Friday, May 20, 2022

Speaking Ill of the Dead (Archived for research)

If you are new to the Band, this post is an introduction and overview of the point of this blog. Shorter posts on the history and meaning of occult images have their own menu page above. All older posts are in the archive on the right. 

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It's been a while. This post isn't that long or complex, but it took forever. The last few occult posts have been looking at the psychedelic occult - the weird blend of three big factors: a) psychedelic drugs, music, and aesthetics, b) a fake, media-created world, and c) this dyscivic occult symbolism that improbably transformed Western pop culture. That's actually pretty heavy for a tiny list so plans evolved. The original idea was to jump into some occult counterculture imagery with a couple of connected posts, but the set-up turned out to be that list. More important and connected to issues that we see coming up in other posts. This post is specific - thought it would be quick - but it turns out that the whole "scene" around Kesey, the Dead, the Acid Tests, etc. has a ton of rabbit holes and a load of really interesting reading. A lot of reaching, but also a lot actually going on behind the scenes. We'll end with a close look at a song...

Victor Bregeda, Pipe Dreams, oil on canvas

The general part was taking the time to look into how American popular culture transformed into a delusion bubble of media, marketing, and debt. This is the context.

Let's recap the main observations that have come up so the terms aren't confusing, then get specific. 

The first couple of posts defined the field - why the meaning of "occult" depends on your larger belief system and how the occult connected with psychedelics through psychology. Basically how the secular materialism of modern culture redefined the occult as "superstition" and therefore Safe!. Then we broke down some mystical idiocy around drug use and how it slipped into pop culture through fake non-conformist "anti-heroes". The power of the fake reality as a whole needed a closer look - it seems like a spell, which is a perfect example of the secularized occult. "Culture" transformed into an empty materialist illusion imposed from outside and acted out to impress others. And since the whole thing was fake, it was easily inverted, with the psychedelic nonsense and anti-heroes as drug-fueled Pied Pipers to a generation disconnected from reality. And underneath it all is the inversion and destruction of the American nation.
The last post started getting specific by using the Acid Tests of the mid-60s as a point of departure to look into some details. With the general posts done, we can link back to them for background, focus on one thing, and keep the sprawl under control. 

We started with the obvious - how something that objectively lame became so influential, and countered fake media world with some traditional Western wisdom. The Pied Piper is the story of a colorful musical outsider who beguiles the children away. Replace his magic with the psychedelic experience and you've got the fake media anti-hero version of this archetypal pattern. There is a rhetorical power in music that can be indistinguishable from enchantment. That's where this post is heading after we recap come terms. 

Pipe Dreams Art Print

Realists and Secular Transcendentalists are the two broad attitudes towards psychedelic experience. One treats it as an artificially-introduced biochemical process for various reasons. The other believes the chemical opens a path to "higher" truths. This is a very general pattern, since the meaning of higher truth depends on your metaphysical beliefs. We are lumping the inner consciousness revelation crowd in with the harder occult spirit vision types because they are hard to differentiate. Jung is a great example of slipping from the psychological to the supernatural. 

De-moralization refers to the removal of moral standards or values from a society, usually to replace it with something else. 

In this case, the replacement of a culture of morally-responsible individuals with high-trust Western Christian values in small homogeneous communities with atomized consumers in a materialist and preposterously unreal media culture. The empirically nonsensical "morality" of the civic nationalism. 

Rasha Mahdi, Media Control

Fake Media World is the imaginary reality created by television, movies, and other mass media, institutions, politics, marketing, etc. that people substitute for real life. It uses the unprecedented optimism, prosperity pf post-War America, to redirect morality towards "prestige" and/or stuff

This spreads through the West in different ways and is a major tool of globalist control. Fake media world gives everyone the same imaginary experiences, including "news" broadcasts that create the preferred narrative. It even tells you how to feel by selecting emotionally-triggering stories. But its all artificial and can change overnight. Fake media world is de-moralized

John Pettie, The Vigil, 1884, oil on canvas, Tate London

Inward and Outward-Driven Morality are general patterns in value systems. Inward-driven morality is motivated by internal drives and desires - the personal decision to align with the good. Values in an inwardly-directed community are more implicit and less contextual. If stealing is morally repellent, it doesn't matter if there's a camera. 

