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Satanic Messages

November 22, 2009

I was searching my favorite classic rock legends on youtube the other day, just to play something  and test out a video driver I had rolled back to, as I had a few hiccups after an upgrade. I some how found my self on a website called songfacts.com and specifically, the page about Stairway To heaven.

One of the comments left reads as follows:

First I want to make it clear… I am not a religious person, I do not attend church, nor do I have a bible I thump. I do not believe in the personification of a deity called “Satan”. So I do not have a religious agenda to push. My interest in Pages satanic backwards messages in Stairway to Heaven, is purely from a desire to expose the truth. Whether Page believes in satan, or worships this fictional deity, I do not know, nor do I really care. What I am more interested in is the elaborate deception. Some have suggested that the phrases found in this song, when played backward, are coincidence, or things people wish to hear. I reject this hypothesis because, though it might have been easy to dismiss one or two such bits, when collected together, they stay within a consistent theme. One of these phrases consists of eight words that form a coherent sentence that fits this theme. The bits are: 1) My sweet satan 2) The one whose little path would make me sad, whose power is Satan. 3) He will give those with him 666. 4) There was a little tool shed where he made us suffer, sad Satan. 5) We shall all fall if we lose feathers Statistically speaking, there is no way that the word satan could appear so many times in one song by accident. Statistically speaking, having phrases that are coherent, consisting of 8-13 words backwards, by accident, is impossible… period. The fact that they all are also part of a coherent theme, makes it undeniably intentional. Now Page had already pioneered backwards masking, a technique where you physically cut the tape and re-insert it flipped backwards. So he was more than familiar with the concept. But here is the deal… when you flip something backwards it is easily picked up by our ears/brain as being backwards. Example, the backwards clip on Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”, which mentions a contest to enter if you find the secret backwards message. Page and Plant have denied that there is backward masking on Stairway, and they are telling the truth. The messages were not placed there using backwards masking, that would have been obvious and easy to recognize. The technique Page used was far more creative and devious. First Page played around with phrases he wanted to include, recorded them forwards, then played them backwards to hear what they sounded most like. After determining what words worked both forwards and backwards, he reconstructed the sentences to be dual purpose. Hence, there is no backwards masking. Having edited sound professionally for over 20 years, I have done experiments to prove this method, it’s not hard to do. Further more, Page wanted people to look for these messages, and included instructions, in the forward lyrics. “There’s a sign on the wall, but she wants to be sure, because you know sometimes words have two meanings.” This is a clear declaration that the words have two meanings. The song itself, which is very melancholy, is about making the choice between good and evil, “Yes there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road your on.” And in the climactic finale, the lyrics reveal their chosen path: “And as we wind on down the road, our shadows taller than our souls..” Suggesting that their sinful deeds have eclipsed their souls. Again, I have no religious agenda, I do not believe in satan. Personally, I believe that these messages were placed in the song to create hype and controversy, which is exactly what they did. Page made a concerted effort, from the design of the album, including references to the occult and astrology/tarot, and the enigmatic symbols representing the band members, to the careful crafting of the song Stairway including it’s double meanings, to create something mysterious and magical. Something that would stir emotion and imagination for generations. A quote from Page: “Every musician wants to do something of lasting quality, something which will hold up for a long time and I guess we did it with “Stairway”. Clearly Page put more thought and engineering into Stairway, than any other song. I think Page succeeded in his goal, but I think it is important that people have the opportunity to see the truth as well. Some facts to consider: 1) Jimmy Page owned an occult bookstore in England. Where he sold Crowley’s books. 2) Page was a devote follower of Alistair Crowley. 3) Page purchased and lived in the Boleskin house, Crowley’s former residence. 4) The scene in Song Remains the Same, where Jimmy Page (With glowing red eyes) is sitting and cranking out music on a tiny music box, was shot behind the Boleskin house. Any one item by themselves, may seem ridiculous, but when they are all brought together, the pattern is undeniable. Whether because Page actually believes in satan, or whether it was all an elaborate hoax, the intent was genuine and carefully calculated. It has also been suggested that listeners hear what they are prompted to hear. While this theory may hold some truth, after all, the power of suggestion can be strong. When I first spun my old vinyl album backwards, the only phrase that had been suggested to me at the time, was the “My sweet satan”. The rest was just obvious to my ears, and I think it is no coincidence that it syncs with the overall general consensus of the backwards messages. Today bands that want to include satanic themes into their music, do it directly, in-your-face. But back then, in 1971, it was still too controversial to take the direct approach. In my humble opinion, adding mystique to a body of work, is usually a great thing, it adds more dimension to the work and makes the audience bring their own imagination into the mix. Many bands of the day did it, some more successfully than others. What I object to is the deception and the lies. In a clip presented here, a DJ takes a caller, who asks Page about the Crowley home rumors. However, the caller makes two mistakes, he refers to Crowley’s Castle in England. Page dodges this question adeptly, as it is incorrect, he answers that Crowley never had one, and he never lived in one. This is true, because the Boleskin House, though it may have been a “Castle” to Crowley, was not a proper castle in any sense of the word, and it was located in Scotland, not England. But what is more interesting is that Page didn’t point this out. He was content to dodge the question and make the caller look like a fool. What does Page have to hide? If he is not a follower of the occult, so obsessed with Crowley that he had to buy and live in the house he owned… then why not admit to the truth? I still listen to Led Zeppelin, but when I listen to Stairway, I keep in mind that “..you know sometimes words have two meanings.”
– Jimmy, Boleskin house, United Kingdom

