“You must be the last person on earth to buy this,” said the music shop salesman when he slid a cassette tape of Thriller my way in Portland, Oregon, on one of my rare forays out of a spiritual commune into the “big city” in 1985. I have ecstatically danced along my spiritual path and the music of Michael Jackson came along triggering the light foot fantastic.
Those of you who’ve watched me dance at our local Langley Washington music fairs called Choochokam, always held the weekend after the Fourth of July, know what I mean. The ethereal voice, harmonies and astral funk music of Michael Jackson’s songs in Off the Wall or Thriller albums was my holy Prasad of party song in the 1980s as was The Friends of Mr. Cairo by John Anderson and Vangelis. Hey, former communards of the Ranch. Do you remember us rockin’ and ether-astral projectin’ to “State of Independence”? How about the way we flew off the collective launch pad to the stars to Michael Jackson’s “You Want To Be Startin’ Somthin’” after a 12-hour workday, like it was nothing?
When I was a security guard on a lonely stretch of the County Road, we called Buddha Grove, meandering down the high desert hills into our communal ranch of meditators, I stuck that Thriller cassette into the machine, slid the switch to volume full-max, got out of my booth and danced the gravel road conjuring the rising dawn. Thank you Michael for everything: the good, the weird and the transcendental!
Michael passed Thursday — the moment before I posted the last bulletin (The 21 Challenge). That’s where I’ll remember where I was when I heard the King of Pop had died. Today (Saturday) the Internet around the world is overloading and overheating because of the global downloading of his songs. I’m listening to my favorites as I write this. I thought I’d add to the traffic trying to find the musical-prophetic angle to Jackson’s passing.
As much as I’ve loved everything Michael wrote, I do have two hands-down favorites. They don’t come from his heyday but at the beginning of his long twilight into seclusion and the long and dangerous tightrope moonwalk inward into the existential mystery. It is a balancing act that so many sensitive souls like Jackson have walked on an ever thinning line of awareness that either can lead to the farther shore of meditation but more than often ends with a plunge into insanity and/or drug abuse.
I love his “Stranger in Moscow” because it speaks to the meditator on the path in me, trying to make sense of the lonely one seeking the freedom of aloneness who is encountering that “Stranger in my skull” — Michael’s haunting ballad about his night walking alone in the streets of Moscow after a concert. In that song, head upturned, eyes closed, he faced the rain of divine silence and embraced the stranger that is being.
“Stranger in Moscow” is my second favorite.
My first favorite is from the same HIStory album released in the mid-1990s. It shares a meditative and empathic glimpse into the meditator’s life when consciousness blows open a door beyond self. One sees one’s little dewdrop contain the oceanic compassion for this world, its people and all that live and are unconsciously destroying it.
I speak of Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song.”
The song and incomparable video is a sonic-cinematic metaphor for the awakening of all of us, one individual at a time — hopefully in time, before it is too late — to turn back the devastation of war, deforestation, and mass extinction with a great wind of love, intelligence and consciousness. This song and video are works of prophecy. Michael may have passed on, but “Earth Song” continues to share with us a vision of global climate crisis and renewal logged nearly 2,000 years before it happened by a mysterious mystic known as Hermes Trismegistus.
The more poetically occult will say he was the founder of ancient Hermetic mystery schools in Egypt and one of the earliest prophets to warn us of a stagnating atmosphere coming from the Global Warming.
Scholars that are more objective say Hermes Trismegistus was a philosopher or a series of philosophers using the pen name living in Alexandria during the first few centuries after Christ. His rebellious writings against the cut-and-dried, rote teaching of Greek and Platonic orthodoxy were compiled in the Hermetica.
Sources that are more subjective place Hermes T. far back into antediluvian times as the great Atlantean adept, god-realized or actually a god in his own right. According to them, he founded the Egyptian mystery schools after the Atlantean island empire became “all wet” in one climactic inundation as far back as twelve thousand years ago. This Hermes is credited with setting the foundation for nearly all Western mystical teachings. In his book The White Goddess, Robert Graves specifies Hermes’ cosmic role as the “Leader of Souls.” He is responsible for the creation of astronomy, and his teachings are even considered by occult researchers to be the root of the Tarot.
Hermes Trismegistus was an early forewarner of humanity’s disconnect with ecological balance when recorded in a dialogue with Asclepius he decried, “They will no longer love this world around us, this incomparable work of God, this glorious structure which he has built, this sum of good made up of things of many diverse forms…”
It almost reads to me like a script describing Earth Song’s scenes of Amazonian natives watching the forest trees being chopped down and African Masai beholding climate change desiccating their range with the elephants carcasses dismembered of their ivory by poachers and the great herds of Giraffe and Wildebeest vanishing like ghosts of extinction
Then, as if Hermes had written the video shooting script about forests felled replaced by forests of smoke stacks belching poison into earth’s skies, he goes on to describe a world of polluted skies that rings true for our times 1,900 years later: “Then the earth no longer stands unshaken. All voices of the gods will of necessity be silenced and dumb. The fruits of the earth will rot; the soil will turn barren, and the very air will rot. The soil will turn barren, and the very air will sicken in sullen stagnation. After this manner will old age come upon the world.”
Yet, it is out of this coming ecological global disaster that a divine purification comes. Hermes, just like in Jackson’s Earth Song, visualizes us turning back the hand of war. We turn back the hand of ecological devastation, as if at last our minds, our hearts and our hands served a divine call of healing, and a great wind came to blow all our iniquities away as we, like Michael Jackson in Earth Song, blown in the wind, hanging onto dead tree branches, begins to ask those core questions:
Michael Jackson sang:
What have we done to the world
Look what we’ve done
What about all the peace
That you pledge your only son…
What about flowering fields
Is there a time
What about all the dreams
That you said was yours and mine…
Did you ever stop to notice
All the children dead from war
Did you ever stop to notice
The crying Earth the weeping shores
And 1,900 years earlier, Hermes Trismegistus answered:
“[God] will call back to the right path those who have gone astray; he will cleanse the world from evil, now washing it away with water floods, now burning it out with fiercest fire, or again expelling it by war and pestilence. And thus will bring back his world to its former aspect, so that the Kosmos will once more be deemed worthy of worship and wondering reverence.”
In this vision, Hermes Trismegistus parallels the prophecies of the Hopi Native Americans. Destiny necessitates a scourge of rising oceans, floods, droughts, fires, and other ecological disasters — wars and population decimating plagues even — the thorough slap in our collective faces to reawaken humanity’s sense of consciousness and harmony with the universe, in which it has been so blessed to exist. The path to enlightenment is ever a subtle or literal passage through a great death and renewal.
Hermes Trismegistus declares, “Such is the new birth of the Kosmos. It is a making again of all things good; a holy and awe-striking restoration of all nature and it is wrought in the process of time by the eternal will of God. For God’s will has no beginning. It is ever the same and as it now is, even so it has ever been, without beginning. For it is the very being of God to purpose good.”
The Hermetic teaching points to the divine spark in all things. We therefore are vehicles or vessels of the divine good that is never born nor ever dies. All we need do is remember this, each moment, each “now”, and act accordingly in every “now” henceforward to restore our Kosmos.
“Fair well” Michael. Nothing of being ever dies. Thus, you and I will never die, and we will sing the Earth Song Eternal.
(27 June 2009)