Ian Westbrook for 3D Creations Ltd., set design for Robinson Crusoe at Birmingham Hippodrome

Outward-driven moralities are imposed by the outside - what can't you get away with. There is overlap - what matters is how much public and private morality diverge.

Inversion is replacing something with it's opposite. It is a subset of replacement - de-moralization only becomes inversion if the old values are replaced with diametrically opposite ones. Which is usually the case. The Band wrote a post on the basics of inversion if you are interested. Glamouring away traditional inward-driven, conscience-based American values is de-moralization. Replacing them with their exact opposite - fake, externally-sourced, popularity-based media illusions - is inversion.

The values of fake media world are purely outward-driven - materialist consumerism in the never-ending pursuit of status, or the easy life, or some other cathode figment of the commercial break. This makes popularity a measure of worth - a virtue based entirely on superficial appearance in the eyes of others. See how morality inverts? Popularity in itself is amoral - it's just a descriptive quality. When society values truth, popularity is the consequence of doing or being something real. You're popular because you're good. In fake media world, you're good because you're popular. This gives us fake heroes whose only real quality is that people are told to like them for their media achievements.

Like the acid tests. 

Allen Turk, poster for the planned Acid Test Graduation Party at the Winterland Ballroom, featuring Ken Keasey and the Merry Pranksters and The Grateful Dead, October 31, 1966; The Grateful Dead, Quicksiver Messenger Service, and Mimi Farina at the California Hall Halloween (1966) Dance Of Death" Costume Ball
The big "graduation" was planned for the Winterland Ballroom, but rescheduled when the promoter got cold feet. The Dead played the Dance of Death Ball instead, with another psychedelic band, Quicksilver Messenger Service.

These were proto-raves masterminded by Ken Kesey - an author and acid pusher with CIA ties - and a group of counterculture personalities called the Merry Pranksters. From Infogalactic with our highlights:

Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters lived communally at Kesey's homes in California and Oregon, and are noted for the sociological significance of a lengthy road trip they took in the summer of 1964, traveling across the United States in a psychedelic painted school bus called Furthur or Further, organizing parties and giving out LSD. During this time they met many of the guiding lights of the mid-1960s cultural movement and presaged what are commonly thought of as hippies with odd behavior, tie-dyed and red, white and blue clothing, and renunciation of normal society, which they dubbed The Establishment. Tom Wolfe chronicled their early escapades in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test; Wolfe also documents a notorious 1966 trip on Further from Mexico through Houston, stopping to visit Kesey's friend, novelist Larry McMurtry. Kesey was in flight from a drug charge at the time. Notable members of the group include Kesey's best friend Ken Babbs, Carolyn "Mountain Girl" Garcia, Lee Quarnstrom, and Neal Cassady. Stewart Brand, Dorothy Fadiman, Paul Foster, Dale Kesey (his cousin), George Walker, the Warlocks (now known as the Grateful Dead), Del Close (then a lighting designer for the Grateful Dead), Wavy Gravy, Paul Krassner, and Kentucky Fab Five writers Ed McClanahan and Gurney Norman (who overlapped with Kesey and Babbs as creative writing graduate students at Stanford University) were associated with the group to varying degrees.

The narrative sold to the youth was that this was just an anarchic group of free spirits who came together on a chemical journey of chemical enlightenment. The colorful bus Further that they traveled around in reinforced this message with a harmless image of wacky fun. The bright color scheme recalls the gentle whimsy of kid's toys to put a safe veneer on an insidious and exploitative attack on reality. But the timing is odd.

