Welcome to the fourth installment in my examination of the Imaginos song cycle of recently deceased producer/manager/lyricist Sandy "Memphis Sam" Pearlman. Pearlman is of course most well known for his work with pioneering American heavy metal outfit Blue Oyster Cult, but his contributions to rock 'n' roll went far beyond this. As was noted in the first installment, he also played a key role in the careers of The Dictators, The Clash, Dio-era Black Sabbath and nearly signed the pioneering doom band Pentagram.
Beginning with the second installment I began to break down the "deep background" of the Imaginos story line. Based upon a series of poems Pearlman wrote in the mid-1960s entitled The Soft Doctrines of Imaginos, BOC songs since they debut would incorporate characters and concept from these poems and at times would be based upon them wholesale. As such, Soft Doctrines became something akin to Lovecraft's Necronomicon or Robert Chambers' The King in Yellow in BOC's lexicon, providing the backdrop to countless songs.
Fans of course had been aware of these implied connections for years, but it was not until the release of the Imaginos album in 1988 that part of the story line was revealed to the general public. And even then the sources that inspired Imaginos --alchemy, Vodun, Ufology, conspiracy theories, and so on --would remain obscure to the general public until the 1990s, when the rise of the Internet enabled fans to seriously research Pearlman's magnum opus.
As I was wrapping up with the second installment, I began to consider BOC's self-titled debut, the first album in the so-called "Black and White trilogy" (which also included their second and third albums, Tyranny and Mutation and Secret Treaties). The Black and White trilogy was recorded when Pearlman's influence over the band was greatest and when the Imaginos cycle was explored at the most regular intervals until the release of Imaginos in 1988. Across the debut's A side I considered Pearlman's penchant for sinister secret societies lurking at the fringes of the counterculture.
With the third and most recent installment I addressed the debut's B side and the entire Tyranny and Mutation album. Therein Pearlman's concepts of "transcendental models" as well as the possible influence of "esoteric vodoun" guru Michael Bertiaux on his work were considered, as well as Pearlman's ties to the legendary (or infamous, considering one's point of view) Warlock Shoppe and the heavily occulted substance of the Pearlman-written tracks on Mutations.
- On January 29 the Chronicle received the last known letter from the Zodiac killer (and the first the newspaper had received in three years) in which he described The Exorcist as "the best saterical comidy that I have ever seen."
- Heiress Patty Hearst was kidnapped in February of that year by the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). In the ensuing months she would actively aid the SLA and appear in a series of startling recordings on their behalf while demonstrating signs of brainwashing.
- April 5 witnesses the publication of horror superstar Stephen King's first novel, Carrie
- May Day 1974 witnessed simutaneous pre-dawn raids in San Francisco that allegedly rounded up the perpetrators of the "Zebra killings," a series of racially motivated killings in the Bay area that began in 1973 and ended in 1974, leaving 15 people dead. Much more information on the Zebra killers can be found on this early (and somewhat flawed) series
- On May 17, 1974, the SLA would engaged in massive shootout with the LAPD and other California law enforcement agencies in what would be the first major use of a SWAT team (and thus the onset of the militarization of America's police forces). The SLA's leader, Donald DeFreeze, was killed during the shootout along with five other SLA members; DeFreeze had previously been a patient at the California Medical Facility at Vacaville, an institution compellingly linked to CIA behavioral modification experiments
- Occultist and philosopher Julius Evola, who inspired so much of Italy's neo-fascist Renaissance, dies on June 11
- On June 28 Vannevar Bush, the legendary American scientist who administered the Office of Scientific Research and Development (which oversaw the Manhattan Project, among other things) during World War II, shed his mortal coil. Bush has long been linked to the UFO question with many Ufologist linking him to the highly dubious Majestic 12. As noted before here, there is compelling evidence linking Bush to real UFO study groups and other black projects
- Argentinean strongman Juan Peron, who had enabled so many "former" Nazis to flee via the "rat lines" using his nation, died on July 1
- On July 15, news anchor Christine Chubbuck commits suicide during a live broadcast on WXLT in Sarasota, Florida. Reportedly, this was the first on air suicide. In some accounts, Chubbuck's death is held to have inspired Paddy Chayefsky's syncro-mystical masterpiece Network (addressed before here and here) while in others it is claimed Chaeyefsky had already started work on the script and Chubbuck's death was an eerie "coincidence."
