The Burning Blade
Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 4.4
June 1, 2001
"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
- Daniel, Jesus, and millions upon millions of their contemporaries
Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 4.4
June 1, 2001
"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
June 1, 2001
"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
Divine abandonment: the three thousand year old curse on the human race. Once predictable and dependable, gods have become capricious and unreliable, and today more than ever. Despite this they inspire more devotion than ever before, in the forms of both love and hatred, and slowly they entrench themselves into the psyches of modern humans.
Parallels between gods and institutions of modern society are ever-present, and one that comes immediately to mind as an example is in the energy production crisis. Americans are acutely dependent on the flow of energy to support their lives and the corporations that control that flow wield a godlike power over the United States. This power they are exercising. The gas, electric, and oil industries are pulling the rugs out from under Americans' feet. What was once plentiful and (relatively) cheap is now scarce and costly. It's not surprising to see people reacting in the same ways that they did thousands of years before when crises loomed. It's a scramble to affix blame, inflict punishment, and make other sacrifices to appease the gods. Most quickly descend into an ideological stupor, seeking an explanation for the situation in a well worn political or religious belief. This is true of our leaders and ourselves. Rational solutions are passed over in favor of ideological ones. Our fear of divine abandonment, the loss of security, makes us all victims.
In a similar vein, the continued victimization of free music channels on the internet hasn't completely stopped the dissemination of Fireaxe music. The first new Fireaxe song in over year "The Dreamhound" is now available at mp3.com. Also, an ancient Fireaxe track "Forgotten Son" has also been recorded and placed on the same site. Download and disseminate at will.
A big 'Hello' to anyone receiving the Burning Blade for the first time. This is the Fireaxe newsletter.
Soon to be included on the CD "Strange Aeons" by Steve Lines is the track "The Dreamhound". This is the first new Fireaxe song since "Hounds of Tindalos" and "Whispers in the Night" for the Lovecraftian Nightmares CD. "The Dreamhound" is classic Fireaxe powerthrash. At 150 beats per minute the intensity of the rhythms, melodies and drums weave together to capture a nightmarish encounter between the author's spirit body and a ferocious dream hound. The feel is similar to "Hounds of Tindalos" but stands on it's own as a distinct Fireaxe work.
Oddly enough, as if the Hounds of Tindalos were again at work, Steve's DAT tape machine refuses to function properly and is delaying the release of his compilation CD. If you recall, it was during the recording of "Lovecraftian Nightmares", specifically the "Hounds of Tindalos" track, that my multi-track machine broke down and resisted several attempts to repair it. Obviously it's more than a coincidence, and yes, this is how superstitions get started.
The other track now available at MP3.com is "Forgotten Son". This song was originally recorded back in 1997 and was included on the "Unholy Rapture" tape. The track was re-recorded in order for me to get more experience with my digital studio before getting into the "Food for the Gods" material. The song was selected by one of Fireaxe's biggest supporters, Mike Vignati, who will be putting the track on a compilation CD for his own label - UHR records. Check future issues of "The Burning Blade" for updates of that release.
"Forgotten Son" is a slow and powerful Fireaxe song that captures the painful process of adopting offensive and aggressive tactics to overcome an exploitative foe. I enjoyed re-recording this song immensely. It gave me an opportunity to add things to the song that I wanted to the first time but lacked the equipment to do so. The new version is very much like the old, but with far better sound quality, better instrumentation, and a three voice chorus for the background vocals. It's worth the download time.
Check out the tracks here
You are free to distribute those tracks at will provided you do not profit from them.
Order your copy of the second Fireaxe CD "Lovecraftian Nightmares" by doing the following:
- 1. Send me e-mail requesting the new CD and giving your address (if you prefer, you can send your address via snail mail)
- 2. Mail $5 ($7 if overseas) and a note requesting the Fireaxe CD "Lovecraftian Nightmares" to the following address. Make sure to include your return address.
