Monday, December 14, 2015

Music 5 - The Door of the Occult

- This post and the next two will be substantially longer than my normal posts; I am sensitive to this but it must be done if I am to adequately walk you through my thought processes
- This post and the next two will include some disturbing statements and links; again, I am sensitive to this but I feel it necessary to be specific and even graphic in this section. Forewarned is forearmed.

          With the advent of rock and roll in American popular music everything changed. It is inarguable that the key element in rock is the beat. It is also inarguable that rock and its subgenres are the dominant form of music in Western civilization today. What is arguable is my proposition that there is a biblical, historical, and even contemporary link between evil spirits and rock music. In today's post I will attempt to trace for you the biblical principles that underlie my contention, and to give you an explanation or two of how this works in contemporary American music. In the following two posts I am going to substantiate my proposition with selections from a number of secular sources. The first will trace some more of the history of rock, and the second will uncover the educated opinion of a living rock and roll legend. Now that you have been properly warned let us proceed apace.

          Our God is the Most High God, but there are many other spiritual beings who are also worshipped. This is illustrated scripturally from one end of the Bible to the other. In the front we see the gods of Egypt and their battles with Jehovah – which they all soundly lost, of course. We see it as well in the various gods of the Canaanite nations Israel drove out, and in the constant temptation they thus endured as a result of their partial obedience. Indeed Scripture uses the word "gods" 215 times. We see it in the New Testament in the pagan religions of the Roman Empire as represented in Acts. We also see it in the calls to spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6, and in the prophecy of the anti-christ's insistence on being worshipped as a god during the Tribulation Period. Do not misread me. Christianity is a monotheistic religion but our monotheism does not deny the existence of other spiritual beings that desire worship. Quite the contrary, Christianity accounts for them specifically.

The Hindu goddess of death, Kali, on the side
 of the Empire State building, New York City, 2015
          In our generation these are primarily found in foreign cultures and strange cults. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. (II Corinthians 11.14-15) The best modern day example of this is Hinduism with its approximately 330 million gods and goddesses. 

The only real difference between Hinduism and the smaller modern day cults of East and West is in size and history. In the past year I've read a dozen books on various cults and false religions. They all begin exactly the same. A spirit being appears to someone. The spirit being informs the person they are being favored with truth no one else on earth has ever had. That person believes them and founds a religion established on the specifics of that extra-biblical revelation.

When someone – be they Muhammad, Joseph Smith, L. Ron Hubbard, or anyone else – says a spirit being appeared to them and told them something there are only three possibilities. First, that person is flat out crazy. Nothing appeared to them beyond their own hallucinations. Second, that person is simply lying. Out of a desire for power, money, or sex that person invented the scenario out of whole cloth. Third, that person is telling the truth. (In none of the three cases do you want that person founding your religion but that is a different subject).

In my research I have found that most often the person is largely telling the truth. A spirit being did appear to them, and did convey to them a message or messages. The great problem however is that this spirit being is not of God but of Satan. What they saw was some devil, some demon, appearing to them in the guise of an angel of light.

I am not a charismatic by any means but the charismatics do not have a corner on the veracity of spiritual warfare. Mark Twain said the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he did not exist. This lets him move the levers of power without being recognized by the mass of the world's population. On the other hand, a mature Christian has learned to see his nefarious hand. He and his minions are constantly at work, and often times in direct ways that are not that difficult for the discerning Christian to understand.

In the Scriptures we see a connection between such false gods, devils, demons, or evil spirits – whatever you choose to call them – and music. There are two classic examples of this, one negative and the other positive. The negative is David's use of instrumental harp music to drive away Saul's evil spirit in I Samuel 16. In this case the evil spirit could not abide David's music and fled. It is worth noting that harp music is almost exclusively a smooth, flowing kind of music. You can find harpists covering rock songs on Youtube but even these flow rather rock. Recently, while strolling through a local hospital I came across a harpist playing in a corridor. Such music is calm. It flows. On the other hand I have never come across a death metal band playing in a hospital corridor. There is no peace, no rest in such music.

On the opposite side we find the story of Aaron and the worship of the false god symbolized in the golden calf in Exodus 32. And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp. And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear. And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.

