Chuck Girard Interview Part 1

10 Dec

Girard #2


By: Bob Gersztyn


June 27, 2007


It’s time that I got back onto the main subject of this blog, my book, “Jesus Rocks the World.” As you can well imagine there was a lot of research involved in writing the book. A very important part of that research was interviews with primary sources, while they still were alive. After all the Jesus movement and its creation of Christian rock & roll for white middle class churches helped spawn not only the contemporary Christian music industry but also the entire mega church industry that now exists. Jesus movement pioneers like Tommy Coomes and Debbie and Ernie Rettino are ministers of music today for the Billy & Franklin Graham organization and Saddleback church, respectively. These same pioneers began their Christian music careers at Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa, back in 1969/70. That church was the epi-center of the Southern California Jesus movement that spread across the country and around the world to Europe and parts of Africa and the Orient.


Girard Chuck Smith


Over the years there have been arguments about who the father of Jesus music is and many people say that it was Larry Norman, while others will name Mylon LeFevre, but the truth of the matter is that there were many fathers and mothers, all of which continued to nurture the new art form until it matured and led the Protestant church into the 21st century. One of the most important groups to come out of the movement was “Love Song,” that was made up of Chuck Girard, Tommy Coomes, Jay Truax, Bob Wall and John Mehler. I already wrote about them in May, but now I want to publish the interviews that I did with Chuck Girard and Tommy Coomes, as my first hand primary sources.
My interview with Chuck Girard will be first. I’ve known the members of “Love Song” since 1972 when I they first came to the church that I was involved with in Los Angeles, California. I talked to Chuch more than the other members, because I booked him to perform at the church as a solo artist after the group broke up in 1974. He convinced me to book Keith Green for a concert, before anyone even heard of him. I interviewed him for the Wittenburg Door on June 27, 2007, and it never got published because the magazine stopped publishing before the interview entered rotation, so I used it for my book when I began it in 2008. This is the complete interview. Chuck was already a pop star who had 3 top 40 radio hits since 1960, before he became a born again Christian, so his perspective went deeper than anybody else’s except maybe Barry McGuire, who I also interviewed and will latter publish. Then in 2010 Love Song reformed and toured the West Coast, so I photographed them in Vancouver, Washington. Then a few months later I booked Chuck to play at the Agape Inn reunion in Los Angeles, California, where it all began. So without further delay, I present to you the “Chuck Girard Interview.”



Girard #1


Bob Gersztyn: How did the Jesus Movement come out of the 1960’s counter culture, and how does it continue to affect the world today?
Girard: From my experience, which is all I can speak from, we started to hear the first rumblings of it around late 1960’s. We were a bunch of hippies who were seeking God through eastern philosophies, and all the different spiritual systems that were out there, the Urantia Book, Aquarian Gospel, and reading the Bible at the same time. By the time we started to hear about Calvary Chapel, which was my first connection to the Jesus Movement, we had pretty much narrowed our search down to the idea that somehow Jesus had to be included. So we were at that point, the description I would make of where we were at is that we were “mostly Christians” as we would say. We were kind of already moving in that direction, and we started to pick up hitchhikers along Pacific Coast Highway, and they started talking about this church called Calvary Chapel where they found God, and God was moving there. So we decided that we needed to check it out even though we personally weren’t all that interested in the Christian thing but we felt like hey, you know if hippies are telling us God is moving somewhere we should at least find out what’s going on. So we went up to visit Calvary Chapel, and really found it quite different, I did at least, from my earlier experience with Christianity. It was very alive and vital, and I could tell that there was a real presence of God in the place. I didn’t know the terminology, what to label everything, but I knew that something powerful was happening, and I needed to look into it. Now historically that still wasn’t really the Jesus Movement. It was “bubbling under”, but hadn’t really exploded, and wasn’t officially named yet. This was the late ‘60’s, early ‘70’s; I got born again in February of 1970. But I think that Calvary Chapel really became the media focal point for what eventually became publicized throughout the world as the Jesus Movement because Calvary Chapel had a very photogenic look. It was kind of this un-churchy looking Spanish style California building where hippies, straight people, and business people would come together to worship, and was quite picturesque in itself. So the media glommed onto the idea that they could get it all down at Calvary Chapel, hippies, straight people, the cool look, and the current music, the music that Love Song and other groups were playing down there, so that was kind of the beginning of what the media began to call the Jesus Movement. I guess you would describe the Jesus Movement as the mass salvation of hippies, and from what I understand the actual movement, or counter culture movement, started a little earlier than that. There were already pockets of it happening up in Northern California with Ted Wise and some of the people that were starting Christian communes up there but it wasn’t yet a media event, just more like the underpinnings of what was ultimately to become this movement that had national focus. When we got on board and we started to play at Calvary Chapel it was really kind of the hinge, the crux between the bubbling under into the public expression of what the media was going to call the Jesus Movement, and Jesus people and Jesus music. It was quite impacting for its day. We were a band, and we got saved there at Calvary Chapel, and we had these songs that we had written about our quest for God. We started to play at this little Monday night bible study where there was this hippie preacher named Lonnie, he gave the message and we played the music. The place was running about two hundred a night, and within four months there were over two thousand coming into this little six hundred seat church. The only way we could handle the overflow was to put folding chairs out on the patio, and we had glass walls so the people could see in and listen on speakers outside, and it was quite a “vibe”. Then we moved into a circus tent for a number of years while the bigger sanctuary was being built, and the tent to me was kind of the hot point for the media. From there it began to be publicized throughout the nation and ultimately the world, and became known as the Jesus Movement and this very impacting revival. I would define revival as the mass salvation of lots of different people at one time and that certainly would describe what happened from 1970 to 1975. Then ultimately it branched out in different degrees of impact throughout the world, and really was kind of on the books for about seven years I think, 1970-1977 is when I’d say the main influence of that whole movement was. Really the only way I can reflect on the impact today is by the fact that wherever I go four years later I can personally get a crowd out anywhere of at least thirty-five to fifty people anywhere in the world that will come, that would know my music, andwere part of what was going on back then. So in my opinion it had a lot of staying power because forty years later you have a lot of people who are still walking with the Lord that got converted during that period of time. As far as it being influential today in any active way I don’t think it is but the ongoing influence of the salvations of many people that happened in the early ‘70’s that are still walking with God, that have formed churches, that have become the evangelists and the preachers of today it is still very much in evidence.


Gersztyn: You talk about “we”, who were the other people that were included with you that were unsaved, and got saved?


Girard: I was involved in a little communal group of about eight hippie guys that just through osmosis got thrown together because we were of like mind. It started out in night clubs, talking to people, and sharing our thoughts on spirituality and all of that, and some people would get into what we were talking about and ultimately we wound up with a nucleus group of about eight people.(X) The founding members of Love Song were involved in that group, and then there were a couple of other people who didn’t wind up in Love Song but started other bands. Chuck Butler who started Parable was part of that little group, and a couple of three bands came out of our little group of seekers (X). When I say “we” that is who the “we” was.


Gersztyn: What was it like for you before that? Talk a little bit about from the time you graduated from high school up to that point.


Girard: I was pretty much a straight-laced guy, I was into the music thing. I wasn’t really much of a student but I wasn’t really into religious activity or spiritual curiosity in those days. (X) I got bit with the music bug about my junior high school years, and by my senior year in high school I had put together a little vocal group. I’m old enough to where I go back to the doo-wop days in 1961.


Girard #3


Gersztyn: What is your birth date by the way?


Girard: August 27th 1943, so I’m going to be sixty-four. I’m a year younger than Paul McCartney and about the same age as Mick Jagger, by a few months. I was kind of coming out of this more straight-laced type of background, and although I was an alcoholic, I wasn’t really into the drug thing. I was sort of curious when the first coverage of the drug scene started to come out in the mainstream press, mainly focusing on the San Francisco hippies that were up in Haight-Ashbury. I was really curious about what was causing them to grow their hair long and kind of get into this back to (X) nature thing. I remember specifically one photograph of a hippie looking into a light bulb like he was seeing the whole universe, and I did become kind of curious as to where they were at in their heads. So I was (X) open minded to finding out what trip they were on, but I really wasn’t drawn that much into drugs. I was happy with alcohol, and I was into my music thing. Like I say in 1961 I was a senior in high school. I had a hit record that went on to be a top twenty record on the Billboard charts so I had this sense of (X) achievement, and the drug world wasn’t of interest to me at that time.


Gersztyn: What was that record?


Girard: My group was called the Castells and we had two hits in 1961 and I think 1962 or 1963, one song was called Sacred, and another song was titled So This Is Love. (X) Just to complete that history, later on I got involved in hot rod surf recording, and started working with a guy named Gary Usher who had co-written the song In My Room with the Beach Boys, and had worked with Brian Wilson, and was actually a friend of Brian Wilson’s. He was doing that same kind of hot rod surf music thing, and I got involved in being one of his studio crew members. There was another hit around 1964 with one of the groups I was involved in called Little Honda by the Hondells, and that is more known than the Castells stuff, most people know the song. Most people that go back that far know the song that goes “first gear it’s alright” you know.


Gersztyn: I remember that, I’m sixty myself.


Girard: I was the lead singer on that song so that was kind of my little brush with fame, and gave me a taste of music business success, and that kind of stays with you even if you can’t maintain it for very long. So I was always on this musical quest to continue to be successful in music, and I wasn’t really that interested in the drug scene that much but like I say I glommed onto alcohol in the meantime, and I’m sure by any standards was an alcoholic at a very young age. As I say I got interested in what was going on with this whole hippie scene, and eventually through my being in music it became easier to get drugs, and eventually I stumbled on to my first experience with marijuana, and I really liked that. It wasn’t until about a year after that, I think I smoked marijuana one time, and then I didn’t take any other drugs like that for a whole year. Eventually I did get hold of some LSD, and that was really kind of what changed my life. That was the drug that for me was a real connection into the spiritual side of the world, and at the time not being a Christian I didn’t realize that it was a counterfeit experience, and that it came from darkness. The Bible says that the enemy will come; Satan will come as an angel of light, a minister of righteousness, so some things that are not of God look very enticing and very positive not everything that’s demonic is scary and evil looking. Sometimes it looks very enticing, and very much like a true answer. So that’s what I thought, I thought drugs were part of how God connected with man, and the whole hippie scene was a spiritual quest. It wasn’t until I got into it that I realized that very few hippies were really seeking God like I was; they were more onto the tripping out side of things, and just having fun. I did manage to connect with this group of seven or eight people who were on more of a serious spiritual quest, and we’re the ones that became the little communal group of seekers. So that is kind of my transition into all of that. As I got more into the drug scene my whole physical appearance changed. I started to grow my hair long, and grow a beard, and I began to understand why the hippies looked like they did as I became one.


Gersztyn: So at that point how many times would you say that you had used LSD or any other mind expanding substances?

Girard Love Song 1973



Girard: I was a pretty serious drug taker for about four years. from about 1965 is when I started to really kind of get into it until about ‘69, ‘66 to ’69, somewhere in there. You don’t count every trip, but kind of doing the math, I probably took over five hundred LSD trips. Now, you have to realize that John Lennon claims to have taken over a thousand so I was kind of an amateur by some standards, but for me that was a lot. That was about every other day for a few years at least, every other two or three days getting high on some kind of drug, and that was my lifestyle for probably seriously three or four years. Then toward the end of that period which was late ‘60 when God started to lower the boom on all of us, and started to pull us into the net I started to realize that this was really kind of a dead end. I wanted to have a spiritual high without taking a drug, or having some synthetic substance in my body. I thought, you know if this is really something from God than I ought to be able to maintain this level of connection without having to take something. So that was my next step, how can I be on a trip with God without taking drugs? That was probably late ‘69 when I first started to think about the idea of putting the drug thing aside, and trying to achieve some sort of spiritual connection without drugs. Also, by that time (X) several of us in our little commune of seekers had been arrested, and some of us were awaiting trial. The glow was fading very quickly on the whole drug experience. I was living in Salt Lake City for a little while, and I had a very negative experience with LSD up there. It was what we call a real bum trip, and that was the last time I took acid because it was so frightening to me. What happened to me was basically a sense of disconnection and loneliness that was just unbelievable. It was an overwhelming sense of, almost like God wasn’t even in the universe, and I was floating around all alone, and in complete utter darkness and loneliness, and it was just so frightening that when I came back off that trip I thought I’m not taking this anymore. I could never go through that again; I don’t ever want to experience anything like that again. Then I was about another year on smoking weed, and hashish, and the like, and then ultimately we got born again, and delivered from all of that.


Gersztyn: That is interesting that it happened in Salt Lake City too.


Girard: Well yeah, you talk about going from the frying pan into the fire. The first place we moved was Hawaii because we thought that Hawaii was going to where the New Jerusalem was going to come down to the Earth because it was so pristine, we thought. So we went over to Hawaii, that’s a long story in itself, and lived off the land, and tried to be hippies over there. Then how we wound up in Salt Lake City, my friend Jay Truax who later on became the bass player for Love Song had this connection with a couple of musicians who had moved to Salt Lake City. He had moved there and become a member of what really became the biggest local band for a number of years in Salt Lake City, (X) a power trio called Spirit of Creation. He came over to the islands to invite me to join that band so I went to Salt Lake City for a year, and lived there. (X) The band thing never gelled so I never joined the band, but I lived in Salt Lake City for a year. So that was the beginning of the end of drugs for me that last year in Salt Lake City, and then we moved back to Laguna Beach for about the year before I got saved. So our quest went from Hawaii to Salt Lake City to Laguna Beach, and then we got saved.


Gersztyn: What involvement would you say that the hippie counter culture, and drugs, and all of that had on the entire Jesus Movement, if there where no hippie culture and drugs would there had been a Jesus Movement as we know it?


