Pink Floyd meets Dorothy, and her little dog too!!

At a recent ward activity, I somehow got into a conversation with a member of my Elder’s Quorum, and his wife, about the alleged connection between “Dark Side of the Moon” and the “The Wizard of Oz.” For those of you unfamiliar with the juicy details, let me tantalize you:

Apparently, there is a bizarre synchronicity between the Pink Floyd song and the MGM classic film. If you play “The Wizard of Oz” with the volume turned down and start the Floyd song right after the third roar of the MGM lion, and you then sit back and observe what happens, you will notice all sorts of bizarre coincidences and connections between Dorothy’s shenanigans on-screen, and the pot-banging blaring out of your stereo (Nope–I’m not a Floyd fan). I won’t get into the details. (Go to http://www.rareexception.com/Garden/Floyd/Floyd.php if you’re interested in learning more).

Well, after explaining to me how this works (for this was news to me), the couple then related their own initiation into the dark underworld of Judy Garland movies. Apparently, they were first exposed to the awful phenomenon at a party a few years back when somebody popped the movie into the VCR and turned on the CD player. They immediately noticed the uncanny connection like a blow to the head. What’s worse, they then experienced a deep, dark, diabolical feeling of foreboding and dread, which I can only compare to Joseph Smith’s experience in the Sacred Grove, minus any heavenly interlopers. The conversation drew to a close with their fervent testimony that this was the creepiest, most demonic experience of their lives, and an admonition that I should NEVER try this at home!

Now, I’m not one to usually make fun of others’ spiritual (or unspiritual) experiences. (O.K., maybe I am, but not unless they’re told in testimony meeting! J ). But PUH- LEEEEZ!! I and another brother looked at each other knowingly, and we might as well have been telepaths: “We are DEFINITELY going to try this for ourselves before week’s end,” the brother thought to me. “Yes, I’ll go rent the video,” I responded with my eyes.

Friday night rolled around, and we had everything set up. I was waiting and hoping to be blown away. We started the film, and then the CD. (Drum roll please… )

How can I put this? I was, shall we say, rather UNDERWHELMED. Not only were there no evil spirits, but I couldn’t even see the alleged coincidences. Yes, Toto does utter a bark, just as some other dog is doing likewise on the soundtrack. Big deal. It probably would have worked with “101 Dalmations,” too. I paid $4.10 at Blockbuster Video for this??? I want a refund! (I have a theory as to what’s really going on with this alleged “synchronicity,” but that’s a story for another day!)

Obviously, I am not a believer in this hooey. But here is my question: Let’s assume for the sake of argument that there really is a bizarre relationship between Pink Floyd and Dorothy. So what? Why is this “evil?” If my fellow churchgoers’ interpretation of their experience were unique or anomalous, this wouldn’t be an interesting question. But I don’t think it was unique or anomalous; I can think back to all sorts of events or conversations in my life in which Satan, or the Devil, or the Adversary is blamed for incidents or goings-on that have no discernable “satanic” quality to them. If you think you’ve been personally possessed by Beelzebub, fine. I’m not here to disparage all run-ins with the supernatural. I just want to understand why every feeling of eebie-jeebies is met with the default explanation that Lucifer is somehow behind it all. Did we all get spooked by Bruce R. McConkie’s _Mormon Doctrine_ entry on “Ouija Boards” one too many times as children, and now we’re oversensitive? I don’t know.

Maybe some will feel that I’m making too much out of an isolated incident. But I don’t think it’s isolated, and I really am interested in understanding why Satan gets invoked when and where he does by so many LDS people. (I should note that the LDS couple I mentioned above are both young, intelligent, articulate professionals). Is there a systematic way of thinking about this question? Any thoughts?

Aaron B

P.S. Also feel free to share your own experiences with the alleged Pink Floyd/Wizard of Oz connection, if you have any. If you don’t, go try this at home, and tell me if it works for you! (Maybe I just didn’t have eyes to see… )

Comments

  1. :)

  2. A part of reason this post rings so true is that we have a religion that clearly believes in God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. We also believe the Devil exists, is real, etc. So the minute we are prepared to walk down that road, things like ouija boards and face cards (!) can all be manifestations of Satan.

