unreasonable conclusion to arrive at– maybe some people really believe that anything human or sentimental at all is a distraction from the task at hand.    [EDIT, 10/4/16.  I re-wrote this paragraph after the brilliance of The Devil’s Blood revealed itself to me one very late night.  I had previously marginalized the band.  See upcoming post “I Am An Idiot”, and also “The Dialectical Process”.]

I don’t know if there are members of Ghost who visualize themselves as reciting invocations to some actual otherworldly entity.  What is an otherworldly entity?  What does the word “is” even mean?    Are prayers to an absent deity sometimes intercepted by other entities?  Old Ones, new ones?  Do our thoughts and external reality form a feedback loop that defies explanation by Newtonian physics?  And is there a separate world beyond the sevenfold veil of color that our human eyes are attuned to?

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That’s a discussion for another day.  What matters is that there isn’t a label on the album that says “Satan Music”.  The fact of the matter is that I really don’t know what is held in the hearts of the performers, and that may be the point.  Ghost tip-toes around invocations of both the juvenile and the frighteningly real variety.  In the meantime, by way of legerdemain and raw skill, they entertain us with the “good” (and societally-approved) kind of devil worship:  the worship of individuality and freedom.

 

#12 The Occult Cauldron Boils

We live in a secular world.  The official religion of our country offers nothing but insult added to injury, its adherents most often found worshiping hollow idols and names (like the very word “christian” which is bandied about like a clothing label).

If you truly are christian, don’t go and name yourself that, for the love of Jesus. It is not any man’s place to name himself after the God.  Naming your cat or dog after a member of the pantheon is okay though.

But seriously, sometimes it seems that metal picks on Christianity a little too much. After all, what is the greater evil today, Fundamentalism or unfettered Capitalism? Blind adherence to the latter is frankly more certain to lead our world to a slow, strangulated death as inexorable as the horrific conclusion to Phil Mucci’s Heavy Metal Magazine -inspired video for Torche’s “Annihilation Affair”.

It is reasonable to ask, why is metal so obsessed with religion?
I am not sure I would say metal is a religion, but it is very much about religion– be that religion a flawed masterpiece like Christianity, or dogmatic atheism, or paganism, or just the religion of the open road.  Also, religion serves as a very effective stand-in for politics:  unless you are a punk or hardcore band, or Rage Against The Machine, The Clash, or maybe All Shall Perish, talking about politics in music is usually anathema, i.e. mad cheesy.

That there is more than one sort of religion that can be celebrated or reviled by way of rock should offer hints as to why some bands might appeal to me and not to you and vice versa. In other words, music is not purely entertainment; there is substance and culture embedded in it.  No wonder we get so violent about our opinions.

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Heck, I was totally unaware of this controversy when it was happening, but the lead singer of Liturgy was nearly lynched by black metal metalherds after he dared to mention philosophy in relation to music (Pitchfork).  Seriously, are we are talking about a scene that is beyond stupid and utterly dysfunctional, or am I missing something?

One bright Saturday morning, last winter, I sat with my coffee and my phone (which I use as a Dictaphone during the week).  Meliora by Ghost was booming in my mancave, and I wondered:  are there other people out there who go through this, who try to actually write seriously about hard rock and metal?

Magazine writers and MetalSucks “reporters” seem content to organize interviews and haphazard little paragraphs called reviews.  But what seems to be missing is an instructor– not a dry academic, nor an iconoclast, but a guide down the deeper paths– pathways that are deep but also known and mapped (unlike the iconoclast’s hermetic chambers).  Pathways that are nonetheless all too often forgotten by each new generation and sub-generation.  My parents smoked weed with me as we blasted Zeppelin, and taught me the shot-to-bong-hit ratio.  But not everyone is so fortunate.

“Music critic” might be a vapid concept, right?  But some contemporary bands represent ideas that warrant some exploration, so I want do my part as a music historian and a spiritual technician and explore those ideas.