- Italy was rocked on August 4 by the Italicus Express train bombing that left 12 dead and over a hundred dead. This attack was carried out by neo-fascist groups long linked to Operation Gladio. More on information on these groups and Gladio can be found here
- US President Richard Nixon resigns on August 8 as part of the Watergate scandal, the deep intrigues of which I chronicled before here, here and here
- On November Ronald DeFeo Jr murders his entire family with a shotgun in Amityville (a village in the town of Babylon, New York "coincidentially") on Long Island, still home base for Blue Oyster Cult during this time. DeFeo's killing spree would inspire the Amityville Horror series, as well as what were almost surely fraudulent claims of hauntings at the murder scene by infamous paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren
- the Arecibo message is beamed out from a radio telescope in Puerto Rico on November 16. This message was intended to give extraterrestrial civilizations information about Earth
- Andrija Puharich's Uri is published at some point in 1974. While nominally a biographer of Israeli stage magician Uri Geller, this work presented the first public revelation of The Nine, alleged extraterrestrial intelligences that appear to have long fascinated the deep state. Much more information on this bizarre topic can be found here and here
- Jonestown established at some point in 1974
- the fantasy tabletop game Dungeons and Dragons, long linked to controversy, is first released in the United States at some point during this year
|early D & D books|
"The record's Ron Lesser cover art depicted the band posing in front of an ME 262, a World War II fighter yet, pilot's seat filled with the figure of Death. Eric [Bloom, BOC frontman and guitarist --Recluse] dramatically caped, holding the reigns of four German shepherds, which, on the back sleeve are shown mysteriously (ritualistically?) slaughtered. The band is gone and the plane seems to be in motion, although this not clear. Another quirk of the cover art is the shadowy background scene, which appears to depict Mexican farmers, or perhaps images from another time, something like time warpage circa Imaginos.
"The inner sleeve contained two slight variations of the outer front and back. The band shot is distinguished by a clearer background of an older city scene, something akin to Washington, D.C. The 'slaughtered dogs' shot depicts the jet parked on what looks like a desolate and dusty, urban Mexican street. Albert [Bouchard, BOC drummer --Recluse], on the credit for the concept says, 'Secret Treaties was created by the Columbia Records art department, because they really wanted to get involved. We wanted to keep control of the artwork, but after the first two records, which they thought were really great, they wanted a shot at it. So we let them do it and we didn't like it. The original cover was what was on the inner sleeve. They thought it was too graphic and so did we, so we ended up with this other thing that they did. They did two versions, the inside and the outside. How it ended up was that Sandy's idea was the front cover and Murray [Krugman, BOC's other early manager/producer --Recluse]'s idea was the back cover, with the dogs being slaughtered. But all in all, Secret Treaties was mostly Sandy's idea.' Another complication is the European release of the record sported red lettering; while stateside the text was green.
"The inner sleeve adds this cryptic note. 'Rossignol's curious, albeit simply titled book, the Origins of a World War, spoke in terms of secret treaties, drawn up between the Ambassadors from Plutonia and Desdinova the foreign minister. These treaties founded a secret science from the stars. Astronomy. The career of evil.' As is well-documented, the book does not exist. But the notation ties nicely the band's (most notably Pearlman's) recurring theme of conspirators (be they Rosicrucians, Illuminati, Masons, Gnostics, Hermetics, or secret divisions of the CIA, FBI and Yale!) causing wars and other human upheaval (i.e. Altamont), in addition to the link with beings from other planets and possibly other times."
