Unificationist Reflections on ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

By Laurent Ladouce

Bohemian Rhapsody” — the all-time highest-grossing music biographical film in just two months since release, a huge success in Korea, and a 2019 Oscar nominee for Best Picture — has prompted me as a Unificationist to reflect on the life of singer-songwriter Freddie Mercury (1946-91).

Directed by Bryan Singer, the movie focuses on a critical period of Mercury’s life, 1970-85 (portrayed on screen by Rami Malek). We watch movies with various glasses, and among Unificationists, each of us may see “Bohemian Rhapsody” very differently.

Rather than comment in the light of the Principle, I focus in this review on a few themes from the biopic to shed light on several aspects of our teaching.

The film, for example, depicts an artist imitating the three blessings, then trying to separate from his antichrist demons. In a sense, “Bohemian Rhapsody” features Adam, Eve and the Archangel in a garden. Their behavior is quite reminiscent of our teaching on the Fall, but reveals other dimensions of sexual disorder than the typical kind of adultery. The movie helps us understand what kingship and a coronation entail.

This film also causes us to reflect on notions such as symbol, image and substance. It helps us understand the path to becoming a false idol, to becoming an iconic figure, and leaves the door open to the path of substantializing true love.

Creation, fall and redemption of an idol

“Bohemian Rhapsody” depicts the growth and ascension of one of the greatest voices in rock music (the Rock God, according to Britain’s OnePoll), and how the stage persona of Freddie Mercury was created gradually, mostly by himself, so that he became idolized by millions. In this ascent, Mercury was driven by the power of an absolute narcissism, which brought him to the summit.

We then see his spiritual and physical fall, and descent into hell. The narcissistic idol is transformed into a puppet driven into hell by sexual passion, until a ridiculous man is disguised as a king enjoying evil joy in the kingdom of loneliness.

The film ends with the consequences of his physical fall and early steps toward what can be seen as a form of human redemption. The person who has suffered so much because of sin begins the suffering course of redeeming his mistakes.

Adam, Eve and the Archangel open their eyes in the Garden

The most critical scene is when Mercury is at the rock bottom of hell, about two-thirds through the movie. The fallen star, now living in Munich, Germany, with his boyfriend, Paul, and dozens of creatures who are their sexual toys, is on his living room couch. A heavy rain falls outside. Suddenly, Mercury opens his eyes, and his former fiancé, Mary (played by Lucy Boynton), is there. She has come from England to see her former lover, who had offered her a diamond and promised to marry her. Upon seeing Mary, who is good, Freddie feels some desire and would like to possess her, but she reveals to him that she is pregnant. She will have a child, whose father will not be him.

At that moment, we can see his grief and sadness, but also his moral weakness. Disgusted by what he has become, Mary, quickly leaves the house and goes straight to the taxi. Freddie follows her. The rain is torrential. The whole cosmos seems to have liquefied. While Mary sits inside the taxi, Freddie is streaming tears, his whole self just watery. Quietly and strongly, she tells the whole truth to him. She tells him exactly where he is, who he is, how he has become like this. But she leaves the door open for some hope. He cannot say anything. We then realize he has lost all dignity, and become what F.W. Murnau called Der letzte Mann (“The Last Man”) in his 1924 film. The topic of the first man and last man is a distinctive preoccupation of German culture, which we find with Hegel, Nietzsche, Murnau, and many others.

Freddie Mercury, who could never become an ordinary person, had taken the wrong way to become extraordinary. Mary has come to tell him that his splendor has turned into an extraordinary ugliness. She hates that, but still loves the real man in him. After receiving this revelation, the weak Freddie suddenly becomes as strong as iron and tells the naked truth to his boyfriend, Paul, who has seen the interaction from a distance. Freddie shouts that their relationship ends there, and that he has to quit his life immediately. Mary has opened his eyes, in the garden, and he opens the eyes of Paul.

Did this actually happen? Or was it simply the vision of director Bryan Singer? It takes place in Germany, where the myth of Faust is powerful. Ever since Goethe, German modern culture, like no other in Europe, has constantly debated about Faust, most often by wondering if he can be redeemed. Will Faust remain in a pact with Mephistopheles (the Archangel) and his servant Famulus, or will he be redeemed by Gretchen (an archetype of Eve)? Mercury has been called a Faustian artist because of his capacity to transform himself into almost everything, his exceptional talent (most critics recognize that he had one of the best voices ever), and his moral weakness in the process of fulfilling his ambitions.

Why Mercury became a sexual idol and then Faustian bisexual artist

What is the difference between an icon, an idol, and substance? In the Bible, we read that God created humankind as man and woman, in His image. It is absolute sex that makes a mature man and mature woman resemble God. Reverend Moon used to say that the marriage of Adam and Eve is the marriage of God, as well as His coronation. Man and woman become the King and Queen of Love. Through love, they become the holy living icon of God, but in a sense, they become like God appearing as king and queen. The consummation of absolute sex transforms the icon into substance.

In man and woman, the sexual organs, at the center of the anatomy, are the palace of love, life, lineage, and conscience. Conscience means that man and woman have a strong sexual curiosity; they want to know God, live with God, and be owned by God. This means to have sex — absolute sex. Absolute sex is the way to kingship, to the coronation.

The fall takes place because the Archangel says to Eve that she can be like God. He wants to turn her into his idol, his queen, his sex symbol. He promises that her consummating love with him will make her the greatest.

Mercury named his band Queen and designed the group’s logo as a coat of arms. As a normal man, Mercury was able to love Mary, but he could not have an ordinary attachment to her. Mary was a simple woman, and although Mercury loved her and wanted to marry her, part of him could not. There are many reasons for that, and the movie suggests that Mercury was weak, irresponsible, insecure, but most of all, utterly narcissistic. Plus, he was an artist, a composer, a creator, an extremely gifted person. He may have viewed sex as something extremely huge and powerful, and probably thought that marriage with a simple woman would not fulfill all of him. This character often is found among artists.