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Well let’s get on with it.  The message of Ghost’s Meliora, at its most basic, unadorned level, is twofold (I realize that the band’s oeuvre contains social commentary on organized religion, but it is my theory that the specific religious critiques can be deconstructed as window dressing).  On the one hand there is the essentially Zen statement that to find joy or achieve spiritual absolution you must release yourself, to surrender (abandonment- which might be extended to reckless abandon) and accept yourself as you are.  This message, whenever adequately conveyed, is a genuinely beautiful thing.  For the act of surrendering to the inevitable is a liberating act, but it is just that– an act– which is to say it is a one-time event occurring in the temporal plane and which must be repeated continuously for as long as we breathe.  This is why religious arts are forever relevant– just as philosophical works facilitate the unending work of (the world’s) self-reflection, this kind of art facilitates our unending work of losing ourselves, of accepting the Universe as it is, a standard third eye chakra mantra.  The message of Meliora, anyway, is that you can forgive yourself– and when someone absolves you of your sins, it is a powerful thing.

The other message of Meliora— at the surface level– is really only the flipside of the first message, which is an advisement to appreciate the things and people in your life that matter while you still can.  The message is pure, mainlined nostalgia.  I love rock & roll, and I am starting to love Ghost (even though sometimes the lyrics do shock me, as in “Deus in Absentia”).  Quite simply, this is rock & roll that does its job– to foster a sentimental heart.  Now I understand that everyone will have their own messages, but this is the one that I find most salient.  This form of rock often rises above metal qua metal in meaning and importance, if for no other reason than its rarity.  Not many bands can tug on my heartstrings in other words, at least not for the runtime of a whole album.

As I sit down to write today, in my mind are not only the sentimental ghouls of Ghost, but a few forces of metal and rock that are highly resistant to any form of deconstruction.  The last year or so, I have been influenced by Jill Janus, Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, Maynard James Keenan (once again), and– during my New Years Day stoning– a surprise guest in the form of Zach de la Rocha whose verse on Run the Jewels’ “Close Your Eyes” hit hard on my most recent listen– and reminded me that both El-P’s crew and de la Rocha and are still forces to be reckoned with.  Especially as a result of the younger stars above, I am inspired to seek out the thoughts ancillary to certain artists’ actual bodies of work.

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Back in the day, when I lived life too fully to be distracted by “extraneous” material, I avoided such things.  But I now realize that I probably missed out on a lot of mystical wisdom by not reading the lore on myth-creation provided by artists like Marilyn Manson, and I realize that this sort of extracurricular activity is not extraneous, but integral:  a dichotomy which I will return to.

In fact, “ancillary” is the correct word here.  I just looked up the word, because I thought maybe I was misapprehending its proper application, and indeed, in some ways I was.  I have often used the word “ancillary” as if it simply meant “associated” and implied a contingent relationship.  But the word implies an absolutely essential relationship.  More on that next.

 

#11 The Dialectical Process

The fourth song on Puscifer’s Money $hot album is called “Simultaneous”, and contains a mysterious character whose monologue concludes with the words “We will never know world peace, until three people can simultaneously look each other straight in the eye.”  At genius.com, a site that seems to have an active community of Tool and Maynard James Keenan fans, an interpretation has been posited of a mandate that mankind must collectively open its third eye if it would survive and flourish (click on the relevant lyrics at genius to see the annotations people have added).  I agree with that as an acceptable interpretation (another commentator says the phrase simply means peace is impossible.  That interpretation warrants consideration, but nonetheless reminds me of the people who will insist, until the day they die, that the entirety of the album Ænima is about butts).  I interpret the words in “Simultaneous” as a virtually explicit endorsement of dialectical logic.  One scholar tries to shed light on the dialectic as a form of logic:

What makes dialectical thinking so difficult to explain is that it can only be seen in practice. It is not a “method” or a set of principles, like Aristotle’s, which can be simply stated and then applied to whatever subject-matter one chooses.

Hegel for Beginners, by Llyod Spencer and Andrzej Krauze, Published by Icon Books

(I’m going to cite internet sources specifically because that is the only way most people will have a chance to look at them.)  And:

Reading Hegel gives one a sense that the movement of thought will coincide with a vision of harmony that awaits us at the end of the whole process. Every serious reader of Hegel can bear witness to the intoxication of such moments.

Id.  The interpretation of “Simultaneous” is bolstered by a comment Keenan made to Rolling Stone, where he comments on the state of the world generally:

I feel like any problems that are coming up nowadays can easily be navigated with logic, a sense of responsibility and coming from a position where maybe you’re wrong — “What did I do to provoke this? What can I do to make this better?”