Ken Kesey, Ken Babbs, The Merry Pranksters, Acid Tests Vol. 1, King Mob ‎Records, 1998

Release of original recordings of the Acid Tests. Note how the cover art adds visual effects like neon lights and blurry edges to make the bus look magically psychedelic. The designer had to add this to simulate an internal, chemically-induced hallucination because there was no actual magic there. Just drug-addled hedonism that looks way less appealing than the artist's embellishments. The message is pathetic on its own. Hence the need for music and cool visuals.

Consider the story that people just nodded along to. Kesey volunteered for LSD experiments as part of the infamous MK-ULTRA mind control experiments that officially ended in the 70s but likely didn't while an undergraduate at Stanford. This appears to have been his first encounter with LSD - Kesey was pretty straight-edged when he came to college, claiming never even to have been drunk. According to the story, his experience was transforming - not the mental control aspects, but the effects of the drug itself. Tripping woke him to the psychedelic occult expanded consciousness nonsense, so he stole acid from poorly guarded university stocks, shared it with his friends, and a counterculture was born.

Ken Kessey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, 1st edition, 1962, The Viking Press

But the timing leaves a lot out. That was in 1959. What's missing are the 5 years between that and the activities of the Merry Pranksters. During that time, Kesey wrote his seminal novel, but his precise activities aren't well known.

Then things picked up quickly:

The Pranksters took their first Further trip in 1964...

... the Acid Tests started in late 1965...

Trips Festival progam from January, 1966

... and expanded into the first Trips Festival in 1966.

It's not clear how the various characters in Kesey's orbit came together over this time, but many have similar vague connections to the CIA.

Acid guru and disgraced Harvard prof. Timothy Leary and Jack Kerouac muse and occasional Ginsberg boy-toy Neal Cassidy on the Further bus.

Timothy Leary is a sorry spectacle who appears to have been involved in CIA schemes before possibly winding up an MK victim himself. Beat darling Alan Ginsberg was another Stanford LSD volunteer in 1959 and likewise has CIA connections

There's a ton of smoke around the Dead as well, starting with singer-songwriter-guitarist Bob Weir and drummer Mickey Hart's long-running attendance at Bohemian Grove. 

Mountain Girl’s Acid Test graduation, 1966

Jerry Garcia's first wife, Carloyn "Mountain Girl" Adams had worked in the Stanford organic chemistry lab connected to LSD experiments and had a daughter with Kesey before leaving him for Garcia at an Acid Test. Her diploma recently fetched $24,255 at the "Heart of Rock and Roll Poster Auction".

The Dead started showing up at the Acid Tests near the beginning as both participants and an informal house band (click for interview with Jerry Garcia). They would also headline the first Trips Festival with Big Brother and the Holding Company the following year. The band was steeped in psychedelia and occult imagery from the beginning - their first name was actually the Warlocks - before picking a reference to benevolent spirits that aid the living.

Early Warlocks poster, the band at some point in 1965, and "the mystery band", the Grateful Dead, formerly the Warlocks on an early event by famed San Francisco promoter Bill Graham. Graham initially disliked the name change because he had to push a band that no one knew.

The name Grateful Dead is pure psychedelic occult. Here's Garcia with the story from an 1969 Michael Lydon interview for Rolling Stone:

Herb Greene, Jerry at the Wall, photograph; Jerry Garcia photograph

And what are the grateful dead?

The Legend of the Grateful Dead, early 16th century, repainted 18th century, fresco, Baar, Switzerland

According to bassist Phil Lesh it's "the soul of a dead person, or his angel, showing gratitude to someone who, as an act of charity, arranged their burial." This is an old story in European folklore with different forms that always involve some version of the dead aiding a living benefactor.