But why did Mercury become bisexual? I already mentioned his band’s name. In “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Mercury is depicted becoming more and more distant from Mary. He is always on tour, and though he keeps in touch with her, his real family is his band, Queen’s three fellow musicians. One night, he phones her from a motel, and on the call, a man going to the toilet starts to look at him lecherously. The movie then tries to imagine what takes place in the mind of Mercury. The lecherous desire triggers a fantasy, where he sees himself, half naked, lying and carried by a crowd of worshippers as their idol. Mercury was often seen as the most iconoclastic rocker of all times. He had a passion to destroy all icons and make himself the only idol.

Indeed, he sees himself as the idol of the crowd, carried in triumph, touched by many hands, adored as a god, desired and adored, almost sexually, by all. Mercury may have felt that he could become a new type of sex symbol, some form of homme fatal, instead of femme fatale. This is because, being extremely narcissistic, he enjoyed the possibility of being in a passive sexual role, where being seduced brings the acme of joy. He was famous for playing with many sexual symbols on stage, and his persona was definitely that of a queen of sex. He thus contemplated his coronation as an artist and human being by becoming an idol. However, other factors were at play: low self-esteem (despite his narcissism), a feeling of lack of love, boredom, and thus the taste for transgression.

Mercury was a Faustian artist struggling to renew his inspiration and offer something unique, magical. The scene where he is seduced and falls into homosexual love is a scene which starts with his struggle to find inspiration. He seems to be alone in the room, with his piano and a piece of paper, and obviously the inspiration is lacking that day. Then, Paul, the band’s manager, appears, approaches him and we already know what is going to happen. Yet, Freddie first does not want this relationship, and resists, but without conviction.

The first steps of his homosexual spiritual fall seem to have brought Freddie on top of the world. On stage, he could achieve a mesmerizing mind-body unity, becoming a captivating idol full of energy. He seemed to have found himself, to have revealed his real nature. He became very popular, with many friends and his band indeed composed some of its greatest hits. So, in a certain way, Mercury seemed to perfectly imitate the three blessings. Quite likely, his becoming what was later called the Ultimate Rock God coincides with his spiritual fall. Interestingly, “Bohemian Rhapsody” tries to see what happened to the man behind the legend.

The official trailer for “Bohemian Rhapsody” (courtesy 20th Century Fox).

The 1958 film, “The Goddess,” suggests that a fictional starlet, loosely based on Marilyn Monroe, never felt so depressed and suicidal than at the peak of her fame, when millions of men in America and worldwide wanted to have her. The real life of idols is sometimes one of the last man, the most miserable person.

Freddie’s coronation is another great moment of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” At a huge party in his London apartments, Freddie wears a mantle over his naked torso, and a strange crown. It is also at this moment that his relationship with Paul is kind of made official. Apparently so sure of himself, adored by his fans, having become so wealthy and famous, Freddie seems to have everything to be happy.

The coronation scene is followed by scenes where the true destiny of the man is revealed behind the mask. He completely loses control of his life, quits his band, attempts a solo career, and is fundamentally destroying his kingdom of illusions.

The physical fall and the paths of redemption

The Principle says that the Fall consisted of two acts of love. The adultery between the Archangel and Eve (spiritual fall) was followed by the physical fall between fallen Eve and Adam. On the one hand, if Eve had not seduced Adam, her fall could have been restored more easily. However, in the Principle of Restoration, we also say that the physical fall was more forgivable than the spiritual fall, though it was also a crime. It is also suggested that Abel represented the (misguided) desire of Eve to return to God.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” ends with the bittersweet triumph of Queen at the 1985 Live Aid concert, supposedly the best 20 minutes of a rock concert ever. Bryan Singer does a commendable job recreating the atmosphere, but fans will prefer the video of the actual concert.

Personally, I preferred Singer’s portrayal of Freddie’s life before Live Aid. First, after Mary’s visit to Munich, Freddie decides to return to a more “normal” (Principled?) life. He does this by reconciling with his “families”:

  • The film becomes a humorous comedy of characters and situations, a real commedia dell’arte (from where comes the famous Scaramouche of “Bohemian Rhapsody”), when Freddie returns to his Queen bandmates and confesses his mistakes. It is very well-filmed, and is probably the scene where all the actors display their best talents. We then have a few scenes of feel-good movie where the band is on the road again.
  • Freddie enters into a bourgeois and stable relationship with Jim, a gentle and caring homosexual with whom he will live the rest of his life (Mercury would die of AIDS). We don’t avoid the melodrama here.
  • Freddie and Jim then visit Freddie’s physical family. The mixture of comedy, feel-good and melodrama is not convincing, but we have some sort of prodigal son scene where Freddie’s austere father hugs him. I found it rather far-fetched, but it may also reflect some aspect of the merciful True God for a once-false god returning to good boy attitude.

Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar (now part of Tanzania) to a Zoroastrian family. Zarathustra, the founder of this religion, inspired Nietzsche, who also had the concept of Übermensch, the superman. The idea of the Übermensch inspired Goethe, Nietzsche and many German writers.

In his Live Aid performance at Wembley Stadium, Freddie has the moustache of Nietzsche and a commanding attitude of a prophet, a superman. He may also look like a führer before a mesmerized crowd. The man who wanted to be touched and carried in triumph is on a huge stage beyond reach of the crowd. However, Freddie’s tears, mingled with his sweat, tell us he has become a real man, with real courage. Freddie the iconoclast has broken his idol internally.

I would have preferred this film to have ended very differently. In 1988, Freddie Mercury composed “Barcelona” and performed it as a duet with Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballé. In their live performances, the King of Rock and Queen of Opera created a very moving harmony.

