Dylan, interpreter of the Zeitgeist

The Times They Are A-Changin’

Dylan, interpreter of the Zeitgeist

According to esotericism, that which we call “the Zeitgeist” (the spirit of the age) is caused by intercosmic rays that intervene with humanity, regulating and acting upon human development. Few possess the ability to perceive and interpret these intercosmic rays directly, but many are sensitive to them, and the results of an evolving Zeitgeist can hardly be missed.

A rather spectacular example of these results are the 1960s of the twentieth century: Teenagers and twenty-year-olds at the time – the generation now called ‘the baby boomers’ – considered the established order to be completely obsolete and demanded participation and democratization, among other things through student movements. This lust for protest went hand in hand with great optimism towards the future, which was reflected in the Flower Power-movement and in a song from the musical Hair (1967), which became a number-one hit: Aquarius/Let the sunshine in.

In those years there was a real explosion of youth-oriented music – which was called ‘pop music’. The Beatles, who broke through in 1962 with Love me do, are the undisputed figurehead of this new music. Bob Dylan’s musical career also started in 1962. On July 2, 1962, the then twenty-one-year-old Dylan played his Let me die in my footsteps, which includes:

The meaning of life has been lost in the wind

And some people thinkin’ that the end is close by 

‘Stead of learnin’ to live they are learnin’ to die’.

In those same years, Rosicrucians pointed to

a new intercosmic radiation field that encompasses our world and has now acquired sufficient intensity and tension to produce noticeable, visible, demonstrable effects; effects which, in their context, will cause a complete revolution of world and humanity, and this over a period of relatively few years.

They aspired to create what we would now call a modern community, in the most sublime sense of that word. The song The Times They Are A-Changing, which Bob Dylan first played on October 26, 1963 (see box), sounds like an almost literal echo of the call that sounded at the Rosicrucian conference center Renova several months earlier. Until August 14, 2009 Dylan would play this song live 633 times. It was released as a single and is also on 18 LPs of Dylan and has been distributed millions of times around the world. Millions of people have at least parts of the text in their minds.

Looking back, the song’s title was definitely prophetic: times have changed rapidly and drastically ever since. The “Morning of a new Day” stirred up turmoil, shook up the social system and gave the feeling that the possibilities for innovation were there: now we can! The dark clouds of materialism and conservatism were dispelled by the sun of idealism and optimism.

In Dylan’s extensive work the transience and relativity of life is often still sung. Like a Rolling Stone from 1965 sketches the fate of a proud lady from wealthy circles who has come to the end of her tether. In the chorus a hopeless loneliness and desolation can be heard:

How does it feel

To be on your own

With no direction home

Like a complete unknown.

In 1964, in It’s Alright, Ma, as a variation on Preacher (bible), we find the line

I have had enough, what else can you show me?

All Along the Watchtower from 1965 starts with the heart cry

There must be some way out of here

and then says

There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke

But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate .

The song Queen Jane Approximately from 1987 testifies about the boredom of the repetition:

When you’re tired of yourself and all of your creations,

also of the transience in

The smell of their roses does not remain,

and above all a considerable rebuke:

Your conclusions should be more drastic.

There is definitely a ‘way out’, a transcendence of repetition, boredom and decay. But it does require a drastic decision taken from within to ‘a new action, a new focus’, as Jan van Rijckenborgh and Catharose de Petri formulated in 1963.

Because Dylan himself was part of that youth, which was sensitive to “the times that changed”, his message and his vision on people and society, came as it were “from the inside” and emerged from that youth itself. A generation of young people that has now slowly turned gray, but still – and again – accounts for many Dylan fans.

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’
For the loser now will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’

The Times They Are A-Changin’ Written by Bob Dylan

© 2018 Sony Music Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.


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Date: March 12, 2020
Author: Johan van der Cammen (Netherlands)
Photo: openClipart-Vectors via Pixabay

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