Monday, August 03, 2015

The Exegesis: Never Mind the Mainstream

When I was a kid I was very passionate about music, punk and post-punk bands particularly. It was a very hard passion since these bands almost invariably threw themselves into the music industry Cuisinart at one point or another. Around mid to late 1982 I actually dreaded turning on the radio since that was the time that these acts began selling out in earnest. 

The worst part about it all was reading the music papers and seeing these artists try to justify the betrayal of their own mission statements. Seeing the tortured rhetoric spill out of their mouths as they now sought to relabel the soft rock, disco and pop they had not mere months before announced they would erase from the charts as somehow "progressive" and "revolutionary" was worse than painful, it was an insult. 

Worse still, the fault wasn't theirs for marching to the record industry's dictates, it was the audience's for not recognizing that these bold artists were seeking to raise the unenlightened peons' consciousness by offering up inept counterfeits of the same old AM radio pabulum that created an audience for a new wave in the first place.

Some of these acts scored (usually minor) hits. But many of them bombed badly and not only failed to win a mainstream audience but alienated the considerable fanbases they had already acquired. 

So when I was working on The Secret History of Rock and Roll I came to have a new admiration for heavy metal culture. Not necessarily the music, mind you (I was more a hard rock fan- yes, there's a very big difference between the two), but most definitely for the networks of bands and fans that grew and thrived despite almost universal contempt from the mainstream, certainly from the mainstream media. 

Rock critics went out of their way to pour scorn on metal when it split off from hard rock in the mid 1970s, which is not to say critics were all that big on hard rock either. But the attacks from the critics had absolutely no effect on metal, in fact all it did was delegitimize rock criticism over time. And not only in the eyes of metal fans but in the eyes of all the other new subcultures the entrenched aging Boomer critic class hated and feared, and that includes most of post-punk and its tributaries like synthpop.

A few years back some of the big English glossies put out collections of old clippings from the British music papers on the bigger bands and movements and it's stunning to see how uniformly hostile the critics were to the bands that people still care about today.

I remember reading the papers back then and learning to distrust journalists. I remember going to concerts and seeing the audience explode in cathartic bliss and then reading some sniffy dismissal of the show in The Boston Phoenix. But I also came to realize that the acts the critics cared about were comprehensible only to the critics. 

Heavy Metal alone didn't make rock criticism irrelevant but it certainly helped. And for the fans of metal the only criteria that matters is whether the bands bring the noise, whether they get the job done. Metal culture not only exists outside mainstream acceptance, it exists in defiance of it. 

Reading about the history of the Mystery cults I learned that heavy metal is actually very ancient indeed, and that the Greek philosophers tripped over each other in writing orgasmic paeans in honor of the ancient metal gods like the Korybantes, Dactyls and Kouretes. 

Literally- and I mean this- the only difference between ancient and modern metal is electricity. The Korybantes et al played huge metal stringed instruments and used all sorts of things (including shields) as percussion. Anything to make a fucking racket.

All of this came to mind when I was reading a Fortean site doing what so many Fortean sites do and that is wringing their hands about pleasing the skeptics and appealing to the mainstream. Coincidentally I saw a major alt.researcher recently complain on Facebook about being dismissed as a "conspiracy buff" by some douchebag academic archaeologist, to which I replied that Academia is never going to accept anything outside its tiny orbit and there is no halfway on which to meet them. 

They are no different than the rock critics of the early 80s, attacking every single important band while heaping praise on marginal acts that absolutely no one remembers today.

The Fortean in question also said that people interested in anomalies needed to unite under an umbrella term like "Anomalism" (what's wrong with "Fortean?"), to which I reply that that is a hopeless cause. Anomalies are mere symptoms, what needs to be discussed and sought after are the causes. Like the nature of reality itself.

I've been reading a lot of different things when I have the time and been thinking about Gnosticism and the diminishment thereof by those looking to replace the liberal Protestantism of their youth with a mildly exotic variant. I was listening to a roundtable of "modern Gnostics" recently, and while all the individuals involved had all the right credentials, they made Gnosticism sound like a particularly arid variant of Methodism. I couldn't even make it all the way through. 