    I can’t speak to Joseph Smith’s experiences, but I can say for myself that yes, there are moments of real evil out there, and it’s scary stuff (even scarier than coffee or face cards!). I try not to think about it, since it’s certainly not our beliefs on Satan that are going to get us saved.

    So basically, I think it’s because as LDS people we’re trained to be sensitive to the Spirit and to our feelings. I guess it must be easy to confuse being freaked out with having a demon.

  3. Aaron,

    You have hit the nail on the head–and at the same time reminded me what a great movie The Usual Suspects is. You remember the line–the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. (Interesting that our religion requires at least a cursory belief in the dark one.) It’s tough for me to take the idea of the devil you describe in your intial post seriously–and I tend to agree with Steve E–people who do, your friends not withstanding, tend to be hicks. I have nothing against hicks–I myself have excellent hick bona fides and sometimes get called huckleberry at work by the guy on the cusp of partnership who lives next door–but hicks are a superstious bunch and believe in lots of things, that I just don’t–e.g. Amway and home births.

    Satan doesn’t need to embed himself into backmasked records–he does a better job when he is out in plain sight where we can get used to him. You know–tolerate and then embrace.

  4. Aaron, I haven’t seen the exorcist. Having been exposed to too many Seminary lessons on the subject, I just knew it would scare me silly. See, Seminary works. I did enjoy the bunnies though. I always suspected there was some nefarious motive behind their beady eyes and twitchy little noses.

    Lest I be referred to as the “goat-killin’ gal” let me just take a stand against killing of goats in any way shape or form. I also take a firm stand against pyramid schemes and possibly water witching…Although like Mat, I have my hick creds firmly in place.

    I think that Aaron’s point about redundancy articulated my problems with the doctrine of Satan. We are taught that he is real and trying to ensnare us, but I worry that becoming preoccupied with that fact somehow lessens our personal culpability–he becomes a universal “scape goat” if you will. (Sheesh, back to the goats again…)

    Further, ever the pragmatist, I don’t think we need to spend so much energy worrying about the genesis of a particular temptation, and worry more about fighting against it. I think that Jeremy’s point about “puritan porn” is well taken–if we’re getting delicious shivers from discussing the forbidden in a “spiritual” setting, then it’s time to change the subject. I’m not arguing against the reality of Satan, I’m arguing for personal responsibility.

  5. I can’t say I’ve ever experienced this Floyd/Oz phenomenon. However, IIRC, Floyd’s “Money”, when played backward, used to tell me things like “You are sexy” and “Usted es caliente y guapo”.

    Who was I to argue? I gave in to the brainwashing.

  6. I don’t disagree with Steve about the reality of God or Satan. But I do think that we can develop an unhealthy preoccupation with “the devil”. I remember going to youth conferences where the sole point of the “breakout session” was to scare the crap out of us. Doesn’t seem particularly spiritually useful to me. Kind of like gothicism, only in a different context. I don’t think that having kids equate quasi-horror experiences with spiritual experiences is healthy. I also think that it may create more interest in the occult than it discourages.

    However, my real problem with it is that it’s a red herring. I think the scariest part of life is what we are capable of doing, just with the conditions of mortality and free agency that God gave us. I don’t think that saying, to use a cliche, that “the devil made me do it” is going to bring us close to anything resembling spiritual progress. I always get uneasy when we are having a discussion in church on any topic revolving around sin of any sort (so basically a fair number of conversational opportunities) and someone says “well, this just goes to show that Satan is real” or “we can’t forget that Satan is real.” (Occasionally accompanied by a dramatic semi-whisper and round eyes.) Yes, but let’s also not forget about “the natural man” and free agency. i.e. something we can have some control over–and some actual insight into….

