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Saturday, February 12, 2005

The Laughing Gnostic: David Bowie and the Occult

What's David Bowie got to do with occultism and gnosticism?

Apart from being a sometime brilliant musician and dilettante artist, Bowie's religious perspective and compositional techniques mirror an eloquent fragmentary projection of society. "I'm actually very nineteenth century - a born Romantic" he uttered in 1995. His work resembles that of many European post-romantic novelists and thinkers, such as Hermann Hesse (the Steppenwolf), Gustav Gründgens (his most famous rôle: Mephistopheles in Goethe's Faust) or Aleister Crowley. Indeed, the Gesamtkunstwerk 'David Bowie' crystallises this splintered reality into cultural artifacts, and these in turn coagulate into new realities.
Bowie (born 1947 as David Robert Jones) is seen by some as a sort of 'Renaissance Man' whose professed 'universality' is an attempt to show the landmarks of evolution by reassembling the fragmentary pieces of our society; and in this, he resembles many occultists.

But unlike most occultists, Bowie has considerable wealth, critical acclaim, penetrating intelligence, and enduring good looks; he seems set to go on to even greater heights and achievements. What next, godhead? There is a Faustian/Mephistophelean element here. How else to explain the absolute zenith of this man's worldly trajectory? In fact, there are people who are convinced that his success wouldn't be possible without some kind of otherworldly assist.* I do not share this opinion. It is my conviction that Bowie's work has been seriously underestimated, and cannot be reduced to a series of single topics.
Nevertheless, it can't be ignored that Bowie has constructed his public persona from the various parts of the puzzle that are at the roots of modern occultism. He was summoning up some of these pieces at the tender age of 16 already.

So what has David Bowie got to do with occultism? He gave the answer himself in his 1971 song 'Quicksand':

I'm closer to the Golden Dawn
Immersed in Crowley's uniform of imagery

In the 1976 song 'Station to Station' he mentioned the occult key doors to other plans of reality when he described how to travel down the Cabalistic Tree of Life

from Kether to Malkuth

that is from Godhead to Earth.
On 25 November, 1995, he finally admitted that in 1976 "My overriding interest was in cabbala and Crowleyism. That whole dark and rather fearsome never-world of the wrong side of the brain. ... More recently, [1995] I've been interested in the Gnostics". (cont.)

"Loving The Alien"

Watching them come and go
The Templars and the Saracens
They're travelling the holy land
Opening telegrams

Torture comes and torture goes
Knights who'd give you anything
They bear the cross of Coeur de Leon
Salvation for the mirror blind

But if you pray
all your sins are hooked upon the sky
Pray and the heathen lie will disappear
Prayers they hide
the saddest view
(Believing the strangest things,
loving the alien)

And your prayers they break the sky in two
(Believing the strangest things, loving the alien)

You pray til the break of dawn
(Believing the strangest things, loving the alien)

And you'll believe you're loving the alien
(Believing the strangest things, loving the alien)

Thinking of a different time
Palestine a modern problem
Bounty and your wealth in land
Terror in a best laid plan

Watching them come and go
Tomorrows and the yesterdays
Christians and the unbelievers
Hanging by the cross and nail

posted by DW  # 2:16 PM


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