It certainly didn't sound like the do-or-die Gnosticism of the Mandaeans or Cathars or Druze or even the early Mormons. It sounded tamed, like one of those radio-ready singles from one of those former Punk rebels of the early 80s. It will make no converts, it won't even keep most in the fold.

Maybe the basic temperaments of your average metalhead and your thoughtful Gnostic are just too different but I think those of us looking to question the assumptions of our reality consensus have a lot to learn from the take-no-prisoners, my-way-or-the-highway attitude of your average metalhead. 

The establishment-- the mainstream-- is not interested in compromising and there's no point in pretending otherwise.

There is a viable and ancient- and endlessly fascinating- alternative to the prevailing consensus, one that offers up lots of evidence for those willing to take the time to look. There's work to be done there and it's all hands on deck time. It's time to stop worrying about what those who have already sold their souls think.

UPDATE: Any opportunity I get to link to this stormer by our friend Gordon, I take. I should add the admixture of Gnosticism and hard music got me thinking of our other friend Raj while writing this piece.


    The prevailing thought of many is that since the Bible was not canonized until sometime between 300 and 400 A.D. that the church of Christ did not have New Covenant Scriptures as their guide for faith and practice. That is simply factually incorrect.

    The Lord's church of the first 400 years did not rely on the man-made traditions of men for New Testament guidance.

    Jesus gave the terms for pardon 33 A.D. after His death and resurrecting. (Mark 16:16) All the words of Jesus were Scripture.Jesus did not have to wait for canonization of the New Testament in order for His word to be authorized.

    The terms for pardon were repeated by the apostle Peter 33 A.D. on the Day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:22-42) The teachings of the apostles were Scripture. The words of the apostles were Scripture before they were canonized.

    The apostle Peter said the apostle Paul's words were Scripture. (2 Peter 3:15-16...just as also our beloved brother Paul , according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand,which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures...

    The apostle Paul's letters and words were Scriptures when he wrote and spoke them. Paul did not have to wait for canonization to authorize his doctrine.

    John 14:25-26 'These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to you remembrance all that I said to you.

    The words and writings of the apostles were Scripture and they did not have to wait for canonization to be deemed authoritative. The apostle did not use man-made creed books of the church or man-made oral traditions to teach the gospel of the New Covenant.

    Did the early church have written New testament Scriptures? Yes, and they were shared among the different congregations. (Colossians 4:16 When the letter is read among you, have it read in the church of the Laodiceans and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodica.) Paul's letters were Scripture and they were read in different churches.

    They were New Testament Scriptures long before they were canonized.


    Matthew A.D. 70
    Mark A.D. 55
    Luke between A.D. 59 and 63
    John A.D. 85
    Acts A.D. 63
    Romans A.D. 57
    1 Corinthians A.D. 55
    2 Corinthians A.D. 55
    Galatians A.D. 50
    Ephesians A.D. 60
    Philippians A.D. 61
    Colossians A. D. 60
    1 Thessalonians A.D. 51
    2 Thessalonians A.D. 51 or 52
    1 Timothy A.D. 64
    2 Timothy A.D. 66
    Titus A.D. 64
    Philemon A.D. 64
    Hebrews A.D. 70
    James A.D. 50
    1 Peter A.D. 64
    2 Peter A.D. 66
    1 John A.D. 90
    2 John A.d. 90
    3 John A.D. 90
    Jude A.D. 65
    Revelation A.D. 95

    All 27 books of the New Testament were Scripture when they were written. They did not have wait until they were canonized before they became God's word to mankind.

    Jesus told the eleven disciples make disciples and teach them all that He commanded. (Matthew 28:16-19) That was A.D. 33, They were teaching New Covenant Scripture from A.D. 33 forward. The apostles did not wait to preach the gospel until canonization occurred 300 to 400 years later.



    AS A MATTER OF FACT! When God said "Let Us make man in Our image, (Genesis 1:27) it was God's Word. God's creation of man was true before it was canonized 4450 years later. The book of Genesis was Scripture the moment it was written. Man-Made oral tradition was not, nor will it ever be Scripture.