Which moves us into occult imagery. Here's Garcia in 1989, reflecting on the Acid Tests:

The Grateful Dead and the Merry Pranksters Cinema Theatre "Acid Test" 1966; The Grateful Dead / Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters Sound City Studios "Acid Test", 1966 (click for link)

The idea that chaos is a precondition to creation is an idea that is common among people who latch onto appealing truthiness without thinking it through. There are lots of examples where clearing away detritus is to needed make way for new growth, but the clearing isn't a creative act. Nor does it produce chaos. Removing necrotic tissue before patching a wound or shutting down a dysfunctional organization before setting up a replacement removes the impediment to something creative. It is the disposal of something inverted from its intended purpose - something "chaotic", in that it is opposite to its intended purpose or order. The creativity - whether the surgeon's or the manager' art - comes later, and tries to restore the cleared field to its original purposeful state.

The notion that chaos is conducive to insight is quite different

Think about this in a big picture sense - chaos is meaninglessness, and turns up in the material world as the product of entropy, dissolution, and decay. It lacks direction. 

Creativity is ordered, patterned activity. It involves multiple things in concert. It is the opposite of chaos. All forms of creation - are purposeful acts intended to bring about an outcome. This is obvious with people, but even a seed sprouting needs countless cellular processes working together in response to certain stimuli. 

So both natural and human creative processes are cumulative, ordered acts. They are the opposite of chaos. Artistic creation is complex order - mastering a medium, then using it to create messages that someone can understand. For a singer, songwriter, and guitarist like Garcia, this means a theoretical knowledge of music and the technical ability to perform. None of his influences - bluegrass, rock, folk, blues, jazz, country and western - emerge from chaos.

So what is the acid test formlessness?

There are two levels to consider:

1. What the Dead was actually doing as a tripped-out jam band

John Martin, Satan Presiding at the Infernal Council, 1824, engraving, Victoria and Albert Museum

2. What the inverted definition of chaos as a precondition of creativity actually means.

The Dead's brand of performance formlessness took different... forms. The Acid Tests and Trips Festivals involved conventional songs and toddler-like noise-making because band and audience were mingling in a big free-form acid party. The whole Prankster ideology was based on the notion that doing idiotic crap while on powerful hallucinogens somehow made it not idiotic. As if being on acid when you piss yourself is connecting your flow with the liquid energies of the cosmos. It's why they are look pathetic from the outside. But as the Dead evolved into a highly lucrative stadium act, "chaos" became part of the act.

Musically, the Dead can be classified as a "jam band" although this doesn't capture the whole picture. All this means is that a significance part of their performance includes free-form improvisation, where the players depart from the rehearsed songs and play spontaneously while reacting to each other. To the listener is is chaotic and often annoying, because there is no melody or structure other than what is going at the moment. 

The Dead live in 1981. The improvisations and formlessness are contained within a structured show, with synchronized lighting and pre-written songs. And the extended "jams" depart from a song before gradually forming into a new one and igniting the crowd. If their music appeals to you, it can be impressive to see them pull a song out of a chaotic soundscape. Even the tie-dye is a pattern.

See the deception - the Dead did play free form, but over countless performances developed into a very good band that can be almost intuitively fluid when motivated. Or as singer, song writer, guitarist, and Bohemian Grove member Bob Weir put it,

Bob Weir plays Stanford in 1986

Even the oddness builds off variations of musical structure, whether it's the little arpeggios in Garcia's distinctive lead guitar work, or Weir discussing learning to switch into unusual time signatures. Changing time signatures can be disjunctive, but it isn't formless or chaotic - it can't be. It may sound it, but it's based on musical time and responsive to cues. That is, external order. 

It's safe to say that the Dead's trippy experimentation in their stadium shows was very different from the Prankster-flailing-at-a-ukelele-and-babbling-nonsense formlessness of the Acid Tests. The Acid Test era set a reputation for the Dead that they capitalized on for the rest of their careers. So when Garcia is talking about formlessness and chaos, he isn't referring to the Dead in 1989. At that point, they had just had their first hit single, and were consistently among the top grossing acts world wide in concert revenues and merchandising.

Garcia was so formless that he kept his successful second career as a designer of men's fashion ties completely disconnected from anything to do with the Dead beyond his own name. A sensible move, but one that reveals a practical understanding of branding.

