Category : Other

The Return of Occult Rock

 

“We’re back to the black magic, but this time we wanted to show that black magic can be fun. It’s not all worshipping the devil and sacrificing sheep.” Clive Jones, frontman of occult rock group Black Widow.

A recent article in The Guardian looks briefly at the revival in popularity of occult rock, a niche musical genre whose heyday was in the late 1960s-early 1970s. The article concludes,

Whether it’s a heartfelt expression of devilish beliefs or simply a good excuse to wear a spooky mask and annoy a few Christians, occult rock can hardly fail to provide a welcome antidote to an increasingly soulless and cynical music world that prizes profit over atmosphere, and perfection over power. Perhaps more importantly, its newest exponents seem to have abandoned shock tactics in favour of a subtle, persuasive approach worthy of Eden’s duplicitous serpent himself.

Occult rock has always been a small niche, but its greatest impact has been in popularizing the use of occult iconography in more mainstream entertainment. This has certainly been the case with mainstream heavy metal music, but has also been the case in the far-less-directly related Goth music scene, as we noted in a 1998 issue of The Watchman Expositor:

The Gothic (or Goth) movement started in 1981 at a London nightclub called “‘The Batcave.’ Goth devotees, named after the medieval Gothic period, “˜were pale-faced, black-swathed, hair-sprayed nightdwellers, who worshiped imagery religious and sacrilegious, consumptive poets, and all things spooky.’ The movement reached the height of its popularity in Great Britain in the late 1980s, when such “˜pop-Goth’ bands as the Cure and Depeche Mode created a synthesis of pop music and Goth-inspired attire, topping music charts and filling stadiums for their concerts.

The action-horror movie, The Crow (released in 1996), is an example of stereotypical Goth imagery: actor Brandon Lee wears black leather costumes, has long black hair and black eye shadow, and has his face painted a death-masque white. He frequented a dank, mausoleum-like abode (redolent of the haunts of the vampires in Anne Rice’s novels) lit with ornate candelabra and punctuated with religious iconography.

The Goth movement, while somewhat reduced in popularity, is still a thriving countercultural niche for many teens. In its most basic form, Goth is an expression of alienation from societal expectations. J. Gordon Melton explains, “‘The goth culture is made up of a lot of people who are wounded souls, who feel alienated in some way.  The attire, musical themes, and decor are an expression of nihilism; Goths ‘celebrate the death of things like dreams and hope and humanity for our culture.'”

As the Goth aesthetic has crept into the mainstream, it has divided into three cliques. The first and smallest clique are those described above, for whom Goth is essentially an existentialist statement. The second and most visible clique are those who have temporarily adopted Goth music and attire as a rebellion against the expectations of their parents and community leaders. The cynical cultural index, Alt.Culture, describes the orientation of these individuals by claiming that Goth provides “‘a highly stylized, almost glamorous, alternative to punk fashion for suburban rebels, as well as safe androgyny for boys.'”  This is the market towards whom Marilyn Manson targets his act. Despite a “‘Marilyn Manson Awareness’ training seminar being offered in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, which claims that Manson and other Goth and pseudo-Goth adherents should be classified as gang members, police and school districts largely consider the “‘suburban rebel’ clique of Goth to be innocuous.

We concluded, “It is the third clique that poses the greatest concern: the small number of Goths who, inspired by the imagery of religious decay they have adopted, begin to dabble in vampirism and the occult.” Christians must avoid overreacting to musical and cultural niches like occult rock and Goth music and dress: while we of course lament any movement that mocks our God and our lives in him, we must also remember that most individuals who participate in these groups are engaging in a temporary – and usually very superficial – expression of alienation from the culture around them. At the same time, however, we must also be aware that such groups can serve as an entryway into the far more dangerous world of the occult.

You can learn more in our article, Youth and the Occult, as well as from our books and discs on the occult.

Scientology and Study Technology

 

Many children find their first day of school to be traumatic – few find it to be a media circus. Siri Cruise, the daughter of actors Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, nonetheless has been the center of media attention as she began her education at the New Village Leadership Academy, a Scientology-influenced school.

The Academy, like the older and more established Delphian School in Sheridan, OR, is part of a chain of Delphi schools which use L. Ron Hubbard’s Applied Scholastics as the foundation for their curricula. The curricula calls for independent study, in which students work through a checklist of activities to learn about a given subject; for example, an article in Slate describes reading a chapter of a novel, and then writing an essay to demonstrate knowledge of the subject.

