Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Angelic Rebellion of a Modern-Day Gnostic


[* I am re-posting this slightly revised piece in honor of Rolling Stone's wisdom in naming Jimi Hendrix "Best Guitarist in History". Congratulations, Jimi, on the honor you most assuredly deserve. But I must strongly disagree with their choice for #2; it should have been Jimmy Page, not Eric Clapton, or such is my opinion. And for those with eyes to see and ears to hear, Hendrix's music and message is just as relevant today, if not more-so, than it was when it was first written over 40 years ago. So, wherever you are Jimi, thanks for everything and Godspeed.]


     "I had heard the music of the Gnostics in all sorts of unexpected places. I had heard
     strains in Romantic poetry, I had heard it in Rimbaud, I had heard it in the music of 
     Debussy. I felt the presence of a 'golden string' which I followed through the occult
     philosophies of the Renaissance, and among the Cathars of the twelfth century -- I
     had seen it in the visionary paintings and engravings of William Blake, in the music
     and sayings of John Lennon, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix -- so many scattered
     sounds and voices resonating through the centuries. Searching for Gnosis was like
     searching for myself. I knew this melody from somewhere far away."

                                                                           From the Introduction to, The Gnostics
                                                                           By ~ Tobias Churton

The 1960's saw the rise to prominence of two popular musicians, both of whom can be identified as being part of the Gnostic stream -- among others, of course -- whether as neo-troubadours or as Gnostic visionaries. In searching to the heart of the poetic life, these men (though not by any means alone) uncovered and expressed classical Gnostic archetypes. Insofar as their vision coincided with the yearnings of a new generation, they became leaders and, in the sense of the Hebrew term nabu (one who overflows), prophets. This was often to their dislike -- no true prophet desires this appalling mantle. Their ecstasies and despairs became a light for a lost generation, a generation drowning amid the welter of new money and materialistic grasping that they intuitively sensed aimed to overwhelm them with false promises of a better life.

These men were young. Their names were John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix. Their lyrics and music continue to exercise a great fascination on the minds of musicians and listeners across Europe and America. I could fill the following paragraphs with quotations from the works and interviews of these men to justify their place in this story. But I am convinced that those who know will know and those who do not may seek for themselves.......

John Lennon's interest in spirituality and, in later life, the Gnostics, whom he regarded as the true Christians, is now well known, if rarely reported.......

[ In his brilliantly funny surrealistic collection, Skywriting by Word of Mouth (published in 1968), he wrote a chapter entitled The Mysterious Smell of Roses:

     "It's the same with the Christians (so called). They're so busy condemning themselves
     and others, or preaching at people, or worse, still killing for Christ. None of them 
     understanding, or trying in the least, to behave like a Christ. It seems to me that the
     only true Christians were (are?) the Gnostics, who believed in self-knowledge, i.e.,
     becoming Christ themselves, reaching the Christ within. The Light is the Truth. All
     any of us are trying to do is precisely that: Turn on the Light. All the better to see
     you with, my dear."

                                                                                       From, The Gnostics, pg. 162 ]

Dave Henderson's droll book about Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970), 'Scuse Me Wile I Kiss the Sky (1978), revealed the depths of Hendrix's spirituality. It is the signal quality that prevents so many other guitar virtuosos from equaling or surpassing his musical achievements. His intuitive Gnosis, reinforced by a number of spiritually minded friends and contacts, led him to a sense of his own visionary role:

     "We're in our little cement beehives in this society. People let a lot of old-time laws
     rule them. The establishment has set up the Ten Commandments for us saying don't,
     don't, don't. Once you say "don't" you've made two points against yourself.

     Then all of a sudden kids come along with a different set of brain cells and the
     establishment doesn't know what to do. The walls are crumbling and the establishment
     doesn't want to let go. We're trying to save the kids, to create a buffer zone between
     young and old. Our music is shock therapy to help them realize a little more of what
     their goals should be.

