The song is themed after the Rajneesh cult movement of the Seventies and Eighties, stemming from a controversial sect of Hinduism created by the Indian mystic Baghwan Shree Rajneesh. After being driven out of India for his beliefs, Rajneesh founded a utopian community in the state of Oregon, drawing thousands of followers and leading to escalated tensions with the local townspeople. The conflicts between the believers, the Oregon locals and the state government eventually led to the Rajneesh cultists embarking on the largest bioterrorist attack in American history, an event explored in the 2018 Netflix docuseries Wild Wild Country.
Across 10 minutes, the song follows those themes of religious fervor and devotion, with a sense of dread toward the song’s conclusion. While it does not appear on the tracklisting for Stevens’ recently announced album, The Ascension, due out September 25th, it’s an interesting footnote to the protest themes featured on “America.”
The Ascension is the follow-up to 2015’s Carrie and Lowell. Earlier this year, Stevens teamed up with his stepfather, long-time collaborator and Asthmatic Kitty co-founder Lowell Brams, to collaborate on the ambient record Aporia.