Culture

Yes, There Are Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins' Oceania, Part 2: The Name

St. Charles's Church

Here we are in Part Two of my series on the Judeo-Christian themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ 2012 album Oceania. Last week, I looked at the second track, “Panopticon,” the concept of the seeker, and God’s rewards for those who seek Him. This week, I’m backtracking in terms of album order and looking at the opening cut, “Quasar.”

“Quasar” roars right out of the box with a driving beat and charging guitars. It’s a challenging piece of music, shifting tempos and time signatures but always rocking hard. Leader Billy Corgan issues a charge:

God right on!
Krishna right on!
Mark right on!
Yod He Vau He Om
Let’s ride on!
Right on!
Let’s ride on!

I love the trade off between the phrases “Right on!” and “Ride on!” – but my focus in this post is on the fourth line there. Remove the Dharmic mantra Om from the end of the line and we see a powerful and integral part of both Judaism and Christianity – the name of God.

Yodh He Vav He (יהוה‎)are the Hebrew letters which make up the Tetragrammaton – the Hebrew abbreviation for the sacred Name of the God of Israel. In Roman letters YHWH make up the Tetragrammaton. The Name of God is so holy in Judaism that observant Jews dare not speak it. Some Christians have pronounced the Tetragrammaton as “Jehovah” or “Yahweh,” but neither are quite right. I found this superb explanation in the Urban Dictionary, of all places:

This codified form was not meant to be pronounced as is, rather it means “think Yahweh, say Adonai”. This was done based on the idea of Rabbinic Judaism that it is better not to say “Yahweh” at all rather than to take a chance on saying it in vain.

A scholarly explanation of YHWH goes something like this:

Scholars widely propose that the name YHWH is a verb form derived from the Biblical Hebrew triconsonantal root היה (h-y-h) “to be”, which has הוה (h-w-h) as a variant form, with a third person masculine y- prefix.

The Tetragrammaton derives its etymology from Exodus 3:14, in which God reveals his identity to Moses:

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ”

In Jewish culture, a person’s name tied directly into his or her identity. This is why we often see in the Bible God giving someone a new name after an encounter with Him. Both Jews and Christians understand how God’s Holy Name carries His identity with it as well. We see countless examples of the importance of the Name in the Scriptures:

Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:12)

Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. (Deuteronomy 6:13)

In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. (Psalm 33:21)

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

Therefore God exalted him [Jesus] to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name… (Philippians 2:9)

Corgan sings later on, “Yes I understand.” Understanding the importance of the Holy Name of God is a step closer to revering and then calling on the Name. I’m interested in seeing if his spiritual journey draws him closer to the identity of the God behind the Sacred Name.