Monday, December 1, 2014

Searching For God in the Sixties - Dr. Dave Williams Part 4 - The Power of an Empty Head

Welcome to Part 4 (The Power of an Empty Head) of our 6 part series with Dr. Dave Williams, author of  Searching For God in the Sixties. Each part is being presented on Mondays. Dr. Dave is making himself available to answer questions in the comments section.

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 5 - Part 6


Setting aside as much as possible the horror of the Tate/LaBianca murders, it is instructive to look into Manson's belief system for evidence of why he was believed.  According to Bugliosi, part of Manson's charismatic appeal was "his ability to utter basic truisms to the right person at the right time." What were these truisms? Why did they work?

What we find when we do take Manson's own words seriously is that he had managed to absorb much of the developing philosophy of the Sixties.  In some way, he was the final extension of the mind's "true liberation,"  of the ideas of the Civil Rights movement, of the white radicals of SDS, of Timothy Leary and Baba Ram Das, of Norman O.  Brown.  What he said seemed to make sense to so many innocents because these same ideas were running all around them.  Manson is no intellectual in the conventional sense.  He is at best self-educated but not at all bookish, having spent his entire life, from childhood up, behind bars.  He has a sharp mind and has paid attention to the world around him.  But he never had much opportunity to compare notes or to talk with others about ideas.  He was like someone who learned French entirely out of books but never heard the language spoken.  When he emerged from prison in 1967, in the summer of love, his language and his approach were just bizarre enough to seem to be a part of the multi-faceted counter-culture.  And his beliefs seemed like the culmination of a decade of antinomianism, the logical extension of what had been going down, not just in the Sixties, but also throughout American history.

We can see here why so many people in the counter-culture at first embraced Manson as one of their own, why the underground press treated him as a martyr to the cause.  By taking on so much of the many strains of the Sixties, "Manson" became a symbol of the hippyfreak fighting back against the machine.  And the immediate assumption was, as it was when a black man was accused of rape, that this was an obvious frame, that Manson was being made a scapegoat by a crumbling establishment terrified that it was losing control over its children.  There were even a few, who had already gone over the edge, who assumed that he was indeed the perpetrator of the crime and congratulated him for striking a blow in a revolutionary war.  Bernadine Dohrn of SDS, when she heard the news, said, "Offing those rich pigs with their own forks and knives, and then eating a meal in the same room.  Far  out! The Weathermen dig Charles Manson." Jerry Rubin, who had rejected his parents' liberal rationalism for the spontaneous emotions of the crowd, said, "I fell in love with Manson the first time I saw his cherub face and sparkling eyes on TV."

In the romantic revolt of the nineteenth-century, Ralph Waldo Emerson had proclaimed the superiority of individual intuition over the corpse-cold tea of rationality and logic, and he had urged himself and others to be totally self-reliant, to trust the inner self.  What if this spirit you trust is from the Devil, not from God, asked his orthodox aunt, Mary Moody Emerson? "I do not believe it is," he replied, "but if so I will live then from the devil." What is in the self is paramount.  It and not the combine must be allowed to direct traffic.  He proclaimed that reality exists as consciousness and not as matter, and thus truth is to be sought not in science but in the subjective intuition of each mind.  Each of us, he said, if we dig down through the layers of culture and belief that has been accumulating over the millennia will find a universal consciousness we all share and from which we all come.  Therefore, he called on every free person to "speak your latent conviction and it shall be the universal sense."

Walt Whitman read Emerson and was inspired to believe that his heart's truth was indeed this universal truth, that when he said "I" he was both "Walt Whitman, a kosmos," and  "of Manhattan the son." He was a specific individual in the material world, but his voice was also a voice that came from the infinite.  As such, he was beyond the moral law, beyond even the Victorian era's horror at anything sexual, much less his flaunted homosexuality.  He was part and parcel of the universal mind and thus beyond good and evil.  A baby in the cradle, two teenagers in the bushes, a suicide lying dead on the floor were equally innocent in his eyes.

The 1960s have been called neo-transcendental because in many ways the ideology of the era was an echo of the transcendentalism of Emerson and Whitman's day.  Martin Luther King, Jr., a Baptist minister, opened the door a crack when he stood up in the name of righteousness against the laws that defended segregation.  He was willing to proclaim in the name of God that these laws were immoral.  How did he know? He felt it in his heart, in his conscience.  But he denied that he was an antinomian.  He was after all, a Baptist, in the historic tradition of his namesake, Martin Luther.  He spoke from within a historic tradition tied to the morality of the Bible and his Protestant faith.  He may have been outside the circle of American law, but he was still well within the circle of Western cultural beliefs.  Calvin had once before opened that door a crack and the result was the Puritan peopling of America.  Now through that same door streamed a generation of baby boomers who did not identify with the Baptist tradition, who in fact identified with no tradition, who had no grounding, and thus were truly antinomian and entirely on their own.  Norman O.  Brown's call to suspend rational common sense and follow the consciousness of the body spoke to these rebels.  Timothy Leary and Baba Ram Dass and the psychedelic experience heightened the sense of being outside the normal realms of consciousness and in touch with higher truths.  The radicals of SDS attacked American capitalism and militarism and racism and imagined themselves capable of superior insight into the political problems of humankind.  Even the grunts in Vietnam stepped outside the combine and gave themselves over almost completely to the wilderness outside the civilized laws they had been brought up to respect.