  7. I encountered a lot of this kind of stuff in my youth, mostly through seminary teachers who apparently didn’t get the directive not to talk about Satan worship in their classes. Talking about Satan’s influence in specific instances is a like a good ghost story for many of us–prickels the skin, excites the curiosity and reinforces that good and evil are real. Satan gets invoked as a way of reenforcing the “us verses them” mentality that is sometimes encountered in the church. The idea, I think, is that we must be ever vigilant against the devilry that is all around us. My question is whether this thinking among some Mormons is any different from that of other superstitious/religious people?

  8. I hope you’ll forgive my quoting extensively from a secondary source, but speaking of hicks, er, Hicks:

    Michael Hicks, a professor of music composition at BYU, discussed this sort of thing in his book Mormonism and Music (1989). At the end of the chapter on the church’s (and conservative society’s) cyclical disapproval of new music, he concludes:

    “Mormon leaders almost always came to accept the muisc and dances once forbidden by their elders… As musical contexts changed, musical meanings blurred. Only the profane messages of popular lyrics were consistently fought. But even lyrics proved to be problematic; one generally found adults revealing and interpreting textual meanings supposedly only discernible to the young.” (p. 204)

    In a footnote to that last sentence, he addresses the sort of thing discussed by others in this thread:

    “Fireside talks continute to be given in many MOrmon communities, as in Christian churches at large, by itinerant ‘specialists’ in rock music and lyrics. In north Utah, Mormon leaders recently issued a letter complaining that these talks ‘have gravely offended those in attendance [and] very often stimulate the imagination of the youth and often teach ideas, details, or thoughts, that are highly questionable and totally out of place in a gathering of our members.’…”

    Expanding on Hicks’s take, I think “satanism in music” firesides and seminary lessons are an excuse for otherwise wholesome people to get together and feel the rush of dancing with the dark side, under the pretense of educating themselves to fight against it. It sort of reminds me of how someone, commenting on the right-wing’s relentless obsession with the Lewinsky scandal, referred to it as “Puritan Pornography.” I mean, c’mon, how often to church people get the chance to talk at such length about oral sex?

  9. I should mention, Hicks has a bit of a double agenda here: he’s a fine upstanding member of thie church (as well as a great composer and a super nice guy), and also one of the country’s foremost authorities on psychedelic rock.

  10. I’d just like to point out again that Satan has clearly been at work on this board, again filling Aaron’s homepage link with pr0n URLs.

    Aaron, may I suggest you fill in the URL blank yourself with something less devilish? the editor (me) went in and changed your posts thus far.

  11. It seems like in Mormonism, it’s not just Satan that you have to worry about, it’s all those spirits that want your body and if you’re not careful, they’ll jump right in a possess you. Or they’ll hang around you and whisper in your ear and drive you crazy. (Or at least that is what I was taught to worry about as a teenager.)

    It all started for me with those pesky after school specials on television. And watching TBS Superstation horro movies on Saturday afternoons with that host that used his cigar ash to draw a smiley face on his hand (does anyone else remember this guy?). For some reason when I was a kid, it felt like Satan was always there to jump out at me. Maybe the couple that Aaron talked about in his first post did not have older siblings that read Jay’s Journal (a “diary”–targeted to teenagers– written by a boy that joins the occult, drinks blood, yuck, eventually kills himself, creepy) to them at night.

