Saturday, 13 July 2019

The Glastonbury Festival

The Glastonbury music festival took place recently. It's named after Glastonbury even though the site is about 6 miles away from the town. Presumably this gives it some kind of mystical cachet and admittedly it does sound better than Pilton, the original name in 1970. The festival has become extremely popular since then and is now celebrated as something that shows modern Britain in one of its best lights. Music, joy, love, peace, what could be better?

It is well known that the dark forces try to corrupt sacred sites by co-opting the spiritual power to be found there and using it for their own ends. Firstly, because there is power in these places, but secondly, so that its spiritual effect is nullified and negated. Glastonbury has been a particularly unhappy victim of this tendency and the festival is currently one of the main tools the devil employs to this end.

I'm not going to try to justify this what many would call extreme, if not mad, statement. If you don't already see that contemporary pop, rock and related forms of music are almost entirely negative from a spiritual point of view (though some, such as rap, are a good deal worse than others), there's nothing I could say that would convince you. I might mention that this music stimulates lower, primitive elements in our psychological make-up, especially by its use of beat but also through electrification and volume. I might point to the separation of crude physical sex from love, never mind marriage, it promotes. And I might mention the effect that it has on its audience which reverts to a kind of mindless mob mentality in which the individual is swallowed up by the crowd, just the reverse of what should take place in a true spiritual experience of which this is clearly a parody and distortion (see love and peace above). I might mention these things but they should be obvious. I'm not saying all this music is bad. I still like some from when I was young myself, but a great deal is and it's getting worse with the artistic elements diminished and all the negative aspects augmented.

I believe there is a strong case to be made that the corruption of music has played a big part in the corruption of the human soul and its separation from higher things over the last fifty years or so. When jazz first came in a hundred years ago it was regarded by many people as a very decadent musical form and things have certainly moved on since then. Plato thought that the introduction of new forms of music would have an effect on society, and while I don't think this plays out quite as simplistically as sometimes envisaged with decadent music causing decadence in society, there clearly is a link. Music has a definite effect on the human psyche even if it can only bring out or stimulate what is already there in some form. You are not made a good or bad person by music but you can be helped to rise or fall and so, in the broader sense, can a whole culture or civilisation.

Popular music has a relation to freedom, physically, emotionally and mentally. Freedom is regarded as a universal good but it depends what is being freed and what it is being freed to do. Is the sexual instinct being freed to be expressed in any way it likes, are the emotions being freed from judicious control so that lower instincts run riot and the higher impulses are blocked from coming through, is thought being freed to enfeeble itself in pointless speculation and chase after illusion, is the self being freed to pursue its own ends at the expense of submitting to the soul? Ultimately the only true freedom is to be found in God but for that freedom to be known many lower, apparent freedoms must be renounced. Much that comes under the umbrella of pop music does offer freedom of a sort, freedom to the lower self in its various guises, but if the listener is not careful it can chain him to forces in that same self it appears to  liberate. Higher realities are completely obscured. 

Music is one of the most powerful forces known to us but it can be used for good or ill. At the moment, we are in the strange position of having access to a vast amount of music, music of all styles and all periods, but contemporary popular music, that which is listened to by the majority of people, is the most spiritually harmful music there has ever been.


edwin said...

The spiritually subversive effect of modern music is too little mentioned. Perhaps more than pornograhic entertainments, than vicious political contention, than all the weapons of mass distraction, music penetrates the psyche. Most workmen set up the radio before they arrange their tools. Most everyone drives with the car radio blaring the endless wail of lust. Waiting rooms, supermarkets, most every public space is filled with the sounds of pop music. It is the psychic air we breathe. I am fortunate to live in a somewhat remote mountain community with strict laws against noise pollution. But when I venture into the wider world, I am assaulted by sounds that then ring in my head for days afterward: lyrics, beats, images - none of which I would choose to entertain. The loss of our love for the beautiful is nowhere more apparent than in the sort of music that is listened to these days. Rap is straight from hell, the reduction of music to beat and obscenities (and they are called "rap artists," Heaven help us).WE must make a conscious effort to avoid the contaminating influence of bad music and, I would suggest, be circumspect about "good" music, some of which, while artistically pleasing, can also arouse in us emotions that pull us away from the spirit and sink us into passions and dark thoughts. We cannot receive intuitions from the spiritual world if our souls are filled with noise and confused emotions. Sorry if I've gone on a bit of rant, but your column evoked one of my deep-seated antipathies.