Girard: I think not. I actually have a theory on that. The hippie thing was largely about the connection to the art of the day. The music of the Beatles, the psychedelic art, the whole counter-culture reflected how much everybody in the counter-culture was on the same trip. Now as I understand it, there are more people alive today than have ever been born through the whole history of time statistically. The theory I have is that, first of all, at that time, the late 60’s , the world had never seen a time when so many people were on the same wave length or trip in the history of the world. So you had this huge massive counter culture group going through the same changes, if you will, at the same time through the leadership of the Beatles, and other groups that were telling us about their experience, and kind of leading way, and connecting with us, and reinforcing what we were experiencing. We were going hey look the Beatles are on the same trip we are. or this guy Bob Dylan or whoever. So right around the same time everybody became disillusioned kind of like we did. “Okay we’ve gone to the end of this thing and even John Lennon is saying the dream is over, where do we go from here? If even the Beatles who we’ve been following are at the end of their place of bringing us anywhere, where do we go from here? So I don’t know of any other time that I can think of in history where you’ve had so many people at the same plateau: “we’ve done all of this, we’re done, this can’t take us any further anymore.” So there were only two choices as I see it, you’d go back into the world, and back into money and become a yuppie, or over into Christianity. There was a small group of people kind of stayed in that time warp, and for years after I’d become a Christian I met people who had locked into the hippie lifestyle and just stayed there, but they were a vast minority.


Gersztyn: They were called “Dead Heads.”


Girard: Well a lot of them were, yes. I was really disillusioned because I saw a lot of hippies with supposedly lived by the ideals of peace and love, who had proclaimed “down with the establishment, don’t trust anyone over thirty” then became the businessmen of the ‘70’s, and then the ‘80’s. For most of the rest of us, it was a natural thing to just flow into a relationship with Jesus. That was the only place that was really a step above where we were at in this disillusioned state of uncertainty. That is why I think such great numbers of people became Christians at that time because we were all at that place at the same time. We’d had it, we’d gone as far as we could with the drugs, what the counter culture was preaching, Timothy Leary, and all of that. so what was the next step? For many, many, many people it was Christianity.


Gersztyn: During the 1960’s did you have any political thoughts about what was going on, everything from Civil Rights to the Vietnam War?


Girard Love Song 2010


Girard: Speaking for myself I was completely divorced from all of that. Our perspective was that we were on a spiritual plane, and I wasn’t personally really watching the political scene. Many were, some people became more politically oriented, and became activists, and all of that, but my group of friends we were more on our own trip if you will. Actually the drug thing is quite a selfish thing. It is really more about what is happening to me than what is happening in the world, or what can we do to help others. It’s more about where am I at. Again I can’t speak for everybody, but for me that is kind of where I was at, and I was not very politically aware during those years.


Gersztyn: So you didn’t have any problems with the draft or anything like that?


Girard: When I was of draft age Kennedy was president, and he was letting married men out of the draft, and so I actually got married, and I think part of the reason was so that I could get out of the draft. I did that probably about the time that my lottery number, or whatever they were doing at the time would come up. (X). I was married for about a year and a half, and I kind of dodged the bullet that way because after that I wasn’t of prime draft age any longer, and I managed to dodge the draft legally, so I didn’t ever get called.


Gersztyn: So you didn’t really have any thoughts about the Vietnam War even afterwards?


Girard: Again I wasn’t, it is remarkable how


Gersztyn: Well because it lasted up until 1973 so even as a Christian you didn’t really get involved, or even consider it one way or the other?


Girard: I understood it more after I became a Christian and I got more connected to what was really happening in the world but by that time in 1970 it was pretty much over wasn’t it? I think all of the POW’s came home around 1972 so I was more aware of it but I wasn’t really connected. It wasn’t a conscience thing; it wasn’t like I had an opinion. I was really kind of apolitical Not disinterested but just politically stupid. I just really didn’t understand the impact of all that was going on with Vietnam and all of that like I would today. I much more understand what’s going on with Iraq and all of that than I would have understood world affairs of that type in those days, because again I was kind of in my own cocoon sorting my own life out, and for some reason that wasn’t a part of my interest I guess.


Gersztyn: Well what do you think about the current political situation, the war and all of that?


Girard: I’m no political pundit, I can only view it from my own perspective, and I’ve always supported the war. My perspective is that I feel like with 9/11 we were attacked, and some people would say well it wasn’t directly Afghanistan, it wasn’t directly Iraq, it wasn’t directly Saddam, you know it was terrorists, but I think the war was Bush’s attempt to at least try to say, you can’t do that to us or you will pay the consequences. I don’t really know enough about, it’s such a unique situation the fact that we’ve never had a war with a non-entity like terrorists, but they did come from somewhere, and they are funded from somewhere. My other philosophy is that what we don’t know about what is going on in government would probably fill volumes so I can’t really make informed decisions about what the president or the government does. All I an do is say that I’m not for our young people dying in a war, and if it was my own kids over there and one of them was killed I might have a different perspective, and might take it a little more seriously from the standpoint of the consequences to me but for the most part I feel like we did the right thing going in. Now whether we are doing the right thing staying or not is up for debate, but I think that it was the right thing to do at the time. There were good things that have come out of it. What with Saddam, and the Al-Qaeda guy that did all the beheadings was taken out, so good things have happened from it. But I’m not politically aware enough to really, I’m not trying to dodge it, I’m just telling you that I don’t consider myself to be some great political voice. ,I actually feel that most musicians, and I’m probably no exception are pretty politically ignorant. When I hear musicians speaking out for causes I say “go play music, . what do you know about it?” Musicians and actors are so myopic, yet their opinions hold great sway. The media holds great power in swaying public opinion. It’s the blind leading the blind.


Gersztyn: That’s true except for like Country Joe and The Fish, or somebody like that there really weren’t a whole lot of political bands.


Girard: Dylan claims he wasn’t political, but he was making political statements. The honest truth is that from my own perspective today I just don’t think that we have a clue really what is going on in the world. I know how it is in other areas of endeavor, like I know how the music business is, and I know how people perceive the music business, and where real music is coming from. It’s not coming from the people who win the Grammies, and all of that. So trying to define the times is like trying to explain the book of Revelations there are so many better men that are smarter than I that have studied the book of Revelations and can’t agree on the doctrine of the book of Revelations so who am I to come out and say this is what it means. Same with the world.


Gersztyn: Since you bring up music, and where it is coming from why don’t you talk a little about that.


Girard: Christian music specifically or music in general?


Gersztyn: You can do both


Jesus Rocks The Church Volume I cover


Girard: I think that there are two levels of what is happening in music. Lets take secular music for a minute because then we can append a perspective on Christian music based on secular music which is more influential to the world. Influential only in the sense more of entertainment because I don’t think we really have that much political, we don’t have folk rock, we don’t have protest songs anymore, there’s not that much political statement out there like there was back in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. I think musically lets just talk about it from a creative standpoint. The Bible says that in the end times there will be an increase in knowledge, and I’ve noticed in the last five years being a music fan and kind of staying current with bands that are out there, I think that there is a lot of excellent music out there. Five years ago I had to really search to find something good, the occasional Coldplay or Radiohead CD would come out that would be musically great, and I would go wow that is really good, that is worth listening to. But recently, largely because of the internet, there is a shift of paradigm from the control of the commercial music business which is losing its grip now in a favorable way in my opinion. I’m glad to see that. Today there’s a new wave of music coming from kids that are just sitting in their garage with their ten thousand dollars worth of equipment with nobody breathing down their neck about what music they can make, or what’s commercial, or what’s not. There’s some really interesting music out there today for the first time in a long time, and lots of it. I go on iTunes sometimes, and they have a feature that suggests “if you like this you might like this”. You can surf from group to group, and I go “where are these guys coming from, nobody has heard of these guys, this is great music”, and then I’ll go to the next one, and I’ll say “well this is great too”, and five years ago that wasn’t the case. No one is telling these kids what to record or what’s politically correct lyrically. It is just coming from their experience, and their gut and we’re in a really good place just from that creative standpoint in music right now. Now the problem with the Christian part of it that I’ve always seen is that we’ve never been the leaders, we’ve been the followers. So more often than any other kind of statement you hear about a Christian group is the comparison of that group to a secular group like “he’s the Christian Sting”, or “this band is the Christian equivalent of whoever”. What I don’t think Christian music has really realized yet, except for possibly some of the worship music that is coming out, is that the only thing that separates us from the world now is the anointing and power of God Maybe we’ve even gotten to the point where we are as good as worldly bands, so we may be on an even par that way, but the only thing we’ve got they don’t have access to is the anointing of God. If we don’t explore that side of music, and get God involved in energizing and giving power to our music then we are just equal to the world, and I don’t think that’s the goal of any Christian artist unless he just wants to win a Grammy or something and he doesn’t consider himself to be a minister, which I think many Christian bands don’t claim. In fact I see a lot of the bands that start out more Christian, like Lifehouse, that started with Malibu Vineyard, and other groups that came out, Sixpence None The Richer, now that girl who was their lead singer, Leigh Nash has an album out, so the CDs don’t have much if any Christian content. Maybe they are satisfied to just be equal with world. But if we ever want to put out something that’s better than what the world puts out the only thing we have that they don’t have access to is Gods anointing, and until we get that into our thinking then the very best we can do is to be either a copy of the world, or at least maybe at the very best equal with it. That’s the sad part that I see about Christian music right now. Because if I’m going to listen to Christian music that doesn’t inspire me or make me think a little deeper about my walk with God, and I’m just going to have to listen to it to be music I will probably pick worldly music because I’d enjoy it more. If Christian music doesn’t offer me anything more than worldly music does I’ll probably gravitate to listening to worldly music.


Gersztyn: You know a funny thing last night I was just turning stations on my radio, and I listened to the Christian radio station, and I thought, wait a minute I thought this was a Christian radio station what are they playing this secular song on there for? You know the group Los Lonely Boys, well I’m listening, and I’m going well this is Los Lonely Boys, and then I’m listening and I go well wait a minute those are Christian lyrics, and I realize they were duplicating the Los Lonely Boys the exact song, and singing the Christian lyrics. For a moment there I was enjoying it more than Los Lonely Boys because I’d already heard that song a thousand times, and now it had new lyrics but it was a complete rip off, and I go man they are still doing the same thing.


Girard: It’s pathetic, we should be, well I kind of already said all of that. There is a little bit of worship music out there that really does bring forth some good music, and sometimes I’ll be listening to a Christian radio station and they will play a little block of some worship songs that are out there. Even some of the remakes of some of the standard ones, and it’s really good musically, and it has an anointing because it is a worship song so that’s probably the best we have right now.


Gersztyn: That is one thing I do enjoy is the worship music, and another thing it’s kind of like you have so many of these Christian groups that are on secular radio stations you don’t even realize, or I didn’t, like the group The Fray. I didn’t even realize that they are a Christian group, and I’m reading somewhere that they were, and I thought well gee that song they have To Save a Life obviously that has a positive theme to it, and every so often you will find these Christian groups that are on secular radio, and nobody even says that they’re Christians.


Girard: I think there are about five of them the last time I looked at them, there is some group Anberlin or something that are supposed to be Christians, and I did know about The Fray. Every now and then I’ll be reading along, I follow the charts a little bit, and something about a group’s Christianity will come out, and I think “I guess that’s supposed to be coming out of a Christian perspective” but again it is not specifically identified. So there’s a lot of that. But You don’t listen to The Fray’s song and go “they are talking about Christian ideals”; maybe you pick up on it later. Maybe that’s good; maybe that is not a bad thing, I don’t know. If they are really speaking for Christ in other ways, in interviews, and things then that can be a good thing.


Gersztyn: So do you consider a Christian musician, consider his being a musician a calling just like a pastor?


Girard: I do the simple answer is I do. The big thing now is bands are saying “we’re not a Christian group; we are a group of Christians”. But if Christianity is a vital part of your life, and that’s part of what you’re expressing however subtle, that’s a ministry, and there is a responsibility that goes along with it. I don’t know that you can just get out there and say “I’m making music, and I happen to be Christian”. Maybe there is a place for that, I mean we had the same discussion about Amy Grant when she first kind of came out with her more secular stuff, and there was a big debate about can you just put out positive pop that doesn’t really particularly stimulate anybody’s curiosity about God but isn’t really saying anything negative. I mean this discussion can go on and on for you know, five years.


Gersztyn: Like U2 as an example


Girard: Yeah, well I look at U2 like a group of Catholics, whether they are really born again or not, everybody that comes out of Ireland has some sort of either Protestant or Catholic background so that’s the Christian part to me. I don’t know if I’d really call or every would have called U2 a born again band, that is kind of how I judge whether a band is representing Christ or not but a lot of people glommed onto U2 because there was some kind of social conscience at least to their music, and in the early days “Sunday Bloody Sunday” had some political statement and all that. By their fruits you will know them you see Godliness coming out in their walk, do you see a testimony in interviews.. I mean Bono is trying to do some good things but lots of people do good things; Jerry Lewis did good things in the fight against Muscular Dystrophy but I wouldn’t call him a Christian. It’s hard to dissect all of that, and at the end of the day I can’t judge anybody else so all I can do is have my opinion but if you’re walking with God, and your not really blatant in your music maybe you can just be a musician that is a Christian, and it’s alright with God. I don’t know that I can be the arbiter of that but I do have my own opinion. I think if you are representing Christ in any way, in an interview or in any kind of a way where you say I go to church on Sunday that’s part of my life that there’s a bit of a responsibility that goes along with the fact that you have a platform. Here’s the other thing, remember the old comparison about a Christian plumber. Does he have to go in and talk about Christ as he fixes your toilet? Well plumbing is not an occupation that expresses ideas and thoughts, music is, and so I never bought that excuse where people would say “I’m a Christian musician I don’t have to talk about God in my lyrics anymore than a Christian plumber has to talk about God while he fixes your toilet.” The big difference is that all music espouses some sort of idea about a lifestyle. Rap has its philosophy and what it is saying, and there is some kind of neutral music where you might say you’ve got some music, Who Let the Dogs Out or something that might not actually influence anybody to think a certain way but in general art is a means by which we convey philosophy, and we convey thoughts, and we reflect life. So you can’t just compare a Christian musician to a Christian plumber in my opinion, so the fact that you have this platform to express a philosophy or a thought about life, if you are a Christian then I think there is a responsibility that goes along with that. Whether you wear the hat and say I’m a minister or not may not be that serious but at least you have responsibility to communicate something about your positive experience with Christ though your music, and through your art, and I think God would call you to account about it I think if you have that platform.


