Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Spiritual Journey of Todd Rundgren. Part Two: 1975-1977

When I was a child
I thought as a child
I spoke as a child
I didnt know better
But now Im a man
I look like a man
I'm old as a man
And I should know better
"Real Man" Initiation (1975)

With these words, Todd opens his most spiritual album (at that point) Initiation. This is also probably his most maligned album: it has been voted one of the worst 10 albums of all time; a rough call. It's not that bad, actually very good (certainly in my Rundgren Top 10) and is also the longest single LP made at 67 minutes.

The album was made when Todd was experimenting with Theosophy, which makes the above opening lines even more intriguing, seeing how they are a paraphrase of:
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child: now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things. 1 Corinthians 13:11 RV
It is interesting that on his first overt spiritual record, he opens with a phrase that many of his listeners would know, like letting them know where he is heading, getting them into the right headspace before he takes a strong left turn. Even his phrase
There's a real man
Forget about my body and be a real man
"Real Man" Initiation (1975)
This wouldn't have given his listeners any trouble, seeing how Paul carried on about how one needs to think about their spirit rather than their flesh.

A few tracks in, and Todd puts his cards on the table:
I'm on my knees, one question please
Will the real God please stand up?
Jesus and Moses, Mohammed, and Sri Krishna
Steiner, Gurdjief, Blavatsky, and Bhudda
Guru Maharaji, Reverend Sun Myung Moon
"Eastern Intrigue" Initiation (1975)
Which one? On Initiation he was certainly following Blavatsky, and particularly Alice Bailey: the 36 minute instrumental that takes up all of Side 2 is entitled "A Treatise on Cosmic Fire;" the name coming from Alice Bailey's 1928 book of the same name.

The title track is the most explicit for it's spiritual message:
See the shining soul break the ring-pass-not
Spiraling upward and it shall be revealed
The spirit is free
The universe wants it to be,
it calls you and me
Love has come, love has come
Over under,
it shall be revealed
"Initiation" Initiation (1975)
A read through this should help in understanding what Todd is going on about, but essentially the point is the separation of the spirit from it's human shackles, something not foreign to the New Testament:
And I know such a man
(whether in the body, or apart from the body, I know not; God knoweth),
how that he was caught up into Paradise
2 Corinthians 12:3-4 RV

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day,
and I heard behind me a great voice,
as of a trumpet
Revelation 1:10 RV

That which is born of the flesh is flesh;
and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
John 3:6 RV
The above words of Jesus to Nicodemus seem to me to be of a more conservative nature than Blavatsky's. Jesus isn't saying to forget about our bodies; more to recognise the importance of our spirit.

On the next track, Todd explains his newfound spirituality to all. The opening line is very importnat to me. I remember feeling and saying a similar thing to my confused friends when I became a Christian:
I know that youve been wondering
If I'm the same man inside
Never tried to fool you
cause Ive got nothing to hide
I gave you fair warning I could never be tied down
'til Ive seen paradise with my very own eyes
Love owns us all,
time owns us all,
life owns us all
But the world doesnt own me
"Fair Warning" Initiation (1975)
The end of the song has Todd repeating "goodbye". Again, I know this feeling. It isn't goodbye is the sense of finality, more the person you once knew has gone. I'm still the same, but I now have a different outlook, different priorities. Todd also references some of his earlier pop "hits". It is like he is saying goodbye to that part of himself.

The next album Another Live Utopia adds to all this, but not as personally. Where on Initiation we have Todd dealing with his new spirituality, here he explains some of the philosophy with us. More about the rays here.
Take one beam of light
Prism acquire
Break the white light down
Seven rays appear
One - red, the ruler seeking freedom
Two - gold, the father seeking unity
Three - orange, the thinker seeking understanding
Four - yellow, the poet seeking harmony
Take the seven rays
Pure as fire
Focus anywhere
White light will appear
Five - green, the scientist seeking truth
Six - blue, the disciple seeking goodness
Seven - indigo, the artist seeking beauty
"The Seven Rays" Another Live Utopia (1975)
It is strange that when Todd expresses his spirituality interms of his personal experience, he is convincing and I really want to know more. When he explains some of the actual beliefs, he comes across as matter of fact, and not that interested in communicating them. Maybe the gig was off.....

