STO Music, Value, and The Odyssey

I was inspired by a lot of things going on in various threads as well as some of the work my band has been doing to try and articulate the problem of "Value" in our ever-snowballing techno-society. How does this relate to music and art?

This article was prefaced by a shout out to The Odyssey, Laura, and the Forum's work with The Odyssey in the posting two below it as part of our weekly "Friday Endorsements."

For anyone interested in further discussing the possibility of STO music in an STS environment...

Something’s Happening Here And We Don’t Know What It Is…

Bloody Painters: so, there is quite an interesting conversation happening over on our Facebook page that could use your thoughts. I think that what is being discussed is using music criticism as a vehicle to address a much larger issue, and it is something that deserves some digging for those interested or affected by what is happening to creative arts all over the world.

It started with a post by Mark about Jim Farber’s article in the NY Daily News about what he perceives as an infiltration of sensitive “wussy” music into the music scene. He brings up one important point: something is lacking in music these days. What he fails to do, consensus seems to confirm, is articulate effectively what that “something” is. He may have done better just posting an mp3 of Dylan’s ‘Ballad of A Thin Man’ and calling it a day. But he didn’t, and we can thank him for sparking the conversation. Before reading the rest of this post, it might be useful to head over to our Facebook page to see where we are now:

Not Blood, Paint (
Will someone please inform Jim Farber that there are four new sherriffs in town?

Stop being so sensitive! Burly men become girly men, turning pop music into a wuss-case scenario
When did the wimps inherit the earth? Over the last few years, just about every band that’s earned the hipster’s stamp of approval has fired by about as much testosterone as a neutered poodle.

Tuesday at 2:14pm · Like · · Share

So first of all, thanks to all who have participated so far. Mark, Nick, and I were talking yesterday about how absurd it is that these are the sorts of conversations that should be had face to face, with food and drink, and instead we are on our phones or laptops.

What are the advantages of such a social-techno configuration? Well, there are plenty: We can be scattered the world over and take part in the conversation, we can express ourselves as articulately and carefully as we desire and there is a gag-stop function for our tendency to interrupt each other when things get heated, and we can use the internet to really corroborate our points with links and quotes. There are plenty of advantages.

So, maybe we can treat this whole facebook/blog scenario as a sort of “best we can do” with regards to communicating with one another and learning from each other, while knowing that nothing can replace that human interaction of touching the shoulder of the person you are talking to, or looking into the eyes of someone talking about something they love. Of course, I am not so naive so as to think that this is what facebook is all about. I saw The Social Network. I get it. And we should be happy using it for the social documenting of cultural trends and finding out who is where and when and stalking and every other disposable trash culture function. This stuff can be great fun. But I think we can recognize these digital media trends for what they are, and also think about what they could be.

And this circles back to the article and the conversation that ensued. So what IS going on? What is Jim Farber really lamenting? I can’t claim to know what he was shooting for, but I have a guess: Jim Farber wants to experience music as VALUABLE. He wants to recover that feeling he had, in youth, when music caused in him transformation, revolution, danger. He wants music to wake him up and keep him there, and he looks around at the diverse world music scene, a spread of millions upon billions of musical options available for instant download, and he fails to find anything of value to him.

Why is this so? Well this is a monumental question because it is happening to us under our noses and it is entirely determined by us. The technological revolution is a speeding demon of a thing, much bigger and faster than the will of any one human on earth. If we don’t pay attention and harness our technology in a way that establishes value and evaluates this notion at every turn, it will continue to numb our experiences until we have lost all perception of how to identify those things that might contribute to our evolution as a species (or prevent our further de-volution, if you like). Further, this meta social-web has the disturbing capacity to ramp up willfulness while simultaneously dissolving all ability to actually act out of will. How many opinions have you read today online? Here the entire world’s knowledge is at our fingertips instantly, so we begin to operate out of the expectation of instant gratification. This is great but I think we’ve gotta remember that in order to discover what is valuable in this brief life, we have to be willing to work for it – to pay for it (not in a monetary sense, but an energetic sense).

The French professor, historian, and philosopher Boris Mouravieff wrote an astounding three-part document entitled ‘Gnosis’ in the 1960s. It was only translated to English in the 90’s and it is still hard to get ahold of (I have copies if you are interested). I recognize in this document principles that have the power to change my life. Some of what he discusses is dated, but his foresight into our current situation is something I've rarely encountered in philosophy. He claimed to be transmitting an ancient esoteric tradition that had knowledge of the social cycle we are currently experiencing (as well as principles regarding how to navigate a human relationship with the universe which takes into account our most current understanding of quantum mechanics and interpenetrating dimensions). All of this shows in countless jaw-dropping passages.

What is this tradition? According to Mouravieff, it is a Paleolithic form of Christianity that existed before the Old Testament was written (yeah, I know, Christianity before Christ??). Further, this tradition may have been part of the lives of both Greek and Celtic societies (the societies that created stonehenges and circle mazes and payed tribute to fertility goddess and the Divine Feminine). This form of Christianity was hardly a religion, but a school or technique (or technology) for the evolution of consciousness in man, a science of mind that dates back further than we have accurate document for. Whoever the Christ figure was (whether a group of people or a real flesh and blood individual), the goal seems to have been to re-awaken this traditional science of the mind for the people of that time (given the “successes” of Christianity today, the symbols of the “tradition” still survive, though in a much distorted fashion). It became the goal of figures like Boris Mouravieff and G.I. Gurdjieff to reestablish these ideas again for the modern world. The esoteric tradition existed to provide the tools needed to be a counterpoint in a “Dominator society” which is what nearly every major culture has been since the establishment of Monotheism – a hierarchy of control.