     The soul must rule, not money or drugs. If you can do your own thing, just do it
     properly. A guy can dig ditches and enjoy it. You should rule yourself and give
     God a chance..... Definitely I'm trying to change the world. I'd love to..... My goal
     is to erase all boundaries from the world.

     We're making our music into electric church music -- a new kind of Bible, not like
     in a hotel, but a Bible you carry in your hearts, one that will give you a physical 
     feeling. We try to make our music so loose and hard-hitting so that it hits your soul
     hard enough to make it open. Rock is like a young dragon until the establishment
     gets a hold of it and turns it into a cabaret act with the patent-leather shoes and the
     patent-leather hair."

Jimi Hendrix's "establishment" clearly fulfills the exact psychological role of the Gnostic archons, the grim rulers who are afraid of the bright-light spirit of free humans. Hendrix, above all the rock giants, was an intuitive, relying very little on learned or book culture. His rebellion has something almost angelic about it:

     "There's no telling how many lives your spirit will go through -- die and be reborn. Like
     my mind will be back in the days when I was a flying horse. Before I can remember
     anything, I can remember music and stars and planets. I could go to sleep and write
     fifteen symphonies. I had a very strange feeling that I was here for something and
     I was going to get a chance to be heard. I got the guitar together 'cause that's all
     I had. I used to be really lonely.

     A musician, if he's a messenger, is like a child who hasn't been handled too many
     times by man, hasn't had too many fingerprints across his brain. That's why music is
     so much heavier than anything you've ever felt."

Hendrix, like his predecessor the poet Blake, felt that everyone ought to be able to hear the spiritual voice, but the little flashes were constantly switched off by negativity -- a negativity encouraged by the fraudulent and dominating materialism he discerned all around him. He looked to the cosmos for fraternity. At moments like that, he would become almost prophetic, as during an interview with the poet Jim Brodey for the Los Angeles Free Press, wherein he declared he was trying to move "toward a spiritual level through music":

     "There really are other people in the solar system you know, and they have the same
     feelings too, not necessarily bad feelings, but, see, it upsets their way of living for
     instance, and they are a whole lot heavier than we are. And it's no war game because
     they all keep their place. But like the solar system is going through a change soon
     and it's going to affect the earth in about thirty years, you know.

     There's no whole lot of religions. Just one link because there's only a few chosen
     people that are supposedly to get this across; the chosen people, in the process, are
     now being distracted and they are drowning themselves...... In order to properly save
     them, they've got to take a break from people."

Hendrix was talking about himself. He did not favor violence:

     "Like someone is going to have to go back to his childhood and think about what
     they really felt, what they really wanted before the fingerprints of their fathers and
     mothers got ahold of them, or before the smudges of school and progress...... Most
     of them are sheep. Which isn't a bad idea. This is the truth, isn't it? That's why we
     have the form of Black Panthers and some sheep under the Ku Klux Klan. They are
     all sheep and in the beginning they were following a certain path."

Hendrix believed that the solution to our problems lay in getting back to a consciousness of our spiritual origins.

Thus spoke the "wild man of pop" who lived so long ago.

From ~ Gnostic Philosophy: From Ancient Persia to Modern Times, pgs. 398-401
By ~ Tobias Churton 


"It's not as though you're hearing a man playing a guitar with his hands; you feel as though you're hearing a man's soul, period, not even attached to an instrument."

~ Lenny Kravitz speaking about Hendrix ~

Message to Love  
By ~ Jimi Hendrix (Band of Gypsys)

I travel at the speed of a reborn man.
I got a lot of Love to give
from the mirrors in my hand.

I've got a message of Love, don't you run away.
Look in your heart, baby, come on along with me, today.

Well I am what I am, Thank God.
Some people just don't understand.
Well help them God!
Find yourself first,
and then your tool.
Find yourself first,
don't you be no fool.

