Back at the beginning, I split myself in two
For the world was just too big to see with such a narrow view.
The two that I became, they knew exactly what to do,
With another point of view around the world felt fresh and new.
The two that I became soon turned into three and four
I lived a life of peace, and never dreamed I’d start a war
I headed out across the land to conquer and explore
But soon enough I felt the need to split myself some more
The thousands I became began to build their first machines
I started building tiny boats to navigate the seas
I dreamed a few religions, but they all disagreed
So then my new religions started building armies
My boats turned into battleships, across the seas they raced
The soldiers of myself all wore disguises on their face
The war engulfed the planet as my armies swept the land
I couldn’t see which side of me would gain the upper hand
The tiny little soldiers were too small to understand
I made me fight against myself to find out who I am
I don’t feel that responsible, for how could I have known
The enemies I wiped away were soldiers of my own
The winner of the war would know the shape of things to come
For they alone decide my fate when all is said and done;
I almost caught a glimpse of me, reflecting in the sun
but suddenly the final soldier cursed what I’d become
I lost control of everything, and I became confused
I waged a war against myself I never thought I’d lose
But right before I killed myself, I wondered if they knew
That all along their Mighty God was just a point of view
The Wheel Of Time is a song I wrote in 2009 while I was renting out a studio by LAX, underneath the flight path of landing 747’s. The studio was your standard 12×10 concrete cell that we outfitted with some tacky green carpet, a couch, and a makeshift desk for my recording gear. It was a great place to escape from everything, and sink into my music.
I soon fell into a very productive routine. I usually got to the studio around 8pm to jam with my band or chat with my friend GG for a bit. His brother is Drew Goddard, writer for Lost and Cabin In The Woods – so I usually nagged him about the ending of Lost most of the time. But GG is also an amazing producer and sound engineer with replicas of every piece of gear Pink Floyd used…ever. (He even once flew to Italy to buy the actual rotary delay David Gilmour used in Live at Pompeii). I learned alot from GG about mixing – which frequencies go where, how to make the perfect kick drum sound, why taking the 500Hz frequency out of a guitar magically makes it sound better, etc. I owe him big time for that.
After social time was over, I would get to work – often moving from instrument to instrument recording ideas. I usually started with a programmed beat and a chord progression and built from there. Once the music was done, I would walk through the vacant streets brainstorming lyrics, and would often record the entire song before sunrise – to avoid the thundering sound of landing aircraft. At around 10am I would lay down on the couch and drift off to sleep, listening to an entirely new song I had just created.
I should probably take a moment to explain something people have been asking me about regarding the name change from Post Human Era to Ancient Lasers. In April of 2010, I had just finished an entire album that was to be the second chapter of a trilogy by Post Human Era. The album was called Echo Corridor, and I was literally days away from releasing it. I had sent the single, Building The Machine, to Daniel Anderson of Idiot Pilot – one of my favorite bands of all time. He decided to remix it, and after I heard the possibilities of what we could both do as a team, I asked if he wanted to do an entire album. We used songs from both To Build A Fire and Echo Corridor as starting points, but ended up with a much more visceral sound. Together, we decided it was too different from Post Human Era to label it as such, and thus, Ancient Lasers was born. Post Human Era, however, is far from dead – I am currently working on something that takes it into very different terrain.
This song in particular, The Wheel Of Time, deals with the insanity of religion. I grew up with a mother that had started out with a Catholic family, but then converted to Judaism; and a Jewish father, so I went to both Church and Synagogue. I remember dreading wednesday night Hebrew school, where I practiced writing an ancient language that was both extremely confusing and downright hard to learn. Yet, there was something mystical about it. When I walked into Beth Israel Synagogue in Bellingham every Wednesday and Sunday, it felt like I was instantly transported to some sacred, distant past. My rabbi was both a Star Trek fan and paleontologist, which was pretty damn awesome to a 10 year old boy – but hilariously ridiculous if you think about it. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the early years I spent learning about Israel, having Seder for Passover, and lighting the candles for Hanukkah.
My mother’s side of the family was pretty faithful about getting together every Easter, Christmas (when we got the ‘good’ presents, as opposed to a book or something for Hannukah), and Thanksgiving (which I consider a Christian holiday). Those holidays, along with the Church experience, felt more commercialized – more ‘American’. They were alot of fun, and I wouldn’t trade those memories for the world.
