Previously Ezekiel73 wrote an epic piece on the importance of yacht rock in a time of apocalypse (“unveiling”). For more on apocalyptic traditions, see my earlier piece on the subject. I’ve also previously used yacht rock as a perfect example of some core aspects of Hegelian philosophy, which I’ve argued is a very helpful frame of reference to approach the UFO Phenomenon. In particular yacht rock exemplifies notions of Hegel’s that point very close to the idea of retrocausation—i.e. the future creating the past context that sets up the eventual arising of that future (aka “time loop”). For more on retrocausation, see this piece.

These seemingly disparate threads actually weave together insofar as apocalyptic thought is itself a kind of theological version of retrocasuation, where a future reality (“God” “Justice”, “The Kingdom”), breaks into the present (and possibly even the past), looking to effect events in such a way as to lead to the eventual full manifestation of that desired future. Furthermore, the study of UFOs (Ufology) is rife with language of “disclosure” and “revelation”, i.e. apocalypse. As I’ve argued elsewhere, The UFO Phenomenon is an unveiling of an alternative form of physics, engineering, energy, technology, and potentially consciousness.

In this piece we’re going to look at a yacht-rock adjacent band The Eagles and their apocalyptic song Hotel California. I’m going to go through the song’s lyrics. Along the way we’ll encounter notions of shamanism, the weird/eerie, dream-like imagination, altered states of consciousness, repressed elements of the collective psyche, and much more. In particular I’ll be using the frames of weird naturalism and ontological flooding, both core to the site’s overall approach, as aids in interpretation.

On a dark desert highway,
Cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas rising up through the air.

A highway through the desert (or wilderness) is a symbol with deep history and symbolic import, particularly in the Biblical tradition where numerous individuals went into the wilderness (desert) to meet with the presence of the strangely natural: e.g. Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, Jesus. The wilderness indicates a liminal zone, wherein one may encounter forces beyond the normal everyday. Whether those forces are necessarily positive, negative, or perhaps trickster-y will become a key theme as the song progresses.

Colitas indicates an altered state of consciousness through produce of the earth: colitas, literally “little buds”, is slang for marijuana. From this point on the rest of the events in the song are going to take place in a non-ordinary state. This non-ordinary/altered state of consciousness indicates the frame of reference for interpreting everything that follows. The song is dream-like in its strange juxtaposition of characters and events, as well as the seemingly illogical flows from one event to another narratively, the arising and disappearing of characters seemingly out of thin-air. If we approach the song the way one might divine a dream, then more opportunities for meaning “unveil” themselves.

For thousands of years humans have employed various means to enter into non-ordinary states: a catch-all term for which is shamanism. Methods include intense percussive sound, breathing techniques, as well as ritual and ceremonial use of plants (mushrooms, ayahuasca, peyote, etc.). Within these traditions, it is understood that the plants are embodied spirits (animism, from anima meaning the soul/consciousness within).

From this shamanic perspective, the warm smell of colitas rising up through the air means that the spirit of marijuana is now taken the singer on a shamanic journey. In an animistic-shamanic understanding, these non-ordinary states of consciousness are not simply internal changes within the person (though they include that) but also offer entrance into another dimension of reality. In this worldview, the realms accessed through these alternative states open one up to actual entities who exist within said realms. This point will become very important in interpreting the later highly strange events of the song.

Up ahead the distance I saw a shimmering light/
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim,
I had to stop for the night.

The key word here is shimmering. The UFO Phenomenon, whatever it may ultimately be, is said to shimmer. Dark deserted highways also are classic zones of encounters with The Phenomenon. From this angle, the shimmering light perfectly matches the warm smell of colitas; the altered state brought on by the plant unveils another dimension which has a non-ordinary quality or presence about it (the shimmering light). As I’ve argued previously the UFO Phenomenon is best though of as existing in the psychic realm—on the borderland between gross 3rd dimensional reality and subtler planes. The UFO Phenomenon is in a hybrid earth-mystical state and therefore compares, in terms of its manifestations, most closely to entities classically associated with that psychic realm: e.g. fairies, jinn.