Something must have happened to Todd after this. Mentions of a spirituality take a breather for a while, and what we do find is definately more Christian.

On 1976's Faithful on one of the lesser songs, Todd makes a very Christian paraphrase:
Now I lay me down to sleep
I'm praying Lord my soul to keep
If I die before I wake
Somebody make a big mistake

I dont expect for nothing
But Lord when I pray,
please be there
"When I Pray" Faithful (1976)
Unfortunately, the song is humourous, especially Todd's awful fake Jamaican accent.

1977 saw two albums by Utopia. Interestingly the more obviously mystical Ra contains very little in the terms of spirituality. The next album Oops! Wrong Planet! however, does have some sense of spirit. (and is a far better album, to boot)

The opening track, while not spiritual, does tell us about soemone who is, and what the religious leaders think of such a happening:
Brother John saw visions of God
So they put him in chains
For acting too odd
As the crowd shouted, off with his head
The priest said, have mercy
Lets burn him instead
"Trapped" Oops, Wrong Planet! (1977)

If anything, it does tell us Todd's feeling on the Church. While he may be spiritual, he isn't neccesarily religious.

On the ballad of the album, "Love is the Answer" Todd make his most explicit Christian references (to my thinking, anyways):

Light of the world, shine on me
Love is the answer
Shine on us all, set us free
Love is the answer

We got to love one another

Just give it one more chance
Lord you just cant let it stop Lord
Love is the answer
Got to be free to let love into your life
Let it shine
"Love is the Answer" Oops, Wrong Planet! (1977)

Great stuff, and if you don't know this song, please check it out. To some it may be a bit AOR, but the sincerity is very hard to resist. Here Todd is referencing the Gospel of John
Jesus spake unto them, saying,
I am the light of the world:
he that followeth me shall not walk in the darkness,
but shall have the light of life.
John 8:12 RV

A new commandment I give unto you,
that ye love one another;
even as I have loved you,
that ye also love one another.
John 13:34 RV
Of course it is possible that Todd was not deliberately using these terms as Christian terms; in fact they are common phrases, but "light of the world" in Western society is normally used in reference to Christ. Considering the journey Todd was on, I think he knew what he was saying.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Spiritual Journey of Todd Rundgren. Part One: 1968-1974

I first heard Todd Rundgren in the August school holidays of 1989. The album I heard was 1973's A Wizard; A True Star. It blew me away like very few albums ever have. (This is a subjest for another blog entry: those albums on first listen that change your conception of what you like about music). The album is a rambling riot of pop, psychedelia, soul, avant garde, metal, and showtunes. Awesome.

I went on to get all Todd's albums, starting from 1968-1970's Nazz, right up to his (then) contemporary Nearly Human. It was a huge journey, as it dose consist of 25 (now well over) albums. While many of the albums are fantastic, some are a bit lacklustre but containing at least a gem or two.

In those days, I listened to the lyrics, mainly loving his self deprecating humour, and loser in love stance (I
was 17!). The older I get, the less I listen to words in pop music; however, a recent Todd binge has made me aware of his lyrics once again. This time, his spirituality mutterings have caught my attention.

The early part of his career (1968-1972) is almost exclusively about women and associated emotional pain.

The first mentions, on
A Wizard; A True Star (1973) are vague. No longer is Todd just concerned about women: he now has bigger issues, like the destruction of his ego by psychedelic drugs, and the world in general. There is a surreal vibe throughout; nothing overtly spiritual. The lyrics to "Zen Archer" seem to point toward a deeper understanding, however.
Rivers of blood,
Oceans of tears,
Life without death,
And death without reason

Mountains of pain,
Valleys of love,
Death without life,
And life without meaning
"Zen Archer"
A Wizard; A True Star (1973)

Later in the album, Todd makes his first overt reference to the Christian faith:
Another virgin mary, another case is shut
Have another helping, prime cut of babys butt
A sip of holy water, a shot of saving grace
Another western mystic, the words pore out my face
"Just Another Onionhead"
A Wizard; A True Star (1973)
Todd's next album, Todd (1974) expands his spiritual outlook. Song titles like "A Spark of Life" and "In and Out of the Chakras we go" allude to something more than romance, to a more cosmic outlook. The two tracks are both instrumentals; it almost seems as if he is not yet ready to formulate his beliefs, but wishes to publicly explore them in a vague way.