    Posted by Steve Finnell at 2:37 PM 1 comment:
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    1. Umm, well. You can tell I was monitoring on a mini iPad last week I guess...

  2. "It's time to stop worrying about what those who have already sold their souls think." ~ This speaks to me so loudly, right up there with, "You don't need their permission anymore."

    I've been lucky as a scientist to have mentors that clearly understand the limits of science; that not everything is empirically quantifiable, and that science is merely one way of "knowing" and understanding something, but not the only way. A good example is an ongoing project to reach out to amateur (avocational) archaeologists, or collectors, because it has been realized that they know the archaeological record in a "different" way than academics and possibly know it better.

    I can't express enough my personal appreciation for the amount of content you've been publishing lately, the unique way you connect the dots, and as always for the standard you set. ~ Dave

    1. Well, it's my pleasure, sir. Thank you for your insights.

  3. 'Academia is never going to accept anything outside its tiny orbit and there is no halfway on which to meet them'
    Anecdotal evidence to the contrary:

    I was a delegate at the recent University of Leicester conference on Fandom and Religion: Not only was I there as a speaker (on the history of the Tulpa) and completely out as a pop culture mage, but at least one other speaker actually cited you!

    I've now got my feet under the table with the Religion/Pop Culture network which led to the conference... planning to shift perspectives from the almost entirely Xtian and/or academic focus to actually listening to what popular culture mystics are actually saying (as opposed to studying them).

    1. Well, I should qualify that I was speaking about the sciences in those instances. You do have your refreshing cases in Academia like Jeff Kripal. But with the way things are going I fear that groupthink will be the dominant paradigm in the future.

  4. I <3 this post, Chris. XD

    I've actually been thinking of responding to the "what Church do you belong to?" question by saying, "Cathar". I certainly will not use the term "Atheist" to describe myself ever again, as far as I'm concerned that label is irrevocably tainted.

    I like this idea of being a hardcore Metal Gnostic. It appeals to the Klingon inside me: "It's a good day to die, but the day is not yet over."

    1. Very Ron Moore Klingon, no? He really brought the Gnosissy goodness to DS9, that's for sure.

    2. Yes indeed! Vision quests, mental and physical preparation and readiness, commitment, and courage. We could learn a lot from a Klingon. XD

  5. Academia is never going to accept anything outside its tiny orbit and there is no halfway on which to meet them.

    Respectfully, CLK... You could replace that word "Academia" with most any other word (including words identifying any number of subcultures or conspiracy mindsets) with no loss of meaning, or truth. I don't see a lot of aerospace engineers or ex-astronauts being welcomed to Moon-truther sites, for example. (No blame meant here... its just human nature).

    Here's a parable: When it comes time to slaughter the cattle, the herd gets run through the squeeze chutes. Each individual cow, presented with multiple chutes, chooses one to follow, believing itself to be choosing its path of its own free will.

    But, no... the squeeze chutes, having been designed with a deep knowledge of bovine psychology (such as it is), only give the illusion of choice. The squeeze chutes are actually meant to keep the cows reasonably calm and occupied as they self-select themselves down different chutes.

    Unknown to the cows, the chutes, of course, eventually flow together into a single file of subdued, docile creatures. There, the inevitable End awaits them.

    IMO we've reached the point where the actual content of social disagreements are irrelevant. The visceral, even violent hate and distrust sown by social disagreements is the whole point. People in different "chutes" barely speak the same language at this point (witness what currently passes for "politics" here in the US).

    "They" (whomever 'they' may be) don't want the cattle to poke up their heads and try to compare notes with the other cattle in the other chutes. Because that.... would thwart their purposes.

    One might even go so far as to suggest that "Chute-Crossing" is perhaps the last truly subversive act available to us..

  6. Respectfully, Guys, the "not *all* Academics/Xtians/Atheists/Cannibals arguments are beyond tiresome. I hear them often, like when I invite those 'Good Xtians' that tell me I deserve to be slaughtered for being Bisexual to perform anatomically unlikely acts on themselves, there is *always* another Good Xtian to tell me "Not *ALL* Christians". Like I told the last one, don't tell me, I really don't care what any Xtian has to say on *any* subject, if you want to prove that you're better, then *Prove it*. Do something. Speak out. Tell the haters and Fundamentalists to shut up.