The formlessness of the Acid Tests is just basic psychedelic occult.The idea that order spontaneously forms out of chaos appears in a lot of mythologies, but the main path into the Western occult is Gnosticism. The basic Gnostic account is that Sophia - Wisdom and the "lowest" aspect of "God" - creates Chaos and then a Demiurge. The Demiurge somehow thinks itself alone, and creates the physical universe. Human souls are bits of the divine pleroma or spiritual "stuff" from Sophia trapped in material bodies of the Demiurge's creation and not Sophia's. This means that the material world is completely cut off from "God". Morally, the world is "evil" and the salvation of the soul means escaping the material prison and returning to the source.

Stairway to Heaven

The metaphysics are similar to Neoplatonism, but with a twist. Both claim that there is an ultimate reality beyond human comprehension that can only be reached mystically. Both claim that there is a path that leads you to the point where the mystical leap is possible.

But the Neoplatonists claimed that reality emanates from the One - the nous is an extension of ultimate reality, while the Demiurge is ignorant of it. Truth is the axis in Neoplatonism - material truths through higher abstract truths, towards the absolute Truth of the One. For gnostics the absolute Truth of Sophia is hidden behind the dead-end world of the Demiurge and her other creation - Chaos. You don't see the destructive, formless component in the Neoplatonic hierarchy of Truth. 

This is where retarded occult concepts of "balance" and "third ways" come from. The leap to ultimate reality isn't a refinement of truth beyond the point of comprehension. It's a "synthesis" of order and chaos that opens to a higher wisdom beyond both.

Now consider how many toxic, dyscivic ideologies have been based on some asinine theory of bringing together diametric opposites into self-detonating "truth" claims. Idiocy from Marxist dialectic to the luciferian more perfect orders. The problem for occultists is that creation and generation are inherently ordered, even when the outcomes are unpredictable. The only way "opposites" can merge without canceling is if there is a deeper structure beneath for both of them for them to come together on.

Opposites when defined one way, but they're both body parts. It is true that the creative process requires of freedom within structure, but these are human patterns of behavior. Formlessness does not contribute to creative freedom, it negates it. When the Dead improvised, they were still cuing off each other, and the song that they shift into is structure being reestablished. .

In real life, form and formless describe characteristics in a larger structure. One's relatively ordered, one relatively chaotic, and both are string. Free-forming playing is just a different kind of conscious creative act. It's still playing. Pure formlessness would be to cancel the show.

But if you want form and formlessness or order and chaos to be "fundamental" principles of this reality, there is no way to bring them together without a deeper structure beyond this reality for them to come together in. A concert venue for free-form and pre-written songs, or string to be stored in different ways. Since fundamental principles are the base level, any "venue" past them has to be beyond material reality. It has to be something supernatural.

Like some arbitrary "opposites" - male/female, sun/moon, nature/culture - opening an angelic serpent path to the absolute.

This is why "third way" enlightenment through opposites like Gnosticism are inherently occult. They want relative characteristics like order and chaos to be fundamental principles of the universe, so the synthesis has to take place "somewhere" else. Sophia/God is the higher truth beyond this world, and the soul - part of God, not the order or chaos of our reality - is how humans can put it together. In other words,

Was Garcia an occultist? It's difficult to say because he's made so few public statements and didn't write the lyrics for his songs.  But  we can say is that his career dispels the notion that formlessness or chaos and order are some kind of metaphysical building blocks. He was most likely a deep state tool, did a lot of acid before graduating to heroin, and played improvisational and pre-written music in a band.

This isn't "formless". It's colorful and chaotic but it isn't Chaos. There's a difference. It seems less likely that he was a true believer that someone who used fake mystical references to make his real message of self-indulgent hedonism sound like it has some substance. 

But who knows? His "philosophy" is demoralized and inverted, and his branding draws on popular occultist notions that are logically impossible and even self-contradictory. It doesn't matter what he "really believed" because that is unknowable and has no bearing on the dyscivic message being promoted under the mask of creative exploration.