Into all this, Charles Manson emerged in 1967 and soaked up the ideas then prevalent and ar repeated them with a voice that commanded attention.  One of his followers tried to explain that he wasn't brainwashed by Manson but impressed by him: "The words that would come from Manson's mouth would not come from inside him, [they] would come from what I call the Infinite."

Just like Walt Whitman, Manson believes that his "I" was more than the limited ego of one particular small time hoodlum.  When he says "I" he means the same thing that Whitman meant when he began his "Song of Myself," with "I celebrate myself, and sing myself." The initial reaction of most people first reading this is, "what a conceited, egocentric ass!" But further reading reveals that his celebration is not of Walt Whitman of Manhattan the son, but Walt Whitman, spokesman for the "kosmos." When Walt Whitman the particular human opened his throat, the voice that came out came from the infinite.  His was the "latent conviction" which Emerson proclaimed would be "the universal sense," a voice inside each and every one of us, a  voice that exists not in rational consciousness but in the subconscious, below the petty games we play.  Whitman is no dualist, a finite sinful human out of touch with truth.  He is a pure romantic, a monist, convinced that what he feels in his heart is one with the falling rain, the blowing clover, the rising sun.

You hear this same conceit in much of Manson's rhetoric and behavior.  Where does your music come from, he is asked? His response is to stand up, say "It comes from this," and then go into a dance of flinging arms and swinging legs, a whirling dervish of energy.  His spirit, he is saying, is the basic spirit from which all life emanates.  He taps into that spirit.  "I respect the will of God, son," he says to Geraldo Rivera.

"What will is that?"

"The will of God." And then he goes into his dance again humming and chanting along with it. "Whatever you want to call it, Call it Jesus.  Call it Mohammed.  Call it Nuclear Mind.  Call it Blow the World up.  Call it your heart.  Call it whatever you want to call it.  It's still music to me.  It's there.  It's the will of life."

That this will is also his will is implicit in what follows: "They crowd me in," he tells Rivera, "and I've got this little space.  I live in the desert.  I live in the mountains, man.  I'm big.  My mind is big, but everyone's trying to crowd me down and push me down and make me something they need me to be.  But that's not me."

Manson calls himself Jesus Christ, but, like Emerson, he also says that every man is Jesus Christ.  Every man has the original energy within him. "I am everything, man," he says, and he means it.  But he does not bother to explain when the "I" of his discourse is the person, Charles Manson, or the Universal eye that is the will of God.  Thus he tells Rivera, "If I could kill about fifty million of you I might save my trees and my air and my water and my wildlife."

Taking him literally, and hoping for a good soundbite, Rivera responds, "You're going to kill fifty million people?"

Manson's answer is instructive.  It shows both what he is trying to say and his inability to communicate it.  "I didn't say I would kill anything," he protests.  "I'm reaping the head in thought.  I'm Jesus Christ whether you want to accept it or not… I'm reaping it in thought.  It's a thought, a thought," Obviously frustrated, he jabs his fingers on his head to emphasize his point. "Do you see what I'm saying? In other words, the whole world is a thought, and I am in the thought of Peace-on-Earth."

The point is not simply that Manson is speaking metaphorically.  He is doing that, but he is also saying that everything is a metaphor, that our very lives, our bodies, our surroundings, are metaphor; that we live in an illusion if we think this material reality is real.  Like Emerson and Edwards, he is a philosophical idealist.  He believes that what is ultimately real is not matter but consciousness.  This whole thing we call reality, or the universe, is an illusion, a dream.  What we call God is the dreamer.  And our bodies are no more real than are the strange beings that flit through our dreams at night.  The whole world is a thought, and each person's perceptions are but a series of thought within the framework of the larger thought.  As Manson once put it, "everyone's playing a different game with the thought." All of the many perceptions of this existence are but dreams within a larger dream.  This is where Manson is coming from when he says to the court and the straight world, "I don't live in your dream." This is why he says "You've got my body in a cell… but I'm walking in forever, man." He is freer, he claims, to wander among the mountain in his jail cell than if he were struggling to survive in the day-to-day realities of the outside world.  To believe that this physical world is the ultimate reality is to be trapped in the illusion.  To be aware of the cosmic mind is to be liberated from the illusion.

That is where all the emphasis on life as game-playing becomes important.  It is not a question of being brainwashed by the Capitalists' game, as the Marxists imagine, but of being brainwashed by any game, Capitalist, Marxist, Buddhist, scientific, you name it.  All of rational human consciousness is a walking dream from which people need to be awakened.  We are each, as Kesey kept saying,  trapped in a movie.  And the first thing we need is to realize it so we might try to break out of the movie or, perhaps, enjoy it more fully, more consciously, more completely and honestly.  