    All of these groups, they are full of disdain, quick to spout insult, and they expect praise for condemning acts that they themselves cheerfully commit. Religious, Atheist, Academic, Freethinker, Skeptic - all the same, and they prove it by their words and actions every day. The only people I can stand to be around anymore are the High Weirdness types. Even if I don't believe most of what Sitchin or David Icke say, I'd rather talk about that stuff with people that get it, than hear another endless, wearying, stupid recitation from the normals about God, Progress, Democracy, Skeptical Freethought, or Social Justice.

    As a great man once said, you can shoot me, beat me, or call me names, but I'll be damned if I'll let you bore me.

    1. "...but I'll be damned if I'll let you bore me."

      Awesome, Anna Elizabeth!

    2. Thanx, Everyone. :) It means a lot, coming from Y'all.

    3. Anna Elizabeth you are a straight up gal. I'm sick of all the bullshit too. Let's not take it, they can have it. Walk tall girlfriend.

    4. Thanx, Delorus. :) It's good to meet you.

      My secret New Year's Resolution for this year of 2015 was to Live Free or Die, and take no shit from anyone ever again. I've lost a few friends, but I've gained the self-respect I've never had before.

  7. Hey Chris,

    This post be speaking my language, Sun! I dig this post, obviously, but then I adore this entire blog and the body of work you’ve managed to amass. For me personally, I have zero interest in adopting a world-view or belief-system or paradigm that has no place for the Shadow, in a Jungian sense. It seems to me that so many of these pseudo-philosophies attempt to massage away the grim realities of actual experience with a trick of the ‘love and light’, either in theory or praxis. When did we start letting the handmaidens and neophytes of these predator-elites set the temperament and rhythm and limits of our discursive spaces? For me, true rock & roll, or true punk, is about the paradoxical enjoyment and interrogation of the Actual. It sacrifices neither its nakedly erotic enjoyment of what IS, nor its rigorous interrogation of that same terrain. And for me the primary discursive spaces of the ‘counterculture’ have been colonized in a secret war between the Virtual and the Actual, and the Virtual (by all outward appearances) has gained more territory.

    Disavowing or not acknowledging the existence of the Shadow – of shit, pain, inequality, needless suffering – is necessary for a society that has become as inhuman as ours. How else to keep widening the gulf, or squeezing the middle? No Shadow, no ugliness, means no conspiracy, no hidden depth, no rapacious elitism. But all these things are Actual. For me rock & roll, directly or obliquely, is about the acknowledgement and transformation of waste. Patti Smith comes to mind as a musician who took such complex ideas seriously, I feel. I think the thing that implicitly connects Metal and Gnosticism is Anger. I am a very, very angry individual, and I don’t feel bad about that nor apologize for it. If the world is completely fucked, and it is, then anger seems a very sober and warranted reaction. I want to discover interpretive strategies and tools that help me channel that anger, to use it as some form of personal agency. Normally when I talk like this people say, “Dude, anger is unhealthy, it makes you sick, and it’ll burn you out.” And indeed these are all partial insights. But in the right context anger can be a motivating force, or a much-needed wake-up call. The world is beautiful and wondrous, but it is also monstrous and horrifying. I will not dress up or explain away this paradox just for the sake of comfortable cognition. Or the narcoleptic societal insanity that passes for comfortable cognition.
    At the end of the day, who made the human soul? The counterculture. Those who faced oppression, struggle, and threat of death, but engaged in that soul-making regardless. A storm is always brewing, a war is always coming, and signs and portents of these things are always available to a discerning consciousness. We all have to tread ground and survive under adverse conditions, and thus we all have to occasionally mindfuck ourselves out of the current psychospiritual malaise. All cultures and all people have to do this. But at our most intimate, secret spaces we must never trade the Actual for the Virtual. One is alchemical gold – the stuff of future legacy – and the other is a fool’s pyrite, the waste produced by someone else’s hostile takeover. I may only be human – my heart may sing the Blues – but in my work and my art and my soul-making, I fucking Rage Against the Dying of the Light.


