The Beatles Apotheosis

The infamous Butcher Cover. Worth quite a pretty penny to the avid collector. The most valuable and highly prized first and second state Butcher Covers are those that were never opened and remain still sealed in their original shrink wrap. Since the first documented collector’s sale of a mono Butcher cover LP in 1974, which fetched US$457.00, the value of first state mono versions has consistently appreciated, reaching $20,000 in 2006. The NINTH release by the Beatles Capitol Records, and the ELEVENTH overall release. Released in June, 1966 (6/66) it was a controversial image and for the first time critics questioned the Beatles good nature and “good ol’ boys” image. According to a 2002 interview published in Mojo magazine, former Capitol president Alan W. Livingston stated that it was Paul McCartney who pushed strongly for the photo’s inclusion as the album cover, and that McCartney reportedly described it as “our comment on the Vietnam war”. Is that really what it was? A protest for the Vietnam war? Seems to me it took them nearly 40 years to come up with that story!

Here is what Robert Whitaker (photographer of the infamous photo shoot) had to say about his ‘vision’ for the photo session:

“How did that photo, featuring the Beatles among slabs of meat and decapitated dolls, come about? Was it your idea or the Beatles’?

“It was mine. Absolutely. It was part of three pictures that should have gone into an icon. And it was a rough. If you could imagine, the background of that picture should have been all gold. Around the heads would have gone silver halos, jeweled. Then there are two other pictures that are in the book [The Unseen Beatles], but not in colour.” ” The actual conception for what I still call “Somnambulant Adventure” was Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments. He comes across people worshiping a golden calf. All over the world I’d watched people worshiping like idols, like gods, four Beatles. To me they were just stock standard normal people. But this emotion that fans poured on them made me wonder where Christianity was heading”.

“Why meat and dolls? There’s been a lot of conjecture over the years about what that photo meant. The most popular theory is that it was a protest by the Beatles against Capitol Records for supposedly “butchering” their records in the States.

“Rubbish, absolute nonsense. If the trilogy or triptych of the three photographs had ever come together, it would have made sense. There is another set of photos in the book which is the Beatles with a girl with her back toward you, hanging on to sausages. Those sausages were meant to be an umbilical cord. Does this start to open a few chapters?” -Interview with Robert Whitaker



The meat could symbolize the pieces of Osiris- that Isis had to put back together after he was slain by Set. Crowley taught that the Abrahamic religions were “Osirian” religions – rooted within the “Age of Osiris” – and would fade away and be replaced with something else- he interpreted he was to help aid the ushering in of the age of Horus. This picture says to me that the Beatles have “killed” or “butchered” the old ways- and are now helping to usher in the new age- the age of acting upon your own true will, and self-actualization. The age of Horus. This album was released coinciding with John’s “more popular than Jesus” remark. That was no accident. 

“…Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I don’t know what will go first, rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. We’re more popular than Jesus now. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.” -John Lennon



And then more symbolism from Ancient Egypt with the replacement Yesterday and Today cover:

Osiris marveled at the rare cedar inlaid with ebony and ivory, with less rare gold and silver, and painted inside with figures of gods and birds and animals, and he desired it greatly.

“I will give this chest to whosoever fits it most exactly!” cried Seth. And at once the conspirators began in turn to see if they could win it. But one was too tall and another too short; one was too fat and another too thin – and all tried in vain.

“Let me see if I will fit into this marvelous piece of work,” said Osiris, and he laid himself down in the chest while all gathered round breathlessly.

“I fit exactly, and the chest is mine!” cried Osiris.

“My original idea for the cover was better -- decapitate Paul -- but he wouldn’t go along with it.” -John Lennon [about the Butcher cover]
“My original idea for the cover was better — decapitate Paul — but he wouldn’t go along with it.” -John Lennon [about the Butcher cover]


What were the Beatles trying to convey with this album? Was it purely Robert Whitaker portraying them as gods? Did the Beatles realize the symbolism at the time of the shoot? My guess is that they did. The Beatles have associated themselves with gnostic ideals since the beginning (See Rise to Beatlemania post). Robert Whitaker mentioned the final picture was supposed to reveal the trilogy or the triptych in the final take. This was supposed to be the gatefold image of the Yesterday and today album, only the triptych was never added to the album cover or inside gatefold image as intended.