The key to this notion is the same as the key to most poetry; it is the idea of symbolic consciousness.  To realize, as Emerson said, that "we are symbols and we inhabit symbols," is to take the first step out of the common sense perception of reality into a transcendent consciousness.  Here, Manson sounds eerily like Norman O.  Brown, whom he may have never read.  But Brown's words were abroad in the Sixties; he could have picked them up anywhere.  Rolling Stone's article on Manson, written in 1969 and reprinted in Mindfuckers, puts quotes by Brown and Manson back to back.  "Words are symbols," Manson told Rolling Stone, "All I'm doing is jumbling the symbols in your brain.  Everything is symbolic.  Symbols are just connections in your brain.  Even your body is a symbol." In Love's Body, Brown writes, "The body is not to be understood literally.  Everything is symbolic, everything including the human body." And elsewhere in the book he writes, "To make in ourselves a new consciousness, an erotic sense of reality, is to become conscious of symbolism.  Symbolism is mind making connections (correspondences) rather than distinctions (separations)."

Manson saw the world as a symbolic manifestation, not a literal reality.  It is an illusion, a mask, and the things within this illusion point beyond themselves to some transcendent presence.  Everything from scripture to sex is a symbolic message from the divine trying to tell us something.  We are surrounded by messages we cannot read and locked into game-playing roles we do not understand, all at the mercy of some cosmic game player.

When Starbuck protests that Moby Dick is just a whale, Captain Ahab responds, "All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks.  But in each event - in the living act, the undoubted deed - there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the moldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask.  If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through that wall?"  Ahab, awakened to the fact of his being an actor in a greater movie not under his control, cannot enjoy the part, and so determines to make his role that of the rebel who resists his role, a rebellious role he realizes he was fated to play from the beginning of time.  It is a paradox. 

The Calvinists believed that we are all trapped in predetermined roles over which we have no control, but following Calvin, they imagined a way out.  They imagined that if they could crucify their human selves they might get in touch with the divine.  They imagined that a few, a very few, had the fate to escape the cage, and they imagined that they could identify these elect few.  Unfortunately,  this idea of the elect, dead to their old selves and born again to the divine self, expanded in America until it included almost anyone who wanted to belong.  In this democratization of spiritual election, we came to imagine the entire nation to be God's nation and we created worldly structures based on that conceit.  Yet the original conception remained alive beneath the sham. 

So in America we continue to have periods of awakening in which people realize that they have been playing parts that are not divine, which are in fact stupid and gross and evil.  They awake from their sleep and determine to break away from the old world with its corruptions and begin anew, to recreate the Garden of Eden in a new world.  They imagine that their reborn consciousness is the mind of God, and if that is so, it empowers them beyond any imagination.

Throughout the Sixties, this same message was repeated again and again.  We are all playing games.  We are all stuck in a movie.  We are all conditioned to believe in things that are not true.  We are all socially constructed, not essential, not in control.  Some would replace the old conditioning with new conditioning, a better jail with a kinder jailer.  The true Children of the Sixties, however, unlike the Marxists in SDS, did not embrace some new Egypt but kept on sojourning toward the Promised Land outside of the cages, outside of any jail.

This is who Manson said he was, a Christ, the person who had broken through, who was free.  Like Randle P.McMurphy, another sort of Christ, he had never been under the control of the combine.  Ironically, being in jail, where they did not bother to educate or socialize him, he remained free of all the institutions by which the state brainwashes its other children.  He received, as did McMurphy, another kind of conditioning, for sure.  But it was different, so he came out different and knew it.  He knew it was all a sham, and he believed this insight set him apart, put him on a higher plane. 

Rationality, he said, is a false god.  It is part of the game playing of the world.  The whole rational logical structure of the world is false and the people who play its games without realizing it are fools.  So he had little respect for the law, for the courts, for the lawyers, for any representative of the establishment.  His attack on the law had its parallel in Love's Body:
Reik, in a moment of apocalyptic optimism, declares that 'The enormous importance attached by criminal justice to the deed as such derives from a cultural phase which is approaching its end.' A social order based on the reality principle, a social order which draws the distinction between the wish and the deed, between the criminal and the righteous, is still the kingdom of darkness.
The interconnectedness of all things in the realm behind the veil means that everything is dependent upon all, that there is no individual consciousness, hence no individual freedom, and therefore no individual responsibility.  To be, as romantics imagine, in the divine consciousness, to participate in the godhead, is to be as Manson said, "inside of you.  I'm inside every one of you.  It's beyond good and evil."

To be romantic is to imagine that one exists in a realm of perfect Oneness in the garden, not in the fallen world of alienation, duality, and separateness.  The fall, original sin, dualism, and all that belong to the orthodox and neo-orthodox, the over-30s who think themselves still in Egypt or the wilderness, not at ease in Zion in the promised land.  At its core, the consciousness of the counter-culture, so evident at Woodstock, was a belief that we had somehow passed over into the garden and set our souls free, that we had left the fallen world of dualism and sin and passed into a new dispensation in which dualism had been overcome.  It is perhaps the highest vision of the oldest American dream, its most powerful inducement, but also its most dangerous delusion.

Emerson's remarkable poem "Brahma" brings this all together, traditional American romanticism, Eastern mysticism, and the transcendence of binaries like good and evil, life and death, killer and killed:

If the red slayer thinks he slays,
Or if the slain think he is slain,
They do not know the subtle ways
I keep, and pass, and turn again.
Far or forgot to me is near;
Shadow and sunlight are the same;
The vanished gods to me appear;
And one to me are shame and fame. 
They reckon ill who leave me out;
When me they fly, I am the wings;
I am the doubter and the doubt,
And I the hymn the Brahmin sings.
The strong gods pine for my abode,
And pine in vain the sacred seven;
But thou, meek lover of the good!
Find me, and turn thy back on heaven.

