God within man: Jethro Tull, My God

For the first song on this website, we go as far back as the year 1969, when Jethro Tull released their second album Stand Up, which contained the song My God.

Jethro Tull sings about God. The video is taken from the Isle Of Wight Festival in 1970, in front of about 600.000 people.

People, what have you done
Locked Him in His golden cage

Made Him bend to your religion
Him resurrected from the grave

The religion that people follow is man-made …

He is the God of nothing
If that’s all that you can see

… and not fulfilling. But that is man’s fault, not God’s … Anderson makes it very clear he is not propagating an atheist position:

You are the God of everything
He’s inside you and me

This is fundamental. Don’t look for God in the outside world, in dogmatic religious systems … Look no further than your own being! It’s all there, waiting to be set free.

These lines remind me of an old quote by Rumi:

I searched for God among the Christians and on the Cross
and therein I found Him not.
I went into the ancient temples of idolatry; no trace of Him was there.
I entered the mountain cave of Hira and then went as far as Qandhar but God I found not.
With set purpose I fared to the summit of Mount Caucasus and found there only ‘anqa’s habitation.
Then I directed my search to the Kaaba, the resort of old and young; God was not there even.
Turning to philosophy I inquired about him from ibn Sina but found Him not within his range.
I fared then to the scene of the Prophet’s experience of a great divine manifestation only a “two bow-lengths’ distance from him” but God was not there even in that exalted court.
Finally, I looked into my own heart and there I saw Him;
He was nowhere else.

Source: Goodreads.com

Back to Jethro Tull: Don’t try to misuse God to solve your personal problems …

So lean upon Him gently
And don’t call on Him to save you
From your social graces
And the sins you used waive

Ian Andersons flute and Krishna

The way Ian Anderson is dancing to his own flute music may be a reference to the Hindu God Krishna. In Sufi wisdom, Krishna represents the ideal of divine love, and the flute is associated with man in the following way:

Divine love manifests itself by entering the human being and filling it. The flute symbolizes the human heart. If the heart is emptied of worldly worries, it becomes hollow and transforms to an instrument that divine love can play on.

If, however, the heart is not emptied, there is no room for divine love, and the instrument cannot let its sound be heard.

Lord Krishna plays the flute.
Author: VedSutra; Source: Wikimedia Commons

Rumi took the allegory of the flute further by likening the pains and sorrows that the soul experiences during human life to the holes in a (reed) flute. So by making these experiences (and consciously incorporating their essence) man prepares the reed flute.

In other words, the human heart is at first merely a reed, and only when holes are created through suffering, the reed is transformed to an instrument that God can play on.

Going further, the peacock’s feather that Krishna is wearing (but not Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson, though) may symbolize how the music of the heart can be expressed by the head. The peacock’s feather expresses both beauty and knowledge (the eye); the flute and the feather complete the unity of head and heart.

4 Replies to “God within man: Jethro Tull, My God”

  1. Good analysis. I’m a child of the late 60’s/early 70’s, was more into hard rock as an outlet for a bit of anger; last few years I’ve been delving into a lot of deep cuts by some classic bands like Tull, Moody Blues, et al, though I’ve always been a classic rock fan from way back, Hendrix, Ten Years After, Alice Cooper, Beatles, an eclectic blend, sooo many great ones, but of late been looking into deeper meaning like you’re doing here. I really appreciate what you’re doing & look forward to what you have to share.

    1. Thanks, Bernard! I grew up in the 80s, but listened to the 60s / 70s and used to think I was born too late. Thanks for pointing me to Moody Blues. Currently I struggle to find time for more posts – there are definitely a few on the list …

What's your view?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.