Rendition of “The Beatles ticket to Triptych” By Ronnie

Significance of the Triptych

The triptych was a popular way of portraying gods and holy scenes for millennia. We now commonly vision the triptych as purely Christian due. However, the triptych is far older than Christianity, and can still be seen in ancient structures and in buildings of secret societies.

Triptych of the Madonna

One of my favorite authors, historians, and seekers of truth, Mr. Graham Hancock has a fabulous page dedicated to the triptych and its significance to ancient mystery schools, and subsequently its relation to freemasonry. It is a fabulous read, I recommend poking around here to learn more. I have briefly summarized some of the points below- but alas, Graham does a much better job of explaining the details.



Masonic regalia. The Third Eye symbol is always placed in the middle, balanced between sun and moon.

The Universal Religion shared by the ancients and hidden in these Secret Society Triptychs is a complex and detailed spiritual belief system. Its tenets have been known throughout recent history by philosophers, poets, theologians, astronomers, alchemists and occultist—all of whom have been initiated into its wisdom.

The Universal Religion teaches that:

– Deep down each one of us is an eternal spiritual “soul”
– This soul is our real true immortal “Self”
– This Self is actually a divine “god” or deity with overreaching powers

The problem is, we have amnesia of our immortal godhood Self (capital S) because it is covered up by our mortal animal bodily self (lowercase s) while we live our lives on earth.

By following a careful set of instructions—encoded in the Triptych—we can transcend our body and see our real god Self within. This has long been the goal of alchemists, occultists, spiritualists and philosophers, and it is achieved by an age-old spiritual practice known as “Awakening Our Third Eye,” with the Third Eye being a vestigial organ of spiritual illumination that lies hidden in the human forehead. Whereas the two eyes see outward at material things, the single Third Eye sees inward at the inner soul.

As it turns out, this too has been encoded into buildings that contain a Triptych. As we shall see in a moment, the Third Eye is symbolized by the center door of the Triptych:


Left: Triptych entrance with luminous Third Eye above the center door, The Museum of Television & Radio in New York City. Right: Triptych pattern with Third Eye above the center door on a dome of a key building of the Bronx Zoo in New York City.


Remnants of the Universal Religion survive best in the East, predictably, where many of its tenets can still be seen to play a part in Eastern spiritualism. The Third Eye still exists in—and is indeed still a major part of—the Hindu religion, for example, though distorted by the passing of time. The Universal Religion, however, fared far worse in the West, where the rise of Christianity led to direct conflict with the idea of personal godhood.

This “missing history of the Triptych” in the West seems to be precisely the message that great artists like Leonardo da Vinci intended to convey esoterically in portraits like The Last Supper, which show how Jesus (i.e., the religion of Christianity) has “covered over” the Triptych religion of ages past.


Da Vinci included a triptych in his masterpiece “The Last Supper”

cassaror1-2Forms of the triptych in various ancient culture architecture.

Robert Whitaker was obviously trying to convey the predicament of the Beatles at the time.  At the height of Beatlemania, the boys were immersed in constant attention, packs of adoring fans, mobs of over-zealous people trying to rip them apart- not because they hated them, but because they loved them.  They were literally being worshiped as ‘gods’ by millions of fans worldwide. Whitaker was trying to portray this in his vision of what he called the “Somnambulant Adventure” (The ‘sleepwalkers adventure’?) his version of the Beatles triptych. Although never fully realized, the idea was there- and the “Butcher Cover” became one of the most controversial album art of all time.
…To be continued….


  1. Robert Whitaker says of his own work, and you quote him:

    “The actual conception for what I still call ‘Somnambulant Adventure’ was Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments. He comes across people worshiping a golden calf. All over the world I’d watched people worshiping like idols, like gods, four Beatles. ”

    From there, you jump to Osiris, Set and Crowley?

    This is what Whitaker said about the triptych he’d intended:
    “Around their heads would have been silver halos with precious stones and then the whole of the rest of it would’ve been like a Russian icon – silver and gold, so that I’ve sort of canonized them and put them into the church. That meat is meant to represent the fans, and the false teeth and the false eyes is the falseness of representing a god-like image as a golden calf.”

    That’s according to a Rolling Stone article (6/20/2016) quoting a 2004 profile of Whitaker in Mojo magazine.

    Now, you can believe what Whitaker said about his own work, Moses, golden calf, canonizing the Beatles, putting them into the church, etc., or you can come up with theories of your own about Crowley, Set and Osiris, and the triptych being inspired by something other than a Russian religious icon, if that pleases you.