Say what you will, but long before Joshua and Moses were close enough to distinguish individual lyrics this loud music had struck them as angry, aggressive, and violent. In other words, their initial reaction to the music that accompanied the worship of a demon was to pigeonhole it as the noise of war. Neither you nor I have ever yet nor ever will hear a harp played and come to the same conclusion. Contextually, the music that accompanied demonic worship in the Bible was loud and violent.     

Not only do we see this connection between music and evil spirits in the Scripture we see it the modern day as well. Two Finnish men, Riku and Tunna, decided several years ago to backpack around the world and film the different cultural experiences they found. The resulting travel show is known as Madventures. Unlike most documentaries these delve into the practices of the darkest corners of the Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and South America. These are not in any way staged. They are completely authentic.

Amongst other things, Riku and Tunna sample the local voodoo ceremonies, filming their encounters with shamans and witchdoctors of all types. Watching these videos is extremely uncomfortable, and I do not recommend it at all for young people. Yet as in this one, for example, we see some stubborn and highly unpleasant facts displayed. The music that accompanies voodoo ceremonies is essentially a beat focused rhythmic percussion. What does this rhythmic percussion invite or produce? Possession by or at least contact with evil spirits.

As I will discuss more next week the purpose of voodoo is to serve as a meeting place between the spirit world and this world, yet voodoo is not alone in this. We find roughly similar aspects in indigenous cultures (those largely unmarked by Christianity) all around the world. West Africa has voodoo but North America has native American spirit worship such as is personified by this Lakota spirit dancer. A blind man could spot the similarities – a beat focused rhythmic percussion and contact with gods that we as Christians understand to be evil spirits. You can find the same thing in the holdovers of the Aztec religion dances still observable today in its spiritually bastardized union with the Roman Catholic Virgin of Guadalupe. Ethnomusicologists and sociologists have traced similar patterns in widely divergent cultures, not just in the receding mists of ancient history, but down to our own day.

          All that I have given you today is scriptural and factual. So is this statement and one that applies directly to the subject at hand – rock music has been highly influenced by this type of beat heavy evil spirit connected music. David Byrne, member of the group Talking Heads and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and winner of both a Grammy and an Oscar, said in Rolling Stone magazine in 1989 that voodoo sounds "are a big part of where our popular music comes from… rock 'n roll comes from those traditions." Little Richard, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame whose career spans all the way back to the birth of the genre said "My true belief about Rock 'n' Roll – and there have been a lot of phrases attributed to me over the years – is this: I believe this kind of music is demonic. I have seen the rock groups and the punk-rock people in this country. And some of their lyrics is demonic. They talk against God. A lot of the beats in music today are taken from voodoo, from the voodoo drums. If you study music in rhythms, like I have, you'll see that is true." 

          The connection between intense rhythm and an opening of your mind to the spirit world is not accidental. It is in a very real sense predictable. If it was not the ceremonies involving its use would not have persisted for millennia. Science even has a name for it – entrainment. The human body has some natural rhythm to it i.e. the heartbeat, pulse, brainwaves, etc. Scientists have discovered that with the right combination of external rhythms they can actually change the internal rhythms of the human body. The result of this in the mind is a trance like state called entrainment. (Not coincidentally, the Madventures clip linked above includes explicit use of the word "trance." Indeed, this word is found all over native and eastern religions.)

          Rock musicians have known this for years. They call it "the groove." King Britt of the Grammy winning group Digable Planets in reviewing a rock album said, " 'Power' is intense… it was total voodoo, a groove that continually builds and turns into a total trance." Mickey Hart, for decades lead drummer with the Grateful Dead, has progressed beyond being a simple musician to being a musicologist in his own right. In his 1998 book Drumming on the Edge of Magic he discusses his passionate pursuit of percussion, rhythm, and drumming all around the world. He traveled to South America, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Europe in search of drums and drumming techniques. He probably owns more drums than any other single human being. In between his travels, studies, and decades of experience with the Grateful Dead he knows more about drumming than any other living human being. In his book, which I will quote from extensively in another post he said, "Drumming is made for trance and for ecstatic states. The basis of percussion is redundancy and redundancy is the basis of trance."

