This essay is an attempt to summarize one person's view of the Beach Boys' SMiLE album. There is some reasonable guesswork involved in this piece. Without these little leaps of faith such a coherent whole would likely be impossible. Leaps of faith are consistent with the spirit of SMiLE. The sources of quoted materials will hopefully be recognizable through the use of various fonts. The endnotes will spell it all out to avoid any confusion.
SMiLE is not separate from the LSD experience. In 1966 Brian Wilson said that LSD was responsible for his new spiritual direction. SMiLE was to be the album to document this direction.
The spiritual LSD experience has often been successfully compared to that of genuine mystical-religious experiences. In both cases alternate states of consciousness are accessed.
To be up front and honest with the reader it should be noted that the author of this essay has never dropped acid or had any spiritual/religious experiences. But that doesn't mean he does not appreciate that these alternate states of consciousness and types of experiences exist. The author realizes that these things are real and do exist but that they are not accessible by way of our normal conscious processes.
"I feel that in normal everyday living there is much that is being withheld from us, that there is another dimension that we can't ordinarily get into."
So while this author cannot fully appreciate the LSD experience, those who have actually taken the drug can appreciate both the alternate state of consciousness as well as the normal everyday state of consciousness. It might even be said that LSD users who have spiritual experiences realize that these two worlds of experience are not separate: they go together.
One will find this connecting of both worlds in accounts of genuine mystical-religious experiences. The book LSD Spirituality And The Creative Experience notes that, "When people leave this state, they do not perceive it as having been an illusion, hallucination, or delusion. Rather, they see it as the fundamental reality that underlies all reality." In other words the two worlds, the spiritual and the normal, are not separate it's just that the spiritual realm is typically hidden from our normal state of consciousness. This is why spiritual insiders speak of 'invisible' worlds. While we don't typically see them, they're there.
"'Everything has two aspects,' wrote Chirico, 'the current aspect, which we see nearly always and which ordinary men see, and the ghostly and metaphysical aspect, which only rare individuals may see in moments of clairvoyance and metaphysical abstraction. A work of art must narrate something that does not appear within its outline.'"
This idea of two very different worlds going together is a very spiritual notion and one that Brian Wilson likely picked up on. You see, Brian's favorite book was Arthur Koestler's The Act Of Creation and the book's basic premise is that at the root of all creation is the coming together of two thought planes we normally wouldn't put together. This essayist surmises that Brian Wilson intuitively recognized the inherent spiritual nature of Koestler's double-minded theory. He could use Koestler's "bisociative" principles to advance his spiritual creative direction.
Here are a few passages from The Act Of Creation to give readers some examples of the material contained in the book.
"The bisociative act connects previously unconnected matrices of experience; it makes us 'understand what it is to be awake, to be living on several planes at once' (to quote T.S. Eliot, somewhat out of context)."
"I have variously referred to the two planes...as 'frames of reference', 'associative contexts', 'types of logic', 'codes of behavior', and 'universes of discourse'. Henceforth I shall use the expression 'matrices of thought' (and 'matrices of behavior') as a unifying formula. I shall use the word 'matrix' to denote any ability, habit, or skill, any pattern of ordered behavior governed by a 'code' of fixed rules."
"I have coined the term 'bisociation' in order to make a distinction between the routine skills of thinking on a single 'plane', as it were, and the creative act, which, as I shall try to show, always operates on more than one plane."
So far we've only made mention of one bisociative connection: the spiritual linking of two very different states of consciousness. Yet within the alternate state of consciousness there are many bisociative connections to be had. In the book Zig Zag Zen Alan Hunt Badiner notes, "An awareness of the relatedness between seemingly separate objects and ostensible opposites is at the heart of Buddhist philosophy and is also one of the key insights psychedelic travelers often bring home from their chemical 'pilgrimages.' In other words, Badiner, by pointing out the 'awareness of the relatedness' between separate things and opposites, is essentially finding the bisociative pattern throughout both the spiritual philosophies as well as in the chemical experiences.
The following statements from Dr. Oscar Janiger's LSD study participants reinforce Mr. Badiner's statement from the psychedelic perspective.
"LSD beautifully helps show relationship between two dissimilar objects. LSD helps synthesize."
"Black and white, good and bad, etc. are now mysteriously connected with each other. Opposites seem to be related in a strange paradoxical ways."
We can also find these same properties in dreams.