Here come's a woman wrapped up in chains.
Messin' with that fool, baby,
your life is pain.
If you wanna be free, come on along with me.
Don't mess with the Man,
he'll never understand.
I said, find yourself first,
and then your talent.
Work hard in your mind,
and then come alive.
You better prove to the Man
you're as strong as him,
'cause in the eyes of God,
you're both children to him.

Everybody come alive.
Everybody live alive.
Everybody love alive.
Everybody hear my message.

Power to Love (Power of Soul)
By ~ Jimi Hendrix (Band of Gypsys)

Shoot down some of those airplanes you've been driving,
especially the ones that fly too low.
Shoot down some of those airplanes you've been driving,
especially the ones that fly you too low.
Come on back down to Earth, my friend,
come on back'up with me.
We've all been through the nite time, babe,
now let's reap the waves of reality.

With the power of soul, anything is possible.
With the power of soul, anything is possible.

Playing too much with one toy
tends to lead into the foggy.
It's so groovy to float around sometimes,
even a jellyfish will tell you that.
I said, floatation is groovy and easy,
even a jellyfish will agree to that.
Yeah, but old jelly's been floatin' so long and so slack,
Lord, ain't no kinda bone in his jelly back.
Floatin' every day and every night is a risk,
sometimes the wind ain't right.

Machine Gun 
By ~ Jimi Hendrix (Band of Gypsys)

Machine gun,
tearin' my body all apart.

Machine gun,
tearin' my body all apart.

Evil man make me kill you.
Evil man make you kill me.
Evil man make me kill you,
even though we're only families apart

Well, I pick up my axe and fight like a father, now.
(You know what I mean)
Hey, and your bullets keep knockin' me down.

Hey, I pick up my axe and fight like a father, now.
Yeah, and you still blast me down to the ground.

The same way you shoot me down, baby,
you'll be goin' just the same,
three times the pain,
and your own self to blame.
Hey, machine gun.

I ain't afraid of your mess no more, babe.
I ain't afraid no more.
After a while, your cheap talk don't even cause me pain.
So let your bullets fly like rain.

'Cause I know all the time you're wrong, baby,
and you'll be goin' just the same.
Yeah, machine gun.
Tearin' my family apart.
Yeah, tearin' my family apart.

(My apologies for the above video having 3 min. cut off at the end, but it's the only live footage of this song and this performance that I could find. I had a full length version with better sound and visual quality in my original post, but, like the 2 videos above this one, "someone" made the user remove them from YouTube and I had to replace them.)

Hey Baby (New Rising Sun) / In From the Storm 
By ~ Jimi Hendrix

Hey, baby, where are you comin' from?
Well, she looked at me and smiled, and looked into space,
and said, "I'm comin' from the land of the New Rising Sun."

Then I said, "Hey, baby, where you tryin' to go to?"
Then she says, "I'm gonna spin and spread around peace of mind,
and a whole lotta love to you and you.

Hey girl, I'd like to come along!
Yes, I'd like to come along!
"Would you like to come along?", she asked me.
Yes, take me along right now!
Hey, baby, can I step into your world for a while?
"Yes, you can", she said,
"come on back with me for a while,
we're gonna go across the Jupiter sand
and see all your people one by one.
We gotta help the people out, right now,
that's what I'm doin' here, what I'm all about.

Hey! Yeah! May I come along?
May I come along?
May I come along?
Please take me!

In From the Storm 

Well I, I just came back today.....
I just came back from the storm.
I said, I just came back, baby,
I just came back from the storm.
Yeah, from the storm.
Well, I didn't know it then,
but I was sufferin'
for my love to keep me warm.
It was so cold and lonely, baby,
The wind and cryin' blue rain were tearin' me up.
Oh, tearin' me up.
I wanna thank you, pretty baby,
for diggin' in the grave and pickin' me up.
Thank you so much!

It was a terrible rain that was burnin' my eyes'
It was you, my love, who brought me in.
I love you so much,
I'll never stray from you again.

I just came back, baby,
I just came back to get my baby on her way.