Todd Rundgren's Utopia (1974) contains nothing about women at all; more sci-fi freak stuff. Some lyrics do make some spiritual points:
Your reward will come
Its just a question of how and when
And the truth will come and the change will come
Its just a question of how and when
"Freedom Fighters" Todd Rundgren's Utopia (1974)
Of course we could interpret this in many ways, but it does remind me of
Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake:
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:10 RV

On the side long epic "The Ikon" things definately more overt:
On a day like no other
In a time unique, in a place divine
Keep your eye on the ikon
Shining in the light of eternal mind.

Someone knows who you are
Someone watches over you
Someone knows how you feel
And someone feels the same.

So you dont have to be afraid
We live and we die
You dont have to be afraid to know why.
"The Ikon" Todd Rundgren's Utopia (1974)

Admittedly, this song is really about a future civilisation, sort of controlled by everyone's combined mind. We are a long way from "We gotta get you a woman"!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Epiclesian gestures

On commencing
This Oblation, &c.,

he extends his two hands over the Host and Chalice together,
so that, the thumbs being joined in the usual manner,
the palms of the hands are turned towards the Host and Chalice,
and they are retained in this position until the words

Through Christ our Lord,

when they are closed without being first disjoined.
During the next prayer,
at the words


three Signs of the Cross are made over the Chalice and Host together
and at the word

a single Sign of the Cross is made over the Host alone,
and at the word

a like Sign over the Chalice alone;
these Signs are made with the right hand,
the left being placed on the Altar outside the Corporal.

The above is taken from Ritual Notes (1894)

On Monday, a woman who helps with our Playtime group joined us at Midday mass. She is not a church goer at all.

It was interesting to be a part of the service, and hear it, experience it, with a sense of it being completely new for someone. It made me remember how confusing and odd the Communion service was for me when I first experienced my first service. Of course these days, I understand the words and what why we do it.

Upon the end of the service, the woman turned to me and said "If you're going to be doing that, you are going to have to remember an awful lot of stuff". Very true. She also pointed out the "ritualness" of it all.

I am interested in the epiclesis at the moment, and it is this part that contains some distinctive movements and gestures by the priest, which I have placed above.

Monday, August 11, 2008

An epiclesian ramble

Verily, verily, I say unto you,
Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man
and drink his blood,
ye have not life in yourselves.
John 6:53 RV
I have had my interest in the epiclesis reignited in the last week or so.
A series of incidents and talks have made it central to my thinking once more.

The other week, I was engaged in a talk about OLM's (Ordained Local Ministers), like part time priests, I guess. The idea of lay presidency is something I don't approve of.

I suppose this comes down to my Eucharistic Theology.

I believe the bread and wine do become the body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist. I believe thsi is done during the epiclesis, or invocation of the Holy Spirit over the elements.

During the aforementioned talk, this part was referred to as "the magic bit". A bit dumb really, but the point is there. To use the term "magic" is deliberately disparaging, and offensive really. The point being made is that the priest at this point is invoking the Holy Spirit and changing the elements. The point being made is that anyone can do this, or, far more likely, that it is not needed.


Anyway, the epiclesis is easily one of the most sacred and profound moments within the Liturgy. It is a moment that calls for still reverence. Truly wonderful; a time when the reality of what the sacraments are is unavoidable. One can feel the infinite becoming temporal.

Here are my two favourite epiclesis'.

Hear us,
O Merciful Father,
we most humbly beseech thee,
and with thy Holy and Life-giving Spirit
vouchsafe to bless and sanctify both us and these thy gifts of Bread and Wine,
that they may be unto us the Body and Blood of thy Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ,
to the end that,
receiving the same,
we may be strengthened and refreshed both in body and soul.
Epiclesis BCP 1928

Hear us, merciful Lord;
through Christ accept our sacrifice of praise;
and, by the power of your Word and Holy Spirit,
sanctify this bread and wine,
that we who share in this holy sacrament may be partakers of Christ’s body and blood
Thanksgiving 3 Australian Prayer Book

Saturday, August 9, 2008

More Trinitarian musings

The Holy Trinity appearing to Alexander Svrisky

For there are three that bear record in heaven,
the Father,
the Word,
and the Holy Ghost:
and these three are one
1 John 5:7
(Comma Johanneum)

I have become interested in the Holy Trinity once again. Not by my own doing, however.

