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The Grudge by Tool

Album: LateralusReleased: 2001
  • This is about a battle with Saturn ascending and teaching us lessons over and over again until we get it right. "Saturn ascends, choose one or ten. Hang on or be humbled again" means get it right or Saturn will come around again teaching the same lesson until you do it. "The one the ten" could be the Aries and Capricorn houses in the zodiac (Capricorn is ruled by Saturn). A lot of what Maynard Keenan is saying relates to characteristics of a Capricorn. They are known to hold grudges and be control freaks. Maynard is an Aries, the true pioneer of the zodiac. It could be a message for all the caps and people out there who hold grudges. (thanks, donna - chicago, IL)
  • The line, "Unable To Forgive Your Scarlet Lettermen" presumably refers to the classic novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. One of the main characters in the book is a female adulteress who is forced to wear a scarlet letter 'A' on her breast as punishment. (thanks, Bob - Tokyo, Japan)
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Comments: 32

If you want to know the key to this song read the book The Power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle, or listen to it on audio book, which is much easier. In fact, the key ideas in most songs on both Lateralus and 10,000 days can be summed up in that book. Of course that book is just a summary of occult knowledge from thinkers of the past 10,000 years like Buddha and Jesus.

"Transmutate these leaden grudges into gold." - This is the key phrase, the whole song is based on that idea. The key to "Christ consciousnesses" is understanding that time is not real and past and present only serve to create grudges and fear which separate you from your soul, or the Christ consciousness. (also a theme in Lateralus)

"Wear the grudge like a crown of negativity. (emotion)
Calculate what we will or will not tolerate. (mind body of fear)
Desperate to control all and everything. (analyze everything separating body from soul)
Unable to forgive your scarlet lettermen." (focusing on who did it to you instead of what you did to yourself)

"Wear the grudge like a crown" means that you are holding onto past pains in your life, which creates a grudge in your mind. You over analyze that past pain and that grudge creates emotions of fear of future pain creating a loop of being in fear of past and future. In that "loop" you forget about your present situation and instead worry about what has and will happen, and you miss out on life, or your NOW.

Suddenly this part makes sense:

"Saturn comes back around to show you everything
Let's you choose what you will not see and then
Drags you down like a stone or lifts you up again
Spits you out like a child, light and innocent."

The universe will throw you a life line now and then (perhaps a new relationship) but you will lose it because you are stuck in that past and future. When the universe pulls you life line (a breakup perhaps), it forces you to see your mistakes. This will happen over and over in your life, until you "Transmutate these leaden grudges into gold." aka learn from you mistakes and start living in the NOW instead of the past or future. Once you start living in the NOW suddenly you start to realize that the world starts working for you instead of against you. "Go with the flow." Have your experiences and once they are over, do not hold a grudge but move on to the next experience and be thankful.

