Tool: Lateralus Meaning
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Song Released: 2002
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red and yellow then came to be, reaching out to me.
lets me see.
As below, so above and beyond, I imagine
drawn beyond the lines of reason.
Push the envelope. Watch it bend.
anonymous Jul 19th, 2006 7:24am report
Several of the images used in this song derive from the alchemical works of Carl Jung, who sourced many of his theories (including archetype theory into which the anima and shadow are subsumed) from the late alchemical works of the 17th and 18th century.
The use of color imagery appears to have manifold meaning. Firstly, the specific colors used (black, white, red and yellow) designate the phases of the alchemical transformation: the melanosis (blackening), leukosis (whitening), iosis (redenning) and the xanthosis (yellowing). The latter two colors (red and yellow) were later synthesized into the aurora consurgens or fusion of red/yellow as explicated in alchemical works attributed to Thomas Aquinas: the dawning of the true self. I'm not sure of the actual scientific validity of the infant theory of visual perception as expounded on in 'the giver,' but I do know that these colors attributed to the work of the alchemist's predates any possible scientific speculation by several millinea.
Though I unfortunately don't have my jung on hand, 'as below so above and beyond' does end up being an alchemical dictum having to do with the sourcing of materials for the opus and then their transcendent function. The basic idea, and tool excels in their use of these images, is that the work of transformation begins by reaching down into the shadow dimensions of human consciousness and so fusing them with the transcendent (beyond) function in revealing the wholeness of the original man. This constitutes an embrace with the animal desire elements (i.E. I embrace my desire to...).
The series of images related to the feeding of the will and then 'sucking it in,' are basically the same and this idea is earlier referenced in 'the grudge's' explication of the saturn motif. Basically, saturn ate his own children as part of the cosmogonic creative process. In alchemy, the generation of the prima materia--or base material of transformation--is accomplished by the king's eating his son. The movement across the skin is another arcane refrence to what the alchemist's call the 'inner fleshiness' of the lapis (or stone), which is likewise referenced in 'the grudge' (i.E. 'give away the stone). Basically, it is a motif that has to do with the mythic lietmotif of 'the sacrifice,' as in the sacrifice of the son (which is recapitulated in the christian mythos). Tool is pointing in all of this music towards the actual nature of the sacramental or sacred.
Finally, the spiral which is built from an outward growing spiral whose growth is regulated by a series of numbers that's known as the "fibonacci number sequence", was also a favorite symbol of jung and the alchemists as representing the circumbulatio approach to the true self.
There's more, but I think this communicates an appropriate sense of the depth of this particular group of musicians. It's amazing to me that they bring this stuff to a popular audience.
all I see (3)
in my in-fan-cy(5)
red and ye-llow then came to be (8)
rea-ching out to me (5)
lets me see (3)
This goes on and on throught the verses of the song see the pattern 1,1,2,3,5,8, add each two numbers, the result is the next number, this sequence is called the fibonacci sequence, wich results in a spiral (swing on the spiral) when this spiral is drawn it is drawn inside squares, which the side lenghts are equal to the divine proportion, this proportion is proof of the connection among all that exists because everything in existance is made out of it. (swing on the spiral of our divinity)
(feel connected, to step aside) when this is realized the concept of self and ego is destroyed, you realize that you are not an individual, but part of your reality,(which can be seen in the song reflection) Maynard shows this point of truth in a beautiful way, people are drawn to this song but don't know why, hopefully this can help everybody understand it a bit more.
I believe it to be a alchemetical explaination into the divinity of the whole human condition. Especially, when he uses the four basiic colours of humanity and how we think we're all so different,but in reality we are all the same being looking at life at different angles. "As below so above and beyond I imagine"? That my friends is basic alchemy. Simply the equation that makes One out of three(Mental + Spiritual + Physical = The Perfected One). The spiral being our very same gentic code (which are the same for gold and the rest of this universe we happen to live in at this present time). Gnostic, in its terminology about embracing the Random. Its the over thinking over analyzing that really separates the body(the base)from the mind(the collective Godhood) until we are nothing more that lead trying to be turned into the Golden Age of Human Perfection that would be ushered in, once we accept our collective Godship instead of our individual devilishment.
anonymous Mar 3rd, 2017 3:41am report
The song may be an ironic response to the restriction and entrapped feeling one gets when listening to NIN The Downward Spiral. Blue and fuzzy Vs Red and yellow and with clarity.
