Photo taken from the Haiku Stairs also known as the Stairway to Heaven in Oahu, HI
Stairway to Heaven is considered by many to be one of the greatest songs of the rock era, critics agree that this is the greatest movie song, or greatest song of the era. Yes, Led Zeppelin music has always spoken to my soul… it has just been understood to be so, without explanation. Until now.
The other day, I was listening to my Stairway to heaven when the lyrics which have so effortlessly slid off my tongue for decades sounded different to me.
I began to recognize that this song, released in the year of my birth as very spiritual and esoteric piece of music.
Humor me for a moment;
The song builds in tempo toward an energetic climax, as if an upward journey… toward heaven, in seven steps or verses, which align perfectly with the seven chakras.
According to occult symbolism, such as the Kabbalah’s Tree of life and the Tarot’s major arcana, there are 22 paths to heaven. Led Zeppelin cleverly composed this song with 22 notes per verse (give or take).
As you can see from the lyrics posted below, since the syllables of the words match the notes heard in the song, the theme consists of one line of 12 notes (1 for each sign of the zodiac) followed by one line of 10 notes (1 for each planet); again matching common correlations to the Tree of Life. For example, “There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold” has 12 notes, and then “And she’s buying a stairway to heaven” has 10 notes. But as the theme changes in verses 5 and 6, the split appears to be 13 or 14 to 9 instead; still adding up to 22 (or 23). This could refer to a 13th sign, proposed by some neo pagans and feminists (the 13th Moon), or to the Christ and/or Sophia coming into view, and maybe there’s only 9 planets.
There’s a lady who’s sure
All that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven
When she gets there she knows
If the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for
Ooh ooh ooh ooh and she’s buying a stairway to heaven
The symbol of enlightenment in alchemy is the turning of lead into gold. In the beginning, like the Tarot Fool, we do not know the way to enlightenment and must partake in a personal journey to get there. “All that glitters is gold” could symbolize the greed of the fool, the attachment to material, worldly things.
In Tarot, the magician is also associated with the first chakra and represents the bridge between the spirit world and humanity. Historically, the image of the magician has been associated with commerce; “With a word,” the magician can get people to part with their money. The Magician is also associated with the number one, the number for beginnings. This begins our journey on the Stairway to heaven.
There’s a sign on the wall
But she wants to be sure
‘Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings
In a tree by the brook
There’s a songbird who sings
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiving
Ooh, it makes me wonder
Ooh, it makes me wonder
Words are nothing more than a way to communicate, just like a sign or a symbol. When we take “The Word” Literally, it can be confusing and often have more than one meaning. Religious texts from all major World Religions are rich in symbology, the interpretation though can be tricky and confusing.
In the second chakra, we deal with passion and pleasure, both of which can only be experienced in the body.
I love the song bird reference, as you know, I have found liberation in music. You too can find it in music (Song bird) more than in words.
Words are part of the human plane only, not part of divine correspondence. Divine communication comes in symbols. Words belong to the Ego and as we have learned in our ACIM series, words and thoughts can be misleading.
The tree by the brook (water) symbolizes the Tree of Life, which in occult lore grows in the sea in the West (See next verse) and is nourished by love and desire (both elements of the second chakra).
The Tree of Life holds the path to liberation and eternal life and wonder is the beginning of wisdom and rebirth.
There’s a feeling I get
When I look to the west
And my spirit is crying for leaving
In my thoughts I have seen
Rings of smoke through the trees
And the voices of those who standing looking
Ooh, it makes me wonder
Ooh, it really makes me wonder
In Tarot, the Hermit guides on a path of introspection which leads us further along the stairway to heaven. “My spirit is crying for leaving,” could be interpreted by this need, to go away from humanity or to look inward. (Interestingly enough, the cover of this Album depicts a hermit)
“In my thoughts I have seen, rings of smoke through the trees” could be those beautiful glimpses at Truth found in meditation and silence. The voices, in my interpretation are those things which lead us to the Truth, all of the symbols and synchronicities in our lives. (Such as my draw to this song, since a very early age.)