At Priestly Formation, we spoke a bit about the Trinity, which was interesting on a few levels; one being how some don't really care about it that much as a concept, another, I thought I understood it. I don't, really. We spoke of heresy, and it was mentioned that at a certain conference some priests were speaking abouty the Trinity and placing the position of the Spirit as higher than the Father and Son. I didn't really get why that would necessarily be heresy.

The previous day, I had placed this picture on my desktop at work.

Holy Trinity
Fridolin Leiber

When I returned after going up to Newcastle, I was informed by many on my choice of desktop picture:
It is Hindu.
It is hideous.
I suppose everyone likes different art.
It is heretical.

Why is it heretical?

It must be to do with the fact that all three persons are depicted as Jesus.

I preached on the Transfiguration on the following Wednesday. Afterwards, Fr Steven pointed out a part that may have been heretical:
At the Transfiguration, it wasn't Jesus changing into something, or becoming God
This is called subordination. I was placing the Son in a position lower than God.

So much learn, so much to learn.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sermon #1: The Transfiguration

The Transfiguration
Carl Bloch

I preached my first sermon on Wednesday. It all went pretty well, other than I spoke a bit too quickly, which combined with my Kiwi vowels, and age of the congegration, probably meant bits of what I said may have been missed. For better or worse, here it is:

There in their presence he was transfigured:
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became as dazzling as light.

The Transfiguration of Jesus on the Holy Mountain must be one of the most overlooked events in all of his earthly ministry. Many other happenings such as the feeding of the Five Thousand, turning water into wine, walking on water are common knowledge to believers and unbelievers alike. Yet the Transfiguration is quite unknown outside of the church.

I know when I came to the faith, I was drawn to this passage, and was completely baffled as to why I had never heard of it.

Why did this event occur ?
Six days earlier, Jesus had asked the disciples who people thought he was.
Some say John the Baptist,
some Elijah,
and others Jeremiah
or one of the prophets.
The people had heard him teach, seen him heal the sick, They had witnessed the miracle of the loaves and fishes. For all he had spoken and shown of himself, the people weren’t really understanding his true identity: that he was The Son of God. This must have been a bit disheartening. He then puts the same question directly to the disciples:
But you who do you say I am?
The disciples, as well as experiencing what the general public had witnessed, had also witnessed him calm the sea. He had given them authority to heal and cast out spirits. After His words, we can imagine the silence, the uncomfortable shuffling around.
But you,' he said, 'who do you say I am?
Do these men that he has chosen really understand who he is? And even if they do, will they be able to accept what needs to occur? And Simon Peter answered and said,
You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.
From then onwards
Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples
that he was destined to go to Jerusalem
and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes
and to be put to death
and to be raised up on the third day.
This is the fate of the Messiah? Confusion must have reigned amongst the disciples. The Messiah they had found will be killed by their own religious leaders. What kind of a Messiah would allow that to happen? Maybe he is not the Messiah.

If there were doubts about this, they weren't voiced as such, rather, Peter flat out states that this cannot happen
Heaven preserve you, Lord, this must not happen to you
This leads us to a reason for the Transfiguration. Maybe Jesus had picked up on the disciples doubts, or Peter's disbelief about Jesus' forthcoming death, or the fact that many viewed him as a only "one of the prophets" made him realise that maybe that more of his true divine nature needed to be revealed.

The actual physical transformation is not of Jesus' doing. He does not transfigure himself: he is transfigured. It comes from beyond him, it is his unique envelopment into the heart of god. The light only shines only from Jesus himself, showing that it is an outward manifestation of his true identity, which is itself dependent upon God. It has its source in God, but has been present in Him from the beginning of his earthly life.

