Sympathy for the Devil was easy in the ’80s

TBN and the golden age of Christian cable

I grew up in the 1980s during the peak of American Protestantism’s counter-reformation—its inane reaction to Tolkien, Gygax, Ozzy, Zeppelin, religious pluralism, and most of all Western esotericism. Western esotericism is the marriage of genuine mystical experience and Rational Theology, the result of real mystics being forced to articulate their psychedelic states through the idiom of Neoplatonism and, unfortunately, some of the barbarism inherent to Abrahamic war mythology. But today so-called Christians hate their own best mystics for using suggestive language rather then flatfooted literalism. Christian literalism’s attack on Western occultism is an attack on its own best fruits. There is nothing literalism loves more than finding support for literalism in the literature. Christians cite one passage from Deuteronomy (18:10–14) and two irrelevant ones from Isaiah (47:13) and Micah (5:12) to support their crusade against the free use of metaphor in mystical experience. If your trance yields anything other than a cartoonish communion with a tender Jesus in fresh linen, you’re dancing with the Devil literally.

The main propagandist for the witch-makers-and-burners of the ’80s was a cable channel—the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). Just as Hitler’s self-loathing (and all driven people are wrestlers of self-hate) intensified his retarded hatred of Jews, so also Paul Crouch—the Hitler of Protestant redneck misanthropy—attacked all things sexy, interesting, and fun because he himself was gay. Like Ted Haggard.

Crouch was actually very stupid. He’d never even read the Bible, much less tried to fit it into a rational system. He only wanted to make a lot of money and use his power as zillionaire station owner to seduce as many young men as possible. Kinda like Jeff Smith, but without any domestic skills to sweeten the deal.

The most powerful Christian propagandist on Earth, angry because his audience didn’t accept his penchant for young black cock.
The most powerful Christian propagandist on Earth, angry because his audience didn’t accept his penchant for young black cock.

Paul himself did very little entertaining. He would invite smiling Republican reptiles onto the show and just nod when they talked about Godless communists. Or he would host a urban legend fest about cliche bad guys like Charles Manson and Ozzy and get really Geraldo about it. This would then be followed by some knee-slapping country elevator music about Jesus. And then he would ask for money.

Jan Crouch was a sex goddess

Looking insanely hot at 77. This is a woman who has the power and knows it.
Looking insanely hot at 77. This is a woman who has the power and knows it.

Crouch was gay, and the lack of affection made his wife secrete a super sexiness. She was hot—super hot—of the skanky-buxom-redneck variety. Skanky hot types in the redneck Christian genre include such classics as (a) the anorexic meth-head teen-prostitute with braces, and (b) the buxom, over-painted, bouffant-topped trailer park gold-digger. Jan was of the latter variety—a sleazy-sexy money-strumpet from Alabama who wore more makeup then Tammy Bakker.

Jan was a charismatically self-possessed woman. She knew that her impeccable public persona protected her from all accusations of sleaziness, and this aroused her to enjoy the fruits of her corruption all the more. She knew the attraction that shameless sleaziness has for men. She had that combination of wanton sleaziness and immaculate TV persona that men find irresistible.

Looking absolutely edible at 76. That fact that she’s stupid and evil makes her even hotter, in my view.
Looking absolutely edible at 76. That fact that she’s stupid and evil makes her even hotter, in my view.

Her job on the show was to laugh at anything a guest said, and clap about good things (money coming in), bemoan socialist Jews, and weep about the “sweetest, dearest little babies” when the money wasn’t pouring in fast enough—and they averaged $56 million per year. She was a giggling, crying pink haired angel of the Praise-A-Thon.

She loved protecting the children, but not the grandchildren. Jan was found liable for covering up TBN employee Steve Smith’s drugging and raping her 13 year-old granddaughter. The granddaughter, Carra Crouch, won a $2 million lawsuit 11 years later, a year after Jan had died. More links here and here.

Looking like a gothic sex goddess at 75. The scat domme force is strong with here in this photo.
Looking like a gothic sex goddess at 75. The scat domme force is strong with here in this photo.

Jan was totally untethered from actual reality and lived inside a cocoon of luxury and children’s Bible illustrations. She married Paul Crouch for money and was worth $583 million when she died last year (2016). 13 mansions, three private jets, and a $100,000 mobile home for her dog.

As a child I found her sleazy hypocrisy very arousing. I fantasized that she would invite me on her show and then shock the audience by copulating with a black goat, which she would then decapitate. Then she would plop down on the couch, pull up her skirt, hike her legs up and behind her head (likely impossible), and force my face into her cunt while she simultaneously pissed, giggled, and cried fake tears of money-joy. She was frightfully sexy in the way that corruption and decadence are sexy, a redneck-porcine fleurs du mal.

