|Works||Series 1-Quest To Be Whole||Album 4-Epiphany|
This page opens with a long section of self-criticism before it details out the concept of the album, so consider yourself warned.
As always, the music is a fine example of Mike's heart. But as the writer, I feel it is necessary to point out where I have fallen short. If it is not going to be mere trash, an allegory needs to be held to a higher standard than that of a more typical concept album.
Epiphany is an odd allegory for several reasons listed below:
1. Some people will say the album is just a concept album, not an allegory. If you take the broad interpretation of a story with a deliberately symbolic meaning, Epiphany is certainly an allegory. The Tower specifically stands for the technological society, not just an interesting fictional setting. If you take allegory to mean a story that is really telling a different story, where all the characters and incidents represent something or someone, you could consider this album to just be a story with some metaphorical overtones.
The songs have an existence outside the album, not having been written to fit the allegory. Rather, they have one set of meanings in isolation, and another from within the context of the album. This broadens the meanings presented, but makes the 'plot' less obvious.
2. It would be difficult to pick up the plot just from the songs.
3. There are several ways to translate the 'story' that are themselves metaphorical, as you will see later.
4. These various interpretations are not always integrated with one another.
Such is the failing of the writer, that I have not attained the level of Jesus' parables, which are True from the core of the Earth to the throne of God.
For example, Give Yourself on its own is an old man telling a young friend to turn to Jesus when he has still got his life ahead of him, rather than wasting most of his time on Earth before accepting the Truth.
In the context of Epiphany, the song comes into play when the young builder asks the old worker about the validity of building the Tower. This song is the old worker's reply from his deep regret he did not realize the true nature of the Tower until his life was nearly over.
On the series level it is what an old man said to the man seen in the Deep album when he was a child; a warning he did not heed.
This schism makes it somewhat difficult to pick up on the songs, because one must hear the different meanings of a song at the same time in order to get hold of the complete communication. In other words, you need to understand how the song relates to the plot of the album, yet at the same time pick up on the aspects of the song that transcend the context of the album.
Were this a lecture, such multilayered communication would be vanity itself. But one clear fact of the modern song is its capacity to be heard hundreds of times, thus opening the way for a progressive understanding. In fact, given that a CD reasonably cared for will most likely outlast this age, it is only right to design a song for repeat listening.
Such an approach flies in the face of the common standard of a song needing to be catchy and simple. In many ways such a standard demands the song be disposable, since you will most likely not be able to stomach it after the first few hearings. Only time will tell how much people will value songs with many levels of allusive meaning which demand detailed consideration.
Since each song has such layers, there are a variety of subplots between the 'extracurricular' aspects of the songs.
An example is between Give Yourself and Underground Life. There is a suggestion that the old man in the former is the same person who emerged from the earth. This brings with it a host of interesting connections, but the overall plot needs to treat them as two distinct people. These secondary images are largely intentional, but the writer was unable to carry off the seamless blending of this image with that of the main plot line.
The image of the young builder preaching to those underground bares similarities to Jesus preaching in hell to those in Abraham's bosom. Yet obviously the young builder is hardly a type of Jesus.
If the young builder were made a ruler over the master builders, there would be similarities with Moses leaving, returning to, and leaving Egypt. Yet once again this conflicts at several points with the main plot line.
Another thread is the Tower as religion trapped in human efforts to reach God. This is worked in fairly well but it does not really integrate the technology threads so evident in the overall work. The primary meaning of the allegory is larger.
Another thread is the young builder as the Bride of Christ awakening to the dangers of false unity. But again this is an aspect of, rather than being, the allegory's meaning.
Because the young builder and those who listen to him leave the Tower project behind, it would not be at all unreasonable to view this album as advocating that Christians flee the public square to let the world fend for themselves. Yet this is specifically not the intention.
Leaving the Tower's pit represents an internal change, becoming a new creation, yet still being in though not of the world. The image is the Tower as the dead-though-appearing-alive world of human beings lost in sin contrasted with nature as the living world of life in Christ.
This results in the meaning not following a straight line.
