I Think Led Zeppelin
May Be Satanic
(unsigned)

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "ScOo_gUy"
Subject: Re: WebMaster:_Positive_Atheism_Index
Date: Saturday, March 03, 2001 8:39 AM

To call anything satanic is, to me, to give credit where credit is not due.

Led Zeppelin had their dark moments and exploited a dark image which had been built up around them by the time they released their fourth album (the one you mention). Jimmy Page wisely remained rather silent, and the rumor mill and the fundamentalist preachers did a lot of his promotional work for him -- by calling him satanic or a witch or a warlock.

Like all progressive bands (like all important young artists in any age), Zeppelin did an excellent job at shaking us free from the clutches of tradition, particularly the religious tradition which peaked during the 1950s and which Elvis and Chuck and Bo helped us to shake free from, and which the turbulent 1960s shook to their very foundations.

There were some great progressive bands (as the new music genre was called at the time), and many of them had either a dark, magical, mystical, or very thought-provoking nature to their art. Led Zeppelin was none of this. Sexy? Most definitely! Talented promotion of their product? That was the bulk of their talent. Jimmy Page had some fine ideas as a guitarist, but unfortunately was usually quite disappointing in his execution of those ideas. Besides, much of the musical aspect of his work was stolen from true talents ranging from American blues master Chester Burnett to Celtic folk singer Bert Janch. Ditto for Deep Purple, but with more talent for music and less talent for identifying what works. However, both groups were mainly party bands who only hinted at the expressions which much finer poets and musicians pulled off without effort.

The darkest, most personal music of those times definitely came from Peter Hammill, a.k.a. Van der Graaf Generator. Hammill's was the voice which says "Shock" in Peter Gabriel's "Shock the Monkey." Chances are you've never heard anything else he's done. Jim Morrison only hinted in the direction where Hammill stayed throughout his career (and he's still quite busy). Peter Gabriel was best able to bring you in touch with the deepest regions of yourself, but like all experimental artists, some of his stuff didn't work. Pink Floyd held a distant second in this respect, but were Number One when it came to making that aspect of their expression available to the masses. If Hammill had Floyd's talent for availability, having a wide range of people able to identify with his material, we'd all be in deep trouble!

But to call something satanic is to grant credibility to the Christian concept of Satan, which is, to me, the sickest idea that has ever been inflicted upon humankind. Here we have a god who will not look after his children and protect them from the wiles of this wicked entity who seems almost as powerful as He. If God is all-powerful, then what's the problem, here? No. Many people have tried to explain the existence of evil, when what we need to do is try to deal with evil, to conquer it if we can, not explain its motives.

Other concepts of Satan have been more dignified and less dangerous. The Jewish concept of Satan is that of a District Attorney, in some respects preventing God's love for his children from blinding Him to His sense of justice (see the beginning passage in the book of Job). Even the Islamic notion of Satan makes more sense, in its own way: Satan, in Islam, is just a Bozo -- a bungling loser. When the Ayatollah called the United States "The Great Satan," we thought he was calling us sinister, after our own Christian concept of Satan -- he was actually calling us stupid. In Satanism, the metaphor of Satan represents the Self -- in control and, in a strong sense, self-indulgent. When a Satanist says, "Hail Satan!" she or he is saying, "Hail Me!"

While the Christian concept of Satan serves mainly to neuter people, rendering them powerless and dependent on the ultimate exploiter, the Church, the other concepts I have described are at least mildly to strongly empowering as myths. If these other concepts were well-known in the West, and not dwarfed by the Christian concept, I might go along with the word satanic as an adjective. But that word conjures up, for me, the exploitation practiced by the Church, from its inception through today. Thus, I wouldn't dignify this Christian concept by associating it with even a second-rate band such as Led Zeppelin, whose most mysterious quality was the fact that they were so goddamn popular.

Call an artistic expression dark or mysterious or even terrifying, if that's how experiencing it makes you feel. Point out that the sense of abandon portrayed in certain music tends to promote rebelliousness, if that's what you see in it or if it makes you feel rebellious. If a work brings you in touch with some aspect of yourself, then recognize that the art or music or prose or poetry or film has done this for you: the film Rain Man shook me to the core of my very existence, but for reasons probably nobody could guess because they haven't lived my life (so don't even try to wonder about it). I watched a woman come apart emotionally during Peter Gabriel's album So, and for years I couldn't listen to Bowie's Ziggy Stardust album with a dry eye. This is artistic expression, and we do well to describe what it does to us rather than trying to symbolizing it with a label.

It's also important to remember that much of artistic expression is for the benefit of the artist: if the audience gets something out of it, all the better; but art is about self-expression, and it's the artist who gets the most out of any expression.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "ScOo Guy"
Subject: Re: you know a lot bout everything don't you?
Date: Sunday, March 04, 2001 6:43 PM

Why don't you read my e-mail before going off like that?

It just makes you look stupid when I post your letter.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine
Five years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule

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