Brian VothIf you review CDs on a website or in a magazine, the CD is free of charge in exchange for the review. In this case all I need is the e-mail request. Please send me the URL of your review site or copy of your magazine with the review in it when it is ready. If you want to exchange CDs, tapes, or stuff of equivalent value, make these requests via e-mail and we'll arrange a trade.
1301 Medical Center Dr. #415
Chula Vista, CA, 91911 USA
The CD comes with a booklet filled with awesome art, a picture of yours truly in his studio, and some information about the CD which can also be found on this website.
To help clarify a few things about the upcoming CD "Food for the Gods", I'd like to run a series of columns about my views on violence. This is the fourth installment.
In the first part I discussed how an unwillingness to give in is both an important survival characteristic as well as a cause of violence and conflict.
In the second part I discussed how ideologies based around non-falsifiable beliefs can possess the mind of the believer and make them willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the ideology.
In the third part I discussed how ideologies propagate by creating and exploiting psychological weaknesses.
In this installment I will focus on the weakness termed "Divine abandonment" and how it's exploitation generates two major hallmarks of modern society, the motivation of the individual and the psychological isolation of the individual from the rest of society.
"Divine abandonment" is a recurring theme in Middle Eastern religions dating back before the bible and it is common to find references to it in most modern religions. The questions of "Where has god gone?", "Why has he forsaken us?", and the emphasis on faith as the way to fill the void left by an absent or infrequent god appear time and time again in religious texts. Any theory attempting to explain religion must account for this theme as it is hard to believe that anyone would willingly accept a religion where gods were so neglectful of their followers unless it struck a deeply personal chord with them.
In the previous column on the origins of violence I suggested that the willingness to submit to a figure of supreme authority is one of two major human psychological weaknesses and that it stems from long forgotten parental associations made during a person's childhood. I also suggested that this weakness was exacerbated by child rearing tactics that leave the child starving for parental attention. This need, impossible to fulfill since no parent can ever measure up to their godlike image once the child has grown, forms the basis of the concept of "divine" abandonment. Divine abandonment had little to do with god and everything to do with parent-child relationships. Throughout this section I'll use the word "divine" to refer to the impressions of parents with godlike powers (from a child's perspective) found deep within the mind.
Feelings of divine abandonment have two main features, dependence and powerlessness, both of which are at near maximum in a young child's bond with its parent (or parent surrogate). When the need for the parent is coincident with the parent's absence the powerlessness of the child is apparent. It cannot fulfill it's need and is completely dependent on the parent. It's first reaction is to cry out in order to summon the attention of the parent. If no parent appears the child is filled with anxiety. Stress levels elevate in the child as time passes with no response. At this point a great many things can happen in the child's brain, some positive and some negative, but in any case the groundwork for the feeling of divine abandonment are being laid. The idea that a trusted guardian could simply not appear to help when the need arises is planted in the child's mind along with the fear, anxiety and stress that went with it.
The fear of divine abandonment is present in more than just humans. In animals it can clearly be seen in a young foal's first steps along with the motivation that the fear brings about. When a mother horse gives birth, she must teach the child to walk very quickly. This is important due to survival conditions in the wild. She does this not by holding the foal up while it takes it's first unsure steps, and not by giving instructions or advice. She does something very simple, she walks away. Although her walk does provide an example, the key is a powerful feeling of abandonment that motivates the foal to follow her no matter how much it hurts to stumble and fall. Tapping powerful sources of motivation is critical to the survival of an individual or belief system. One can speculate that there exists no greater motivational force, or at least that it is second to the fear of death. A horse cannot simply wait for a predator to appear to motivate her child to run, she must be able to instill motivation before danger is encountered. Instincts such as survival and parental bonding must be strong to provide the motivation needed to propagate the species.