(Agents of Fortune, Martin Popoff, pgs. 42-43)
Plutonia is likely a reference to the extraterrestrial race the Imaginos has dealings with. It was also the name of an early science fiction novel by the Russian Vladimir Obruchev. The novel takes place in an underground world known as Pluto (after the Roman god of the underworld) that has its own sun and is inhabited by dinosaurs and other ancient creature. Nowadays this work would be considered in vein of the Hollow Earth mythos. It is unknown if Pearlman knew of this book.
While the faux quote from Origins of a World War hints that the secret treaties alluded too in the title are with extraterrestrial intelligences, another possibility is also presented by the artwork: the Nazis. On the front cover the band is depicted around a ME 262 while a Nazi-revering song of the same name is included on the album. Even more curious, however, are the apparent references to the Process Church of the Final Judgment in the artwork.
The Process Church was a highly controversial group with origins in Scientology. It was founded in the mid-1960s in England and had opened up outposts throughout the United States by the late 1960s. The Process would seek out alliances with both celebrates as well as more unsavory elements such as biker gangs. By the early 1970s the group had been linked to the Manson Family and disintegrated not long afterwards with its original leader being kicked to the curb and much of the rest of the sect carrying on as Christian fundamentalists. The group would continue to be a lightening rod for controversy, however, with offshoots being linked to the Son of Sam killings and the Cotton Club murder. Just how credible all these claims are is highly debatable, but the Process seems to turn up to often in close proximity to one outrage or another with too much frequency to dismiss it all as coincidence. Much more information on the Process can be found here.
|the Processians in one variation of their capes --unfortunately no color images of them appear to be available online|
"For some reason, there have been reports of sacrifices of large numbers of dogs, mostly German shepherds, throughout the United States in the past thirty-odd years, but notably in areas where we discover confirmed cult activity. This was true in Berkowitz' Yonkers neighborhood as it was in Walden, New York, where a 'total of eighty-five skinned German shepherds and Dobermans were found' in a single year 'between October 1976 and October 1977.' The day of Berkowitz' arrest in Yonkers, the bodies of three slain German shepherds were found in an aqueduct behind his apartment. Two had been strangled with chains; the third had been shot in the head.
"Two days before his arrest, someone phoned an animal shelter using his name and address, inquiring about adopting a German shepherd that had been advertised in a local paper. A few hours later someone else called from the same street in Yonkers, also inquiring about the dog. The caller said he was 'fixing some cars' on Pine Street; an allusion that Terry believes actually refers to the Carr family who figure some prominently in his case. As it turned out, two men did visit the shelter, including one who resembled Berkowitz, but according to Berkowitz himself it was not he, although he acknowledges that someone may have been impersonating him on the phone.
"Why? This was before his arrest and identification in the press as the Son of Sam...
"around the time of the Sam killings, the author heard convincing rumors of the abuse and slaughter of dogs in a warehouse near Brooklyn Heights, within walking distance of the Warlock Shoppe, before Berkowitz was arrested and the connection with dogs was made.
"Terry connects the German shepherd sacrifices with the Process, due to their fondness for the animals. Members of the Process in those halcyon days of the 1960s were to be seen around San Francisco dressed in black and leading German shepherds on the leash. The 'Fear' issue of the process magazine featured a photo spread of twenty German shepherds in a menacing pose. It doesn't automatically follow, however, that the Process would sacrifice the animals.