And for the lost souls who used this to try and find meaning in their lives, what Jerry thought was irrelevant. Think about it...

Anyone care about the Pied Piper's philosophical leanings?

The Acid Test wasn't openly "Gnostic". There isn't really even a single gnostic doctrine. But it's the same moronic pattern where taking an arbitrary set of social conventions and refusing to abide by them are "opposites" that supposedly produce... something.

It looks like this:

It's so self-evidently stupid that even drug-addicted narcissists couldn't pitch it naked. That's where the psychedelic occult comes in. If the babbling degenerate is on acid, then their animalistic behavior is actually chemically enlightened. The drug is the path to gnosis and the gibberish just a side effect of the awakened higher consciousness inside the drugged brain. This is why we spent so much time explaining what an acid trip actually is. It's sort of ironic that the knowledge - "gnosis" - that an artificially-induced state is artificial blows this crap away like dust in a hurricane.

Lawrence Schiller, Me and My Shadow, photo from an Acid Test, 1966

The psychedelic occult in one photo. Do illustrations get more perfect than a clown mesmerized by his own shadow on a blank wall? Deep, man.

Let's consider some quotes from Garcia and a few others. Here's Garcia on his early acid experiences. The typeface is different because there are a lot of excerpts from a big interview, and it keeps the quotes together and distinct from the rest of the post.

Jerry Garcia blotter acid art

"When I was in junior high school, I saw a documentary showing a bunch of people who were taking LSD... I thought, “God, that looks like such fun!” That image stayed with me a long time and that notion that there is some magical substance that corresponds to the best of your dreams."

"In primitive cultures the state of the shaman is a desirable state. In our society, we somehow are trying to not have that. That’s a real problem. We need the visions. A lot of what we do is already metaphors for that — movies, television, all that stuff. We want to see other worlds."

The quote in the picture can be easily taken in a positive way. It seems different when you consider it in light of de-moralization, fake media world, and chemical gnosticism.

Mickey Hart, Superorganism signed poster; Mickey Hart, Jay Stevens, and Fredric Lieberman, Drumming at the Edge of Magic: A Journey into the Spirit of Percussion Paperback , Acid Test, 1998; Mickey Hart and Fredric Lieberman, Spirit into Sound: The Magic of Music, Grateful Dead Books, 2006; Stanley Mouse, Rhythm Devils Play River Music - The Apocalypse Now Sessions - featuring Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Airto, concert poster, 1980

"Music is one of the oldest versions of it. That’s [edit. Bohemian Grover] Mickey Hart’s shot: magic in music, the magic in the drums. The primitive power of the drums. I think that stuff is all still there. The problem is we’re not dealing with it consciously." 

Hart would be worth a closer look if this post hadn't taken forever already.

Grateful Dead, Hundred Year Hall, Grateful Dead Records, 1995

Most of a concert in Germany from the 1972 European tour. Note how the Dead took control of their output by publishing their own books and music. 

"In a sense, the Grateful Dead experience is that metaphor, too. It’s like “Here’s the ritual that we have been missing in our lives.” We don’t go to church anymore. We don’t have celebrations anymore. The magic has even been taken out of the Catholic Mass. English? Sorry, it doesn’t have that boom — it doesn’t have that scare."

"Which I think is the real substance of the Sixties. For me, the lame part of the Sixties was the political part, the social part. The real part was the spiritual part. 

What spirituality would that be?

We get similar ideas from famous acid chemist and one-time Grateful Dead sound man Owsley "Bear" Stanley: The Acid Test was supposed to “...expose you right down to your infinite detail, exposing you to forces of the universe that [Kesey and the Pranksters] didn’t thoroughly understand.”

Pay attention to the difference between the self-indulgent blather and what they are actually talking about.

Pages from Ken Kesey's Jail Journals, 1967, published in the Taschen Edition of Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

What's going on here may be poorly understood, but "forces of the universe" is a stretch. Unless we ask, what forces? 