Yet up until this point, I hadn’t really questioned either religion. Since I was learning about two separate schools of thought, I hadn’t fully submitted myself to one particular ideology. Everything was going as planned, until the moment arrived that would ultimately open my eyes to the world behind the world.
I was about to turn 13, and it was time for me to start practicing for my Bar Mitzvah. My father opened the study guide, which contained the Hebrew I would need to recite for the ceremony. We both sat down on the couch in the living room, and started to practice. After about twenty minutes, I remember looking up at him and asking why we were doing this. Why are we memorizing words that were written thousands of years ago to recite at a ceremony, just to prove that I was entering adulthood? And most importantly, what if I decided I simply didn’t want to?
In one life-changing sentence, he confessed: “We are doing this because my father wanted me to when I was your age.” We both realized that we were doing something simply because our ancestors before us had. Without questioning why; without deciding for ourselves if it was right – what we truly believed in our hearts. He let me decide for myself, and ultimately I decided that I didn’t believe in what we were doing. And I am eternally grateful for his decision.
The next sunday, instead of going to Synagogue, we went fishing together and experienced real life in nature, unfiltered by antiquated dogma and human ideologies. It was liberating for our entire family, and though we haven’t really talked about it since, I think they are thankful I spoke up – because everyone else was afraid to.
This is why we have Holy Wars, racism, and hate. People sometimes get scared to raise their hand in class when something doesn’t make sense. “Keep your head down. Do as you are told. Follow the leader. Memorize this. Don’t ask why.” When something doesn’t make sense, scream at the top of your lungs so everyone can hear you. We can’t change the world if we keep ourselves planted in the sands of the past. Refuse to believe what people tell you – until you know it to be true from your own personal experiences. No one knows anything more than you do, and that will never change.
The Wheel Of Time is about the continual habit of recursion we can’t seem to escape from. But I came here to throw a wrench in its gears. And every day thousands of people are waking up, as I did, from the peaceful sleep of herded sheep.
Ancient Lasers – The Wheel Of Time
The wheel of time repeats itself, it turns you into someone else
You’ll fight a war you’ll never win, you’ll make the same mistakes again
And now you finally see so many reasons behind the great confusion
You know the voices of the dead are really voices in your head
You wonder if you’ve lost your mind, you hope you get it back this time
They tell you what you want to hear, you wish they’d all just disappear
And now you finally see so many reasons behind the great confusion
You know the voices of the dead, are really voices in your head
Maybe we are doomed to repeat this, maybe we still haven’t found the way
But no matter what they say, the pattern’s here to stay
And every time you think you’ve reached the end, you watch it start itself again
Every time it repeats itself, it repeats itself, it repeats itself again
Arthur C Clarke called him “some kind of genius.” I recently got the chance to interview Bill Lauritzen, the author of The Invention Of God – which is a fascinating book that looks at how religion began – and how our ancestors interpreted the natural world as something supernatural.
What was the origin of your beliefs and how were you raised as a child? Did that affect how you feel about religion and science?
I was lucky because I never went to church as a child and my parents were agnostic, so that helped me to have an open-minded belief system. It made me very curious about religion – because I wasnt exposed to it. My father was a business man and my mother was a journalist, both fairly well educated. Niether one went to college however, my mother was self – educated, and that had a big influence on me. She was a very curious person.
What led you down this path as your got more curious? Any singular event?
One important event of great significance was in 1992. I went to a total eclipse in Hawaii, and I was more impressed by the volcanic structure of the island and seeing the lava turn into solid ground before my eyes – that had a big influence on me. It eventually led me to explore other volcanoes around the world and I realized how important they are in religion and mythology. In Hawaii, you can walk right up to the lava flow – there were no park rangers holding you back. Hawaiian volcanoes are called shield volcanoes, and later on I visited cone volcanoes – which are more explosive – in Southeast asia and Indonesia. One volcano in particular was Krakatoa, which exploded violently in 1883. The Child of Krakatao is now growing and will eventually explode. These are things the ancient people saw, and this affected their mythology and their worldview.
So your line of thinking is that we didn’t have the tools to explain natural phenomena?
We didnt have the elaborate, sophisticated science. Ancient people were proto-scientists. They didnt even have a word for religion. Their proto-science…It was a model of the world around them, and that developed later into alchemy…And finally into chemistry and physics.