"Another symbolic association that should be mentioned is the fact that Hitler favored German shepherds above all other animals. That there might be a Nazi or neo-Nazi element ot the Son of Sam cult should not be ignored, especially as mass murderer Fred Cowan --one of the 'Sons' according to Berkowitz --was a neo-Nazi. Further, the Process symbol was a stylized swastika: what some members referred to as 'four P's'; these 'four P's' later contributed to the name of a Process splinter group called 'Four P' after the same symbol. It was this group that remained behind in California after most of the regular Process decamped and went to New York City following the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Four P --and its reputed leader, the Grand Chingon --has been implicated in a number of vile acts, including animal and human sacrifice in northern and southern California. Convicted serial killer and cannibal Stanley Baker claimed to belong to this cult, and Manson Family members were known to refer to Charles Manson as the Grand Chingon. even though the organization was supposedly so secret that its very existence was unknown to all but a few."
(Sinister Forces Book III, Peter Levenda, pgs. 197-198)
|the color versions of the Secret Treaties artwork show Bloom with the cape and dogs in more detail (top) as well as the dead German shepherds (bottom)|
Pearlman described the Transmaniacon MC (from the song of the same name) and the Motif of the Rose (from "Before the Kiss, A Redcap") as being based upon French and Belgian fascist organizations (noted before here). While the Process are normally described as hippies, they had ample connections to the far right, as I noted before here, and eventually rebranded themselves as a Christian fundamentalist sect known as the Foundation Church of the Millennium by the mid-1970s.
It would appear then that the possibility that the Process inspired some of Pearlman's early lyrics exists. What's more, it seems all but certain that Pearlman would have been aware of the Process. As was noted before here, the Process frequented Herman Slater's Warlock Shoppe by the early 1970s and there are strong indications (noted in the prior installment) that Pearlman was a part of this scene. What's more, Pearlman was also friendly with Fugs singer Ed Sanders going back to his days at Stony Brook. As a reader kindly informed me, Pearlman was a big Fugs fan and had enlisted the band to play at Stony Brook in 1966 and again in 1967 with Country Joe and the Fish as well as Soft White Underbelly (the first incarnation of BOC) for the so-called "Pot Bust Benefit."
|Ed Sanders circa 1968|
So while its rather circumstantial as to whether Pearlman encountered the Process directly at the Warlock Shoppe, it seems highly probable that he could have heard about them and some of the more incredible allegations surrounding them from his friend Ed Sanders. Certainly this seems more plausible than Pearlman "coincidentally" littering the Secret Treaties artwork with imagery closely resembling the fashion and deeds of the Process.
I had been weary of this claim when I had first read it, but after researching the matter I believe that there may be merit to it. The church used on the On Your Feet... cover is St. Paul's Chapel, a part of St. John's Episcopal Parish in the South Salem era of New York state. In 1987 investigative reporter Maury Terry published a deeply flawed work called The Ultimate Evil. This book was based upon Terry's research into the Son of Sam killings and the possibility that some type of cult was behind them. While some of Terry's conclusions are suspect, his raw data is compelling.
Towards the end of The Ultimate Evil, Terry notes that a cult alleged to have been a Process splinter was reputed to have been using a church in the Salem area for black rites during the mid-1970s.
"Another abandoned church offered yet one more meeting site. This edifice was said to have been an 'eastern headquarters' for the group. The informants said it was privately owned (perhaps partially converted) and was located in the vicinity of the northeastern corner of Westchester County, somewhere near (and possibly over) the adjoining Putnam County and Connecticut borders. Vinny couldn't pinpoint the exact location but, quoting Berkowitz, he mentioned 'Salem' and 'Brewster.'
"North and South Salem, with their historic witchcraft names, were in Westchester, and the village of Brewster lay a few miles north in Putnam County. The area was largely rural, with homes, estates and some farms and stables hidden from the few main roads by thickets of trees. It was a perfect cult site, and a difficult, extensive setting in which to try to locate the old church.
"Vinny said the church's interior (in 1976-77) was adorned with a silver pentagram on one wall; and silver-wire inlays, some in the form of the German SS lightning bolts --a symbol of the cult --appeared on the ends of some pews."
(The Ultimate Evil, Maury Terry, pg. 412)
Even more compelling are Terry's allegations that members of the Process were active in this area during the mid-1970s.
