Tool’s Lateralus

Posted: 03/07/2012 in Metaphysics

Tool, to my knowledge, is one of the only bands of the last century to complete a concept album (albeit unrecognized as such) revolving entirely around Hermeticism generally and Alchemy specifically. On the album entitled “Lateralus”, the songs “The Grudge”, “Parabola”, “Schism”, “Reflection”, and of course “Lateralus” itself are all united by Hermetic themes and symbols. Briefly, let’s take a look at the song “Lateralus”. The lyrics:

Black then white are all I see in my infancy.

red and yellow then came to be, reaching out to me.

lets me see.

As below, so above and beyond, I imagine

drawn beyond the lines of reason.

Push the envelope. Watch it bend.

 

Over thinking, over analyzing separates the body from the mind.

Withering my intuition, missing opportunities and I must

Feed my will to feel my moment drawing way outside the lines.

 

Black then white are all I see in my infancy.

red and yellow then came to be, reaching out to me.

lets me see.

There is so much more

that beckons me to look through to these infinite possibilities.

As below, so above and beyond, I imagine

drawn outside the lines of reason.

Push the envelope. Watch it bend.

 

Over thinking, over analyzing separates the body from the mind.

Withering my intuition leaving all these opportunities behind.

 

Feed my will to feel this moment urging me to cross the line.

Reaching out to embrace the random.

Reaching out to embrace whatever may come.

 

I embrace my desire to

feel the rhythm, to feel connected

enough to step aside and weep like a widow

to feel inspired, to fathom the power,

to witness the beauty, to bathe in the fountain,

to swing on the spiral

of our divinity and still be a human.

 

With my feet upon the ground I lose myself

between the sounds and open wide to suck it in,

I feel it move across my skin.

I’m reaching up and reaching out,

I’m reaching for the random or what ever will bewilder me.

And following our will and wind we may just go where no one’s been.

We’ll ride the spiral to the end and may just go where no one’s been.

 

Spiral out. Keep going, going…

Alright. So let’s examine the first stanza:

Black then white are all I see, in my infancy. Red and yellow then came to be, reaching out to me, let’s me see.

In the Alchemical Opus, there are 4 generally recognized steps in creating the Philosopher’s Stone. The first is known as the negrido, the black stage, in which the prima materia is calcified and dissolved. The second is known as the libido, the white stage, in which the material is cleansed of all impurities. The third and fourth stages are the cintrinitas, the yellow stage, and the rubedo, the red stage, in which the work is brought to fruition and the Stone is created. The infancy of the Stone is represented by the black and white stages, and the Stone is said to grow to maturity in the yellow and red stages.

Maynard then continues by saying:

As below so above and beyond, I imagine…

This is a direct reference to the Emerald Tablet, the universally recognized primary text of Alchemy, in which Hermes Trismigestus states: “That which is above is like that which is below, and that which is below is from that which is above, working the miracles of one thing.” I find it interesting that Maynard starts from below and works up. This may have some connection to the Hermetic concept of the body summoning the spirit, as much as the spirit creates the body.

The next bit, though not overtly Hermetic, is clearly in line with the ancient philosophy which prefers intuitive understanding (intelligence of the heart, in the words of Schwaller de Lubicz) to ratiocinative, discursive reasoning:

Over thinking, over analyzing separates the body from the mind. Withering my intuition, missing opportunities and I must feed my will to feel my moment drawing way outside the lines.

The preference for synthesis, rather than analysis, is clear. Before we move on, let’s address the rythym of the song, as well. That the Fibonacci sequence is embedded in the song has been remarked upon before. The Fibonacci sequence, for those who don’t know, is a string of numbers, beginning with zero, in which the sum of one integer and the integer which preceded it becomes the next integer in the sequence. So, for instance:

0 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 34 55 …

0 + 1 = 1

1 + 1 = 2

2 + 1 = 3

3 + 2 = 5

5 + 3 = 8

And on, and on… The first and third stanzas of Lateralus are arranged according to Fibonacci patterns. In the first stanza, we begin with 1 syllable, ascend to 8 syllables and descend to 3 syllables:

Black (1)

 then (1)

 white are (2)

 all I see (3)

 in my in-fan-cy (5)

 red and yel-low then came to be (8)

 rea-ching out to me (5)

 let’s me see (3)

We then jump to 13 syllables, and descend to 3 syllables at the end of the stanza:

As be-low, so a-bove and be-yond I’d ima-gine (13)