Gersztyn: So do you think then that music could be used for importing ideas like take for example Cat Stevens who dropped his whole music thing, and became a Muslim, and now he is starting to get kind of back into music to try to bring some positive impact into Islam. Do you think that somehow Christians can somehow import ideas, the cross, especially with the internet nowadays, and everybody has access to it, and maybe music a certain beat, or whatever is taboo in Islam but some guy in the middle of Saudi Arabia can connect on the internet, and listen to whatever they want. So if somebody could somehow communicate Christian ideas through some sort of an Islamic piece do you think maybe we could eventually integrate our ideas from one culture to another?


Girard Love Song Coomes 2010


Girard: Well I think you could, again I think that’s a calling. It’s a version of saying can I do punk rock, and still represent Christ to this very specific audience that would not be my grandmother, or would not be my Aunt Minnie. That’s kind of like an evangelistic calling, it is the musical version of saying can I go into a bar, and sit down and have a coke, and wait until I strike up a conversation about Christ, and maybe lead them to the Lord. Some people would say no you shouldn’t even be in a bar. Other people would say yes, Jesus sat with the winebibbers, and he preached to the ungodly so why can’t we? In a way I guess if you had that calling on your life, if you had some sort of a connection to the Middle Eastern musical format that you are a Christen now, or you were converted out of Islam or something then yes I think you could have an impact. I think a lot of it has to do to with the whole package, it’s not so much just about the music. You know my daughter was in Zoë Girl right? Well she is solo now, and she hasn’t put her first album out yet but the songs that she is doing now are very subtle compared to what she did in Zoë Girl. Her current philosophy is “I want to write about life, and I want to write about the things that kind of connect to a Christian perspective but I’m not going to be smack you in the face with it”. But you go to her web site, and it’s the whole picture. It’s not so much whether I have Jesus’ name in every song but if you go to my web site you should know somehow in there that I’m a Christian. I have another daughter that is doing music now, and she’s got a My Space, and she has a very upfront approach. So maybe one daughter will do a more subtle thing, and the other one will be a little bolder about it but at the end of the day, it is kind of how I would describe making an album back in my day. I didn’t think that every song had to have a specific in your face Christian theme, but if you listened to the whole album by the end of any album I ever put out you should know two things, that I’m a Christian, and that God had changed my life. Now you might pull some song like I Will Love you Forever, or something, but the whole work will reflect Christ.


Gersztyn: Plain old Joe


Girard: Plain old Joe that’s a good example because it is not particularly a gospel song. It’s about this loser who winds up committing suicide but if every song was about that then the album just be about committing suicide, but at the end it is followed with Harvest Time which says we need to reap the harvest, and get on the stick, and not let there be plain old Joes. So the album takes you though a transition, and at the end of the album if you don’t know I’m a Christian, and that God’s changed my life then you’re not really listening to everything on the album. You can pull one song out of context, and maybe you say “Girard that’s not a Christian song”, but it is the whole body of the work that to me is the measure of what people are doing. Now it is even more than just the album, it is the website, the My Space, what you can communicate through so many different areas now that we have the internet, and all of that. As long as it comes out at the end of the day that you’re representing Christ, and you’re trying to do what you can to impact peoples lives then sometimes the music could be subtle I guess. Again that is the heart of the musician, and it’s how much of a calling he feels on his life, and I don’t know if you can separate a truly born again experience from your music. It’s got to come out in your music, or it has to come out somewhere, and I think in a way God requires it.


To be continued


26 Nov

Riot Control Martin Luther King #2

Riot Control Practice April 1968 #2

I took these photos in the beginning of April 1968 after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, where I was stationed in the army at the time was on lockdown, like all military installations in the USA, and we were practicing riot control tactics, before being shipped out to nearly 100 cities across the USA that had riots taking place in them. This was not even a year after the Summer of 1967 which saw major riots in Detroit, Michigan and Newark, New Jersey. It was also not even 3 years since the Watts riots in Los Angeles, California. Then if we move into the future there is relative calm for another 24 years until the Rodney King riots, in Los Angeles, California, in 1992. Then 20 years later we had the Trayvon Martin shooting and then 2 years later in 2014 we have the Michael Brown riots in Ferguson, Missouri. Each one of them began over an injustice that was perpetrated on a member of the black race by a member of the white race and each one of them ended in the black community destroying itself in retaliation.

It’s an interesting coincidence that the riots always happen during periods of war. It reminded me of Arnold Toynbee’s view of history that compares a civilization to a living organism. This view led me to look at the possibility that maybe the violence of the war affected the organism so that members felt that it was necessary offer a sacrifice of self immolation like protestors including a Quaker minister and Buddhist monk during the war in Vietnam. Perhaps the black community is acting for the white race by performing a sacrifice to ask for forgiveness for all the death and injustice of the war, because there is injustice in all wars, even just ones.

When Jesus Christ was crucified and he was hanging on the cross one of the last things that he said in Luke 23:34 was “Father forgive them they do not know what they are doing.” In this case forgiveness needs to go from the white community towards the black community that has committed self immolation as a sacrifice for our sins. I say our, because I am one of them, because I am white, even though I am not a racist and try to be color blind.

When I was a child of 4 or 5 years, around 1951 or 1952 an incident took place that shaped my view of black people, permanently. My dad and I picked up my aunt, uncle and 2 cousins who didn’t have a car at the time. We lived on the top story of a 2 story house that my Grand Parent’s owned and lived in the bottom floor of, which is where some sort of gathering was taking place. When we were leaving the car there was a black couple walking on the sidewalk about 8 or 10 houses away coming towards us.

I immediately said “look dad, there are some n…..s,” but my dad said,” be quiet.” When he did this for some reason I thought that he didn’t understand, that these were some of the people that he hated and let his feelings of dislike for them be known to mom and me. So I repeated my announcement that the hated n…..s were coming our way. Then my dad then put his hand over my mouth, but I tried to get his fingers off and scream though them, but my voice was muffled. The next thing I remember was we were in the upper flat where we lived and my dad brought me into his bedroom. After he closed the door he took off his belt and proceeded to beat the shit out of me with it, using it like a whip, and I suddenly understood as I screamed for my life. After that I never called a black person the “N” word again and used the term, only as an example of what others said.

Repercussions From the Summer Of Love At Ft. Sill, Oklahoma

5 Nov



Basic Training Platoon

Over 46 years ago, when I was in the army I wrote a diary my last 165 days, with the intention of one day turning into a novel about what it was like to be a draftee stationed in the USA, during the peak of the war in Vietnam. I wanted it to be what “Here To Eternity” was to the army just before WWII, but I knew that I needed time to learn how to write and experience life first. So I put the diary in a box and kept it there for 30 years, while I lived my life. Then 30 years later in 1998 I transcribed it onto Microsoft word and saved it. I read it over and ruminated on it for another 10 years and even reconnected with an old army buddy. Then in 2008 I began writing the novel, using my diary for the skeletal framework to hang my story on. I used the diary structure, so there are 165 short chapters averaging 1300 words and totaling over 200,000 words. I completed my first complete draft on Monday, November 3, 2014. Now I will go through it and edit it, which will probably take me 3 – 6 months. This is the introduction.

165 Days Short


Repercussions From the Summer Of Love At Ft. Sill, Oklahoma

By: Bob Gersztyn


Barracks #1

Back in the late 1960’s, if you enlisted or were drafted into the U.S. Army you could plan on spending 1 or 2 years in Vietnam, Korea, Germany and/or the U.S.A. Stateside duty could mean a gravy tour if you got the right assignment. If you ended up at Ft. Ord, California you could go to Frisco and Berkley, Ft. Dix, New Jersey was near New York City and Ft. Polk, Louisiana had New Orleans and the Mardi Gra a couple of hours away. Where ever you ended up one thing was for sure, going to town meant that you could act like a civilian for a few hours. Some guys even got stationed close enough to home that they could visit their families whenever they wanted to.



The downside of a domestic tour was experienced when you were stationed at a base located in the middle of nowhere, next to a small town that existed solely as a result of the post’s presence. In such cases the population’s attitude towards the GI’s vacillated between gratitude and animosity. Such was the case with Ft. Sill, which was adjacent to Lawton in south central Oklahoma, about 50 miles from the Texas border. Lawton came into existence as a result of Ft. Sill being established. People felt safer living next to a fort full of soldiers, in hostile Indian country.


Mule` ETS

Ft. Sill has been the home of the “U.S. Field Artillery Center and School” since 1911. General Phillip Sheridan founded it in 1869, when he was conducting a winter campaign, against the Southern Plains tribes. During the late 1870’s the “Buffalo Soldiers” of the 9th and 10th cavalry were stationed there and supplied much of the labor in the construction of the Fort. By the late 1960’s it was in full swing as a training base for artillery units going over to Vietnam.


Pershing Nuclear Candy Cane

Lawton is located a few miles south of the base and was founded in 1901. At that time a lottery was held distributing 160 acre parcels to white settlers on what was then the Kiowa-Comanche reservation. The town was named after General Henry W. Lawton. It is the third largest city in the state, as well as the cultural and economic center for the region. Cattle, dairy, agriculture and the military make up the primary industries for the area. Cameron College, home of the Aggies was located within the city limits, and drew students from surrounding areas. The combined population for Lawton/Ft. Sill amounted to nearly 100,000.


Old Buddies
All unmarried GI’s lived on base in military barracks. The quarters varied from wooden frame structures to newer cinder block and even brick buildings. Non-training semi-permanent support units were housed in the newer facilities, for the most part.

After Toby Grines was drafted in August of 1966, he ended up in two of those support units. First he was assigned to the 395th Engineering Company, since he was a carpenter. At least that was what his M.O.S. (Military occupation) was. It said he was a 51B20, so he was placed in the carpentry platoon, where he worked with guys who had been building houses, during the economic boom that was happening. The only problem was that he had never done any construction carpentry work. Back home in Detroit, Michigan Toby had been a wood pattern making apprentice, learning how to construct precision automotive die patterns, for the big three (General Motors, Ford and Chrysler). When the personnel clerk saw the word wood associated with Toby’s occupation he figured that he was a carpenter. Toby immediately submitted a 1049 requesting A.I.T. (Advanced Individual Training) M.O.S. training for carpentry or another military occupation.


PFC Gersztyn in Khakis

So they sent Toby to school, and trained him to be an armorer (small arms weapons specialist). He was able to perform second echelon maintenance one everything from 45 cal. pistols, to M14’s, 16’s, M-79’s, 60mm and 50 caliber machine guns. He had it made, and was exempt from all duty, and spent most of his day reading, talking to the unit mail clerk or playing solitaire.


Bob In His Arms Room

Then in the summer of 1967, after PFC Grines went on leave for two weeks, the guy who took his place accidentally gave Captain Archer’s (the company commander) gas mask to an enlisted man during maneuvers. Captain Archer’s specially made eyeglasses were in the mask, and the man took them out. Toby was blamed in retaliation and he was transferred out of the unit to headquarter battery of the 3rd Field Artillery and Missile Group.

Since the headquarters unit didn’t pull guard duty, or have field maneuvers, it needed no weapons. Therefore it had no armory, other than 7 – 45cal. Pistols, which had to be checked and cleaned once per month, and this could be done in a couple of hours. Therefore it didn’t need a full time company armorer.


Bob and his jeep

Since Toby still had his carpenter MOS he was assigned to the new unit primarily as the R&U (Repair & Utility) man. The R&U position was the military equivalent of building maintenance. Toby’s days were spent repairing venetian blinds, replacing light bulbs and mowing the lawn and building or repairing whatever he was assigned to do. It wasn’t a very glorious position for a gung ho 20 year old.


Police Call 1968 August

As Toby began his second year of service he found himself in the new unit. It was a headquarters unit, which meant that it was made up of officers, clerks and short timers. There were two kinds of short timers; those who would be E.T.S-ing (Estimated Time of Separation) soon and those who would be shipping out for an overseas tour of duty.
The headquarters unit was smaller than the 395th and only had one platoon, which was called an artillery battery because it belonged to a heavy duty weapons Group. It only occupied the ground floor, while the 4/46th artillery battery occupied the top 2 floors. 3rd Group had a commanding officer, an XO and a first Sergeant, but the most important difference was the additional brass. It had everything from a full bird Colonel to a Sergeant Major, with a light Colonel, Majors, Captains, beaucoup First and Second Lieutenants and Warrant Officers in between. They all worked in personnel or in the group headquarters Block house. None of them resided in the barracks with the enlisted men.

Soon after being assigned to Headquarters battery of the 3rd Field Artillery & Missile Group, Pfc. Grines was promoted to Specialist 4th class. With the promotion came an additional job. The unit mail clerk received his orders for Vietnam, so SP/4 Grines took his place. Mail came twice a day, both in the morning and the afternoon. The mail clerk sorted and distributed it.


SP_4 Bob Gersztyn Peace

While the 395th was made up of macho beer brawling construction worker draftee’s and lifers, 3rd Group was comprised of intellectual wanabee’s, college dropouts and pot smoking hippies. The disparity between the units even manifested itself in the music they played. Instead of hearing “The Righteous Brothers”, Smokey Robinson, Mitch Ryder and B.J. Thomas the windows were vibrating with “Country Joe & the Fish”, Bob Dylan, “Jefferson Airplane” and Jimi Hendrix.

The “Summer of Love” took place 1700 miles west, in the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco, but its repercussions were felt even in the heart of Oklahoma. Some GI’s grew mustaches, wore love beads and even dared to wear peace symbols. Toby quickly integrated into 3rd Group and found himself thinking and talking about issues in ways that he hadn’t before. He began using mind altering substances, and even incurred a head injury during this time. The Army didn’t test for drugs at the time, because it wasn’t an issue, yet.

During this 165 day period Toby goes through a metamorphosis that takes him from being a Warren, Michigan, Roman Catholic tough guy, to a peace and love hippie and beyond. This all takes place in L.B.J.’s “New Action Army”, after the 1968 Tet offensive in Vietnam. It’s a time of unprecedented cultural, political and religious upheaval, and the Army is the meeting ground for young men to share their ideas with each other as they fulfill their destinies.


Spc_4 Gersztyn

By the time he had less than 6 months of his two year hitch left, SP/4 Grines considered himself to be a short timer. Most soldiers don’t consider you a short timer until you break 100 days, but Toby didn’t care. Another idea that coincided with his decision to don the short timer mantle was keeping a daily diary. On Saturday, March 2, 1968, with only “165″ days left in the army he made his first entry, and continued to do so until the day that he was discharged. This is that record.


