Is the Sgt Pepper record cover a treasure map?
Originally, the sleeve had been commissioned from the Dutch artists, The Fool, however Beatle associate and art gallery owner, Robert Fraser, suggested they get a ‘real’ artist to design it. The initial idea is that of a grave scene, presumably inspired by McCartney’s vision of the album as representing the death of the lovable ‘mop tops’, and this can be seen in the original sketches penned by Blake.
The Beatles were also in the middle of recording Sgt Pepper when McCartney’s friend, Tara Browne, was killed in a car crash on December 18th 1966. It has been rumoured that McCartney had been taking LSD with Browne that night. This fact may also help explain why the cover depicts a funeral scene as it may have been a tribute to Tara Browne.
The Beatles were asked to provide a list of heroes and people who had inspired them to act as attendees at the funeral.
This list is interesting in itself, and indeed two of Lennon’s suggestions, Hitler and Gandhi, were both left off at the last minute so as not to cause offence. Another Lennon suggestion of Jesus Christ was immediately considered unsuitable after the ‘bigger than Jesus’ furore.
However, the original Beatles list is quite small, and so the additional characters, who seem to have come from Blake himself and interestingly Robert Fraser, are also worth considering. As, indeed, are the ones who didn’t make the final shot.
Apart from the Beatles themselves, who appear with waxwork effigies from 1964, two other characters appear twice. One of these is Aleister Crowley. Once, as himself in the top left hand corner, and also as the ‘legionnaire of the royal order of buffaloes’. This is itself an interesting inclusion. The Royal Antidiluvean Order of Buffaloes is an order, similar in structure to the Freemasons, who evolved as an exclusive club for stage artists. The cover seems to portray a whole host of masonic symbolism and this is just one of the hints to that.
Crowley, a well-known British occultist, seems to have been a habitual member of secret societies. He was a 33° freemason, one of three on the cover, as well as a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Argenteum Astrum (A.A.) and the O.T.O, Ordo Templi Orientis (Order of the Temple of the East). It seems likely that the Beatles were introduced to Crowley and his teachings through his disciple, Kenneth Anger, who was a friend of Robert Fraser.
It has been claimed that Crowley’s title within the O.T.O was that of Phoenix. Tara Browne, whose untimely death acted as the catalyst for the whole Sgt Pepper myth, had a family symbol that appears on his headstone. That symbol is a double headed eagle. This is a Templar symbol.
|Browne Family Crest|
Could the double headed eagle be a symbolic phoenix? ’The Phoenix is believed to be a divine bird going back to Egypt. This Phoenix destroys itself in flames and then rises from the ashes. Some occultists believe that the Phoenix is a symbol of Lucifer who was cast down in flames and who (they think ) will one day rise triumphant. This, of course, also relates to the rising of Hiram Abiff, the Masonic ‘christ.’
The other character that appears more than once is Shirley Temple, the former child star. She appears next to Diana Dors, and on the opposite side of the cover where she is largely obscured by the waxwork Beatles. She also appears as the child’s doll wearing the ‘Welcome the Rolling Stones’ jumper. The Temple, and possibly Bobby Breen, characters may point to Kenneth Anger as he claimed to have been a child star and indeed that he had met and danced with Shirley Temple as a child.
I wonder if maybe Shirley Temple’s inclusion isn’t highly symbolic. She appears twice on the right hand side of the cover. If you overlaid a compass onto the record sleeve then this would be the eastern side. She is stood right in front of the figure of the legionnaire of the royal order of buffaloes, a character that surely has some masonic relevance, and next to Diana Dors.
If the legionnaire of the royal order of buffaloes is, indeed, Crowley, then it could be argued that he is placed at the (Diana) Dors of the (Shirley) Temple of the East. Could this be an obscure O.T.O reference? Given the eastern placement and the fact you have two Temples near to each other, I wonder if these are meant to represent the two Temples of Solomon?
As mentioned previously, the O.T.O stands for Ordo Templi Orientis or Order of the Temple of the East in English and the legends of Solomons Temple are highly significant to the O.T.O and Freemasonry. It is here, at the Temple ruins that the Knights Templar resided during the crusades. Indeed, it is here that they allegedly discovered, and indeed, worshipped a dismembered head, the Baphomet, was this the head of Christ or John the Baptist? For certain it is where the Knights Templar were transformed from being the poor and humble servants of Christ to becoming the wealthy and extremely powerful money lenders of myth and legend.