"And the Process itself was even located in that area. In the mid-seventies members of the cult occupied a house off Salem Road in Pound Ridge, a rural community several miles south of North Salem. It was as if the players and environment from the Los Angeles scene of 1968-69 had been magically transported to the specific area Berkowitz and the prison informants referred to."
(The Ultimate Evil, Maury Terry, pg. 419)The On Your Feet or On Your Knees church is actually located in Lewisboro, near South Salem. And the above-mentioned rural village of Pound Ridge is located right next to Lewisboro, with less than five miles separating the two. In other words, this Process encampment couldn't have been located more than a few miles from the On Your Feet... church.
In Agents of Fortune, the only full length account of Blue Oyster Cult, Martin Popoff sites BOC drummer Albert Bouchard as crediting Pearlman with finding the church used on the cover of On Your Feet or On Your Knees. Thus, Pearlman selected a church located mere miles from a Process Church hub in area in which Maury Terry's informants alleged that a splinter of the cult was using a church for ritual purposes.
|the church more recently|
There is no question that the next track, "Subhuman," is a part of the Imaginos cycle. This another number with a clear Doors influence, this time something in vein of "Riders on the Storm" with a little Dust-style riffing to bring the metal. But it's ties to the Imaginos cycle ensure that its even more sinister and foreboding than anything Morrison and co ever released. In fact, this is the first time the Imaginos figure appears on a BOC song, though he is not mentioned by name in the track. Here are some more details:
"Track two 'Subhuman,' a tune that would be revived 14 years later on Imaginos as signature track 'Blue Oyster Cult,' rightly so as it seems to encapsulate Sandy's complex concept of the band, the character Imaginos, and the intertwining of the two. A type of literal translation of the band's name occurs, similar to graphic artist Greg Scott's approach to the Fire of Unknown Origins artwork, with talk of oyster boys, the sea and the 'blue sky bag.' Overtones of Lovecraft's Cthulhu or 'old ones' can also be spotted in terms of death-like creatures who inhabit the seas. In any event, the occurrences in this lyric seem to mark a traumatic, transformational moment for Imaginos, a character who could change form and traverse time...."
(Agents of Fortune, Martin Popoff, pg. 43)Yes, this is possibly the song from which Blue Oyster Cult derived its name. In this track Imaginos, a sailor, is betrayed by his shipmates ("Left to die by two good friend") and abandoned as his ship puts to sea. As he lays dying near the sea some rather curious creatures appear to him (the "oyster boys") who offer to save his life if he'll join them. Imaginos accepts ("Just one deal is what we made") but is in for a surprise. Much more shall be said of this track and its themes when I address the even more esoteric "Blue Oyster Cult" that appears on Imaginos.
"Subhuman" is followed up by another track likely a part of, or closely related too, the Imaginos cycle called "Dominance and Submission." This song also features the curious character of Suzie, whom also appeared in "Before the Kiss, a Redcap" (noted before here) and several other BOC songs. This song revolves around the subversive power of rock 'n' roll and the sinister forces that sought to control it. I've already written an entire blog on this song before, which I found to be thematically closely related to Don McLean's classic "American Pie," and as such will not address this song here for the sake of brevity. But this is a very deep track and the reader is encouraged to take in the prior article.
Side A closes out with the Nazi-revering "ME 262." This song revolves around the Messerschmitt Me 262, the world's first operational jet-powered fighter aircraft. The ME 262 was to be a kind of super weapon for the Nazis in the closing days of the war, but it was not used to its full potential. The gleeful boogie classic name checks Hitler and Goring and tells of an air battle from Germany's perspective. The main character in the song is a Captain Von Ondine. This is interesting as "Ondine" is close to "undine," a kind of water elemental being similar to a mermaid. As was noted in part three, an undine was also mentioned on "Workshop of Telescopes" off of the self-titled debut.