My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim,
I had to stop for the night.

One of the most common elements of the UFO Phenomenon (replicated in the lore concerning fairies) is time loss or almost narcoleptic sleep-inducing patterns occurring as a consequence of encountering The Phenomenon. The psychic state is traditionally associated with the hypnagogic state—the twilight state between normal waking and deeper sleep and dreaming. While this interpretation may seem a bit far-fetched at first glance, none other than Eagles member Glenn Frey compared the song to an episode of The Twilight Zone. In other words, our protagonist has entered into a twilight reality, something akin to Alice in Wonderland, where the logic, physics, and interactions will be shaped by a very different dimension.

The Phenomenon “shimmers” because it exists on the borderland of the gross and subtle realms. It sometimes is more on the side of the subtle, while other times more on the gross material side. For example, in the UFO Phenomenon, something like craft appear in the sky that can outrun the fastest US military planes. But then it disappears from physical sight only to reappear somewhere else moments later, like a wrinkle in space-time. In poltergeist phenomena, the entities can affect physical objects (like turning off and on lights) but also are said to walk through walls.

The shimmering is the borderland/hybrid quality of being both physical but also not completely bound by gross 3rd dimension physics. This shimmering quality is also likely related to so-called over unity or zero point energy (“free energy”) possibilities, as also previously discussed on the site.

There she stood in the doorway,
I heard the mission bell.
And I was thinkin’ to myself
This could be heaven or this could be hell.

Who is the she? Where did she come from? One clue is that this feminine presence, whoever she may be, appears at the doorway. The doorway, like the shimmering, reveals a threshold. Rudolf Steiner—covered on the site previously—described an entity known as the guardian at the threshold (doorway). I’ve covered this previously in a review of Daniel Pinchbeck’s book on The UFO Phenomenon (where he discussed Steiner’s ideas).

The guardian at the threshold is like a non-ordinary realm bouncer. In order for a mystical aspirant to move forward into transpersonal states of consciousness, they must face the guardian. They must “get on the guest list” and gain the guardian’s favor in order move forward. Sometimes this involves knowing a secret phrase—like Ali Baba—or a quest must be undertaken and a treasure gained to prove one’s heroism.

Somehow—in a way not described in the song—the singer somehow passes this test as this feminine presence will shift from being a threshold entity to become the singer’s guide through this strange realm, something like Virgil to Dante through hell and purgatory.

Speaking of purgatory, the singer wonders whether this place is heaven or hell? But what if it’s neither? What if it is something more in between the two, something like purgatory? That would fit better with the in-between status of the shimmering, the psychic state, and the altered state induced by the plant. I’ll continue to explore this possibility that The Hotel California is a purgatorial zone for the singer.

He hears the mission bell, an enigmatic and ambiguous (ominous?) sound.

A mission bell along a dark, desert highway in California, clearly references the history of Spanish Roman Catholic colonialism in the area. The Roman Catholic Spanish missions sought to stamp out what they viewed as “paganism”, i.e. indigenous shamanic spiritual traditions among the native populations of the area. That attempt to conquer the local religious practices and beliefs was only so successful, as throughout the lands that would become California, Arizona, and Mexico a hybrid synthetic approach has held until today—with official Roman Catholic doctrine and clergy and unofficial local animistic religion co-existing alongside of (and sometimes hidden within) the official Catholic theology.

An example of which is the figure of Mary and her apparitions, e.g. Our Lady of Guadalupe. As Jacques Vallee showed decades ago, there’s a strange and strong overlap between the experience of Marian apparitions and The UFO Phenomenon—pointing yet again to the psychic state as the realm of The UFO because the psychic state-realm is also the location of The World Soul (Anima Mundi), classically depicted as a great “She” or “Earth Mother.”