It is perhaps at this moment that Mercury was closest to the true meaning of the three blessings. His mind-body unity on stage, his precise body language, and elegance showed a man who had become iconic, had real presence and an aura, but who had stopped trying to be an idol, puppet or god. His loving manner with Caballé showed he could have been the best husband — and, why not — a good father. That couple, in a beautiful setting, singing splendid music, embodied something truly royal and divine.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” could have ended with such a scene. But Bryan Singer made the movie he wanted, and there is already so much to see and hear in it for all fans of music.♦

“Bohemian Rhapsody” (rated PG-13) is still in many theaters; digital release (e.g., iTunes, Amazon Prime) in the U.S. will be on Jan. 22; Blu-ray and DVD on Feb. 12. Running time: 134 minutes. Directed by Bryan Singer; written by Anthony McCarten and Peter Morgan. Main cast: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, and Mike Myers. See IMDB for full details.

Laurent Ladouce is a French Unificationist who was awarded an honorary doctorate by Unification Theological Seminary in 2017. A prolific author of Unificationist publications, he also published the book, Le Projet Pakxe: une contribution du Laos à l’unité de l’Asie du Sud‐Est et à la Paix Mondiale, describing the rising role of city diplomacy and proposing a plan to make Pakxe, Laos, an international city of peace. He currently works for Unificationist media in Korea.

Photo at top: A depiction in “Bohemian Rhapsody” of the band, Queen, playing at Wembley Stadium in 1985 (film still courtesy of 20th Century Fox).

24 thoughts on “Unificationist Reflections on ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

  1. I would have appreciated it if you had left out your pop version of Goethe, Nietzsche, Übermensch, Faust, and those parts of German culture that, one more time or for all time, equate German culture with the satanic. Is Munich the home of the pervert? Your lecture might have been more convincing if you had confronted Freddie Mercury with the Principle, all right, and on top of that had pointed out how it will go in the spirit world for poor Freddie. What could have been an insightful interpretation of a so-called superstar becomes, at the same time, the massacre of Goethe and Nietzsche, about whom you could find rooms full of studies written by university professors. Your producing clichés out in the open is simply upsetting.

    • Dear Thomas,

      I apologize if my use of some topics from German culture made you upset. I have great admiration for German culture, and twice recently, I could visit Hegel’s house in Stuttgart. I keep reading Kant, Goethe and Hegel. Murnau and Fritz Lang are among my favorite filmmakers. How come I could offend you, then? Though I’m not sure, I take responsibility for that. Maybe the way some thoughts were expressed could be misinterpreted. I see German culture as the most lucid about Luciferian temptations. And I guess that Goethe, through the myth of Faust, suggested how the modern themes of freedom, progress and creativity can be misguided. But Goethe has a strong sense of redemption and I believe this is also found throughout most German culture. In my film review, I wanted to suggest that Mercury was really going quite deep into hell. But it is in Munich that he is awakened. This is the place where he starts his path of redemption, awakened by Mary. If you once again read what I wrote, maybe your perspective will change. But in any case, thank you for “opening my eyes.” I shall reflect on your remarks. Don’t hesitate to explain Goethe and Nietzsche in a better way than I did.

      • Laurent,

        After my first reading (I had just ordered a complete Goethe edition, a long time wish) I felt basically that underneath your principled analysis you took a shot against very complex thinkers which was not so much “douce,” but “acide.” The context for Freddie Mercury, fair enough, is the English pop scene more than Goethe, Nietzsche or Murnau, in my opinion. By placing him in a German cultural context, you make him sound like a German idol and by (I was waiting for that) finally introducing the word fuehrer you — subtext! — close your case.

        Maybe I was reading the subtext into your analysis, but why not finding something Baudelairian in his lyrics, something Rimbaudian in his lifestyle and finally embracing Genet as his spiritual father?! You make another point which might be the topic for an entire essay of yours: “The topic of the first man and last man is a distinctive preoccupation of German culture, which we find with Hegel, Nietzsche, Murnau, and many others.” Is it? In my opinion it is a preoccupation of Barry White singing “You’re the first, my last, my everything.” I love French culture, love troubadour poetry, Apollinaire, Flaubert, Camus, and one day will read Madame Bovary en francais.

  2. Thank you for your inspiring review, Laurent. I remember attending workshops in the UK in the 1980s, and they always included lectures on the divine (and satanic) in music. Music is a very subtle and spiritual way of expressing emotions.

    Elvis Presley was profoundly religious and always returned to his gospel roots. He was once approached by some of the early oriental missionaries in US, trying to bring him to Korea (or was it Japan?). Maybe his destiny was divine in the providence. On his Graceland office table there was a 1973 Divine Principle book (see this New Yorker photo).

    Maybe Freddy Mercury had a similar higher destiny. He sure created a great following. Just a thought.

  3. Before I make my final full stop, let me quote Ernest Hemingway on Munich: “Don’t bother to visit anything else. Munich is the best place. Everything else in Germany is a waste of time.”

  4. There are several artists who evoke “the last man/woman” trauma. One is Whitney Houston with her “Greatest Love of All” (1985) — truly inspired by Providence. Tragic early death.

    “If tomorrow is judgment day
    And I’m standing on the front line
    And the Lord asks me what I did with my life
    I will say I spent it with you
    If I wake up in World War III
    I see destruction and poverty
    And I feel like I want to go home
    It’s okay if you’re coming with me
    ‘Cause your love is my love
    And my love is your love
    It would take an eternity to break us
    And the chains of Amistad couldn’t hold us
    ‘Cause your love is my love
    And my love is your love
    It would take an eternity to break us…”

  5. Thanks, Laurent, for your insights, especially with regard to sexuality in the context of DP and creativity.

    I’m sure that for many of us when we first encounter music (any art, for that matter), we respond emotionally without much regard for the personalities who created it.

    My first encounter with the music of Richard Wagner was by way of the fine recording of his “Rienzi Overture” with George Szell conducting the Cleveland Orchestra. The noble and majestic theme of Rienzi’s prayer moved me to tears. The brilliant brass fanfares that punctuate the score thrilled me to my core (and still do). At the time, I knew little about Wagner the person; his proclivities and how as an individual he was reprehensible on many levels. I knew nothing of Wagner’s revolutionary impulses (Dresden in 1848), his relationship with fellow revolutionary Friedrich Nietzsche, his anti-Semitic screeds, his adulterous and megalomaniac behavior, the influences of Feuerbach and Schopenhauer on his art, or how Hitler viewed his music in the context of Aryan supremacy. The music was all that mattered. Bach and Brahms were religious, Wagner not so much, but there is genius is all of their work.

