Tek-Gnostics Archives


I can't figure out... if it's the end or beginning?
But the trains put it's brakes on...
and the whistle is screaming...

Amidst the smoke and confusion... the billow of steam and receding trill of the whistle... as the very mystery train that brought you, pulls away from the station... now picking up speed... doppler shift from red to blue... flying down the track and into darkness... you suddenly find yourself standing upon a wooden, somewhat rickety disembarking platform. Faded red rose... blue light rain... Welcome to Terrapin Station... making connections to... parts unknown.

The Grateful Dead experience, picking up a head of steam around 1969 and continuing until Jerry's death on August 9th, 1995... occupied an amazing niche in popular culture during the last half of the twentieth century. In their live performances, the Dead tapped into the richness of the collective unconscious of the audience and seemingly "channeled" the emotive and psychic energies of those in attendance. In this sense, a Dead concert was a shared experience between the band and the audience. Dead performances were... "by design... not consciously planned, often reaching their artistic peak when the collective stumbled upon something stunning, when 'the music played the band,' as it were."

In retrospect, the Grateful Dead experience was nothing shy of a contemporary revival of the ancient Gnostic Mystery School tradition. The roots of the western mystery tradition were evidenced in the occult movements of Late Antiquity, Roman-Hellenistic religions which in turn claimed to originate in ancient Egypt, Chaldea, Persia or other parts of the ancient world.

For the "DeadHeads" (as the band's fans were known) those who were "in on the secret" and followed the band on tour... their Road to Eleusis became the next venue, the next city that the Grateful Dead was scheduled to play.

The Dead's persona and presentation could be described as a modern manifestation of what anthropologists have identified as a "Cult of the Dead." The ancient Cults of the Dead were based upon the beliefs that the dead may possess the ability to influence the fortune of the living (see the Dead mythology section below). Musically, this tradition was evidenced in the Afro-Diasporic quality of Jazz and the Blues. Dead albums and concerts were festooned with "Scull and Roses" imagery, thereby setting a specific aesthetic 'vibe'. In this regard, a Dead show shared the festive atmosphere and cultural importance of modern day examples, such as the observance of Halloween in N. America and the "Día de Muertos" or Day of the Dead, celebrated throughout Mexico.

 Through their use of ancient archetypical symbols such as the scull and the rose, their improvisational musical sensibilities and their poetic lyrical genius, the Dead were the heir apparent to these archaic traditions. In this sense, the Dead could best… and quite possibly only… be explained through direct, first-hand knowledge or Gnosis.

Mythologist Joseph Campbell had this to say concerning the Grateful Dead… 

“And what is it? The first thing I thought of was the Dionysian festivals, of course. This energy and these terrific instruments with electric things that zoom in... This is more than music. It turns something on in here (the heart). And what it turns on is life energy. This is Dionysus talking through these kids.”

The Dionysian Mysteries were a ritual of ancient Greece and Rome which used intoxicants and other trance-inducing techniques (like dance and music) to remove inhibitions and social constraints, liberating the individual to return to a natural state. This description of the ancient mysteries, which were observed from as early as 500 BCE, is exceedingly consistent with the experience of a Grateful Dead concert of the late 20th century. 

The groundwork for the mystical component that was a Grateful Dead concert had been laid in the 1960s, as the band (then known as The Warlocks) performed as the house band for LSD-fueled parties hosted by Oregon author Ken Kesey, which would later evolve into prototypical multimedia shows known as the Acid Tests. Kesey was made famous by authoring One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, in 1962 and Sometimes a Great Notion in 1964. Kesey was made infamous by travelling cross-country in a day-glow painted school bus named “Furthur” on expedition from the west coast to the 1964 World’s Fair in NYC. 

Kesey’s “trip” to New York and back was instrumental in developing the mythos of the Merry Pranksters, Kesey’s cohorts or “partners in crime” of the era. The Pranksters created the Acid Tests to further expand the experimentation that began while on Furthur. In the vernacular of Kesey and the Pranksters, you were either on the bus, or off the bus. Although the Dead remained close friends with Kesey et al, they soon developed their own unique and epic scene that was best described to the uninitiated by using the simple statement (code)... "there's nothing like a Grateful Dead show."

