The Elements are SMiLE's greatest
mystery. It is known that they were to represent the four primeval
- earth, air, fire and water. It is also known that they were
to form a suite of some sort.
are the four primary elements?
They are the Solid Element, the Fluid Element, the Heating Element,
the Vibrating Element....
The (solid, fluid, heating or vibrating) element may be subjective,
or it may be objective....
Now, whether it be the subjective element, or whether it be the
objective element: they are both only the element. One should
understand according to reality and true wisdom:---
This does not belong to me; this am I not;
this is not my Ego.
~The Word of the Buddha, A Buddhist Bible, (pg.
You should think of the four elements of which the body is composed.
Each of them has its own name, and there is no such thing there
known as ego. As there is really no ego, it is like unto a mirage.
~from The Sutra of Forty-two Chapters, Zen For Americans, (pg.
A sutra says, "It is only a group of elements which
come together to make this body." When it arises, only these
elements arise. When it ceases, only these elements cease. But
when these elements arise, do not say, "I am arising,"
and when they cease, do not say, "I am ceasing."
The Elements represent Brian Wilson's loss of
"When we are no longer
identified with the idea of ourselves, the entire relationship
between subject and object, knower and known, undergoes a sudden
and revolutionary change....it becomes vividly clear that in
concrete fact I have no other self than the totality of things
of which I am aware."~Alan Watts, The Way Of Zen,
"True humor is, indeed,
laughter at one's Self--at the Divine Comedy, the fabulous deception,
whereby one comes to imagine that a creature in existence is
not also of existence, that what man is is not also what everything
is."~Alan Watts, The Book, (pg. 156)
The Elements also represent,
through the loss of ego, a profound connection to all things,
was going to be the culmination of all of Brian's intellectual
occupations; and he was really into the elements. He ran up to
Big Sur for a week, just 'cause he wanted to get into that, up
to the mountains, into the snow, down to the beach(?), out to the pool, out at night,
running around, to water fountains, to a lot of water, the sky,
the whole thing was this fantastic amount of awareness of his
surroundings. So the obvious thing was to do something that would
cover the physical surroundings."
~David Anderle in Crawdaddy!(LLVS, pg. 230)
"...the Buddhist God
is not above us, nor below us, but right in the midst of us;
and if we want to see him face to face, we are able to find him
in the lilies of the field, in the fowls of the air, in the murmuring
mountain streams; we can trace his footsteps in the sea, we can
follow him as he rides upon the storm; we can meet him in the
bush; indeed, wheresoever we may turn, we are sure to be greated
by the smiling countenance of the author of this universe."
~Soyen Shaku, Zen For Americans, (pg. 48)
this it might seem that Zen can be defined as the unity of man
and the universe, as the rhythm of the mind with changing forms,
as a state of 'One-ness' in which all distinctions of 'I' and
'not-I', knower and known, seer and seen, are set aside. And
yet master Tao-wu said 'Even One-ness when held on to is wide
of the mark.'" ~Alan Watts, The Spirit of Zen,
This is because Zen is ungraspable.
It cannot be expressed in words. There is always something that
escapes definition. It can only be known to those who experience
"I just always
felt Brian was in touch with the cosmos."
it all in all, Zen is emphatically a matter of personal experience;
if anything can be called radically empirical, it is Zen."
~D. T. Suzuki, An Introduction To Zen Buddhism,
is a way of living (not a theory) through which people experience
themselves, not as separate beings, but as one with the whole
universe, of which every individual is a unique expression."
from the liner notes of the LP Music
For Zen Meditation, on Verve, 1965
~ David Anderle
These shapes, representing the
can be found on the cover of the SMiLE album.
In my view, the four elements
(earth, air, fire and water) are represented on SMiLE
by "Vega-Tables," "Wind Chimes," "Mrs.
O'Leary's Cow" AKA "Mrs. O'Leary's Fire," and
"I Love To Say Da Da" (incorporating the "Water
"We were aware, he made
us aware, of what fire was going to be, and what water was going
to be; we had some idea of air. That was where it stopped. None
of us had any ideas as to how it was going to tie together, except
that it appeared to us to be an opera. And the story of the fire
part I guess is pretty well known by now."~David Anderle(LLVS
Chimes," and "The Elements" are among the twelve
tracks listed on the handwritten note furnished to Capitol Records.
As "Vega-Tables" and "Wind Chimes" are listed
separately, "The Elements" refers only to the "Fire"
and "Water" sections.
The SMiLE booklet features full size photos of the Beach Boys
boating on water and standing on a fire escape.
SMiLE was conceived and based on the relationship of these two
elements (rudiments) vis a vis Brian Wilson's second and third
LSD trip experiences. "Two-step to lamps light."
"I took LSD, a full dose
of LSD, and later, another time, I took a smaller dose. And I
learned a lot of things, like patience, understanding..."~Brian
Wilson to Tom Nolan(LLVS pg.167)
Brian's religious awareness
shifted from a Western understanding to an Eastern one, from
understanding only part of the picture to understanding the bigger
picture. His enlightened third trip experience took place on
a beach, in the morning, with the sun rising over the American
continent (destined to set across the Pacific.) The sun was very
red that day perhaps reminding Brian of fire (the "Good
Vibrations" promo film featured a sun-like "red rubber
ball" and a red swirling fire station light connecting the
red sun to the fire experience.) The fiery red sunrise was opposite
the cool blue ocean water and perhaps Brian recognized the necessity
and perfection of the fire/water relationship; all of the opposites
harmoniously reconciled. Brian's "fire" trip belonged
to the past while his "water" trip took place in the
present, the now (the "Water Chant" contains a "now,
now, now" vocal part.)
"I mean the ocean is yesterday--that's where the waves are
coming from, from the past. The shore is tomorrow--where the
waves are going to, where they die. Where they meet is where
it gets rough, but's where I want to be, riding the now."~Brian
"Mrs. O'Leary's Cow"
(Fire) is a Western reference from the past, and "Love To
Say Da Da" (Water) is a hip, now, Eastern reference. The two elements
form "The Elements."
This website contends that
SMiLE was envisioned during Brian Wilson's enlightened
third LSD trip. The past/present, West/East dynamics of that
trip's Fire/Water elemental experience are in evidence throughout
waves come with water and flames with fire,
so the universal waves with us."
SMILEY SMILE's elemental "symphony," "Fall Breaks
And Back To Winter," may add credence to the two element
idea as its title only mentions two of the four seasons. Its
bird based subtitle, the "W.Woodpecker Symphony," may
be kin to some rumored studio takes of "Love To Say Da Da"
which appear to contain some bird-like noises.