Ian Brown from the Stone Roses gets the shamanic functions that music, especially concerts, perform for the modern masses. He says:
No, I don’t have a Messiah complex but I think music is the nearest thing to achieving Christian ends. It unifies people and sustains them. It uplifts them and makes them closer to love. You get a great gig at Wembley or somewhere and that is modern Christianity in action.
I think it is worthwhile to examine George Harrison’s thoughts about God, ethics and the afterlife. This might seem like a trivial investigation into pop culture, but I think it illustrates much of what passes for religious thought in the populace of our day. Whether or not the Beatles and Harrison are responsible for the ‘theology’ of our day, or whether they were just riding the wave (as John Lennon said) I will leave for others to decide. I do think that Harrison’s theologizing stands in sharp contrast to what God has revealed to us in Scripture and also that Harrison’s version of Hare Krishna is much more amenable to our way of life.
Harrison as a Born-Again Krishna Devotee
Harrison was born into a Roman Catholic household. His portrayal of Christianity seems to be stiff and stereotypical, not corresponding to what he might have discovered if he had studied the riches of the faith. Harrison’s advocacy for chanting in a Hare Krishna temple contrasted the experience with his Christian background in the Catholic Church. He said:
But part of Krishna consciousness is trying to tune in all the senses of all the people: to experience God through all the senses, not just by experiencing Him on Sunday, through your knees by kneeling on some hard wooden kneeler in the church. But if you visit a temple, you can see pictures of God, you can see the Deity form of the Lord, and you can just hear Him by listening to yourself and others say the mantra. It’s just a way of realizing that all the senses can be applied toward perceiving God, and it makes it that much more appealing, seeing the pictures, hearing the mantra,smelling the incense, flowers, and so on. That’s the nice thing about your movement. It incorporates everything–chanting, dancing, philosophy, and prasadam.
Let’s consider Harrison’s thoughts: first, he contrasts experiencing God through all the senses vs. just experiencing him on Sunday on your knees on a kneeler. Coming from a former Catholic, this strikes me as particularly puzzling. Catholic churches use incense, statues, pictures, rosaries and the ritual action of the liturgy as means to experience God. Harrison goes on to mention pictures, incense and movement as part of the appeal of Hare Krishna! You would think he was coming from some sort of harsh background that forbid pictures in worship, but he wasn’t. The only conclusion I draw is that he was very poorly catechized in the faith of his birth.
The only practice he mentions that I can see being absent from Catholicism is dancing (in worship). And I’m sure that there was a sense in the 60’s that Christianity was dead and formal whereas the new religions were full of life and light. That is the sense I get from reading anyway. 1950’s Protestantism and Catholicism don’t strike me as particularly exciting. They seem to have lost the excitement of the Christian story in the fervor of the modern Atomic Age. This is a generalization of course. Currently, on the other side of the massive revolution that occurred in church music and experience it is hard to imagine the contrast in formality and dress that the Krishna movement (or the Jesus People for that matter) presented to someone in 1968. So maybe the more uninhibited nature of Krishna worship impressed people like Harrison, but his characterizations of the Church are not accurate.
[To be continued]
I thought I should record this on the internet since I spent some time finding it. The fanfare/intro to the U2 song, “Daddy’s Gonna Pay for your Crashed Car” (on Zooropa) is from a song called “Le Rocher Sur La Volga.” The version U2 used was from a record called Lenin’s Favourite Songs. Other versions are our there. You’re welcome internet.
Was Robert Plant reading the Bible when he wrote Kashmir? The story is that he and Page were driving through the desert in Morocco when he wrote the song. As I listened to it the other day I was struck by the possible Biblical allusions. I know Plant was a bit of a reader, with the obvious influence of Tolkien and various mythologies on his music. But I don’t know if he has read the Bible or had any type of church background. Anyway, here is my eisegesis:
Whoa, let the sun beat down upon my face, and stars to fill my dream.
I am a traveler of both time and space to be where I have been,
To sit with elders of a gentle race, this world has seldom seen.
The talk of days for which they sit and wait; All will be revealed.
Could Plant have been reading Revelation? I am thinking of:
Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. Rev. 4:4
The next lines of the song are:
Talk and song from tongues of lilting grace whose sounds caress my ear,
But not a word I heard could I relate, the story was quite clear.
Which seems to match Paul’s death and resurrection experience:
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. 2 Cor. 12:2-4
It would be interesting to know if Plant absorbed this from the Bible, or some sort of occult reading (given the influence of Page).
We are going to see Oasis with Jet and Kasabian tomorrow night! It’s been ten years since I saw our kid in the States and I can’t wait to go again. Though they aren’t quite the second coming of the Beatles that they seemed to be back then, they are still miles better than any sorry band from the States.