William Wildblood said...

I enjoyed your rant, Edwin, and I agree with it whole-heartedly! I'm not against all pop music by any means and I think that which derives from folk or country can be very enjoyable. I still listen to that kind of stuff. But it's the over-emphasis on beat which is so destructive, that and the ramping up of volume by electrification of instruments.

Nowadays we talk endlessly of pollution while ignoring one of the greatest pollutants there has ever been.

Matthew T said...

Dear William:

Leaving Glastonbury aside (an interesting topic, to be sure)...

I had half-thought about searching for an email address for yourself, to write this to you, but I suppose there is no reason not to include it as a public comment.

I thought you might enjoy hearing that I indeed purchased your family book, "We Hope to Get Word Tomorrow", and was enthralled by it. As an avid student of the topic, I have read a lot of Great War literature but I'm not sure that I have ever read one that touched me quite as much as this one.

Being what has been termed an "old-stock Canadian", meaning one whose British ancestors came to these shores more than a hundred years ago, I have always found the First World War to be far more spiritually-freighted, and thus fascinating, than the Second, in a way that I think intersects with the themes of this blog, and with Bruce Charlton's.

I can remember visiting the Vimy site in France, finding it suffused so thickly that you could practically cut it, with a sense of peace, with a sense of ten thousand souls calling out that - not that they were in anguish, but merely that the living should seek the Meaning of Life and not waste their lives on foolishness, inhumanity, etc. I did not get the sense that they were angry, but merely that they now had a proper perspective on Life were sorrowful that so many of us throw ours away on frivolity, cruelty, etc.

In any event, as for the book, the letters are deeply personal, and I don't know that I've ever read such a work that was so sorrowful right from the beginning (because of the fact that the book advertises in its very title "how it ends", so that you know right from the beginning that you are reading about people about to go undergo a tragedy).

For another thing, the letters contain the humanizing touch that sometimes I am looking for. What I mean is, there is a tendency, when we read history, and the more so the further back we go, to wonder whether those people were really "like us" - were they as bothered by the same things, etc. Well, in these letters it comes across pretty clear, in any number of instances, that they were. Deeply personal references to how awful the mud was, or the joy mixed with anguish of doing the Christmas shopping without one's loved ones, or hoping that the girls keep their bedroom clean, etc.

It all reminds me a compilation I once read, of C.S. Lewis' letters, where he mentioned going on a walking tour of England in the year 1913 or thereabouts, and at that time wondering to himself "what people were like 100 years ago".

The photographs in the book add a valuable component as well. In particular the family photo, taken ca. 1913, your grandmother Una, even at the age of what, sixteen is what she looks? - not only is she already a fetching young woman (if I may say so) but she wears an expression that I have seen on occasion on the faces of a certain sort of intelligent-and -headstrong young woman, an expression that to me conveys volumes and is congruent with what you've told us about her.

Anyway fantastic book for those interested in the material; I recommend it and thank you for sharing it.

William Wildblood said...

Dear Matthew

Thanks so much for such a wonderful comment on my uncle's book. Strange as it may seem, I actually went to visit him just yesterday at his house outside Oxford where he has lived and worked all his professional life. He will be 90 in October and, though physically a bit frail with lots of aches and pains, is absolutely 100% on the ball mentally. We talked for over 5 hours about the family and various things. What you say about my grandmother, his mother, is quite true. She worked as a doctor at the Royal Free Hospital in London without payment and when WW2 came and my grandfather was called up and sent to India, she took over his practice and carried on with her own work as well. Not to mention bringing up two children who were 12 and 10 when the war started. She was regarded as a great beauty in her day but was rather an austere lady. Apparently one of the few times she was seen to let her hair down was with her eldest grandson (me!) who she allowed to get on her back while she got down on all fours pretending to be a horse! I wish I remembered that.

Another interesting thing about her, which I only found out yesterday from my uncle, was that she possibly had some Spanish blood. Both she and her sisters were quite dark for Irish people (which is what they were on both sides) and all looked quite Hispanic, proud and haughty senoritas! The theory is that this came from shipwrecked sailors of the Spanish Armada some of whom after their defeat by Drake escaped by sailing up the Irish coast. A while ago I had one of those DNA tests done and in addition to the expected English, Scottish, Irish bits found I had 6% Scandinavian blood, easy to understand, and 1% Southern European which was a mystery to me. It looks as though that mystery is solved.