This was one of the wiser ones on the page which seems to be preoccupied with the words people believe they hear when this song is played backwards. While I do agree that there are often what sounds like intelligible voices to be heard, that it’s doesn’t constitute an intentional  message and that is the first issue to be resolved before we bestow upon these sounds, any tile as implicitly premeditated or deliberate as ‘messages’ or ‘words’.

The superstitious claims about ‘satanic messages’ in Stairway To Heaven are just laden with fail by hidden assumptions. At the worst extreme you have those who assume that the mythological character of ‘Satan’ exists in the first place. Then within that, is the assumption that garbled noises which may be cognitively reconstructed as speech, but which also happen to resemble phrases, which in turn happen to subjectively appear to ‘be about’ religious concepts of sin, hell and ‘Satan’ conform quite conveniently to the interpretation of those subjects, within the conceptual framework of a particular religious ideology. My interest in this goes back to the mid eighties, when I met and visited the home of one David Oats, the fellow who formulated a hypothesis that the subconscious mind constructs speech with the opportunistic intent to communicate subconscious thoughts by simultaneously constructing a forward (deliberate) message and a backward (unintentional) message into speech. Oat’s wrote ‘Beyond Backward Masking – Reverse Speech & The Voice Of The Inner Mind. This ‘voice’ was known as ‘Reverse Speech’.

I have since contemplated various experiments by which this hypothesis could be tested, and I find it interesting that there seems to have been no proper scientific attempts by ‘RS researchers’, to provide any solid empirical validation, yet they market and do trade in training courses, therapies and other RS associated products and services. I guess that whether something can be used to make money is the only test some people require. I’m not one of them. Nevertheless there is a difficult epistemological problem with establishing a (group of) sound/s as a WORD. It would in my opinion be required that ‘intent’ be positively be established before any sound could meaningfully be ascribed the imprimatur that something actually IS a word.

A word is a sound INTENDED to convey meaning. However much a (group of) sound/s may resemble a word or phrase it is nothing more than a (group of) sound/s, and certainly nothing as meaning filled as words or phrases, unless you establish prior intent to convey meaning. That is a separate issue that is glossed over and taken into the bargain, as it also assumed that the resemblance to meaningful speech is ‘too coincidental’. Buying into established implausibility (the argument from personal incredulity), is just another less than rigorous indulgence of choice, in the annals of the pseudo science establishment. It is not demonstrated with anything even closely resembling rigorous statistical calculation / measurement / experimentation, but plucked authoritatively out of thin air. It may seem intuitively that the resemblance  some sample of a voice reversed has, to meaningful speech is improbable, but that is just intuition. Intuition of an exceedingly subjective nature might I add. If you want to demonstrate that you are not just reading your own meaning into the sounds, you have to point to proper double blind studies that establish this resemblance to meaningful speech as being anything more than what is expected by mundane coincidence. Case in point here, is that there are sometimes (and not all that rarely) numerous different interpretations of the very same tract of so called ‘speech’ in the proposed backwards message. Oats himself alludes to something he calls ‘audio illusions’ when a passage of sound, that being a single voice played in reverse, happens to sound like two or more different, alternative (but mutually inconsistent) tracts of alleged speech, he dubs it ‘audio illusory’, but falls short of noting the implication, that If one of those tracts is a subconsciously ‘intended’ message then the other is a testimony to the kind of coincidence the RS conjecture invented to avoid.