    Similar to my first experiences with Wagner, I was attracted to Queen’s music for its innovation and the brilliant execution by the musicians in the band. I knew nothing of Freddie Mercury’s life choices. Whether we can connect Mercury’s life course to the Faustian narrative is somewhat speculative, but what is not speculative is the relationship between music and creativity and how the Human Fall has impacted human creativity.

    True Father stated on several occasions that “Religion and music go hand in hand.” Both can be ways by which we can connect to God. Because Lucifer/Satan understands that, both religion and music (creativity) became targets to be either destroyed or manipulated for nefarious intentions. Wagner scholar Bryan MaGee points out that when Schopenhauer asserted that “the ecstasy in the act of copulation…is the true essence and core of all things, the aim and purpose of all existence,” it was in the context of Schopenhauer’s attempt to connect the spiritual aspects of music and sexuality.

    Father also made the analogy of music and the spiritual world saying that both were invisible, vibratory and dealt with the realm of the heart. Because sexual love was to be the ultimate creative experience (God’s gift to us), Lucifer used sexuality to achieve dominion over humankind. As a result of this betrayal, all artistic creativity has been under the dominion of Satan. This explains why many gifted artists have had to deal with the deadly sins of ego, sexuality, drug abuse, greed, and narcissism.

    There might, in fact, be a Faustian trade-off in the Freddie Mercury equation. In Thomas Mann’s novel Doctor Faustus, the protagonist is a German theological student (Adrian Leverkuhn) who turns from theology to musical composition as his profession and then wrestles with reconciling the undeniable religious roots of Western music, the rise of the Third Reich and the responsibility of the artist in the face of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. As Unificationists, we understand that there is a price to be paid if we reject the religious underpinnings of creativity—whether sexual or artistic. Looking at his life choices, Freddie Mercury seems to have paid a steep price.

    • Thank you very much, David, for addressing the very core of the matter, especially the relationship between creativity and sexuality. I really appreciate your deep philosophical insights on some musicians.

      1. From the viewpoint of the Principle of Creation, the experience of God’s absolute love by an original man and an original woman in God’s direct dominion and the acts of conception and pro-creation would be accompanied by the greatest joy, for God and for human beings, for the universe, for the mind and body.

      In Principle of Creation, section 2.3, we read:

      “Human beings are created to be the center of harmony of the whole cosmos. (…) Had Adam and Eve moved together in harmony and attained oneness, the whole cosmos with its dual characteristics would have danced in harmony. The place where Adam and Eve become perfectly one in heart and body as husband and wife is also the place where God, the subject partner giving love, and human beings, the object partners returning beauty, become united. This is the center of goodness where the purpose of creation is fulfilled. Here God, our Parent, draws near and abides within His perfected children and rests peacefully for eternity. This center of goodness is the object partner to God’s eternal love, where God can be stimulated with joy for eternity. This is the place where the Word of God is incarnated and brought to fulfillment. It is the center of truth and the center of the original mind which guides us to pursue the purpose of creation.”

      It seems that the conjugal joy, and especially the joy felt in “erotic love,” is the paramount joy. The joy experienced by the saint in the pursuit of goodness, by the scientist or philosopher in the quest of truth, by the artist in the creation of beauty, all these joys have something erotic. Father told us many times that we should be intoxicated in love and joy. Even when we do fundraising and witnessing well, investing our deepest heart and soul, we arrive at very similar joys, according to my experience.

      2. Regarding the fall and restoration, I have noticed that Jacob’s wrestling with the angel is a theme which reoccurs often in art; Rembrandt, Eugène Delacroix, Gustave Doré, and Paul Gauguin, among others, are painters who have illustrated this very mysterious story of the Bible. Rembrandt suggests a strong sexual component and one wonders whether it is wrestling or dancing. Some thinkers have suggested that the wrestling with the angel also symbolizes the gift of creativity to geniuses, a completely anti-Faustian theory of creativity.

      In 1978, I had long conversations with the French Catholic poet Pierre Emmanuel (1916-84). At that time, he was considered one of the greatest French poets alive. I noticed the painful struggle which I perceived in him, between his Catholic faith and his talent as a poet. He often told me how goodness and beauty can be very inimical to each other, when the artist tries to live the life of faith.

      I taught him about the Principle of Creation and the Fall. He told me that he, and other Christian artists, often saw Jacob’s wrestling with the angel as the metaphor of any human creativity, whether in art or science. The person who has to invent new forms, unprecedented ideas, which will liberate humankind from its chains has to “fight” with the divine. In 1970, he had published “Jacob”, a long meditation on the biblical figure. In his lectures, he would often shock traditional audiences by revealing the strong sexual dimension that he perceived in the biblical story and the illustrations by artists.

      The Principle indeed suggests that the angel hitting the hip bone of Jacob was a restoration of the fall. If we take the wrestling with the angel as the biblical metaphor of human creativity after the Fall, it takes an opposite stand to Greek mythology, especially Prometheus. The Bible suggests that some “fight” has to take place between the divine and human beings, and the angel represents God. But this angel is here to help man overcome Satan’s sexual dominion and restore human sexuality on God’s side, albeit at a very symbolic stage.

      Whereas part of Western aesthetics likes to portray the artist as passively possessed by any kind of angelic inspiration, there is also a more Adamic trend, especially with artists like Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Bach, Beethoven, Victor Hugo, and others, where the artist creates in an extremely active and dynamic covenant with God, always transgressing man-made limitations to explore unchartered paths. These artists tried to be more disciplined (not always, I have to confess) than others. They wanted to create their own destiny, as much as they tried to create forms.

      Thank you again, David, for helping us be more clear about key notions of culture and the Principle.