Slow, dwindling, constrained, and minimalistic, vs building, expressive and unrestrained.
Both songs have their artistic merit. Reznor for his deep brooding pessimism, and Tool for their expressions of aggression and energy. Listen to them both and you might see what mean by the contrast.
kooljohn176 Nov 22nd, 2014 11:45pm report
A Thoughtful and a Thrice great song of TOOL in the sound of the expierience of assimillating the birth of the macrocosim of the universe to our birth from [matter and dust] to meet the spirit[light] to be as One,sol [oneness] from infancy into developing a conscious mind in expanding towards becoming human i hope in the microcosim of the macrocosim of the universe to expierience it like since the point of the Big Bang Theory of our birth [when it was only nothingness:black then white] explosion into this gradual dualism that we came to fall into polarity, away from the creator. ''Over thinking over analyzing seperates the body from the mind'' This dualistic polarity has been with us from a very long time passed down to us in misunderstanding ourselfs in our everyday life of work within all kinds of jobs, especially in our western culture when they started to seperate the mind from body like in the medical field and pychiatry instead of treating the mind,body and soul as a '' Whole'' and not to mention religion and state with good intentions, but it seems to me that we have not oporated in ''Wholeness'', like going back in time when ENOCH walked with god before the divide. So little by little we have distanced ourselfs from the One and we have been trying hard to remember this Oneness from our subconscious mind to get back to that feeling of Love and acceptance to expierience that love again from where we became seperated from, but not in a way Nicodemus understood it. ''May just go where no one's been before, spiral out, keep going''. Now this can be dangerous if your defences loses control to the ego that pushes the will to cross the line into oneness, the ego must be sacrifised, if you are trying to expierience this alterd state of mind with drugs especially dissociatives like pcp[angel dust]or mixing with pot and hash or dmt, because they can affect in stretChing and bending the mind to the point that you actually feel first this manic then schizo-psychosis of mind-body seperation where strange things can happen in actually feeling your mind[soul] leaving your body and explodeing in pieces all to reach this Oneness of God like from the beginning of time in the hope to come back together from this ''White Light'' [mind] to complete the circle back in reality, otherwise your soul [mind] can spiral out and keep going to leave your body behind like an emty shell before it's time.
lepusniveus Dec 8th, 2012 12:53am report
After three years listening this song, I personally think that "lateralus" means,
it could be, "lateral + us". There's gotta be more important meaning in this title, more than just some kinda Owl's ability to hear something. u kno, i mean, think about it. It fits well till the last lyrics, "May just go where no one's been. Spiral out. Keep goin." so, it goes like this, The band wanted to make a *tool* that makes a hearer to explore something else, a step away from their reality, u kno, so i think that this song is a MOTO for the band. i guess.. (and i'm sorry if i have a grammatical mistake, i don't usually speak English so.. )
anonymous Feb 8th, 2012 2:48am report
This is exactly what he wanted. His songs to make you think. Yes fibonacci fits Danny s beats n some of maynards lyrics ,but if I remember correctly I read or heard somewhere in my own delving into of tool , that maynard writes to make you think and interpret how u feel and use his lyrics to inspire you in whatever way they do. All these meanings written by all these different people may someways relate but each of them is your own interpretation. Whatever the "intension" is behind any of there songs (if any) ,take it in and let it mean and do whatever it helps u define and,or helps you feel. If any music didn't evoke emotion people wouldn't listen to anything. Think about that..........
anonymous Jan 22nd, 2012 1:59pm report
Existential Angst and the feeling of alienation; when ones goes beyond closed systems of thoughts, such as religion...
Aditya Eaturu Sep 6th, 2011 9:14pm report
This song is saying to think like a spiral, not like a straight line. It also refers to the spiral as a kind of shape that represents our divinity and soul. The spiral is the visual version of the Fibonacci Sequence, which is the ongoing pattern in the song (explanation at bottom). The song is also about trying to become more spiritually aware and connected with the universe and the collective consciousness.
