Let me just say at the outset that I am not capable of covering all of the religious perspectives on the fringe aspects of the Beatles that we have been exploring on this blog. I especially feel no need to cover the "If I don't understand it, it must be evil" perspective. That has been covered extensively in other arenas going back as far as the writings of David Noebel in the 1960s.
But even rational thinking religious people [I understand that some of my readers will consider that a contradiction in terms] can run into mixed feelings when they are moved by an artistic work. What is this power in art that can touch us so deeply, and is there anything about it that would be a cause for concern? In many ways, the artist treads on religious and political ground and influences both. But the artist needs to have a different set of standards than the holy man (or woman) and the politician. Self-censorship is absolutely necessary for the holy person or the politician, but it is poison to the artist.
The creative process is spiritual in nature. Paul McCartney and John Lennon understood this. John spoke about it extensively and Paul spoke about it...well often. Despite the fact that Paul didn't go into depth about it, I think he put it succinctly when he said (again and again) that he and John didn't think you could OWN songs because they just came out of the air. The Beatles relationship to the concept of song ownership reminds me of the story of the American Indian who said, "If they offer us money for the land, take it, and maybe they will pay for the wind too." I'm convinced that both Paul and John believed that their songs were gifts from another world and they simply channeled them and crafted them to fit the accepted format of their own world and time. That may be why Paul can't see any difference between what he does and what Mozart did.
Inspiration is a gift from out there somewhere. Some people would call it a gift from God. Unfortunately, that kind of language is an immediate turn off to some as a result of the inverse relationship between power and influence for organized religion. Once a religion gains power and cultural legitimacy, people start looking for alternatives and its influence declines. And as its influence declines, its need to hold on to the power results in an increase in attempts to control. Gradually creativity and free thought become threatening and the artist's muse is viewed with suspicion.
The Beatles were viewed with suspicion when they first arrived on the American scene. First generation fans can attest to that. Even during the height of their popularity, the lovable moptops were asked questions like "Is 'Can't Buy Me Love' about prostitution?"
But the Beatles were embraced by many adults for a while, until their music and image started to get a bit weird. Based on the book of Genesis, a common view is that God brings order to chaos. So if you follow a formula and conform to expectations in your art, you are using God's spiritual gift. But when you start looking at alternatives to God's order by exploring taboo subjects and letting randomness guide some of your creative undertakings, you are doing the work of the devil. However, this is all a part of that power cycle. As our society becomes more dissatisfied with and suspicious of Religion, creative expression seems to take its place in the cultural mainstream. Once that happens, creative thinking, which was previously thought of as divination, alchemy or magick, becomes such a part of the mainstream and we create euphemisms like "out of the box thinking" and "alternative spiritual paths."
I think that every artist knows that the muse dries up if you don't tap into some of these other layers of creativity, but some would view cutting up pieces of audio tape, throwing them up in the air, and splicing them back together randomly an act of the devil. I'm sure that John Cage experienced a similar reaction when he played random radios simultaneously to produce aleatoric (conceived by chance) music. Burroughs did this with his cut-ups. Paul McCartney did it on his new Fireman album, but that is not the first time. He grabs music out of the air. Sometimes he respects those "demons" enough that he doesn't do enough crafting to make it palatable to his listening audience. Some of his lyrics seem random as if he is casting lots (a biblical roll of the dice) to make a song.
Ears twitch like a dog
Breaking eggs in a dish
Do not mock me when I say
This is not a lie.
-From "However Absurd" by Paul McCartney.
If McCartney's work as perceived as random chaos, then some people may perceive it as evil - the work of Satan. That sounds crazy and closed minded and it may well be, but it is a conclusion that can be drawn, even by people who do engage in real thought and are not just blindly following some religious doctrine.
I think that Paul's album title, "Chaos and Creation in the Backyard" (Complete with an ambigram of his name) was quite revealing. Most creative people know that you often have to go into dark places for inspiration. Some creative people that I know live in those dark places. There are medications available that can bring them out of those places, but that corresponds with a loss of the creative muse, which for some is too high a price to pay. Many great artists live tortured lives because they can't quite come and go as they please to those dark places.
Aside from a couple bumps in the road, Paul McCartney seems to have no trouble moving back and forth from dark to light. He remains down to earth while at the same time, seems to be able to descend into that dark place and pull out a song any time he wants.
This effortless travel between the light side and dark side probably creates envy among Paul's contemporaries. I'm sure that it was tongue and cheek comment, but even Bob Dylan said, “I’m in awe of McCartney. He’s about the only one that I am in awe of. He can do it all. And he’s never let up… He’s just so damn effortless. I mean I just wish he'd quit, you know."
In some way, I wonder if this whole Iamaphoney take on Paul McCartney is a reaction to Paul's squeaky clean, family values image. That's why as negative and as sinister as it appears, I can look at it as a welcome contrast to the image that has made Paul a lightweight in the eyes of a significant portion of the public. I know that there are adolescents out there saying, "Wow, McCartney is on the dark side, cool."
That has been my perception of this whole Iamaphoney business from the beginning. He has been engaging in a creative undertaking. He has made two true statements since this thing started. 1) It's entertainment and 2) He is playing a character appropriately named Iamaphoney. Everything else from Iamaphoney has probably been a lie.
His medium is YouTube, a showcase for his music, and a stage that is 24,901.55 miles wide and 24,859.82 miles long to communicate his other artistic vision: the manipulation of some people. I think it was that guy that conspiracy theorists often credit for writing the King James Bible who said, "All the world is a stage." We are all the players. We are all in a reality TV show without the TV. The focus of the show is Paul McCartney's public image, not the real person, for God's sake.
I started writing this blog because I have always been fascinated by the "Paul Is Dead" mythology. Call it a guilty pleasure if you will. When Iamaphoney came on the scene, I saw a new and interesting perspective on this old myth and really enjoyed his use of imagery and music. I also saw some new clues for the first time in his videos and had fun making associations and trying to figure out if the Beatles placed those clues on purpose and why. When the videos started using religious imagery, psychology and symbolism, I felt I was in a unique position to write about it. I have not only an interest in those subjects, but I have an extensive Beatles collection and knowledge of the solo years. It seemed perfect. I knew nothing about Aleistair Crowley and that kind of stuff, but the Beatles possible dabbling into the occult seemed like a reasonable area of study too.
I still like Iamaphoney's videos and music for the reasons that I have stated consistently on this blog. His timetable drives me crazy, but I am looking forward to his next video.
Sometimes I feel that either I am the only person who gets it or I am the only person who doesn't get it. What difference does that really make?