    (Look up “Russian icons” on Wikipedia. )

    However, Whitaker invoked Moses, Mt. Sinai and the worship of an golden idol, or false god. (Exodus Chapter 32)

    The God of Israel is not happy about people worshipping idols. (Exodus 20:1-4, Deuteronomy 5:5-10, and Exodus 32:7-10)

    Exodus 32:18 is interesting, if not humorous, in light of the fact that we’re talking about The Beatles.

    So, let’s reflect on the punishment of the people for engaging in idolatry. For that, see Exodus 32:27-28.

    We’re told that 3,000 men fell victim to the sword because of the idolatry at the base of the Mount. That’s a lot of slicing and hacking, and that could account for some of Whitaker’s prop choices.

    Now, as for the babies. It might be worth considering that just prior to the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, there was the “10th Plague” which was the First “Passover”.

    This involved the killing of all the firstborn males in Egypt by the “Angel of Death.” (Exodus 12:29-30) This killing even involved the firstborn of the livestock.

    So, we see, in two separate, but closely related incidents, a lot of slaughtering, of firstborn males, babies, men, livestock (butchered slabs of meat), etc. ordered by the God of Israel, in judgment _against_ the “gods of Egypt”, according to the Bible.

    As explained in Exodus 12:12 :
    “On that night I will pass through the land of Egypt and strike down every firstborn male, both man and beast, and I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD.”

    It might be worth noting here that the Book of Exodus begins with a story about the Pharaoh ordering that all male babies born to the Israelites living in Egypt be killed by throwing them into the river. Perhaps you remember the story about Moses being found floating in the river.

    An interesting sidenote is that when Moses destroyed the golden idol which the people said represented the gods that delivered them from Egypt, he had it burned to ashes. He then threw the ashes into the brook of water coming down out of the mountain and made the people drink it. This could be seen as symbolic of God’s plans for false gods. (lacham l’chaim) (Deuteronomy 7:22-26, Psalm 2, Revelation 2:26-29)

    Whitaker said the pieces of meat represented _the fans_. He said, “All over the world I’d watched people worshiping like gods, four Beatles.”

    Whitaker’s thoughts about Moses, idol worship, the Beatles and their fans, etc. reflect something deep and meaningful about a pivotal point in time. They should be considered along with Lennon’s remarks about Jesus, Christianity, God, etc., the behavior of Beatle fans, and that of the anti-Beatle crowds in the wake of Lennon’s remarks.

    However, if you want to continue to focus on Crowley, you might reflect on his identifying with “the Beast” and the number 666, which are to be found in Revelation Chapter 13.

    Focus on Revelation 13:14-18.

    As for the fate of The Beast
    and the False Prophet:
    Revelation 19:17-21 and
    Revelation 20:10

    Crowley made a big deal out of finding “666” on a museum exhibit he referred to as “The Stele of Revealing” which allegedly contained lines referring to Osiris and other gods of ancient Egypt.

    There’s more I would add to this, perhaps another time. For now, I think McCartney’s latest album “Egypt Station” provides interesting opportunities for further exploration of the magical MYSTERY tour and the long and winding road.

    P.S. One wonders what Robert Whitaker thought about the gods of ancient Egypt, or matinee idols, screen idols, other teen idols, pop idols, Billy Idol, and television programs like American Idol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lovely insight and interpretation! Thank you very much for your comment. I was unfamiliar with the rolling stone/mojo article- I will look for it.
      The parallels between the two cultures stories are interesting. I went with the Egyptian angle because I have seen other Egyptian references in the Beatles work. It had also been noted by others in this strange Beatles Mysteries field as well.
      I’m liking the fresh view on this old album cover, I hope you’ll allow me indulge a bit here. If the imagery is indeed the Moses and golden calf interpretation, and the meat and doll parts symbolize the fans who worship the “lovable” lads of Liverpool, their idols- why would that send the Beatles into apotheosis? Why were the Beatles featured in lab coats? Did they do the slaughtering? (Symbolically of course) Why the second and third parts of what was supposed to be a triptych with the Beatles “umbilical cord” sausage links and the hammer and nails right-hand image? The paste over- much more suitable trunk cover – was interpreted by someone in the comments here I believe as a way of showing that the Beatles were “put back into their box”. Branching out into this world of occult or even simply Judaeo/Christian symbolism proved too much for the sensitive American audience and had to be “trunked”. Would you agree with that?

      You have piqued my curiosity! I’d love to discuss more with you. Thank you again for your comment.


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