In Freemasonry the construction of the Temple of Solomon and the legend of Hiram Abiff form the basis of the whole masonic induction ceremony.
Alternatively, could one of the temples of the east be a Temple of Diana?
Diana, also referred to as Artemis, was the twin sister of Apollo. Interestingly, there is a Temple of Artemis in Cefalu, Siciliy, where Crowley had his Temple. The site of St Paul’s Cathedral in London is also believed to be where a temple dedicated to Diana once existed. Apollo is linked to Lucifer, the light bearer.
As previously mentioned Diana Dors, an English actress, appears on the record cover. I believe the images on the sleeve are highly symbolic and this may be a case in point. Diana was a Roman lunar goddess, (Artemis to the Greeks) and was the twin of Apollo the sun god. If the theme of Sgt Pepper is about death and rebirth then this could be hugely significant as, in pagan belief, both the sun and the moon regularly die before being re-born. It should also be pointed out that one of McCartney’s pseudonyms is Apollo C Vermouth and that Apollo is the god of music.
It has also been proposed that the Diana Dors and Sonny Liston waxworks represent the twin pillars of ‘Boaz’ and ‘Jachin’. These bronze pillars stood at the entrance to the Temple of Solomon and are depicted in the tarot card of the high-priestess. In this depiction ‘Boaz’ is to the left and is black whilst ‘Jachin’ is to the right and is white. As can be seen on the Pepper cover, both have bronzed elements to their clothing. There is indeed, much to suggest that this supposition may be correct.
This, naturally, would lead to speculation as to the purpose of the third image of Shirley Temple. This one is on the left hand, or western side, of the cover and she is almost totally obscured. Could this relate to a hidden temple of the west, or, possibly the lodge to which the Beatles were now members?
There are eleven Masons depicted on the sleeve and as Crowley himself said, “my number is 11, as all their numbers who are of us”. The eleven freemasons shown on the cover are; Aleister Crowley, H. G. Wells, Karl Marx, W. C. Fields, Sir Robert Peel, Aldous Huxley, Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Tom Mix, Oscar Wilde and T. E. Lawrence. Of these, Crowley, Wells and Marx were all 33° masons and interestingly, if you place a compass over the record cover, Wells and Marx appear at 33°.
It is also worth considering some of the authors featured on the cover. Edgar Allan Poe wrote, amongst other things, The Gold Bug. The Gold Bug is a story about a man who is bitten by a gold coloured beetle and who searches for hidden treasure having cracked a secret code. Sound familiar? This story is surely the basis for the idea for the Pepper cover. John Lennon even mentions Poe in the lyrics to ‘I am the Walrus’.
Lewis Carroll is another highly significant character to be included. Often quoted by Lennon as an inspiration, he is another who would use hidden meanings and backwards writing in his works.
The ‘covered up’ characters
Due to the placement of the Beatles at the front of the cover shot some of the characters were obscured from view.
Some of the people that didn’t make the final version included Bette Davis as Queen Elizabeth I from the film the private lives of Elizabeth and Essex. This maybe a coded reference to Francis Bacon. Bacon was a key ally of Queen Elizabeth and King James. He is also rumoured to have written the works of Shakespeare and encoded the texts with secret messages via Baconian ciphers (Diana Dors also left her will encrypted in a cipher).
Bacon is also rumoured to have been a member, if not founder of the Rosicrucian secret society that has huge links to Freemasonry and the new world order. This allusion to Bacon may be strengthened by the use of the Bette Davis image. By using her and not the real Queen Elizabeth this could be a reference to her not being the real focus of the image. There was also a rumour that Bacon faked his own death so that he could travel abroad in disguise to promote the Rosicrucians and the ‘Spear Shakers’.
He wrote the book ‘A new Atlantis’ which talks of a secret nation who send emissaries out into the world collecting information. This information is then collated and tested. Depending on the nature of the information they then decide if the knowledge of the world should be shared or kept secret, even from their own state. This seems to act as a template of masonry and the purposes of secret societies. Freemasonry, for example, purports to be a largely Christian society, however, once past the 30th degree you discover its Lucifer connotations.