"Black, then, white are, all I see, in my infancy"
This line refers to the basic colors of humanity, and how in ignorance, we only see the basic.
"Red and yellow then came to be, reaching out to me; lets me see"
This line refers to developing as a society into a more intelligent and more aware people. When we start to look deep within and push the boundaries that we know ("push the envelope; watch it bend"), then it will "let us see". We will see more of ourselves and the universe than we thought existed in our ignorance.
"I embrace my desire to... ...swing on the spiral of our divinity and still be a human"
Once we start to realize our own divinity and our connection with the universe and each other through swinging on the spiral, we may be the same physically and individually, but not mentally, spiritually, or as a whole.
Only when we stop over-thinking and overanalyzing will our minds and spirituality truly be one.
Maynard James Keenan said himself: "A circle is the reflection of infinity; it has no beginning, no end, and theres no way to tell one part apart from another. When you lay circles on top of each other, you get a spiral."
"There is so much more and, beckons me, to look through to these INFINITE possibilities"
When you think past what we know, our "black and white", there are infinite possibilities.
So spiral out, and keep going. You may just go where no one's been.
FIBONACCI PATTERN IN SONG:
Count the syllable groups in the verse. "Black - then - white are - all I see - in my infancy - red and yellow then came to be - reaching out to me - lets me see"
1 - 1 - 2 - 3 - 5 - 8 - 5 - 3
The Fibonacci Sequence is a sequence in which any number, except the first two, is the sum of the previous two numbers. This is that pattern. The pattern continues in other parts of the verse and the song. The drum beats also follow that pattern.
The singing in the song starts at approximately 1.618 minutes into the song. This number is the Golden Ratio, or the divine proportion. It is found in all forms of life and nature throughout the universe. This number is closely related to the Fibonacci Sequence mathematically.
The chorus of the song moves from 9/8 to 8/8 to 7/8, time signature-wise. 987 is the 17th step of the Fibonacci Sequence.
This all may seem kind of random. Let me explain. The idea of the song is spiraling out, riding the spiral, etc. The entire song is based on the idea that our divinity and the way we should live is like a spiral, and we should ride it. In other words, over-thinking and overanalyzing separate the body from the mind. Our body, mind, and soul should be one. When the Fibonacci Sequence is graphed out, it is represented as a slowly expanding spiral.
THIS IS NOT MY WORK.JUST FOUND IT IN THE NET.
As everyone said, this is a wonderful song, and there's so many things to say about it. However, I agree with the idea that the main message of this song is that we should enjoy the song as a whole instead of trying to decompose it. I spent hours trying to listen to every subtilities in the music and lyrics of this song, and the times when I enjoy it the most are the times when I just listen it for the fun of it, as a whole, without "overanalysing". You can really feel some rage to live coming out of this song.
Still, it is Tool, and it's always fun to try to overanalyse their songs.
Now something got my attention in the beginning of the song. I didn't have time to give it much thought, but if you want to try that approach, it's up to you all.
Black then white are all I see in my infancy.
red and yellow then came to be, reaching out to me.
lets me see.
Many of the interpretation I've read about this part talks about the perception of a newborn, good vs evil, or our reaction to something new and shocking, and much more. There have been many posts about those, so feel free to scroll up if you want to read 'em.
My question was as follow:
Black and white at first, I understand.
Then colors: Red and yellow. But why not blue?
If they want to talk about our perception or something similar, then black, white, and the primary colors would be a pretty nice way to metaphorise it. But why forget blue?
Dont tell me it's because they couldn't fit it in. They just made a song following the Fibonacci sequence. If they wanted to fit blue in, I'm pretty sure they would have managed to do it.
Starting from that question, I think I can agree with the opinions that they refer to the beginning of the life of a newborn, but not that of a child. I think they refer to the human race as a whole. I think those colors refers to the first nations of the earth. First, black: african, then white: european. Red and yellow then came to be, as native americans and asians.
Many interpretations say this song could refer to our evolution as beings. I think the song could refer to our evolution as a race, as a collective.
Anyway, as I said, I didn't take the time to give it much toughts. If someone can develop on this idea, post it! I'd be interested to see what can come out of it.
