What does Lateralus mean?

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Tool: Lateralus Meaning


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Song Released: 2002

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Lateralus Lyrics

Black then white are all I see in my infancy.
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.

Over thinking,...


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    Dec 2nd, 2008 12:20am report

    Maynard is very obscure with all lyrics. But one thing is for certain...he always wants his audience thinking for themselves. For example (and i think this was very good of him) during the election he said nothing of who he supported yet in all blogs and posts pertaining to him and the band he encouraged us to vote. That leads me to what i think the song is about.
    It's all about thinking laterally. He's saying take nothing at face value. He's saying that no feelings you have are wrong, everything you think about is significant to be explored.
    I think this song is about taking in the world around you and experiencing as much as you can. life isnt a straight line, its a spiral forever spining outward, thats the significance of the use of fibonacci in the song.

    This is the most poignant part of the song, i feel it explains the whole thing

    I embrace my desire to
    feel the rhythm
    to feel connected
    enough to step aside and weep like a widow,
    to feel inspired, to fathom the power,
    to witness the beauty, to bathe in the fountain,
    to swing on the spiral
    of our divinity and still be a human

    anyway i could be wrong....but that is the beauty of Maynards lyrics we all take away from them what we want. each one of us can intergrate these thoughts into our lives how ever we please. either way it sure is fun thinking about it


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    Nov 13th, 2008 11:23pm report

    I think that it may be possible that Maynard is discussing his own personal experiences with music and its limitations on what you can and cannot speak of, or better yet, what is considered reasonable. At first he comes in as an artist who hasnt chosen his own path, and all he sees is the same things being repeated, hence- black and white are all i see. After experimenting with his songs a little, he began to see new opportunities, hence- red and yellow then came to be. Once the limits were visible, where most artists had stopped, he thought of what could be done outside those "lines" of reason and saw infinite possibilities. As he charted new grounds in the music, he pushed the envelope, and was fascinated to see it bend as some began to feed into these controversial lyrics, such as the ones he delivers in prison sex. He also mentions how many people are over-analyzing, and close their minds to new things, and groundbreaking music that he is trying to push. However, he could be simply speaking of spirituality like many of you have suggested. But that is what makes tool so amazing, the songs can be interpreted in so many ways. Maynard is simply a genius.


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    Nov 10th, 2008 11:21pm report

    I know alot of people are saying that this song talks about the meaning of life and how the human race was made and so on. im afraid to say you are all wrong. the song has do with math acually. the whole song was using the Fibonacci Sequence. For example, if i had 1 and 2 and i add them, it will equal 3. but if i also had 3 and 5, it will equal 8, and so on. all the lyrics and song rythem follows this sequence, its quite amazing how somone can do that to a song


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    Oct 14th, 2008 10:25pm report

    This song beckons back to 46 & 2 for me. The journey one takes on a path to a more aware consciousness or the next state of human being. Riding the spiral (DNA being a double helix?) to the end it may just go where no one's been sounds like a reference to the next stage of human existence, the 46 & 2. The song gives me the impression of someone trying to open themselves up totally to the experience in the hopes of achieving this state of being.
    There is a whole line of philosophy that I could off on in regards to "Good and Bad Faith" where humans are unable to act in a pure form where the consequences of their actions are not considered. The lyrics refer to not following intuition leaving opportunities behind: we've lost the ability to listen to part of us that inherently knows what is best because we over think, over analyze.
    I think this song speaks to the willingness to open oneself to the unknown, embrace whatever comes of it and keep searching, keep growing.


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    Aug 8th, 2008 8:04am report

    For me, this song is about faith- pure and simple faith- developing the ability to "let go" and believe against all logic and analyzation...to "let go" and swing on the spiral to believe...faith


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    Jul 12th, 2008 7:55am report

    I am personally reminded of a painting by Alex Grey called " journey of the wounded healer " which depicts man in his various evolutionary stages descending a double helix. " We'll ride the spiral to the end and may just go where noones been " I think this song is about our non-biological evolution... The name Lateralus is in reference to lateral thinking which are methods and techniques used to think outside of the box


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    Jul 6th, 2008 7:44pm report

    This song can easily be interpreted many ways, as for the spiritual interpretation it goes along with most forms of meditation and trying to become in touch with spiritual realms and the inner being in ones self, red and yellow are the first colors one starts to see when they truly become in touch with their third eye in meditation,hence black and white and then red and yellow as well as the spiral aspect when in meditation you eventually get the feeling of spinning and spiraling out into another realm or into ones self, were you then spiral out into a higher state of consciousness and the longer you ride this spiral spinning feeling the deeper and more unknown your experience becomes.