Life for animals is simple compared to humans. Learning to run when the rest of the herd runs and eat when the rest of the herd eats is pretty much the sum total of important knowledge that a herd animal must learn. With humans life is far more complicated, and much more complicated than of our closest relatives, chimpanzees. As society becomes more complex and dangers lurk in more and more places, a child must learn a great many different behaviors in order to avoid getting hurt. A child can be taught directly by the parent under the threat of punishment or withholding of a reward in which case there is the threat of divine abandonment (the temporary loss of a parents love). A child can also be left alone to discover the consequences of their actions all alone in which case feelings of divine abandonment are felt directly. Due to the large number of exposures to situations that create anxiety in the child that are necessary to teach them how to be a citizen in society, feelings of divine abandonment are greatly strengthened and with them the associated feelings of anger, resentment, despair, hopelessness, and indifference that occur when anxiety levels reach high levels during exposures to stress.
One might think that a child that simply becomes completely obedient to its parents and authority figures could avoid all stress and anxiety and thus avoid feelings of divine abandonment entirely. This is not possible for two reasons. The first is that humans must repress their basic animal instincts in order to be citizens in a human society. Powerful drives such as those for food and sex must be inhibited and only indulged at given times and places. Inhibiting these desires can often be very difficult. It takes a powerful motivational force, like the threat of divine abandonment or death, to keep them in check. The second reason why automatic submission to authority cannot save a person from anxiety is due to the same reason for the origin of divine abandonment. Blindly following a leader or ideology is a sure path to extinction. Without the ability to change, such as everyone mindlessly following the wisdom of the ages unquestioningly, a social group would become static and predictable, and would easily be conquered by a rival social group. Thousands of years ago, cultures in the middle east found this out the hard way. Laws were written in stone. Gods, and the kings and priests who represented them, were infallible. Traditions were faithfully followed for generation after generation. Change only occurred when you forced someone who was different to conform to your system. When these civilizations grew and came into conflict, the losers discovered that they had to change. Their gods were not absolute, they did not always protect. Their kings and priests did not have all the answers, they could be mistaken or wrong. A distrust of authority crept into society as a survival mechanism, giving the social order the ability to change, but also eliminating the last recourse for anxiety avoidance in times of stress and uncertainty. Submission to authority was no longer the answer to all problems. The world was unpredictable and security became fleeting. The gods had abandoned humanity.
Divine abandonment is perhaps one of the worst things that a human being can feel. It's source is in one of the deepest and most primitive parts of the brain. When a person can "feel a divine presence", all is well, but when they cannot the anxiety is almost limitless. Examples of how feelings of divine abandonment can torture an individual can be found in the Psalms of David as well as in other religious literature of that time period. Thus it is not surprising that when a trusted authority suddenly departs, those that followed will implore that authority, begging if they have to, to return. It is also not surprising that when a trusted authority is shown to be fallible, those that followed that authority quickly find another to fill the void. The overwhelming feelings of helplessness can easily drive people to extremes to restore security and order. This is the key. People are very vulnerable to those who can make them feel divine abandonment and are very motivated by those who can promise a return to security and comfort. When feelings of divine abandonment are instilled and exploited in members of a society, the members of that society become both highly motivated and easier to manipulate. The last three millennia have been a race to see which ideology can utilize this psychological mechanism to the fullest.
