The theme for the Philosopher’s Propeller album is alchemy and the process known as the magnum opus or the “great work.” The song is titled “Opus” in English, but the Japanese word in the title can also simply be translated as “work,” so it all fits together.
While much of the rest of the album fits with alchemy, this song to me seems more imbued with the atmosphere of things from the Hermetic tradition and the ideas of Aleister Crowley. (Just skim the descriptions of the magnum opus here and see if you agree.) The use of the word “The Fool” (the first card in a tarot deck) in the song title also hints towards this occult/spiritual meaning rather than the purely alchemical idea. Crowley was influential in modern tarot deck creation and study, in particular through the Thoth Tarot painted by Lady Frieda Harris. If you take a look at "The Fool" card in a Thoth deck and then consider the crazy imagery of this song, you might start seeing connections…are those feathers? And a lion? What?
At any rate, this is a mellow yet intriguingly beautiful song—a song of innocence and curiosity and perfect power, maybe. What do you think?
Rubedo (Live) - Interactive Live Show Philosopher’s Propeller
Rubedo (or “reddening”) is the final step for creating the philosopher’s stone in alchemy. In terms of spiritual/mental growth, though, it is the culmination of the process of self-realization and leads to the appearance of the Self archetype, which Jung apparently described as “the total, timeless man … who stands for the mutual integration of conscious and unconscious.” The process of rubedo has also been described as follows:Once the inner light has been discovered, it must be made into the only reality in our consciousness. After having descended into the unconscious [in nigredo and albedo] … we found the Light. […] [O]ur conscious, or attention, must completely penetrate our unconscious, or soul, or everything that lies hidden in ourselves.
Perhaps that’s why this song is one big command to “see” or become conscious of something?
The melody of “Philosopher’s Propeller-2” is almost identical to that in the instrumental track “Albedo” on the same album. Both songs have what sounds like the chanting of some kind of sutra in the background, though it sounds more like a group of many people in “Albedo” and more like one single monk in “Philosopher’s Propeller-2.” (No idea what’s actually being chanted, though.)
To go back to the alchemical background to this album, albedo (or “whitening”) would be the second stage on the way to creating the philosopher’s stone or (on a psychological level) transforming the self into something resembling enlightenment. Albedo is a stage where the individual comes to terms with the male and female aspects of their unconscious, and gets rid of “inflated ego and unneeded conceptualizations.” (That might be part of the reason “Albedo” has no lyrics—they’re unneeded. “Philosopher’s Propeller-2” also has rather sparse lyrics and mentions getting rid of “today” and the past it’s connected to.)
As this page notes, in albedo:
[A] white light appears. […] The alchemist has discovered within himself the source from which his life comes forth. The fountain of life from which the water of life flows forth giving eternal youth. The source is one: male and female are united.
But enough. Let’s look at the lyrics!