Ted Streshinsky, Acid Test Graduation, Halloween, at the Merry Pranksters  San Francesco warehouse, 1966

According to Owsley, the occult was “part of that real other reality which you fall right into with things like the acid test … They had discovered on their own the secret rituals of the ancient witchcraft rites and alchemical rites of human history that had been lost, suppressed by the Christian church among other things.” 

There's that replacement for Christianity thing again. If the secret rituals involve a shirtless Kesey babbling on acid in a dirty warehouse full of hedonistic protoplasm, the "ancients" were best left forgotten.

The underlying pattern is familiar - creation out of chaos means that you tear down reality and remake it in your image. This is the inverse of the traditional notion of Western artistic creativity, where the artist aestheticizes truth to align with higher Beauty. Destroying logos to clear a canvas for your own subjectivity? That's downright luciferian! Except it isn't funny. And it really is structurally luciferian. Something to keep in mind.

Lawrence Schiller, Timothy Leary in San Francisco, 1966, photo

There's a lot here. One of the reasons that the CIA pushed Kesey and the acid scene was to create an apolitical alternative to the more politically-active counterculture coalescing around the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam war. Remember, the feds are Realists in our taxonomy.

Leary, Garcia, and all the rest could blather about chemical enlightenment to stoned hedonists, but the facilitators didn't buy any of it. It was just a good story to keep people self-centered and distracted.

Looking back, they were right.

The next couple of posts will test this structurally-gnostic interpretation by looking at some specific imagery from the era - the Dead live at the pyramids, just about anything to do with the Jefferson Airplane, some of the other names, and a lot of poster and promotional art.

For now we'll wrap up by meeting Robert Hunter, Garcia's career-long lyricist and musical collaborator from before the Warlocks. It's an interesting fact about Garcia that he never wrote the words to his songs - Hunter functioned as a sort of poet who wrote verses that Garcia's set to music. So to look at the lyrics of a Garcia song, we have to consider his partner.

Garcia and Hunter at their first studio recording at Stanford KZSU studio, 1962

Hunter started playing music with Garcia in 1961 and remained connected to him for the rest of his life. There were falling outs over the band's drug use, but the two were experimenting with new song-writing directions when Garcia died in 1995. Click for an informative interview.

In 1962, Hunter volunteered for psychedelic testing with the same MK-ULTRA-affiliated research program at Stanford as Kesey and Ginsburg. And like them, he claimed to have been captivated by the creative potential of the experience. But while he was closely connected enough to the Dead to be inducted with them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a non-performing member, he seems to have lost interest in the drug scene quite quickly. It was occult and esoteric interests that shaped the message behind the Dead's music.

Hunter wrote a scathing Ten Commandments of Rock & Roll reacting to his experiences in music industry and traveling with the Dead. Number 10 is interesting because it reads like a slap in the face to the whole psychedelic occult Acid Test scene. But note that there is no mention of the absurd Gnostic notion of creation through "opposites". 

Since we're trying to keep the occult posts under control length-wise, we'll end off with the best way to meet Hunter - through his lyrics, as set to music by Garcia and played by the Dead. Taking the lyrics on their own doesn't do justice to the experience of their live performance because the appeal of the Dead was the sensory experience. The lyrics hang in the background, almost subliminally, adding little pieces of "meaning" to the emotionally stimulating sounds, sights, drugs, and collective celebration.

The Dead in 1971
The Dead's magic is a variation on the theme we looked at in the last post - the pure abstract experience of the music entrances the audience while the lyrics deliver a message that is barely noticed. In this case, fans found the music infectious - a spell that drugs and the overall vibe of the event enhanced. 

Performance quality infamously varied like the set lists, but when they were on, they were an excellent band could approach sublimity - seamlessly flowing from extended instrumentals into improvised variations of songs from a vast catalog. 

