Shamanism and Rock and Roll
“..at least one professional philosopher has taken mescaline for the light it may throw on ancient unsolved riddles as the place of mind in nature and the relationship between brain and consciousness” these words are from Aldous Huxley in his famous book The Doors of Perception, a book that links the highest of western erudition, rock and roll and the traditions of ancestral cultures of Latin America.
A small but visible long haired fraction of the generation above ours brought back to life this way of thinking and experiencing the world. They, and the bands they listened to, influenced every Brazilian rocker, or indeed every conscientious middle class youngster, from the seventies and the eighties. This was a subculture that took seriously the precept that the everyday life was fake and that the only way to perceive the truth was by experimenting with serious stuff, and that this mission was necessary for bringing mankind back to its healthier origin.
No one laughed at them, the authorities actually feared their strong energy. In the context of a military dictatorship their quest had a revolutionary edge that made them likeable forbidden fruit. Sexuality was also in the mix, and engaging in one’s owns desires and in hallucinogens and was seen as a powerful weapon against the bourgeoisie and the military regime.
If these pursuits are prone to caricatures nowadays it is because the system did everything in its power to diminish what was going on. Ever since there has been a billionaire police repression, as well as public relations campaigns to demonize users and desperate efforts to invalidate anything that appears to represent ideas out of control. The moneymaking machine behind the so-called system also bombarded the youth with products in the form of gigantic and over produced rock bands as well as fashion gadgets. If they were the mother of the more “acceptable” cultural formulas of the eighties, the ideas put forward by guys like Huxley and Timothy Leary were the father.
The right-wing and the left-wing were united in their fight against the opening of the doors of perception. They would not survive in the unknown and could not digest visions that went beyond their books. They did not want eternity happening there and then and didn’t want to hear questions that had never been asked nor answers that had never been answered.
Seen from the Brazilian native’s perspective, these were white men lost in their alienated ways. They were the original mescal and Santo Daime takers, they saw the effects as a sacred that maintained them connected with nature and with the entire existence. Those massacred people knew that the mind, the brain and the consciousness belonged to something bigger and that we, the crazy white men, had lost the connection somewhere in the past.
In our world there were “civilized” musicians who had come close to this indigenous richness such as Egberto Gismonti and Hermeto Paschoal although they had never taken mescal nor had followed Huxley’s path.
Let’s remember that music is an important expression for any society and that in the sixties and the seventies it had reached shamanistic heights in terms of bringing people together and spreading ideas and behaviors. The importance of bands such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin are undeniable, even in our current time just see the video below and think about it.
Such cultural importance was difficult for the big record companies to deal with and they ended up reminding the public that it was money who was boss and not a clearer vision that showed that there is life beyond the big bucks. Their response was the watered down pop bands of the eighties who, despite their quality, were not beyond their masters’ control and who did not question the establishment.
Coming back to Brazil, the bands that sprouted from the new generation took a lot of chemical drugs but represented no cosmic connection. They were part and parcel of the eighties’ Reaganomics and Thatcherism. Their “novelty” was the crude pursuit for fame and success. The industry rushed out to call their predecessors “Rock dinosaurs” and sold the idea that to be “in” you had to reject everything that they were about,
However the “dinosaurs” had reached heights of fame and success that no band of the eighties ever would. Ironically, at least in their origins, they had not been interested solely in money but in walking down the path that thinkers such as Huxley had trailed. The origins of this path shun out of the destroyed civilizations of South America long before anyone had thought about rock or cash on those lovely shores.