The fact of the matter is, given range of phonemes produced by playing ordinary speech backwards, is limited precisely to the same degree that the forward speech is limited by. These reverse phonemes are by consequence, limited to those which follow from the reversal of ordinary forward speech. That is to say that these sounds are not just random sounds, they are constrained by the dynamic range of the vocal apparatus firstly, and then by it’s tendency to construct speech like sounds when employed for construction of natural speech.

The propensity for any piece of gibberish, to coincidently sound like one or more meaningful passages of speech is only limited by the imagination, in the adhoc seach for speech but it’s chances of success are amplified by the constraint that the backward noises, very necessarily already ‘sound like’ speech as a constraint of the fact that it actually IS speech albeit reversed. You mightn’t be able to anticipate what a spoken voice will would appear to say when played backwards, but the fact that it will sound like speech and have a taxonomy of phonemes that are constrained by ordinary natural forward speech, should come as no surprise, because it actually IS constrained this way. It yields far more opportunity to manifest coincidental words and phrases just because it actually is noise made out of spoken words. The problem with the RS lobby is that they take this assumption about the improbability of a coincidence for granted. Nobody Has established that.

The ‘coincidence’ of the apparent speech in the sounds of the reversed noise is far more probable than say the voice suddenly happening to resemble the sound of a barking dog or a car engine revving, or a stick being dragged across a corrugated iron fence or a flushing toilet. How do we actually KNOW how (im)probable any piece of apparent speech is anyhow? Even if we take into account the constraints that require the backward sounds, to be ‘speech like’. The appearance of any potentially meaningful words is fraught with the need to ASSUME the existence of deliberate intent, BEFORE meaning can be attributed, but the claim that attempts to establish any proposed tract of meaningful speech, is made in hindsight.

The truth I have learned in the years since my foray into reverse speech, includes the revelation that ‘truth’ itself is often counter intuitive. People especially have a poor intuitive grasp of probability, and what seems intuitively likely or unlikely, is often coloured by hidden assumptions and subjective bias. The existence of more than one interpretation of the proposed ‘ reverse message’ gives the lie to this proposed (assumed) intent of meaning. If there WAS any one particular INTENTIONAL subconscious meaning, then the other alternative interpretations, which Oats dubs ‘audio illusions’ would then have to be taken as ordinary mundane coincidences, and if those ones can be sacrificed as mundane coincidence, then why not any and all of them.

If having one message appear is ‘too coincidental’ (improbable) to be explained by mundane happenstance, then how improbable is it, when more than one interpretation simultaneously exists in the same sounds of reversed speech? If it could be assumed they were both intended messages, the coincidence would be ultra-phenomenal indeed, but clearly the fact that two tracts of speech can simultaneously sound like two phrases with completely different meanings, is better evidence for how any arbitrary group of phonemes, is likely to sound similar to something meaningful by coincidence alone. The coincidence is clearly not that great, when the patterns we call speech have such incredibly small differences between them that they can often be mistaken for one another with little or no modification. If you think about it this is just as true in ordinary forward speech. The Freudian slip is a classic example. You fumble your words but instead of this resulting in meaningless nonsense, you instead accidentally fabricate an alternative but completely meaningful expression.

When you are relying on fairly loose interpretation of ambiguous gibberish and poetic licence to choose from a panoply of subtle nuances it is no surprise at all, that speech can be extracted from gibberish. But even given the most seemingly Implausible examples, at what point do we stop and say ‘well such implausible coincidence is either due to an unexplained phenomenon, OR I have gotten my some of my starting premises wrong’? One class of muddleheaded thinking bestows privilege upon it’s own baseless assumptions, if the evidence interpreted from it’s flawed vantage point, appears somehow to imply that the mundane explanation, is ‘too coincidental’ (to be probable) then the only alternative must be, that the proponents favourite speculative hypothesis, is being vindicated. That mindset, never allows anomalous results to imply that it’s starting assumptions are at fault (even though they are tendered with no qualification or testing and do not automatically stand to reason). Instead the anomaly itself (built on the same faulty assumptions) is taken ipso facto to be heralded as evidence, in support of the far fetched idea.