 To find that one mind behind the dualities of life, to find that cosmic center, that essence that Baba Ram Dass also thought he found, is to find a place beyond good and evil.  Hence, even heaven is part of a binary.  To believe in it is to reveal one's attachment still to the world with its binary consciousness.  Manson believed he had found that one mind, tripping away on acid, and hence he had turned his back on all of the false constructs of the language of the world, all of the artificially constructed binaries, including "heaven."


Robert Hendrickson said...

This is not a contradiction to Dr. Dave's new writing, BUT a possible reason as to why many are not commenting on his very instructive writings. There exists a language barrier here. It's as simple as DOC asks: WHY do we "drive" on the PARKWAY and "park" in the DRIVEWAY. The English language was developed by scholars of the time - NOT peasants. So what if I simply said NOT "groundlings," instead of "peasants." Who would know what a groundling is. The Europeans were still living in trees and caves when their language was born AND nobody has ever bothered to instigate language "reform." AND "language" is the primary ingreident for ALL communication.

So what if there are no proper words to fully or adequately describe the "MANSON mystique" ?

AND what IF most conflicts / WARs stem from a mere lack of communication ?

IE: "What we have here is a lack of communication." - a saying made world famous in the Paul Newman prison movie.

The present "protesting" and rioting in American cities is a direct result of a "lack of communication."

The "protesters" do NOT understand the LAW and the status quo does NOT understand THEIR frustration. Thus both the uneducated COPS and the oppressed laymen COMMUNICATE with "rocks and bottles."

All the while, the rich little piggies (sipping a martini) are highly entertained by the LIVE action played-out on the television nightly news.

What MANSON did was "reform" the English language so as to facilitate a REAL communication between COPS and the OPPRESSED. Kind'a like LBJ began a meaningful communication between US Capitalism and SouthEast Asia Communism.

MHN said...

Robert: Another possible reason for the fact that these truly excellent posts are getting less response than they deserve is that perhaps, as I do, other commenters feel inadequate even to pass comment, let alone ask a question worthy of the depth of thought and learning in evidence.

There's so much to chew on in this week's offering I hardly know where to begin thinking, let alone what might constitute intelligent comment on it.

Dr Dave, thanks again, really fine stuff.

Perhaps Manson's mystique can be reached by a mathematical equation, in which Brian Wilson is added to Whitmanesque univindiversualism, divided by a choice selection of emptied-out spiritual buzzwords, all multiplied by the number of tines on a carving fork and the square root of a length of rope.

Matt said...

Ever see that episode of Cheers when Frazier is trying to read to the people in the bar from A Tale of Two Cities? He can't keep them interested so he keeps interjecting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles into the story?

Kinda reminds me of that. :)

Unknown said...

I like the idea that "what we have here is a failure to communicate" and the curse is language itself. Norman O Brown, the great philosopher of the Sixties, said "The Fall is into language," and in The MindFuckers Manson goes into this saying, "That's what Jesus Christ taught us. Words Kill. His disciples betrayed him by writing it down. Evey word is another nail in the cross, anther betrayal disguised as love. ... The whole fucking system is built on those words, the church, the government, the war, the whole death trip. The original sin was to write it down."
The problem was our human delusion that our words actually can recreate reality. This is the meaning of the Tower of Babble. Human arrogance thought it could with language build a tower to reach the truth, or God. But God scattered the temple and divided us into languages we cannot comprehend. "Love" exists outside any language. But language is the law, so in leaving the law for Love we enter into pure antinomian otherness.

Unknown said...

THat "unknown" is me Dr Dave. I do not know why the system could not id me.

MHN said...

But if "In the beginning was the Word" - how can language be the fall?

Was Manson ever tempted to live his idea by adopting a Tarkovskian silence, a rejection of words and miscommunication, rather than spewing forth an endless torrent of words in an effort to explain his interlocutor's (inevitable) misunderstandings? It seems to me that Charlie has spent most of his life post-murders telling everyone how wrong they've got him. Has he not worked out by now that silence might be the quickest way to avoid being misunderstood?

Or would being ignored kill him just a little bit more even than being misunderstood?

MHN said...

Matt - LOL! Loved that episode, loved that show.

Robert Hendrickson said...


I too felt intimidated until I realized Dr. Dave has merely studied / learned HIS lessons well and developed the skill / talent to express, in words, HIS re-expression of what HE has learned. Dr. Dave has NO personal concern as to whether ANYONE understands his message. That can ONLY be the concern of those who read HIS words - in the arranged manner he has presented them. Of course, that is Manson's understanding also. HE cannot "beat" HIS sense into the COPS, but THEY (the cops) "think" they can beat their brand of sense into the "oppressed."

TODAY Obama announced that HE will provide COPS with new "training" (at a very high $$$ cost) as a result of the Feguson killing and riots. Well, fuck! doesn't HE know we are just seeing a re-play of the 1960's. AND LBJ had the best solution ( send all the black trouble-makers off to WAR ). There will always be enough left to blame for America's discord.

So here's my question for Dr. Dave: How much of a "divine" influence still exists today, where this new world called America was founded upon the belief that "religious" FREEDOM is just the greatest prize for mankind ? AND will we ever be able to stop GOD from WATCHING us and JUDGING our actions ?