  12. Kristine says:

    It would be interesting to know whether the frequency of references to the reality of Satan (say, in GC addresses, “Mormon Journal” bits in the Ensign, etc.–popular/folklore references would be even more interesting, but impossible to track, I think) changes over time with some correlation to Maussian assimilation/retrenchment cycles. One function of folklore about Satan is to reinforce group coherence among Mormons. Persecution has been such an important element of Mormon identity, maybe we need some embodied Satan to persecute us now that we don’t have Missouri mobs doing it anymore.
    I saw this really dramatically in the course of the construction of the Boston temple. An ordinarily sane, articulate, wise church leader went around the stake giving a talk in which he related the story of Satan coming to visit President Snow [? all sense of chronology has left me since the birth of my children and I’m too lazy to look it up] during the construction of the Logan [Manti? see above] Temple, all dressed up in a black tophat and tails, trying to somehow dissuade him from the project. The not-quite-explicit conclusion was that the citizens of Belmont who were protesting the construction of the temple were minions of Satan. Of course, temple opponents had entirely rational grounds for their opposition–incredible violence was done to the landscape in its construction (they blew the top off of the tallest hill in Belmont and tore down a huge chunk of forest); they essentially ruined several neighboring houses and yards by blocking all the sunlight from them; there were legitimate concerns about increasing traffic in what had been a very quiet secluded neighborhood, etc. Rather than deal with this opposition rationally, church leaders moved very quickly to a supernatural explanation that increased solidarity among the church membership, and served to increase members’ devotion and commitment to the temple. (Interestingly, this surge of feeling seems to have been temporary; now there is a strong push to increase temple attendance, and it’s much harder now that people are just fighting themselves and their own complicated commitments, rather than working in opposition to “the Adversary.”)

  13. Kaimi — How does Satan go about attacking you with laziness? What is the mechanism?

  14. Karen,

    I understand what you’re saying. I wasn’t actually trying to revolutionize our understanding of Satan or anything. I’ve just always thought Mormon theology would make more sense if it provided a role for Satan in our lives that wasn’t already being fulfilled by US. As is, I’m not sure he really has enough to do (other than supernaturally spook us, or fill a role in the pre-existence narrative).

    Aaron B

  15. Karen,

    Maybe your Satanic proclivities wouldn’t be fulfilled by levitation, but as for me and my house, we remember what the demon Pazuzu did to Linda Blair in the Exorcist. If it’s good enough for Pazuzu, it’s good enough for me!

    If you haven’t seen the film, I refer you to Steve’s link in a prior post, as performed by bunnies.

    Aaron B

    P.S. Please don’t take this as a rejection of your brilliant goat-killing idea. Killing goats is cool!! :)

  16. Karen,

    You’ve asked a great question, one worthy of a post all its own. But let me repeat your insight, and go a step further: Is there any sin, or temptation towards sin, that can’t be explained sufficiently by reference to the “natural man”? Put differently, is there any scenario where referencing “Satan” adds theological clarity to an explanation of our sinful temptations? I often wonder whether Satan isn’t rather superfluous as a causal explanation for temptation.

    Aaron B

  17. Karen, once again your posts make me shiver.

    Let me propose an alternative explanation, without necessarily discounting the doctrinal explanations for these occurrences: our church is made up of a bunch of hicks. There are lots of us that believe in really crazy folk tales, from 3 nephite adventures to Cain/sasquatch. I think that we have a cultural tendency to try and externalize unexplained feelings and experiences, both positive and negative.

    The big problem is that at the end of the day, all these things make it that much more difficult to discern when the Spirit really is speaking to us.

  18. Karen, your posts … Sometimes you talk about women’s rights and the conditions of mortality, and I just have to say, “well, this just goes to show that Satan is real.”

    I guess what I was trying to get at is that when you tell people to listen to the Spirit, that the Holy Ghost will whisper to you, etc. it’s only natural for them to start interpreting any old freak-out as being some sort of manifestation. But is the contrary as crazy? When are good feelings the Spirit?

    Would Aaron have poked fun at somebody who told him of how much a certain movie (say, “Dead Poets Society”) brought in good feelings that they knew were the Spirit? OK, bad movie example. But you get the idea. At some point, all mormons need to be able to distinguish between their own emotions and the ‘promptings’. How do we do it?

  19. Kim, Mat, Karen…

    I didn’t attend Seminary too often as a teen (sleep meant more to me than scriptures), but those few moments that I remember with clarity almost ALL involved the occult.

    Things I learned in Seminary:

    (1) If you play Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” backwards, the backmasking says “Start to Smoke Marijuana.” (The teacher played it for us in class).