"'The dream', wrote Freud, 'neglects in a most conspicuous manner the logical category of opposition and contradiction. The concept "No" does not seem to exist in a dream. It likes to compress opposites into a unity...'"
All of this goes to show that Arthur Koestler's bisociative principles can be applied to the insights and discoveries gained from both chemical and mystical means as well as dreams. In The Act Of Creation Koestler points to the dream as the ultimate producer of the bisociative pattern.
"We might say that while dreaming we constantly bisociate in a passive way--by drift as it were; but we are, of course, unaware of it because the coherence of the logical matrices is weakened, and the codes which govern them are dormant. Hence, while dreaming, we do not realize their incompatibility; there is no simultaneous juxtaposition of matrices, no awareness of conflict and incongruity; that comes only on awakening. To put it another way: the dream associates by methods which are impermissible in the waking state--such as affinities of sound detached from meaning, and similarities of form regardless of function. It makes use of 'links' which, while awake we 'would never dream' of using--except where dream-logic intrudes into humour, discovery, and art."
At one point when Brian Wilson started explaining the meaning of the lyrics to "Surf's Up" he stated, "He's off in his vision, on a trip. Reality is gone; he's creating it like a dream." And this line can be used to summarize the point that whether it's the mystic's spiritual vision, the tripper's LSD trip, or the dreamer's dream, we can find Koestler's bisociative pattern constantly at work.
"If you can imagine yourself wide awake in a dream world, that's LSD."
SMiLE was to be a document of Brian Wilson's newfound LSD inspired spiritual direction. Arthur Koestler's bisociative principles were the perfect means by which to create this spiritual record album and express what Wilson wanted to say. The best way to create bisociatively is through use of the dream and dream-like states. With this in mind we'll look first into the bisociative working methods of SMiLE's three creators and then we'll explore the potential outcomes and end results of making art in this way.
Often noted is that Brian Wilson wrote music around this time using what he called "feels." And in the "Heroes And Villains Piano Demo" found on The SMiLE Sessions box set one can hear Brian playing the backing chords to the song and saying, "I think this is a beautiful feeling" which coincides nicely with the idea of composing via "feels." But Brian's comments prior to this are far more interesting. He says, "And everyone was sort of...had it in their minds and it was um, I think it has a lot to do with repetition. I don't know. When something is around for a long time it gets really emblazoned in your mind and becomes so visual that it really starts to happen."
As the fourth paragraph of this paper points out there are likely aspects of this quote inaccessible to this essayist. But first, for accuracy's sake, it should be noted that the context of this "Heroes And Villains Piano Demo" quote seems to have more to do with "Good Vibrations" than it does "Heroes And Villains." We should note that vibrations are part of the LSD experience.
"Vibrations are visible to me."
"Everything comes in waves, pulsations, vibrations."
"The whole universe began to vibrate with laughter and then I realized that laughter had a dimension: you could see it..."
This last line is interesting because the LSD study volunteer is apparently seeing a sound. This is an example of synesthesia which is the mixing together and crisscrossing of the senses: putting two things, in this case senses and sensations, together that we normally would never do. We can also find vibrations in The Act Of Creation as a basic standard component of the bisociative unit.
"The pattern...is the perceiving of a situation or idea, L, in two self-consistent but habitually incompatible frames of reference, M1 and M2. The event L, in which the two intersect, is made to vibrate simultaneously on two different wavelengths, as it were. While this situation lasts, L is not merely linked to one associative context, but bisociated with two."
Let's return to Brian's quote. "And everyone was sort of...had it in their minds and it was um, I think it has a lot to do with repetition. I don't know. When something is around for a long time it gets really emblazoned in your mind and becomes so visual that it really starts to happen." There are a number of interesting things going on in this statement. First of all the line, "everyone was sort of...had it in their minds" seems to suggest that a person, in this case Brian, can pick up on what's in other people's minds: an ESP kind of thing. This idea is a very much part of "Good Vibrations" and can be found in Tony Asher's early lyrics for the song as well.
"'We went ahead and experimented with the song and the idea, and we decided that on the one hand you could say, "I love the colorful clothes she wears and the way the sunlight plays upon her hair. I hear the sound of a gentle word on the wind that lifts her perfume through the air." Those are sensual things. And then you go, "I'm pickin' up good vibrations," which is a contrast against all the sensual--there's what you call the extrasensory perception which we have. And this is what we're really talking about....