Alex Hurst May 10th, 2011 5:07pm report
Well, to start, I must say that this song is brilliant. Tool is about more than just the lyrics, the whole thing fits together perfectly.
Right, on with the interpretation:
Well, first off, we have the Fibonacci sequence and golden ratio in the song. That is obvious to anyone who has read any review of the song... And some others.
But what of the lyrics? Personally, the first few words have made me think a lot of different things.
Black and white are all I see in my infancy.
Referring to the idealism of binary opposites (Good and evil, Light and Dark, Boy and Girl Etc), the song can have many meanings. Using the most common version, the lyrics mean:
Good and evil are illusions, it is childish, infantile.
But the next part is different:
Red and Yellow then came to be, reaching out to me, lets me see. Means something along the lines of: But as time progressed, I was blessed with a multi-coloured view and could see more than just good and evil, but the colour was not quite complete, and so I must Spiral out to find the full picture. (A little later in the song he says Spiral out once or twice...)
Now, already we can see that this song is more than just a song. It is a poem of epic proportion. William Wordsworth? William Shakespeare? Meet Maynard James Keenan, a poet of legend.
Above, Beyond and Below are all his imagination, beyond the lines of reason. I think this is about the painting of life, the brilliant portrait of existence. He can only see part of it and cannot see the rest of it but still he carries on, thinking beyond what he can think. Becoming more than what he can become. Imagining the picture without seeing it all.
Push the envelope, watch it bend.
Simple. He is telling us to screw the limits, we have power. Why care about the barriers? It will break. And when we start to go beyond our power, watch what it does to us.
The next line, the chorus of the song is all about how simple repetition and overthought can render your physical form useless. Just a husk for your brain.
Withering my intuition leaving opportunities behind. Simple, we must wither what tries to overcome us and turn them into opportunities. Overcome what you make, it's more fun!
He repeats himself. I'm not going to. It is a song, not a poem. Done to attract the audience with the bliss of the music... The bliss of knowledge.
Anyway, He goes on but adds some more to the song:
Withering my intuition, missing opportunities and I must feed my will to feel my moment drawing way outside the lines.
Despite being the first chorus, I'm moving it here. Any complaints? Screw the rules, I have money.
If you wither intuition, despite making new opportunities, you also lose them and so every action has a reaction. He is drawing the picture of life (Imagine seeing a tenth of a picture and trying to draw the rest.) He is feeding his knowledge to make him reach out and break the limits to what we can understand, what we can comprehend.
Reaching out to embrace the random/whatever may come.
If we leave the lines, we will find stuff that at first seems random but in the end actually belong there in the picture of life. The epitome of humanity. Learn as you will, personally or VICARIOUSly. (Tool Fans, that is for you)
I embrace my, Desire to...
We must embrace our desires to do what they say.
The desire to feel the rhythm of humanity,
Our desire to feel connected enough to stand aside and weep like a widow... Woah. Pretty much, he is embracing his desire to feel so close to something that he is willing to step aside from it, even to personal loss. Brilliant one Maynard.
Our desire to feel inspired. I am not inspired. My work lacks consistency. I am demotivated. We all desire inspiration.
Our desire to witness beauty, A heaven. Religion isn't a way set in stone. It is hope that the future contains paradise, equality, honour.
Our desire to bathe in the fountain... Maybe he is referring to the fact that it is weird. We all have weirdness in our hearts (Some of us more than others, depending on your perspective on life.)
But our true desire is to swing on the spiral of our divinity and still be a human.
Become a god yet stay human. Become perfect but accepted? Become knowledgeable yet not be feared?
Were I to meet God, if there is one, there may be many, I would tell him to fistbump, as an equal. I am no God. I just want to talk to a genius who can design the stuff he can (Potentially everything...) as an equal. But to be a child in the most serious of times is... Refreshing, like a soak in a fountain.
With my feet upon the ground,
I lose myself between the sounds and open wide to suck it in.
I feel it move across my skin.
I'm reaching up and reaching out.
I'm reaching for the random or whatever will bewilder me,
whatever will bewilder me.
I shall keep my ideals true and stick to them but lose myself and through music, divine or otherwise, I shall absorb all I can from it, the music is knowledge.