    1. And Raj again shows us what an AWE-sum post looks like. :)

      I have lots of anger too, but when you are or have been subject to abuse and oppression, anger is the *Right* response. Soft words don't make changes.

      The things that offend me most are dishonesty and cowardice. Face life as it is, like Raj says the beauty and the ugliness, the Light and the Shadow. Face it, learn from it, change what you can.

      And follow your passion. If you love learning Alt History, High Weirdness, and "Conspiracy", then keep on keepin' on. The ones that hate us for it really hate themselves, because they *want* to either believe and question like we do, or at least have passion for something like we do. Let them hate.

      "You can take the measure of a [person] by who they fight". If nasty, shallow, viscous people hate me, I must be doing something right. XD

    2. My beautiful out"rage"ous friend Raj you are a living presence to me. You hold out on a whole other side of this rock ball. You are ragged and a magi and a guy and a holy fool and a real person. No psyco. A true heart. This is what you are to me.
      Email me at and I will send you some salve I make with love to help and heal. My intent.
      Hugs across the universe, Delorus

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  9. "Academia is never going to accept anything outside its tiny orbit and there is no halfway on which to meet them. "

    All too true, sad to say. As a grad student I often get the Spock eyebrow when suggesting research topics. Fortunately, many - not all! - of my Professors let me run with some out-there (for Academia) stuff and have been mostly pleased with the results. I think a big factor in their acceptance is that I loudly and repeatedly remind everyone that I am not Tenure Track, so they see me less as a threat and more as an entertaining eccentric who comes up with some occasionally enlightening whimsy. Maybe I'm only good for a laugh, but in the end, I'm in the room and saying what I say. Someone will hear, even if they won't risk their grants in agreeing.

    1. Nicely done, Moses. :)

      Since there is no halfway to meet them, make *them* meet us, or don't talk to them.

      I've had enough. They can speak to me with respect, or get told to fuck off.

    2. I don't mind playing the Jester for the Ivory Tower when I feel it will get my point across. My jokes may be lame, but the audience still listens. Curios get attention. And hammering home my status as an amateur in it for "personal enrichment" really works - until I mention Barry Fell or John Mack, that is...

      People are far more receptive to comedy than drama. When Harry Met Sally taught the masses far more about faking an orgasm than Masters & Johnson ever could!

    3. I've tried humor, Moses. It stops being funny when men treat you like a cute clown about every issue. If it's working for you, then play on.

    4. Someone being cute? Get mean. Something tells me you got a strong arm, so pick up that slapstick and give 'em a good whack upside the head. Get the rest of the donkeys in the hall braying and you'd be amazed how quickly your target will laugh as well, if only to hide his shame.

      Oh, they'll try and pay you back later, but then, you know that and are already preparing your second offensive, right? Odds are they will hand you the target and the arrow on a silver platter. They think you're an enemy, when really, you're a Nemesis.

      For the real idiots, satire. We focus on the druids and the skalds of antiquity, but the Celtic _fili_ could kill with a satire. Reputation is everything in that crowd, and if they abuse you, mar them with a satire they will never outlive. Take your time composing it, like baking from scratch. So much better than store-bought, and brings a smile to every face. Well, everyone but his.

    5. Please, do not offer me unsolicited advice ever again.

  10. Only human. Product of the times.
    Lies. Or, to be more exact, weaponized context intended to suppress nuance, and innocence.

  11. What a great post and awesome comments again. Chris, you really hit something here. I always thought that the metal kids in high school were an interesting bunch. I wore a black motorcycle jacket along with my Depeche Mode Violator t-shirt. They smoked cigarettes on one side of the building wearing their denim jackets and Megadeath t-shirts, and when I would pass them, I felt some sort of kinship. Music does indeed stir the soul, and our souls do need to stir right now. There was a band in Dallas called Course of Empire. They had a great song in 1990 called "Coming of the Century". I think there are and were a lot of bands (known and unknown) that were tapped into what would be what we're feeling now- many statements and grand visions fighting the blindness. I feel this veil is slowly lifting, like the sun or the moon light changes during the seasons and months in the year. All of us are contributing to this awaking in our own unique way. Very cool everyone, very cool indeed.


