Growing up in the Bible belt, I was always dissuaded from exploring the mystical properties of other religion’s spiritual belief systems, but, as a child of the Eastern integration into Western culture and the technological revolution that allowed my generation to easily access the teachings of the world, it was impossible not to seek the parallels between the various symbols of the world as ushered in by teachers throughout time, across the planet. Clearly, my generation was intended to usher in this era of mass communication as predicted by the Mayan calendar, along with every New Age hippie since the 5th Dimension’s “Age of Aquarius” hit the airwaves in 1967. Call me crazy all you’d like, but, as a lifelong fan of Radiohead, mysticism, and quantum physics, I believe I’ve cracked the code that Thom Yorke has admitted to using within his art.
I believe I, along with my peers, represent the mythical “Kid A”.
Radiohead has always had an affinity with the number “10” and playing with the spacing of this number within their graphics, most notably on the cover of 2007’s “In Rainbows”. Throughout history, the number 10 has symbolized the beginning of new eras as delivered by human messengers. In the Bible, Moses brought the Ten Commandments down from the mountain after days of meditation with God; meanwhile, modern history shows that Pearl Jam issued the album “Ten” as a means to become the most commercially successful band of the Grunge era.
The list could go on and on, but the source of this mysticism can be cited back to the Jewish mystical practices of Kabbalah, which are motivated by the belief that the Old Testament/Torah contains hidden clues about the world. Incidentally, this tradition recognizes the number 10 as last of the levels of the Tree of Life, which crowns the Four Worlds; it represents the Kingdom of God as manifested in the physical realm. The Tree of Life’s ten branches are the numerical categories within the Four Worlds, which prove to unite the mystical world with the human world. Additionally, for those New Age nerds like myself who believe in using visual aides like Tarot imagery and numerology, we assign the number 10 high regard as it is used during the traditional Celtic Cross reading (the “10-card spread”) and is representative of the Wheel of Fortune within the Major Arcana. Similarly, numerology recognizes that 10 = 5 x 2, which surmises that 5 – representing the psychic element – multiplied by 2 – the human element – creates a connection to the spiritual realm. Likewise, 2 + 5 is equal to the mystical number 7, which aligns with the Biblical 7 Sacraments, the Buddhist 7 chakras, the Torah’s 7-week day, and Kabbalah’s 7th Branch on the Tree of Life, which represents God’s victory through dominating human emotion and maneuvering them by the yellow energy of the heart.
Similarly, ancient Zen Buddhist practices recognize that the chakras, when aligned, ascend throughout our bodies to create a vibration that allows us to interact with the spiritual world. By aligning the colors of the visible spectrum, starting from the red base chakra, devotees of these beliefs and the yoga component assert that the completed rainbow, in alignment with a healthy body creates a resonance that connects us with the Universal Energy flow. The rainbow appears as a sign in the Old Testament of God’s presence to Noah and a covenant that he wouldn’t try to wipe out all of humanity again. Rainbow Brite hit the mainstream around the time my generation was born. That guy on YouTube freaked out at the Double Rainbow in 2010, begging the heavens to tell him what it all meant; a week later, a double rainbow appeared at the Burning Man festival which had everyone there in giggles, shrieking “WHAT DOES IT MEAN!?” (the theme that year was “Metropolis” after the Fritz Lang masterpiece.)
Through these symbols, Radiohead plants seeds to assert that they form a technological portal to the Universal consciousness, by using resonances found in electronics, which has only evolved in the last 50 years as humanity has picked up speed approaching the celestial move into the Age of Aquarius. Their music has directly mirrored the development of our generation’s ascent into technological communications, which has blown apart humanity’s ability to freely interact with each other across the globe. In their medium, Radiohead is able to create sounds that reflect the social attitudes and resonate with the millions of fans who are tapped into that energy as well.
A few months ago, I happened across an article on Cracked.com that explored the conspiracy theories behind symbolic “easter eggs” within classic albums. Although the 2010 article (by Maxwell Yezpitelok and M. Asher Cantrell) touched on a number of the conspiracy theories supported by Radiohead nerds, it centered heavily around the evidence of Radiohead’s return to the number “10” and even cited lead singer Thom Yorke as stating, “I can’t believe no one has figured it out just yet.”
Allow me to digress into a personal narrative for a moment. When Pablo Honey caught the world’s attention with “Creep”, I was just evolving into the sticky, awkward adolescent age that allows all of us to understand not feeling like we fit in anywhere. Along with my peers, I eagerly awaited the release of the artists’ new albums with increasing anticipation as each seemed to resonate with me on a personal level.