The Tower represents our technological society. Our technological society embodies the need at the center of the Truth that finding God requires a complete turning away from our own wisdom.
But this personal need for redemption then plays back toward society as a metaphor for the vanity of our culture's efforts to ignore God and build our technological Tower of Babel.
So the allegory of leaving the Tower project stands for turning away from the Hell that is my destiny, but also as a call for our culture to turn away from the journey that has us careening toward certain destruction.
The funny aspect of all this is that it is easier to create an album that says this than to put it down in clear prose. If you understand the album, it will be much more comprehensible in its own right than this explanation. If you do not understand the album, this description will only confirm the view that this entire enterprise is completely insane.
Were the allegory of the highest artistry, the threads of all these conflicts and allusions would be resolved into a single unified plot strand rather than aspects and oblique references. Hopefully the work will transcend these flaws.
Epiphany is a "story" concept album, in the form of an allegory, revolving around the image of burial and resurrection. The symbol is the construction of a tower.
The story opens in Tower City, where a project hailed as, "Humanity's Greatest Achievement," is still underway. The Tower, let us call it Babel II, is a monumental structure designed not only to ascend all the way to Heaven (evoking the nickname of 'Stairway' from wags), but also to bring the entire human race together in one place, ending the multitude of factions national, racial and religious which have prevented humanity from fulfilling its destiny. Though construction has been underway for nearly a generation, confidence in the project runs high.
But not everyone shares this confidence. A general grade Tower worker, grown old in service, has begun to have serious reservations with the undertaking, questioning all the reasons for such consuming effort. But he has never heard of anyone else having such doubts, so he has never mentioned them to anyone. But his silence has not prevented the doubts from continuing to eat at him. One day he suddenly realizes why he is so uncomfortable with the Tower. It is not going up, but rather down, making it a common grave instead of a tower. Everything is upside down. But he is old and tired, and not prepared to take on the task of convincing people they are going the wrong way. Yet he feels he must do something. So he writes a book. But he does not feel up to the task of trying to get it read. So he leaves a copy of his book in his apartment and leaves the city to make his way to the surface.
At the same time, a young builder is beginning to have his own doubts about the Tower; doubts that creep into his dreams. He is a hard worker, a loyal builder, but there is something missing. Yet this disquiet is not illuminating as to its source.
One day the young builder is tasked with cleaning out the apartment of an old man who has vanished and is presumed dead. When he does, he finds the book. It is strictly against the rules, but for reasons he cannot explain, he keeps the book. What the young builder finds there not only voices his secret thoughts, but takes those thoughts much further.
The young builder continues with his life. Around him the duties and pleasures of the city continue as always, yet somehow diminished. His own doubts about the values of the Tower and its culture are echoed in the old man's words. The old man is saying something more than just that people should question Tower authority. Between the lines he is speaking of something more sinister. But exactly what?
The life of the city continues, flowing around the young builder like a river around a stone. As he is drawn into the thoughts of the old man, the sounds of the city around him fade away, as if he had been carried to a distant place. Standing on a crowded sidewalk flowing with people, he is for the first time truly alone. The ideals of Tower society can no longer reach him. But the old man was saying even more.
Suddenly the young builder understands exactly what the old worker's song is about. He did not mean "catacomb" as a metaphor! His view of his entire life is utterly changed in that moment when the Tower's spell is broken. He sees the Tower to the sky is only a dream, the actual construction being a cave going ever deeper underground. The Tower is an actual pit! But the instant this thought explodes in his mind, doubts try to shout it down. "How can all these people be blind to the truth? What kind of madness is it to think the rest of the world mad? Everything you know of the world tells you the Tower rises. Get hold of yourself." But like seeing a pattern in what had at first appeared random dots, he cannot see the old Tower, only the new pit. He resolves to leave. If he is wrong, the journey will end at the bedrock foundations of the Tower, and he will know the old man's words have triggered a delusion. But if he is right, his life depends on escaping the Tower.