This track helped further contribute to the group flirtation with Nazism. As was noted in the first installment, despite several Jews being involved with the band and in their orbit (including Pearlman), the group had subtly embraced Nazi imagery from the early 1970s. Pearlman was very much the architect of this and only added fuel to the fire when "ME 262" was released as a single. Controversy ensued and the band retreated form this imagery as Pearlman's influenced waned. But back to the matter at hand.
"Cagey Cretins" is probably the closet thing Treaties has to a throwaway track. The lyrics effectively revolve around Meltzer's boredom from his time spent staying at his girlfriend's house in Shirley, New York, in the middle of Long Island. The demented Doors nature of the song and some amusing lyrics ("Being chased around by the neighbor's cat/ Well it's so lonely in the state of Maine!") somewhat redeem the song and the general strangeness of the track is in keeping with the rest of the album.
Next up is Meltzer's second composition, and a much better one, known as "Harvester of Eyes." This song was apparently inspired by a confirmation hearing for LBJ crony Abe Fortas to the Supreme Court that Meltzer watched. At one point during the hearing the medical condition ocular tuberculosis (tuberculosis of the eye) was mentioned and this served as the inspiration for "Harvester." What emerges is effectively a narrative that the great Julian Cope believed could describe Death (who appeared on the Secret Treaties album cover) as a strung out junkie:
"... On a higher plain of existence, however, is the superbly titled 'Harvester of Eyes', Meltzer’s massive ode to the Grim Reaper as a hopeless drug addict. Suffused with imagery that appears to be an Odinist take on Alice’s epic 'Halo of Flies', this tight-assed caffeine blues straddles that bizarre mid-70s hinterland between Joe Walsh’s delightfully clodhopping 'Rocky Mountain Way' and the post-Todd meltdown of The Tubes’ 'White Punks On Dope'. It’s one of Eric Bloom’s finest vocal performances and one which he obviously relished, recounting how the Reaper - so ‘high on eyes’ - needs ‘all the peepers’ he can harvest not only as evidence that the donor of those eyes is truly dead, but also to satisfy his hopeless druglust or ‘ocular TB’ as Meltzer terms it. Nailed it this time, motherfucker!"
While this song was never intended to be a part of the Imaginos cycle, it has been linked to it over the years. It is easy to see why as Meltzer's depiction of a sinister entity is in keeping with the wonders of the invisible world that appear throughout Imaginos.
Pearlman returns to the fold with the next track, the Cult classic "Flaming Telepaths." Drummer Albert Bouchard contributed some of the lyrics to this track, but it is clearly Pearlman's vision. Of it, he noted:
" 'On the new album there's the song called "Flaming Telepaths",' explained Sandy, in conversation with NME's Don Nooger circa spring of '74, 'which deals with the same sort of theme (as "Cities on Flame") but in a scientific way. It's about an attempt to create a mutation, to mutate consciousness. The first lines are, "I will have opened my veins too many times, poison's in my mind, poison's in my bloodstream, poison's in my pride," and that's they key line, "poison's in my pride." It's about this scientist who attempts to mutate consciousness and he just can't do it; he's failed too many times. But the scientist has this poisonous pride and he's got to keep on trying, beating his head against this barrier. And just because he's doing it, that's good enough. It's a very, very noble song...' "
(Agents of Fortune, Martin Popoff, pgs. 47-48)What's most curious about this song as how it alludes to the militarization of psi that was this currently being undertaken by the deep state. Stanford Research Institute's famed remote viewing experiments, funded by the CIA and military, had just kicked off in 1972. By 1978 Project Grill Flame, the military's first formal effort to weaponize psi, was launched and would remain active for almost 20 years despite persistent claims that the research was baseless.