If you don’t understand Occam Razor, then you won’t get much of what I have said, but, reasoning and critical thinking are not natural intuitive skills that can be picked up from gossip columns. Most people don’t have anything like the required understanding and skill set to reach valid conclusions and avoid common fallacies. In subjects like this, which hinge on our misguided intuitive sense of probability, the problem stands out like a sore thumb. I should explain that I was an avid researcher of reverse speech, and contributed one of the ‘reversals’ in Stairway, which I reported to David Oats. On the forwards lyrics “and it makes me wonder” you can “there’s no excapein’ it” I actually bought into the idea on the same unestablished premise, that the apparent tracts of reversed speech were ‘too coincidental’. However, I at least, wasn’t content with this being as it was, an unsubstantiated conclusion. I had enough respect for and appreciation of rational inquiry, to want an objective empirical result and I even devised tests which could procure such results. Knowing then as I did that if it were a real phenomenon, nature could and would reveal it in scientific tests.

No such tests have never been applied to my knowledge, by the proponents of RS, and I have since come to realise the flaws in our intuitive grasp of probability and the common deceptions of pseudo-science, nearly always rely on this faulty, subjective intuition about probability. By far the strongest argument for the non mundane conjecture, was this single example of ‘reverse speech’ exemplified by Stairway. It DID seem just far too implausible to not be deliberate. I have noted the measured contemplation of ‘Jimmy’ above who weighs up the evidence in a similar way I did, prior to my enlightenment regarding reason and our unintuitive sense of probability. While his estimate of the coincidence value, is not any better supported than any naive subjective bias, his contribution of a rational explanation for this particularly anomalous example is on the money.

Even people attempting to justify this with mundane rational explanations, tend from the outset, to rule out the possibility that it could be deliberately be done. And that is assumed for the same reasons, that lead anybody to speculate that the whole phenomenon is improbable. That messages in two opposing directions could coexist. The idea that you could play with intonations wording and phrasing, to deliberately create some coherent speech in both directions, would not be as difficult as it sounds, once you accept that not even the forward lyrics have to be chosen in advance. The lyrics only need to convey a theme that can be reworded, paraphrased and intoned differently etc.

There are potentially infinite variations within the context of the overall message. That is not the same as backmasking of course (in which a deliberately reversed voice is embedded), and would be much trickier, but with persistence and patience (along with unlimited studio time), you could have your vocally enhanced dramatisation of the seemingly ‘(too) coincidental’ forward and complimentary reverse messages, by retrofitting; deliberate ‘reverse engineering’, with artificial selection to hone and perfect any variation which sounds superficially like a suitable supporting tract.

Given that Stairway is the most convincing example from a pro RS / pro ‘backward message’ POV, and that the other examples from the music industry are somewhat weaker, I contend that there is just no case to answer. Stairway would ultimately be a deliberate ploy to go one better than backmasking, while the weaker examples are merely meaningless noise, which may sound superficially like words, with all benefits that are the providence of baseless assumptions. I don’t make this estimation from an unresearched and uninformed POV. I have been a devoted adherent and pro RS researcher, but in the full light of critical thinking and rationality, I can only confer the lack of any established case and point out the vacuous nature of the claim which could have been tested by now. I have to admit, to my own chagrin that RS is BS and the alleged implausibility of some coincidences are not established on firm empirical grounds (even though it would be easy to do so).

The onus to demonstrate any claim is, as always, on the claimant and as the RS researcher or satanic message conspiracy theorist is entitled to do (or commission) the research and publish proper formal and scientifically valid arguments to establish that there IS empirical justification for the previously assumed premise. To do so would necessarily put in on a firm footing that any apparent ‘message’ is more than could be explained by the law of averages emerging by random coincidence but moreover defined as more than meaningless noise defined as meaningful speech by retrospective ad-hock confabulation. The fact that even such small expectations as qualifying the starting assumptions are ignored, it flags the whole enterprise as pseudo-science, willing to ride the coattails of mass naivety in the manner of dogmatic religious belief, rather than proactively provide both means and ends to falsification and test the central claim in the manner of science.

I picked up this interest when it surfaced in the late 80’s and now more than twenty years later, the state of formal academic research, seems to betray the failure of RS to even justify it’s starting assumptions, let alone establish the validity of it’s main claims.