And Garcia was the key - an unlikely front man with a reedy voice and a clean finger-picking style with and inexplicably haunting quality when on his game and not wacked out on heroin. This most likely comes from his musical foundation in roots Americana, and gave his songs their emotional pull. The words, however, were Hunter's.

"Uncle John's Band" is a Garcia Hunter song, and a great example of them at their best. We've linked to the studio version - click for a a very clear live one from 1989. It's better but longer.

Let's look at "Ripple" - one of Hunter and Garcia's best acoustic pieces, off arguably their best studio album, American Beauty. It's also the song Hunter played when he received his Lifetime Achievement Award from the Americana Music Association in 2013 and at his and Garcia's induction into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 2015.

If you are interested in the Dead, American Beauty and Workingman's Dead are the best intro to them as a studio band, but the studio album is completely different from the live experience. Very few people became Dead fans without having seen them play live. It wasn't snobbery - the live show was that different and better. 

"Ripple" gets you with the music - a bouncy melody with odd timing that reminds you of all kinds of traditional roots music without belonging to any one in particular. And while it's gentle, it's filled with little hooks and has a marching forward movement that makes it easy to move along with. The Dead doesn't work if Garcia hadn't been very good at his craft. 

Now look at Hunter's lyrics. He has a knack for verses that hint at deep meaning, but really don't come together into anything coherent. There's a nice flow to the words that fits with Garcia's playing - suggestive images floating by like the hooky embellishments, but nothing concrete:

The glowing words sound magical, but the verse makes no sense literally. The harp unstrung sounds like he's talking singing without accompaniment, then he asks if you'd hear him through the music. It seems like he's talking about a "music" that isn't instrumental - something supernatural or spiritual. Of course, the whole song starts with an "if".

Then the chorus makes it clear that we are in a supernatural place. 

The image of a mysterious ripple across a still pond is a great example of Hunter's craft.

This line would be another example of a free-floating idea that sounds nice by itself, but it calls to mind impressions that are different from what you get from the whole verse:

Back to the song:

Next comes the invitation - also suggestive of something deep, but not really telling you anything. Except that whatever "water" you are invited to drink from goes beyond the human. This can appeal to nature-worshipers and occult seekers alike because it's open-ended. 

Next a bit more clarity - it's a solitary journey down a supernatural highway. And where does it go?

That path between dark and light. The balance of opposites. The "third way". The same tiresome luciferian/gnostic nonsense that appeals to the vain and is catnip to secret kings. The message is specifically anti-Christian in that it is a spirituality that you achieve entirely through your journeying. There is truth to the value of moderation, but that's not really what the path between dark and light is referring to. It's more build your own god, or do what thou wilt. 

Except Hunter backs off from full power-seeking with a warning. This is a solitary journey - no one will help you including the songwriter. And it leads "home" - another word with no real meaning but has a comforting ring to it when it floats by. Probably best to just trip, nod sagely, and not think too much.

There is something familiar about being teased with a spiritual path through vaguely luciferian gnostic "balance" only to be warned off diving in head first. Remember, it's all an if - a hypothetical.

Why, that's the Lobster Pope's music!

There's the pattern. Fake media world has no connection to reality beyond the rough settings and characters it bends to a narrative. Everything else - the stories, consequences, rules, ideologies, values, etc. - are made up whole cloth and can be whatever the narrative engineers want it to be. It's how image and style change so fast, but the dyscivic message underneath always moves in the same direction. What changes are the pieces - the squid ink - used to cover the lukewarm luciferian de-moralization.

In this case, the cover was mix of generic occult images and Americana carried by engaging music that pretended to emerge from chaos and given "meaning" with psychedelics. Put them together with the Acid Tests, and the whole thing looks like a Tavistock-style social control project promoting an "alternative" outwardly-motivated, de-moralized, hedonistic fake media reality. It's easy to tell how unreal it was in hindsight - it's legacy is all empty nostalgia. Dried-out protoplasm waxing over how awesome it was to twitch to stimuli, with absolutely nothing meaningful to show for it. If we know them by their fruits, it's just another road to nowhere.