    (2) If you take LSD, in combination with following the instructions in a certain text found at most libraries (the teacher wouldn’t give us the title), you can take a journey to a place called “Red Land” …

    (3) Lots of other groovy stuff…

    Don’t let anybody ever tell you I never learned anything in seminary!

    Aaron B

  20. Kristine, I think you’re absolutely right about using Satan as a cheap substitute for trying to find a harmonious solution.

    Little anecdote (it’s not on temple-building scale but still…): Several years ago, when my wife and I were in the process of moving to France, we were worried about what to do with all our furniture. Storage? Sale? Then, one day, we came into contact with a couple that was moving to town to an unfurnished apartment, and had no furniture. Miraculous! They agreed to take our stuff and use it while we were gone

    Then, 2 DAYS before we leave for France, they call us at 11:00 p.m. on Friday night to say, “we’ve been praying about this, and we don’t feel good about taking your furniture. We just have a really bad feeling about it.” We then scrambled to throw our stuff into a storage locker, at huge expense, before flying to France.

    Two lessons from this experience: 1) never do business with mormons, and 2) never use inspiration or “bad feelings” as a method of screwing someone over. I said to the guy, “so basically the Spirit told you to mess us over?”

    Strange how we externalize conflict and make ourselves feel better sometimes by blaming our acts on God or, at times, the devil.

    p.s. “Maussian assimilation/retrenchment cycles”? Are you talking about this: http://www.brossco.fi/johnnysquirrel/Mouse_life/Picts/Mouse_life3.gif

    or this: http://www.iath.virginia.edu/holocaust/spiegelman.html

  21. Mary, that is some crazy, crazy stuff. “it’s all those spirits that want your body and if you’re not careful, they’ll jump right in a possess you” — what?? I guess I wasn’t around for that lesson. Now you all have me freaked out.

    We need something more cheery on here — anyone want to post re: the primary program?

  22. Mat,

    You shouldn’t prod Aaron too much about Amway — have you not seen the page he’s linked to in “About Us?”

    The problem I have with Aaron’s latest post is that we have doctrine saying that the Devil is the source of all temptation, and that he’s constantly trying to ensnare us, lead us astray, etc., so there definitely IS a role out there for him (her??).

    I guess the difficulty, again, is in distinguishing between bona fide temptation and regular old internally-produced drama. Tell me when a temptation comes from some external source, and I’ll show you Satan at work, I guess…

  23. Matt — I suspect that invocations of Satan as causal explanation are much MORE common in certain other Christian sects than they are in ours.

    Kaimi — I actually tried the levitation stunt you mentioned with my fellow deacons in an empty church classroom one Sunday. Surprise, surprise … it didn’t work.

    Aaron B

  24. Okay, Steve, you shiver far too easily. Must I always punctuate what is obvious sarcasm with an essentially superfluous emoticon? *tsk tsk*

    Aaron, I’ll tell you why I held back from going as far as you did in saying: “I often wonder whether Satan isn’t rather superfluous as a causal explanation for temptation.” Because I’m not willing to write him off that easily. Perhaps superstitious, perhaps just good old fashioned Mormon caution, perhaps one too many references to the Screwtape Letters in Relief Society Lessons. I don’t know…I’m academically tempted to write him out of the equation, I’m theologically too cautious to do so. Does that make any sense?

    Steve, you’ve got my wheels turning, and I’m still thinking about your proffer…

  25. Regarding the ‘Satan visiting the Logan temple’ story, the authority who related this story was then-temple President Marriner W. Merrill (later an Apostle). I do not recall if he wrote about the experience in his journal, a letter, or any publications, but I have a family history book for Merrill family that includes the story in his own words. If I weren’t at work right now, I would try to dig up a reference for y’all.

