- 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
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.
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."