Perhaps the most notorious of these exploitative ideologies is Christianity. In Christianity, God doesn't just abandon the person who does not obey, he sends them to hell for all eternity. But the hallmark of Christianity is salvation through suffering of the type characterized by Jesus Christ. Jesus suffered to a degree that no other person could endure, at least according to the bible. He endured ridicule, hostility, a long journey through the desert, and finally torture, abuse, and crucifixion. Yet through all the suffering his faith remained. Even at the end of his life when he called out to god, his feelings of divine abandonment weren't enough to shake his faith. It makes for a good story, but without a psychological hook it's impossible to explain why millions of people believe it. The hook stems from the fact that feelings of divine abandonment are more deeply seated in the mind than any other painful feeling. If a person is suffering torture, pain, ridicule, or anything else, the suffering can be relieved by "divine intervention", or rather the feeling of the presence of a god. This feeling can be aroused by stimulating the associations forged in the mind between a godlike parent and a dependent infant. The process of religious conversion (becoming enlightened, born again, etc.) awakens the dormant associations in the mind and reconnects the godlike parent image with that of the religion's god concept. These connections are reinforced through religious rituals. Feelings of divine intervention can be stimulated by various rituals such as prayer, reading the bible, going to church, and so forth. To the convert, these feelings appear to be coming directly from a god when in reality they are coming from a primitive area of their brain. These feelings can be stimulated to a greater degree in the presence of suffering. Activities such as fasting, sacrificing a prized possession, accepting hardship, or agreeing to a serious undertaking without compensation have the collateral effect of increasing the pleasurable feeling of divine presence. This is due in part to conditioned delayed gratification and anticipation of a reward, and in part to the phenomenon of disinhibition. Disinhibition occurs when the mind is under stress so great that it cannot maintain normal function. When the stressed state collapses a wide variety of odd experiences are reported as some parts of the brain become exhausted and inactive while other parts become stimulated and overactive. These odd experiences range from floating feelings, disorientation and dissociation, to full blown aural and visual hallucinations. These experiences are often called spiritual or religious experiences and have religious themes. The religious themes are not surprising since the feelings of powerlessness during the stressful event evoke memories of divine abandonment. The sudden transition to a state of disinhibition in the brain often reverse the feelings of divine abandonment to those of divine intervention. The spiritual experiences take on the shape of what is being felt in the brain, very often a sense of divine deliverance from a hopeless situation (For instance seeing angels or Jesus appear in a desperate crisis). When accompanied by powerful feelings and/or hallucinations, conversion often occurs. Many religious rituals exploit this neurobiological mechanism in order to bring about conversions or re-dedications of faith. It's worthy of note that not all states of disinhibition lead to feelings of divine deliverance. Many lead to feelings of extreme fear or other emotions. However, the incidences of these types of spiritual experiences are greatly reduced when they occur in a religious context, such as a revival, or occur after exposure to the religious experiences of others. In these cases, the expectations of what should happen influence the mind and often guide it to producing the expected experience. It's also worthy of note that temporarily deactivating parts of the brain via oxygen starvation (which can be achieved by climbing a high mountain, becoming proficient in meditation, taking psychoactive drugs, or many other methods) can cause similar effects. The end result of the religious conditioning associated with feelings of divine abandonment and divine intervention is that the believer gains a way to alleviate pain. By stimulating the deep connections in the brain that are associated with the feelings of godlike parental presence through prayer, bible reading, fasting, etc., pain that is felt in more superficial areas of the brain can be relieved or eliminated entirely. This is because the areas of the brain associated with "divine presence" can have a greater impact on a person's neurochemistry than those associated with pain and suffering. This is provided of course that the divine intervention mechanism has been conditioned to the point where it is strong enough to do so. Religions and ideologies focus on conditioning that mechanism in accordance with their symbols, texts, and authority figures. This gives them great control over the individual.
But religions and other ideologies aren't the only things capable of exploiting feelings of divine abandonment. Anyone or anything that can provide the security and comfort that was lost during the child rearing process can wield great power over a person. Spouses and significant others are sources of love and attention that can fill the void and often command obedience and commitment. Work and careers as well as goals outside of work lead to accomplishments that stimulate feelings of parental approval, giving bosses and managers greater power over their employees. Raising children is a way to vicariously experience the feelings of a "divine presence" and children can gain manipulative power over their parents as a result. As a side note it is interesting that parents who needs their child's love to alleviate their own feelings of divine abandonment end up passing on the same psychological deficiency. In their need to raise a child who can fill the divine void, they tend to create children who are acutely dependent on them and vice versa. A need for love implanted in the child makes the parent's need for love easier to fill and the two become psychologically interdependent. It's rather ironic that love, often held up as the ultimate in good, can have such a damaging effect. It could even be conjectured that almost everything we do has some tie to stimulating feelings of parental approval, and all this is made necessary by the powerfully constructed psychological deficit known as divine abandonment.