Robert Hendrickson said...

Point being: With "words" you can create ANYTHING - even GOD !

With the ability to create "words" in the form of language - YOU are a GOD.

Of course, with numbers ($$$) even a dip-shit can buy a GOD costume for Halloween or any other occasion.

AND with $$$ you can even hire "rent" people to BELIEVE you are GOD.

BUT, there is a back-side to the "system" - YOU can get nailed to a cross.

Dr Dave said...

The Fall from grace in Eden was the Fall from THE WORD to mere words, according to Brown. These human words became the structures of belief we imagine speak to reality. The quest is the escape from structure back to THE WORD, Neo leaving the Matrix and returning to the Source. The OT metaphor has us leaving Egypt (structure) and heading across the wilderness void to some Promised Land of true insight. The American scene is this constant re-attempt to leave structure and find some mystic Truth, in the 1620s, the 1740s and the 1960s. As long as the search is ongoing, and we remember to turn from structure, the religious theme at the heart of the nation is still with us.
In one of R Crumb's cartoons, Mr Natural with his lips tight holds up a sign that says "Don't mouth words." THe original title of my book was "Jason Sham Too" from EMly DIckinson's "Finding is the first act/The second Loss/THird expedition for/The Golden Fleece/ Fourth no discovery/ Fifth no crew/ Finally no GOlden Fleece/ Jason Sham too." So we head out to discover truth only to find in the end we ourselves are a sham, a structure. and the cycle begins again.

MHN said...

Dr Dave your reply is fascinating. Two very brief, shallow questions:

(1) "As long as the search is ongoing, and we remember to turn from structure, the religious theme at the heart of the nation is still with us". Does this provide an adequate and indeed entirely admirable explanation for the deep-seated dislike of the Catholic Church that I've seen evidence of in the USA?

~ and ~

(b)"So we head out to discover truth only to find in the end we ourselves are a sham, a structure. and the cycle begins again." - I wrestle with this, undecided whether the end of the journey is pure nihilism, or pure journey. What do you think it is? What do you think Charlie Manson thinks it is? Surely the end result of the journey has to be more than... fashionable environmentalism...?

Robert Hendrickson said...

I must thank you vigorously for your time here. It is truly a great Holiday gift for all of us. I agree with Michael about your writings possibly intimidating others from commenting, but then, many very aware folks simply prefer to "read" on the side lines. Because I sell authentic Manson Family related materials via mail order, I tell you most of those who are interested in the MANSON mystique are highly evolved minds. Many are educators, lawyers, statesmen and names you would recognize.

Maybe Manson only stands out today because he did NOT piss his reputation away like the government celebrities of the 60s of maybe it's just the fact that HE really is somewhat different than the rest of us.

I too still have several questions, but right now Michael surely deserves the stage with you.

I would like say this: In Europe 20 years ago, I asked someone why there were those stone gargoyles perched on the sides of cathedrals. He said, they were placed there to scare the "devils" from preventing the good people from crossing the street to enter the church. WELL, of course I immediately thought IF the gargoyles could actually scare the Devil from doing the his evil business, WHY do we need GOD.

AND the day I was drafted into the Army, an imaginary like figure in the induction center's hallway said to me:
IF America's Army is composed of mostly baptized Christians and consequently will go to heaven - while the enemy are simply lost Communist souls who have never met Jesus - would it not be better for the Christians to go to heaven than the lost souls being made to go to Hell via death ?

OH, Michael: Manson talks all about the "truth" in his now famous speech at the end of the movie MANSON.

Dr Dave said...

To Michael, "yes" the Catholic Church has been seen since the Reformation as the very embodiment of a worldly structure which assumed power in the name of God. For years, the French shared that role, with characters like the Merovingian as the result. The right wing's hatred of any government has roots here too. The evangelicals have a memory of a theology which says that truth exists outside of structure.
and the cycle does indeed become the question. You are asking if the universe is finite or infinite, whether it is an infinite line or will forever bounce back and forth in continual big bangs. Damned if I know. But let me share a paragraph from another section of the book, the part where I compare Dylan and Emily Dickinson
"All of our ancestors left someplace else, whether voluntarily or dragged on slave ships or stuffed into steerage. Our first American ancestors left old identities behind, and we have had to renew generation after generation that constant turning from the lies of old identity to the hope of a new and better vision. The pattern of American life, repeated in Dylan’s own numerous transitions, has been the search for a new and better identity, only to find eventually even that new and better identity to be “as hollow as it seems” until the pattern repeats and a new break from the new identity to find an even better newer one repeats the cycle. And so we beat on across the wilderness with the vision of the promised land somewhere up ahead, over the rainbow, beyond the horizon, breaking out of the old cocoon, born again, decayed again, and reborn, from century to century in a long continuous march toward we don’t yet know what."

CrisPOA said...

Mr. Hendrickson, you are absolutely right about us reading on the side lines. Dr. Dave's fine work makes us think and contemplate so much, we just keep wondering.

I think the search would not be all about religious freedom but search for the sacred.
Would that be possible that a new society crisis could drive american youths to islam someday?

crash said...