...we wanted to explain that concept...'" - Brian Wilson
Later on in this essay we'll revisit this ESP type of idea. But let's return to Brian's "Heroes And Villains Piano Demo" quote. "I think it has a lot to do with repetition. I don't know. When something is around for a long time it gets really emblazoned in your mind." This part of the quote seems to have a lot to do with memory. Repetition increases the chances that something gets "emblazoned in your mind" and becomes part of one's inner landscape. Once in the mind it, "...becomes so visual that it really starts to happen." This last part of Brian's quote reminds this writer of The Act Of Creation's depictions of dreams and their relationship to the artist's creative process. One final point is that the way Brian Wilson's original statement was just parsed does not do it justice. It is hoped that this essay will eventually show how the ideas of ESP, memory, and dream-like associations are interrelated and very much the essence of SMiLE.
The visual aspect of Brian's comment deserves further attention. Arthur Koestler maintains that both the dreamer and the child think in visual terms.
"Thinking in pictures dominates the manifestation of the unconscious--the dream, the hypnogogic half-dream, the psychotic's hallucinations, the artist's 'vision'. (The 'visionary' prophet seems to have been a visualizer, and not a verbalizer; the highest compliment we pay to those who trade in verbal currency is to call them 'visionary thinkers'.)"
"...pictorial thinking is a more primitive form of mentation than conceptual thinking, which it precedes in the mental evolution of the individual and of the species. The language of the primitive (and of the child) is, to borrow Kretschmer's simile, 'like the unfolding of a picture strip: each word expresses a picture, a pictorial image, regardless of whether it signifies an object or an action'."
Some have suggested that much of SMiLE comes from a child's perspective. This claim seems legitimate. Koestler suggests that the child's perspective is similar to that of the dreamer's. Both minds think in visual terms and both minds represent a more primitive type of mentality. SMiLE arose from this type of mentality. Brian Wilson's music, Van Dyke Parks' lyrics, and Frank Holmes' artwork, like the poetry of the poet in the following passage, are inherently bisociative because of the dream-like state of mind from which they came.
"...the poet who reverts to the pictorial mode of thought is regressing to an older and lower level of the mental hierarchy--as we do every night when we dream, as mental patients do when they regress to infantile fantasies. But the poet, unlike the dreamer in his sleep, alternates between two different levels of the mental hierarchy; the dreamer's awareness functions on one only. The poet thinks both in images and verbal concepts, at the same time or in quick alternation; each trouvaille, each original find, bisociates two matrices."
"Similar considerations apply to rhythm, metre, alliteration, assonance, rhyme. The rhythmic beat, echoing the shaman's tom-tom, awakens archaic resonances and 'lulls the mind into a waking trance' (Yeats). The rhyme appeals to the tendency to vocal repetition in the language of primatives and children (kala-kala, ma-ma), and to the equally deep-rooted tendency to associate by sound-punning. To conclude this anticipatory excursion: the creative activity of the artist involves momentary regressions to earlier stages in mental evolution, bringing forms of mentation into play which otherwise manifest themselves only in the dream or dream-like states."
One composing factor unique to the SMiLE era is the sandbox from which the earliest SMiLE songs were written. Brian had a sandbox built in his house. The piano was set in the sandbox and Brian would compose while barefoot feeling the sand between his toes. Some have suggested that this was an attempt to capture a childlike innocence: and there's some validity to be found in this suggestion as we have just shown. In The Act Of Creation Koestler suggests approaches similar to the sandbox as a way to tap the dream-like unconscious for creative purposes.
"...though the unconscious processes cannot be governed by conscious volition, they can at least be coaxed into activity by certain tricks acquired at the price of a little patience. Friedrich Schiller learned to get himself into a creative frame of mind by smelling rotten apples, Turgenev by keeping his feet in a bucket of hot water..."
Brian Wilson placed his feet in the sand. This helped him access his unconscious in order to create his new double-minded spiritual music. Van Dyke Parks once referred to Brian as a 'conjurer' and the idea of Brian tapping into his unconscious to bring about the SMiLE music certainly fits Parks' description.
Wilson's SMiLE music, composed in this way, was inherently bisociative. This would allow the various musical pieces to be shuffled, rearranged, and reconfigured without risk of losing their inherent bisociative power. Some of the parts may sound dream-like. Like bits of a dream the modular pieces can disappear and reappear at various times in various forms and images. Also, as with a dream, stored memories make their appearance. Melodies from one's childhood, earlier compositions, as well as melodies from other composers may arise to be deemed suitable for presentation.
