Sunday, July 22, 2007

Your Mother's Cookin' Sturgeon, Your Sister's Still a Virgin

Excuse me?

That line is from one of the greatest albums in rock history -- great in the sense that it is so exquisitely bad. Specifically, it is from Sonny Bono's 1967 magnum dopus, Inner Views.

(Read on if you haven't heard this one before. It is an on oldie from about 16 months ago. In fact, if you also want to read the comments, here's the original post. Bear in mind that I realize I am playing fast and loose with official dogma -- just dreaming out loud, as it were.)

You see, after the Beatles released Revolver in 1966, followed by Sgt. Pepper in 1967, they redefined rock music as a serious art form (not as serious as they thought, but that's another story). Up to that time, rock had mainly been a singles medium, and albums were basically marketing tools to sell them. Most albums had a couple of hit singles surrounded by a bunch of unlistenable dreck.

But the Beatles raised the aesthetic bar, so that by 1967 every rock "artist" thought they needed to produce their own Sgt. Pepper. Furthermore, to a man, they all thought themselves capable of doing so. As a result, this era produced some of the most unintentionally hilarious music, as there were only a handful of artists capable of being.... well, artists.

It's a funny thing about language. One would think that it would be easy to write surreal, nonsense poetry capturing the psychedelic experience, as did John Lennon:

Semolina pilchard, climbing up the eiffel tower.
Elementary penguin singing hari krishna,
Man, you should have seen them kicking Edgar Allan Poe.

Or, to not beat around the bong,

Turn off your mind, relax
and float down stream
It is not dying
It is not dying

Lay down all thought
Surrender to the void
It is shining
It is shining

That you may see
The meaning of within
It is being
It is being....

Or play the game
existence to the end
Of the beginning
Of the beginning
Of the beginning....

Sound advice. But here's Sonny's attempt at profundity:

Backwards forwards which is right
Black is day and white is night
Smell the air it's real up tight

Yeah, I know that smell. Really, really up tight air. Or how about this wigged-out insight:

I wonder why we want to fly
The closer we get to the sky
The less we see with the naked eye
The world looks like a little ball
And people don't exist at all
Oh wow!

Oh wow. He should stick to skiing.

In fact, come to think if it, it's pretty basic -- take the drugs before you sit down at the piano, not before you strap on the skis.

Anyway. I've really digressed here. Like Sonny, I wanted to say something about the Virgin and about language. The decisive role of the Virgin Mary in the Christian spiritual economy is such a... pregnant mystery. It is full of implicit, unsaturated meaning. Remember yesterday, I mentioned that scripture and tradition provide the immobile axes around which we may "reason" about divine things. The Virgin -- which is a way of approaching and thinking about the divine feminine -- is a case in point.

It is interesting that, although there is very little mention of Mary in the New Testament, she found a way to eventually earn the exalted designation of Theokotos, or "Mother of God", in Orthodoxy, or "co-redemptress" by the Catholic Church. Is this just because of the unavoidable sexual polarity we all have as a result of having had a mother and father? In other words, is this notion simply conjured up out of our deepest unconscious infantile recollections? Esotericism would hold the opposite: that our parents -- both mother and father -- are divine deputies that actually partake of spiritual archetypes that are anterior to any personal existence.

One thing the great rabbis noticed is that scripture is like a fractal jewel with all of its parts internally related and reflecting back and forth, so that one part may illuminate another in surprising ways. Take, for example, the parallels between Genesis and the Gospels, how the former presage the latter and the latter are a commentary on the former. The primordial catastrophe of man is said to have involved God, a man, a woman, a serpent, and a tree. Ontologically, man was said to be a creation of God, woman a creation of man. Let's just ignore political correctness for the moment and try to understand what is being suggested here in the text. Apparently man's proper orientation is to God, as planet around sun, while woman has a lunar aspect analogous to moon around planet (and remember, we all carry the male and female archetypes within -- we are talking spirit here, not just biology or even psychology).

