I was recently thinking about compiling a list of the Top Ten Most Satanic Songs for this space, but could only really determine the one that would be in the number 1spot. Then it occurred to me that I use the image of Satan, the Devil, in two distinct ways and that I have never clarified what the fuck I’m talking about. Here and now shalt that mistake be corrected.
The Devil is, of course, a Christian character. Christianity, as we all know, has a rather warped sense of morality, some of which it inherited from Judaism and some of which it developed all by itself. The image of the Devil, goat legs, horns, general ugliness, came from Pan, the Greek god of the wild, embodiment of the animal nature of humanity, a piping, dancing, nymph-fucking id. Christianity vilified Pan because he represented all of the physical urges, the joys of the body, relegating the god-given and natural desires of the flesh to the same degree of evil as the actual sins which Jesus actually spoke against. Gradually, the “sins” of the body, which are external, became more “sinful” than the sins of the mind/spirit which are harder to point out in other people. Having sex somehow became worse than being greedy, which, taken to its most grotesque extreme, yields the Westboro Baptist Church, a group of utterly hateful and loathsome assholes who use a couple of verses from the Old Testament, taken deliberately out of context, to justify becoming exactly the people that Jesus was most violently angry with: the money-changers in the temple.
In October ’02, when the Beltway snipers were shooting people up in Northern Virginia, I was working in a restaurant. There was this squatty, bald mental midget who came in every morning to clean the place, one of those fervent born-agains who wears T-shirts that say things like “1 CROSS + 3 NAILS = 4GIVEN”. He was yammering at me about the snipers one morning and said something like “I know the good Lord says forgive, but the flesh is weak and I think they oughta hang those guys when they catch ‘em”. Apparently, he thought that Matthew 26:40-43 was a ready-made excuse for just not trying to do what Jesus said to do, a ridiculous and all-too-common misreading of what is, in my opinion, one of the most important passages in the New Testament. Later, he sexually assaulted a waitress.
That aside aside, I’m not really trying to go the direction of critiquing Christianity’s inanities. What I’m after here is an explanation of what the Devil means to The Big Drum In The Sky Religion. For that, I should turn away from Christianity to paganism, which is somewhat iffy since “paganism” is a big, jumbled mess of different beliefs, so why don’t I just drop that and say what I mean without trying to link it to anything.
Greed, deceit, selfishness, malice, bigotry and cruelty are fucking wrong. Enjoying the pleasures of the flesh is not fucking wrong. Cheating on your girlfriend is wrong because of the deceit involved, not because of the sex involved. Dancing around a bonfire in the middle of the night, whacked out of your skull on peyote and Night Train, naked and sweaty, participating in a filthy orgy and singing praises to the Morning Star is not sinful. Being rich, which means having more than you need while others have less than they need, is sinful. Being gay, okay; hating gay, no way. Is this making sense?
One of the points that I make here and everywhere, over and over, is that myth and religion are about living a genuine life. Every person is born with a purpose, a defining and vital driving force, and the goal of living is to find that whatever it is and live it. Jesus’ purpose was bridging the divide between people and God, which meant death by crucifixion. The Devil who appeared to Jesus in the wilderness (Mark 4, Luke 4) was trying to convince Jesus to do anything other than fulfill His purpose. Prince Gautama was similarly tested by Mara. Parcival encountered numerous obstacles in quest of the Holy Graal. Arjuna experienced paralyzing doubt at Kurukshetra. In all these examples, and many, many others, the hero holds to his purpose despite doubt, doing what he is supposed to do, even when it means death. That’s what it means to live a genuine life. The Devil in these stories appears as “the Prince of Lies”, telling the hero that he should forgo his particular purpose in favor of security, wealth, power, a normal life. An example would be a person who wants to major in modern dance, but goes for the business degree instead because s/he wants to make a good living. If your heart says “modern dance”, anything else is wrong.