Film from this era also shows Brian invoking the dream idea by shutting his eyes as in sleep. His piano performance of "Surf's Up" for the film Inside Pop shows him with eyes nearly closed throughout.
SMiLE lyricist Van Dyke Parks described his working relationship with Brian Wilson. "I was there to support his 'dream-escape.'"
This writer has long entertained the idea that SMiLE's lyrics were largely metaphors for Wilson's LSD trip experiences. This idea hasn't caught on with the Beach Boys fan community however largely due to the discredited nature of Brian Wilson's autobiography (the sole source of the trip descriptions). Still it is worth noting that metaphors are bisociative so if there is some truth to this hunch it fits into the overall theme presented here.
A slightly different approach to this same type thing may be through Van Dyke's support of Peter Reum's original suggestion that Parks' lyrics, "...present the listener with the challenge of deciding whether to take them literally, or at levels of deeper meaning." This suggests that there may indeed intentionally be deeper levels of meaning present in the music's words. If so, the deeper levels of meaning would make the lyrics bisociative by design.
Some examples of Parks' creative process can be found in Domenic Priore's SMiLE: The Story Of Brian Wilson's Lost Masterpiece. Van Dyke notes that the bicycle rider is a playing card from a deck of cards adding, "A lot of people misinterpreted that." Parks also notes how the song "El Paso" was the model for "Heroes And Villains." While Van Dyke admittedly sought to present a relatable lyric it must be acknowledged that without the lyricist's admissions these lyrical inspirations would likely remain unknown and unknowable. Even if unknown, these deeper levels of meaning would still be inherent in the lyrics. This unknown-but-there relationship is comparable to the spiritual notion that there is an invisible reality that underlies our everyday reality.
Parks has stated that his lyrics were "visual efforts" which brings us back to Koestler and the child's mind as well as the visual nature of the dream. And as in a dream Van Dyke's words intuitively arise from stored memories and references. If deemed usable these word/images are matched to Wilson's music. Some of Van Dyke Parks' lyrical tools, such as puns, can be found in the following list from Arthur Koestler.
"...we find all the bisociative patterns that I have discussed prominently displayed in the dream: the pun: two strings of thought tied together by a purely acoustic knot; the optical pun: one visual form bisociated with two functional contexts; the phenomenon of displacement or shift of attention to a previously unnoticed feature; the concretization of abstract and general ideas in a particular image; and vice versa, the use of concrete images as symbols for nascent, unverbalized concepts; the condensation in the same link-idea of several associative contexts; the unearthing of hidden analogies; impersonation and double identity--being oneself and something else at the same time, where the 'something else' might belong to the animal, vegetable, or mineral kingdom. The ensemble of these and related operations constitutes the grammar and logic of dream-cognition."
In the words of Van Dyke Parks, "It's as logical as it's ever going to get."
One characteristic of SMiLE that deserves addressing at this point is the American aspect of the work. It is fairly well known and admitted that Van Dyke was unfamiliar with the surfing terminology that the Beach Boys were famous for. This was also the time of the British Invasion during which the Beach Boys stood out as unmistakably and unshakably American. So while Parks couldn't write using the themes the Beach Boys were famous for, he could write for the Beach Boys using American terminology.
Strangely, this embracing of the American direction seems rather ridiculous given Derek Taylor's comments regarding that time period. "That all American tag that Murry was still attempting to yoke them into...it had done them a lot of damage. Brian, in particular, suffered." This prompts an obvious question. If this is so, then why adopt the American angle for SMiLE?
This writer takes the point of view that the American lyrics are bisociative in that they are conjured metaphors for LSD inspired spiritual experiences and ideas. In this way the lyrics are double-minded and paradoxical. They present an outdated American image of the Beach Boys while, at the same time, they present a new hip spiritual version of the group. But as we have seen before in this essay the spiritual level is typically hidden from normal sight and without the benefit of Brian Wilson telling all that's likely where the ultimate truth will remain for most of the Beach Boys fan community. This writer, however, would prefer to see the trip put back into Van Dyke's "Americans Gothic trip" reference and the dream put back into Parks' "American dream" reference. He did, after all, sign off from his Great Expectations piece in the program for 2004's SMiLE tour by saying, "Don't waken me."