Because the feelings of divine abandonment are such a powerful source of motivation, creating a permanent deficit of a divine presence in the mind is a way to make a person highly motivated and active their entire life. A permanent deficit can never be satisfied for long. No matter how great a feeling of divine presence a person feels when they accomplish a goal, receive someone's love, or in some way alleviate the pain, once their neurochemistry goes back to it's normal state, the feelings of divine abandonment return. A perfect example is that of the biblical David. Given what the bible claims he accomplished one might think that he would feel awash in divine blessings, yet he continues to plead longingly for God for his entire life. Given the success of Israel under David it is easy to see how ideologies that generate people with such psychological deficits can survive and propagate. David was a fierce warrior and charismatic king who defended Israel against all its enemies. Israel enjoyed some of their greatest years under the rule of King David. Some claim that people such as David come along only once in a blue moon, but I suggest that the world is now full of them. All around I see people productive to the point of being obsessed. They work hard, sacrifice, take risks, and bend or break laws and conventions to reach greater and greater heights. Some do it for their god or ideology, some do it for love, some do it for money (security), but all of these needs are symptomatic of a powerful psychological deficit. This deficit is not much different than a drug addiction, and in fact feelings of divine presence are associated with the release of chemicals in the brain that cause a natural high. Addiction to those chemicals is no different than addiction to any other, and certainly explain the powerful driving force behind most if not all members of a modern society. Although people who stand far above others in terms of drive and motivation are rare, I would contend that the average levels of motivation have been increasing for thousands of years. The signs of divine abandonment are everywhere.
The psychological deficit caused by divine abandonment can often result social alienation and self absorption. With so many people in society with psychological deficits who will go to extremes to satisfy them, it is inevitable that many will seek to satisfy their needs by exploiting others. The modern world is rife with people who will lie, cheat, and use others for their own gain. The victims of these acts will tend to insulate themselves from others in order to avoid getting mistreated again. The distancing serves to protect their vulnerability, but also exacerbates their psychological need by making it harder to satisfy. The result are people who go from the extremes of over indulgence and lust to abstinence and recrimination (of the self and others). It is the psychological equivalent of bulimia. Our society encourages this behavior as well as exploits those who are seeking to indulge or protect their needs. Just as the commercial sector gains when people binge drink or go on spending sprees, the religious sector gains when people pledge to abstain and lead moral lives. Everything that would indulge, redirect, or help to protect a person's psychological deficit seems to generate a new cottage industry. People's psychological needs are big business. The world is full of gods, and they're all false. Furthermore, when people have deep psychological deficits, their attention tends to concentrate on their own needs. This increases the degree of alienation in a society. Few have time to spend with other on their problems when they must concentrate on their own. Of course, you can always pay someone to listen to your problems.
There are many ways to raise children with permanent psychological deficits. The simplest is to give them excessive love and attention early and wean them from it as time goes by. The feelings of a divine presence are strengthened and then neglected. Abuse is another way. Powerful negative conditioning makes even small displays of affection seem wonderful. Implanting such a deficit makes parenting and subsequent education much easier. When a smile or a frown, a good grade or a bad one, a positive comment or a negative one, or the gain or loss of currency carries with it the power to drive a person to drastically alter their behavior, motivating them to overcome all obstacles in the pursuit of a goal is attainable. Continued reinforcement of the feelings of divine abandonment being overcome (temporarily) through socially productive activities will produce individuals that are highly motivated. And it is this type of highly motivated behavior that is held as the product of successful parenting and education, not the psychological well being of the individual nor the associated well being of others and the world in which they live. Highly motivated individuals, no matter what the cost, are the key to the survival of a social system and the ideology that dominates it. It is the ideology that control the person and the society and which benefits from all the sacrifices that its believers make. In the end humans are sacrificed for the good of ideologies. We are Food for the Gods.
I invite all comments. If there is a desire for this to become an open discussion, I'll send out responses and replies to all on the Fireaxe mailing list. Names and e-mail addresses will be withheld upon request.
More to come.