Was Pearlman telling tales out of school, as Chris Knowles is fond of saying? Certainly the scientist described in "Flaming Telepaths" could be an effective stand in for Andrija Puharich. Puharich, a man with ample interest in esoterica. played a major role in the first psi experiments undertaken by the deep state in the 1950s (as noted before here). His Uri was released in 1974 superficially to legitimize the psi phenomenon to the general public (though as noted above, it is mostly remembered in this day and age for revealing The Nine) and in the years leading up to this he had become something of a minor celebrity in certain sectors of the counterculture. Given Pearlman's fascination with science, mysticism and their merger, Puharich have likely interested Memphis Sam greatly. I have no evidence of any formal contact between the two men, but certainly "Flaming Telepaths" is an apt account of Puharich's work with the deep state. But moving along.
"Astronomy" is another track featuring the character of Suzie, along with Imaginos. The meaning to this track is rather obscure, but a key clue comes from the repeated references to the "four winds." The four winds are of course rich with symbolism.
"On the other hand wind is synonymous with breath and consequently with the Spirit, a heaven-sent spiritual influx. This why both the Book Psalms and the Koran equate winds with angels as God's messengers. Wind even gives its name to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God moving across the face of the primordial waters is called Ruah, 'Wind', and it was a wind which brought the Apostles the tongues of fire of the Holy Spirit. In Hindu symbolism, the wind, personified as the god (Vayu) is cosmic breath and the Word. It rules the 'subtle' world which lies between Heaven and Earth, the space which was filled by what the Chinese termed a breath, k'i. Vayu imbues, shatters and cleanses, and is related to the points of the compass, which were generally speaking termed 'winds.' Hence Classical antiquity talked of the four winds and the Athenians built the eight-sided Tower of the Winds.
"The Four Winds, furthermore, were related to the seasons, the elements and the 'humours' in a pattern subject to slight variation..."
(Dictionary of Symbols, Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, pgs. 1110-1111)Native American symbolism for the four winds seems especially relevant in this case as indigenous mysticism seems to have heavily influenced the Imaginos cycle, as shall be explored in the next installment. For our purposes here, it is interesting to note that Native Americans frequently associated the four winds with square, and frequently used this design in their sacred places.
"Links across time in the symbolic meanings of the square are also found on a smaller scale. For example, shell gorgets recovered from Mississippian sites are found to have cross as well as bent-arm cross designs carved into their surfaces. According to historic Indian accounts... these designs were meant to symbolize the four cardinal directions, the four world quarters, and the four winds...
"Mississippian designs like the Spiro gorget look very similar to some of the designs found in earlier Hopewell contexts, especially those which incorporate cross and bent-arm cross features... Moreover, a clear geometric relationship can be demonstrated between the cross, the square, and the bent-arm cross... Given this relationship, as well as the close proximity in both time and space between the Hopewell and Mississippian cultures --including the southern Ohio-based, Mississippian-influenced Fort Ancient peoples --my thought is that the symbolic meanings of the cross, the square, and the bent-arm cross were the same for historic Indians of the Southeast, the prehistoric Mississippians, and the Hopewell: namely, symbols of the sky, the world quarters, the four cardinal directions, and the four winds.
"To summarize this section in another way, we know from ethnographic accounts that many historic southeastern Indian people laid out their ceremonial grounds in the shape of a square and that these square grounds were thought of as symbolic microcosms of the universe. Moreover, these square ceremonial grounds were oriented to sky phenomena, including cardinal directions."
(Mysteries of the Hopewell, William F. Romain, pgs. 176-180)
|a depiction of the four winds in the Seven Nation's symbolism|
This marks the first time Imaginos (who was given the name Desdenova by the Blue Oyster Cult) is directly mentioned in a BOC song. I believe the preceding verses dealt with the efforts of two women, Carrie nurse and Susie dear, to summon Desdenova in some type of ritual, potentially tantric in nature. And indeed they succeeded, enabling him to enter their world.