The "fall" reverses this arrow (or turns the tree upside-down), so that the woman is oriented to the earth: she is seduced by the serpent (the symbol of earthbound horizontality), the man is seduced by the woman, and now man's consciousness ultimately hews to the earth below rather than revolving around the transcendent sun above.

It is sometimes suggested that Jesus was the "second Adam," brought here on a mission to undo what the first naughty Adam had done, which was to orient himself around the earth (the horizontal below, or maya) rather than sun (the vertical above). Then, finding the daughters of men quite fair indeed -- who could blame them? -- the sons of God dived right in, and the fall was complete. We were hooked. And cooked. Just like a... a sturgeon or something.

Just as Jesus and Adam are linked as antitypes, so too are Eve and the Virgin. Interestingly, Adam is a direct creation of God, while Jesus, the "second Adam," is conceived through the medium of Mary, the "second Eve." Now we have a very different arrow of creation: instead of God-->Adam-->Eve, we have God-->Mary-->Jesus. The first Eve is seduced by the honeyed words of the serpent, while the second Eve hears and obeys the Word of God and gives birth to the son of God. As death entered the world through the first Eve, Life enters through the second -- death is reversed and victory over the serpent is achieved.

It is interesting that maya in Eastern religions is considered a specifically feminine activity, and that the word maya is etymologically linked to the Sanskrit root mata, which means both mother and the phenomenal world of nature. Nature and maya are associated with fascination and charm, specifically, feminine charm. And yet, nature is at the same time considered a theophany. In other words, it both conceals and reveals God, depending on one's point of view.

In the Old Testament, the divine feminine is specifically associated with Sophia, or Wisdom. In the Book of Proverbs, there are numerous passages that emphasize this: "Surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you." "My son, if you receive my words / And treasure my commands within you / So that you incline your ear to wisdom / And apply your heart to understanding / [Then you will] find knowledge of God." "Happy is the man who finds wisdom / For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver.... / She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her." "Exalt her, and she will promote you.... / She will place on your head an ornament of grace."

Even more provocatively, this feminine wisdom has been "From the beginning... when there were no depths I was brought forth... / While as yet He had not made the earth or the fields / Or the primeval dust of the world / When He prepared the heavens, I was there / When He drew a circle on the face of the deep..., when He marked out the foundations of the earth / Then I was beside Him, Rejoicing always before him...."

There are many similar passages exalting the beauty of Sophia, the divine feminine. So who is the Virgin? Mary's receptivity to the divine wisdom allowed her to give birth to the Word in womb of her soul. If God became man so that man might become God, Mary-Sophia had first to conceive the word so that the nonlocal word might become flesh in a particular space and time. To be able to realize this mystery within oneself, one must be like the Virgin, and become a pure and humble receptacle for the "immaculate conception."

In the prologue of the Coonifesto I touch on the idea that we are all "conceived in d'light immaculate," and that "every lila son of adwaita (pronounced "a-doy-ta," meaning ultimate truth) is born of a voidgin." In other words, our higher selves are not born of the flesh, but are immaculately conceived by hearing the Word within the purified void of the soul, and then given birth out of the mamamatrix of Spirit.

Or, as Sonny Bono sang,

Your daddy's getting nosey
Your mother's cookin' sturgeon
Your sister's still a virgin
Pretty soon that'll disappear
Good morning sun
A new frontier
Much to my acute surprise
Sunday morning has still survived

Oh wow!


Hmm, what's my favorite slice of dreamy pop psychedelia? Probably the previously unreleased suite from the abandoned Smile project on the latter half of disc 2 of the Beach Boys box set. Pop music probably hasn't advanced beyond that. Other contenders: Odessey and Oracle by the Zombies, Roger the Engineer by the Yardbirds, Younger Than Yesterday and The Notorious Byrd Brothers by the Byrds, pretty much the whole Rascals Anthology, Odessa by the Bee Gees, Forever Changes by Love, and Begin Again by Millennium. Then there is the excellent four-disc overview of the whole era of garage rock and suburban psychedelia that, for better or worse, shaped the Gagdad soul, Nuggets. Sometime I crank it up and play along with the Strat when Mrs. G is out of the house. 'Scuse me while I kiss the sky!


