"Lateralus" as written by Maynard James Keenan, Adam Jones, Daniel Carey and Justin Chancellor....
Black then white are all I see in my infancy.
Red and yellow then came to be, reaching out to me.
Lets me see.
As below, so above and beyond, I imagine
Drawn beyond the lines of reason.
Push the envelope. Watch it bend.

Over thinking, over analyzing separates the body from the mind.
Withering my intuition, missing opportunities and I must
Feed my will to feel my moment drawing way outside the lines.

Black then white are all I see in my infancy.
Red and yellow then came to be, reaching out to me.
Lets me see there is so much more
And beckons me to look through to these infinite possibilities.
As below, so above and beyond, I imagine
Drawn outside the lines of reason.
Push the envelope. Watch it bend.

Over thinking, over analyzing separates the body from the mind.
Withering my intuition leaving all these opportunities behind.

Feed my will to feel this moment urging me to cross the line.
Reaching out to embrace the random.
Reaching out to embrace whatever may come.

I embrace my desire to
Feel the rhythm, to feel connected
Enough to step aside and weep like a widow
To feel inspired, to fathom the power,
To witness the beauty, to bathe in the fountain,
To swing on the spiral
Of our divinity and still be a human.

With my feet upon the ground I lose myself
Between the sounds and open wide to suck it in,
I feel it move across my skin.
I'm reaching up and reaching out,
I'm reaching for the random or what ever will bewilder me.
And following our will and wind we may just go where no one's been.
We'll ride the spiral to the end and may just go where no one's been.

Spiral out. Keep going, going


Lyrics submitted by Everlong, edited by swiftau, ouzts12, GiselleFreude17

"Lateralus" as written by Maynard James Keenan, Adam Jones, Daniel Carey, Justin Chancellor

Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing

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Lateralus song meanings
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  • +16
    General CommentHey guys, awesome interpretations so far. Again this is everyone's THOUGHTS, so if I seem to dis anyone or anything by what I say, nothin bad intended. I think it's great seein what other people think. Anyway, on to the interpretation.
    To begin with, I wanna clear up an earlier post. Colsy said the title was pronounced "Lateral-Us" (A mistake i made too for a long time) but it's really pronounced "Ladder-alice" (say it and it makes sense, i found this in the FAQ from toolshed.net). Instead of "Side of Us", i think the song deals with lateral parts (the bigger picture, as maynard put it). Anyway, it deals with the ability to have a physical life, as well as a spiritual one (In whatever god you chose to believe in).
    "Black then white are all i see in my infancy" (at birth and early on you only see what's plain to the human eye, the physical side of life)
    "Red and yellow came to be, reaching out for me" (how spiritual feelings creep up after sometime, and almost seem to make you realize a new side of life)

    To keep from breaking down every line in the song (like i did on "the grudge") i'll just say that the next section deals with testing spiritual life (pushin that envelope, watching it bend, almost to see how far it will go). spiritual life takes you 'beyond the lines of reason'.

    Yet he retracts these statements by talking about "OVER thinking, and OVER analyzing" (saying that there is a balance in spirit and body, don't push either ot the extreme, because you'll become separate humans, leading a LATERAL life)
    Then he speaks about reaching out to embrace the random.... possibly spiritual meaning saying that he holds on to a belief hoping that he can eventually find truth in it.
    The next part seems to be my strongest point of backing. he speaks about how he has the desire to do all of these wonderful (spiritual and physical) things, and he sums it all up by saying
    "swing on the spiral of our divinity and still be a human" (think about it... the lateral lives of body and spirit NEVER have to each other, they can stay completely separate, but he longs to bring them together, to SPIRAL them, and make such a connection to feel DIVINE but remain a HUMAN.)

    Next he backs my statement again. He speaks of 'keeping his feet on the ground', yet he also talks about an enlightenment of somekind 'opening wide to suck it in and feeling it move across his skin'.
    He wants that connection of body and spirit, as everyone does. He'll continue to connect the 2 to push the boundaries and enlighten himself
    "Spiral out, keep going...."

    And interpretation is now done, thanks for botherin to read this terribly long post (as are all of mine, sorry bout that). Anyway, continue writin posts, i love to read em, and again this is only my opinion. Later...
    madson4562on January 15, 2002   Link
  • +5
    General CommentTo me, the song is simply about appriciating life for what it is, and enjoying it. Lets take a look...

    "Black then white are all I see in my infancy.
    red and yellow then came to be, reaching out to me.
    lets me see."
    Anyone else notice that the colors mentioned are the traditional "skin tones?" What does that have to do with it? I'm not sure.