I feel knowledge all around me, it is bursting out like a parasite after feeding. And yet, I shall reach for what is greater. I cannot be satisfied with knowing everything. I will search for anything, be it outside or inside the picture, that I don't understand.
We all want a challenge. To sum up that little bit I typed (Not said, I am eating a Mars Bar and don't want to mess up my laptop) I am trying to find as many personalities in this nexus of the stars as I can and understand as much as I can. But when I feel like I am almost done, to next step is to find more that is good.
Our undying thirst for knowledge, power. We don't need war, the greatest weapons in life were planted before you were born.
The mind and the heart.
And so, we will ride the spiral of divinity and try to become more than what has come before. Become a better. Become more than we could ever comprehend and so I urge you not to be linear. Not to think in a straight line but instead, to better ourselves and humanity as a whole:
Spiral out and keep going.
Thank you for reading. This is Tool. Maynard James Keenan himself once said that a circle is a reflection of an eternity, forever going along the same path. Only where too circles overlap may it create something different. A spiral.
Tool is a band with millions of interpretations. This is just one.
~ Katsu James Aoki.
anonymous Apr 6th, 2011 4:46pm report
Whatever spirituality I have resides in music and mathematics. Thankfully tool is brilliant enough to combine them
anonymous Feb 16th, 2011 2:45pm report
I believe that it can be interpreted in many ways, i'm sure when Maynard wrote it he was probable thinking about reachin a kind of wholeness withing everything... But I also believe he could have been thinking about an lsd trip because (just like parabola) it perfectly describes many things you exerience when you are on lsd, from the visuals to the reflections that come to your mind, to the awareness, even ego death is described in the song, and of course is the same thing with the music, if u ever get a chance listen to the song on lsd and i'm sure you'll understand it much better...
anonymous Jan 26th, 2011 1:46am report
My interpretation of this song is how society evolved and how at first people only saw things one way, now they are seeing many different ways to judge. The spiral is based on a never ending sequence of evolution in the mind, twisting the way we all think. just my thoughts though >.>
Push the envelope, watch it bend
When you push the envelope(take heavy psychedelic drugs) you see it bend. You realize the envelope that you thought was reality is an illusion. The truth lies beyond it and you start to spiral out toward the truth. You will never get to the end of this spiral you will continue to ride it for all eternity.
My interpretation of the song is that we should stop leaving opportunities behind, stop worrying about life and just ride the spiral. The entire song revolves around the Fibbonacci sequence, Maynard's opening verse, Danny's drumming, the time signature is 9/9, 9/8 and 9/7, 987 is the sixteenth number, a graphed Fibonnacci forms a spiral, the album Lateralus had 13 songs. When babies are first born they can only see balck and white, then later in their lives they can see red and yellow. The basic underlying message is to let go and just take a ride, because like Bill Hicks says, that's what life is. The last verse of the song to me seems to describe the euphoric feeling of truly living unconditionaly. But the flaw in my explanation is that Tool is, as my buddy told me, a tool that you can use to derive any meaning you choose.
anonymous May 30th, 2010 5:27pm report
Well, this song for instant is a dare I don't know but it seems to reflect my daily thoughts ,honestly.I believe that something happened to me ,to a lot of people , in one-two years time ,I started noticing the smallest things yet asking the biggest questions ,which made me doubt in everything I believe in , and in every question branches of other more complicated questions and like millions of unsatisfaying answers .
This is what this song is all about,I think we're all in a verge of an upcoming general awakening , atleast is what we all hope ,when you notic the great things it either HURTS or SHOCKS,so (black and white are all I see in my infancy)has two meanings the scientific obvious one ,then the one when not unlightened people , don't see the whole picture just two colours which isn't sufficient (red and yellow came to be reaching out to me ) now little by little one starts growing and developing getting the point of existence ,and (let me see) craving for more ,curiosity
(as below so above and beyond I imagine )human potential is limited in 3 demensions (drawn beyond the lines of reason)one realises that human potential is UNLIMITED, and he's powers as a sum is irrational,like this people with extreme powers we wintess or hear about like DaVinci or Einstein and Mozart .(push the envelope watch it bend )it means that these abilities don't concern a minority but every singularity.