          Drum circles are yet another Westernized example of a native American tradition. Several people sit in a circle or semi-circle and play percussion instruments in order to reach what they term a mind-spirit unity through rhythm. Barb Wilson in an article for Complete Health magazine in 2004 entitled "Can't Beat Drumming" said, "Over the years, drumming in various drum circles... I have become more and more entranced with the experience. A composer living outside Toronto, Ontario, started teaching Afro-Latin drumming to small women's groups. Most expressed the feeling that drumming took them somewhere that other musical activities did not. One class member summed up why the drumming is so appealing to her. 'It's mesmerizing.' "

          Mickey Hart went on to explain, "The backbeat is one kind of drum groove; it's the essential one for rock and roll. I had heard of the phenomenon of rhythmic entrainment that rock and jazz musicians call the groove. I had even fleetingly experienced it, but Billy [former Grateful Dead drummer] taught me to trust in it, to let it draw me in like a tractor beam." Joshua Leeds, a pioneer in the new field of psychoacoustics says in his 2001 book The Power of Sound that the even cadence of rap lyrics and the steady percussion of drums "facilitates trance." Which is probably why Mickey Hart said, "Everywhere you look on the planet people are using drums to alter consciousness."

          A youtube video entitled "Drumming Meditation (Message From Mother Earth)" seeks to illustrate this concept explicitly. Apparently, according to the comments below it works. One viewer said, "Nice drum! I play my djembe to attain theta levels. When I am focused enough, I can feel what I can only describe as an Om bubble form around me and reach out to the Earth. It is very healing, and is often my form of meditation. ? It is also one way I connect with my animal spirit guides. Thanks for posting this video. I would love to come out there and connect with the land and ancestors...they call to me, but until then, thanks for providing me with the visual place to go! Blessings."

          Nor is this connection limited to obscure youtube videos and fringe religions. Some of the largest current rock stars on the planet give clear evidence of this in widely watched performances. Beyonce, watched in just one performance by over 100 million people during the 2013 Super Bowl, openly admits she is possessed of a spirit during her performances. This short summation of the last few national Grammy broadcasts with Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, and Madonna is downright chilling in this respect. I do not necessarily agree with everything proposed in these videos but the facts contained in them are stubborn indeed.

         There is a longstanding, deep, present, and growing connection between worship of what the Scripture defines as false gods, devils, demons, or evil spirits and a drum heavy rhythm soaked dance inducing type of music all around the world. Does this make the use of drums wrong? No, for their use is found in the Bible in a limited way. But it does make me leery of a style of music that is primarily composed of a heavy beat, has its roots in the worship of evil spirits, and has its musicians still studying and evidencing this.

          I am not interested in my music opening up the door of the occult in my mind. Are you?    

Monday, December 7, 2015

Music 4 - Everything Changed

With today's post we come to the hardest section of this series to write. It is my considerate belief that the vast majority of the world's music today is demonic in origin and affect. In effect, it is opening doors to the occult world in the minds of its purveyors and consumers. For the next month or so I am going to lay before you the case for that belief.

This section is difficult to write for several reasons. First, I have to force my own mind back through all the accumulated evidence I have piled up in order to support this contention. It is a mental and emotional exercise for me that is similar physically to wading through an open sewer. Additionally, I expect as a result of what I write to experience an elevated level of pushback. I anticipate a dump truck load of criticism, insult, complaint, and just plain disagreement to land on my head in the process. Many even of my own friends and church members will not agree with me. But as I said to my wife a moment ago what I am going to say over the next month or so needs to be said and I have determined to say it. So here we go…

A funny thing happened in Western civilization sixty years ago – music changed dramatically. Previous to 1955 popular music had a smoothness to it even if that smoothness increasingly had a swing in it. Historically that musical flow was tied to the Western concept of music generically known in our day as the classical style. But even the increasing inroads of ragtime, jazz, and big band or swing music had more flow than rock to them. The charts previous to 1955 were ruled largely by crooners such as Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennet, and Frank Sinatra. While such music did not die in 1955 it was in for a rude surprise. To mix metaphors, it would soon be forced to play second fiddle in the orchestra of American popular opinion.

