Disclaimer; I would like to pre-empt any problems by presenting you with three initial things to consider:
- I am not a literary expert. I have read all the books referenced, except for ‘The God Delusion‘, but not recently so there may be mistakes. This is meant to be more of a list of the references in the songs for anyone who wanted to read more into it.
- I am not against the idea of Christianity or the idea of God. I’m way more interested in the logic used in the arguments for and against the ideas so there may be mistakes.
- I wrote this while drunk as hell. There will probably be mistakes.
‘You are trying to save me, but perhaps I am not lost!’
-‘The Grand Inquisitor I: Karamazov Baseness‘
‘I think the devil doesn’t exist, but man has created him, he has created him in his own image and likeness.’
Despite receiving Anthropocentric as a Christmas present, it only took the remaining 6 days of the year for it reach the status of my favourite album of 2010. I was completely blown away by the music, the album packaging and most of the all the lyrics. Robin Staps was quoted as saying that the whole album was hugely influenced by the works of Friedrich Nietzsche and the Dostoyevsky novel, The Brothers Karamazov, a tale at face value of three wildly different sons, an illegitimate son, their indulgent father and the trial surrounding his murder, but also questioning ideas of free will and the importance of God. In particular the lyrics are mostly concerned with Ivan’s (one of the three sons) struggle to understand and comprehend the idea of a caring God and a parable told by Ivan, who is seemingly baffled by the idea of necessary human suffering and how God can allow it to happen, to another (Alyosha, a highly religious apprentice monk who is seen as the hero and ‘force of good’ within the story) about the second coming of Jesus in the 16th century during the Spanish Inquisition.
‘It is not God that I do not accept
It’s this world of God’s, created by God, that I cannot agree to accept.’
-‘The Grand Inquisitor II: Roots And Locusts‘
‘It’s not God that I don’t accept, Alyosha, only I most respectfully return him the ticket.’
‘The Grand Inquisitor’ chapter tells how upon his return, Jesus proves himself to the people by performing miracles reminiscent of those in the Bible but is then captured by the Inquisition and sentenced to death. The Grand Inquisitor visits Jesus whilst he is imprisoned and explains to him why his return interferes with the ideals of the church and how by giving the people freedom he has doomed them all as they cannot handle that level of freedom. He does this by referencing the three temptations that Jesus experienced in the desert from the Devil, in turn he explains how by rejecting each one he has over estimated the human condition to do good and understand the consequences of their actions. Hence, quite possibly my favourite quote of the entire book which is also quoted in full in the album booklet:
‘Man is weaker and baser by nature than Thou hast believed him!
By showing him so much respect, Thou didst, as it were, cease to feel for him, for Thou didst ask too much from him – Thou who hast loved him more than Thyself?
Respecting him less, Thou wouldst have asked less of him.
That would have been more like love, for his burden would have been lighter.’
-Grand Inquisitor to Jesus
Jesus is apparently quiet for the whole of the Inquisitor’s speech, until the very end, where without word he stands up and merely kisses him on the lips. The Inquisitor is taken aback by the action and strangely releases Jesus and tells him to never return or make his presence known again, the reasoning and effect of the kiss are unknown and it is said that even Dostoyevsky himself was unsure of what to gather and comprehend from the entire parable. Maybe Jesus understood and agreed with the meaning of the story and the Inquisitor and so decided humanity would be better off without him. Maybe he pitied him and merely felt that man kind was not ready for his return. All that is known is that at the very end of the story, Alyosha leans forwards and kisses Ivan on the lips.
‘That’s plagiarism! You stole that from my poem! Thank you though.’
‘A world with God would be even more disturbing than a universe without him
For if He tolerates atrocities
If he condones such cruelty
Who would want to worship such a maker anyway?’
–“The Grand Inquisitor II: Roots And Locusts“
The Ocean portray much of this story indirectly, using more of personal narrative despite lifting quotes directly from the story (taking into account differences in translation from the original Russian version). They switch between quotes stated by both Ivan and the Inquisitor quite freely, maybe showing the parallels between the two characters and that maybe the Inquisitor is simply the personification of his doubts about the role of God. Eventually the combination of his doubts about God and the murder of his father who he secretly hated, drive him insane soon after the telling of the Grand Inquisitor parable. This coincides wonderfully with the references to Friedrich Nietzsche in ‘Sewers Of The Soul‘:
‘A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything’
‘The Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad’
“Sewers Of The Soul” may as well be fully dedicated to Nietzsche as in my interpretation of the song, it is entirely about the baseness of man and how faith is used as an excuse to channel away and disguise all the instincts and feelings of a more animal man that Christianity, in general, deems as so disgusting. Whether you agree or not that man should indulge in these instincts is another matter (coincidently, one of the three sons in ‘The Brothers Karamazov‘, Dmitri, is very over indulgent of his base instincts which eventually leads to his overall downfall due to his addiction to money, women, alcohol etc), but this idea is referenced again in “Heaven TV” which states:
‘They refuse to see that we are animals
We need to feed, fight, sleep and make love’
‘I had a dream which was not all a dream
The sun was extinguished
And the stars wandered darkling in space
Rayless, and pathless’
-‘She Was The Universe‘
“She Was The Universe” is another homage, this time to the poet Lord Bryon and his poem ‘Darkness‘ which exaggerates the year 1816 in which the summer was blacked out due to ash clouds billowing from Mount Tambora. It speaks of a world where the sun is extinguished, where mankind struggles to keep it’s sanity and stoops to burning all the forests and buildings of the world to create light. The scenario is seen by humanity as an apocalyptic scene, however rapture doesn’t occur and man is left to suffer in darkness with all ideas of love and social order long gone. ‘Darkness‘, however, highlights one act of kindness in one dog that lays down and dies beside it’s master rather than feeding on him.
‘If God is omniscient, he must already know how he is going to intervene to change the course of history using his omnipotence.
But that means he can’t change his mind about his intervention which means he is not omnipotent’
The album closer, “The Almightiness Contradiction” is based around the idea that omnipotence and omniscience are logically incompatible, probably most famously stated by Richard Dawkins in his book; ‘The God Delusion‘. It appears a logical fallacy that an all-powerful God may not have free will due to his all encompassing knowledge, however maybe even the idea of God goes beyond human reasoning. One of my favourite parts of Anthropocentric is the very final section of the album:
‘There’s no one here who knows it all
There’s nothing there beyond the world we know
There’s no one here who knows it all
Is there something there beyond the world we know?’
-“The Almightiness Contradiction“
After what appears to be a staunchly anti-God album, it ends with the theory that perhaps we will never understand completely the nature of a God or even how outrageous it is to contemplate the idea of something so vast and affecting. But whether you agree or disagree with the ideas and theories presented by Anthropocentric and whether you agree or disagree with my interpretation of them is irrelevant when you consider that you don’t have to agree with a message to enjoy the music.