He is transfigured before them, the three pillars of the church, Peter , James, and John. The event is for their sake, as much as his own. If it was to occur as the first thing "the three" had experienced of Jesus, they would more than likely thought he was supernatural, but not necessarily the Christ. By this point in the Gospel, they have witnessed many things, heard revelations, and seen prophesies fulfilled. By showing his Divinity in such a majestic way, maybe they will understand all that has gone before, and more importantly believe His revelation of the Passion.

Why would such a transformation lead the disciples to believe Jesus was the Son of the Living God? That he is both human and divine?

Light is often used throughout the Bible to show God's presence.
God is light,
and in him is no darkness at all.
White clothing, and light are characteristic of heavenly beings, a divine presence.
one most venerable took his seat. His robe was white as snow
These clothes are the same that heal a woman with a single touch, and the soldiers cast lots for. In the Transfiguration, Jesus becomes not literally the colour of white, but rather the colour of light, a light that transcends the natural world. A divine hue showing His true identity, one that has been hidden thus far, but implied in everything he has done.

Maybe it was the radiance of his body shining through his garments.
His face shone like the sun
When Moses came down from communion with God on Mt Sinai,
the skin of his face was radiant because he had been talking to him
As Moses' radiant face gave a legitimacy to his experience, and his message to the Israelites His face shone due to his communion with God, a reflection.

On the other hand, Jesus face shone like the sun; it is the cause of the light, not a reflection. Jesus' radiance at the Transfiguration authenticates him as the new, and greater Moses.

The BCP 1928 has the following for today's epistle reading:
My dear friends,
we are already God's children,
but what we shall be in the future has not yet been revealed.
We are well aware that when he appears we shall be like him,
because we shall see him as he really is.
As Bishop Westcott wrote in “The Historic Faith”
"The Transfiguration is the revelation of the potential spirituality of the earthly life in the highest outward form"
He goes on to state that Jesus in the Transfiguration:
"gives the measure of the capacity of humanity, and shews that to which He leads those who are united with him"
He is revealed as he truly is, not being transformed into something new, or receiving some divine power; more it is a revealing of the heights of spirituality. Jesus revealed himself as he really was, and was also showing the ultimate reality or destination of those who follow him:
He belongs to the earthly realm as well as the heavenly. Not just in the present but also the infinite. At the Transfiguration, it wasn't Jesus changing into something, it is more like a veil was lifted, and he was revealed as he truly is: the Son of God.
As William Blake said:
If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.
As Christians, we are Children of God, and the Transfiguration shows us what our ultimate reality is
when he appears,
we will be like him

Friday, August 1, 2008

"The three of you need to see something..."

Altar painting. Jalasjarvi, Finland

and he was transfigured before them:
and his face did shine as the sun,
and his garments became white as the light.

Matthew 17:2 RV

What am I really going on about with all this Transfiguration business? What is my main point?
What do I see as the relevance for our lives today? In our lives as Christians?

The first point is that the event, the actual
physical transformation is not of Jesus' doing. He does not transfigure himself: he is transfigured.

The second point is that he is transfigured
before them, the three pillars of the church, Peter , James, and John. (Gal 2:9) The event is for their sake, as much as his own. In fact, I believe the main reason for the event is to show them his true identity; that of the Son of God.

How does Jesus' Transfiguration show that he was the Son of God?If it was to occur as the first thing "the three" had experienced of Jesus, they would more than likely thought he was supernatural, but not necessarily the Christ. By this point in the Gospel, they have witnessed many things, heard revelations, and seen prophesies fulfilled. It is once Peter answers Jesus with "You are the Christ" (Matthew 16:16), once the point has been proven so to speak, that Jesus starts to explain how he must suffer, be killed, and rise again (Matthew 16:20-21). This is the fate of the Messiah? Confusion must have reigned amongst the disciples. Maybe this is why Judas betrayed Jesus. Not an act of malice, but an act of disbelief?

By these three men seeing Jesus face shine like the sun, they could not have had any trace of doubt of his true divine nature. I am not suggesting that this is the only reason this occured. I believe there are implications for us today, regarding prayer, meditation and and our own spiritual natures revealed on the mountain. Jesus revealed himself as he really was, and was also showing the ultimate reality or destination of those who follow him:
We know that,
if he shall be manifested,
we shall be like him;
1 John 3:3 RV