  13. Chris my friend,
    I am so off the grid you wouldn't believe it. 4G I kid you not. Peaceful as heck, I don't believe in much besides magic anymore. The Green Goddess Cannibis is a beautiful ally and friend as she can be to all. My gardens are the bomb. Vegetables abound.
    If you and DRD and Raj want to email me at I will send you some food grade salve I have been making. People love it and I make it with love for help and healing. Got a lot of chef friends who love it.
    I would post this to DRD but I can't get into his site since I posted on his abortion posted. Kid you not.
    I want you to know I have never regretted for a moment the act I knew I was supposed to do the night of my dear Tom's departure.
    I am in the valley of no media. Really. DSL or satellite. Not worth the money.
    If I get cut off from you too for fuck's sake email me. You will love the salve. Food grade organic.
    Your always friend Delorus

  14. I got the message box when I tried DRD- No secure channel available- never got that before!!!

  15. I could really relate to your comments about the metal scene, as much as am more a hard rock guy, I did get the importance of that community. To digress, music critics, and much of the music press has always been totally useless, I'd much rather read the review of a passionate music fan on a blog or fanzine, as it's coming from a more sincere place, than anything sanctioned. People like John Mendelson are totally useless to me. Good work.

    1. Lexicon's post reminds me of the LOL-stupidity of music critics. One of my favorite albums is 'Blonde and Beyond', a Blondie 'best of' with the radio hits plus the 'B' sides, live concert recordings like 'Bang A Gong', and such. It's brilliant, but the liner notes has a quote from some critic that said "Heart of Glass" was "Blondie's retro-retro pro/anti-Disco Frontlash". WTF, over? This man was actually paid to write that. I've never read another music review since, not even looking at magazines in the doctor's waiting room.

  16. Thank you everyone for these wonderful comments. My internet has been down most of this week and I've been checking in on my iPad. I'll try to post some replies over the weekend.

    Delorus- it's wonderful to hear from you. You've been missed.

    1. I miss you guys too. It is so hard reading from a phone screen! The old eyes ain't getting any sharper...
      I mailed some of my salve to DRD so he can give his impression to you. I sold it yesterday at the Suttons Bay sidewalk sale. It almost seems as though the people who need it are drawn to it. I will mention it helps exema and their spouse will have a bad case or so on. It's interesting. I can't wait to hear what the Davis' s think!
      I love your writing my friend. You make people think and care and respond in friendly fashion. Miraculous.
      I read a great book lately- Area X the Southern Reach trilogy. How is another intelligence defined and could we ever recognize it's presence? Thoughtful and unsettling. Jeff Vandemeer.
      Love from me, Delorus

    2. I can't do anything on a phone screen but dial phone numbers. Those things drive me nuts! I think I'll be in touch- this salve sounds very interesting. JUst what the doctor ordered, in fact. So good to hear from you and so wonderful to hear you are doing well.

  17. Frank Zappa made some comment about rock criticism being people who can't write preparing articles about bands who can't play for people who can't read. A bit mean, but then...Zappa.

  18. Well, Blogger is being weird and not letting me reply to most of the comments here (anyone else have that problem?). But you know what? You guys seem to have all the bases covered without me. This was a great comment thread and one of the reasons I keep doing what I do. Thank you all very much for keep this going, especially while I was technologically impaired last week.

  19. I should add generally, though Anna did so more specifically, that there is no real equivalence in tolerance between the mainstream and those outside it. You get to realize this very quickly when you, oh, say run a blog that occasionally gets the attention of mainstream news sources who completely distort and misinterpret everything you say. The mainstream, not to mention the authorities, don't see those outside of it as human beings, never mind as individuals with ideas worth a moment's consideration. Dissidents are far more likely to address the arguments of the mainstream, even if just to attack them, than vice versa. The mainstream barely regards arguments outside its purview. Moses, I think, gives us the inside view and confirms what Anna asserted. (I also realize my replying problem is javascript-based, on account of my outdated browser :-/ I'm really trying to resist upgrading right now...)