People are always searching but they always search outside themselves. The real answer or the truth is inside them, maybe. I think the natural tendency to want to know that someone or something else is in control drives people to follow.
Like charlies says, "I didnt know how weak and mindless you people are".
The tin man always had his heart, the lion always had his courage, the scarecrow always had his brains and dorothy always had a way to get home. They were all so pre occupied with searching outside themselves that they never realised they had the answer all along. Even when told they didnt believe it.
So the wizard, a fraud, a phony, the man behind the curtain magically gave them all what they needed. Even after being exposed as a fraud they still believed they had what he gave them. It didnt matter that they already had it, they could never believe that, being conditioned that everything comes from outside. Once they were magically cured they accepted it, because they would rather believe it was always outside their ability to begin with. Its easier for them.
Obviously a fraud, a humbug can get away with all kinds of things just playing on peoples fears of being alone, personal responsibility is too heavy for some. They are begging to be controlled.
It gets presidents elected.

Matt said...

And in the end it was all a dream :)

MHN said...

Matt, you are always pithy and concise, qualities of which I am hugely jealous!

In the end it was all a dream...

It was all a dream for a group of silly kids, and that dream meant the end of the adults in the room.

MHN said...

Dr Dave, I'm indebted to you.

I think a lot of this is encapsulated admirably in the achingly poignant movie "Vanishing Point", a homage to an America that probably never has, never could, but always must have existed.

We are only human; we cannot reasonably be, in ourselves, a constant negotiation between the spiritual and the socialised, the infinite and the organised, the divine and the material - without going insane.

At least, we cannot be constantly aware of being that negotiation. That's a dangerous state to live in every day. That way madness lies.

Dr Dave, thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Manson never having been present for final acts of murder that he is convited of is common knowledge, but it is not true that he was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder.

It is my understanding that all nine of Manson's convictions are for "murder in the first degree", and none for "conspiracy to commit murder".

Conspiracy can be a separate and different charge, and Manson's conviction is unusual in that it is a first degree murder charge as a conspirator. I'd say Bugliosi is very proud of this distinction.

Also: that the Shea trial set a new California legal precedence with a death sentence for a first degree murder conviction given to a "not present" conspirator, this combined with no body in evidence.

Anonymous said...

On March 29, 1971, the jury completed deliberations on the penalty phase of the trial. Manson and the three female defendants had shaved their heads for the reading of their verdicts.

"We, the jury in the above-entitled action, having found the defendant Charles Manson guilty of murder in the first now fix the penalty as death."

Patricia Krenwinkel responded: "You have just judged yourselves."

"Better lock your doors and watch your own kids," Susan Atkins said.

On April 19, 1971, Superior Court Judge Charles H. Older pronounced the judgment: "It is my considered judgment that not only is the death penalty appropriate, but it is almost compelled by the circumstances. I must agree with the prosecutor that if this is not a proper case for the death penalty, what should be?"

Anonymous said...

My paraphrasing of Robert Pirsig: "Anthropologists make up shit as they go along"

Anonymous said...

So, I googled.

Manson also had a conspiracy count along with 7 first degee murder counts at TLB trial.

Robert Hendrickson said...

Numbers and letters is right, we got a problem:

From Bugliosi's Helter Skelter book at page 558:

"The people had obtained the verdicts they had requested against Charles Manson, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Susan Atkins: each had been found guilty of ONE count of conspiracy to commit murder and SEVEN counts of murder in the first degree."

What that means is: IF a Police Captain, in the morning briefing says "Now get out there and break some BLACK heads." AND a couple of the cops present actually go out and kill a guy like the recent black guy in New York, they ALL can be guilty of ONE count of conspiracy to commit murder - including the Police Captain - and one count of first degree of murder.

Legally, one absent from the crime scene can be convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, but "first degree murder is usually only reserved for those who actually participate in the "physical" act of murder. Maybe there are exceptions for whenever the cops actually capture the DEVIL himself. Like discussed on this particular post: We are a nation of GOD fearing soldiers, always on active duty in a righteous Army.

Matt said...

Fielding Mellish: That's very wise, you know...? That's, I think, pithy.

Nancy: It was pithy. It had... great pith.

Fielding Mellish: Yeth. Pith.

Robert Hendrickson said...

Dr. Dave; Please tell me if I got this right. The "structure" (church and state) have a well crafted "power / control" system by which IT is able to feast off the misfortune and lack of awareness that drips off the uninformed.

In order for this "system" to work, a sufficient amount of "police OFFICERS" must enforce the "rules" set down by the government and church. But IT must also have enough support from the "middlers" (middle of the road folks) in order to survive. AND of course, there MUST be occasional events like RIOTS where common "back-of-the-line" blacks folks are beaten and or killed in order to remind the uninformed just WHO is still in control of their lives.

Additionally, news like "the church is infested with priesto molestos" actually helps strengthen the visualization of the church's POWER. IE: "You can't touch us - we're too POWERFUL.

As for seeking the TRUTH, what fucking good does that accomplish ? IF the "structure" has the POWER to dictate it's truth upon the uninformed - that is the absolute TRUTH. Someone on this blog just revealed that truth in spades: Charles Manson was "convicted" of first degree murder, but HE was not even present at the Tate Massacre. "Conspiracy to commit murder" from afar - fits fine because "conspiracy" is such a broad term in law. BUT "first degree murder" via "commanders" like LBJ and NIXON would make THEM "serial murders."