SMiLE artist Frank Holmes talks about his working methods in The SMiLE Sessions box set booklet. He explains how an abandoned storefront helped inspire the album's cover image. Holmes notes, "It was starting to get dark, but I continued to stare into the window for quite some time. I was finding my open door to inspiration." This writer thinks that in doing this Frank Holmes was employing the same methodology suggested by Brian Wilson's comment, "When something is around for a long time it gets really emblazoned in your mind and becomes so visual that it really starts to happen." Many members of the Beach Boys fan community would scoff at such a suggestion noting that Frank Holmes operated as an independent agent apart from Brian and Van Dyke Parks. To some degree this is true but this essay hopefully will show that Holmes was using the same basic methods as the album's other two creators.
Holmes described the SMiLE album's cover art. "The SMiLE Shop is a paradox. The drawing is a surrealist idea; a visual that is not accessible in conscious reality." The logically incompatible paradox conforms with the dream-logic of the surrealist idea and this obviously fits the model of creation that we have discussed up to this point. Holmes' assertion that his visual is "not accessible in conscious reality" seemingly points to the source of the visual as the unconscious from where it originated.
The artist also commented on a drawing he made for the song "Surf's Up." "In this drawing I have used two points of view. There is an aerial view of the floor and a normal head-on view of the wave. This indicated the surreal world of two realities in a dream state." This putting together of two different worlds is obviously bisociative and dream-like.
The "Surf's Up" image also nicely brings together dissimilar things as well as opposites which we hit upon earlier in this essay. "The wet surf is up, and the wooden floor is down. I arrived at this through the surfer expression if inside-outside wave....I composed this idea with the blue surf wave about to break inside a room with no walls and separated with a white baseboard going east to west." This writer sees the "room with no walls" as a metaphor for ego-loss in which the walls that separate the dissimilar self and other, and the opposites I and not-I, no longer exist.
In The Story of Brian Wilson's Lost Masterpiece SMiLE one will find Frank Holmes' insights regarding "My Vega-tables" The Elements. Hopefully at this point YOU, the reader, will be able to detect double-mindedness in the following. "That's two separate worlds, where they're able to put two things together....By having this different viewpoint, you're able to incorporate more than one thing, so here there's an interior and an exterior, and two separate worlds. It's just a device to separate the graphics, so you can experience two things....'Vega-table' is a split up word, so I've got V-E-G-A sitting on the tops of tables, combining those two images."
As we saw with Van Dyke Parks' inspirations, one's seemingly unknowable personal memories and associations can be presented. Holmes explains that, "'Do You Like Worms" was represented by the can of worms up top, then it had the Indians behind a blanket there fishing. There was a game that I remember as a kid called "fish," that they'd play at the church socials....So I tried to show that as representing the Indians trading Manhattan Island for the beads."' Dream-logic makes use of memories and free associations to produce art.
"The dreamer constantly bisociates--innocently as it were--frames of reference which are regarded as incompatible in the waking state; he drifts effortlessly from matrix to matrix, without being aware of it; in his inner landscape, the bisociative techniques of humour and discovery are reflected upside down, like trees in a pond. The most fertile region seems to me the marshy shore, the borderland between sleep and full awakening--where the matrices of disciplined thought are already operating but have not yet sufficiently hardened to obstruct the dreamlike fluidity of imagination."
In Frank Holmes' SMiLE Sessions box set booklet essay, The Conjured Image, the artist reveals, "This pathway to discovery relies on a familiarity of memory and the personal experience acquired in life. This interaction in the mind leads to discovery." And it is from this 'place' that all three of SMiLE's creators brought forth their contributions to the project. By virtue of this process the music, lyrics, and art were all inherently bisociative: spiritual by design.
SMiLE stands apart from all other psychedelic works from the sixties largely due to its relatable art. The music, lyrics, and art are not obviously psychedelic. There are no sitars, "newspaper taxis," or distorted images. The reason for this, in this author's opinion, lies once again with the ideas set forth in The Act Of Creation.
"The creative act is not an act of creation in the sense of the Old Testament. It does not create something out of nothing; it uncovers, selects, re-shuffles, combines, synthesizes already existing facts, ideas, faculties, skills. The more familiar the parts, the more striking the new whole."
SMiLE presents us with dream-logic. It uses relatable parts that we are familiar with and presents them in new dreamy creative combinations. This is the reason for SMiLE's unique psychedelic qualities.
What's the reason for this kind of art? Why bother? Where does this all lead? What's their game? These are good questions that could be answered in many ways. This essay writer thinks there is one path that puts things together better than all others. It starts with laughter.