    "As below, so above and beyond, I imagine
    drawn beyond the lines of reason.
    Push the envelope. Watch it bend."
    In other words, open your eyes to other possibilities... what you don't see. What you can't see.

    "Over thinking, over analyzing separates the body from the mind.
    Withering my intuition, missing opportunities and I must
    Feed my will to feel my moment drawing way outside the lines."
    Don't think... feel. Don't stay within the boundaries of society. This song means a LOT to me... so much that I can't put it into words.

    "Feed my will to feel this moment urging me to cross the line.
    Reaching out to embrace the random.
    Reaching out to embrace whatever may come"
    Take things as they are.

    "I embrace my desire to
    feel the rhythm, to feel connected
    enough to step aside and weep like a widow
    to feel inspired, to fathom the power,
    to witness the beauty, to bathe in the fountain,
    to swing on the spiral
    of our divinity and still be a human."
    Like I said... its about appriciating life.

    "With my feet upon the ground I lose myself
    between the sounds and open wide to suck it in,
    I feel it move across my skin.
    I'm reaching up and reaching out,
    I'm reaching for the random or what ever will bewilder me.
    And following our will and wind we may just go where no one's been.
    We'll ride the spiral to the end and may just go where no one's been."
    Extra sensory... senses. Sense your enviornment. Simple, yet so very complex. Branch out... SPIRAL out.
    Z3RO666on January 06, 2002   Link
  • +5
    General CommentBlack, white, red and green are the colours given by Buddhists for the 4 directions of their spiritual world. Black and white represent our realm, basically good vs evil, green and yellow are the higher and lower realms, gods vs demons (give them what names you will).

    Understand that and read the rest of the song and its message will become alot clearer.
    Mundion June 22, 2012   Link
  • +4
    General CommentThis is one of the most brilliant songs ever written. Like a complex novel, it operates on many levels, but the central theme of the song is evolution, both personal and on the grand scale. First we'll examine the music itself. Note that in the beginning the background beats/rhythms sound almost like a bubbling swamp, which is the source of life. As the song progresses, those rhythms become more tribal, then more mechanical, till near the end we hear what sounds like robots in a factory. Thus, the music is about the evolution of the human species to the point where we are either replaced by machines or become machines ourselves.

    Now, the lyrics reinforce this theme on a few ways. The song starts out: "Black then white are all I see in my infancy, red and yellow then came to be reaching out to me, let's me see." On a very literal level this is exactly how vision evolves in each human. Babies see in black and white, with their ability to distinguish colors arising as they age. But this is also true of the human species in a philosophical and spiritual sense. Edward O. Wilson has written about how the most primitive tribes have words only for black and white; the next most advanced tribes have words for red and yellow, on up to the point where we recognize there is a near infinite color spectrum, which the most advanced cultures recognize. Thus, the most morally developed beings recognize that issues can never be easily divided into black and white; that's much too simplistic. There are, of course, people who still see moral issues in black and white, but they are throwbacks to our primitive heritage. So as technology advances, if we do not evolve morally too, we lose our connection to nature more and more and become little more than machines. Computers too view things in simplistic black and white terms (or bits and bytes if you prefer).

    Thus, in that context the song is about personal growth--spiritually, morally, and philosophically speaking. when Maynard sings about pushing the envelope, he is saying that he is attempting to push beyond the 2-dimensional mores and prudish religious nonsense that still holds us back as a culture. True spiritual growth cannot come from without; it must come from within, and no one else can define what is right or wrong for you. In that sense this sing is kind of a companion piece to Hermann Hesse's novel 'Demian.'

    As the song approaches its denouement, Maynard approaches something on the order of mystical ecstasy and again the music reinforces the lyrics. Note how the pitch of Maynard's voice, moving up and down rhythmically, compliments the "spiral out" he's singing about. He leaves the rest ambiguous. What lies beyond the simplistic black & white world we live in? Who knows? But the point is, we must push ahead anyway, no matter what, because the alternative is that we're no better than the machines we build to labor for us. We MUST stop looking at the world as if it can be divided into easy categories. The truth is never that simple. We may not like what we find as we move on; nevertheless, we advance or we die, spiritually speaking.
    Starwatcher23on December 18, 2011   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThis song is a true work of art, something that the band want it to be seen as annd someting that i think is the most beautiful song ever written. Does anyone care if it is just under 10 minutes long?
    Everlongon November 24, 2001   Link
  • +3
    General Commenti love this song. and i dont want to sound like a ....
    but the title is LateralUs ... it was a printing mistake.
    I read it at toolband.com several weeks ago.
    neffeon November 25, 2001   Link
  • +3
    My InterpretationThis song is a description of a mystical experience.