As the 70's disco fury faded, the Dead's stage performances evolved into Rock-n-Roll ritual. Patterns emerged in the chaos. First sets were typically comprised of what might be described as "standard" tunes, where the form or structure of each song was handled in a traditional manner. First sets were fun, but they were not what the audience came to experience. Second sets were improvisational free-for-alls where one tune would segue... melt might be a more precise term... into the next, in a seamless, masterful, seemingly effortless movement.

And right smack in the middle of the jam... rising up... rattling one's rib-cage... like a primordial neolithic Shamanic rite... menacing, yet inviting... intoxicating... rising up... the great Pan emerging from Arcadia to the drum beat that was... The Rhythm Devils. Yeah that was immaculate... 

If this is sounding a little too crazy... for those of you not familiar with the Grateful Dead... some perspective. Here is a very short history of the band...

Considered by many to be the heart and soul of the band, Jerry Garcia played with a number of acts between 1960 and 1965 before finding musicians Bill Kreutzman, Bob Weir, Ron Mckernan and Phil Lesh, who would become the Warlocks original lineup. They finally stumbled on the phrase Grateful Dead in a randomly opened dictionary. The words referred to a genre of folktales in which a Good Samaritan arranges for the burial of a penniless stranger. At some point later, the Samaritan encounters life-threatening peril and is, himself, aided by the spirit of the man he helped bury, hence "grateful dead." 

The Dead lived at 710 Ashbury Street, and became synonymous with the 1967 Summer of Love cultural movement centered in the San Francisco Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. The group took influences from all over -- rock, country, folk and blues -- and forged a defining sound. 

The group's mission statement as voiced by Garcia in 1967: "We're trying to make music in such a way that it doesn't have a message for anybody. We don't have anything to tell anybody. We don't want to change anybody. We want people to have the chance to feel a little better. That's the absolute most we want to do with our music. The music that we make is an act of love and act of joy...we're not telling [anybody] to go get stoned, or drop out.... We are trying to make things groovier for everybody so more people can feel better more often, to advance the trip, to get higher - however you want to say it - but we're musicians and there's just no way to put the idea 'save the world' into music." 

As the band, and its sound, matured over thirty years of touring, playing, and recording, each member's stylistic contribution became more defined, consistent, and identifiable. Phil Lesh, who was originally a classically-trained trumpet player with an extensive background in music theory, did not tend to play traditional blues-based bass forms, but opted for more melodic, symphonic and complex lines, often sounding like a second lead guitar, a style that came to be known by fans as: the Phil Zone. Weir, too, was not a traditional rhythm guitarist, but tended to play jazz-influenced, unique inversions at the upper end of the Dead's sound.

The two drummers, Mickey Hart and Billy Kreutzman, developed a unique, complex interplay, balancing Kreutzman's steady beat with Hart's interest in percussion styles outside the rock tradition. Hart incorporated an 11-count measure to his drumming, bringing a new dimension to the band's sound that became an important part of its emerging style. The two drummers evolved and developed their own persona at live performances known as: the Rhythm Devils.

Garcia's lead lines were fluid, supple and spare, owing a great deal of their character to his training in fingerpicking and banjo. His improvisational lead guitar style, in the tradition of jazz pioneers such as Miles Davis and John Coltrane, opened up the Band's overall expressive presentation, allowing for extensive musical exploration.

Of historical note is the Band's practice of allowing fans to tape performances. Over the years, as the Dead's touring protocol evolved, the Band provided a "tapers section"  at concerts where industrious individuals set up elaborate, state-of-the-art recording equipment. This allowed fans the opportunity to "capture the magic" that was a Grateful Dead performance... on tape... and distribute the recordings free of any royalty fee. This practice pre-dated and pioneered the "peer to peer" phenomenon that changed the face of our modern day music industry. 

For thirty years, the Grateful Dead created a musical space that transcended entertainment. The Dead's concerts became a traveling tabernacle for the DeadHeads. The dynamic songwriting team of Hunter (lyrics) & Garcia (music)  as well as Barlow & Weir... provided fans with a wonderful musical tapestry of imagery and emotion that imparted reflection and contemplation and hence expanding the opportunity for internal processing. The experience of attending a DeadShow provided context to the crazy world that was the final third of the twentieth century.