Anyway, thanks again for your comment which I shall inform my uncle about as I am sure he will also be delighted by it. I know he put a lot of work into compiling and editing that book.

Matthew T said...

William, I should be delighted if you would relay my comment to your uncle, actually. I find this stuff to be very humanizing and it's the sort of book that one reads and hopes to live a life of virtue and kindness, because, there's clearly enough cruelty in the world as-is.

JMSmith said...

Is there a word that denotes a sudden awareness that what had seemed until that moment normal is, in fact, vile? Epiphany doesn't seem quite right. In any case, I had such a moment in respect to pop music many years ago. As I had no older siblings, I had very little exposure to pop music until I went to college, but I soon after developed musical tastes and opinions. When I read "criticism" of record albums in the music magazines, I had a sense that something wasn't quite right, but I didn't think this through to a conclusion. Around twenty-five years ago, I was sitting in a second-rate discotheque or night club, and not altogether sober. It suddenly dawned on me that the "song"--which was a sort of proto-rap number--was a celebration of masturbating to pornography. Then I began to notice all the shabby, shoddy things that the low lighting obscured. Then I noticed the assorted drunks (including the one in the mirror). They were not even convivial. They were robotic, zombie-like, degraded. I remember in particular one young man whom I had talked to earlier. He was now very drunk and was emptying the remains of drinks that could be found in abandoned glasses. I'm sorry to say this experience did not cause immediate repentance, but I had an unforgettable sense that this was really Hell on earth and we were the damned.

From what I've read of Glastonbury, I take it to be something like the "Renaissance Festivals" that we have in the States. These are part of a larger hippy culture that one would think I should like, but I actually find deeply repulsive. Having read your first book and much of your blog, I think you and I shared a similar mindset in the 1970s, and so were part of--or at least attracted to--the general culture that these things developed out of. But the whole thing seems to have gone rancid, like sour milk. I actually experience a psychosomatic stink when I'm around this culture now. At least I assume it is psychosomatic. I think the culture's essential weakness was that it lacked any doctrine of original sin, and so took a disastrously childlike attitude to sex, drugs, drink, power, wrath, etc. I also now think that there were people for whom this weakness was a feature, since they wished to make us into lambs for the slaughter. We should beware of anyone who tells us that we need not beware of ourselves.

William Wildblood said...

For those who don't know I should say that Glastonbury, the place, is associated with many magical and mystical things. Legends link it with King Arthur, Joseph of Arimathea and even Jesus himself. In an introduction to a book by John Michell called New Light on the Ancient Mystery of Glastonbury we read the following words.

"Other religious centres, Canterbury, Westminster, Winchester, have had their periods of glory, but the fame of Glastonbury is unique and has endured longer than that of any other English sanctuary. In medieval Christendom the site of the first English church, at the west end of Glastonbury Abbey, was called the 'holiest earth of England', and its precincts were sanctified as a model of earthly paradise, where the souls of the dead found their easiest passage to heaven." Unfortunately it is much degraded today and the festival is the latest in a long line of desecrations.

JM, I'm not sure what a Renaissance Festival is but I expect Glastonbury Festival has elements of that. Chiefly though it's a rock music festival with massive crowds. This year it was headlined by a rapper called Stormzy who the establishment media, always keen to ingratiate themselves with the rank and file, fell over themselves praising. Just so I couldn't be accused of criticising what I hadn't heard I watched a bit on television but it was even worse and more vile, using your excellent word, than I had anticipated. Truly demonic.

As I say, I did enjoy some pop and rock music of the '60s and '70s, such as the Byrds, the Beach Boys and more esoteric stuff and I think there is a lot of artistic merit in some of that, but it can't hide the fact that the genre itself tends to separate the physical body from the rest of the self and celebrate that as the whole rationale behind the human being rather than just one element among several and actually the least important in that it is the one we share with the animal kingdom. And pop and rock etc have certainly become more degraded as the years have gone by. Look at the people who make it!

JMSmith said...

Knowing the associations of Glastonbury, I wrongly assumed the festival was more of a New Age event. I had my first taste of Stormzy just the other day. It didn't agree with me, or I with it for that matter.