Pretty deep s--t, I've been listening to this song for 10 years, and just now in 2014 after reading The Power of Now figured out what it means.
James - Nashville
In numerology study one calculates his or her own personal basic character and life path destiny with your date of birth. Maynard James Keenan was born on the 4-17-1964 and he has a basic character birth number of 8 because he was born on the 17th day and 1+7=8. The number 8 is ruled by Saturn and some would call it an infinite struggle. Saturn is the son of sun god and is known to force a philosophical struggle throughout your entire life. People born on the 8th, 17th and 26th of each month all have this same basic character. If u have an 8 in your numerology then a grudge will surely be the death of you and your spirit. If u are consumed by negative grudges and let that take away your love then Saturn will consume you.Robert - Chicago, Il
I want to add you all have made such great contributions, They have added some magickal understanding for me. always the student.Quest - Palatine, Il
I love that you guys figured out it's magickal and Kabbalistic reference, but one thing you overlook: The theme of the song is transmuting a lead grudge into gold. When using Saturn in Magick to help destroy a grudge you would best work that magick when? "On the day and in the hour" the Day of Saturn is Saturday the 1st and 10th planetary hours. hence "chose 1 or 10" (of course be very very careful!). Saturn would be the perfect planet in Magick to help turn a leaded grudge into gold, if you know what your doing or you will be "humbled again".Quest - Palatine, Il
This analysis might border on over thinking, but here's a basic summary. Key symbols to recognize are Saturn, obviously. Saturn is a planet known for its ability to constrict things, it rules capricorn which is the 10 he's talking about. 10 is also Malkuth in Quaballah, the Sephirah of Earthly existence (basically). 1 is Kether, the source from which all life and creativity rains down to us who are most rooted in Malkuth, the unfathomable experience of God. While Jupiter the planet of fortune and expansion expands and brings us great fortune its negative quality is that we can become overinflated. We need a harsh reality check lest everything seem like dream. Saturn performs that task. The grudge is obviously another central concept, on a most surface level this relates to our own personal grudges that we cling to fearfully. When saturn comes back around and is in opposition with the major points in your astrological chart, if you haven't let go of your grudges and your denials saturn will f--k you hard. Now the grudge is equated in some sense with Christ in the song. Christ was referred to in the bible as "the corner stone that the builders refused." I can't tell you what maynard means with this on the higher symbolic level as I am projecting my own beliefs onto it I'm just giving you something to work with in trying to understand this song. It's weird because before i read the lyrics i always thought he was actually saying wear the christ like a crown, very weird indeed. Christ is a powerful archetype and symbol and the concepts behind christianity and the way its been portrayed is rooted in our collective unconscious. If you really want to explore this you can go deep, but do it yourself. No one can lay it out for you because the meaning.... .... ... ..................... ............ is ultimately individual to each listener. If you want you can also listen to the amount of syllables in each phrase. "Wear the grudge like a crown" (6 represents Tiphareth (Beauty, the sun, sun gods including christ) etc... "And we're sinking" (4) "Deeper" (2) Four is Leo in astrological terms Chesed in quabalistic terms (The kind merciful king).................... (2) is Chochma. The path between these two sephirah is represented by the tarot card the Heirophant. What that would mean I have no idea, and does maynard plan his songs that deeply with Q'bala. No. He's not sitting there with a calculator and five occult books open for reference. His delivery of 7 syllables in groupings of two at one point is intentional, but is he thinking this deeply about it who knows. The point is the feeling you get from hearing these patterns coinciding with the words and the symbols they represent. You can analyze everything on a level like this if you know the keys to understanding. There's a lot of...................... wisdom in the books and thinkers of old, and I'm very happy Tool exists because I don't know where the f--k I'd be without them.............................................. Anyway main point of the song: Let go of your grudges (on a personal social and spirtual level). Stop denying. Face facts so that when it comes time and the planets swing around and the world around you tests to see if you're real or not you'll be able to say I passed the test. Spit me out like a child. Light and innocent.Tom - Amityville, Ny
Maynard is always multilayered but with this song he went exponential! The root meaning of this song is a message to the elite religious cult that runs the world. They worship Saturn, and have for thousands of years, because Saturn is largely responsible for our existence on this planet. Here's a good documentary to watch that will blow your mind.

http://youtu.be/OH7lrjixaNA
George - Fort Collins, Co
Wow, you guys all blew my mind. I will say. Maynard would be a guy to throw some double meanings into his lyrics. That being said, the lyric 'Unable to forgive this scarlett letterman' I always thought he said 'Unable to forgive this starving leatherman' which could be refering to us. Also, 'Saturn ascends, choose one or ten. Hang on or be humbled again. Humbled again' The second time he said it, sounds alot like 'Im born again' and he says it differently then the first time. And about Saturn, If you notice in all of the first albums Maynard has angry, dark lyrics regarding touchy subjects, up until Lateralus. Maynard was 28 when Aenima was released and thats the last album with dark lyrics. You guys say Saturn comes around 30. But if you think about this, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and Jimmi Hendrix all sang about the blues, anger and death. They held The Grudge, and maybe thats why they passed, around the age when Saturn comes around. Back to Maynard, maybe Saturn made him let go, in return Maynard started writing lyrics on life, and not death and fear. On the Grudge he holds that scream for soo long, and I think it was his last time to speak for his grudges. A scream that long, justifies this. Notice on Lateralus and 10,000 days, Maynard's writing style went from unhumbleing to humble.Jesse - Winnipeg, Mb
Note that also. Since saturn takes around 30 years. it is also close to 10,000 days. which was apparently how long his mother suffered. Another thing i have been considering specifically to the "1 or 10" part. Originally Jewish mysticism which pre dated anything we know of christianity. What we think of as god. Showed him self in 10 parts. known as Sephirah. It goes over this in the Kabbalah. SO.. let me get to the point. my personal belief is that he's talking about how we think that god can be so one sided but we never embrace the multiplicity and unfathomable mystery which surrounds creation and our cosmic flow. So think god equal to this Narrow minded bulls--t we live in. or think of god and everything as a multidimensional enigma that has us here for a lesson. for a purpose. that we should learn from our naivety and expand our grasp of spirituality and through that ourselves.Ezra - Olympia, Wa
I think Maynard is trying to speak to someone in particular. He seems to make comments in some songs regarding religion, and Jesus in particular. Jesus was recorded as being a Capricorn, and therefore ruled by the planet Saturn. He is also said to return to cast judgement upon the earth's people during the "end times". Perhaps Maynard is suggesting that the "grudge" is akin to the crown that Jesus wears, for the injustices that had been committed by those responsible for the crucifixion. When he says, "give away the stone", it reminds me of the stone placed in front of the tomb prior to the resurrection, the one that had to be removed for people to know that Jesus was still alive.Rosemary - Santa Cruz, Ca
drew.....that was deep....very deep......i think that sums it up....Rahul - Chennai, India
I think that a take on this song could be an intro to the whole album