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    Jun 11th, 2008 6:11pm report

    This song is about humans playing God by trying to clone humans. The spiral is DNA. Swinging on the spiral of divinity (creating life) yet being human.


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    May 2nd, 2008 5:48pm report

    I see this song as an explanation of the creative process. black and white as the skeleton to the painting you're creating or the basic idea for a story or stanza you're going to write... Then come the colors and shades to build around it. when creating art of any kind you need your instincts and heart more than anything else.... when you over think (over analyze) you become unconfident and skeptical about the work and it begins to lose its genuineness and originality. when creating anything you also have to push the envelope and the boundaries to obtain something special and unique. The verse starting with 'i embrace my desire' orders you to immerse yourself in your work. feel connected and let it take you over totally. fathom the power of your mind, witness the beauty of your creation, bathe in the fountain of your creativity and will to explore... you swing on the spiral when you get started and it begins to flow almost faster than you can register and you can feel dizzy when you're done like a roller coaster.

    i have no idea if this was the intended meaning but it certainly works for me. I honestly never read the lyrics closely until one day I was working on a painting for a class and this song happened to be on an iTunes playlist I was listening to. I felt like I totally understood the purpose and direction of the song, and now I listen to it frequently before I paint, sketch, or write anything.


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    Apr 17th, 2008 4:23pm report

    Tool IS the best Band and Group that was ever made/joined together..
    This is just a Assignment I had to do in school and I really admire their hard work and words of wisdom, well maybe not..TOTAL WISDOM.

    Words by: Maynard James Keenan

    Black then white are, all I see in my infancy.
    Red and yellow then came to be, reaching out to me.
    Lets me see.

    (Meaning: I think it means that when your young, your perspective on life is simple, you don’t HAVE to worry about things that are advance, not yet anyways. “black then white are, all I see in my infancy: this means, like I said before, simple (black and white) and then “red and yellow came to be, REACHING out to me”: this part means, speaking in a metaphorically way, the ‘red and yellow’ are all the problems, and the thing you don’t have to worry about when your young, but when you grow to be older, they come out like hands. REACHING OUT TO YOU. ‘lets me see’ : this is simple, thinking “outside the box” will send your mind to places you haven’t “seen” or noticed before, it lets you “see”.)

    As below, so above and beyond, I imagine
    drawn beyond the lines of reason.
    Push the envelope. Watch it bend.

    (picture this, there’s a borderline right?, and then you start thinking beyond that line, so you start to realize and explore things most people haven’t seen or thought about, “Push the envelope.” Is sort of a saying meaning to do things your not really supposed to do, being a rebel when it comes to thinking and finding things out for yourself. And to ‘Watch it bend’ means to see how far you can go before the consequences arrive and start happening.)

    Over thinking, over analyzing separates the body from the mind.
    Withering my intuition, missing opportunities and I must
    feed my will to feel my moment drawing way outside the lines.

    (Whole stanza: To over think and over analyze on things, that you might say you need to work on or what to accomplish in life, and by OVER thinking about it, keeps you from taking those chances…instead you’d be stuck there “thinking about it” rather than acting on them.)

    Black then white are, all I see in my infancy.
    Red and yellow then came to be, reaching out to me.
    Lets me see
    there is so much more and beckons me
    to look thru to these infinite possibilities.
    (Now that ‘he’ thinks out side the ‘lines’ its ‘beckoning’ him to look thru those possibilities.)
    As below, so above and beyond, I imagine
    drawn outside the lines of reason.
    Push the envelope. Watch it bend.
    (Now he’s out there, pushing the limit, seeing how far he can go.)

    Over thinking, over analyzing separates the body from the mind.
    Withering my intuition leaving opportunities behind.