As a young mystic I was greatly influenced by both the writings of G.W.F. Hegel and the fractal meanings of M. J. Keenan’s music, so I want to say right at the get-go that I believe very much in the value of dialectical thought.  What does this mean in practice?  Well, as the first quote above says, knowledge is a process, just as philosophers often say philosophy is more like a verb than a noun– it is something “you do”, not something “you have.”  I bring this up because I have changed my views on many thing over the course of my life, and in some cases I have only fully understood the truth of something because at one prior point I possessed an entirely opposite belief.  This is a long way of saying that I wish for you, my dear reader, to not feel insulted if I criticize or marginalize some art or music you enjoy.  I have been wrong many times in my life and will be again, all to my eventual advantage and wisdom (for example, I owe the world a post on the narco-doom scene, e.g. Electric Wizard and Uncle Acid, to make amends for my previous inability to fully revel in their brilliance).

I will summarize with a quote from a University of Chicago media scholar (forgive my inclusion of the triadic synthesis as an effort to make more overt the connection to the Puscifer quote above):

Roughly speaking, Hegel’s dialectic involves the reconciliation of ostensible paradoxes to arrive at absolute truth. The general formulation of Hegel’s dialectic is a three-step process comprising the movement from thesis to antithesis to synthesis. One begins with a static, clearly delineated concept (or thesis), then moves to its opposite (or antithesis), which represents any contradictions derived from a consideration of the rigidly defined thesis. The thesis and antithesis are yoked and resolved to form the embracing resolution, or synthesis.

 Kim O’Connor (2003).  The triadic synthesis is clinched in the song “Simultaneous” when the exchange with the mysterious character is described thusly: “Every third inquiry was met with, you know, an eloquent but unusual response, and, you know, the subsequent exchange, it kinda warranted continuing the conversation“.  I will quote O’Connor again:

Succinctly put, the dialectic “actualizes itself by alienating itself, and restores its self-unity by recognizing this alienation as nothing other than its own free expression or manifestation” (Bottomore 122). This formula is infinitely renewable; Hegel contended it would only terminate upon the world’s end. Each time synthesis is achieved it “generate[s] new internal contradictions, and then a further resolution” (Macey 96). It is also teleological because “each later stage of dialectic contains all the earlier stages, as it were in solution; none of them is wholly superceded, but is given its proper place as a moment in the whole” (Russell 731). The infinite character of the dialectic reflects Hegel’s notion of holistic truth and his optimistic belief in progress.

Dialectic permeated Hegel’s philosophy, but his dialectical model of subjectivity as the interpenetration between subject and object probably holds the most relevance for us today. In The Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel described subjectivity as “a being-for-self which is for itself only through another” (115). In other words, I can never define myself purely in relation to myself; it is through my interaction with the external world that I become aware of my self-consciousness. The subject only exists through its relationship with others: “Self-consciousness exists in and for itself when, and by the fact that, it so exists for another; that is, it exists only in being acknowledged” (111).

Id. (cites in original text).  Relevant to this music blog is a subsequent paragraph in which O’Connor draws the dialectic into relation with media studies:

Generally speaking, dialectic can be a useful way to conceptualize subject/object relationships in any number of contexts, particularly artistic contexts. Dialectic allows us to break down the bifurcated model of spectator/artwork so that, for example, it becomes possible for both the reader and writer to create meaning in a poem, and for an abstract painting to reveal something intrinsic to both artwork and beholder.

Id.  A long time ago raver kids realized that a “concert” or party was more fun if the DJ reacted to the crowd instead of the crowd simply reacting to the DJ.  And we have all heard the argument that lyrical interpretation is best handled by the individual listener, not just the artist.

This subject/object dichotomy is not just a handy way to explain and ground the collective creation of meaning, but for some us, a virtual key to explaining how the universe exists in the first place.  But you do not need to follow me all the way down that rabbit hole.  In order to appreciate my subsequent posts, I only ask you to concentrate on how myth and meaning is created “socially”, and specifically, how it pertains to music (even if you are a diehard anti-social iconoclast, you still need to acknowledge that your thoughts are usually subject to grammar and syntax, and language is “social” even if you are sitting alone in a closet; finally, music is a “language”).

g86qe

I don’t care whether you are dead set on believing the world is inert matter, or whether you think the Earth is suspended on the back of a giant tortoise who glides over a sea of phlogiston.  Indeed, that is the strength of the dialectical method– it is the enemy of crude dogmatism.