The passing of a musician today brought back to mind an important thing about music. You might listen to music superficially, but that doesn’t mean the Music is superficial.
Many esoteric ideas, even secrets, are hidden from the masses under the guise of nonsense, or frightening, imagery.
Take Blue Oyster Cult, for instance. The name of the band tells you that they are a “Cult” and that should frighten off plenty of people. Think of the best known BOC song, and you probably think of “Don’t Fear The Reaper” which appears to be a song honoring Death, The Reaper. It’s a love song. Really. Blue Oyster Cult was known early on for songs like “Career of Evil.” So, they must be an evil, certainly not spiritual, band…right?
I learned at an early age that I couldn’t go to the bookstores in my local town and get esoteric or deeply mystical spiritual books. I had two places to turn to get such knowledge: Within and Music.
It didn’t take long for me to learn that BOC was the “thinking person’s hard rock band” and that their posturing of “evil” were actually more literary references and esoteric information, not the least of which was alchemy.
Today though, I was thinking about Allen Lanier from BOC and his passing. A friend reminded me that one of my favorite, seemingly superficial, BOC songs was written by Allen. It was one of his favorite songs too. It appears, on the surface, to be a love song. The title of it should be a clue to anyone paying attention. The song is “In Thee.” It’s as Rumi as you can get. Lyrics even make allusions to Rumi and Sufi beliefs:
Blue Oyster Cult
( – A. Lanier – )
Once we breathed the breath Of sweet surrender
Pure, pure Arab air filled our Atmosphere
But pride it makes stars of us all
Until we fall
For everyone to see.
Well, I’ll wrap myself in cities I travel
I’ll wrap myself in dreams
I’ll wrap myself in solitude
But I wish I could wrap myself
IN THEE. It’s about as straightforward a call to the Divine Embrace as any Rumi poem. The trick to listening so you can mine the secret treasures Music holds is to really listen. I teach students that the first thing to do is consider whether something might be a love song to the Divine, or a secret song about the Divine, rather than about a person, place or thing. The deeper hidden meanings are often there and found in this way.
I had to learn early that this doesn’t mean that the artists or writers of such Music are always conscious of it. Music can be an unconscious, subconscious or seemingly “channeled” act. Often, musicians will tell you, songs reveal things that their writers did not realize at the time. Given that Music tends to pull the deeper out from within us, it shouldn’t be surprising that the sacred is often hidden under the surface of differently-appearing lyrics or titles. People who embrace the magical, the mystical, the spiritual, or the deeper aspects of Music, hear things casual listeners never will.
A Sufi friend of mine once said, “I love Blue Oyster Cult. ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’ is so…SUFI!”
Later songs from Blue Oyster Cult continue the tradition of mixing alchemical titles and symbolism with deep thought:
Blue Oyster Cult
( – Donald Roeser – Jim Carroll – )
Do you know Jacques Cousteau when they said on the radio
That he hears bells in random order, deep beneath the perfect water?
Love! That is frightening, but still so inviting.
To drown inside a sound that lay so far underground.And to think… And to think:
This is perfect water, passing over me.
To flow inside the spiral tide;
To drown my eyes like a blind ride.
And to cross the perils of black water – It waits for me like mother and daughter.
A life of perfect order! A strange and perfect water!
Or From BOC’s Stone of Love:
There is a voice without a sound
Whose wisdom speaks in foolish rhyme
There is a choice that I have found
Between the fear and safer time
The choice is but a stone
Stone of love
Anyone versed in esoteric symbolism understands much deeper intent in the term “stone” of course.
So today, thinking of Allen Lanier’s passing, I have to say, “Thank you for the tears and the spiritual insights, as well as the intelligent laughs, hidden under the surface.”
May the True Atmosphere in Music envelope us all, as we learn not to be deceived by first impressions.
Rest In Peace Allen Lanier. Until next we meet, in some form or another. My bet is that next time, you won’t be the first person with a “grill.” No, you weren’t a saint anymore than most rock stars. But you let the Divine Love come through you, and who could ask for more than that?
Listen to “In Thee” by searching online…or get the album (please) Mirrors by Blue Oyster Cult which has the original (and still best version) of Lanier’s In Thee on it. As always, I strongly suggest you support the musicians who make the Music, however you can.
Thank You Allen.