15 Oct

Pumpkin #1



By Bob Gersztyn
This is a continuation of my interview with Wiccan radio talk show host Marcus Tempe. We continued to talk about the battle between cultures and religions as human civilization evolved into its current manifestation.

THE DOOR: An objective study of world history reveals that every culture and ethnic group has relocated, exterminated or assimilated another. Some feel that this progression of history is in actuality orchestrated by a shadow organization, who in fact call the shots. This organization is usually associated with Witchcraft and the occult. What do you know about the illuminati?

THE BEAR: Robert Anton Wilson wrote a wonderful series of books of fiction. I enjoy the heck out of it; he did something that is absolutely crucial to any storyteller. He borrows enough of the truth to be able to make you go, you know that sounds possible. What if? Now he’s got you. Any good science fiction writer will base his story on good hard practical scientific fact. State of the art technology that goes one step further. What if? Political theory as far as criminal conspiracies are concerned are very much the same sort of thing. People can take any three unrelated facts and go, what if? Maybe they’re on to something, but maybe they’re not.

THE DOOR: You can’t fool us. What do you know about the controlling council on the 7th level of the illuminati, and its plans to subjugate the entire human race for its evil purposes?




THE BEAR: Absolutely nothing. Frankly I’m more concerned about 2nd Amendment issues. Because I am one of those rarities, an ACLU supporter, who has been invited by the ACLU as a moderator of one of their forums on a new web site they are putting up. This will take place when the move from AOL occurs. AOL has invited the ACLU to end its interaction and its website in AOL’s umbrella. The move will take place sometime during November 1999. This has got a lot of people very upset, because AOL has come across like they are kicking out the ACLU. The ACLU has maintained a presence there for a number of years and this is not what I would regard as a good thing.

THE DOOR: Wait a minute. The ACLU is being kicked off AOL because of its support of the 2nd Amendment?

THE BEAR: No. Mainly because of 1st Amendment violations. There are occasions where people will use dirty words, and naughty language and talk about female body parts. This has a lot of the more Church Lady types in the AOL user community very upset with the ACLU because they allow dirty words in ACLU discussions. Isn’t this terrible? No it isn’t. But it’s modern day American Protestant Christianity that has recognized or attached to these particular body functions and body parts the dirty word syndrome. Every time that you establish something as sinful simply because it’s sinful. It says in scripture here it’s sinful. Then reason and judgment effectively shut down. You have people who have made up their minds and stop looking. You can’t have a free and open discussion and explore possibilities if you’re worried about dirty words violating some ancient sheep herders taboo, out of a body of lore that was put together 4 or 5,000 years ago.

THE DOOR: I guess you don’t agree with Josh McDowell then? What do you think will eventually happen with religion on a global scale?

THE BEAR: I think that we’re heading to a shift in consciousness. If you read books like Jose Ortiaz and The Mayan Factor, if you read any of the works on Native American traditions, the Hopi elders, the prophecies that they have. New interpretations of Nostradamus coming through. A lot of different teachers and seers and forecasters have come to the conclusion that we are entering a paradigm shift, which is going to be a pretty bumpy ride for the next 15 years or so.

THE DOOR: So you equate Nostradamus with Native American Seers.

THE BEAR: I think that if you have the same message coming across like boats, there’s going to be a major change in the world happening between now and 2015. Be prepared for it. You see these things happening in the Mayan’s, in the Hopi, in the Navajo, in Nostradamus and in people who are doing interpretations of a lot of sources. We need to at least look at these things, and see if the forecasters and visionaries are right. Even if not.

THE DOOR: Even Christianity has its doomsday prophets going back to Jesus Himself.

THE BEAR: However, Christianity generally does not check itself with non-Christian sources. The people I’m talking about are coming from Native American sources, from Nostradamus, which is a cabalistic magick source, from people who are psychics, which gets into ESP and the parapsychology field, which may have absolutely nothing to do with either Native American or Cabalistic magick. The point is, when you have all these different people, from all these different traditions saying, yeah we’re entering into a bad patch, the prudent person would say, just in case the power does go out and the flood waters do rise I think it would be prudent to lay in an extra case of food and maybe another couple of dozen candles. Just in case. Because even if nothing happens it’s like having insurance. Very cheap insurance to guarantee your survival over a bad patch. Whether the disaster happens to be Y2K,or going through a bad winter, like a couple of years ago, with the flood waters rising above the 500 year flood level, or a sustained blizzard or the long overdue earthquake actually strikes. Fill in the blanks for whatever disaster happens to strike.

THE DOOR: Let’s go back to your sources of information. You said witches are very eclectic and choose from a smorgasbord of spiritual ideas, borrowing from any and all existing religions. Yet there are these rituals that you speak of and I assume they go back a long ways.

THE BEAR: They are an attempt to reconstruct from fragments of oral tradition, which is all that we have left after the burning times.

THE DOOR: So there were books that were written and burned? During which period?
THE BEAR: No, no not books that were written, oral traditions that were handed down from high priestess to student. Often times from Mother to daughter or from Father to son. I know a few people who claim a family tradition of witchcraft. They are called Famtrad for short. Family traditional witches have a certain body of lore, which they don’t teach to anybody outside of that family. They claim the lore was handed down from generation to generation. These people are very hard to get to talk about any of this.


THE BEAR: Because, the penalty for revealing this was usually a short trip to being burned at the stake. So what we do have in the way of modern witchcraft are fragments of oral tradition, which are handed down in story. Discovered by people like Gerald Bruce O’Gardiner, who wrote about witchcraft for the first time, in modern times, in 1950.

THE DOOR: What was the title of the book?

THE BEAR: He originally wrote a book called “High Magic”, by the pen name Seire. Then he wrote a couple of other books on modern day witchcraft, which you can find in major libraries and occasionally you’ll find in large bookstores, like Powell’s, here in Portland. Gerald Bruce O’Gardiner is credited with being sort of the father of the modern resurgence of witchcraft.

THE DOOR: He was a witch himself?

THE BEAR: He was a practicing witch himself. He claimed that he had been introduced and initiated into Wicca by a family traditional witch in England.

THE DOOR: How many witches are there worldwide would you say?

THE BEAR: Impossible to estimate. In the United States I’ve heard figures anywhere from 100,000-600,000.

THE DOOR: So way under a million.

THE BEAR: I’ve talked to Z Budapest who is another very well known figure in the witchcraft world. She is a refugee from Hungary. She got out of Hungary after the 1956 Soviet invasion, when she was 16 years old. She feels that with family traditionalists it’s impossible to make an accurate estimation worldwide.

THE DOOR: Is there any sort of Wiccan governing structure? Do you ever combine forces for a specific purpose and how?

THE BEAR: It depends on the issue for example on the Web you will find the coalition for religious freedom that is run by an attorney in Pennsylvania, who is also a practicing, witch. You will find the WADL (Witches Anti Discrimination League). That is another long running pagan religion organization. Locally we have the nine houses of Gaia and many of the groups listed in the community directory will be able to turn you on to additional groups, which they are local chapters of or have a loose working relationship with.

THE DOOR: What about you specifically? When and what were the circumstances of your becoming a witch?


The Bear0002


THE BEAR: I began my spiritual pursuit when I was between 13 & 15 and decided consciously to actually stop being a good Catholic kid, according to my mom.

THE DOOR: Mom should know.

THE BEAR: By the age of 17 I completely severed all ties with the Catholic Church and really began an active pursuit of my own spiritual traditions. I became interested in Zen Buddhism. I read a lot of works by David Reps, who is an American Zen Buddhist.

THE DOOR: How did you get interested in your spiritual pursuit initially?

THE BEAR: As I became more of an adult I began to realize that what I had been taught as the answers were not complete answers. Somebody was holding something back. There were things happening that did not make sense. For example, the teaching and decimation of the Catholic Church is that this is the be all and end all of solution. This is the one possible answer, this explains everything, and it’s not only ridiculous, it’s a mortal sin to start inquiring any further. Well the more education I got, especially by the time I got into college and started taking courses in philosophy, anthropology and other things that you normally don’t get taught in Jr. High School, I began to realize that there were a lot more answers, and also a lot more questions, than the Catholic Church had been willing to teach me as a kid. I became interested in witchcraft in the early 70’s and was initiated into witchcraft in 1975. So I’ve been a practicing pagan for almost a quarter of a century now.

THE DOOR: How old are you now.

THE BEAR: Lets see, what year is this? 51.

THE DOOR: How have other religions treated Paganism, Witchcraft, etc.? Whether Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Islam, whatever, in countries like India, Japan or Saudi Arabia. Do they have any sort of policy against it?

THE BEAR: As a rule in a Muslim country, today for example, you are technically allowed to have a book of your own particular religion. For example Christians are theoretically allowed to bring in a Bible. However, Islam in practical terms can be very, very intolerant about public celebrations of anything other than Islam. To an extent, I found that in the brief visit that I made to Israel, I found that attitude also applied to a nation, which had based itself upon the Jewish religion. To a lesser extent you may find that in other countries such as Japan, which as you pointed out is officially Shintoist, but which also has a large Buddhist population. The Buddhist countries however, such as Thailand are generally quite open and accepting of a wide variety of other religions. I spent two years in Saudi Arabia, which gave me a good up close look at a fundamentalistic religious theocracy, in 1980-82.

THE DOOR: Why were you there?

THE BEAR: I was on contract, as a computer technician and light equipment maintenance technician, with a company installing a medical computer system. The first one to go into Abha, the capital of the Asir Highlands, in Southwest Saudi Arabia.

THE DOOR: Ah yes, one of our favorite places. What were your observations and conclusions?

THE BEAR: I had a chance to see what Islam is like from the inside, up close and personal. I went, that’s interesting. When I came back to the United States it also gave me very sharp appreciation about what it is like to live in a free country, as opposed to what it is like to live in a theocracy. Then I began working very seriously on the idea of promoting in whatever humble way that I could the notion of getting people to use their thinking of spirituality in terms of not sacrificing their souls to God, but using it as a vehicle of personal liberation, on a level that has not been normally experienced before. Most questions of liberation politics at that time had been political not economic. I wanted to expand the realm, because I believe very strongly that the spiritual element is precisely where questions of freedom are decided, and that any spiritual tradition that emphasizes freedom is one worth looking at. That tied very well into my training and experience in Wicca.

THE DOOR: What about Jesus’s statement in the Gospel of John concerning knowledge of the truth being the catalyst for freedom?

THE BEAR: First of all, that’s an example of something that a Wiccan, or Pagan, or Buhhdist, or Hindu or somebody else might find to be very true, because it is true whether or not it’s in the Bible, Koran, Torah, Bagavad Gita or any other sacred text. In other words you do not accept something that’s true simply because of the authority figure attached to it you accept it as true because it checks out. It checks out and it happens to ring true. It’s something that you can rely on. In the case of Wicca, the idea is that you are responsible for your spirituality. You are responsible for putting yourself through the training and discipline.

THE DOOR: Somebody had to train or at least get you pointed in the right direction occasionally. Who was that?

THE BEAR: The lady who inducted me into Wicca is living on the Oregon coast right now. She’s in her 60’s. She was a very good friend, who was a practicing witch for a number of years. She initiated me into the Wicca tradition as a Gardinarian witch.

THE DOOR: Gardinarian, is that like a denomination?

THE BEAR: Gerald Bruce O’Gardiner established a tradition of witchcraft through his books and through his students, who all went on to teach other witches. That’s why Gardiner is regarded as the father of modern witchcraft.
THE DOOR: Just like John Wesley is the father of Methodism or even the first Pope?

THE BEAR: Not like the pope, more like John the Baptist. He was a voice crying in the wilderness to make clear the path.

THE DOOR: So then, is there a Messiah coming?

THE BEAR: No. That whole Messiah trip, you have to; again this is the trap of Orthodox Christianity and the mindset. Christians are very guilt driven. They believe that we’re guilty and that the Messiah died for our sins, he’s gonna come back, and that sins will be washed away. This whole sin, guilt, fear trip is something that is very particular to the Semitic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is not something that has any parallel with the normal pagan religions that you’ll find elsewhere in the world.

THE DOOR: So, you don’t have any guilt problems?

THE BEAR: No. We don’t have a guilt problem as far as original sin and the whole concept of sin, because we have a sense of right and wrong.

THE DOOR: Then you believe in free will?

THE BEAR: Yes, as a matter of fact I believe that the free will we exercise directly creates the manifestation of the universe that we experience. In other words, free will is the way that we approach the limitless facets of the diamond. Which facet we choose to look at, that is the exercise of our free will.

THE DOOR: What about good and evil?

THE BEAR: I believe in the “as ye sow, so shall ye reap” type of approach, or looking at it from the viewpoint of other people: “By their fruits ye shall know them”.

THE DOOR: That sounds familiar. What if you were put in a situation where you were forced to do something that was evil in order to survive? As an example you embezzled some money from your work to avoid bankruptcy. How would you view this?

THE BEAR: You would have to look at the harm done and the total dynamic of who was doing what. Who benefited from it, who lost from it?

THE DOOR: So you’re advocating relativism?
THE BEAR: In my personal book I’d say that relativistic ethics are probably about the only ethics that you actually can apply to the real world. Because the exact same action in 12 different environments and circumstances could have 12 different evaluations and 12 different consequences. For example killing someone: “Thou shalt not kill”. The Bible says, according to Billy Graham and some other Fundamentalist ministers “Thou shalt not murder”. Lets take it at the face value that most people are familiar with. “Thou shalt not kill.” Okay, I teach armed self-defense as a certified pistol instructor. I have an Oregon concealed handgun licensee. I have one of the first 2000 licensees issued in the state for 10 years now. I have come close to dropping the hammer on 4 maybe 5 people in the last 10 years. I also work security so that ups my exposure to situations. Do I feel happy about the prospect of taking a life? No. Would I hesitate to take a life if in my estimation that became necessary? No, because at this point I’ve rehearsed it and studied the issue and I’m aware of the full dynamics of actions, contributing factors, and the repercussions, which would flow from that, to be able to widen the game so to speak. In other words I don’t look at just the killing itself, but everything that led up to the killing, the killing and the results that flowed from the killing, as part of an integrated dynamic. All of which have to be looked at. If for example the person I encountered happened to be a career felon and I didn’t kill them, I feel that I would share in the moral blame that would accrue from every criminal act in the future that, that person would commit.

