On page 1 of Rock Prophecy
, the first sentence in the book reads: "We do not worship Jimi. The Hendrix story teaches us how destructive 'worship' can be."
The sentence is quoted from my article published in Straight Ahead magazine years earlier (Aug. 1994 p. 16). The point is that for decades I've been countering the charge that somehow we're "worshipping" Jimi Hendrix. Quite the opposite, Hendrix represents a potent means by which we see the practice of "worship" as destructive and to be avoided.
EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK
Jimi Forgive Them,
They Know Not What They Drool
"The purpose of worship is to shift - from peripheral awareness to focal
awareness - the mystery and wonder of the world. We sense it going on a
lot, but we do not have it in focus of our attention. [Chanting monks] take
what is in peripheral awareness - the overtones too faint for us to hear
discretely - and elevate it to our direct consciousness. So they're doing in
music exactly what worship was intended to do with the sacred: to get from
peripheral to focal awareness." - Houston Smith interview, PBS 1996
"A purely negative evaluation of the effects of religion would be inaccurate. It cannot be denied that many people, women and men, have achieved with the help of religion a kind of autonomy, charity and peace…[but] these qualities, and particularly this peace, have been attained at too high a price, that is, by leaping over inequities instead of working through these. Certainly, there is something deficient in harmony bought at the expense of insight, in solving problems by not seeing them…The church has been seen by some as essentially a charismatic community, in which such gifts as healing and prophecy are experienced. Unfortunately its apologists have failed to give due attention to the fact that the healing dispensed within the province of institutional religion has to a large extent been needed because of the destruction wrought by such religion. The healing dispensed institutionally…does not go to the cause of sickness. It is not preventive medicine. Rather, an elitism is perpetuated that feeds on illness of soul, mind, and body."
- Mary Daly, Beyond God the Father
When we worship, we are expending energy on something that's considered sacred
and special. A religion can require the practice of worship, an activity which heightens awareness of "the mystery and wonder of the world…the sacred". But the way in which one group of people worships will distinguish them from people with other beliefs. A woman who eats meat on Friday doesn't comply with Vatican rules. A man who won't lay prostrate and face Mecca disobeys Muslim customs. Dominators fixate on such differences and care little for any increased sense of the "mystery and wonder of the world". Communal contemplation, and praise of the mystery, is replaced by a rejection of outsiders. Worship becomes Warship.
Warship is a verb. It is a call to demonstrate compliance with beliefs and customs of a tribe - and battle against those who don't conform. Outsiders are "Other" - unlike us. The Others are excluded, obstructed and rejected. We who conform deserve more than the Others because our warship is "better". God approves of the way we pray.
Thou shalt have no other gods before me…Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them, for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God. - Exodus 20:3,5
Rituals of submission appeal to dominators. Their religions use warship to define lines in the sand across which outsiders dare not tread. "By the year 200, the battle lines had been drawn," writes Elaine Pagels, "both orthodox and Gnostic Christians claimed to represent the true church and accused one another of being outsiders, false brethren, and hypocrites…each group attempted to define the church in ways that excluded the other…Gnostics defined the church precisely in terms of the quality of the interrelationships among its members…exploring the psyche became explicitly what it is for many people today implicitly - a religious quest. Some who seek their own interior direction, like the radical Gnostics, reject religious institutions as a hindrance to their progress…the Gnostic becomes a 'disciple of his [own] mind'…He learns what he needs to know by himself in meditative silence. Consequently he considers himself equal to everyone, maintaining his own independence of anyone else's authority…Whoever follows the direction of his own mind need not accept anyone else's advice…many Gnostics, like many artists, search for interior self-knowledge as the key to understanding universal truths…whoever explores human experience simultaneously discovers divine reality…Convinced that the only answers were to be found within, the Gnostics engaged in an intensely private interior journey."
- Elaine Pagels, Gnostic Gospels
Blessed are the solitary and the chosen, for you will find the Kingdom. For you are from it, and to it you will return. - Jesus (Thomas:49)
Jimi Hendrix typified the Gnostic personality. Hendrix sensed that neither worship nor warship is required by the Creator.
People here are losing their peace of mind, they're getting so lost in all of these rules and regulations and uniforms that they're losing their peace of mind. If people would just take three to five minutes a day to be by
themselves to find out what they want to do, by the end of the week they'd
have something…that's how you can get yourself together and be friends
with your neighbors, maybe even say hello and see if you can knock down
all of those complexes. - Jimi 1969
Jimi ignored the requirements of worship and the rules of warship. He promoted a
single belief - the Hendrixian creed:
As long as you are not harming another human being, what does it matter what you do? This I really believe: anybody should be able to think or do what they want as long as it doesn't hurt anybody else. But those old laws and ideas really do hurt people mentally. When natural feelings conflict against laws that were made hundreds of years ago - that's when you get hang-ups. - Jimi 1969
Jimi's wisdom mirrors Wicca's creed: "Do as you will. Harm none." But "old laws and ideas" train us to do what is willed by a hierarchy of men. When the Church merged with the Roman Empire under Constantine, people attracted to
Jesus' vision of a classless society found themselves now groveling at the feet of
kings. To call oneself "Christian" required tribute paid to the thrones of unjust
moneyed men. The faith was revised by Rome to teach the opposite of what Jesus
preached. Today, customs justify, and laws enshrine, our right to profit at the
expense of anyone less lucky than us. In opposition with this is the teaching of Jesus about equal sharing of everything:
Those who call themselves kings like to order other people around. And their great leaders have full power over the people they rule, but don't act like them. If you want to be great, you must be the servant of all the others. And if you want to be first, you must be everyone's slave. - Jesus (Mark 10:42-44)
Rock Prophecy - copyright 1995, published 1999
Years after Rock Prophecy was published, we've heard the prominent mythologist David Talbott echo this same insight:
"The institutionalization of myth across history can be a very perverse thing, the rise of Holy War in ancient times echoes all the way into the present time, so it is a huge subject and it's going to be opened up…In all institutionalized forms of religion, it is just the sad truth of the matter that all institutional religions today tend to carry forward mythology in ways that are completely destructive and pit the religions against each other. Just to take an example, amongst all of the ancient peoples you will have a definition of sacred space which they identify their own locale; this local hill, this local valley, this river. They identify it with the land of the gods in primeval times and once they have made that symbolic decision to identify in that way they have something to go to war over. This becomes 'god's place', we become the 'children of god', the 'chosen people', the 'children of the sun', which the Israelis considered themselves, and always when you're viewing your culture, your people, your city, your nation, in these special terms, you are laying the groundwork for Holy War. This is a terrible thing and people don't want to hear about this, by and large. They can see it in other cultures and other religions, but they have great difficulty in seeing it in their own…There is going to be a tremendous controversy and a great deal of anger at what is being disclosed here as if it is threatening us, but it is not threatening anybody."
- David Talbott, mythologist, Coast to Coast AM Radio, March 11, 2007