Before electricity, volcanoes were one of the few sources of light in the world. You had lightning, the sun and moon, fire, and volcanoes. Primitive man tried to fit all this together into some whole cohesive theory, and basically came up with fire, air, earth, and water as a primitive science – which then led to the periodic table that we have today.
What are your theories about prophets – the people that claimed they spoke to God?
Well, it’s possible they thought the volcano was a God of the underworld, because they saw lava turning into land, and the land becoming fertile and growing things – they saw this happen, so they might have assumed it was a creator.
Have you thought that were might be an impending war between science and religion?
Nobody knows the future, but certainly there is conflict going on between the religious right and the rest of us, and I dont know that it will result in violence, but I do see social upheaval – primarily due to the great wealth inequalities, and as a result of the policies of the previous administrations. Again, nobody can predict it, but it will be interesting. People need to demistify these myths and defeat the fundamentalists.
Whats the best way to educate people in a way that doesn’t offend them, and still allows them to be spiritual, but to not be ostracized by their families and community?
My original intent with the book was not to offend people, but I don’t know how well it does that because I’m not reading it from a religious viewpoint. I don’t know that religion will ever be replaced with something else – I’m beginning to think that some form of religion is inevitable, and it is possible we could replace it with something more rational. That’s something im exploring right now. There are a lot of serious scientists trying to figure out why religion exists in the first place and why it evolved.
Do you see artificial intelligence becoming something like a God?
That is possible, of course people who know what AI is, I don’t think they are going to worship them. Perhaps common people would, and it is possible AI could declare itself a form of religious leader. Our concept of God keeps evolving, and you can always trump somebody elses concept of God by creating a bigger concept of God. Someone says Big Bang, then someone says “Well who created that?” We are here to do the best we can and develop models for the world around us…and to predict the best we can what will happen.
Have you done any research about ancient contact with extraterrestrials?
Of course, I’ve done research in that area, and the people who propose those ideas usually get all the publicity, but the books debunking their claims, they don’t get any publicity at all. People are always looking for an easy way out – that some mothership will come down and take us away. Its easier to believe in something like that than to study science and physics and make a breakthrough yourself. And then, who knows, actually build a starship. That would be the way to go – instead of waiting for somebody to rescue you from your situation.
Why is religion more popular than science?
Think about how many Christian bands and Christian radio stations there are. How come there are no atheist or science radio stations? Religion pays no taxes, which is ridiculous. It is also a lot easier to understand – its pretty simple. There’s one book to read instead of a thousand. It takes hard work to learn science. Church, you know, you just show up every Sunday, sing some songs, and go out to lunch afterwards
Do you think that scientists are too busy actually working on science to care about marketing? Or are there too many disparate branches of science to create a centralized message?
Science is more complex to understand, so I dont know that science will ever have that level of popularity. Every once in a while, they make a breakthrough and simplify things like Newton did, but it still takes a lot of work to understand it.
When you think about religion, it’s actually a very intelligent idea as a concept in history – have you ever thought that religious leaders are actually very intelligent and are good at the science of making people believe things?
I don’t consider them true scientists – because they dont have high ethical standards in reporting facts and results. They are more like really good businessmen. It’s never the uneducated people at the top.
What is your opinion on the future of education?
Good question. I see our country’s true salvation is education, not religion. We need to start using the internet more, and make it avaible to everyone in the inner cities. That may be my next book. It is a key thing that will keep our country strong and I dont think we are doing nearly enough in that realm.
William Lauritzen is a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. He received a B.S. in psychology and graduated near the top 1% of his class. He was named “The Outstanding Graduate” in both psychology and philosophy. The Air Force sent him to an accelerated program to get a master’s degree in industrial and organizational psychology at Purdue. At the age of 22, he received a master’s degree in Industrial Psychology from Purdue, specializing in Human Engineering Design. He was assigned to design and evaluate cockpits for jet aircraft, which he did for two years.
He wrote a paper on the Buckminsterfullerence molecule in 1994, and has created several innovative designs and insightful articles which combine cognitive science, mathematics, geometry, geodesic domes, archeology, anthropology, geology, oceanography,education, ancient Egypt, economics, and other subjects.
His designs include a new way of presenting and teaching the English alphabet (still under development), a new number system (a base-12 color-coded number system with new symbols), an educational word game (still under development), and Spacehenge.
Lauritzen teaches summers for the Center for Talented Youth of Johns Hopkins University. He lives in Los Angeles and New Mexico.