THE DOOR: I guess you would support capital punishment then?

THE BEAR: In certain circumstances. Again, there have been too many cases where capital punishment has been to hastily applied or applied to the wrong person. That’s legalized murder.

THE DOOR: In a case like John Wayne Gacy or Jeffrey Dahlmer, who have committed heinous crimes, yet are indifferent to them, and may even be psychologically incapable of complying with societies laws or morality. What would your verdict be?

THE BEAR: In my book that person has volunteered for the death penalty.

THE DOOR: Interesting. Let’s go back to guilt for a minute. According to Freudian psychology human beings are motivated by guilt stemming from suppressed thoughts and experiences, ranging from infantile masturbation to oedipal fantasies and beyond. How do you view this?

THE BEAR: Freudian guilt is the product of an essentially Christian culture.

THE DOOR: So then if there were no Christianity there would be no Freud?

THE BEAR: Without Christianity there would be no Freud. There would be no need for a Freud.

THE DOOR: What about Jung?
THE BEAR: Jung is a different case. Jung very much focused on archetypes. He believed that people regardless of culture or background felt and experienced certain spiritual truths in much the same way. It’s simply the the symbolism and the language by or through which they interpreted that transmortal experience varied from person to person and culture to culture, and there’s good argument for that.

THE DOOR: So then in some cases, as you’ve already stated you’re in agreement with certain parts or pieces of different religions and philosophies but you don’t have any particular set structure, except the book you mentioned by Gardiner?

THE BEAR: Even that has been extensively modified.

THE DOOR: Okay, lets put it another way. If somebody wants to become a Christian what they do is find a church. Next they ask to speak with the Pastor, they tell him “I want to become a Christian.” Next the minister will tell them whatever that denominational formula requires for them to become a good Christian.

THE BEAR: Accent on the word formula. It’s a very external structure imposed. You see in the founding days of Christianity.

THE DOOR: Yeah, but how do you do that with Witchcraft? Let’s forget about Christianity for the moment. How would anyone even begin to look? Are their any witch ministers, clerics, priests, priestesses etc.?

THE BEAR: In some cases. Again study the list of organizations in the directory I gave you and ask for some basic information. You’ll find a huge range of responses. Some people who practice paganism and witchcraft adopt or create a very hierarchical structure. There will be initiates, 1st degree witches, 2nd degree witches and 3rd degree witches.

THE DOOR: Is this group called a coven?

THE BEAR: Yes, a coven. They will have the kind of formal structure that you’re talking about. Some people function best in that type of formal structure. Other people are solitary witches; they will have nothing to do with a coven. In fact they will often times have only a few years of training, or they will be entirely self taught. Some people find that they adhere to a particular divinity. In fact I’ve talked to some witches who have actually had an intense visualization of some goddess or god figure, totally unexpectedly, without anything in their background to predicate that, that is the goddess or god figure to whom they would give their allegiance. Others, like me are syncretic or eclectic. We look and we find things that are true in many different god forms, and many different pantheons in many different disciplines including religions that have very little if anything to do with Witchcraft, such as Christianity.

THE DOOR: An evangelical Christian would call these visualizations of gods and goddesses a demonic experience. From a Jungian perspective then you would have had an archetypal experience. However, putting that aside for the moment, what good are these experiences?
THE BEAR: I’m relating them to how people see the truth. Some people need and depend upon a very rigid structure. They’re going, okay I have jumped through these particular hoops, I’ve taken this particular training, I must be doing this right. That’s the particular structure with which they approach the universe.

THE DOOR: Then there’s the Zen Buhhdist approach where you have to come to a point where you know nothing.

THE BEAR: That’s my point, everything is illusion, it’s all a matter of will. Read the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The opening chapter is essentially a recitation of about how everything is a matter of the viewpoint that you choose or allow yourself to default to. What is the Ultimate reality?

THE DOOR: Please tell us.

THE BEAR: Well, from a mortal viewpoint you will find as many different answers as you’ll find mortals. The whole purpose of the show in the practice of the show in the practice of paganism, that I personally adhere to is, by their fruits you shall know them.

THE DOOR: Where have we heard that before?

THE BEAR: If somebody is on a particular path that reads well upon them, they’re bright eyed, bushy tailed, happy, productive and a benefit to the people around them. You can tell by their body language, posture, tone of voice, how they relate and how they handle themselves in their relationships, whether they are a healthy or not healthy individual. Then I don’t really care what the name of the religious structure of the spirituality is that you hang on it. Sahheed Hamid for example is a Black Muslim. He is also a friend. He has been a friend of my families and mine for more than 20 years now. He is probably as far away from my particular spiritual orientation as you could possibly get. In that he’s African American, he’s a Muslim practitioner, he is very loyal to his faith and has found a huge amount of benefit in Islam. I’ve had him on my show and we’ve spoken of this at length. The commonality that we experience however, is not one of the same ritual, or the same name of God or even the same practice of spirituality. The commonality we see, is that each of us recognize that the other is on a path which is good for us, because we are benefiting the lives of those around us.

THE DOOR: What occupation do you work in to pay the bills?

THE BEAR: I’m in the security field right now. I’ve been trained and licensed by the State of Oregon as a private security advisor site supervisor for a local security company. I’m also a certified pistol instructor and I do self-defense training, as well as working with a martial arts school.

THE DOOR: So you are proficient in all these self defense techniques?

THE BEAR: Yes, I believe in the concept of personal empowerment.
THE DOOR: So then witchcraft isn’t pacifistic?

THE BEAR: Witchcraft is, in that most people are what I would call bunny huggers. They are very pro-ecology and pro-animal rights. Their lifestyle and mindset reflects this. Ninety nine out of a hundred would not know which end of a firearm goes bang.
THE DOOR: You already said that you supported capital punishment if the crime warranted it. What about abortion?

THE BEAR: I come down on the side of “free choice,” with the proviso that any man who attempts to pass judgment on what any woman does with her body is showing perhaps more bravery than sense. Women, I’ve noticed, get into one form of Paganism or another because they’re drawn to the empowering aspects of spirituality that emphasizes the pre-eminence of feminine over masculine power, the Goddess over God; Witches like Z Budapest or Starhawk in San Francisco have strong opinion on the subject, which they’ve written books about. At the same time, Pagans disagree about abortion probably as much as they disagree about vegetarianism, or any other political subject. Sienna, a Witch friend of mine in Vancouver, who own Laughing Bird Books and teaches classes on Witchcraft, said, “Getting Pagans to agree on ANYTHING is like herding cats.”

THE DOOR: Very interesting. While were on politically controversial subjects How about drug usage to enhance the spiritual dimension, much like Native Americans and other regional aboriginal peoples use conscious expanding substances, such as mescaline, psilosybin or marijuana in their rituals?


#3 Halloween Pumpkin


THE BEAR: I know of no Pagans who use drugs as part of ritual; raising the “Cone of Power” requires discipline, the ability to visualize clearly, and the ability to coordinate and work well with other in the Circle—all of which are skills which are damaged or defeated by drugs, not enhanced by them. The kind of “high” you get from any pharmaceutical means that it’s the pharmaceutical that’s working—not you; so, whatever “power” you think you’re generating, is strictly a chemical-based delusion. True, there ARE some ethnic groups whose spiritual traditions involve psychedelics like peyote and mescaline—but as their “medicine men” and “medicine women” will tell you, it takes literally years of work, training, and discipline (there’s that word again), studying as an apprentice under a master of some sort, before you can safely and effectively use drugs as a tool for the controlled raising and directing of spiritual or Magickal “Power” of any sort.
Unfortunately, in this day and age of instant gratification, there are too may teenyboppers who’ve seen The Craft or The Blair Witch Project, picked up a book, and decided that they’re “really” Witches and so want to be casting spells, etc.—and right now. Since they’re used to getting high, they figure, “Why not?” and start to “experiment” with ritual Magick and various drugs. However, teenagers will be teenagers, and may have to learn the hard way that drugs don’t “improve” anything you do that’s at all important—including raising Power and working Magick. This is not to say that Neo-Pagans are all prudes and teetotalers. Some are; others aren’t, to varying degrees, just like the population at large. I know of one Pagan who drinks, smokes tobacco, AND smokes pot; his wife smokes tobacco and pot, but doesn’t drink. Another Pagan friend of mine drinks occasionally, but doesn’t smoke anything at all. The basic rule, again, is what we know as the Wiccan Rede:
“Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill;
An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will.”
When you couple that with the Three-fold Law—that what you do, will rebound upon you three times, good returning for good and evil returning for evil—you’ll find that most Neo-pagans (both drug-users and “straight) just don’t abuse, misuse, or over-indulge in drugs of any sort. There’s no point to it, and some heavy dues to pay for screwing up, so why bother?

THE DOOR: Do you believe in God?

THE BEAR: A divinity? Yes. God in term of Jehovah or Yahweh? No.

THE DOOR: Do you believe in a personal God?

THE BEAR: Myself, I’d have to say no. I believe in a trans-mortal something, but it’s bigger than I am and I haven’t got the means to put a handle on it. Let alone define it and label it.

THE DOOR: What about the devil?

THE BEAR: The devil? Satan? Prince of evil? Christian concept. Anti-God. I gave that up when I gave up the church.


Postal Service0001


8 Oct


BY: Bob Gersztyn
(October 1999)

KBOO FM0002 Joe on Dock The Bear0001

Part One:
My interview with the Bear, alias Marcus Tempe took place 15 years ago this month. It was for the Wittenburg Door and the reason why I thought that the Door would be interested in it was because Mr. Tempe was a witch that had a radio talk show, in Portland, Oregon on KBOO, their community supported radio station. He had an ax to grind with Christianity and I gave him a platform to vent for “the world’s pretty much only religious satire magazine.”
His show was on during the witching hour, a 3 hour period between 3:00 AM and 6:00 AM, every other Sunday morning. It was a strange time to be up listening to the radio, but at the time I had a very normal job at the main post office in Salem, Oregon. At that hour we would be unloading semi trailers full of 3 class mail sacks and 4th class parcels and sorting them according to destination in a maze of containers on the truck dock.
My friend Joe Brandner was the one who always played KBOO, while we worked and it was more interesting than the radio stations that kept playing the same songs over and over. How many thousand times did we hear “Freebird” and “Stairway to Heaven.” So, after listening to him for about 6 months, I called the radio station and left my contact information and interview request. The Bear called me a couple of days later and I set up the interview for a Friday afternoon at 4:00 PM at the KBOO radio station. It was their fundraising weekend so the place was hopping with DJ’s, guest’s and journalist’s like me.
We talked about witchcraft and its persecution by Christianity, along with many other subjects all from a Wiccan perspective. The interview was never published by the Door, so after 15 years of anticipation here is my interview with Marcus Tempe. It is presented in 2 parts because it’s long, nearly 10,000 words. At the same time it’s a very timely interview because it’s October once more, and “The Day of the Dead” and Halloween are rapidly approaching.

Part One:

THE DOOR: Your actual name is Marcus Tempe, why do you go by the Bear?

THE BEAR: I feel a great deal of affinity with bear type creatures. In that we are both large, warm, round, furry, appreciative of good food and I like to go mrph a lot.

THE DOOR: Go what?


THE DOOR: What is that?

THE BEAR: Mrph. It is the sound of a disgruntled grizzly bear when he is awakened from a sound sleep. Since, I like to sleep in and real life demands that I be up and around a lot. Mrph is sort of my expression with which I begin to regard the day.

THE DOOR: Disgruntled like a postal worker or you’re just not in a good mood?

THE BEAR: I wake up very slowly. I’m usually very reluctant.

THE DOOR: You call yourself a witch yet you are a male. I thought that male witches were Warlocks?

THE BEAR: No Warlock is derived from an ancient Anglo-Saxon or Northern European Germanic language root, which means oath breaker. If you talk to modern day Asatru people, who follow a Northern European ancient religion, like the Nordic peoples, the Vikings
THE DOOR: Odin, Valhalla, etc.. Didn’t Hitler want to re-establish the Nordic gods?

THE BEAR: That’s kind of like saying that the Roman Catholic Church had a relationship with Mussolini in 1922, therefore the Roman Catholic Church is Fascist. Guilt by association is a very tricky thing. Actually Hitler stole a lot of occult practices and symbolism, and slapped a Germanic political agenda on it, for the purpose of getting the German people thinking that they were the latter day equivalent of God’s chosen people and were destined to kill and conquer and rule the world. Well that kind of backfired.

THE DOOR: You make it sound like a negative version of the Biblical Exodus and conquest of Palestine.

THE BEAR: Surprise, surprise. Looking at it from the Canaanites point of view how do you think they regarded the whole invasion and conquest by the Hebrews. For more information just do a word search on Asatru on the internet; there is abundant information available. Anyway, they are Reconstructionist Asatru and have gone through a major meeting between North American and English Asatru movements. These were specifically designed to remove any taint of skin heads, racists, neo-nazis or any other attempt to retake the Asatru movement by the racist right wing political element. They are attempting to reclaim for themselves the Pantheon of the traditions of Northern European witchcraft. Steve McMallen is one of the leading founders of the Asatru free assemblies.

THE DOOR: That’s very interesting. Please continue on your explanation of the term Warlock.

THE BEAR: If you talk to Asatruar’s or anybody else who is a practicing pagan from most traditions they do not use the word Warlock, because in ancient times a person who broke their oath was considered to have virtually incurred the wrath of the gods. In other words it was like the modern day equivalent of selling your soul to the devil for a brief temporary advantage. You condemned yourself to basically eternal bad Karma. You would be digging your way out for a lot of lifetimes.

THE DOOR: That is a very negative connotation.

THE BEAR: Highly negative. Not only in intent but in act as well.

THE DOOR: Perhaps the reason why Warlock came to be used by non Wiccan’s so much was to give the entire belief system a negative spin.

THE BEAR: Especially in preliterate times in Europe. You have to understand that a man’s word was his bond, literally. If you broke your word, you were literally breaking your bond, your oath, your reliability, your standing in the community. You were effectively announcing yourself to be criminal in intent and action.
THE DOOR: It looks like the campaign was effective because most people I know think a warlock is a male witch. They also think of witches as having sold their souls to the devil. If your word is no good what good are you, that’s true in any society.