This probably actually happened, just not to me, unfortunately. Once Jan found out that Paul like young black boys, she came fully out of the cougar closet and starting screwing the lawn boys, rather than the ornaments, a la Paul.

On the other hand, she was a gifted puppeteer. Here she is doing puppet theater:

The greatest Christian broadcast of the 20th century

But my childhood desire to be Jan’s sex slave does not decrease my hatred for the TBN universe. That little fantasy is totally compartmentalized. (I don’t think this is very strange. People have revealed to me that their favorite sexual fantasies are impossibly sick and that they would never enact them in real life.)

I watched their corrupt, idiotic, wrong, sleazy, hilarious, infuriating antics every day after school for eight years. And I learned at a young age that adults can be stupider than children, and that when adults are at the helm, even evil can look good.

I soon realized that exactly none of the things they attacked on their show were harmful. In fact, they were the ones causing harm, by harming harmless people. As a result, I became very sympathetic to everything they attacked.

My favorite TBN broadcast was a very special episode. Paul’s hippie son Paul, jr. came on and spent two hours talking about how rock music, including disco and easy listening, is often the vehicle anti-Christian propaganda. He went down a huge list of songs, albums, album covers, bands, and artists that promoted Satanism or, minimally, denied Christ. These included the following: Blue Oyster Cult, the Eagles, ELO, the Beatles, Queen, Black Oak Arkansas, Zeppelin, Sabbath (and Ozzy), Fleetwood Mac, Dione Warwick, and Elvis were all self-consciously proselytizing for Lord Satan.

The climax was when Paul, jr. played what is without a doubt the most famous (fortuitous) phonetic reversal in history—the Bustle in Your Hedgerow verse from “Stairway to Heaven.”

Zeppelin IV (Led Zeppelin): Old wise British men carrying massive faggots in the midst of a Satanic wood are scary to children. Things that are old-timey and not meant to be scary and the scariest. Evil, pretending to be normal.
Zeppelin IV (Led Zeppelin): Old wise British men carrying massive faggots in the midst of a Satanic wood are scary to children. Things that are old-timey and not meant to be scary and the scariest. Evil, pretending to be normal.

“Stairway” is already scary. The music is so beautiful and haunting and superior to anything else that supernatural influence actually does seem plausible in this instance. “Stairway” is the Hamlet of rock. Therefore, Satanic. And then there’s the lyrics—famously nonsensical and inane, and therefore mysterious. Therefore, Satanic. But within that overall inane lyric-scape there are parts that do make sense, and these are actually scary, and actually do sound Satanic.

For example:

There’s a feeling I get when I look to the west, and my spirit is crying for leaving. In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees, and the voices of those who standing looking. Ooh, it makes me wonder. Ooh, it really makes me wonder.
Robert Plant, Stairway to Heaven

Scary stuff. It’s standard practice in movies (the criterion of correctness for all things supernatural, by the way) that when people become possessed by a ghost, demon, or computer, the acquire lack of affect disorder. That is, their eyes go wide and they act ultra-peaceful and obedient. This is what the “voices of those who stand looking” reminds me of—but they’re out in the woods, wearing nightgowns, among smoke-ringed trees, and all of this is happening under a crying spirit.

It gets worse:

And it's whispered that soon, if we all call the tune, then the piper will lead us to reason. And a new day will dawn for those who stand long, and the forests will echo with laughter.
Robert Plant, Stairway to Heaven

Piper!? Pan is the very image of Satan. And the wide-eyed zombie slaves want to be led. Their devil worship is intentional and premeditated! And this voluntary soul-selling is, again, going on inside of an eerie emotional space—this time, a forest echoing with laughter, which is just about the scariest image possible for anti-hippie pigs and dogs.

Finally, there is the climax. Unlike the haunted forest images of the preceding verses, which are Wicker Man-scary, what comes next is scary by being nonsensical. The reason: Robert Plant’s brain was being controlled at that moment by Satan, because only this amalgam of phonemes could produce the most incredible sustained Satanic backwards “message” in human history:

If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now. It’s just a spring clean for the May Queen. Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on. And it makes me wonder.
Robert Plant, Stairway to Heaven

The only hint of over Satanism here is “May Queen.” May Queen is just the friendly sounding fairy folk epithet for the Satanic Witch Queen—Bride of the Horned One—crowned on the Gaelic festival of Beltane.

Finally, we wind down and return to the original spooky scene where Pan is leading his army of wide-eyed slaves in the woods:

Your head is humming and it won’t go, in case you don’t know, the piper’s calling you to join him. Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow, and did you know, your stairway lies on the whispering wind.
Robert Plant, Stairway to Heaven
Black Sabbath (Black Sabbath): Another magick-imbued wood sacred to devil worshippers. This is probably the second most powerful Satanic artifact since in pop-culture history.
Black Sabbath (Black Sabbath): Another magick-imbued wood sacred to devil worshippers. This is probably the second most powerful Satanic artifact since in pop-culture history.