The idea that the Old Testament (which still defines such a large sector of our western society) was a deliberate corruption for political purposes is not such a stretch for me. However, the idea that the Bible obscured true history and distorted key principles that might free us from the situation in which we currently find ourselves felt like stumbling upon a huge missing puzzle piece. If you haven’t come across this idea before, it can seem such a stretch. I have been testing the idea by boning up on my religious history, looking for clues to support or refute this, and the whole thing has recently been brought to new light for me by a reread of Homer’s The Odyssey. Read in the context of Mouravieff’s work, it is shocking the parallels. He writes:

“Today man feels acutely the opposition between the tremendous technical progress and the obvious moral deficiency of humanity. In fact, while life on the material plane is moving at an accelerated pace due to the political, social and industrial Revolution, man has made no marked progress on the moral plane.
Today, any being who thinks will feel unhappy; if his ability to do is deficient, his overdeveloped sensibility makes his active will all the more exacting and refined. This is so much so, that he sees his good intentions wither before they have had the strength to blossom.

There is no reason to hope that the present situation will correct itself automatically. On the contrary, the more technical progress accelerates, the wider grows the gulf in modern man between wanting and the ability to do. This contradiction can be seen on every plane…

…Man must now discover new sources of moral energy in the same way that he has - thanks to science - found new sources of physical energy.

[The solution lies in a network of human beings] whose latent moral faculties are developed and cultivated.”

To clarify, when Mouravieff talks about “moral progress” he is referring to the ability of humans to apply the knowledge gained in increased Objectivity (though science and social networking towards this end) to the goal of preserving the principal of Free Will for all living things. He isn’t speaking of the subjective and contradictory “morality” that religions so easily succumb to. In other words, if we let this political, social, and industrial machine snowball unchecked; if we allow it to infiltrate our lives without applying it actively and consciously to the goal of decreasing the suffering of those who desire it and increasing the knowledge needed to exert and preserve our individual Free Will, the beast will lumber on and we might wonder why we have the world at our fingertips and are more imprisoned than we ever thought possible. We will have lost the ability to find value in our world.

Like the Benjamin Britton quote Mark posted last week, Mouravieff echoes the idea that humans must relearn how to work together in order to reclaim value:

“Here we must describe the principal law which underlies the formation of these teams. On the material plane, the greatest reward goes to him who commands. On the esoteric plane, the greatest reward goes to him who serves.”

To my mind, here lies not just an opportunity, but also an imperative. If these ideas ring true, if we have it in us to see the situation at hand for what it is and not back down because of the overwhelming nature of the challenge, it becomes our job to seek a solution, to become clever and driven enough to exert our will in a situation where there is no room for will. We can allow ourselves to become subject to our technology and to those who wish to dominate us through our carelessness, or our feelings of helplessness, or our pain, or we can work to find something different.

So, what are your thoughts? How can we use music to reclaim value and how can we use our technology to reclaim music? I can suggest that it will only happen through work together and through a sense of community and respect, through relinquishing ownership and ego for the sake of shared discovery, through the epic rules of The Hospitality Myth, but I can’t prove it. Not Blood Paint will need your assistance for that.

“I have a word to say to you, so listen.

Of mortal creatures, all that breathe and move,

each bears none frailer than mankind. What man

believes in woe to come, so long as valor

and tough knees are supplied him by the gods?

But when the gods in bliss bring miseries on,

then willy-nilly, blindly, he endures.

Our minds are as the days are, dark or bright,

blown over by the father of gods and men.

So I, too, in my time thought to be happy;
but far and rash I ventured, counting on
my own right arm, my father, and my kin;
behold me now.

No man should flout the law,
but keep in peace what gifts the gods may give.”

(Odysseus, book XVII, lines 162-177)

- Seth
I'm glad you enjoyed it, MayaDawn! This is a question (with regards to music) for which we are actively seeking alternatives. If you've tried to navigate any of the major art scenes, they are dominated by industrial/consumer/business structures and ideas (and have been for at least 40 years and steadily turning up the heat, like frogs in a boiling pot). With all the talk about products, markets, and budgets, the creative spirit is held down and suffocated into self-serving maneuvers. And audiences are taught to take from them as they take from a supermarket or conveyer belt or fashion trend. And the sad thing is that people are beginning to understand this on an intuitive level (in large part thanks to the internet), but don't dream that they could do anything to change it. Art will never die, right? Well, of course that depends on what you are willing to label "art." I'm not seeing very much of it around.

For those that are treating art as something to consume, it is time we stopped the feeding tube and stopped catering to the mindset (at least on an individual/small scale).

For those that appreciate art but are fed up with the narcissistic art community, it is not productive to judge the sickness (which has been induced). We could be working toward providing gifted artists with environments and community based support to show us reality in ways we haven't seen it. It seems we are in a catch-22 in which art cannot flourish or survive in an environment of control and suppression, but may be one of the only tools we can develop to dig our ways to something different. fwiw.

What do you think?

p.s. I love the McKenna quote, that sentiment is beautiful and I can hear his dry voice saying it perfectly. I think his life was an example of that search, and for that I have much respect for the man (even if I can't agree with all of his ideas, its ok because he worked toward the goal of eradicating "belief" and using science to test for truth and it really took him in some incredible directions - he knew he didn't have the whole banana, but he took such joy in the search). :)
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