THE BEAR: In verbal or preliterate societies this becomes crucial, because your spoken word is the only recourse that you have. You don’t have a written contract to fall back on.

THE DOOR: It’s the same Biblically with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc., they would make deals with the local inhabitants. Sometimes they would get broken and you’d have negative repercussions.

THE BEAR: There are parallels today in Saudi Arabia. One of the things I found, when I was there for two years, was that this idea of the sanctity of the oath and the spoken word, and the power of the oath is still held to be very important, in Muslim cultures. You do not use swear words against somebody. You do not cast oaths upon somebody, because that is regarded in Saudi law as well as religious usage the same as cursing them before God, or calling down injury upon them, or actively wishing them harm. It’s almost the equivalent of a physical attack on them as well. In other words if you’re using oaths or curses against somebody you can be hauled into court and imprisoned.

THE DOOR: Another area that is sometimes confusing relates to identification labels. Are the terms Witchcraft, Wiccan and Pagan interchangeable?

THE BEAR: No. There is a lot of variation in that. Usually what I do for people asking about basic information is refer them to volumes which have already been written by people, who have done an excellent job of covering this basic information. One of the beginning reference works that I know of is titled “Drawing On The Moon”, by Margot Adler. The first edition was published in 1977 and has gone through several editions since then. Margo Alder has a reputation of giving, probably the best single overview, if you will, about paganism, witchcraft, etc.. Another reference for witchcraft 101 so to speak is “To Ride A Silver Broomstick” By Silver Ravenwolf. It’s put out by Luelen publications. For the basics, this is one of the best books that I know of. It’s a very safe non-judgemental book, that is user friendly to anyone coming from any other religious or spiritual tradition. It shows you how to get started in witchcraft safely, without signing your soul to the devil, or blood sacrifice or any other of the hollywood stereotypical nonsense that people normally approach witchcraft with.

THE DOOR: Would you also recommend some of the earlier scholarly works on pagan roots like the “Golden Bough” and “The White Goddess”?

THE BEAR: Oh yes. I would certainly include those in my basic overview. The books I mentioned were an attempt to distill down to, what I would consider to be a bare minimum. That which you would need to have to become at least noddingly familiar with modern day neo-paganism practices.
THE DOOR: Throughout history the only references that we see towards witchcraft in the context of society is negative, usually a trial or and execution. Now it was co-existing with Christianity and the other religions since antiquity. Where are the historical writings?

THE BEAR: The history is important to note and it can be partially derived from the syntax of the word witch, which derives from the old Anglo-Saxon word WICCA. Which means “wise one”. That in turn derives from the ancient WICE (WEE-KAY), which is the old German for to shape or to bend. Basically the people who practice witchcraft or the craft are people who were the village apothecaries, the village midwives, healers, herbalists, etc.. These were the people who were the conservators of the survival lore that a village needs to survive from year to year and from generation to generation. The Roman Catholic Church signed a deal with Constantine to become the official state religion of the Roman empire in the 4th century AD. Then it began its missionary expansion and it began a process of first discrediting the opposition and second moving into the power vacuum that it created through fear and intimidation.

THE DOOR: So then the Roman Catholic Church didn’t set an example of religious tolerance your saying?

THE BEAR: The Roman Catholic Church signed a deal with the emperor Constantine circa. 318 AD, in which they became the official state religion of Rome. Immediately they went from being the persecuted victims being fed to the lions to the people who were feeding other people to the lions, so to speak. They began a series of what would eventually become Holy Crusades wiping out not only non-Christian religions, but all other competing forms of Christianity. Such as Nestorians, Manichaeists, Pelagianists, Gnostics and anybody else that got in their way. They tried to do it with the Greek Orthodox Church , but it had at that point moved to Byzantium and was militarily, economically and politically too powerful for them to knock off.

THE DOOR: I guess the Inquisition began earlier than we thought, but then again Spain was a Roman colony.

THE BEAR: When the church’s missionaries went north and west they found an existing religious structure, which varied from locality to locality but had several things in common. First of all was the worship of a goddess and a god. The goddess figure often times being given first pre-eminence of place.

THE DOOR: Why is that?
THE BEAR: Because the goddess was the giver of life. She was the force that allowed life to regenerate after the death of the winter. She was the one women turned to for questions of childbirth. To guarantee fertility of the crops. To assure the survival of the next generation. The names of the God and Goddess vary from culture to culture; In the matrifocal religions, not patrifocal ones, they recognize both a Male and female deity or divine principle of some sort, but hold that the Mother-goddess is the more important of the two, as it is She who gave birth to the Universe. Wicca is one such. On the other hand, some Pagan religions such as Asatru simply refer to “the Gods,” and give pre-eminence of place to the God (i.e. Odin Allfather). One of the determining factors in an individuals choice of pantheons and religions is whether you lean primarily toward the Goddess, the God or some balance between them.

That being said, here are some of the names of the Goddess and Her Consort God, respectively (see Silver RavenWolf’s book, To Ride A Silver Broomstick). Cerridwen (pronounced “KAIR-ih-dwen”) and Cernunnos (“ker-NOON-ose”). Welsh goddess and god, often worshipped in Wicca. Isis and Osiris, worshipped and invoked by practitioners of Qabbalistic magick, including Thelema and Ceremonial Witchcraft.
Odin (a.k.a. the Allfather) and Freya, His Wife/lover and commander of the Valkyries. Two of the chief gods of the Aesir, or Norse pantheon, worshipped by followers of the Asatru (“AH-sa-tru”) religion. Kali (a.k.a. Kali-Ma), Creative/destructive Goddess, and Shiva Her Consort, God of the universal birth-life-death-rebirth cycle. Hindu pantheon.

Some Neo-Pagans worship a Goddess or a God exclusively, or nearly so; e.g. Stregha (“STRAY-ga”) Withches are women who worship Aradia, Queen of Witches, and daughter of the goddess Diana. Their tradition dates back to 14th cent. Italy. Dianic or “Feminist” Witches, such a Z Budapest, work entirely with other women; they worship Diana, Roman goddess of the Moon and the hunt. There are “Eclectic Pagans,” who borrow gods and/or goddesses from a number of different traditions, e.g. Native American, Celtic, and Egyptian deities, and mix them up with rituals borrowed from as many different sources.

THE DOOR: Is there a Holy Book, Scripture type document common to all practitioners within the craft?

THE BEAR: This is a difference in structure that has to be addressed. First of all Christianity is based on orthodoxy. It has a text. It has a very rigid set of laws. It has a lineal decent from Jesus through St. Peter the first Bishop of Rome, etc. etc..

THE DOOR: I take it you think this is bad.
THE BEAR: Witchcraft and Wicca follow a very different approach. They do not believe in an orthodox structure from without, i.e. by not sitting and paying your dues and all the rest of this external stuff you will buy your way into heaven. It is very much an individual approach. Very much like Gnostic Christianity was. In other words, your inner knowledge of the truth and your faithfulness to adhere to what you know on a spiritual level to be true is the guiding factor of how well you will succeed in life. Witchcraft, then isn’t a matter of “scripture”-based “orthodoxy”; it has none. It is, to the contrary, quite heavily based on personal experience, choice, responsibility, intuition, “feeling,” and personal “revelation,” if any. Some of us have seen the Gods and/or Goddesses we worship, and have personal relationships with them; others of us can spend a whole lifetime looking, researching, exploring—and this pursuit, itself, becomes our “Tao” or “way” of approaching the Infinite and the Divine. Still others use ritual not so much for “worship,” but to invoke deities, spirits, sprites, fairies, elementals, etc. to raise, shape and direct Power to accomplish certain goals—i.e., their Witchcraft is more “craft” than religion. Thelemic and Qabbalistic Magickians are such. Also there is no dividing line between mortal life as we know it and the trans-mortal experience that most Christians wait until they die to experience. As above so below, that’s one of the tenets.

THE DOOR: Okay, so the answer to the original question concerning the existence of a written history or scriptural documentation of your roots is that it doesn’t exist except in oral traditions. You did raise another question you could elaborate on. How do you experience the trans-mortal experience before you die?

THE BEAR: By a variety of working of spirituality through ritual, which is effectively a form of guided visualization to tap the energies which logical, empirical, scientific thought denies the existence of. In order to help tap the energy to make changes in real world here and now, which we can experience and appreciate. For example, if you have a problem regarding a relationship with somebody: the typical hollywood approach would be to cast a curse on them. The proper witchcraft approach would not be to inflict harm on somebody else, but to properly to defend yourself in accordance with the threefold law. Which states basically that what you put out will rebound upon you threefold. If you put out harm to somebody else you will suffer three times that harm yourself. If you put out good to somebody else, you will enjoy three times that good yourself.

THE DOOR: A Witches golden rule.

THE BEAR: In order to defend yourself ethically and Karmicly however, you have to have a way to neutralize the damage being done to you. One of those ways is by what is called a mirroring spell. You visualize the energy that is being sent directly against you by somebody else as striking a mirror and rebounding upon the person who is doing the sending. I have found this to be a very potent tool. I was under attack here at KBOO as a matter of fact by a volunteer, who engineered the removal of my program, “The Witching Hour” from the air for a while. Then last spring I simply began a series of meditations where I visualized this person’s energy.

THE DOOR: How did you know this person was attacking you?

THE BEAR: Because he was vocal and very public about it. He actually used his official position on the KBOO board of directors and the program committee. Suffice it to say that the guy was very vocal and very public about his opposition to me and to the “Witching Hour”. As soon as it became apparent that this person was not going to be
reasonable, but simply reduce this to a level of personal attack I began a series of visualizations in which I visualized the energy coming from him to me and then rebounding from me unto him.

THE DOOR: Deflection, sounds like a happy medium between martyrdom and murder.
THE BEAR: Like his hatred and negativity striking a glass mirror and reflecting right back on him.

THE DOOR: What if you put a bad curse on somebody? Can you then put up a mirror spell to deflect the rebound from the three-fold law’s reciprocation?

THE BEAR: Magick is governed as much or more by intent as it is by sheer mechanics. If you intend to do some harm to somebody, you are in that active intent creating a negative thought form, which will already start to do harm to somebody else and correspondingly rebound upon you. If you try to play lawyer by doing an active curse spell on somebody and then whipping up a mirror spell in order to try and deflect it, you cannot move fast enough to step out of your own footprint. You cannot move fast enough to get out of your own shadow. You are going to create the reality that you experience.

THE DOOR: Let’s backtrack a little. When you make reference to time periods in history you use the terms BC and AD rather than BCE and CE. This seems unusual in light of your negative views on Christianity.

THE BEAR: I am not a politically correct type person. I’m the product of a culture that speaks English that uses the standardized Gregorian reformed calendar as its benchmark. I could use the term CE and BCE, which I recognize. I simply, however, have for most of my life been using BC and AD as a shorthand convention, because that’s what most people use.

THE DOOR: When you are speaking of gods and goddesses are you capitalizing or using lower case?

THE BEAR: There’s an interesting approach to that. In the pagan community you’ll find that some people believe in a unified god force that transcends any ability to personify it or personalize it. Other people believe in a personalized divinity that is a super conscious being but transcends gender. Other people believe in a pantheon of gods and goddesses. So it really depends upon your viewpoint and approach.

THE DOOR: When I type this out on the word processor should I use an initial uncial or minuscule for Ggod and Ggoddess?

THE BEAR: I would think the general rule would be leave it lower case, because I refer to gods and goddesses usually in the generic sense unless I am specifically creating a ritual where I am invoking the Goddess or God. At which point I’ll capitalize, because I believe that all these different religions and approaches are dealing with essentially the same quality, the same energy, the same being if you will. Simply by different names, however.

THE DOOR: You mentioned the word karmic, is that the same as the karma concept in Buddhism? If so did you borrow it from them?

THE BEAR: Hinduism also generated a lot of concepts, such as karma, which is also found in Buddhism. See there is a great deal of syncretism among pagans, in that we don’t believe that you should be bound by an orthodox text. You have to rather test it according to your own internal chime, or bell. If it rings true for you on a spiritual level you will know that on a spiritual level. It will feel like the right thing to do and it will test out because it will in fact be the right thing to do.

THE DOOR: So then when you read the sacred writings of any religion from the Bible to the Bagavad Gita you’re testing what rings true to you in them?

THE BEAR: Actually you’re exploring them.

THE DOOR: So if you read the Bible and there are parts of it that you feel are relevant to you, you keep them. Such as say the 23rd Psalm?

THE BEAR: There are people who count themselves as Christian witches, because they came from a Christian background and tradition.

THE DOOR: Let’s back up a bit. I thought I heard you say there are Christian witches.

THE BEAR: Um huh.

THE DOOR: That should send our letters to the editor through the roof.

THE BEAR: It’s very unusual, in that a lot of people who are practicing witches, including a lot of ex-Christians like myself, take a look at this and say, given the bloody history of Christianity and the burning times, how do you do this?

THE DOOR: You make it sound as if Christianity is the bad guy. What denomination did you belong to?

THE BEAR: I’m a recovering Catholic as are most of the witches I know in fact.

THE DOOR: Surprise, surprise. I think you mean ex-Catholic. When was the last time that you went to confession?

THE BEAR: I gave up going to confession and church entirely before I was 17 I believe.

THE DOOR: That would be in the mid 1960’s?

THE BEAR: Yes, about 35 years ago

THE DOOR: Do you run into many other Witches who are from a Christian background, and what denominations are they?
THE BEAR: I would say that most witches come from either Catholic, Jehovah’s Witness or a Mormon background.

THE DOOR: That’s interesting. What is the greatest percentage of the three?

THE BEAR: It would be hard to do demographics on that. I would say from personal experience, perhaps anywhere from 2/3 to 4/5 of the witches that I know come from a Catholic background.

THE DOOR: Why do you suppose that is?

THE BEAR: Catholicism #1 has been around longer internationally that virtually any other form of Christianity practiced in the west. It has also a very strong pagan appeal in itself, in that Catholicism borrowed much of its rituals, much of its holidays and much of its holy places from pre-existing pagan religions. For example December 25. Historically the Catholic Church ripped off the Saturnalia in order to have a competing holiday to offer the peasantry, in order to lure them away from the practice of the ancient Roman pagan midwinter holiday.