Because it is the government's education system and the church's belief system that is put upon each and every person living in these United States, anyone's chance of "finding" the REAL truth rests in going to prison - where the system is DONE with you. Where knowing the TRUTH is meaningless, because there, only "self" matters.

Dr Dave said...

When I teach my class on the 60s, we begin with Kesey's "Cuckoo's Nest" where the system is known as "the combine" and the heart of the book is the attempt to escape its conditioning and programming. McMurphy opens the window of freedom but only for a moment. When he goes down, the Chief said he could only hold open that window for a minute, then it was up to others to come along and keep the possibility alive. We may not know what "truth" looks like, but at least we know this is not it. Perhaps the romantics are right and the truth is found in the heart of the self, but perhaps the mystics are right who say that outside our socially constructed selves is the void, the wilderness that must be crossed in the hope that some Canaan might be realized on the other side. The Beats of the 50s howled against Moloch, the system, but had no hope that an alternative was available, The hippies of the 60s, in contrast, hoped that a truth could be found outside of the system and thus headed out on that expedition for the Golden Fleece, only to find themselves a sham and the light at the end of the tunnel,the gleam in Manson's eye. So we go back and forth between hope and despair like boats beating into the wind, maybe making slow progress.

Robert Hendrickson said...

Recently Dr. Dave I have been exploring the idea that 50,000 years ago some Africans set out across the forbidden land in search of something. Most scholars seem to think they were forced to find more hospitable territory for better living conditions. BUT now YOU have made me think - maybe they were actually in search of GOD and or the TRUTH.

Of course, modern day white historians could never even imagine that a primitive tribe of Black natives were even capable of thinking about GOD - maybe some kind of truth - but GOD ?

IF our ancient Black ancestors did actually set out across the "wilderness" in search of some far-out divine "truth," INSTEAD of just attempting to avoid bad weather conditions, that could alter our entire perception of historic peoples.. BUT because researcher / historians accept $$$ government grants, maybe the whole claim that it was the Africans who are OUR ancestors is just more political propaganda. I guess everything may boil down to: Who are you going to TRUST for the truth ?

What do you think about the above and who do you TRUST ?

crash said...

Weird how things work out sometimes. Thinking of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest(the movie, havent read the book)
Mcmurphy(nicholson) gets sent for a 90 day evaluation for mental issues thinking it will be a cakewalk. He ends up fighting the system and the system eats him up taking his freedom and his brain..
Two years later jack nicholsons house is used by roman polanski for a photo shoot/sexual assault. The sentence is a 90 day psychological evaluation that gives polanski the clean bill of mental health. Thats not good enough for the judge, but he cant fry romans brain so instead he will take his freedom. Roman runs, to keep his freedom and his brain..

Dr Dave said...

There seems to be some sort of innate sense in most humans that where and how we live is not quite right and that "we have to get ourselves back to the garden." Freud said this was a memory of the serenity of the womb. Maybe so and we only give it the veneer of a search for "truth." But Manson, like the makers of "The Matrix" and much of our literature since the Children of Israel left Egypt gave that search its more profound meaning. Clem said his was "a voice from the infinite" largely because he spoke to this need to break on through to the other side and get back to the garden. If not, as he told his parole board, "You're gonna win your reality," the illusions that the straight world believes in.

crash said...

Could be beliefs are the problem. Beliefs are what stands in the way of truth.
Instead of not knowing something, we fill in the blanks with theories, that turn into beliefs over generations. Its easier than facing the unknown.
Like charlie said writing it down was the problem. Now its there and accepted and cant be changed. Who is gonna change the bible?
But religion is falling way behind science now. Science always changes as new things are figured out, religion is still clinging to ideas from 2000 years ago.
The belief system blocks the person from finding truths. Any belief is really just pretending you know something that you dont. But it prevents you from searching further.

Anonymous said...

My ringtone for the last 5 years has been the actual song recording of "Break on Through".

So is you're ever in line at Bed Bath and Beyond, and you suddenly hear Jim Morrison, that's just my phone.

MHN said...


Instead of not knowing something, we fill in the blanks with theories, that turn into beliefs over generations. Its easier than facing the unknown.

Easier? Not if you're doing it right. Because you're still facing the unknown. If, for example, you're a Christian, you have a God who is man like you, who dies an agonising death, and goes into that darkness wailing 'my God, my God, why have you abandoned me?' You think that sounds like a system of easy answers? You think 'be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect' is easy? You think 'forgive us our sins as we forgive others' is easy? Then you've never tried to live it.

Like charlie said writing it down was the problem. Now its there and accepted and cant be changed. Who is gonna change the bible?

I dunno. Mormons?

But religion is falling way behind science now. Science always changes as new things are figured out, religion is still clinging to ideas from 2000 years ago.

And thank goodness for that. If we take away those irrational old ideas, and reverence only what a scientist can measure or gauge, then there is, for example, nothing keeping us from adopting social Darwinism, eugenics, etc etc. I love the way critics of faith feel an obligation to include the word 'clinging' in any discussion of the subject. But yeah, what what could be worse than clinging to ideas that are 2,000 years old! Old ideas are by definition bad, while recent ideas are great! Indeed, ideas just get better and better as we progress through history. That's why the secular twentieth century was an oasis of peace and harmony my friend.

The belief system blocks the person from finding truths. Any belief is really just pretending you know something that you dont. But it prevents you from searching further.