many of the songs talk about opening your mind and body to something new (Lateralus in particular)

clutching a grudge cornerstone could be symbolic to people refusing to accept new spiritual change, christians specifically, for fear that it's wrong or unGoddly.

"Justify denials" "Calculate what we will or will not tollerate" Things like that. I think tht the song is kind of a gateway to the rest of the album, sort of like maynard is saying "Let go of your fears and dispositions, and let me show you just one small part of this wonderful universe we neglect, it's not wrong, just different"
James - San Clemente, Ca
This song is about life in general. Saturn takes 29.5 years to revolve around the sun. So from the time you are born it takes Saturn almost 30 years to make a revolution from where it was in space on the day of your birth. I think the song means that we can we can hang on to the petty stuff that happens to us and be dragged down like a stone, or we can let go and enjoy our lives because Saturn will only come around 2-3 times for most of us.Rj - N.o., La
This song refers to the assumptions people make about others, the judgements they label them with, and the grudges and thoughts they hold to them -- Wearing "the grudge like a crown of negativity" refers to how we wear these grudges on top of everything. When it gets to wearing them, or clutching them "like a cornerstone", it tends to be all we know. We hold and grip these hasty conclusions until the end, after they've torn us from family and friends: Because we're "Terrified of being wrong", and he describes this phenomena as your "Ultimatum, prison cell." By shackling down these people with your judgements, you shackle yourself. And when "Saturn ascends" (I believe "Saturn" is a person's self-reflection), you have a choice; Hang on to these grudges and sink a little deeper each time he ascends, or let go of this "cold and fated anchor", and "Let the waters kiss and transmutate these leaden grudges into gold." It may be hard to annihilate this grudge because sometimes it's all you know, but it's for the best. All it does it weigh you down, so cut what losses you may have, and take what you've learned from it -- as your gold -- So that you may be lifted up once more. "light and innocent", to experience and enjoy life again.Steven - Jumba, Tx
Commenting on my last comment - I just realized that what I had read as 'purification' is actually 'putrification'... one single letter can change the meaning of a word so much. Saturn represents death alone, it seems, and not the life that springs from it. This changes the meaning of Saturn in the song, to me. Instead of a force which gives you a choice between purification and decay, it is rather a force which makes you choose between holding onto parts of yourself that only drag you down, or letting those things die. Sometimes, people are so attached to the way things are, even when things aren't very pleasant, that they refuse to let them go. By letting those sad but comforting things die and rot away, we come out lighter in spirit. Saturn offers us death, but not death of the self. Simply death of those grudges and nasty habits that only weigh us down.Brianne - Windsor, Canada
Along with what other people have already said about alchemy, I thought it would be a good idea to point out that Saturn, as a planet, is linked to the base metal lead. "...the planet Saturn, and it corresponding alchemical metal, lead. Alchemically, lead was the prima matera, or primal matter, and represented putrification and decay. Saturn represents the rule of the God (Cronos to the Greeks) over agriculture, law, and the passage of time." (From http://altreligion.about.com/library/glossary/symbols/bldefssaturn.htm)

This song deals very much with alchemy, though I highly doubt that's ALL it's about. There is, however, enough terminology in the song (transmutation, lead into gold, etc. etc.) to say that, at the very least, alchemy is being used as a metaphor for personal development.

When it comes to understanding the role Saturn plays in the song, it seems to me like it is both the planet and that planet's symbolism: decay and purification. Saturn comes 'round and gives you the chance to purify yourself (become light and innocent like a child) or to continue to decay (drags you down like a stone).
Brianne - Windsor, Canada
i find it interesting that no one has mentioned another possible interpretation of this song. zeus' overthrow of the titans. saturn is the latin for cronus, the king of titans who was told one of his children would overthrow him. so he swallowed demeter, hera, poseidon, hades and hestia. when zeus was born his mother rhea gave cronus a stone to eat instead of zeus. when zeus grew up he gave cronus a poison that caused him to vomit up zeus' brothers and sisters. after which zeus and the other gods overthrew the titans and banished them to tartarus.

