Rush is one of the most innovative and influential bands in the history of progressive rock, known for their complex instrumentation, virtuosic musicianship, and poetic lyrics. However, their music is also characterized by a deep and abiding fascination with alchemy and mysticism, drawing on themes from ancient spiritual traditions to explore the mysteries of human existence. In this essay, we will explore the alchemical imagery in Rush’s landmark album “2112,” and how it reflects their broader interest in spiritual themes in progressive rock.
Alchemy is a spiritual tradition that dates back thousands of years and is found in cultures around the world. It is characterized by its use of symbolism, allegory, and metaphor to explore the transformation of the human soul and the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment. This tradition is reflected in Rush’s music, particularly in their album “2112,” which features a concept that tells the story of a dystopian future where creativity and individuality have been suppressed by a totalitarian government.
One of the most prominent examples of alchemical imagery in “2112” can be found in the song “The Temples of Syrinx,” which opens the album. The song’s lyrics contain numerous references to alchemical symbols and themes, including lines like “Our great computers fill the hallowed halls / We are the priests of the temples of Syrinx,” which suggest a society that has become obsessed with technology and materialism at the expense of spiritual enlightenment.
Another important influence on Rush’s music was the writings of Ayn Rand, a philosopher and novelist who championed individualism and self-reliance. Rand’s ideas are reflected in “2112,” particularly in the song “Anthem,” which contains lyrics that echo her philosophy of Objectivism, such as “I will choose a path that’s clear / I will choose free will.” However, while Rand’s influence is evident in the album’s themes of individualism and rebellion, Rush’s music is also characterized by a deeper, more spiritual dimension that draws on the alchemical tradition.
The alchemical themes in “2112” are particularly evident in the album’s title track, which tells the story of a young man who discovers a guitar and learns to play it despite the government’s efforts to suppress creativity. The song’s lyrics contain numerous references to alchemical symbols and themes, including the image of a “crystal city” that represents the transformation of the human soul. The song’s extended instrumental sections also reflect the alchemical tradition of using music and rhythm to facilitate spiritual transformation.
It is worth noting that Rush’s interest in alchemy was not limited to “2112.” The band’s music is characterized by a general sense of mystery and ambiguity that invites interpretation and reflection, and their use of enigmatic imagery, cryptic lyrics, and hypnotic instrumentation creates an otherworldly atmosphere that suggests that there are deeper, more spiritual dimensions of reality waiting to be explored.
In conclusion, Rush’s “2112” is a testament to their unique artistic vision and their desire to connect with a deeper, more spiritual dimension of reality. Their use of alchemical imagery and ideas reflects their fascination with the transformation of the human soul and the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment. While their interest in the alchemical tradition was not without controversy, their music remains a testament to the enduring power of myth, symbolism, and the human search for meaning and purpose in a world that often seems devoid of it.