As a consequence of the Roman Catholic Inquisition, the indigenous animistic traditions would get pushed to the margins, psychically as well as literally. In the psychic margins, the repressed returns (as even Freud knew and certainly Jung emphasized as well). It is possible then, in terms of the song, that the later fantastical elements are forgotten entities (“on a dark desert highway”) of the indigenous psyche of the land.

The Hotel California, in this interpretation, becomes then a realm accessed through a non-ordinary state. The various characters, the “hotel’s occupants” become entities of this alternative liminal reality-space.

Then she lit up a candle
And she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor
I thought I heard them say

This mysterious feminine principle transforms from the gatekeeper into a guide. She lights the candle and shows him the way: i.e. the way through this strange liminal realm.

There were voices down the corridor, I thought I heard them say….

For the second time, sound indicates an ominous darker tone to the story. In contrast, the visual clues so far have been mostly positive: shimmering illumination and candle light, as well as the warm smell of the colitas seems to be of a more positive nature. But the ringing of the mission bell and these seemingly disembodied voices from the darkness raise the specter of a more eerie foreboding tone. Also corridors takes on a very strange twist when considered in light of the UFO Phenomenon, particularly in the abduction version of The Phenomenon, a topic covered previously on the site. If my hypothesis of a purgatory-like nature to The Hotel California has some validity, then these voices announcing The Hotel would be in their own purgatorial states.

Welcome to The Hotel California
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely face.
Plenty of room at the Hotel California
Any time of year
You can find it here.

Such a lovely place, such a lovely face. A strange juxtaposition of phrasing. Whose face? The face (edifice) of the hotel? A person’s face? If so, whose? The mysterious feminine presence guiding the singer?

The Hotel is a place, i.e. a location within in a realm, in this case, a dream-world. Again the visual clues speak to a superficial glamor (more on that in a bit) but the sound continues to send a different message. This glamor/sheen to the Hotel (“a lovely place”) is very much in the line of Ezekiel73’s piece on the society of The Spectacle. There’s a spectacle going on here, which will become more intense and even bizarre in the coming verses.

Plenty of the room at The Hotel California.
Any time of year/you can find it here.

Where is here? The Hotel California’s address is not on a public map. It’s in a liminal dream-state reality. Any time of year you can find it here—via the methods of accessing this non-ordinary lovely space: i.e. colitas, the shimmering, the dark desert highway, the in between twilight state of waking and dreaming.

There’s plenty of room because it’s not existing in a typical mundane 3rd dimensional sense. The Hotel is not bound by traditional linear occupancy numbers. There’s always more room in dreams for more characters.

Her mind is Tiffany-twisted,
She got the Mercedes Benz, uh
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys
That she calls friends.
How they dance in the courtyard,
Sweet summer sweat.
Some dance to remember,
Some dance to forget.

Who is this feminine presence whose mind is Tiffany-twisted? Is it the same woman who he met at the doorway, who became his guide? If so, is she the de facto leader or matron of this establishment? “She’s got a lot of pretty pretty boys, that she calls friends.” Whoever this she is, she seems to have a position of authority/power.

Her is mind is Tiffany-twisted/she got the Mercedes Benz.

There’s a strong note of the glamor and sheen of material wealth, which is seemingly out of place in a dream-like fantastical environment with mission bells, strange voices in corridors, candle-lit passageways, etc.

However if we come back to the purgatorial-hypothesis, it would make much more sense. The material attachment and addiction of this character has her trapped in a sort of strange by-way in the afterlife. I’ve written previously on notions of the life after death and the continued existence in a weirdly natural form to the dead. I used the particle/wave duality from physics to leave open two not necessarily mutual exclusive options. A particle version which interprets the dead as ongoing consistent entities. And another, wave-like interpretation, where the “unfinished business” or ongoing psychic effects of the choices and behaviors of the previously living continue on in some fashion.