Epistemology is not black and white. Your belief that we can truly 'know' what we think we're sure we know is a belief system like any other. Those who 'cling' too closely to the words of scientists are adopting a belief system also, taking the word of someone who, though they wear white rather than black, is to the true believer a priest nonetheless.

I admire scientists enormously, I genuinely do. But I wouldn't want scientists let out of their labs to rule over us any more than I would want priests to do so.

Because any human knows that the most important things cannot be tangibly detected, measured, or quantified.

crash said...

Sure the mormons can change a book, why not? they now will all get their own world to rule.
Imagine, we have old religions calling a scientologist or mormon crazy. Yet they believe god wrote a book. I guess they never read their own book. Give it a few thousand years and zenu will be no different than adam and eve.
The actual problem is the belief systems that are not real. Jewish, catholic, hindu or whatever, religious extremists are drunk on false beliefs with no basis in reality. And for it to be believable it has be accepted. And once they accept the irrational and fill the void, the search is over for them.
Scientists such as neuroscientist Andrew Newberg believe its actually brain damage. He has done some interesting studies on it. If the brain center where all that action takes place aint firing, it aint wiring. Some people shut out so much in order to be able to sustain their irrational beliefs to the point that their brains actually atrophy in that area. They lose the ability to even consider other options.
Some call it tunnel vision, myopic or whatever but at that point their beliefs limit them to even understand anything else. They kinda lock themselves into it and close off.
The moment people start to question beliefs, they have thoughts, they start to search for answers, they realise the fallacy of the beliefs that were put on them, then they wake up. Everyone is locked in old thoughts with beliefs that are total illusion. Walking dead people.
And like sandy said "everyone is locked in the fear of death, and thats whats holding things up"

A true religious teacher will not pass on beliefs to a student. Anyone can do that. A real spiritual teacher will break down the beliefs that are already there, that have already been put on the person, so the person is free to experience their own search and journey..

Anonymous said...

Science and religion are equivalent as "belief systems" only because they both rely on symbols.

The big difference is that science allows postivistic participants to understand they are working with exactly consistent symbols that all are free to recreate, while metaphysical symbols are not.

MHN said...


Some people shut out so much in order to be able to sustain their irrational beliefs to the point that their brains actually atrophy in that area. They lose the ability to even consider other options.

True. Or they do precisely the same in order to allow-in only ultra-rational beliefs, and worse, they then call those beliefs 'knowledge' or 'science' as though this is a cast-iron guarantee of truth.

Which it isn't.

There are idiots everywhere Crash. I'm sure you agree. One of them is typing right now! :)

Robert Hendrickson said...

Let see, we've gone from "lack of communication" to "the word" to "the truth" to "beliefs" and now to "symbols."

WOW, how did we overlook symbols ? The "Swastika," the "Cross," the "Star," the "bulls-eye," the "dove," the "heart," the "hangman's noose" "RIP." Is there really a need for language - when we have so many symbols - with each speaking volumes ? AND "symbolism" can take many forms. Yesterday's news item that the Vatican FOUND hundreds of millions of previously unaccounted for dollars, should provide even the illiterate with a complete understanding of just what the Catholic Church really is.

I once mentioned to Bruce Davis that the only necessary "word" was HELP and he responded with: " Well, if you ever need to say HELP, somebody isn't listening."

Dr. Dave: Is it possible that Voltare and the gang simply put a tremendous mental burden upon the once unenlightened ?

Dr Dave said...

Those who follow the head are ever at war with those who believe in the heart, but both head and heart are tricksters, so we bounce back and forth between them, praying for another choice. Blake called the Devil "Urizen," which is pronounced "Your reason." Joseph Campbell, who advised George Lucas, said that Darth Vader's Dark Side was the "intellectual side." I like the cursing of one antinomian Quaker named Fisher at the more logical believers of his day: "Thou hedge hog and grinning dog; thou bastard that tumbled out of the mouth of the babalonish baw;thou mole; thou tinker; thou lizard; thou bell of no metal but the tone of a kettle; thou wheelbarrow; thou whirligig; thou whirlpool; O thou firebrand, thou adder and scorpion; thou louse; thou cow dung; thou moon-calf; thou ragged tatterdemalion; thou Judas; thou livest in philosophy and logic which are of the Devil."
-from Cotton Mather's "Magnalia"

Anonymous said...

Or, perhaps, Neil Young: "Red means run, son, numbers add up to nuthin".

MHN said...

Dr Dave, I've known several Quakers here in London. Let's just say that somewhere along the line the Quaker vocabulary has been castrated - because THAT was magnificent.

MHN said...

On the subject of Blake, most people assume entirely wrongly that the famous image 'Ancient of Days' is Blake's conception of God as creator, wielding his mighty compasses, whereas in fact it's his nightmare vision of Urizen, bound and constrained by the horror of the ratio and the rational.

Jesus, on the other hand, Blake often referred to as 'the Imagination'.

Blake was an enthusiast for the revolution in France, even after the carnage had begun, and enjoyed warning his fellow Londoners that Napoleon was coming to cut England's throat. I wonder what he might have made of a figure like Manson.

I like to think he would have laughed, seen through him in seconds, and walked away. But that would be a rational thing to do, and for Blake, too, no sense made sense.