Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Is the Sgt Pepper cover a treasure map? - The Writers

Sgt Pepper Code

"What is the Sgt Pepper Code? Did the Beatles have access to hidden knowledge about the origins of Christianity? Were they taught the secrets of the Freemasons? Had they discovered the history of the Knights Templars or the occult connections of the Illuminati to whom they became exposed? Does the inclusion of Aleister Crowley on the record sleeve reveal their satanic black magic – or black magick - roots?" So reads the Amazon description to my book - The Sgt Pepper Code - this post takes an extract from the book and examines the influence of the writers that we see depicted on the cover of Sgt Pepper and their part in the Sgt Pepper Code. 

The inclusion of certain writers on the album sleeve, particularly Edgar Allan Poe, is relevant because they establish the premise that Sgt Pepper is a code, or has a code buried within.

Edgar Allan Poe
In the story, The Gold Bug, written by Edgar Allan Poe, the character William Legrand becomes obsessed with searching for treasure after being bitten by a beetle-like bug thought to be made of pure gold. He notifies his closest friend, the narrator, telling him to immediately come visit him at his home on Sullivan's Island in South Carolina. Upon the narrator's arrival, Legrand informs him that they are embarking upon a search for lost treasure along with his African-American servant Jupiter. The narrator has intense doubt and questions if Legrand, who has recently lost his fortune, has gone insane.

Legrand captured the bug but let someone else borrow it; he draws a picture of the bug instead. The narrator says that the image looks like a skull. Legrand is insulted and inspects his own drawing before stuffing it into a drawer which he locks, to the narrator's confusion. Uncomfortable, the narrator leaves Legrand and returns home to Charleston.

A month later, Jupiter visits the narrator and asks him to return to Sullivan's Island on behalf of his master. Legrand, he says, has been acting strangely. When he arrives, Legrand tells the narrator they must go on an expedition along with the gold-bug tied to a string. Deep in the wilderness of the island, they find a tree, which Legrand orders Jupiter to climb with the gold-bug in tow. There, he finds a skull and Legrand tells him to drop the bug through one of the eye sockets. From where it falls, he determines the spot where they dig. They find treasure buried by the infamous pirate "Captain Kidd", estimated by the narrator to be worth a million and a half dollars. Once the treasure is safely secured, the man goes into an elaborate explanation of how he knew about the treasure's location, based on a set of occurrences that happened after the discovery of the gold bug.

The story involves cryptography with a detailed description of a method for solving a simple substitution cipher using letter frequencies. This idea of hidden messages and codes to be cracked is intriguing because many proponents of the Francis Bacon as Shakespeare conspiracy contend that Bacon hid codes and ciphers in the works of Shakespeare.

Poe is one of a number of the people featured on the cover that died under mysterious circumstances. On October 3, 1849, Poe was found on the streets of Baltimore delirious, "in great distress, and... in need of immediate assistance", according to the man who found him, Joseph W. Walker. He was taken to the Washington College Hospital, where he died on Sunday, October 7, 1849, at 5:00 in the morning. Poe was never coherent long enough to explain how he came to be in his dire condition, and, oddly, was wearing clothes that were not his own. Poe is said to have repeatedly called out the name "Reynolds" on the night before his death, though it is unclear to whom he was referring. Some sources say Poe's final words were "Lord help my poor soul." All medical records, including his death certificate, have been lost. Newspapers at the time reported Poe's death as "congestion of the brain" or "cerebral inflammation", common euphemisms for deaths from disreputable causes such as alcoholism. The actual cause of death remains a mystery; from as early as 1872, cooping was commonly believed to have been the cause.

Cooping was a practice by which unwilling participants were forced to vote, often several times over, for a particular candidate in an election. Generally these innocent bystanders would be grabbed off the street by so-called 'cooping gangs' or 'election gangs' working on the payroll of a political candidate, and they would be kept in a room, called the "coop", and given alcohol or drugs in order for them to comply. If they refused to cooperate, they might be beaten or even killed. Often their clothing would be changed to allow them to vote multiple times. Sometimes the victims would be forced to wear disguises such as wigs, fake beards or moustaches to prevent them from being recognized by voting officials at polling stations.

Edgar Allan Poe appears on the cover of Sgt Pepper as well as featuring in the lyrics to I am the Walrus, John Lennon’s famous nonsense song. This does provide a link with another writer featured on the Pepper cover, Lewis Carroll. Carroll’s books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass were massive influences on John Lennon and his writing.
The idea for the Walrus came from the poem The Walrus and The Carpenter, which is from the sequel to Alice in Wonderland called Through the Looking-Glass. In his 1980 Playboy interview, Lennon said: "It never dawned on me that Lewis Carroll was commenting on the capitalist and social system. I never went into that bit about what he really meant, like people are doing with the Beatles' work. Later, I went back and looked at it and realized that the walrus was the bad guy in the story and the carpenter was the good guy. I thought, Oh, s--t, I picked the wrong guy. I should have said, 'I am the carpenter.' But that wouldn't have been the same, would it?"