To get to Terrapin...
Within the epic mythological experience that was the Grateful Dead, the song Terrapin Station played a central role. Terrapin Station, the words of which were written by Robert Hunter and the accompanying music written by Jerry Garcia (August 1, 1942 – August 9, 1995) became one of the Dead’s central and most profound second set performance pieces. The rich, archetypical imagery of the sailor, the soldier and of course, the lady... conjured the deeply emotional dichotomy of what it means to be human... of love lost and striven for. All of which is foretold throughout the song, by the ever-present storyteller.

In the opening "Lady with a Fan" movement of the suite, the storyteller invokes the muse with a prayer-like supplication in the manner of the Greek poets...

"Let my inspiration flow... in token rhyme, suggesting rhythm... let it not forsake me, till my tale is told and done."

As the tale begins, we are transported to a setting of an eternal love triangle. However, the thematic conflict is not necessarily between the characters, but of whether the pursuit of love is wise or folly? These characters are faced with decisions we all must make. Is the risk of vulnerability worth the reward of true love? As Lady with a Fan concludes, we are reminded of the proper role of the storyteller...

"Storyteller makes no choice, soon you will not hear his voice. His job is to shed light... and not to master."

Immediately following this line, we are given a reminder (and warning) into the true nature of the currency that the storyteller trades in...

"Since the end is never told, we pay the teller off in gold, in hopes he will come back... but he cannot be bought or sold!"

After the narrative of Lady with a Fan movement concludes, the central theme of Terrapin Station explodes with the emotive lyric, in the voice of the storyteller… Inspiration! …move me brightly! This line continues the opening theme of supplication, in keeping with the ancient Greek tradition. Here the theme of the suite subtly broadens. Terrapin’s lyrics reveal the connotation that Terrapin Station is the Earth herself… in the shadow of the moon. With this broadening, the suite suggests a deeper, esoteric consideration, and we are challenged to contemplate, what are the true ramifications of our existence on Terrapin Station? For...

"Some rise... some fall... some climb... to get to Terrapin."

The song builds in intensity, culminating in the syncopated proclamation…

"Terrapin! I can’t figure out… (terrapin!) if it’s the end or beginning… (terrapin!) but the train’s put it’s brakes on… (terrapin!) and the whistle is screaming… Terrapin!"

Hunter's brilliance in lyrical subtleties shines forth as layers of allegory maintain multiple streams of narrative. The unfolding folk tale and mythic creation epic exuded quandary. The song's existential questions are of course not answered, but as this piece of music was performed live and as the quite dramatic instrumental ending would slowly unfold and segue into new, unique musical territory each night it was performed, those of us in attendance at this 20th century Mystery Cult were reminded that Terrapin Station was... and is, indeed... a rare & different tune.

Grateful Dead... the Mythology
The Grateful Dead (or grateful ghost) is a folktale present in many cultures throughout the world. The most common story involves a traveler who encounters a corpse of someone who never received a proper burial, typically stemming from an unpaid debt. The traveler then either pays off the dead person's debt or pays for burial. The traveler is later rewarded or has their life saved by a person or animal who is actually the soul of the dead person; the grateful dead is a form of the donor archetype.

In fairy tales, a donor is a character that tests the hero (and sometimes other characters as well) and provides magical assistance to the hero when he succeeds. An example of the donor archetype, found in European  folktales from the middle ages, is the "fairy godmother."

Actual fairy godmothers are rare in fairy tales, but became familiar figures because of the popularity of the literary fairy tales of Madame d'Aulnoy and Charles Perrault's tale, Cinderella. Many other supernatural patrons feature in fairy tales; these include various kinds of animals and the spirit of a dead mother. The fairy godmother has her roots in the figures of the Fates; this is especially clear in The Sleeping Beauty, where they decree her fate, and are associated with spinning.

A variant of the grateful dead motif is found in the the Book of Tobit. The chivalric romance "Amadas" has the title knight pay his last coins for such a burial. This motif appears in various fairy tales, such as the Italian Fair Brow, the Swedish The Bird 'Grip' and H. C. Andersen's The Traveling Companion.

Going further back, an Ancient Egytian text explains the principle of reciprocity in which the deceased calls for a blessing on the person who remembers his name and helps him into a happy afterlife:

"But if there be a man, any one whomsoever, who beholdeth this writing and causeth my soul and my name to become established among those who are blessed, let it be done for him likewise after his final arriving (at the end of life's voyage) in recompense for what was done by him for me, Osiris."