Over thinking, over analyzing separates the body from the mind: this whole making sense of it kind of proces is human nature ,this explanatory behaviors lead one to believe that the human being isn't a living physical being with intelligence and spiritual demensions,but a spiritual intellectual creature with a specific morphological privileges.
Withering my intuition, missing opportunities and I must): science has proven that human mind doesn't work spontaneoulsy , actually it's like a recorder , it anticipates events and figure out how to deal with that one possibility ,and when it occurs ,the mind handles it so very naturally , and that is often called intuition , and then there's the fate as some might call,and we hear now the whole LAw of Attraction Phenomenon about attracting what one wishes and the reverse is avoiding what might prevents you from getting there.
Feed my will to feel my moment drawing way outside the lines)this one I think it means that each one of us is existing by coordination in a repere of time nd space ,so by being outside the line you can defy the repere like in timetravel or the whole Quantum Jumping frenzie and the theory of parallel Universes..
Reaching out to embrace the random.
Reaching out to embrace whatever may come. )is adjusting and accepting the mood swings of destinty,cause it's a certain wise law ,one's life can't get worse it's always going for the better even if it doesn't seem like it is , and that's believing , and the random is already decided, like in the Theory of Chaos ,and the Butterfly Effect.
I embrace my desire to
feel the rhythm, to feel connected
enough to step aside and weep like a widow ) as I mentioned earlier that realising this much incredible possiblities can be either shocking or hurtful and one is naturally overwhelmed by this cosmic and divine intelligence if you will,human is an atom next to such natural or (not so natural)intelligence Genuis miracle (to feel inspired, to fathom the power, )so psychologically human always needs a superior, tend to believe in a much higher presence a superior creature or Creater .(to witness the beauty, to bathe in the fountain,)well since the whole songs inspired by the Fibonnacci sequence there's to mind the concept of Beauty,a numerical beauty (snails,the mesuremnt Phi,sunflowers the ear...) (to swing on the spiral
of our divinity and still be a human. )the spiral is significant to the Sequence ,and the next one means to celebrate our greatness the way we're made and we are, but still be human as in realising or/and believing that someone must have created all of this,knwoing that the slightest chances of LIFE in this Universe is impossible , how the biotic conditions are put together.
With my feet upon the ground I lose myself
between the sounds and open wide to suck it in):is and existencial Dilemma, you're existing in a way that is common known you're here but you're just sucked in by this ideas and impossibilties.GOING CRAZY(kind of like me )
I feel it move across my skin.
I'm reaching up and reaching out)the physical body and the astral body ,the soul the being, the mind and the core..
(And following our will and wind we may just go where no one's been.)with determination and will one can do the impossible , we see know people perform telekinesis telepathy levitation, thir eye openning and what comes with it,connecting with the other dimensions , people believing in extrademensional beings,mutants,and even genuis,I read that Einstein wasn't so very smart back then , but after being let go of ,from the school,he developped techniques to raise IQ but the higher authorities destryoed them,and Edgar Cayce and Nostradamus had their ways to predict upcoming events,Beethoven used to practise until his fingers bleed,plus he's uncle's grudge made him the way we all know him to be...We'll ride the spiral to the end and may just go where no one's been.
Spiral out. Keep going, going.):and here is the enduced theory of Infinity which no one could proove wrong, and as we all know the Sequence is a bunch of realted digits ,and numbers do not end :are infinit, and we are mathematically made , we are numbers .Thus: our evolution is infinite , we might aswell just spin around with the spiral , until the day we reveale the secret of the Universe , or it reveals itself , and the Universe as we know it will be replaced with something more bizarre and crazy , and some other band would write a song about it and someone in my place will be typing a nonesense about it , and other people will be reading and sayinf WTF is this sh** are you high.
Get over it trolls.
I think I'm gonna suicide.
PS hey let me know what you think about this : Misunderst0od@live.fr
anonymous Mar 7th, 2010 3:13pm report
the song has to be about the connection and the balance between our physical bodies and our souls. it could also be about becoming enlightened or maybe even discovering that there is more than what you can see. like with a DMT trip, people say that on a DMT trip the soul leaves the body and goes to other dimensions.
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