  6. I was thinking of Freddie Mercury in the context of C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. In Letter #22, the senior devil, Screwtape, declares:

    “Music and silence — how I detest them both.”

    Screwtape prefers noise!

    “Noise, which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end.”

    Screwtape seems to fully comprehend the power of music — its ability to uplift, inspire and edify — to put us in touch with truth, goodness and our own divinity via the transcendent aspects of beauty. (Schiller’s idea of “aesthetic education”)

    Moreover, Screwtape intuits that silence affords us time to become contemplative and to ponder eternal verities. This in turn, provides us with a sense of value, which is anathema for Screwtape because despair, resentment and hopelessness are the emotions that give rise to revolutionary impulses — the impulses necessary to evoke rage and destroy the “old world” and its ties to the domain of “the Enemy.” Thus, music must be either avoided or eliminated.

    “The melodies and silences of heaven will be shouted down in the end,” Screwtape proclaims, “we are not yet loud enough.”

    Screwtape goes on: “As great sinners grow fewer, and the majority lose all their individuality, the great sinners become far more effective agents for us. Every dictator or even demagogue — almost every film-star or crooner — can now draw tens of thousands of human sheep with him. They give themselves to him…in him, to us…Catch the bell-wether and his whole flock comes after him (or her.) This has been our answer — and a magnificent answer it is.”

    This points yet again to the power of art and music in shaping attitudes and forging cultural identities. The cultural power of the “celebrity-industrial-complex” cannot be easily dismissed. A central tenet of Christian doctrine is that by creating a common base with Satan we allow our better selves to be diminished by engaging in selfish acts. Ego is the artist’s Achilles heel, as Screwtape surely understood.

    For people of faith, “celebritism” has added little redeeming value to our society and it becomes a hook that Satan uses to feed the artists ego and to fetter the conscience of the masses. Madison Avenue and Hollywood became the epicenters of cultural choice and serious accomplices in the development of narcissism and ego, what New York Times columnist David Brooks refers to as, “The Big Me.” We might imagine that Freddie Mercury was likely a “bell-wether” whose insecurities and proclivities were exploited to influence the “flock” in deleterious ways. Again, this points to the importance of understanding the responsibility of the artist in creating a culture of peace.

    • The insights you just brought are so cogent and central to the topic. They shed a powerful light on many aspects of contemporary culture, which I rarely saw expressed in such a way. I rejoice that the discussion on this film has brought such deep insights. And I feel that these additional points help us see some other dimensions of “Bohemian Rhapsody” (the movie) which I had insufficiently perceived. I am grateful to the Applied Unificationism blog for enabling us to have such discussions. We can learn from each comment and they help us enrich our thoughts.

  7. I feel the need to add something to the topic.

    When I was in my teens, music was my religion. I worshipped John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Jim Morrison. They seemed to understand what my parents did not understand. Then I loved Janis Joplin and Grace Slick.

    They seemed to know what life was all about. Then Bob Dylan, The Band, Van Morrison. I remember when we discussed “Let It Bleed” as if it were the Gospel. “When the Music’s Over” by The Doors became my national anthem. I felt these artists wanted to introduce the counterculture into our provincial lives. Some mates hit heroin or smoked dope or dropped out from school. At that time I read Kerouac, later Ginsberg and Corso. I envied everybody who had an American passport and who was not a victim of German history. We seemed completely lost in the shadow of that history, full of feelings of guilt.

    When I met the UC in my hometown I was a draft resister who hated the German army because of its past. I thought the UC was part of the counterculture movement. I loved the singing, the music, the prayer life style, the togetherness. All my Christian ideals came back and resurrected. When the persecution set in, I thought all those people with a Nazi past are out to get us. When my sister bought Queen records I really couldn’t stand them because of the “bombast rock”, but OK, Freddie Mercury fits into the paradigm just as well.

    For all of us who never experienced the living Messiah, but, basically, held on to books and speeches, it is a long way to discover a God of Love, of True Love. Books won’t help. Nietzsche actually is criticizing the self-hate of so-called Christians. Their concept of God is dead, he set out to find a new one. Goethe and Schiller were disgusted with the orthodox Lutheran Church of their time as well.

    When I met the Blue Tuna Band in Erlangen, it was a rebirth experience for me. Activism, speeches, music, prayer, togetherness unfolded into some kind of Gesamtkunstwerk; I really could feel and breathe. To meet a man who makes it to the top and still holds on to the people below is so rare, because all those who make it to the top forgot how it once was.

    • Thomas,

      Music was my religion as well. For me, Beethoven was my messiah and his apostles were Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Liszt, Dvorak, Mahler, Bruckner, Tchaikovsky. As much as I enjoyed pop music (I was in several rock bands), the classical composers were those who satiated my desires for spirituality. I believe that Father intuited that the classical musical tradition was a very deep expression of Chapter One in DP. The Beatles were among my favorites, but as their long-time recording engineer, Geoff Emrick wrote in his book. Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Beatles, when they recorded “All You Need Is Love,” they basically hated each other. Ego, jealousy and resentment contributed to their downfall.

      Like Marx, Nietzsche got some things right and some things wrong. Nietzsche, in Genealogy of Morals, opined that it was “disgraceful to be fortunate because there is too much misery” in the world. The so-called “right to happiness” was for him, a decidedly “bourgeois” ideal, thus having resentment was totally justified — moral, in fact. The archangelic emotion of resentment is now a serious driving force in our culture. Nothing good comes from it.

  8. Interesting development of this thread. Sprouting in many directions. Sorry if I attach another branch. 😉

    I was struck by that fact that many composers (too many to be just chance in my view)…reached their 8th composition but not their 9th! Why?

    Another hint to the spiritual foundation for music. Mahler, Vaughan Williams, Schubert, Beethoven, Bruckner, Dvorak, Spohr…all stumbled (several died) before passing the 9th hurdle.

    In this Founder’s speech from 1999 is a fitting quote that to go over the number nine there has to be a sacrifice.