Grateful Dead... the Science Fiction
Watch your head as you enter the low-orbiting, self-sustaining space station we call Terrapin. We are a "freeport" station, in that we operate outside of national identity or national jurisdiction. As such, Terrapin is home to a prototypical galactic citizenry. As we circle our home world... our "bright blue ball just spinning, spinning free" ...we are constantly reminded of the global perspective that we are all fellow passengers aboard spaceship earth.

As a freeport station, we provide access to all points off-world. In addition to being a gateway to our solar system and beyond, Terrapin Station acts as a repository for a wide assortment of galactic databanks, both Terran and extra-terrestrial.

Terrapin Station was salvaged from the decaying soviet and U.S. space programs, and is manned and maintained by an unlikely confederation of techno-gurus from Silicon Valley, scientists from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Deadhead tapers from San Francisco. Our mission is to provide access to our many database archives, facilitate the global perspective of spaceship earth and to assist in transporting our understanding of what it means to be human a little furthur along as we travel outside earth's gravity well and into the unknown.

A peaceful place... or so it looks from space...

In addition to the various databanks found below, Terrapin Station acts as a transmitter of Radio Free Dead ...the Tek-Gnostics pirate radio station. We consider this a public service for our galactic community. We maintain other archival materials pertaining to Jehovah's favorite choir. Follow the links below for more information, and remember: Once in a while you get shown the light... in the strangest of places... if you look at it right !



Joseph Campbell & the Dead
In November of 1986, a seminar was held with the great mythologist Joseph Campbell, Jerry Garcia &, Mickey Hart.
Book of the Dead
Being a brief history of the Dead, along with extended excerpts from the Book of the Dead.
Radio Free Dead
Pirate Radio, broadcasted from our low-orbiting station... Terrapin.


Annotated Grateful Dead

Grateful Dead Listening Guide


Grateful Dead @ Rolling Stone

Grateful Dead Archive Online

Internet Archive of Live Dead



Terrapin Station Suite

Lyrics: Robert Hunter ~ Music: Jerry Garc
Copyright Ice Nine Publishing

Lady With A Fan

Let my inspiration flow, in token rhyme suggesting rhythm...
that will not forsake me, till my tale is told and done.
While the fire lights aglow, strange shadows from the flames will grow...
till things we've never seen will seem familiar.

Shadows of a sailor forming winds both foul and fair, all swarm...
down in Carlisle he loved a lady many years ago.
Here beside him stands a man, a soldier by the looks of him...
who came through many fights, but lost at love.

While the story teller speaks, a door within the fire creaks...
suddenly flies open, and a girl is standing there.
Eyes alight, with glowing hair, all that fancy paints as fair...
she takes her fan and throws it in the lion's den.

Which of you to gain me, tell, will risk uncertain pains of hell?
I will not forgive you if you will not take the chance.
The sailor gave at least a try; the soldier, being much too wise...
strategy was his strength, and not disaster.

The sailor, coming out again, the lady fairly leapt at him.
That's how it stands today.... you decide if he was wise.
The story teller makes no choice, soon you will not hear his voice...
his job is to shed light, and not to master.

Since the end is never told... we paid the teller off in gold...
in hopes he will come back... but he cannot be bought or sold!

Terrapin Station

Inspiration! ...move me brightly.
Light the song with sense of color...
hold away despair.
More than this I will not ask...
faced with mysteries deep and vast...
statements just seem vain at last...
Some rise... some fall... some climb...
...to get to Terrapin!

Counting stars by candlelight.
Some are dim but one is bright.
The spiral light of Venus...
rising first and shining best.
Oh, from the north-west corner...
of a brand new crescent moon.
Crickets and cicadas sing...
a rare and different tune.
Terrapin Station... in the shadow of the moon
Terrapin Station... and I know we'll be there soon

Terrapin! ...I can't figure out.
Terrapin! ...If it's the end or beginning?
Terrapin! ...But the train's put it brakes on!
Terrapin! ...And the whistle is screaming!


At A Siding

While you were gone...
These faces filled with darkness.
The obvious was hidden.
With nothing to believe in...
the compass always points to Terrapin

Sullen wings of fortune beat like rain.
You're back in Terrapin for good or ill again...

For good or ill again.





CG Jung
Timothy Leary
Beyond Theology
High Weirdness
Book of the Dead
Extra Terrestrial Transmissions