THE DOOR: Right, in fact some Christians won’t celebrate Christmas and Easter for that very reason, but why is the percentage of Catholic converts to witchcraft so high?

THE BEAR: I think it’s because Catholicism is very external driven, it is very external oriented, it is very much a religion that looks like it was put together by a bunch of politicians who said if we keep the sheep terrorized, submissive and paying their tithes we’ve got ourselves a nice little empire. It’s not any accident that the Roman Catholic Church has an organizational structure that is modeled directly after the ancient Roman civil administration.

THE DOOR: Right, like the Diocese, its administrator the bishop (procurator), College of Cardinals (Senators), Pope (Emperor). However, again, why are so many Witches ex-Catholics?

THE BEAR: The point being that if Roman Catholicism is that much external structure imposed, you must obey or you’re going to be punished. Not you must obey because you understand. Then a lot of us are left with a spiritual hunger going well wait a minute, what happens when the house of cards is revealed for what it is? When you see that the emperor has no clothes.

THE DOOR: So you’re saying that the Roman Catholic Church was devoid of any spiritual substance for you and other witches. Why do you suppose that you only encounter former Roman Catholic, Jehovah’s Witness and Mormons as Wiccan converts? Why not mainline Protestant denominations like: Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist etc.?
Do you think that they are more fulfilled in their faith?
THE BEAR: I’ve known relatively fewer mainline Protestant converts to Wicca than I have met Roman Catholic ones. I think that without doing an accurate diagnosis it would be hard to say whether they are more fear based, and just fearful of making the step out of Christianity into what might actually be a more simpatico religion for them.

THE DOOR: A more what?

THE BEAR: A more sympathetic religion, which they might find to be actually more fulfilling of their needs. The massive crush of negative propaganda that you can find on any televangelist show on any Sunday sermon, from any mainstream pulpit against pagans, Wiccans, Witchcraft and all the rest of it. Especially during the Halloween season. The fear alone might be a major hold up for anybody even remotely considering this. As a matter of fact the one segment in the Christian population I have found to be most sympathetic and open minded toward us would probably be the Universalist Unitarians, who are often times described as not even being Christian by Fundamentalists.

THE DOOR: That’s what Dr. Walter Martin said in Kingdom Of The Cults. Since you mentioned Halloween, explain what is the significance of it to a Witch?

THE BEAR: Halloween or All Hallows Eve is the Christian co-opting of the ancient holiday of Samhain, which is pronounce saw-when. In the Celtic languages when you have an mh put together it’s pronounced as a “W”. Samhain is the time of year when the veil between the mortal world and the life and the world hereafter is at its thinnest. In Celtic tradition the dead, the ancestors were not entities to be feared i.e. ghosts, hauntings and all the Christian claptrap. They were an actual part of the community if you will. They were ancestors to be consulted, to be revered, to be communicated with, especially at this time of year, when it became psychically easiest to do so. The Christians moved in and took it over and established the holiday of All Saints Day, on November 1, Hallowmass and All Hallows Eve. Isaac Bonewits does a wonderful write up on the origins of Halloween. It was essentially an attempt to take over and Christianize a holiday, which the church could not browbeat its new converts into giving up entirely.

THE DOOR: Another popularly referred to pagan religion that usually comes up during Halloween is that of the Druids. It is especially villanized because of its use of human sacrifice, even though many ancient religions practiced it. Is human sacrifice or any type of sacrifice in any way a part of any Witchcraft movements at this particular point in history?

THE BEAR: No. As a matter of fact, for more information about Druidry or Druidism you can check out the web site I just mentioned that is posted by Isaac Bonewits.


To Be Continued.

Firesign Theater Interview

1 Oct

Firesign Theater #1 Firesign Theater #2

Firesign Theater Interview
Saturday, January 29, 2005, Aladdin Theater, 6:15 PM.
By: Bob Gersztyn

This is another interview that never got published. It was of a another group that I worshipped in the late 1960’s and turn or the 70’s. Before the Bible they influenced my thinking quite a bit. The Firesign theater liked the photos that I sent them from their performance enough to post them on a page from their website, and it’s actually still up at: . I interviewed them, as I did most of my non music interviews for the Wittenburg Door magazine. They didn’t publish it because by the time that I did it they were inundated with interviews because of the ease of email submissions, as well as serious journalists who began with snail mail submissions in the 1990’s. So after nearly 10 years in the can, I can now release another never before published interview with one of the iconic figureheads of the 1960’s and the transitional generation that took the paranoia of their parents and tried to replace it with optimism for the future. The only way to do that was through some sort of radical means and one was found in the form of LSD. The Firesign Theater may not have used LSD, but they understood its impact better than veteran inner space astronaut and their humor reflected it. The only question that I had about my interview with them was, when were they serious and when were they pulling my leg?

Entertainment magazine called them one of the “Thirty Greatest Acts of all Time.” The four members of the group, Phil Austin, Peter Bergman, David Ossman and Phil Proctor have been together since 1966. Some twenty-plus record albums, three films, three television specials, two books and innumerable radio programs have been the result. Phil Austin is best know for his character, Nick Danger. The group has even received a Grammy nomination. Peter Bergman tells about how he invented the word “Love-In” and threw the first such event in April of 1967 in Los Angeles, attracting 65,000 people and blocking freeways for miles. This so impressed Columbia Records producer, Gary Usher that he offered the Firesign their first record contract. In the 70’s Peter diversified his comic career as the president of a film equipment company and helped produce a machine for viewing angio cardiograms and measuring the blockage of the arteries of the heart.

Wittenburg Door: First of all, what are you guys doing right now?

Peter Bergman: It’s a new show that we’re it taking on the road. We just opened it yesterday here at the Aladdin Theater. It’s called “The Big, Big Broadcast of 2005.” It’s a full on two act radio based evening of comedy. The first act takes place in a small town called Billville, that we created in our last three albums, “Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death,” “Boom Dot Bust” and “The Bride of Firesign.” It’s on this little very homey radio station called K-BIL. In the second act, unfortunately K-BIL has been bought out by US Plus. The whole town has been bought out. So now, suddenly we’re in fun fun town, and we’re listening to radio NOW, which is owned by US Plus, and is constantly having its format changed. We use this as a loose structure to put together a whole potpourri of material. None of which is really the old classic stuff. Some of it is a couple of years old, that we’ve done, but has never been seen on stage. A lot of it’s new, and it’s very current, without being specifically topical. We used to do a lot more local references than we do now, because the locale we’re dealing with is bigger than any one specific place. The opening last night was very well received. The audience was just happy as clams in sauce, and that was good for us. Tonight, well you always have to watch out for what happens the second night. We have to be on our toes.

Wittenburg Door: That’s great! We here in Doorland have been following your careers, ever since “Waiting For the Electrician or Someone Like Him.” Since the Door is a religious satire magazine, we’d like to ask you some questions in that vein.

Peter Bergman: Of course.

Wittenburg Door: Do you think that the Bible is a book of humor?
Peter Bergman: There is some humor in the Bible, but then what Bible are you talking about?

Wittenburg Door: The Christian Bible.

Peter Bergman: Which Christian Bible? The King James Bible, or the Jerry Falwell all annotated and illustrated Bible, or the Rapture Bible? The Left Behind Bible? It’s been repackaged so many times that it’s hard to tell. Is it a book of humor? There’s humor in it, but I think that it’s a pretty serious tale. It’s not really a very funny document. Certainly the Old Testament, which I was brought up on, and particularly when you had to hear it in Hebrew, I don’t know if it was funny, because I didn’t understand a word that they were saying.

Wittenburg Door: Okay, then what do you think is true religion?

Peter Bergman: That’s a tricky question, because right now we’re seeing a world that’s gone to war over what is true religion. I have my own individual understanding of what that is, and I think that true religion basically is personal. I know that there are people who feel that they know the truth, or that they’ve got it, and that it’s their job to proselytize, and save other people with it.

Phil Proctor enters the room: Hallelujah!

Peter Bergman: I have a problem with that, only because in my study of History, I’ve just seen too many people end up on the wrong end of that stick. I don’t believe for example, that you have to call on any specific person, or deity by name, in order to be saved. I think that to make God that parochial, is error. That’s real error. If I think of any attributes of God, it’s ever loving, with an all inclusive love. Otherwise, I don’t get it.

Peter Bergman turns to Phil Proctor and says: This is for this magazine called “The Wittenburg
Door”. It’s a religious humor magazine.
Phil Proctor: Oh, good.

Peter Bergman: It’s not just my interview.

Wittenburg Door: We interview people about religion from many persuasions, but primarily Christian. We’ve interviewed everyone from Rush Limbaugh and Billy Graham, to Jethro Tull and the Grateful Dead.

Phil Proctor: Before or after they were dead?

Wittenburg Door: ?
Peter Bergman: Something that I find interesting is how George Bush, born again, decided to take a very hard line on what you needed to be saved. He believed that the only way to salvation was through Jesus Christ. His parent’s who were very liberal Christians, were a little concerned with that, so they called in Billy Graham. They said why don’t you talk to Billy Graham about this, because he’s like a big mentor of presidents, right? So George W. Bush says, isn’t it true that you can only get to salvation through Jesus Christ? Graham then said, you know that’s really not the issue. He said, just back off, live a good life, that’s really not the issue. But George sees it the other way, in black and white, good and evil, saved and damned. That really bothers me.

Wittenburg Door: Billy told him that?

Peter Bergman: Yes he did. I read it in the newspapers. Back off he said that’s really not the issue. Graham has always been, in many ways a moderate.

Phil Proctor: Graham is certainly not a “Cracker.”

Wittenburg Door: When we interviewed Rev. Fred Phelps, who has a ministry called, “God Hates Fags.” He called Graham a reprobate backslider, who would burn in hell. Moving on to another area, what do you think the future of America is?

Peter Bergman: Boy that’s a big question, and we only have a little bit of time.

Phil Proctor: Come to the show tonight and you’ll find out.

Wittenburg Door: We already have our seats staked out.

Peter Bergman: I think that the future of America is definitely a function of the vigilance and political will of its people. I think that the country has given its imagination and its political will away, and if it doesn’t fight to get it back we’re doomed.

Phil Proctor: We’re doomed. That’s our philosophy on the end.

Peter Bergman: I’ll find out about the rapture then.

Wittenburg Door: Well then, who do you think the anti-Christ is?

Peter Bergman: I don’t believe in a concept of the anti-Christ. I don’t even know where the concept of the anti-Christ was developed. You certainly don’t find it in the New Testament.

Wittenburg Door: What about the book of Revelation?

Peter Bergman: Revelation was pasted onto the New Testament. Excuse me.
Phil Proctor: Revelation is the Biblical sequel, isn’t it? The Bible part two.

Peter Bergman: Yeah right. It has nothing to do with the life and teachings of Christ. It’s a vision of an interesting individual, or individuals. It’s been given the kind of prominence it has, because of people’s insane love of prophecy, doom and apocalypse.

Wittenburg Door: So then what do you think will happen in 2012, when the Mayan calendar runs out of years?

Peter Bergman: We’ll buy more. Isn’t that what China’s for?

Phil Proctor: We’re not very superstitious people, and we also are not literalist’s. All four of us have that in common. We’re writers, and comedians, and we believe that life should be taken with a grain of salt, and a sense of humor.

Peter Bergman: Each of us has our own religious understanding. We don’t proselytize, and if we use it for anything, we use it to create an even deeper sense of humor. Otherwise, you can’t keep four guys together if anybody thinks that anybody else is spiritually unclean (chuckles). I just hate that concept.

Wittenburg Door: So do any of you practice any particular religious discipline?

Phil Proctor: My wife and I go to the church of Religious Science in Los Angeles, which is the teachings of a fellow named Ernest Holmes. Just to give you an example of the kind of church that we like to go to, our church services are held on the stage of a major theater, on Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles. Our preacher is an ex song and dance man, who gives most entertaining, and enlightening teachings. The church is very much one of the, your God is within, and we are all of God, and we are all capable of being God, and following God’s ways.

Peter Bergman: If we’re not God, then who is?

Phil Proctor: We’re all parts of this great cosmos, this great thing that we’re all involved in. It’s important for us to live lives that reflect the consciousness of higher understanding, and that’s what we believe in.

Peter Bergman: I don’t think that any of the four of us were brought up in any kind of a crippling religious household, and therefore had to radically remove ourselves from religion. I find that most people who hate religion, were brought up in very difficult religious circumstances.
Phil Proctor: I was raised as a Protestant and a Catholic, because my father was Irish Catholic, and my mother was Amish Protestant. Once the Amish leave the church, the Amish community, and the old order, they basically become like Protestants. So in Goshen, Indiana I would go to Protestant Sunday school, but every once in a while I’d go to Catholic services, which of course were in Latin, so I really didn’t understand, or identify with that religion. It was also very dark and scary to me.

Peter Bergman: I was brought up a liberal Jew, in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and always felt that one thing that I missed in Judaism, was that there was nothing personal about it. I wanted to be able to visualize God, or I wanted to have some idea about where I was going afterwards. I wanted more of a story. I loved the tradition and all that, but I did get tired of memorizing long lists of famous Jewish people, so I’ve looked beyond that, in my own life. Now the other guys all have their own experiences.

Phil Proctor: Do you want us to call Dave Ossman in?

Wittenburg Door: Yes, of course, but before you go Peter, we had a question that we wanted to ask you, dealing with your view of the 1960’s today. It’s been nearly forty years since the summer of love, and the counterculture revolution of the 1960’s. How does our present state look like, or differ from your vision of the 21st century in hindsight.

Peter Bergman: I ran the first “Love In,” and I never thought as a Hippie leader, which is how they described me, that the world was going to become a Hippie place to live in. I spent too much time working in the US Senate, teaching at Yale, being in, and amongst all of that kind of what you might call cultural elite, to know that the world is a lot tougher, and is a lot more sophisticated than that. The Hippies were able to succeed in three or four areas. They helped stop the Viet Nam war. Helped! They’re not completely responsible for it. They finally did away with fashion. (Laughing) There is no longer any like, OK fashion. You can wear anything you want to. And they broke music wide open. As far as what I think of the 21st century? Oh my God, I could go on forever.

Dave Ossman: I don’t think that we’ve entered the 21st century yet. I think that if anything we’ve moved back a little deeper into the 20th century.