There is a vigorous historical debate over which song, which producer, andbill-haley-rock-around-1 which artist can lay claim to the first rock and roll song. I have read several entire books or sections of books in relation to this. What is inarguable is that the first chart topping rock song was Bill Haley and the Comets 1955 "Rock Around the Clock." Like a dam that had been gradually weakening and leaking for years and then suddenly bursts that song exploded on the American music scene and the new genre it represented swept everything else before it. What had been a smooth albeit swinging popular music became a beat dominated rhythm oriented beast practically unrecognizable from its humbler forebearers of jazz, boogie woogie, rhythm and blues, and country.

The speed and depth of this change is astonishing. What Bill Haley introduced and Elvis Presley popularized and the Beatles metastasized became in fifteen short years the mindless pulsating sheer noise of Black Sabbath's heavy metal. Certainly the American youth movement and culture of the post WWII generation contributed to this as did the rise of radio. But however you define and describe its birth the end result was a new music form related to its fathers but actively distinct from anything that came before it – rock.

Western music had for centuries been composed of three elements: melody, harmony, and rhythm. In fact, music cannot exist without rhythm of some sort for without it there would be no organized structure. I grasped this first as a small boy growing up in a house with four older sisters who all played the piano. My oldest sister became somewhat advanced on the classical side and I can still picture her metronome ticking away at faster and faster speeds as she practiced hour upon hour in our dining room. Even the stately religious hymns of yesteryear have rhythm as evidenced by the various time signatures at the beginning. Not only has Western music had elements of rhythm in it for as long as we have record but it is also factual that rhythm is mentioned in the Word of God, and in a positive context to boot. Praise him with the timbrel and dance. (Psalm 150.4) The timbrel is a small hand drum essentially rather like the tambourine of our day.

I say that because I do not want to leave the impression in what comes next that I believe rhythm in music is wrong. I cannot and dare not for at least the reasons I have just cited. But although this is true it is also true that something dramatic and deep changed in the music of Western civilization in the 1950's. There developed an ever increasing emphasis on rhythm, and a driving beat that had never before been near as prominent in Alan_Freed_1957any form of popular music. Alan Freed, the Cleveland area disc jockey who did not coin but did first popularize the use of the term "rock and roll", would repeatedly shout into his microphone in those heady days of the 1950's, "Feel the beat!" while simultaneously pounding on a phone book. You can argue with me about the effect of that beat but you cannot argue that it rose up in the 1950's, that it took over everything, and that it is the single most recognizable fact about rock music. Charles T. Brown says in his 1992 book, The Art of Rock and Roll, "Perhaps the most important defining quality of rock and roll is the beat… Rock and roll is different from other music primarily because of the beat." Frank Garlock explains it this way in his 1998 book Music in the Balance, "In order to know what rock is, we must understand the specific characteristics that make it unique. First and most important is the beat. The rhythm in rock is the dominant part of the sound." Alan Freed's biographer John A Jackson agreed titling his 1991 book about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame disc jockey, Big Beat Heat.

Rock music as represented by one sub-genre or another is the most dominant form of music in Western culture and has been for the past sixty years. Indeed, Malcolm Downey asserted in his 1978 book Summer in the City that rock music was "not simply another branch of popular culture. It has shown itself to be perhaps the most significant art form to emerge this century." The only thing I would change about that quote would be to remove the word "perhaps." It is the soundtrack that fills our lives. It backs the majority of television commercials. It is played in almost every restaurant, store, dealership, and waiting room in the country. It is played on the majority of radio stations and streaming internet channels. Talent shows and television specials top-heavy with rock routinely top the Nielsen television ratings. The Pentecostal preacher David Wilkerson said it well in 1985's Set the Trumpet to Thy Mouth, "Rock music is the biggest mass addiction in the world's history."

For centuries Western music flowed. Now for a few decades it has rocked, pounding its rhythms straight into the conscious ears and subconscious minds of billions of people. Music is an emotional language. What has this language been saying? What has this language been telling us?

For the next few weeks I intend to give you the answer whether you like it or not. And if I am right then the ramifications of that answer will ripple through the breadth and depth of your life, your children's lives, and your church's life. Alternatively, you are welcome to assert that I am wrong, but as you whistle past the graveyard of the music in your life know this: the ramifications likewise are just as huge and ignoring that particularly unpleasant fact will not make the fact go away.

Everything changed. Are you going to let it change you?