    "Black then white are all I see in my infancy.
    Red and yellow then came to be, reaching out to me.
    Lets me see."
    As infants, we are only capable of seeing black and white before we become capable of seeing color. Likewise, as we mature spiritually we become capable of perceiving different aspects of reality that were previously completely unknown and unimaginable to us. A mystical experience is so alien to the everyday experiences of most people that describing it analogous to describing color to a colorblind person. Even if they can intellectually understand it, they can never truly "know" color without direct experience. Neither can anyone truly "know" divinity with a mere intellectual understanding of it.

    "As below, so above and beyond, I imagine
    Drawn beyond the lines of reason.
    Push the envelope. Watch it bend."
    In esoteric traditions "As above, so below" is an extremely famous phrase referring to the concept that the microcosm of the human is a representation of the macrocosm of the universe and vice versa; therefore through understanding one you understand the other. This is not a concept that can be rationally understood, hence it is "drawn beyond the lines of reason." It can only be accurately perceived when the rational mind is pushed to its breaking point, when it can be transcended.

    "Over thinking, over analyzing separates the body from the mind.
    Withering my intuition, missing opportunities and I must
    Feed my will to feel my moment drawing way outside the lines."
    The rational mind can only exist in a dualistic world, i.e. a world where subject and object, or the knower and the known, are separated. This duality is an illusion that is fooling the narrator, who must strengthen his will to see through the illusion.

    "Feed my will to feel this moment urging me to cross the line.
    Reaching out to embrace the random.
    Reaching out to embrace whatever may come."
    It takes a tremendous amount of willpower to cross the line from duality to unity. The individual never really knows what to expect when their ego becomes purified and they can perceive the infinite.

    "I embrace my desire to
    Feel the rhythm, to feel connected
    Enough to step aside and weep like a widow
    To feel inspired, to fathom the power,
    To witness the beauty, to bathe in the fountain,
    To swing on the spiral
    Of our divinity and still be a human."
    This is the desire for liberation from the chains of worldly existence, or to experience the Mystical unity of the universe. The joy of this unity is enough to make the narrator cry. "The power," "the beauty," "the fountain," and "the spiral" are descriptions of divinity. "The fountain" probably refers to the fountain of life, while spirals are filled with esoteric significance relating to the golden ratio and DNA.

    "With my feet upon the ground I lose myself
    Between the sounds and open wide to suck it in,
    I feel it move across my skin.
    I'm reaching up and reaching out,
    I'm reaching for the random or what ever will bewilder me.
    And following our will and wind we may just go where no one's been.
    We'll ride the spiral to the end and may just go where no one's been."
    After this mystical experience, the narrator's desire to reach even further into to fabric of reality is intensified and they assert their intention to continue their spiritual evolution to its conclusion.
    sadhakaon June 16, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General Commenti love this song so much.....at the peak of the song towards the end i get tingles up my spine everytime i hear it.....one of tools best....
    zwitter6000on January 18, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General CommentIf you read the book "Nothing in this book is true, but it's exactly how things are" you'll know exactly what this song is about. It's about sacred geometry and evolving to our next level of consciousness. That's just my opinion though.
    joel73on January 25, 2002   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationI don't think it's about racism, and for that matter, anything outside the body. Every time you go to sleep, your brain releases DMT, which can also be extracted from the plant it derives from, and smoked. The same thing is released in your brain when you die. When you go to sleep, your brain shuts off for approximately 7 hours and you go through a heavy psychedelic experience to another dimension and you wake up and just accept it. You can control your own reality by "pushing the envelope", "over-analyzing", "over-thinking." It is said that you can basically peek into your own afterlife with DMT, but you can also achieve this without psychedelics, they just help. The mind is an amazing device and you can do anything you want. Your brain is your computer. It's really not any more complex than defragmenting your computer with a simple click of the mouse. You tell your brain what you want it do: Lose weight, be wealthy, successful, etc...Pick a target goal and give yourself reasons for why you deserve what you want and your brain will pull itself towards it like a magnet. And judging by most of Maynard's lyrics, especially 46&2, he's always referring to the mind and how incredible and endless the possibilities are; opening your third eye. You can do all this through meditation and focus, so I interpret this song as so.
    Geometreeon September 21, 2010   Link

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