Since Plato’s times music was considered to be the highest form of art, because it does not just reproduce some aspects of sensible reality as it happens in the case of visual arts (painting and sculpture), but is able to create a reality which is different and independent from what one’s years can perceive in nature. But Plato himself grants music, thanks to its deep action on the human mind, a peculiar power. He calls it “psychotropic”, that is, capable of moving our psyche.
There is a tight connection between music and the sacred, and the anthropological and ethnological studies of the last decades have highlighted the importance of this connection inside the great religious experiences of humanity. In fact, since long ago, in shamanic experience, music was experienced as a ritual tool, a means to create altered states of consciousness so as to come into contact with deities.
For people who are Christian and believe in God, and who consequently claim the existence of His opposite, that is, the devil, music as a means of transportation for emotions and alterations is not a subject to be underestimated, let alone declassified as a joke.
Let us begin with its positive side. In the Christian contemporary – although not Catholic – field, survive interesting forms of use of music for ecstatic purposes; suffice it to remember the century-old habit of North American Protestant religious culture which uses traditional musical forms born from complex intercultural processes due to ethnic minorities deported to that continent – especially black people from Africa – in order to generate in those who partake in the celebrations a psychotropic effect; from the use of percussive African rhythms inn the so-called “Indian orgies” of the Shakers, members of US Protestant congregations of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, to the spiritual tradition and contemporary blues, from which rock music was born in the 50’s.
Without desire to artificially exaggerate the danger of the so-called satanic rock to society and without falling into the typically Protestant paranoia of subliminal messages hidden in rock songs – messages which, of course, exist and are well known thanks to scholars like Paul Baroni – there is no doubt that musical traditions like death metal and heavy metal contain powerful cultural trends which are strongly anti-Christian, in which blasphemous iconography is rampant. Belonging to the ranks of fans manifests through the use of satanic and occult symbols. Those manifestations can remain – as in most cases they do so – simply a teenage rebellion, but for a fringe of those people – quantitatively marginal, but existing and working – adherence to those codes is no at a simple aesthetic experience, but becomes a spiritual and ideological choice.
The risky element is precisely the underestimation of the phenomenon. Defining everything as pure outward manifestation of rebellion does not offer adequate protection to young people who, on the contrary, are embroiled in real pseudo sects and do not only ruin their own lives, but somehow open the gates of hell through evocations. In this sense, there are groups ready to welcome recruits with a program of rules to follow which are a genuine path of operant conditioning. The groups of “acid Satanism” such as the infamous “Beasts of Satan”, composed mainly of young people who prefer violent acts, drug use, sexual orgies. These groups are connected with activities of desecration and sacrificial rituals. An insult to those who retains all forms of approach to music as something harmless.
Besides the terrible example of the Beasts of Satan, in Italy happened also a case which involved a band that had profaned cemeteries. They used the stolen artifacts to create eerie atmospheres and performed magic rituals during their shows, sacrificing animals. Some of them have been indicted and arrested, whereas the group continued its musical activity.
Taken from “The metamorphosis of the sacred in postmodern society”, a chapter by Adolfo Morganti