Indeed, Bacon is thought to have been handed the original manuscript of the King James Bible and had it in his possession for over a year. It could be argued then, that Bacon oversaw the ‘authorised’ version of Christianity to which we now hold to be true.
It is also rumoured that Bacon was the illegitimate son of Queen Elizabeth and the Earl of Leicester and that a second son, the Earl of Essex was also born. This could explain the significance of the character from the Private lives of Elizabeth and Essex. Essex eventually led an attempted revolution against Elizabeth and was executed.
Possibly there is a further O.T.O significance to the Queen Elizabeth character. An alternative name for the O.T.O is the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light and the organisation claims that ‘there is but ONE ancient organisation of genuine Mystics which shows to the seeker after truth a Royal Road to discover the Lost Mysteries of Antiquity and to the Unveiling of the One Hermetic Truth’.
The Royal Road could refer to the Merovingian blood line of the ancient kings of France. The Knights Templar was set up by these rulers, and they believed they were descended from Jesus and Mary Magdalene. All European rulers claim descent from the Merovingian line and so this would include Queen Elizabeth I and Francis Bacon. Could the frequent references McCartney makes to Lily be about Queen Elizabeth I?
Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni from the film Marriage Italian Style are also hidden characters. Possibly this relates to the story of the film. The male character often thinks wistfully on his past relationship with Loren. He moves her in with him but refuses to marry her. She then is in a near death situation which finally causes the man to consent to a marriage. Maybe it is a coded message to Rome revealing that the Beatles know the truth?
Timothy Carey from the film ‘The Killing’ is another obscured character. Not sure why? His character in the film is a hired assassin paid to shoot a racehorse as part of a scam. It may relate to the death threats that the Beatles had received in Japan, the US and the Philippines?
Sgt Peppers has also been a rich source of clues for the PID mystery. The drum-skin, the flowers that apparently spell Paul and the characters that have died or had near death experiences all add to this mystique. Then there is the open hand behind McCartney’s head. Could this depict the Master Masons hand?
The "Hand of the Philosopher" or the "Hand of the Mysteries" is a talisman that depicts the symbols of apotheosis, or the transformation of man into god. The Hand of the Mysteries, which features alchemy symbolism, is also referred to as the hand of the Master Mason. It is said that the symbolic hand holds the keys to divinity and a practitioner can unlock the secrets through the symbolism.
The story goes that the Beatles were asked to supply a list of their choices for the cover photographs; the original list, complete with misspellings, was given to Fraser and Blake:-
Yoga's; Marquis de Sade; Hitler; Neitch; Lenny Bruce; Lord Buckley; Alistair Crowley; Dylan Thomas; James Joyce; Oscar Wilde; William Burroughs; Robert Peel; Stockhausen; Auldus Huxley; H.G. Wells; Izis Bon; Einstein; Carl Jung; Beardsley; Alfred Jarry; Tom Mix; Johnny Weissmuller; Magritte; Tyrone Power; Carl Marx; Richard Crompton; Tommy Hanley; Albert Stubbins; Fred Astaire.
There are more clues to be gleaned from this list. The Marquis de Sade is rumoured to have been a freemason and illuminati member. Friedrich Nietzsche, who was originally touted as someone who should appear on Sgt Peppers, was an influence on Crowley and also advocated the theory that Francis Bacon was the author of the Shakespeare plays. Lennon and McCartney had been introduced to the writings of Nietzsche through the Indica bookstore. Finally, Alfred Jarry who created ‘pataphysics’ as mentioned in Maxwells Silver Hammer, was a playwright of the absurd and was considered ‘avant-garde’.
My feeling is that the Beatles, through the Sgt Pepper cover are revealing to the chosen few, to those already in the know, that they too have been initiated into the brotherhood. The clues are all there if only you know how to interpret them. Possibly, having seen the final shots, it was decided that it was too obvious what they were revealing, so they chose a photo that obscured the Bette Davis / Queen Elizabeth I character.
The key to understanding Pepper is to unlock the meanings behind the characters. The eleven masons, the old, good, Beatles and the new, dark Beatles, the authors and their works of fiction, the hidden characters and most importantly old Crowley himself.
Certainly there are enough clues buried within the record cover to suggest that there is more than a passing interest with secret societies and the occult. The extent of this interest, the degree of initiation attained and the exact organisations that may have been joined are all subjects for debate.