In this case, the particle-like interpretation would have it that the Hotel Calfornia is some sort of way-station on the psychic causeway, a kind of etheric cul-de-sac where characters who have become far too grossly enmeshed have lost their way—later references in the song likely bolster this interpretation.

In the wave-like interpretation, the haunting memories of glitz and false fame—Hollywood, Southern California of the 1970s—exist in a metaphoric dream-scape.

She’s got a lot of pretty, pretty boys
She calls friends.
How they dance in the courtyard,
Sweet summer sweat.
Some dance to remember,
Some dance to forget.

The woman would appear to be older, as she has “boys.” Her wealth and status has attracted younger men as her playthings. Maybe she's their sugar mama. Perhaps these boys may be phantasms of this women’s memory; they may be memories or dreams unlived in her psyche. And/or these boys may also be their own entities, as seem somehow snarled in this woman’s web. The power of a dream-like interpretation is that it can be both/and perspective. They can be both their own autonomous entities and also simultaneously somehow part her co-construction.

The woman takes on an almost sorcerer-like status at this point. She seems to have these boys under her spell (as it were). They begin to dance for her, strangely enough, a sweet summer sweat. What’s most intriguing about that reference is the allusion to the sweat lodges and sun dance rituals (“summer sweat”) of the indigenous tribes of the US plain states.

Ecstatic dancing—with or without the use of ritual mind-altering substances—is yet another in the long list of traditional methods of inducing shamanic and non-ordinary states.

Some dance to remember. Remembrance is one of the core admonitions in classic mystical traditions the world over: e.g. in the words of the Catholic mass, “Do this in Remembrance of Me.”

Those who are dancing to remember are trying to remember who they really are and perhaps find a way out of this strange in-between realm of The Hotel California. Those who are dancing to forget, are looking to temporarily have an altered experience, an ecstasy out of their hotel-psychic prison. One must forget the spectacle-allurements-glamor of The Hotel in order to remember the true nature and liberate oneself from the entrapment.

Even more curiously, in both the lore concerning both the fairy folk and UFOs, there's a common, essentially identical, motif of a larger feminine presence accompanied by smaller ("younger") male presences. This setup was the case for example in many of the encounters that Whitley Strieber had. Strieber at times considered the feminine "alien" presence to be a Marian-like figure (Strieber grew up Catholic), bringing back the earlier point made by Jacques Vallee. At other points, Strieber wondered if the feminine presence was the "good cop" to the "bad cop" male presences, as she seemed on the surface to be a guiding, caring, nurturing presence but perhaps was part of a multidimensional psyop? The feminine presence here at The Hotel California is eerily similar.  

One of the classic elements of fairy lore is the "fairy dance" where an individual would see fires ("shimmering light") in a forest or a desolate place ("dark desert highway") and would follow the light only to end up participating in a dance which would involve a loss of sense of time and identity ("some dance to forget"). It may not surprise you that very often in the fairy lore, there is a central larger feminine presence and smaller/younger male presences accompanying encircling the feminine presence ("she got a lot of prety, pretty boys/she calls friends").

One further motif in the fairy lore is that individuals are tempted to join their revelry due to a glamor or outer facade of shine, only to find that when they do indeed enter into connection, the facade starts to crumble leaving an often disgusting rot underneath.

Speaking of which, the allurements continue apace later in the song:

So I called up The Captain,
Please bring me my wine.
He said,
‘We haven’t had that spirit here since 1969.’
And still those voices are calling from far away,
Wake you up in the middle of the night,
Just to hear them say…(welcome to the Hotel California)

The wine is named specifically as a spirit. As mentioned previously in a shamanic-animistic worldview, psyche-altering substances are “spirits”. They are entities or forms of consciousness communed with through its physical manifestation—in this case, the grape.

The spirit of 1969 references the end of the 1960s and the end of the hippie movement and the idealism of the 60s revolutionary period. As Ezekiel73 detailed in his recent piece on The Network, “the summer of love” (1968) came to a dark and terrifying end with the brutal events of The Rolling Stones concert at Altamont, as well as the Tate-LaBianca murders by members of the Manson Family—with Charles Manson himself very possibly being a CIA asset (as detailed in Chaos by Tom O’Neill).