"Saturn comes back around
To show you everything
Lets you choose what you will
Will not see and then
Drags you down like a stone
Or lifts you up again
Spits you out like a child
Light and innocent

Saturn comes back around
Lifts you up like a child
Or drags you down like a stone
To consume you 'til you
Choose to
Let this go
Choose to
Let this go

Give away the stone
Let the ocean take and transmutate
This cold and fated anchor
Give away the stone
Let the waters kiss and transmutate"


this one possible interpretation. isn't that the great thing about lyrics and lyric poetry in general? the real meaning is often left up the freedom of the listener/reader.
Mike - Oxford, Oh
authoritarianism, this song talks about how people who base their world on fear and control's world's will collapse or let us be lifted up again and spit out like a child, light and innocent. We if we base our lives off grudges and strict rules we get stuck trying to hold onto how things are for fear of everything falling apart.Ben - Chicago, Il
Your comments are very creative. They illustrate knowledge and imagination.

In maynards interview in some rock magizine he talked about the song as being something that described the conflict in the band. The way people all want to take there own direction. 'Wear the grudge like a crown'
Its like, l my way or the highway.

Thank you for all your input
Mc - Birmingham, Al
Maynard is certainly discussing alchemy and other esoteric studies in this and other tracks on this album. The songs Parabol and Parabola speak to deeper meanings in their name alone, parable being a hidden meaning of sorts, and parabola being a magic shape. Alchemy concerns itself with transmutation of base elements into gold, but metaphorically the alchemist is the lead and his goal is to become gold. To do this you have to release aspects of yourself that are more lead than gold, more 'tainted' or 'evil' more 'dense', all words that hint at the point but are missused to discribe it directly.

The comment on the above by Drew says in order to get you give, and giving into one side of a parabola gets you the exact opposite of what you put in. A mathmatical property or spiritual property as it were.

I love reading some of the deeper meanings some of you attach here, I am a big fan of Crowley and his works but I think Crowley himself would say you could read that much into anything around you should you be in tuned enough. Crowley himself makes fun of this fact and demonstrates reading grand meanings into childrens rhymes and how the author both meant and did not mean to do it.

Someone asked if Maynard does the scream in concert. My best college friend, a fellow marine not known to lie, had seen several Tool concerts and attested to him singing that scream once and near loseing his voice in the process as one could imagine.
Chris - Austin, Tx
I dont think the scream is computer generated, I've done it before while taking a massive deep breath, barely letting air out as i scream, but the sound is still distorted. With practice i was able to make it more powerful.
Just technique, that's all.
...which of course Maynard has.
:)
Kevin - Charleston, Wv
Saturn is also a sing of death, it's color being black. The person or object must pass threw this "death" and come out anew.Steve0 - West Dover, Vt
Well, I'm a bum and haven't read up enough about the Kabbalah, but I have seen that the Kabbalan Tree of Life is comprised of 10 Sephirots:
-Keter(Crown)
-Chokmah
-Binah
-Chesed
-Gevurah
-Tipheret
-Netzach
-Hod
-Yesod
-Malkut(Lower Crown)

Still looking into things about the Kabbalah (It's strange, I've always liked this song, and yesterday I just happened to be looking up the Kabbalah, then today I decided to look this song up and look what I found... coincidence?)
Patrick - Buffalo, Ny
The whole album is about the Quabalah. Every song except "Ticks and Leetches." I met a guy some years ago who knew all about the Quabalah and I showed him the lyrics to the songs off this album and it took him about 2 seconds to start explaining everything. Of course none of it made any sense to me, something about stars and fractions and I dont remember what he said. But yeah, it's all about the Quabalah. Pretty much everything Maynard writes about is just an eloquent illustration of the Quabalah. If you dont believe me, look at the back of the white sleeve thing on the Salival case. The album even has a secret track sequence.David - San Diego, Ca
Drew - watching FMA does not make you knowledgable on real life alchemy. I'd suggest researching the subject a bit more.

Robert - It seems to me that the "Scarlet Letterman" is a reference to the novel "Scarlet Letter". Whilst amusing to refer to Crowley as the Scarlet Letterman, Crowley never identified himself that way. He used "Frater Perduabo", "Master Therion" and of course, "The Beast". You may be thinking of the "Scarlet Woman" usually a woman with whom he was sexually active during any of his magickal rituals.