Brian told Michael Vosse of a possible outcome he believed possible through laughter. "He felt that the moment somebody laughed, that while they're laughing, that all control was gone. They cannot control themselves. And at that moment they can have a spiritual experience." In the chapter entitled The Logic Of Laughter Arthur Koestler discusses originality. The following passage taken from that chapter, in this writer's opinion, is exactly what Van Dyke Parks was referring to when he described his working relationship with Brian and SMiLE. "I was there to support his 'dream-escape.'"
"There are two ways of escaping our more or less automated routines of thinking and behaving. The first, of course, is the plunge into dreaming or dream-like states, when the codes of rational thinking are suspended. The other way is also an escape---from boredom, stagnation, intellectual predicaments, and emotional frustration---but an escape in the opposite direction; it is signaled by the spontaneous flash of insight which shows a familiar situation or event in a new light, and elicits a new response to it. The bisociative act connects previously unconnected matrices of experience; it makes us 'understand what it is to be awake, to be living on several planes at once' (to quote T.S. Eliot, somewhat out of context).
The first way of escape is a regression to earlier, more primitive levels of ideation, exemplified in the language of the dream; the second an ascent to a new, more complex level of mental evolution. Though seemingly opposed, the two processes will turn out to be intimately related."
There are two methods of escape mentioned in the above. The first way of escape is through dreaming. This is the dream part of Van Dyke's dream-escape. The second way of escape involves, "an ascent to a new, more complex level of mental evolution." This way of escape is the escape part of Parks' dream-escape.
In the discovery section of The Act Of Creation Arthur Koestler, in an endnote, compares the second way of escape to the sudden enlightenment of Zen. If we string the relevant ideas from the endnote together this will hopefully become apparent. "Zen philosophy...creative originality...the 'upward' traffic...from the unconscious...the sudden flash of a new insight (the 'It')...the genuine spontaneity of original inspiration." It is hoped that the reader recognizes the similarities shared by this quote with the, "spontaneous flash of insight" of the dream-escape's escape. Koestler references his earlier book, The Lotus And The Robot, as the source of the endnote. The cited passages center around the deathbed satori of Hakuin ("the author of the koan system in its modern form"), what Koestler called, "a spontaneous manifestation of 'It'." Mr. Koestler is somewhat dismissive of Zen, "In this, as in similar Zen stories, it is impossible to say whether the 'It' is meant to convey a divine inspiration, or the natural, uninhibited play of physiological reactions..." but his sentiment is not what's important. The point to be had is that the possible outcome from the dream-escape is compared to Zen's satori. The escape, therefore, can be a spiritual experience. What follows are a few passages from The Act Of Creation that hint that Arthur Koestler was in tune with these types of spiritual experiences.
"I have spoken repeatedly of that sense of 'oceanic wonder'--the most sublimated expression of the self-transcending emotions--which is at root of the scientist's quest for ultimate causes, and the artist's quest for the ultimate realities of experience. The sensation of 'marvelous clarity' which enraptured Kepler when he discovered his second law is shared by every artist when a strophe suddenly falls into what seems to be its predestined pattern, or when felicitous image unfolds in the mind--the only one which can 'explain' by symbols the rationally unexplainable--and express the inexpressible."
"Listening to Mozart, watching a great actor's performance, being in love or some other state of grace, may cause a welling up of happy emotions which moisten the eye or overflow in tears. Compassion and bereavement may have the same physical effect. The emotions of this class, whether joyous or sad, include sympathy, identification, pity, admiration, awe, and wonder. The common denominator of these heterogeneous emotions is a feeling of participation, identification, or belonging; in other words, the self is experienced as being a part of a larger whole, a higher unity--which may be Nature, God, Mankind, Universal Order, or the Anima Mundi..."
"We have seen that the discoveries of art derive from the sudden transfer of attention from one matrix to another with a higher emotive potential. The intellectual aspect of this Eureka process is closely akin to the scientist's--or the mystic's--'spontaneous illumination'; the perception of a familiar object or event in a new, significant, light; its emotive aspect is the rapt stillness of oceanic wonder. The two together--intellectual illumination and emotional catharsis--are the essence of the aesthetic experience. The first constitutes the moment of truth; the second provides the experience of beauty. The two are complementary aspects of an indivisible process--that 'earthing' process where 'the infinite is made to blend itself with the finite, to stand visible, as it were, attainable there' (Carlyle)."