When my daughter was born, I experienced a moment of temptation. I thought “I’m a father now. I have to stop messing around with art and music and get a real job.” Because I was familiar with myth, I was able to recognize that thought for what it was and respond appropriately: “Get thee behind me, Satan”. Art and music are what I am supposed to do. I have always known that. I have never been able to really imagine anything else. I paint houses and do restaurant work to make a living, and I do enjoy those jobs, but my real calling is art and music. Actually, I should say that my real calling is learning about myth and religion and spreading what I’ve learned. Art and music are the methods I’ve been given. And writing. I don’t enjoy writing the same way I enjoy art and music, but I use it because it allows me to express ideas that I can’t express in those other forms. Eventually, I’ll get around to using movies as well.
Of course, raising my daughter is more important than any of that, but I’m teaching her by example. I must follow my own gods-given path in order to teach her to follow hers. She is the future; I am the past. She is the one who is coming, whose shoelaces I am unfit to tie.
Figuring out what one was made to be and then becoming that is the great task of life. It is terribly difficult and means constant struggle. The Prince of Lies never stops placing obstacles in the path. All are called to this course, but few even begin.
I woke up from a dream this morning, a drinking dream. I don’t have them often, but I do still have them. I couldn’t remember this one very well, but I know I was drinking and drugging. Drinking dreams are the only nightmares I have anymore and they always freak me out. It took me a while after waking to calm down. For those who can enjoy drugs and alcohol without losing themselves, there is no sin in drugs and alcohol. I am an alcoholic/addict. If I drink or take drugs, I lose myself; I become a voracious consumer of drugs and alcohol, a hungry ghost, incapable of pursuing my path. That is death, spiritual death, immediately, physical death soon enough. If you can take drugs or drink without losing yourself, no problem, no sin. I don’t have a romantic/sexual partner right now, but if I did we wouldn’t be married in the eyes of any church and we would certainly engage in sexual practices not approved by the Bible. Occasionally enjoying anal or oral sex with a willing partner doesn’t cause me to lose myself or deviate from my own path, no sin.
So, according to the Christian, Sleep’s Dopesmoker is of the Devil because it’s a slow, sludgy glorification of marijuana that rips off Black Sabbath. Cool. I love Dopesmoker. Dopesmoker makes me laugh. Dopesmoker does not make me want to smoke dope. I would call Dopesmoker “Satanic” because it’s big, dumb metal, but I do not mean that Dopesmoker, in itself, leads anyone from their own path. Makes sense? Devil-horn-hands, pentagrams, goat-heads, deviant sex, drugs, rock’n’roll, those things are all “of the Devil” in a way that any pagan would say is perfectly fine and dandy. Lying, stealing (in most cases), rape, corporate malfeasance, &c. are “of the Devil” in a way that any pagan would call truly evil, because they cause harm to self and others.
The confusion comes from being pagan in a society dominated by Christians.
I hope this clears it up. When I say things like “Stalagh’s Projekt Misanthopia is fucking Satanic”, I mean it’s really, really fucking cool. When I say “Monsanto is fucking Satanic”, I mean it’s an evil corporation that profits from deceiving and harming people. The word “Satanic” can be good or bad. I generally assume that a person of reasonable intelligence can tell what I intend by the context.
I describe songs as “Satanic” according to a vague and poorly defined sense of je ne sais quoi – they just seem that way. The riff matters, obviously. The message of the lyrics, though relevant, has less to do with it than the impact of the music. “Sympathy For The Devil” is clearly Satanic. “Bohemian Rhapsody” is Satanic as a motherfucker. “Sister Ray”, Satanic. “Telstar”, “Lola”, “Fox On The Run”, “Land Down Under” and “Bloody Hammer” are Satanic as Hell. Conversely, “Back On The Chain Gang”, “Come And Get It” and “Radar Love”, though awesome, are not Satanic. “Rebel Rouser”, “Come On, Eileen”, “Don’t Fear The Reaper” and “Stuck In The Middle With You” are almost-but-not-quite Satanic.
So. That said, the single most Satanic song in the history of rock is Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit In The Sky”.
Brown Hat the Espresso Shaman
The pun is always intended.