And still those voices are calling from far away.
Wake you up in the middle of the night ,
Just to hear them say…

For the third time, eerie sounds emerge piercing through the allure of the visual glamor. Are these voices the same ones calling from the corridor earlier in the song? My hunch would be yes but either way, these voices act almost like a choir in an ancient Greek tragedy. They are a haunting, warning cry to the singer (and us the listener). They wake you up in the middle of the night—once again referencing the dream-like status of this whole scenario. Voices that call to you from afar and wake you from sleep sound rather like voices from the beyond.

They are a choir and hence they sing the chorus:

Welcome to The Hotel California
Such a lovely place
Such a lovely face.
They livin’ it up at the Hotel California
What a nice surprise,
Bring your alibis.

The difference between the first round of the chorus and this one being the last half: 

They livin’ it up at the Hotel California.
What a nice surprise,
Bring your alibis.

They livin’ it up takes on a very different (and almost darkly ironic) tone in light of the hypothesis of this being purgatory. These beings are “alive” in one sense but walking dead/ghosts/phantasms in another. A surprise yes, but probably not a nice one. Their alibis are the stories these entities are enmeshed in, their entrapment to the allure, that has them bound to the Hotel. Like Dante meeting character in purgatory and hell, they each tell their tale and are yet somehow bound to that story even in the telling of it.

Mirrors on the ceiling,
Pink champagne on ice and she said,
We are all just prisoners here of our device.
And in the master’s chambers,
They gathered for the feast.
They stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can’t kill the beast.

After a brief interlude with the Captain, we appear to be back at the site of the boys dancing for this woman—who very likely is, but can’t say for certain, is the same woman that the singer meet at the door.

There’s mirrors on the ceiling, suggesting this sweet summer dance is likely to turn into an orgy. Or at least has very often in the past. There’s pink champagne on ice, yet another marker of ostentatious consumptive wealth and its alluring entrapment—just as with the Tiffany-twisted mind and the Mercedes Benz.

(She said) We are all just prisoners here of our own device.

This she is the same she, the presumed matron of The Hotel, the possible sorceress weaving this rather nightmarish dream-like sequence.

Device is a very curious word choice give its root form of “vice”. De-vice. The vices of wealth, loveless sex, drugs, and outer appearance without depth (“pretty pretty boys”) are what have them ensnared in The Hotel of 1970s California.

And in the master’s chambers,
They gathered for their feast.
They stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can’t kill the beast.

A ritual feasting and slaughter is here to take place. As before, there are any number of classic animistic ritual elements taking place in this song: the colitas-wine, ritual dancing, and now a sacrificial feast.

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining—another term for which is shimmering by the way—took place in a hotel a top an indigenous burial mound. The film, from this lens, is an exploration of white America existing as a haunted country a top the bones of the repressed genocide of the native populations.

Similarly, in The Hotel California, there are all the hallmarks of indigenous culture—ritual use of plant medicine, ceremonial dancing and feasting—but it is an entirely warped, twisted and inverted manner with the emphasis on allure, gross materiality, and the spectacle.

They are prisoners of their (de)vice.

The Hotel California is the site of a massive, initiation gone wrong.

(Sidenote: The Steely in steely knives is a reference to Steely Dan, one of the ultimate yacht rock bands.)

As I’ve detailed elsewhere, initiations—whether individual or social—can and do fail. And when they do they create a false inverse reality, a form of anti-life, that is not natural death but isn’t truly living either. They may be livin’ it up at the Hotel California, but they ain't livin’ it up and out of there.

A sign and symptom of the failed initiation is the inability to put down the beast. Some have argued the beast is addiction; there’s likely much truth in that outlook given all the calls for wine, colitas, and pink champagne (plus also potential sexual addiction).