The dream-escape that is SMiLE and the creative processes involved can be thought of as follows. There is our normal everyday way of thinking. We'll call this conscious reality. Then there is the dream-like unconscious way of thinking-aside that promotes new combinations and creative discovery. We'll call this dream/creative discovery. Then there's the relatively rare moments of new insight which are kin to the spiritual experience. We'll call these the escape/enlightenment.
The artist who drops acid moves from conscious reality to the dream/creative discovery state of mind. If the bisociative click is made then this could possibly result in the escape/enlightenment.
The artist, wishing to present this new insight as art, reverses the process. He starts from the escape/enlightenment visual and uses the dream/creative discovery state of mind to conjure relatable conscious reality forms that can be presented in dream/creative discovery fashion.
The consumer of the art cannot comprehend the conscious reality forms as presented and must move to the dream/creative discovery state of mind to access the art. From here the bisociative click, in the opposite direction as it were, can enable the consumer of the art to access the artist's original path to the escape/enlightenment. This recreating of the artist's state of mind can be taken as something along the lines and level of the extrasensory perception we spoke of earlier with regard to "Good Vibrations."
"I felt I knew exactly what the artist experienced as he painted. As I studied the painting, I felt sure that I had captured the artist's innermost thoughts."
The relationship between the consumer of art and the creator of art was explained in The Act Of Creation.
"Let me now turn from the creative person's emotional reactions to those of the audience, to the 'consumer's' point of view. Whether he listens to a joke, or reads a scientific work, or visits an art gallery, he is supposed to participate in the intellectual and emotional experiences of the 'producer'--to relive or re-create them. The bond between them is the need for social communication. The consumer hopes that by being allowed to share the creator's vision he will gain a deeper and broader view of reality. The producer has an urge to share his own experience with others--to win accomplices to his malice, partners in understanding, resonance for his emotions."
All of the various ideas and processes discussed in this essay lead to this end. SMiLE is a way to share experience. To show how all this works together there is no better example than Brian Wilson's knowing explanation of the lyrics to "Surf's Up" as presented in Jules Siegel's article Goodbye Surfing Hello God!.
Wilson's interpretive take on Van Dyke Parks' lyrics presents us with example after example of the process of creative discovery. We are presented with dream-logic connections from the unconscious. This is the dream part of the dream-escape.
"The music begins to take over. Columnated ruins domino. Empires, ideas, lives, institutions--everything has to fall tumbling like dominoes."
At one point Wilson reveals the dream/creative discovery process used both by the artist as well as the consumer of the art.
"Canvas the town and brush the backdrop. He's off in his vision, on a trip. Reality is gone; he's creating it like a dream."
Brian then returns to the interpretive dream translations.
"Dove nested towers. Europe, a long time ago. The laughs come hard in Auld Lang Syne. The poor people in the cellar taverns, trying to make themselves happy by singing."
Eventually we come to what Koestler calls the Tragic Plane.
"A choke of grief. At his own sorrow and the emptiness of this life, because he can't even cry for the suffering in the world, for his own suffering."
The "...Tragic Plane--from which he emerges purified, enriched by new insight, regenerated on a higher level of integration." This is the escape part of the dream-escape.
"And then, hope. Surf's up!...Come about hard and join the once and often spring you gave. Go back to the kids, to the beach, to childhood."
Now at the point of escape/enlightenment the knowing artist bounces from vague enlightenment terminology to relatable bisociative metaphors and back again.
"I heard the word--of God; Wonderful thing--the joy of enlightenment, of seeing God. And what is it? A children's song! And then there's the song itself; the song of children; the song of the universe rising and falling in wave after wave..."
There's an acknowledgement of hidden spiritual levels of reality and a return to a relatable dream translation.
"...the song of God, hiding His love from us, but always letting us find Him again, like a mother singing to her children."
When finished, Brian Wilson makes a very fitting comment, "Of course that's a very intellectual explanation." The comment is appropriate because, as The Act Of Creation explains, the greatest acts of discovery made by the greatest intellects the world has ever known were products of this same dream-escape process.
The simplest way to sum up this essay's main point is to say that SMiLE is a dream-escape. It's spiritual enlightenment presented to the consumer in double-minded dream-logic. The bisociative act, in the opposite direction, triggers the escape and epiphanies.
"If all goes well that single, explosive contact will lead to a lasting fusion of two matrices--a new synthesis will emerge, a further advance in mental evolution will have been achieved."
To all of you who've bothered to read this all the way through. Thanks. I'll leave you now with some wise words from those who actually know what they're talking about.