As for the satanic part of the claims. Do I even need to point out the fact that just because somebody can say the word ‘Satan’ doesn’t make it a meaningful word or the name of a real entity. The fact that the alleged speech which is not empirically established as anything more than coincidentally speech like sounds retrofitted for intended meaning in hindsight, can also make reference to a fictional character of a particular bronze age fantasy, does nothing to establish the veracity of that fantasy, or the reality of the character nor even the meaningfulness of such words as satanic. Satan is a fictional being and so the term ‘satanic’ is about as meaningful as ‘toothfairyic’, regardless of whether such banter about it, is taken from fanciful, ad hoc, audio simulacrums or deliberately spoken forward speech.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 22, 2009 7:44 pm

    “Satan is a fictional being and so the term ’satanic’ is about as meaningful as ‘toothfairyic’”

    I like this statement. 🙂

  2. jeshua permalink
    March 25, 2010 12:58 pm

    I found satanic subliminal backmasking message in the heavy metal band from USA – CAGE. It is in the CD release HELL DESTROYER – released in 2007 – track no. 10 – Cremation of care. If you play the song backwards you can hear the satanic message: “Rise master. Hail mighty satan! – 4x, We await your arrival. Deliver unto us armageddon.”

    • March 28, 2010 12:57 am

      Hi Jeshua. There are many such messages planted in commercial hard rock / heavy metal. Are you calling it satanic because it happens to mention a mythical being called Satan? I suppose that a message mentioning Fred Flintstone would have to be regarded as ‘flintstonic’ then. Of course the question of whether the implicit motive of engineering a deliberate ‘subliminal message’ has any tangible effect on the listener is a separate question. I once assumed it was effective and read about some informal experiments that had been done in the media, claiming dramatic results. This now seems a lot more fanciful to me since I have learned about the standards of professional scientific research, with it’s double blind experiments (to rule out false positives and noise) and peer review publication etc. If there were some merit in subliminal communications, then the psychological sciences would have been beset with a minor revolution and the experiments would have been confirmed, papers published and somebody would now be as famous for legitimate research establishing complex information rich subconscious conition, as Sigmund Fraud was for his bogus pseudo-scientific concepts of the collective unconscious and Psychoanalysis.

      Incidently, I have no Idea why anybody would profess to worship Satan. That just makes them so incredibly stupid in every way a fundamentalist nut job is, because this verifies their acceptance that the scripture is valid historically and factually, and that they accept the fact that Satan is not a fictional character from an ancient myth, but rather a real entity. It clearly follows, that the implicit validity of the Bible, would establish a mandate, that the hero of the story (Yahweh), who is destined by limitless, miraculous, divine powers, to triumph over evil. I is mooted he will mercilessly torture those who do not repent and worship him, eat particular foods, abstain from sabbath stick gathering excursions as well as numerous actions more trivial than putting a wet spoon back into the sugar bowl. People who manage to become convinced, that this is anything other than primitive fantasy fiction, replete with ludicrous absurdity, contradiction, fallacy, and abysmal ignorance of nature, should realize that it isn’t possible to worship Satan, without vesting credibility in the divine authorship of the Bible. If they want to burn in a lake of fire for eternity, it would be a reasonable strategy. Even then, their conviction about the authenticity of the Bible aught to be a septate matter.

      I don’t think these people believe what they profess to for a minute. The motive for rebellious, anti-establishment dissidence, is obviously to cause controversy and sensationalize their image with sinister, mystical symbolism using death, Hell and Satan things the masses are already conditioned to be afraid of. This tactic plays right into the hands of the church, as they will point to the reckless lifestyle of the die hard metal fan / performer and each overdose, car accident, and drug addiction etc, will be bandied around as the outcome of pure evil, that the devil dispenses amongst his worshipers. Endorsing something many people consider evil, however fictional it may be, is tantamount to being a puppet for the authors of the myth and a cheap slut for attention and publicity. It isn’t clear to me, if very many people still don’t recognize back-masking as deliberately dubbed in messages, with a separate voice track, being played in reverse while being mixed onto the master. The idea that some kind subconscious communication is being intercepted and channeled from Satan or God or even the little green men, is a compelling one but not because of any plausibility factors. The back-masked message is deliberately done in the studio and it’s easy to identify. The voice delivering the back-masked message will still be present when the song is played forwards, but because the message is dubbed in backwards, it will sound like gibberish when played forwards and intelligible vocals when played backwards.

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