    Feed my will to feel this moment, urging me to cross the line.
    Reaching out to embrace the random.
    Reaching out to embrace whatever may come.
    (he wants to live life to its fullest, and have it not pretty and perfect, ‘random’, experience ‘whatever may come’)
    (I embrace myyy
    desire to 2x)
    feel the rhythm, to
    feel connected,
    enough to step aside and,
    weep like a widow, to
    feel inspired, to
    fathom the power, to
    witness the beauty, to
    bathe in the fountain, to
    swing on the spiral, to
    swing on the spiral, to
    (this whole stanza says that he wants to experience those things, and feel or react to them, cause that’s how you find yourself, through moments in time, the things that you go through, the bad…the good, it makes who You are…and in some of them, you learn…make decisions, decisions that could make you or break you.)

    Swing on the spiral of
    our divinity and
    still be a humannnnnnnnn
    (A metaphor to how we humans work, how our ‘divinity’ works. what makes us so special)

    With my feet upon the ground I move myself between the sounds and open
    wide to suck it in.
    (You could probably guess what this means yourself, but we humans are bound to want to have someone else to do it for us.<< what I JUST said was not the meaning of the song/poem but a test for yourself, to make your mind think alittle << This part of the song means: ”with his feet upon the ground” he’s accepting the things that come to him, he’s reacting to them…and learning from them by listening. Like Jimmy Hendrix once said “intelligence speaks, wisdom listens”… (You can find this quote in Ms. Trebings room above the chalkboard.))

    I feel it move across my skin.
    I'm reaching up and reaching out. I'm reaching for the random or what ever will bewilder me.
    What ever will bewilder me.
    And following our will and wind we may just go where no one's been.
    We'll ride the spiral to the end and may just go where no one's been.
    (Spiral out. Keep going. 4x)
    (Means: if you accept those things that you come across in life you may just go “where no one’s been”)


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    Jan 24th, 2008 1:00am report

    I've been studying the aspects and possibilities of the 2012 Winter Solstice prophecies..I found an interesting site:

    If you look under Mitar's predictions you'll see "black, white, red and yellow" (not a common significance of these 4 colors together)
    The lyrics seem to pertain to exploring the idea of a new birth of mankind.

    Maybe I'm reading too far into it..
    Just my thoughts on it.


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    Jan 15th, 2008 1:25pm report

    Embracing the unknown allows a sense of spiritual freedom when the individual lets go of the boundaries that confine and searches for his own spirituality. this is indicated in the line "to swing on the spiral of our divinity and still be a human," it shows a desire to exist in the realm of God but still be a human able to understand the meaning and purpose of life. The spiral in the case of this song probably means a progressive increase to the desired state of being.


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    Jan 15th, 2008 1:08pm report

    I think this song is talking about how when you are young the world is black and white. Good and Evil. There are no shades of gray. Then as you get older you are influenced by other things. Other opinions start to change the way you see things. You start to look for more meaning in basic ideas. You are "withering you intuition". You start to listen to what the world around you is saying and stop listening to yourself. You draw ideas and opinions from "way outside the lines." but you miss the core idea because you are looking for deeper meanings. You spiral farther away from yourself and loose your own ideas and don't follow your own instincts anymore. We want to believe that there is a deeper meaning to it all and if we keep riding the spiral then we might just get there. But there is no end to the spiral it is our own vanity that makes us think that we can somehow figure it all out.


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    Nov 24th, 2007 11:58am report

    For me... Id say it is about coming to grow and understand your reality and realise your perceptions and expanding your mind and coming to know a higher power.. Simply the journey of life. Fibbonacci sequence is linked repeatedly to nature and could be considered gods building blocks. He speaks about learning new colors from infancy 'black then white are all I see in my infancy, red and yellow then came to be,' it all appears to be about growing and understanding. 'Swing on the spiral down, power, divinity... etc' that sequence of lyrics I believe is still talking about our lives spiraling out of control and to ride it out... It may take us to new places (it may just go where no ones been)
    . Fantastic song, highly original.


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    Nov 2nd, 2007 11:09pm report

    I'm new to tool but when I heard this song I totally connected... when Maynard sings overthinking overanalyzing I felt like I understood what he was saying in my experiencit means and he also says withering my intuition.... That when we overthink and overanalyze we take ourselves out of our emotion I think subconciously also because we feel we are incapable of dealing with the emotion or the choice not necessarily body...we need our thoughts but also our "gut" = intuition to take us where we need to go or to the next level as others say... I think he is saying if we spend our lives living in our heads then we miss the important shit... I think he is also sending a powerful message that we are capable of changing these habits.... don't know if that made any sense to anyone else but it does in my perception of the song anyway

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