Sawdust said...

Bob, I for one enjoy the older posts. In fact, that is mostly what I've been doing for a couple of weeks now. Every teacher needs a vacation occasionally, but that is no reason we can't learn something on a particular day. A practice which, by the way, has been very helpful to me, and which I can heartily recommend to all, especially any like me, fairly new to the discussion.

After my remedial course, I can say that it definitely lifted a veil for me, or at least a few layers, though at present I can't explain just how.

There is a reference in one to the four types of man--Pneumatic, vital, man of action, and something else, I don't remember. I haven't yet run across exactly what you mean by each, need some help, or can you refer me to earlier posts which dealt with it?

Gagdad Bob said...

That ring's a bell, but I can't remember the exact post. You might try some key words in the search engine at the top left of the blog.

Anonymous said...

Duly noted. I'm afraid my lack of computer knowledge is showing again.

dilys said...

Here it is:
"Now, broadly speaking, there are four kinds of men: pneumatic man, intellectual man, emotional or vital man, and the man of action. And there is an appropriate practice for each--or raja, jnana, bhakti, and karma yogas, which any full-service religion will offer;" seemingly a riffing verse in Bob's hymn to Eternal Slack.

As to Sophia and the Old Testament, there was a hint at OC a few days ago by an anonymous commenter about Margaret Barker, far, far more explosive yet (o)rthodox than her mild scholarly style admits. See also.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't describe Margaret Barker as an esotericist but her few of the rise of Christianity certainly can provide interesting insights to those who are esoterically inclined.

Anonymous said...

I meant "view of the rise"

tsebring said...

It's true about the bands of the 60's; once Revolver and Sergeant Pepper came around, everyone just had to get on board the psycedelic Mushroom Express; The Stones, The Kinks, the Yardbirds, the Byrds, the Animals, etc.(there are of course those that would trace the orgins of psyechedelia back to Pet Sounds rather than Revolver).

Funny, funny bits from Sonny Bono's album. Reminds me of a girl I dated once; Annie Gotta Davida (just kidding, of course).

terry said...

Off Topic, but you guys may want to look at this short video clip.

Clever Racoon!

ximeze said...

Thanks Terry, that was great. Were not the paws, feeling around, wonderful? HeeHee

NoMo said...

Terry - Not off topic at all. I think raccoons are always on the lookout for some good carp. I know I am.

Anonymous said...

Incidentally, Brian Wilson took 37 whole years to finish SMILE, but he did finish it. You won't find it, however, shelved with the Beach Boys' stuff at your local Borders Books & Music; look in the W's, and if the store manager is appropriately anal-retentive, you'll find it there.

Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, I didn't care for the new recording. I keep hearing they're going to issue a box set of the original recordings, similar to the Pet Sounds Sessions. I sure wish they would.

nohaybanda said...

Impressive! A thought-provoking interpretation of biblical events, pyschedelic album recommendations, and a swipe at the unfailingly ridiculous (even in the manner of his death) Sonny Bono, rolled into one.

By the way, Bob, lately I've been hacking in and rolling back your site meter, as a joke. Don't worry, you're audience is actually bigger than Rush Limbaugh's.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Carp diem!

Darryl said...

In Proverbs 8 the Mazzotetic text it translates thusly: The Lord made me as the beginning of his way, the first of his works of old. This is referring of course to Sophia/Light...the Light which lighteth all men/Jesus....

I find this to be the best translation of that verse, ironicaly a Jewish translation that so clearly describes the place of Christ, better than the other translations for that verse, I think. It paralels St John's gospel ch. 1 first vs's. The same was in the beginning with God, all things were made by him...


Teri said...

I wouldn't consider any of those psychedelic. Try the first Country Joe and the Fish album, specifically Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine and Porpoise Mouth ;)

Jacob C. said...

Wasn't the name 'Country Joe and the Fish' supposed to be some kind of Marxist injoke?

TW: puzncat, meet joenfsh

Gagdad Bob said...

Well, I did specify "dreamy pop psychedelia" -- more in the sunshine pop vein.