 Drawn out-side the lines of rea-son (8)

 Push the en-vel-ope (5)

 Watch it bend. (3)

In the third stanza (as in the first) we start at 1 syllable and ascend to 8, before descending again, this time all the way to 1 syllable before we begin our ascent once more to 13:

Black (1)

 then (1)

 white are (2)

 all I see (3)

 in my in-fan-cy (5)

red and yel-low then came to be (8)

rea-ching out to me (5)

let’s me see (3)

There is (2)

so (1)

much (1)

more that (2)

beck-ons me (3)

to look through to these (5)

in-fin-ite poss-i-bil-i-ties (8)

As be-low, so a-bove and be-yond I’d ima-gine (13)

Drawn out-side the lines of rea-son (8)

Push the en-vel-ope (5)

Watch it bend. (3)

Okay, clear enough. But what I’ve never heard commented on before is the point behind the incorporation of the Fibonacci sequence into the rhythm of this song. The underlying meaning of “Lateralus” is, in the final analysis, a merging of the human and the divine (also the underlying meaning of Alchemy). This is demonstrated most clearly in stanza 6, in which Maynard states that he wants to:

…swing on the spiral of our divinity and still be a human…

The spiral that he speaks of is, specifically, the Golden Spiral, constructed via the Golden Ratio, or phi (1.618). This ratio of 1/1.618 is found throughout nature (most convincingly throughout the human body), and represents, metaphysically, the relationship between the macrocosm and the microcosm. Here are a few examples of the Golden Ratio found in nature:

Examples:

Let’s examine the Golden Spiral very quickly.

The Golden Spiral is constructed via the Golden Rectangle, a rectangle formed using the ratio of 1/1.618. Here’s a sample construction of a Golden Rectangle from a simple square (pulled from World-Mysteries.com):

A golden rectangle can be constructed with only straightedge
and compass by this technique:

1.      Construct a simple square

2.      Draw a line from the midpoint of one side of the square to an opposite corner

3.      Use that line as the radius to draw an arc that defines the height of the rectangle

4.     Complete the golden rectangle


Take one side of the original square as representing “1”. The side of the rectangle constructed from the square will then represent 1.618. Ta-da! Golden Rectangle. By creating successive Golden Rectangles, we can easily (with a little practice) create the Golden Spiral, as is demonstrated in the picture below (also stolen from World-Mysteries.com):

Successive points dividing a golden rectangle into squares lie on
a logarithmic spiral which is sometimes known as the golden spiral.

The Golden Spiral is unique in geometry, in that wherever the Spiral is divided, the part thus separated will be identical in form and appearance to the original Spiral. This means that each part is identical to the whole, which concept underlies the philosophy of the macrocosm/microcosm.  It speaks to the unity of all things, and of God with His creation. It geometrically demonstrates the Hermetic notion of the original division of (for lack of a better term) God.

Alright, so what does this have to do with the incorporation of the Fibonacci sequence into the rhythm of the song? Well, the Fibonacci numbers are intimately related to the Golden Ratio, in that, when one row of Fibonacci numbers is staggered on top of another row, and the numbers in the top row are divided by the numbers in the bottom row, the resulting quotient comes closer and closer to the Golden Ratio itself: 1.618. To illustrate this:

0 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 34 55

0 1 1 2 3 5  8  13  21 34

1 / 0 = 0

1 / 1 = 1

2 / 1 = 2

3 / 2 = 1.5

5 / 3 = 1.666666666…

8 / 5 = 1.6

13 / 8 = 1.625

21 / 13 = 1.6153846….

34 / 21 = 1.6190476….

55 / 34 = 1.61764705….

And so on, and so on. Thus, the Fibonacci numbers incorporated into the rhythm of “Lateralus” are meant to evoke the notion of the Golden Spiral, the “spiral of divinity” on which we swing, and the philosophy of the macrocosm/microcosm, directly alluded to earlier with the lyrics “…as below, so above and beyond I’d imagine…”

One last thing. Prior to invoking the Spiral, Maynard states that he wants:

..to feel inspired, to fathom the power, to witness the beauty, to bathe in the fountain…

The fountain that he’s referring to is found strewn throughout numerous Alchemical texts (see, for instance, the Parabola of Madathanus or Treviso’s Allegory of the Fountain). Sometimes called the fountain of youth, it could also be called the fountain of reincrudation. This is the bath of the Alchemical King, in which he is dissolved, purified and cleansed, and from which the Stone eventually emerges.

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