Here’s to my sweet Satan

According to spiritual sleuth Paul, jr., the secret to understanding what the hell is going on is supplied self-referentially by the song itself:

There's a sign on the wall, but she wants to be sure, ’cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.

“Two meanings!” he cried. Two meanings—one forwards, the other backwards. Forwards presents a smiley face; backwards, a hymn to Satan.

Paul, jr. then played two little sections of the song backwards. The first was It makes me wonder which, when played backwards, is

There’s no escaping it.

Him must obviously refer to the aforementioned piper, Pan.

The second thing he played is, as I have mentioned, the most famous segment of (fake) backmasking in world history—the Bustle in Your Hedgerow verse from “Stairway to Heaven.” Let’s play it forwards first:

Led Zeppelin: Bustle in Your Hedgerow

Here are the (actual) lyrics:

If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now. It’s just a spring clean for the May Queen. Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run There’s still time to change the road you’re on. And it makes me wonder.
Robert Plant, Stairway to Heaven

When played backwards, it said, according to Paul, jr. (though there’a new consensus today, see below):

Led Zeppelin: Here’s to My Sweet Satan

There’s no escaping it. Oh, here’s to my sweet Satan. [obviously unintelligible] There’s power in Satan. [obviously unintelligible] He will give you 666.
Paul Crouch, jr.

Here is (part) of the segment where Paul, jr. plays this part of the song:

A year later, when my best friend Dodger and I decided to earnestly invoke Lord Satan, we use Paul, jr.’s trans as our foundation. Here’s our own take on that famous reversed segment, according to our expert 12 year-old faculties:

There’s no escaping it. Oh (it was) here’s to my sweet Satan. The one who live path for Jake we sever, There’s power in Satan. He (give) you give you 666.
CSH, age 12.

I still stand by this reading today.

When I speak at conferences on this topic, however, I usually champion this translation:

There’s no escaping it. Oh, it was here’s to my sweet Satan. Ph’nglui mglw’nafh, There’s power in Satan. Wgah’nagl fhtagn will give you 666.
CSH, today (age 19).

Now, thanks to the internet—and the fact that the backwards audio is really just a Rorschach that says nothing—there is a very elaborate bullshit version that has now become canonical. And here it is. I’ve duplicated the audio widget here for your convenience:

Led Zeppelin: Here’s to My Sweet Satan

There’s no escaping it. Oh, here’s to my sweet Satan, The one who’s little path would make me sad, Whose power is Satan. He will give you 666. There was a little toolshed Where he made us suffer, sad Satan.

Rorschach city

The phrases were definitely not distinct, but pretty damn close. “Perfect for a child,” as Jack Torrence might say. More importantly, I wanted to believe that what Paul, jr. was saying was true. I wanted Satan to be real, and for Zeppelin to have known Him and touched Him and successfully injected Him into the song. And I wanted it to be the case that, by listening to the song, I could gain access to the breathtaking Blakean under-reality behind spacetime—and discover that things are, at bottom, just like our favorite myths say: full of people, personality, and purpose. I wanted to experience that the lifeless plane of blind, inert matter is just the outer skin of a richer and vaster plane full of ghosts, demons, angels, gods, succubi, elementals, Enochian spirits, and everything in the AD&D Monster Manual and Deities and Demigods (the first edition with the Cthulhu Mythos, which I still have in mint condition). I wished that the dry, mechanical, physical world were just a minor and aberrant facet of something much larger: a psychedelic vista worthy of Lovecraft, Giger, Alex Grey, and Gustave Doré.

Sadly, it turns out that there is no message. We know this now because reverse-phonetic “discovery” has been disproven. Someone actually designed a study to test the hypothesis that plausible phonetic reversal (or unintentional backmasking) is entirely suggestion, or 90% expectation and 10% actual sound waves, like seeing a face in stucco or clouds on acid.

Paul Crouch and his idiotic son and all the anti-intellectual Republican Christians who clapped and cried upon hearing the My Sweet Satan gibberish are fools. The American Evangelical belief that Satan rock rock lyricists to colonize the souls of music listeners is exactly as ignorant as the rural African belief that buried finger bones will kill people.

And, so, by the tender age of 12 I knew that the televised wisdom of Bible Belt sages was nothing more than sadism, pathology, and misanthropy looking for an excuse to manifest. A vibrant American Christianity needs devil worshippers. The problem, of course, is that Satanists do not exist, and they never have. But if a thing cannot be observed directly, we might still be able to infer its existence indirectly. The legend of Satanic backmasking was just a substitute for the real thing.

Click below to see the research:

Satanic Backmasking