Over the years, I've been thinking of some new song ideas revolving around a theme of religious warfare, fundamentalism, and ideological conflict. Although we feel safe in our modern world that open warfare and chaos cannot happen in our "sane" and "stable" society, nothing could be further from the truth. Volatility seems to be at an all time high for the latter half of this century. Throughout the world people are embracing extremism in greater and greater numbers. These people's beliefs are far outside the mainstream and they are willing to commit all manner of atrocity to support those beliefs. It appears that this situation will only escalate. The next Fireaxe CD will explore this theme. It will examine why people embrace radical ideologies, explore the emotions which typify extremism, and study the seeds of violence which are prevalent in our society. The CD will be titled "Food for the Gods" meaning that WE are the food for the gods. Any extremist ideology is effectively "God" and people are slaughtered or enslaved in that God's name (i.e. the ideology feeds on the bodies of the slain and beaten down). The CD will fit loosely around the themes in "A Dream of Death" but will explore the more violent aspects of belief in depth. If you ever wondered what drives a person to kill and commit horrible acts, "Food for the Gods" will try to answer that question. It will be an extremely intense CD.
My goal is to deliver music to whoever wants to hear it in whatever way is necessary. Whatever the market demands, I will supply, but I do want to avoid the mass marketing channel. Exposure is fine, but in the modern business, the substance of the music must be altered to match the demands of the marketplace. This would totally defeat the purpose of why I write music in the first place. I write music because it is a way to express my emotions. What I both think and feel goes into the songs. That is the power, Fireaxe is the channel, and any diversion diminishes the emotive effect. Thus I try to avoid such diversions. That is how art should be.
Currently Fireaxe is not for profit. I sell the CDs for $5 each which covers the production and mailing costs. For CDs sent out of the country, I'll have to charge $7 per disk to cover the additional mailing cost. If you write reviews or put samples on your website I'll give you a CD for free. Since I am not making any money with the current recordings, you are free to make duplicates of them to distribute as long as you obey the following guidelines:Brian Voth - Creator of Fireaxe
The gist of it is that you can do just about anything with the music as long as you don't profit from it and that I get some sort of credit for having written it. I'm open to any methods of distributing my music, such as compilation tapes or CDs, radio play, or recording label distribution. However, you will need my direct permission to do so or some kind of legal agreement.
- 1. You can only sell the duplications for the price of the medium or less, plus any delivery cost. You are not allowed to make any profit with the music.
- 2. You should tell me how many copies you gave out and who got them so I can keep track. Also, if they have an e-mail address I'd like that as well so I can add them to the mailing list.
- 3. You are likewise free to adorn any webpages or duplications with the gifs and jpgs on my website as long as you include an obvious link back to my website. This includes putting Fireaxe song samples on your site as well.
- 4. You are free to play any Fireaxe songs (in unaltered form) provided you are an unsigned band without a marketting tie-in. You are not allowed to record those songs onto anything that you will sell.
- 5. You are required to crank the song "Hounds of Tindalos" as loud as you can as often as you can. It's your only defense against THEM. Be warned, they come through angles. Note that the CD is round. Are your speaker cabinets square?
- 6. Cthulhu, the Necronomicon, Hastur the Unspeakable, and all other mythos creatures are purely the inventions of Lovecraft and other fiction authors. None of it is real, at least that's what I'm going to say in court if you try to sue me for destruction of your property, house, city, or soul as a result of listening to the "Lovecraftian Nightmares" CD too much.
- 7. Fireaxe will not be held responsible for the destruction of hopes and dreams that may come while listening to this CD. Also, any subsequent social revolution which follows from this CD is simply not my fault. It's all part of the big picture. Just listen to the disk and you'll understand what I mean.
- 8. You are not free to commit suicide while listening to any Fireaxe song. I'm sorry, I'll have to prosecute. On a serious note, if you are thinking about doing it, please e-mail or call me if you have no one else to talk to. When I was in my teens the album "The Wall" by Pink Floyd used to really get to me. Just hearing songs like "Comfortably Numb", and "Hey You" would get me pretty depressed and mildly suicidal. I'm just trying to say that I've been there. If my music is having that effect on you, please get in touch. You aren't alone.
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