The path to the roots of the Tower proves treacherous, filled with traps and nightmares as if all the suppressed archetypes of Tower civilization haunted the passages waiting to destroy the faithless who stray. Just when he thinks it time to turn back and toss this strange quest behind him, the last barrier he presses upon gives way to the surface world. Where he had thought the world fully known, an entirely new realm opens wondrous as the old one has now proven perverse. He climbs out, leaving behind forever the orientation that saw the great project as a tower.
The reality of the daylight surface is staggering. The young builder's first moments free of the delusion of the Tower are joyous, flooding him with understanding of things that had been mysteries, as if a key unlocked a treasury door. But one of the most disconcerting things about a massive internal transformation is that the world is oblivious. Below, he knows the fatal work continues.
The surface floods the young builder with sensations that seem to envelope his entire being. As night falls, he hears the wind singing through the trees, sees the explosion of stars wheeling burning in the sky, feels the moist grass under his feet. The night around him now is as alive as his past world is dead. He runs across a meadow, shouting, spinning, dancing to keep from bursting with the life surging through him. After a while he grows quiet again, the thought of his family and friends below casting a somber taint upon his joy. He walks until he comes to a bridge over a river. Looking down into the flow, he thinks how the water soaks into the earth only to rise into the air through the leaves of the trees. This thought places a mystic seed in his heart. Yet the water's passage through the earth also brings the Tower again before his mind's eye. Like the unraveling memories of a dream upon awakening, he imagines the Tower City night life going on this very moment far below his feet. He can almost hear the music, see the artificial lights, feel the dusty pavement hard beneath his boots. Startling as discovering the pulse of a person thought dead, he realizes that place is no longer his home. The people he imagines appear as moths drawn to a consuming flame. The ideas that once promised him hope and meaning have faded away. In his mind, standing in the same old places, surrounded by the old songs, the old ways, he finds the thread of his life is no longer part of that fabric. He feels like a ghost once haunting those passages who is now, unimaginably, alive.
At dawn the young builder leaves the bridge to walk in a forest, the sun making the colors of autumn so vivid they leave him giddy with awe at the immensity of God's handiwork. Nothing in his imagination could have prepared him for that dawn, for the brilliance of the true sun, for the sweeping pulse of Life. Nature's piercing reality is even more astounding to him because of its contrast to his pallid former life in the twilight underground. Here he sees a metaphor of the necessity of the group spoken of by the old worker, but one united by a harmony of voice between the individual and the whole, by a unity of choice rather than the force of deception.
The young builder turns his skill to building himself a residence on the surface. Winter finds him sitting beside the fire and thinking back on his former life; and those still caught in the deception. He knows the task before him is to return and try to open their eyes. He is terrified of going back, and tries to ignore the commission, but the call is without repentance.
In the spring, overcoming his revulsion of the underground, the builder travels back to the realm of the Tower. As he goes, like the old worker he composes a song. He hopes it will steel his nerve against the foul memories of the haunted passage, and against his inadequacy for the task before him. While he has experienced many things invaluable to those who accept his words, he still knows so little of the world. He knows he did nothing to deserve to awaken to the reality of the common grave, nor anything particularly heroic in struggling to the surface. He knows he is no one special that any should follow him. He knows his former fellow citizens will ask him just who he thinks he is to act like he has special knowledge. He knows many will believe he is the one who is disoriented. Yet he has been to the surface. He knows it is real, and the Tower a fatal delusion. How can he keep silent?
In Tower City he tells the story of his awakening and journey and discovery. He tells them their world is hollow, that they are feeding the void that will consume them. Some hear him and awake to reality, but most dismiss his words..
The time comes for him to return to the surface with those who believe him, though many remain below, clinging to their vision of progress. In desperation he shouts at the mocking crowd that the Tower is upside down, mistaking shadow for truth, to convince them of their danger. He tells those who will not listen to wake up before it is too late, but the overwhelming emotion he displays is a convenient excuse for them to regard his warning as mad ranting.
The young builder leads those who believed away. The group leaving the pit reach the surface to find a windswept spring night. The young worker directs them toward the shelter of his house then walks off by himself to think on all the events, on those who were saved and those who remain lost. The moon rises, its light apocalyptic red through the heavy atmosphere.
