Everything you were told about religion is wrong

Did religion evolve spontaneously through divine intervention or was it a mind control op from day one? In the mid-1960s, a huge spiritual wave crashed ashore involving a heightened sensitivity to telepathic vibrations. Brian Wilson sensed it when he wrote Good Vibrations, his greatest masterpiece in 1966. Brian was a daily stoner at the time, deep into improvisational ritual theater as a way to manifest spirituality. But spirituality and religion are two different things. State religion started as a conspiracy between a king and high priest to anoint each other with a divine right to rule.

220px-Serapis_Louvre_Ma_1830Consider the history of this dude, Serapis. You don’t hear much about him these days. He was created by Ptolemy I of Egypt, who built many temples in his honor, the largest in Alexandria. Look familiar?

Serapis was created as the God of resurrection and everlasting life, and made Greek in appearance, but wore Egyptian clothes, and displayed a variety of cultural sigils. In other words, Serapis was a hybrid created to appeal to Greeks and Romans to bring them into an Egyptian sphere of influence.

In order to cement this new God into the Greek psyche, Ptolemy invoked the spirit of the recently departed Alexander the Great, who had also sought to unite the spiritual realms of East and West in one temple under one God, and had chosen Amun of Thebes as potentially the most promising. But after being poisoned and on his death bed, suddenly this new statue appears beside Alexander, supposedly the first ever made of Serapis, and Alexander signifies his allegiance to this new God before expiring. The statue quickly finds it way to Ptolemy, who starts building a cult to Serapis in Alexander’s honor.

I’m far from an expert in these matters, but from my uneducated perspective, it appears that Isis (the Egyptian Goddess of magic) and Serapis were involved in fomenting a religious culture that believed everlasting life could be achieved through divine intervention, and these two icons had become dominant spiritual forces of their time, much beloved by common folk throughout the Mediterranean. But then Constantine created modern Christianity through his councils, the first in Nicea, and suddenly all traces of Serapis and Isis disappeared. Perhaps this was done to shake off the Egyptian influence and replace it with a Judaic one? More likely it was done to offset the rise of a recently crucified prophet/artist named Mani, who had also been successfully seeking to unify all religions.

The Vatican was built on Isis’ temple, and they kept many of her sacred objects, especially the pine cone statue. One thing you need to know about Isis: she burned cannabis and frankincense incense in her fumigated temples, only one of which the Catholics kept while banning the other.

Now how does this all figure into Brian Wilson writing Good Vibrations?

Before I explain that, did you know a society of pot-smoking musicians appeared in the Middle Ages in Italy and France and wrote songs exclusively about smoking hash? And these were the first published secular manuscripts, and the Vatican was super pissed off with this society because they wanted to maintain a monopoly on written music. Try searching “Society of Smokers,” although the only thing that likely pops up concerns a composer named Solage who satirized them, and zero on the real society, who were quickly disappeared off the face of the earth, although a handful of manuscripts do remain. I bet the Vatican has more in a vault somewhere, but they will likely never be released.

Back to Brian: In the late 1950s, a group of teens began hanging out on the beach in Southern California and learning to surf while reading Jack Kerouac. In winter, they’d safari down to Mexico, where marijuana was cheap and plentiful. Some became obsessed with spiritual issues and forming communes, while everyone began coalescing around Newport Beach because that town had a huge dance hall where bands could play and hundreds of teens could congregate in one giant room. Yes, it was their temple. These teens were the first hippies because smoking that pot and riding those waves and listening to that rock had clued them into some intense vibrations. Brian was hanging out in this scene practically from the moment it began, which is why he was smoking pot and writing songs about surfing in the first place. Strangely enough, their temple was ruled by a guitarist named Dick Dale, who wrote spiritually-charged power anthems with a middle-eastern tinge (but never smoked pot). Dick didn’t sing, however, which may be why he never became the national figure he should have been.

But suddenly, as this new scene is manifesting incredible energy, a massive wave of LSD is dumped all across America and things start going haywire really fast, including Brian’s psyche. Before long, the temple in Newport is no more and hippies are on the run and hated across the land, a sentiment that continues through to this day.

It sort of reminds me of the birth of hip hop in the Bronx. A lot of potheads were involved in that one too, including Coke La Rock, Busy Bee and Grandmaster Caz to name but a few. But right after that explosion of culture appeared, the Bronx was suddenly flooded with angel dust and crack cocaine, which helped lead an initially non-violent culture straight into gangsta rap.

Of course, maybe none of these dots add up, but it seems you can pretty much derail any spiritual movement based around cannabis by flooding the temples with stronger substances.

Religions are created by and for rich people, doesn’t matter who the original prophet may have been, eventually they exist primarily to serve the status quo and are easily exploited by those in power. However, just because people attend a church doesn’t mean they are under anyone’s mind control. Each congregation creates its own telepathic energy and when people harmonize and share love and empathy in traditional ceremonies to show respect to their ancestors, I believe that’s a honorable act that should be treated with great respect, no matter what the culture.

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Return of Futura 2000

Futura-1

After my article on Futura 2000 came out in the New York Daily News, Futura quickly catapulted to international stardom, and among the first patrons to arrive on his doorstep were The Clash, who hired him to paint a canvas backdrop during their performances and gradually worked him into a feature performance slot on the tour. After The Clash asked Futura to write a rap song about himself, he sat down and composed 7-verses on a long piece of cardboard, filling both sides to the maximum in his immaculate style. Futura never mentioned his strained relationship with Ali or the incident in the tunnel, though, which is the part I found so fascinating, but did give Fab Five Freddy an entire verse. In my book, Hip Hop (which has just been re-released with color photos and illos), Freedom, otherwise known as Chris Pape, tells his version of the Futura-Ali saga, there are so many variations. The photo of Futura (above) was taken by Stephen Crichlow around 1982.

Futura

To give you an idea of how crazy things were at the time, immediately after publishing the first article on hip hop in the Voice, I’d written a story about Arlene Smith and the Chantels, which went into their relationship with Morris Levy, who would later become a thinly-veiled character in The Sopranos epic. Levy routinely took all publishing rights from his acts, something common at the time. Although their records were huge hits and Arlene was the first goddess of rock’n’roll and pioneered the girl group sound, she ended up feeling used and exploited and broke. Her story was a bit sad, but my editor at the Voice, Thulani Davis, who was black herself, loved it. It was a message I wanted to send to the Sugarhill acts, who were then about to be destroyed by Sylvia Robinson, who was busy creating her own phony hip hop acts like the Sugarhill Gang, who would have been laughed off the stage at a South Bronx jam, since their style was so soft and weak in comparison to the delivery of a Busy Bee or Melle Mel or Grandmaster Caz or Kool Mo Dee.

I stupidly sent a copy of the story to Arlene before it was published, however, and she showed it to her agent, who called me and told me to retract the story and he would help me write a better version. When I refused, he said he was personal friends with Voice music editor (Robert Christgau) and my story would never see the light of day in the Voice. And that’s exactly what happened. Christgau blocked publication of a story that had already been accepted by Thulani. (You can read that original story on Arlene on my smashwords site though.)

So I drifted over to the SoHo Weekly News, where a news editor named David Hershkovits expressed interest in publishing my ongoing hip hop research, the only such editor in America at that time. I first wrote a story on Crazy Legs and the Rock Steady Crew and then David asked me to go interview Futura, who was just back from a European tour with The Clash. Futura graciously handed me the piece of cardboard (above) that he’d first written his rap song on, and he said I could keep it, which was nice because I’d already paid him $100 for a framed photo of his Break train, and this was a major trophy he threw into my lap.