  9. David,

    Thank you for your deep understanding of music and your heart to express it.

    When analyzing Laurent’s essay, I cannot help pointing out that the real context for rock icons is found in Theodore Roszak’s book The Making of a Counter Culture: Reflections on the Technocratic Society and Its Youthful Opposition. Roszak coined the term “counterculture”.

    This wave spilled over and many young people got wet by it. The word “beat” is already found within The Beatles. As there were so many good bands and songwriters, one really did not see the woods for the trees. In Germany, we had a very influential book called Rock Power by Helmut Salzinger, a left-wing Pop journalist. When you read it, you tend to buy all the albums he mentions. Seeing the film “Easy Rider” and other movies, this lifestyle was advertised and spread all over the world.

    The strange thing was that all your heroes had a tendency to die, they tended to self-destruct, their love affairs were short-lived, they obviously needed drugs to be creative and write songs.

    This is when Father’s biography comes in. He came as a fireman to the USA and he clearly describes what was going on around that time. If these rock stars had had a mentor like him, they would have overcome. Those who could not find a mentor of some quality, tended to self-destruct.

    When you grow up in the provinces, life is so utterly boring that you don’t define what is good/evil, but you follow what is boring/exciting. I see Freddie Mercury and many others disappearing in that maelstrom.

    I love the expression “speechless psyche” characterizing working-class teenagers who do not read Thomas Mann, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche or listen to Wagner, but “dance to the music” and enjoy the unity of mind and body. Lou Reed expressed it very well in one of his songs:

    “Jenny said, when she was just five years old
    There was nothin’ happening at all
    Every time she puts on the radio
    There was nothin’ goin’ down at all, not at all
    Then, one fine mornin’, she puts on a New York station
    You know, she couldn’t believe what she heard at all
    She started shakin’ to that fine, fine music
    You know, her life was saved by rock’n’roll.”

    • This year will be the 50th anniversary of Woodstock.

      There are two iconic photos of Woodstock — before and after — one depicting a sea of humanity reveling in the music of their idols on Max Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York, the other revealing the horrible mess of mud and refuse that was left behind.

      Juxtaposed, these two images might be emblematic a generation that grew up on rock and roll, loved to get high, party hard and indulge in “free love,” often with reckless abandon. Living the Bohemian lifestyle of carefree license, unfettered by so-called “traditional” values, became the fantasy of an entire generation, and music was at the vortex of that counterculture revolution. In retrospect, Woodstock may have turned out to be more of a moment rather than a movement, and as the “after” photo suggests, the Woodstock generation has been rather messy in the ensuing decades with regard to love, life and its pursuit of happiness.

      A central ethos of the “summer of love” and the social consciousness that was an overriding zeitgeist of that era, was the disdain for authority figures. “Don’t trust anyone over thirty,” became a popular mantra of the Woodstock generation as the groundswell of liberal populism permeated everything from politics to the media to the entertainment industry. We waxed poetic about peace, love and a universal brotherhood. Music was thought to be a force at the forefront of ushering in a utopian era in which greed, selfishness and all manner of “plastic” values would be negated. John Lennon and Yoko Ono implored us to “give peace a chance.” The hopes and dreams of an Aquarian Age in which “love would rule the stars” and we’d “study war no more” would become a reality — or so we thought.

      Lou Reed was mess, but then so was Nietzsche. The “grit” of the ’60s quickly turned into the “glam” of the ’70s and there was big money in rock music. Looking back 50 years can we find much in the way of “redeeming values” in rock/pop culture?

  10. Thank you all for the discussion which I feel has become deeper and deeper.

    When I try to see the world of rock music from a purely orthodox Unificationist viewpoint, there seems little that can be redeemed. Some of you have already pointed out the ideology of free sex, the use of heavy drugs. I would add that many songs had a definite blasphemous atmosphere, either explicit or subliminal. If we were in a court where rock music had to be judged, the prosecutor on God’s side would have a rather easy job. The rock music of the ’60s and ’70s was all of that and even more.

    In many cases, it was not very far from the direct dominion of Satan.

    And yet, there is also the other side of the whole story. There are the several, “yes … but”, which come to my mind. The prosecutor on God’s side should never become like the policeman Javert who was convinced that Jean Valjean in Les Misérables could only be a criminal. Worldwide, Les Misérables created a catharsis because it is about the redemption of a man sold to sin.

    What can be redeemed in rock music?

    1. I was not a musician myself, but I spent hours and hours listening to Cream, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, and my favorite group Procol Harum. I was very much into it through my teenage years. And yet, it did not prevent me from having a very strong experience of God at the age of 18, a life-changing experience, the deepest experience ever in my whole existence. Afterwards, despite decades of spiritual discipline, training, I have had many spiritual experiences as a Unificationist, but none of them ever had the same depth as the very first experience. How can we explain that? How could God have any interest in a “wretch like me”, who was rather “brainwashed” by rock music?

    2. If all these rock stars were all so corrupt, how come many of them (not all) were also sometimes very interested by spirituality? What kind of spirituality, you will ask me? The Beatles seemed to have been genuinely attracted by Indian mysticism, particularly George Harrison. In a way, part of the “counterculture” was just anti-Judeo Christian, period. But, and it may sound as a paradox, there was also a strong disenchantment with a purely rationalist and materialist outlook on life. Rock music captivated young people because there was something definitely magic into it. it was much more than mere entertainment. Though some artists were clearly playing with Luciferan symbols, other musicians were definitely knocking on the door of the spiritual dimension. I remember that many groups helped me a lot develop my imagination, my taste for art and literature, poetry, beauty. I never listened to their music to dance, but I listened to it while reading Balzac, Flaubert, Dostoyevsky, Proust. And there was not a real contraduction. I knew that it was not “great art”, but I coud sense a real creativity and a quest for meaning behind the “noisy” appearance.

