Seeing The Fnord
Subliminal advertising is all around us, and has been for most of the 20th Century too, ever since Edward Bernays adapted Sigmund Freud’s ideas to advertising. Religion has used the idea for even longer. Robert Anton Wilson wrote about seeing the ‘fnords’ in written work: advertising or political brainwashing that we are conditioned not to notice, but that affects us anyway. This is basically what subliminal advertising is.
When originally defined, subliminal advertising referred to hidden messages in movies and TV shows: a single frame in an otherwise ordinary programme would contain a message. The idea was that a single frame passes too quickly for us to notice consciously, but our subconscious brain notices it nevertheless, and so it can influence our behaviour. Today, the definition is a little broader: it is when the hidden message is in fact in plain view, but we still don’t notice it consciously.
Sex and Cars
Modern advertising works by association: an idea of luxury, success, or whatever the advertiser wishes, is associated with the product the advertiser is trying to sell. For instance, the idea of freedom is often associated with cars: we see ads on the TV all the time showing people driving glistening vehicles in vast open spaces, free of other traffic: a completely unrealistic picture for most of us, but if we are not thinking clearly, we associate it with the car and tend to feel that purchasing the car will enhance our freedom. Sex is also notoriously associated with cars, especially at motor shows, where scantily-clad girls are used to entice (typically male) visitors to look in the general direction of the motor vehicles the girls are promoting or draping themselves upon. The message is both obvious, and usually consciously ignored or not noticed. But advertisers believe that it works. It probably does.
The idea is, again, to take a basic human desire (sex, freedom, etc.) and link it to the product. There need be no logical connection, although if there is a logical connection, I suppose it may help. Consciously the buyer thinks he is buying a car, but subconsciously he is hoping it will get him success with the girls. In the case of a Ferrari, he may be right…
Sometimes the advertising becomes something of a spoof of itself. In the rather shaky photo I took on a moving tube train the other week, you see a baguette (sandwich) advertised with the words “food envy.”
Now most of us have heard of Freud’s concept of “penis envy” even if we’re not clear about the clinical meaning, so the term “food envy” used to promote such an obviously phallic object is both a joke and no joke. What is one being asked to eat, exactly?
Subliminal Imagery in Religion
Religion has been using dodgy imagery for about as long as it has existed. This is especially so as it is thought that in the early days it was more blatantly sexual in nature than it is today, having a lot of emphasis on fertility and the creation of life by women.
These days, although the imagery of the stone-age mother-goddess religions is in some cases still used, it is left unexplained. But we can see it, and it still works on our subconscious minds, because these certainly know what the symbols mean – the symbols were created by human minds after all.
For example, look at the image of Jesus in a pointed oval, known as a “Vesica Piscis.” This shape represents two things. It’s most anciently a representation of the vulva of the mother goddess. It is the shape made during a solar eclipse as the (feminine) Moon begins to eclipse the (male) Sun, and represents the gateway between the male and female, through which creation (sex) can take place. More recently the church claims it represents the Christian fish symbol for Jesus (Ixthos). But that is in any case the same symbol so carries the same hidden meaning.
Other religions use similar symbolism. For example, Islamic pilgrims are expected to visit the Kaaba in Mecca at least once in their lives. The Kaaba is a black cube-shaped building, originally housing the various gods of the Arab peoples, but now used only for Islam. On one of the outside corners of this building is an object, apparently called by some “The Impression of Venus”. The black centre is thought to be the remains of an ancient meteorite, and pilgrims aim to kiss it. But look at the shape of the surrounding silver mounting. What exactly are they kissing? Why does the mounting have to be that shape?
I’ve also long been similarly suspicious of the official symbol of Iran, for much the same reason. What is that shape? To me, it looks rather like male and female somewhat aggressively combined (the ‘male’ part looks like a sword to me). It could also be a bird, or a bat I suppose, with its bat-like wings on either side. But subconsciously? The symbol is practically the same as the others.
So what am I saying? I suppose it comes to this: the religions are using, or have in the past used, sex as a hook to attract people to their religion. You subconsciously feel that your primal needs are going to be met. Remember that it is not necessary to understand what the symbols mean for them to affect you: your subconscious mind reacts to them automatically. This is what advertisers bank on, quite literally.
One final one for the religion section of this article. Have a look at the back of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s robes as he performed the wedding ceremony of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. What is that large serpent with a vesica piscis head?
I might add that he’s wearing on his head a hat known as a mitre, also of phallic/vulvic design, said by some to represent the mouth of a fish (like Jesus’ Ixthos symbol), from the Babylonian god Dagon, a pre-cursor to the god of the post-Babylonian Biblical religions, and the ancient mother goddess Cybele, upon the site of whose ancient temple dedicated to harlotry and taverns was built St Peter’s Basilica in Rome…
Sex, Politics and The London Olympics, 2012
In the USA, Mitt Romney’s campaign has a rather peculiar symbol, don’t you think?
A similar idea seems to have been used for the London Olympics logo: if you look carefully, you have a male figure on the right apparently getting intimate with a female on the left from behind:
And the point of such symbols? Again, it is so that you associate the product (a politician, or a sports event) with a basic human need (sex, love, procreation). In other words, the symbols are saying that the politician or the Olympics will satisfy your need. Nonsense, of course, but if we remain unconscious of the message and are at all interested in the item being promoted, it will make us feel like that.
This video by Red Ice Creations discusses more symbols, in case you’re interested. It includes interviews (well, pub conversations) with Leo Rutherford of shamanism.co.uk, who ran a very interesting and fun Shamanism workshop that I attended a few years back.
Maybe bear in mind when watching videos like this, that although it is very tempting to see conspiracies everywhere, the hard evidence is actually only circumstantial. Mundane explanations (such as some advanced in the video, for example, a bunch of insiders having a laugh) are at least as likely. And yes, the symbols probably do help to sell the products.