The song's opening line, "I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together" is yet another tantalising link to Aleister Crowley. Crowley in his book Magick in theory and practise talks about the art of speaking backwards and uses the illustration, “Let him practise speaking backwards; thus for "I am He" let him say, "Eh ma I"”. 
The origin of Crowleyesque backward speak

Given the Beatles fondness for using backwards masking and subliminal messages in their songs, I think this is highly significant.
Also, from the end of I am the Walrus, we find a mysterious piece of dialogue, recorded from a BBC radio broadcast of the Shakespeare play King Lear. The section of King Lear used came from Act Four, Scene 6, with Oswald saying: "Slave, thou hast slain me. Villain, take my purse. After Oswald dies, we hear this dialogue:

Edgar: "I know thee well: a serviceable villain, As duteous to the vices of thy mistress As badness would desire."

Gloucester: "What, is he dead?"

Edgar: "Sit you down, father. Rest you."

Finally on the walrus trail, it has often been quoted that Lennon got the line "Goo Goo Ga Joob" from the book Finnegan's Wake by James Joyce. No such line appears, however, James Joyce does appear on the cover. Interestingly, he is not listed amongst the cast list of luminaries. An oversight or an intentional omission? 

Joyce is one of three Irish writers that appear on the cover, the other two are George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde. Wilde was famously jailed for his homosexuality although, presumably in an attempt to conform to Victorian standards, he was married with children. His wife, Constance, along with another Pepper grandee, the artist Aubrey Beardsley, and the ubiquitous Aleister Crowley were members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which was an magical society formed in 1888. George Bernard Shaw’s one time mistress, Florence Farr, was another member of the order. 

The links to Crowley, secret societies and occult organisations just keep on coming.
Another interesting author featured on the cover is Stephen Crane. Crane is another who died young when he was just 28 years old, and is perhaps most famous for his short story called “The Open Boat”. It concerns four men who struggle to survive in a lifeboat.  The one most determined to keep the group together dies in the ordeal; the other three then act as interpreters of the event.  This has been proposed as being a metaphor for Paul McCartney and the Paul is Dead theories.

Continuing the theme of those who appear on the cover and who died young is the poet Dylan Thomas. Thomas died not long after his 39th birthday in New York, his death exacerbated by his chronic alcoholism.

The final writers that appear on the cover reveal yet more links with Crowley and the intertwining nature of some of the relationships of the characters involved. Take for example Aldous Huxley, H.G. Wells and our friend Aleister Crowley. I will use a quote from Huxley that may get to the very heart of what Sgt Pepper pertains too. "There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution." Aldous Huxley, Tavistock Group, California Medical School, 1961.

The Beatles at this time were in the full midst of their psychedelic, LSD period and Paul McCartney, who conversely had consumed the least amount of the drug, had appeared in a televised interview in which he espoused the virtues of LSD.
The O.T.O., references to whom seem to crop up throughout the Pepper sleeve, are a sex magick cult and it may be that the Beatles are espousing the benefits of these forms of religious beliefs over the more conventional Christian virtues which are still most prevalent in society. 

The Sgt Pepper album sleeve is full of masonic symbolism. There are eleven freemasons depicted and of these eleven, three are 33° master masons, Karl Marx, H. G. Wells and Aleister Crowley. Aldous Huxley’s grandfather Thomas taught H. G. Wells.  Thomas Huxley was a member of the Royal Society of London which was founded in 1660 by freemasons and was hugely influenced by Sir Francis Bacon and his book A New Atlantis. I have spoken previously about a possible hidden reference to Bacon on the Sgt Pepper sleeve. H. G. Wells would later tutor Aldous Huxley at Oxford as well as being the head of British intelligence (MI6) during World War 2. Wells would introduce Aldous Huxley to Aleister Crowley in Berlin in 1930 where Crowley may have introduced him to peyote. Huxley wrote Brave New World as a parody to H.G. Wells Men Like Gods, and both have parallels with Bacon’s A New Atlantis and its version of a Rosicrucian paradise. 

Huxley was a freemason and also joined a Dionysian occult group called ‘the children of the sun’. The search for the light continues.

UPDATE:  For more details please read my book The Sgt Pepper Code