The “West” often refers to the materialistic Western Civilizations. It is often said that money cannot buy happiness. When we look to the materialistic “West” for satisfaction, we find something lacking and our spirit cries for solitude and reflection.
The Wheel of Fortune in Tarot, is a time to choose, symbolized by The Rings of Smoke through the trees.” Also, Fire, The element of the 3rd or Sacral Chakra.
It is in this third chakra that we must choose the path .. either the materialistic, ego-driven path or the path of spirit. It is here that we develop our Will to follow our heart or follow our minds. The heart path, leads us up the chakra body to the heart chakra, or to the next rung on the Stairway to Heaven. The choice to remain on the ego driven path, keeps us unbalanced in the lower chakras, where our spirit cries for reprieve.
The Strength card in Tarot symbolizes this drive to follow the right path and the strength to persevere in our decision.
The East (opposite the Ego-driven West) is also associated with the third chakra in the medicine wheel.
And it’s whispered that soon, If we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason
And a new day will dawn
For those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter
In the 4th verse, we enter the heart chakra, where we see the promise of the new age dawning, one of reason. In the occult tradition, reason refers to Justice (a virtue of the heart chakra) and refers to Truth, Balance, Justice and Equality for all. The Piper symbolizes that music holds a key to this liberating time, which is coming, will not arrive immediately, but will arrive for those who persevere.
If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow
Don’t be alarmed now
It’s just a spring clean for the May queen
Yes, there are two paths you can go by
But in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on
And it makes me wonder
In the 5th verse of the son and the 5th chakra, we look at purification, change, choice and self expression. The throat chakra carries with it the energy of self expression. Celebrations of the may Queen are Pagan Rituals of spring, celebrating the freedom of self expression.
We have a choice, We can choose either path; the path of love and freedom or the path of ego and temptation but we have the option to change roads at any time, it is simply a matter of choice. The ideas of this verse can be associated with Temperance and Temptation cards in a Tarot deck.
Your head is humming and it won’t go
In case you don’t know
The piper’s calling you to join him
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow
And did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind
Our ego is constantly speaking to us inside of the mind, but so is intuition. Intuition is often the quieter of the two voices (at least until we learn how to hear it) and therefore can be associated with the whispering wind. (A symbol of flight and spirit) In order to open our third eye chakra, which is associated with intuition, we must quiet the ego (The humming in our head). Music (The piper) calls to us to find the way. (This reinforces my belief that music and dancing are keys to our higher selves). Here the Piper and his masculine energy join in union with the lady who began her journey in the first verse.
And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last
When all are one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll
And she’s buying the stairway to heaven
As we wind on down the spiral serpent path of life and the “Stairway to Heaven” we enter into the Crown Chakra, were the divine connects us with the universal consciousness. The truth (White light) is available to all and it’s song calls to us. The Lady could be a symbol for the World Card in the Tarot deck, the Divine Universal Feminine. The gold can symbolize all the joy and bliss that await us when we learn to listen to the intuition, to be still and to recognize each other as brothers on the same journey. Like the Alchemists, we too can turn everything to gold as we learn to find the silver lining in every cloud. Enlightenment brings us to this eternal place of joy, often referred to as Nirvana- The rock of peace that stills all the rolls of craving, according to Buddha.
Here in this Nirvana, we find a divine state of eternal bliss, the union between masculine and feminine energy, the freedom to choose and choosing the path of peace and love and harmony. It’s an ongoing process; there’s many things perceived as negative, that we must “Turn to gold”, much work still to do, many dark corners in which we need to shine our light , and many others to help climb the stairs. In the final verse, we repeat the line from the first, showing us that each end is a beginning, as above, so below, the circle of life continues.
I have always loved this band and their music and now that I am able to divine this message amongst the lyrics I have so mindlessly belted all of these years, I have a profound new interest in my all time favorite band.
What are your thoughts, can you find a spiritual connection in the lyrics of this song? Do you have any other songs you have found a unique spiritual connection to? I would love to hear from you.