Crowley also never took over the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. He was instead asked to leave that body when he broke his oaths of secrecy. Allegedly, when he published his Book of Lies, a chapter therein referred to the greatest secret of the Ordo Templi Orientis, the leader of which confronted him about it, and then inducted him into that order.

I do agree that the one and the ten may be referencing Qabalah, but I'd assume that it has something to do with the sephira on the Tree of Life. Kether and Malkuth being the obvious paralells to the numbers referenced. However, given that I'm not a great student of astrology, I'm not sure what Saturn Ascending does to influence this thought at all.

Shane - right on brother. This would also seem to support the reference of the Malkuth/Kether theory. ;)
Kelly - Houston, Tx
"Saturn ascends", Saturn takes 29 years to make its full revolution, 29 years also symbolizes a midlife crisis. "Choose 1 or 10", 1 being the epidomy of negative and holding onto whatever grudges and way of thinking that you've carried up until that point. 10 being able to let go of your past and develope a new way to live your life and cope with the changes.Rian - Altoona, Wi
I always thought this song was really strait forward... The grudge, it's about someone letting go of grudge. About giving up the power you have when you hold a grudge against someone. The first part of the song is all the emotions the persons is feeling while he/she is in control holding this grudge, when in reality it's only tearing the person down. The last tid bit of the song is when the person lets go and the feeling of calm and peace when it's gone:
"Give away the stone. let the oceans take and transmutate this cold and fated
Anchor.
Give away the stone. let the waters kiss and transmutate these leaden grudges
Into gold.
Let go."
Logan - Wentzville, Ne
Tool fans are mostly very spiritual i feel. In whatever way i please, i just reckon it's a great song and i like his voice and often wonder if the scream is computer generated...Will - Near Dunedin, New Zealand
As far as i have read/heard the song, and ALL of the Latera;us cd to be about is the Book of Thoeth by Aleister Crowley. The Grudge being about Mr. Crowley finding the origin of his cult group The Golden Dawn. In the begining of the Cult the 3 originators had to contact a pervious leader of an earlier version of the Dawn. That person had died but a femal who had been part of the eariler cult had given the 3 men the ok to start a new order. After a short time,the 3 men were told not to start the cult and if they wanted to continue they would have to " find the proper channels" ( thruough ritual magik), well the order broke up for a bit, but one of the men started the group again cliaming he had contacted the 'higher powers'...it was a lie that Crowley ( who is the Scarlet Letterman) had discovered ( this ties into Schism) and thus the liar was booted out and Crowley took over with the true secert of the order. * now i dont have my copy of the book infornt of me, but this is for the most part what is in the Book*

The One and the ten are part of Crowley's understanding of the Quabala and the Tarot, the one is the 'Point', a maker in 'space'...the ten is the whole reality as composed by the pervious 9 numbers...this ties into the tarot as the diffrent houses of the Signs and their phases of travel within ones life. "The transmutate into gold" does deal with Alchemy nature of the magik system, but here it mean that the older order could have just accepted the new order without fear of losing power...thus The Grudge...
Robert - Washington Dc, Dc
I think this is a very powerfull song, has any change in the riff no one would ever thought about geting into the song, but I surprised no one has posted a thing about maynard's last screem, I mean "does he realy does that in a show" that would be shocking to watch. Any way I don't know if they realy know what they are doing with they're perfectly mathematical bits, maby they just play with the times and get a realy sucking mind bit, ever thought about it? we could be the ones that made them perfect! I realy think they try to do free music, not perfect music.Roberto - Df
The line where he talks about transmutating lead into gold may well be making reference to alchemy. Alchemy's first law of Equivalent Exchange states that humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To obtain, something of equal value must be lost. The way I understand it, alchemists can transmute one substance to another, from one form to another, as long as equivalent exchange is made. The question is, if lead is being transmutated into gold, what is it exactly that is being lost? Perhaps the grudge itself, hence the title.Drew - Abilene, Tx
Actually I only did that once, thats all it took, I guess thats all I needed, now I just meditate to it, and clutch life, feel, and think about whatever. I feel like I'm God after meditating to this album, wait I am God.Shane - Seattle, Wa
Lead into gold is a process with a corresponding course through the stars and the developmental steps needed to become fully realized human beings. Its about inspecting the unconscious. The gold is in slowing down, reflect and have patience, he could devour the secret stone-Wake up and evolve. The secret stone represents eternal youth. Normal life sucks, so I transform with this song, I let go of ordinary life, and again have the whole world in my hands. I like to dance naked to this song in the dark.Shane - Seattle, Wa