Wittenburg Door: Really? You don’t think that 9/11 made that punctuation mark?

Dave Ossman: No 9/11 just scared the hell out of everybody, and made people retreat into superstition.

Tour manager Taylor Jessen enters: Thirty minutes to show time.

Peter Bergman: It brought the war back home. It was a wake up call in a sense. We’ve been running around for fifty years not figuring out that there’s really two worlds out there, and that second world out there of religious fundamentalism, and medieval murderous thinking came home.

Phil Proctor: Came a knocking on our door.

Peter Bergman: My first response was, well I’m not surprised. I guess I’m not surprised. I guess I’m not surprised, but I don’t think we necessarily deserved it. I hold no trust in fundamental religion.

Dave Ossman: None whatsoever.

Peter Bergman: I’ve got to go put my makeup on, you can continue talking to Phil & Dave.

Phil Proctor: The whole topic of religion is like politics, which we avoid confronting in our work in any way, other than in an allegorical way. I would say that the overriding philosophy of the Firesign Theater’s comedy is that we are personally responsible, and you are personally responsible for what happens to you, in your life, and that means for good, or for evil. It just depends on how you approach your fellow man, and what your goal is. What you wish to attain in your life. We try to make fun of highly materialistic approaches to thinking, and try to encourage people to think on higher levels of consciousness, and think about greater things than just the momentary perspective of where you are. We try to give a more cosmic overview. Right now I think that what the problem with America is, as we see it, is that it’s lost a lot of its sense of humor, and that people feel very frightened, and basically the government that is in control now has escalated the agency of fear to gain control, and power over the people, and that’s always to me a very bad, bad thing. It’s a nasty business, and not a great place to be. I’m not very happy living in that kind of America today.

Wittenburg Door: Do you think that maybe war is simply a tool that is used by civilization in manipulating the process of its own evolution?

Phil Proctor: Yeah, I do, but I also think that it’s also a tool in the sense of…..who is the great satirist? Not Swift, but who wrote “Candide?”

Dave Ossman: Voltaire.

Phil Proctor: I’m a Voltarian. I really think that it’s part of the cosmic chaos that rules the world, and that there is this balance of ignorant behavior, and if you will, enlightened, or scientific thought. Although scientific thought isn’t always enlightened either. It can be very ignorant, and that is in conflict all the time. So that plus the petty needs of people for more land, and food, and all those other balances of nature, create chaos. I think that nature is in essence chaotic, and not balanced and wonderful.

Wittenburg Door: The Tsunami that just happened in Thailand would be a good example.

Phil Proctor: Exactly! It’s just what happens, and people are then dumbfounded that they’re caught with their pants around their ankles. I think that it’s kind of amusing. The loss of all these lives in the Tsunami isn’t amusing. I think that it’s amusing that people are always shocked and startled, and asking, what did I do wrong? Why was I spared? Why did God do this? Living a good life is finding some kind of place to be in yourself, that allows you to accept these things without freaking out. To understand that they’re part and parcel of change, like life and death. People are so afraid of death, that they made religions out of it. It’s just that we come in and we go out. It’s kind of funny, really. We don’t have any control over any of that, but you certainly do have control over what you can do while you’re here. What do I think is the most important thing to do? Live a good life? David should talk a little now.

Wittenburg Door: Okay Dave. What are your views on religion?

Dave Ossman: There’s a general subject to start with. I was raised a Christian Scientist, and I’m married to a Tibetan Buddhist. They’re pretty much the same, in that Christian Scientist’s believe that everyone is God, and you are in fact, God, and that we are all Gods. There is no separation between each of us, as individuals, and God. That’s what, or who God is. That’s my religion. I believe that we are all God. If that’s true, then there is in the fullest sense responsibility for everybody, because we’re all in it together. There is no higher source. There is no one that you can get to intercede. We were listening to a religious broadcast on the road, driving down here, and the guy was asking, “are you disappointed with your life? Are you disappointed with your God, because you asked for something, and you haven’t received it?” What the hell are we talking about here? That’s really talking at cross purposes. If you’re asking a supernatural being to help you get an “A” in geometry, or get a new couch, or a better paying job, these are all everybody’s personal responsibilities. That, and we must all look out for each other, and we do that in a family way. We create families, in order to create order. Don’t you think? So we are this family. Sometimes you get along and sometimes we don’t get along. Each of us have families, and we rely on the training of that family to help improve the world. When my son Orson was very young he spoke of Orson boys and girls. That was when he was three or four years old. By that he meant a generation of children, who were going to grow to maturity, and could help to change things, because he knew that he was a trans generational child. He came into the world knowing enough, how we don’t know. You come into the world knowing things, or you come into the world ignorant, or else you come in as an ant. His realization at that very young age, that generationally he could do something to improve the state of the world. That was very powerful stuff.
Phil Proctor: Because of time constraints you probably won’t get to talk to Phil Austin about all this, but when you watch the show, you’ll see a lot of what Phil thinks, because he portrays religious characters, because it’s part of his comedy. There’s a character called Dr. Me, who runs a show called “Pay the Lord,” based on Dr. Eugene Scott, out of L.A.. He blows cigar smoke into the camera, he’s completely nuts. He talks about these incomprehensible Biblical passages, in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin, and Aramaic, on his blackboard, until it’s covered like wallpaper. He makes a parody of his character.
Dave Ossman: I do Reverend Barnstormer.
Tour Manager, Taylor Jessen:: It’s fifteen minutes to show time, and the guys need to get ready.

Wittenburg Door: Thanks for talking to us. We’re looking forward to the show.

Peter Bergman died March 9, 2012

The Firesign Theater’s website:

Sonny Barger and Hell’s Angels

23 Sep

Book Cover Hell's AngelSonny's autographHells Angel Bodyguard Sonny signing a book Sonny Barger Sonny & Door Magazine

During the 20 years that I was a rock and religion journalist I did well over a hundred interviews with everyone from rock icons like Bo Diddley to members of the legendary intellectual hippie comedy quartet the Firesign Theater. Many of them were published in one of three publications that I worked for, The Wittenburg Door, Blues Review/Blueswax or Folkwax. However, there were some interviews that were never published for various reasons, like the magazine or ezine ceased publication. So I decided to publish them on my blog. I want to start with Sonny Barger the president emeritus of the Oakland chapter of the Hells Angels. Back in 2000 when I interviewed him it was during a signing of his then just published autobiography. Since then he’s written and published another 5 books and is celebrating his 75th birthday on October 13, 2014. All the information about Sonny can be found on his website located at:

Happy Birthday Sonny.

August 26, 2000

Ralph “Sonny” Barger helped start the Oakland, California Chapter of the “Hells Angels” motorcycle club back in 1957. He and the other wild bikers that he rode with decided on the name “Hells Angels”, from a patch that Don Reeves, A.K.A. Boots found. By 1958 Barger took over as President. His administration both consolidated and expanded the club by absorbing, dismantling or driving rival clubs out of the state. At the same time the Angels were granting prospect charters to existing clubs, as far away as Australia. By the mid 1960’s Sonny was the #1 Hells Angel of the worlds largest outlaw motorcycle club. He hung out with Ken Kesey and the Grateful Dead. He was present at historic war protest rallies in Berkley, where he and other Angels beat up protestors. Barger has been charged with murder, kidnaping, income tax evasion, gun possession, drug possession and conspiracy. He’s served 13 years in prison, and he co-wrote a book with Keith and Kent Zimmerman, a British bestseller team. The autobiography bears the title “Hells Angel” (The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club), published by William Morrow / Harper Collins.

Mr. Barger was doing book signing’s over the weekend at two Borders book stores, in the Portland, Oregon area. Since I was the staff photographer for the Wittenburg Door magazine (Pretty Much The World’s Only Religious Satire Publication), which the store carried, I decided to try to get an interview with Sonny. I called Borders and gained permission to enter the store on Saturday with my camera gear and to plead my case when Sonny arrived. By the time I got there the parking lot was cordoned into two sections, one for motorcycles and the other for cars. The bike section was nearly full. By the time Barger arrived with his entourage there was a line outside the front door. After being introduced to Sonny by the store manager I gave him a copy of the magazine and asked about doing an interview with him. He told me that he would give me a 10 minute interview after everyone had their books signed, and I could take all the photos I wanted while I waited.

During the next 2 hours a non stop line made up of everyone from hard core bikers to middle aged housewives purchased anywhere from a single copy, to a stack of Sonny’s books, and he signed each one, posed for photos and politely conversed with everyone. He advised one pre-teen girl not to smoke, and pointed to the gauze covering the hole in his throat, where his vocal cords were removed. He speaks without any mechanical aids, so his voice is hoarse and raspy. His bodyguards were from the Washington State and Arizona Chapters, since there aren’t any “Hells Angel” chapters in Oregon. According to Barger, after the Hells Angels ran the Gypsy Jokers out of California they gave them the state of Oregon. After the last person left I was directed to the table that Sonny was sitting at. After we shook hands I asked him if he would sign my book which he did, I took a few pictures of him holding

BOB GERSZTYN: Thanks for agreeing to do the interview Sonny, I just interviewed Mickey Hart, from the Grateful Dead a few weeks ago.

RALPH “SONNY” BARGER: Okay, I know Mickey. The only thing is this, let me tell you first, we don’t make fun of our club. We don’t joke about it. If you’re gonna do a satire it’s probably better we don’t do it, because we just don’t joke about our club. You know what I mean?

BOB: Yes, I understand what you mean, but I’m not going to satirize the Hell’s Angels. The interviews are dead serious.

SONNY: Okay. I just wanted to make it plain that we don’t do that. We have too many people dead and in jail for sticking up for the club name when it was made fun of in an article.

BOB: There would be nothing insulting, we guarantee. In fact we’ll even include what you just said in the interview so we can start off with the right understanding right up front.

SONNY: They had me booked to do a program called Politically Incorrect. I went down there, but after talking to those guys I walked out. What they wanted me to do was really stupid.

BOB: The magazine has interviewed everyone from Billy Graham to Anton LaVey.

SONNY: Gee, I haven’t heard that guys name since the 70’s.

BOB: Anton Lavey?

SONNY: Is he still around?

BOB: No, he died.. In fact another journalist did a post mortem interview with him. Now what I’d like to talk to you about today is the place that God, religion or anything of a spiritual nature may have in your life. This would be both within the context of your involvement with the Hell’s Angels and in your personal life.

SONNY: With me it’s very simple. I’m not religious. I don’t believe in God per se. I feel something’s happening and I don’t know what, and I really don’t even care. But people can put a gun in their mouth and pull the trigger and live and other people can fall down at 10 MPH and die. So I personally don’t believe that you can make it happen until it’s your time. However, you can mess yourself up really bad and wish you had died by trying, but unless it’s your time it isn’t going to happen. What causes that I don’t know and I don’t care? When it’s my time they’ll tell me. I’ve had a heart attack, I’ve had cancer, I’ve been hit by a pick up truck and I’m still here. Other people fall down on the sidewalk and die. You know what I mean?

BOB: Yes.

SONNY: There’s something there that says when it’s your time, but I don’t know what it is. I don’t even care what it is.

BOB: Was there ever a time that you attended church, even as a child?

SONNY: When I was a child I used to have to go to Sunday school at an Episcopalian church.

BOB: I take it you don’t attend anymore. At what point did you quit going?

SONNY: When I got old enough to turn the corner the other way when my Dad wasn’t looking.

BOB: How old were you then?

SONNY: Probably 7 or 8.

BOB: How about psychedelic drug experiences? Did you ever have any spiritual trips?

SONNY: I had out of body experiences on mescaline. I was sitting in my front room on mescaline and all of a sudden I realized that I was looking down at everything instead of looking out straight. I looked up to see what was looking down and my brain was on the rafter looking down at the conversation.

BOB: Did any of these experiences prompt you to contemplate things like God or open the door to any sort of spiritual thoughts?


BOB: Let’s look at the moral code of the Hell’s Angels organization for a moment. People who are involved in Judeo-Christian faiths will use the 10 Commandments as a guideline. Is there an equivalent to this for Hell’s Angels?

SONNY: Well yeah, our thing is we treat everybody the way we want to be treated. Then if they don’t treat us back that way, sometimes they’re very sorry.

BOB: I see.

SONNY: But the 10 commandments are basically a good example. We don’t lie to each other, we don’t steal from each other, and we don’t fool around with each other’s wives. You know what I mean?

BOB: Yes.

SONNY: We live a very moral life when you get right down to it, within ourselves.

BOB: That’s with the club members?


BOB: So then anybody outside of the club is fair game?

SONNY: They get treated the way they treat us. I mean there’s always the exception. Maybe one time out of a thousand some guy might get beat up or treated bad that don’t have it coming, but normally I think I can say in all honesty, I’ve never hurt anybody in my life that wasn’t trying to hurt me or mine.

BOB: In your book you have a story about the first time that you were arrested in a motorcycle incident. It was after a party and you tried to drive your motorcycle home drunk. You cracked up into some guys parked car, and when he came out and was concerned about your condition, you blamed him for the accident because of where he parked his car, and beat him up.

SONNY: No, I didn’t beat him up. I tried to but I could hardly even get up.

BOB: You’ve recovered from a heart attack, throat cancer and being broadsided on your motorcycle going 70 MPH by a pickup truck. Have any of these life-shattering events ever prompted you to think about your mortality?

SONNY: No, it just wasn’t my time.

BOB: So it just goes back to what you’ve already said.

SONNY: Exactly.

BOB: You were in the middle of some of the greatest turbulence and nation changing historical events of 20th century America. How would you describe the 1960’s in a nutshell.

SONNY: I don’t know? That’s very hard to sum up, but it was like the sixties were just a good time. They’ll never happen again. Nobody in the world will let happen what happened in the sixties happen again. I was a very fortunate person. It would be nice if I was only 25 or 30 years old again, but I lived through some really good times.

BOB: Do you think what happened in the 60’s produced a better world today?

SONNY: I’m not sure how to answer that, but I think every life experience makes you better.
BOB: Do you think that the way people thought changed because of the 60’s.

SONNY: Oh, I’m sure it did. Yeah.

BOB: From what you’re saying it seems that you just took one day at a time.

SONNY: Everyday of my life has been one day at a time.


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