The final line of this verse ("And don't forget my dog...") is interesting as well. Some fans have interpreted it to be a reference to the Dog star Sirius. In ancient times it was often used for navigational purposes because it appeared to be at the same point in the sky ("fixed and consequent) and the Imaginos/Desdenova character worked as a sailor for a time. As noted above and shall be addressed in much greater detail in the next installment, he was also said to have originated from another planet. And indeed there are theories that extraterrestrial intellgiences originating from Sirius visited the Earth in ancient times.
"Temple believes the Contact (which he tends to portray as physical, involving actual space-ships) occurred in Sumeria around 4500 B.C. The knowledge thus gained, he argues (and this is the major theme of his book), was passed on via various secret societies of initiates in the Near East, Egypt, Greece and so on, at least until the time of the 5th century (A.D.) neo-Platonist Proclus. Thereafter, Temple loses track of it, and suggests that it petered out, although he mentions that offshoots of it appeared in 'such bizarre and fascinating figures as Giordano Bruno, Marsilio Ficino, John Dee and even Sir Philip Sidney and the Earl of Leicester --not to mention the troubadors of Provence, Dante in Italy, and the massacred tens of thousands of Albigensians in France, the Knights Templar and an infinite range of hopeless causes over two and a half millennia....' "
(Cosmic Trigger Volume I, Robert Anton Wilson, pg.s. 186-187)Clearly Temple's premise bears more than a passing resemblance to Pearlman's Imaginos cycle. But even more curious is the fact that The Sirius Mystery was not published until 1976, a good two years after Secret Treaties had been released. And if "Astronomy" had been a part of the original Soft Doctrines... poems, then Pearlman may have come up with this concept nearly a decade before Temple's work was published. Was this merely a coincidence, or was someone (or something...) feeding Pealrman this information?
|the Dog star|
It is curious how these two tracks run into one another, with "... Telepaths" being literally cut off in the middle of its "And the joke's on you" refrain to make room for "Astronomy"'s opening keys. Clearly these two tracks are linked and the strange saga of The Nine makes for one of them sot compelling connections this researcher has uncovered. More information on this strange tale can be found here and here.
Before wrapping up, I would like to return again to the fictitious quote concerning the equally fictitious Origins of a World War on the album's inner sleeve: "Rossignol's curious, albeit simply titled book, the Origins of a World War, spoke in terms of secret treaties, drawn up between the Ambassadors from Plutonia and Desdinova the foreign minister. These treaties founded a secret science from the stars. Astronomy. The career of evil."
Taken in the context of what we've explored in this installment, it seems clear this quote is indicating that Secret Treaties is a kind of concept album. It references both the opening and closing tracks while indicating the "secret science" of astronomy has a rather sinister purpose (a career of evil). The opener "Career of Evil" seems to outline vaguely this sinister purpose while track two, "Subhuman," presents the listener with Imaginos/Desdinova's human death and his realization that he is from the stars. The album then ends with the summoning of this reborn, incorporeal version of Imaginos ("Call me Desdinova, eternal light").
In between the listener is presented with accounts of the subversion of popular culture and mass movements ("Dominance and Submission"), re-emerging Nazism ("ME 262") and the weaponization of consciousness itself ("Flaming Telepaths"). The cover art, with its thinly veiled allusions to the Process Church of the Final Judgment, points to the sinister secret societies addressed in prior albums (noted here). I suspect this is the meaning of the "These gravely digs of mine/Will surely prove a sight" bit in the final verse.
On the whole Secret Treaties presents a chilling picture, one of which with much basis in reality circa 1974. Certainly the whole album has the air of Pearlman telling tales out of school. As such, it should come as little surprise that this marked the last time Pearlman would have creative control of a BOC album until 1988's Imaginos, when BOC was beyond irrelevant. The band opted to go in a more commercial direction for which they were critically acclaimed for while Pearlman was largely kicked the curb (at least until their former patrons began to turning on them towards then end of the 1970s). More on this in the next installment as well as Imaginos itself. Stay tuned dear reader.