As with the earlier desert highway, there’s another biblical reference here as well with The Beast. The Beast in The Book of Revelation (aka The Apocalypse of John) is the sign of Roman imperialism with all its violence and public spectacle of allure. The United States Empire, going back to its origins in The New Atlantis of Francis Bacon, was intentionally conceived as the attempt to re-imagine The Roman Empire.

Last thing I remember,
I was running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before.
Relax, said the nightman,
We are programmed to receive.
You can check out anytime you like,
But you can never leave.

The inverted and twisted nature of this place has finally dawned on the protagonist-singer. The last thing I remember line is a very ambiguous one. It suggests yet another time loss episode. He’s coming back to some last memory—though what has happened since is unclear. Running for the door and trying to find the passage is once more a very classic dream-like sequence. There are motifs of being unable to find one’s way, metaphors of being lost and disoriented in life.

Then the nightman, yet another curious, Alice in Wonderland-esque character emerges from seemingly out of nowhere. He seems to be some kind of observational being, spying on the denizens of the hotel. This night watchman is programmed. Is he some sort of cyborg-like machine? Is he human or only appearing as such? Or is the programming yet another feature of the dominance of this feminine presence constantly referenced through the song? Is this night guard himself once a free being who has himself now become enmeshed and entangled in this bizzaro world via her spider's web?

Whatever the exact case of its source, the programming the night watchman performs is a version of gaslighting or a psyop. (Psychological operations are a major theme covered many times on this site.) The nightman is there to run interference on the attempt to leave. He tries to relax him, assure the singer everything is ok, when obviously the instincts of the singer tell him otherwise.

You can check out anytime you like/
But you can never leave.

This line is where the friendly facade reveals its true sinister reality underneath. Here the mask drops and the gaslighting gives way to a direct overt threat.

I've been arguing for a purgatorial setting for The Hotel California. On first blush, this last line of the song would seem to point us back to the singer’s own inquiry that “this could be heaven or this could be hell.” The (seeming) permanency of the night guard’s statement would suggest hell, from whence there is no escape. It would seem to be everlasting in nature. In medieval Catholic theology what distinguishes purgatory from hell is not the level of intensity necessarily of the situation. The difference is that one eventually gets freed from purgatory and moves onto heaven—post said cleansing—whereas hell is everlasting and final.

“Abandon hope all ye who enter here” are the words written above the entrance to hell in Dante’s Inferno. By contrast, when Dante enters purgatory those suffering are crying tears of joy because they know eventually their movement to paradise is assured.

On the surface this would seem to invalidate my purgatory proposal. My counterargument is why should we necessarily trust the truth telling objectivity of this night guard, who by his own admission, is a programmed entity? Whose to say his programming is actually accurate—i.e. that there is no way truly out?

What if this last line is yet another aspect of the ongoing psyop?

In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis’ book on paradise, purgatory and hell, individuals from hell are driven up to paradise (heaven) everyday in a bus for a tour. No one tells them they have to get back on the bus at the end of the day. No one tells them they can’t stay there. They are only told that the bus leaves at the end of the day back to hell. Purgatory and hell here are only separated, in Lewis’ view, by whether someone chooses to stay in heaven or goes back to hell.

Which brings us back to “the last thing I remember.” The singer is now coming back to conscious awareness from this foggy quasi-hallucinogenic dreamscape. Is he remembering on the far side of having actually escaped? Or is he waking back up in The Hotel California coming to realize to his horror that he is indeed trapped there forever?

The lyrics of the song end at this point, leaving the question hanging. An epic, ripping dual guitar solo takes over, the end of which has something of the feel of running for the door, the riffs musically expressing the ending of the song’s last ominous lyrics.

My vote is that he has escaped and the final few chords of the guitars indicate a liberation from the entrapment but that interpretation is by no means assured. If it was purgatory, then the only question that remains is whether he has woken up in paradise, freed from the inverted bizzaro ritual of The Hotel California.

What if you can more than check out but actually leave?