Applied Scholastics claims its “Study Technology” undercuts the causes of illiteracy by helping students overcome the three barriers to study. The first claimed barrier, an “absence of mass,” is said to be a feeling of being “bent, sort of spinny, sort of dead, or bored” when confronted with an abstract problem; the barrier is overcome by having the student created a physical model the problem (frequently using clay). The second claimed barrier, a “skipped gradient,” is said to occur when a student has failed to learn a prior skill or concept; the barrier is overcome by having the student thoroughly research and learn the point on which the student is stuck. The third claimed barrier is the “misunderstood word,” in which failing to understand a word or phrase can make the student “feel blank or washed out. It can make you feel “˜not there’ and a sort of a nervous upset feeling can follow after that;” the barrier is overcome through the student researching the misunderstood term. An article in LA Weekly describes a student being required to look up in a dictionary every word in a sentence – and every word in the definitions that the student didn’t understand, becoming stuck in what the article labels an “endless linguistic loop” (this article is no longer available on the Weekly’s website, but is available through the Internet Wayback Machine). Similarly, a former student at the Delphian school describes spending three days to work his way through 2.5 pages of text, partly because he could not define the adjective “the.”

While these barriers sound plausible (one blogger on Cafe Mom even writes that descriptions of the curriculum “sound normal” and “make my nerdy heart swell”), educational specialists debate their validity (and particularly Applied Scholastics’ approach to overcoming the barriers). For example, the LA Weekly article quotes Sidnie Myrick, an educator and UCLA research group leader, on the barrier of the misunderstood word, “In many cases, lack of comprehension is not because of a misunderstood word…in fact, in many cases the student won’t get the meaning until the material is presented in a completely different way.”

Instead of being based on educational theory and methodology, the primary source for Study Technology is L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology. LA Weekly explains,

The books speak for themselves. In Learning How To Learn, “˜L. Ron Hubbard’ is printed across the cover in type as large as the title. The terms “˜lack of mass’ and “˜skipped gradient,’ which appear throughout the books, have obvious Scientological equivalents. In Scientology, “˜mental mass’ describes an undesirable image in the mind. And a series of “˜gradients’ must be passed through in order for church adherents to reach higher states of being, the highest being the state of Clear, which itself sounds a lot like the state to which students aspire through Word Clearing.

The article continues,

The close relationship between Scientology and study technology appears to be openly acknowledged by the church’s faithful. In Chapter 10 of Dianetics, Hubbard refers to “˜Educational Dianetics,’ which he says “˜contains the body of organized knowledge necessary to train minds to their optimum efficiency and to an optimum skill and knowledge.’ A call to the toll-free Dianetics information line to inquire about this course of study yields a referral by the operator to the Basic Study Manual, one of the five Applied Scholastics books up for approval. “˜That’s what Educational Dianetics is,’ the operator says. “˜It’s study technology, which is a part of Scientology.’

While a number of news articles criticize Delphian rules regulating grooming and romantic relationships between students, far more serious are descriptions of “training routines” (shortened to “TRs”) in which students engage in formal psychological torment of another student. As The Daily describes,

One such drill conducted at Delphian requires students to sit still for two hours staring into another student’s face. If you flinch or slump, you fail, and have to start over.

The most exciting drill is TR-3, or “˜bull baiting,’ Ke said. This assignment requires students to sit without twitching or laughing while other students tease them, make faces or say lewd things.

“˜It’s the funniest thing in the world when you watch people do it,’ she said. “˜We’re 17, 16 at this time. A lot of what people say at this time has to do with sex and boyfriends, things like that”…It’s like one of the best things to witness at Delphi.’

A more advanced drill called “˜TR-7: High School Indoc’ is designed to teach students how to make people do what they are told, by physical force if necessary.

Ke explained, “˜You learn to control your body, and to control other people’s – so you don’t feel shy about pushing someone, or getting someone to do what you need them to do. It starts simple. You tell him to look at the wall. If he doesn’t, you try to make him look at the wall, physically.’

It may sound like fun and games in a high-school setting, but defectors say church “˜training routine’ drills are a core part of Scientology practice. In her book, “˜Inside Scientology,’ Janet Reitman refers to some of the church’s “˜training routines’ as “˜part of early Scientology indoctrination.’

There are two reasons why the Delphi Schools and Applied Scholastics are important. First, the Delphi schools are a significant source for members of Scientology’s Sea Org, the Church of Scientology’s labor pool that has been investigated by the FBI (according to The Week, the FBI investigation focused on allegations of human trafficking and slavery).

Secondly, Scientology is aggressively pushing for formal academic recognition and use of Study Technology in public schools. The Delphian School in Oregon is in the final stages of becoming a fully accredited member of the Pacific Northwest Association of Independent Schools. Furthermore, Scientology has an extensive history of working to have Study Technology incorporated into public school curricula (which Applied Scholastics itself affirms) – the LA Weekly article documents not only efforts in California (as does a 1997 article in The Watchman Expositor), but also a school district in Louisiana that temporarily adopted Study Technology. A website dedicated to examining Study Technology says Applied Scholastics

provides the schools [with] overall guidance and technical assistance and support. In exchange, the schools support Applied Scholastics’ program by providing it [with] ten percent of the funds they receive in connection with their Applied Scholastics’ activities. (Church of Scientology International Exemption Application Form 1023 Attached Statement, 1993)

Few readers of this blog would consider sending their children to a school that was explicitly tied to the Church of Scientology; we should be similarly vigilant that Scientology’s Study Technology does not appear in local public schools.