As my generation aged, we became the pioneers of the technological revolution, and, naturally, our musical interests followed suit as we were excited to hear new sounds out of our new electronic innovations. As I was just beginning high school in 1997, OK Computer was released, bringing with it a bold representation of humans as androids processing the data we collect from society and reacting to what we are absorbing. Around that time, the rave scene exploded, and I found myself drawn, like many others, to the sense of euphoric harmony the wide spectrum of colors and the new transcendental sounds that were being produced by electronic means. Incidentally, the first raver I ever met was a gal with hot pink hair wearing a Rainbow Brite costume who was known in the local rave scene as Skittlez. She preached the late-90’s rave scene mantra of PLUR, which stood for Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect. This was a great time to go to raves as they always contained a peaceful environment with other people seeking enlightenment, open dialogue, and brilliant new sensations brought on by fear-removing chemical substances like LSD and ecstacy. In those days, we looked out for each other and, if someone was having a bad trip, we all jumped ship to take care of our friend. Before it was overcommercialized, it was a beautiful scene of the youth banding together to seek a higher plane of existence.
The sounds of Radiohead’s work mirrored this until they abruptly altered the tone with 2001’s “Kid A”. The day the album dropped, I cut out of school to drive to a local record store and buy it with one of my best friends. Together, we sat out in the parking lot listening to the sounds crash over us as our pulses raced. We sat, wide-eyed, for the entire run of the album, only stopping to stare at each other and mutter, “Holy shit.” Only six months after the release of “Kid A”, the world’s energy was rocked by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Despite our fight against it, the terrorists’ plan sufficiently hurled the social consciousness into an undercurrent of terror that polarized our political parties, our religions, our societies, and, ultimately, the planet’s unified beliefs. From this came war, the collapse of the economy due to rampant overspending, and general discord.
In recent studies within the science of quantum physics, researchers have been using binary code to test the String Theory. This supports the idea that if energy is inherently aligned with the social consciousness, we should be able to tap into those changes using electronic sensors. A system of randomizing algorithms through what is called a Quantum Computer has been used to track the disturbances within the subconscious energy and the results have been staggering. Hours before the attacks on the World Trade Center, the natural 50/50 ratio between the digits 1 and 0 began to go haywire, leaning heavily in one direction, as if to suggest that our globe’s energetic undercurrent predicted the attacks long before we all were consciously aware of it. Similar readings have come before the arrival of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the 2011 Japanese earthquake and resulting tsunami.
I realize I sound certifiably insane for reasoning that Radiohead is using the number 10 and playing around with the imagery of the 1 and 0 to indicate that they create a portal to a mystical frequency via the resonance in electronic music. However, I stand by that because, frankly, there is plenty of evidence within art to support the idea that this revolution is coming. Kubrick’s “2001: Space Odyssey” envisioned a world explored by a lone pioneer at the exact age my generation was when we graduated high school and moved into our own independence, thus bringing about the advent of the social media phenomenon.
On a personal note, and back in alignment with Radiohead’s work: In 2007 (10 years after OK Computer greeted my freshman year of high school), I was due to give birth to my first child on December 27th. I was in labor for 15 hours in 8 minute intervals before the pain simply disappeared. The next day, I called into a local radio station and won Radiohead’s just released “In Rainbows” album. (The DJ asked when I was due. When I responded, “Yesterday”, he began to fling freebies at me. Score!) I went into labor that night and gave birth on December 30 after a labor that lasted way too long for a sane person to tolerate without medication. Within the next few months, the world erupted into a firestorm of optimism and joy as Barack Obama’s ascent toward victory became clearer. I’d been able to see him speak publicly at my tiny university in Conway, SC, where he had been mentioned on the 5th page of the local newspaper, and I, too, swelled with pride when he won the election in November 2008. He was sworn into office on my birthday, January 20, 2009. It snowed in Myrtle Beach, SC that day for the first time in 10 years. People across the globe danced in the streets. It was a big day for all of us; clearly something was happening, and I think maybe Radiohead caught on before the rest of us, due to their gifts of transmitting familiar resonant vibrations.
Look, I’m not saying I’m some sort of soothsayer, but I do believe that, by studying and practicing the ancient traditions of aligning with the mystical, spiritual realm for the last decade like millions of my peers, along with paying attention to the evolution of music and the inspiration of art that has resonated across demographics (Star Trek; Metropolis; electronica; tribal beats, etc.), I’ve learned how to spot the symbolism in everyday happenings. Similarly, I believe that Radiohead is, in fact, hoping to act as a transistor to plant earworms into the children of the Technological and Space Ages – the ones who are here to usher in this new era (as cited by the Mayans in that big calendar everyone was freaking out about last December.) The stars are aligned for a new Age (Aquarius being the constellation of The Water Bearer or the humanitarian supporter of all life forms); the Rainbow is acting as an icon for the gay community as it fights to bring equal civil rights to every nation; we are in constant contact with each other using social media that ignores the financial, biased agendas of corporate media outlets; and we have technology aiding our thinking and our artistic expression. As crazy as it sounds, I believe that Radiohead is a manifestation of our generation’s emotions and electronic creations, and they are using those to directly channel our sub consciousness into easily-digested lyrics and widely-resonating sounds to celebrate this movement toward unity that thousands of years of work has prepared us for.