"Love, the existence of some over-all Creator or Order to the Universe, an Unknown source, something like this seems more possible now. There seems to be a pattern inherent in everything."
"Brilliant gems in marvelous settings, velvets and lace and jewelry appear."
"I was astounded by the fund of knowledge available to me as I made references to literature, art, and mythology that I had not thought of for years."
"I found the only reality with any validity--the cosmic experience, one with nature and God."
"The bewildering aspect of the experience with LSD for me, lies in the fact that the infinite actually is presented to a human mind incapable of grasping the spherical concept of the infinite."
"I was conscious of some large pulsation of the earth and its ageless elements and I felt myself to be part of them. A feeling of oneness with nature..."
"There is a feeling of warmth, goodness, love, benevolence--but not in the solemn sense--in the sense of fun--of laughter, great grinning at everything, as if your personality were the Cheshire cat and everything about it had disappeared except this uncontainable smile."
Quotes in the Cursive Set font are taken from the accounts of LSD study volunteers. Their insights can be found in the book LSD Spirituality And The Creative Process by Marlene Dobkin de Rios and Oscar Janiger, 2003.
Quotes in the Serif Set font are taken from The Act Of Creation by Arthur Koestler, 1964.
The listener must solve!
"Every good joke contains an element of the riddle---it may be childishly simple, or subtle and challenging---which the listener must solve. By doing so, he is lifted out of his passive roll and compelled to co-operate, to repeat to some extent the process of inventing the joke, to re-create it in his imagination."
- Arthur Koestler, The Act Of Creation
"All mythology is studded with symbols, veiled in allegory; the parables of Christ pose riddles which the audience must solve. The intention is not to obscure the message, but to make it more luminous by compelling the recipient to work it out by himself---to re-create it."
~ Arthur Koestler, The Act of Creation
"So here comes the allegorical artwork via Van Dyke's metaphorical lyrics."
"...For man is a symbol-making animal. He constructs a symbolic model of outer reality in his brain, and expresses it by a second set of symbols in terms of words, equations, pigment, or stone. All he knows directly are bodily sensations, and all he can directly do is to perform bodily motions; the rest of his knowledge and means of expression is symbolical. To use a phrase by J. Cohen, man has a metaphorical consciousness."
-Arthur Koestler, The Act Of Creation
"You know, any sane magician would never reveal his method of deception. And I don't think that a sensible musician would either."
-Van Dyke Parks
"Brian made it clear to me that he wanted to do something without restraint, or apology, or explanation to the rest of the group."
- Van Dyke Parks
"Now Van Dyke and Brian usually wrote up at Brian's house at the piano late at night: they both like to work at night --- all night sessions; and they usually worked alone. There was no need for anyone else to be there."
"Yeah, I used to see notes, I used to visualize notes on paper in my mind and after I visualized it I wrote it down as I saw it in my mind."
- Brian Wilson
"Manifest Destiny, Plymouth Rock, etc. were the last things on his mind when he (Brian Wilson) asked me to take a free hand in the lyrics and the album's thematic direction."
- Van Dyke Parks
"There was an obsession to reject anything that smacked patriotism. The Beach Boys vibe was to me an ideal platform to talk about what we knew."
- Van Dyke Parks
"And, as far as I see it, it was my opportunity to provide the proper number of syllables that gave him (Brian Wilson) the imagery that he wanted to project in his very, I say, anecdotal music --- music that becomes a rapture, a dream."
- Van Dyke Parks
"I thought, see . . . that one of the failures of the 'Smile' period ---- our working together --- was the fact that the words were maybe too important or something. Or were given unnecessary importance. And actually . . . the words were important to me. Rather than trying to make waves, I was really more interested in working with and for The Beach Boys and making the words innocuous. I was unsuccessful."
- Van Dyke Parks
"I profoundly admire Aldous Huxley, both for his philosophy and uncompromising sincerity. But I disagree with his advocacy of 'the chemical opening of doors into the Other World', and with his belief that drugs can produce 'what Catholic theologians call a gratuitous grace'. Chemically induced hallucinations, delusions and raptures may be frightening or wonderfully gratifying; in either case they are in the nature of confidence tricks played on one's nervous system."
- Arthur Koestler, 1967
"He'd never take it (LSD) again, he says, because that would be pointless, wouldn't it? And the people who take it all the time, acid heads, he can't go along with. Like all those people---Timothy Leary and all---they talk a lot, but they don't really create, you know?"
- Tom Nolan on Brian Wilson