    3. If rock music was so “countercultural”, then we need to find a good explanation for the mutual fascination between rock bands and classical orchestras. Deep Purple’s “Concerto for Group and Orchestra” (1969) is much more than a curiosity. Emerson, Lake and Palmer really tried to blend classical melodies and hard-rock sound and arrangements. We may say that as artists, they were revisiting the repertoire, and I do believe that it is a meaningful thing to do. When I see some concerts of Procol Harum with orchestra, especially in Ledreborg (Denmark) in 2006, I can see that rock music can be much more symphonic, deep, truly beautiful and in many ways elevating that one would expect. Freddie Mercury showed his immense talent in “Night at the Opera” (1976) and later on, as I wrote, he turned to opera style with Montserrat Caballé for the music of “Barcelona”. Even The Doors had their own experiment with classical music in their controversial album The Soft Parade (1968). This is because there was not only one side in Jim Morrison. He was a much more complex person that his stage persona. He and Ray Manzarek (keyboards) were men of great culture. They were in search of the world “on the other side”.

    I would like to conclude by saying that I advocate an Augustinian approach to rock music. Saint Augustine touches many souls because of his book The Confessions. Before becoming a great Catholic saint and theologian, Augustine had been a very sensual person. A man who loved beauty, pleasure, and who enjoyed the splendor of the decadent Roman empire. He had been a proud Roman.

    On the one hand, one might say that Augustine as a saint burned what he had worshipped as a sinner, and threw everything in the dustbin after his conversion. But on the other hand, the Augustine who was a sinner and the Augustine who became a saint is the same person. His conversion revealed the heart that was already in him while he kept sinning.

    After his conversion, Augustine kept all his talents and his style is extremely beautiful, enchanting. He is able to talk about God and spiritual matters with amazing beautty and, yes, sensuality. Moreover, Augustine had the courage to tell what kind of sinner he had been, and all the bad things he had done, when he did not know God.

    It is because of men like him that Christianity is not a fundamentalism, a dogmatic and simplistic religion. It is a rich culture, with a very open reflection on men and women. In our movement, Hyo-jin Moon took a very strange course. Personally, I never really enjoyed his music; it is not my style. But I can relate to Father’s and Mother’s deep love for this very special son, a real man. I would never like to have his life. But his life often makes me think of religious life, spirituality, the quest of God and other topics with another view. Today, his face welcomes us in the Cheongpyeong prayer hall. More than providing “answers”, his life raises many open questions. And one of them is, “How shall we influence the world with our Unificationist culture? How shall we make people dance, dream, and celebrate?”

  11. What is shimjung? It is the irresistible impulse to give joy. For some artists this is definitely the motivation when they start to unwind.

    “Put that mike in my hand, And let me kick out the jams!” A mate we used to call “Jesus” because of his long blond hair, wrote every single letter of that text in capital and hung it on the wall of our study room. Because of our inhibitions we felt like we were nobodies destined to become nobodies. The MC5 did it for us, it was a laugh and it drove the Catholic priests up the wall. These two lines are deeply felt and understood. Freedom consists in one’s ability to express oneself without being afraid of the majority. Yes, you can do that, too!

    When you hear the thunder of “Street fighting man”, you want to break through this sterile world, you want to tear down the Berlin Wall, you want to do it! You define yourself as a revolutionary in a positive sense and witness on the streets. Hey, there’s an irresistable impulse there in me! I am one.

    Mick Jagger inspired me to read “Master and Margarita”, after I heard “Sympathy for the Devil”. The whole Russian novel is a masterpiece of creation and pictures a Jesus who finds God in everyone, even in his torturer. This might be a thought of SMM, too.

    He could do that. Can we?

    When I was in Chungpyung and heard the sound of the shamanistic drum, the rhythm, it was like the beginning of “Who do you love?” from the “Absolutely Live” album.

    I kind of met Jim Morrison there and waited for him to sing:

    “I walked 47 miles on barbed wire
    Cobra snake for a necktie
    Built a house by the roadside
    Made of rattlesnake hide
    Brand new chimney made on top
    Made out of human skulls
    Come on, baby, take a walk with me
    Tell me who do you love?”

    True Parents of course!

    Didn’t he sing of his spiritual experience in “Peace Frog”? He did. We find out, now.

    When I was fundraising and had lost all my energy, I stood at a supermarket and the loudpeakers played “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child” by Van Morrison. I felt God’s sympathy so deeply. He knows my shimjung, he says I’m there with you, at your side. Many times I heard comforting songs or uplifting cds in the car. Whom do you love? The revolution, True Parents, God…

    Van’s album “Beautiful vision” is like a prayer, so are other albums. When you hear “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”, you think of the Messiah walking the streets of New York, sacrificing his life. This was a revelation, wasn’t it?

    When I listen to “Lost and Found” by the Kinks I feel Ray Davies understood my matching experience in New York. When I see the video with the tragic hero, I feel so similar.

    Genuine rock is the very impulse of the shimjung, otherwise we wouldn’t need it.

    Otherwise it wouldn’t do. I remember Joe Cocker giving a concert in my home town and the taxi driver told me: “Only the best champagne, only the best food. These guys lived as there was no tomorrow!” (In anger) Then I watch the Woodstock version “With a little help from me friends” and I love it. Listen to the prayer of Ritchie Havens “Freedom”. What a performance.

    The best things are always taken by Satan, so it is rock, but I would love to talk to Jim Morrison or Ray Manzarek. Then we’ll sing “LA Woman” together.

    When I feel really bad, I take my Neil Young CD and listen to it on my way to work. It lifts me up every time.

    Of course, I could go on and on. The good rock music is straight, honest, authentic, takes a stand against injustice and fills your heart with joy. Remember: an irresistable impulse to break that grey cement world up.

    • Interesting point here, Thomas.