While he walks alone under the true sky, sorrowing for those who stayed below, the rising moon meets a storm rolling in from the west. When the rain finally comes, he feels it as tears that wash away his sorrow over his many companions who remain locked in their chosen underground fate.
The stylistic theme of Epiphany is the underground, burial, the words of Jesus that, "Except a kernel of wheat fall to the ground and die, it abides alone."
The Tower is in fact a pit.
Give Yourself talks about "union with a catacomb".
Underground Life is a direct representation of this theme.
Open Your Heart talks about the "cocoon" and water descending into earth.
Secret Flame revolves around a trip through the "mines".
Wake Up talks about the "endless open grave" and makes reference to The Cave of Plato, where reality seems to be the shadows on the wall only until you get a look outside.
The allegory is about our modern era, more accurately known as the last days. (Is it not ironic that those who tell us our era is changing everything will then turn around and say people have always thought the end was near? It must be that change has not come around to this area yet. Anyway, the assertion proves people have been wrong before, not that the end is not near.)
The Tower represents human efforts at unity, glimpses of which are seen in Gaia and the new world order. We think this will lead us to peace and prosperity, will make us the name sought by the first builders of Babel, but it will in fact lead to the blood drenched kingdom of the Beast. That is why the Tower is upside down.
The builders think they are erecting rather than excavating, so it is inevitable that the Tower will eventually undercut too many supports and collapse in on itself. And its builders. That is why the awakened must leave the pit. It is essential that we depend on God rather than the world's system. It is not just a better life on the surface among the majestic calm of nature. It is essential to survival.
It is important to note no one attempts to halt the destruction construction. There will always be those who refuse to believe. These will continue digging until the collapse destroys them, just as the people went about their normal routine until God shut the door of the Ark and the Flood drown them. Human civilization will not be redeemed. Those who believe will transfer their allegiance to the Kingdom of Heaven by accepting Jesus as their Lord. Those who mock will not escape sharing the fate of the pit.
George Orwell said the corruption of language that emerged from World War II was more frightening than the guns and bombs. Language used to mislead rather than communicate. This reverse language is now found throughout our culture.
A classic example of this is an organization named 'Planned Parenthood', when in fact parenthood is exactly what they encourage people to avoid. How much federal money do you think would flow through an organization called 'Parenthood Avoidance'?
'Separation of church and State' is a phrase for turning the Constitution's protection of the church from the State into a ban of the church from the State.
'Free love' is a phrase describing what is neither free nor love.
'Inflation' is actually currency devaluation. Can you imagine a U.S. President getting up and talking about how great it is that our currency only lost 5% of its value this year?
Morality is called a private choice, when in fact it is social in nature. The very word comes from the Latin moralis, from moris, or custom. Is it not obvious how you regard your sexual partner and offspring and parents has enormous social ramifications? That lying and murder and theft are social issues? If you lived on a deserted island, who would you deceive or kill or rob? I guess lying to yourself might be considered a private matter.
My father taught me it is often possible to recognize a doctrine of the Enemy by its not merely being off base, but exactly opposite to the Truth. A perfect 180 degree orientation is rarely coincidental.
Contrary to our activity oriented society, the turning points of a person's life, the epiphanies, are internal, invisible, inexplicable. Yet the change is so powerful it realigns the way you see the world, the way you think. So while from the outside looking in change is invisible, from the inside looking out no appearance is unaltered. But epiphanies are often virtually inexplicable. This means it is difficult to project the experience across the chasm of existential isolation. This can make an epiphany an alienating as well as a liberating experience.
1. January 6, observed as a church festival commemorating the coming of the Magi as the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.
2. A bodily manifestation of a deity.
3. A sudden perception of the essential nature or meaning of something, an intuitive grasp of reality through an event usually simple and striking.
[Greek; epiphaneia, manifestation], noun
Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, 1983
Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary, International Edition, 1960
This is a powerful word in this context because it combines the bodily manifestation of Jesus with a sudden inner awakening.
|Works||Series 1-Quest To Be Whole||Album 4-Epiphany|