  26. Right after my sister came home from her mission, she threw out all of the CDs she owned, because listening to them gave her a “bad feeling”. A month later she called me crying about what a dope she’d been — Sarah McLaughlin gave her a bad feeling? When I was young, if I went over to a non-Mormon friend’s house and saw his or her mom’s mother pour herself a cup of coffee, a wave of fear washed over me, like I was ensnared in a den of sin, and I’d run home. I hate to use a loaded word like this, but it is applicable — this is all brainwashing. I used to think it was “the spirit” flying in and out of the room like a fairy, now I know it is plain old fear of something that conflicts with what you’ve been taught. I was just telling Steve that I was literally afraid of face cards growing up, because my mother told me they were evil. When I went to visit my father at work once and found a deck in his desk, which he apparently used to play illicit games of solitaire with, I felt what I would have truly described as a “satanic” feeling of evil enter the room. Sick stuff!

  27. Steve,

    I’m not trying to argue against the existence of the Devil, per se. I’m also not denying the active role given to him by LDS doctrine. I’m merely pointing out that his role seems redundant with the role served by other LDS doctrines (i.e., as enumerated by Karen).

    In other words, try to imagine, hypothetically, an LDS theology without a “Satan” doing the tempting. A theology in which recourse to Evil personified is unavailable, and in which all temptations are explained as products of a “natural man” in his fallen, unredeemed state. On a practical level, how would daily life, with all its vicissitudes and temptations, differ under this theology from the current one?

    It seems to me it wouldn’t differ much at all.

    Aaron B

  28. Steve–fabulous.

    After your lampooning, I hate to admit it, but I think you have a really great point about distinguishing between emotions and the promptings of the spirit.

    Here’s my formula. There are times when it is so strong, that I just know. (Although those instances are few and far between–and personally pretty powerful.) There are other times when it’s not so strong, but the impulse seems good, so I say why not, and do it anyways. (And then there are times that I’m lazy and think….if it was God, he’ll ring again.)

    I think this little theory probably explains my lack of spiritual maturity.

    But let’s get back to the occult…. ;o)

  29. Ummm, if you were actually going to invoke the power of Satan, why would you levitate something or someone? Seems pretty innocuous to me, as far as Satan worshipping goes. I mean, go for a classic. Kill a goat. Make a love potion. Be a little creative, people….

    It makes me think that Mormons are taking that “moderation in all things” a little too far….

  30. Wendy — I’ve often understood Church members’ discarding of their CD collections, either pre- or post-mission, as being a symbolic act, representing the formal separation of their old, iniquitous identities from their current, righteousness-seeking selves. Also, if you listened to Led Zeppelin before your mission while you were boozing and sowing your wild oats, and now you’ve decided to reform your lifestyle, I think it may make sense to discard the music that reminds you of your former state. In contrast, for those of us who were little angels in our youth, buying the Led Zeppelin 4-disc set may be just fine. :)

    I would also point out that traditional LDS concerns with “face cards” stem specifically from the writings of Joseph Fielding Smith on the topic. I’ve never found the argument compelling, but it does have an explicit pedigree.

    Having said this, I agree with your basic sentiments.

    Aaron B

  31. Yes, we’ve all heard the Seminary stories and faith-promoting rumors. Did you hear about the kids in my old high school who tried a spell to levitate? And they were lifting other kids off the ground, but when a deacon tried it, it didn’t work for him? (Sheesh, I heard that at ~age 14, and it still makes my scalp tingle). Or about the Elders in the MTC who thought it would be funny to dedicate a can of beer, and were struck dead on the spot? Or about the Elder in the Taiwan mission who told his comp that he had been called of God to be the next prophet, and a GA had to come in and talk to him . . .turns out he had been having revelations all right, but not from the right source . . .?

    On the one hand, I have had a few (very few) creepy experiences that I think may have been actual brushes with demons — very, very frightening. On the other hand, I suspect that the whole phenomenon is frighteningly overblown. Church members like to beliebe in physical manifestations of the Spirit, and so it’s unsurprising that they like to believe in corresponding physical manifestations of the opposite. Plus, it’s much more exciting to believe that Satan is sending demons and witches after you, than it is to accept the fact that Satan is probably just attacking us with laziness, procrastination, apathy, and on occasion internet pr0n.

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