      All of this begs several questions: What effect does a person’s morality play on one’s creative endeavors? Does enjoying Wagner’s music or The Doors mean that one is giving tacit credence to questionable worldviews, or that one is either anti-Semitic or anti-Christian? Dr. Young Oon Kim posits that art possesses a “transmoral” dimension, and as such the aesthetic qualities of a Ming dynasty vase, or a Wagner opera, or a fine pop song stand apart from the morality of the artists who did the creating. As Dr. Kim posits:

      “It is in the transmoral dimension of aesthetic experience that beauty approaches God. All the laws from and within God — give and take, polarity, harmony — connect beauty from all cultures. And to the extent that they clearly amplify and substantiate God’s nature they evoke a response of love and appreciation from man. Since God represents absolute love and freedom, beauty is never confined.”

      In Dr. Kim’s view, imagination, combined with considerable talent, technique and discerning taste are the fundamental elements that determine the aesthetic qualities of a particular artwork regardless of an artist’s moral, ethical and political inclinations. In this respect, it is not easy to overlook the deep humanity of Wagner’s music, regardless of what we may feel about his moral proclivities, his life choices, his politics, or Hitler.

      One of my favorite pop songs is Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock,” in which she sings:

      “We are stardust,
      Billion year-old carbon.
      We are golden,
      Caught in the devil’s bargain,
      And we’ve got to get back to the Garden.”

      This profound lyric, combined with her haunting melody is classic — timeless, IMO. Regardless of Mitchell’s politics or life choices, this song rings true on a central, reverberating level (at least for me).

      “O great creator of being, grant us one more hour to perform our art and perfect our lives.”

      So, who was it that offered this sacred petition to the Almighty? Martin Luther? Johann Sebastian Bach? Mozart? Beethoven? Brahms?

      I might have thought it was one of these esteemed musicians, but in fact, it was bad-boy rocker, Jim Morrison of The Doors. Surprised? Me too! It goes without saying that in the late 20th century where secular materialism and crass commercialism are so pervasive, expressions of religious faith vis-à-vis art and culture have become as rare as the proverbial snowball in hell — and from a Rock music icon, no less. Morrison’s plea, from The Door’s final album, “An American Prayer,” is especially pertinent in that it reflects a traditional religious view about creativity that was completely in accord with the views of Luther, Bach, Brahms, and others of a bygone age. Jim Morrison as an avatar of traditional religious expression vis-à-vis art and music? Who knew?

      • I guess it is a sign of maturity if you can live without “the noise”. The older you get, the more you need tranquility, peace of mind, meditation, prayer life. The music that you listened to in your teens, tends to be shallow. It mirrors the minds of its composers; it does not generate a refined spiritual atmosphere. There comes a time when even The Beatles sound superfluous, commercial, sticky. You need wings to fly, but Paul McCartney doesn’t have any. Thus you roll over Chuck Berry and tell Keith Richards the news.

        Having said that, I told my daughter at the end of the year that in Bonn I heard people play Beethoven’s 9th to break through into the New Year. To my surprise Sarah said: “What songs shall we play at your funeral?” After a while I said: “The Long and Winding Road” and “Let It Be.”

        • Thomas,

          I believe you’re correct in your observation regarding maturity. As we grow older we tend to seek deeper expressions of heart. That which is superficial becomes less satisfying, even if it was music that we may have enjoyed, or found meaningful, in our youth.

          Back in 1983 in South America, I was in a meeting with Father and he said that musicians should study the classical tradition because those composers were able to express so many deep emotions through their music, therefore gaining a foundation in the classical realm was foundational. Then he said to combine the classical tradition with the “Abel-type” aspects of other styles — Pop, Rock, Gospel, Jazz, Folk — and then he declared, “That’s New Age music!”

          That’s a very Unificationist concept — we called it “merge music.”

          As a music student in college I was composing in ways that incorporated classical and rock. I joined a Rock-Symphony ensemble called “Wunderlee” that attempted to synthesize classical and pop in the manner of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Yes, Procol Harum, and other “progressive rock” groups. The band Chicago attempted this type of merge on their second album that included a 12-minute rock ballet score. Paul McCartney also tried this on his “Ecce Cor Meum” album combining pop and classical, but without much success as I recall.

  12. Congratulations to Laurent Ladouce for writing a provocative, mind-expanding review of the film “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The comments here are equally mind-bending and a delight to read and contemplate.

    For me, my last 50 years of life in America, in New York and Washington, DC, has helped me to understand how sexual freedom and music has created, for good and for bad, a culture that goes beyond religion and beyond Christianity. True Father said that after restoration is complete, the world would move to create a new culture of heart, beyond the accusations of the fall and the guilt that humanity has suffered under the teachings of religions which were inspired by God, but influenced by men. Freddie Mercury, Elvis Presley, Madonna, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and others are agents of change to challenge the culture of false shame and guilt. They create chaos and darkness, but as a preamble for a true world, ruled by the logic of love and heart. Everything needs to be recreated.

  13. Here’s a touch of German rock and roll. The song is called “Monday Song“. As most people “don’t like Mondays”, Wolf Maahn is determined to turn his Monday around and creates a light, bright, exciting Monday. That’s what true creativity is all about: to overcome a cliché, to see something in a new light, to make the circumstances dance. Not a giant step for mankind, but already small things can save your day. The purpose of creation is joy.

    • Thank you, Thomas, for this sample of German rock music. To return to the topic of Queen and Freddie Mercury, please enjoy on YouTube the interpretation of “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” by Max Raabe and the Palast Orchestra. Max Raabe is a famous German artist and modern dandy of great style and an amazing sense of humor. He likes to revisit all the standards of jazz, music hall and rock music. His rendition of two emblematic songs of Queen is both a parody of their style and a tribute to Freddie Mercury. I hope this touch of humor will be welcome in our serious discussion of the film “Bohemian Rhapsody” and rock music.

      • Eh bien, I will print this article out and read it in the subway and railway again and all over again, as I am a patient commuter with earphones. I did like a Queen album by the way, the one about the spirit world, it’s called “Made in Heaven”. It sounded as Freddie Mercury knew he was about to die and looked back on his life giving out a warning. I especially loved this song. Laurent, thank you for your insight and love towards the subject. This has been one of the best articles coming from the new world to me, because your heart was in it. Merci beaucoup et toujours l’amour!

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