The passing of David Bowie a year ago—more-or-less in conjunction with the release of his album Blackstar (and associated music videos)—seemed to spark off almost more symbol-sleuthing and esoteric interpretations than the “Paul is Dead” phenomenon.
Of course, Paul McCartney never really died in 1966 (and wasn’t replaced by an uncanny double named Billy Shears), and unfortunately it seems as if Bowie (as well as his birth-date-mate Presley) is indeed deceased—but according to the world of conspiracy theory, anything is possible.
Much more likely is that Bowie—who was an occultist (at least for a period of his life) among other talents—did place certain meaningful spiritual and esoteric meanings within his songs and videos. (Though I would imagine, from what I’ve experienced of Blackstar and its videos, that one of the biggest themes of the project was the fact that he was literally facing death with his cancer diagnosis.)
The following is an eclectic assortment of various “theories” regarding Bowie, most specifically sparked by his passing:
I. WHAT IS THE ESOTERIC MEANING OF THE “BLACKSTAR” VIDEO?
“Blackstar” is by far the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album cover of music videos, in the way it has been analyzed and studied. No less a mainstreamy and Millennial website as Flavorwire did a decent “starter” analysis of the esoteric symbolism in the video—though the comment section was where a lot of the “good stuff” can be found. It’s fascinating watching veteran symbologists (some who seem they would be at-home on the conspiracy site Vigilant Citizen) trade clues with mere neophytes and dabblers.
Speaking of Vigilant Citizen—definitely not a mainstream website and visit it of your own free will—its take on “Blackstar” was remarkably on-topic and restrained from using too much of the fire-and-brimstone fear-mongering against the “occult Illuminati mind-control elite” which has given VC its fame.
Here is one of the ironies of paranoid ultra-Christian conspiracy theorists who tend to see “Satan” in all manner of rock n’ roll and contemporary culture: outside of the religious bias, they are often really really good occult historians! Because they feel they need to battle the devil with their superior pop-culture interpretation knowledge, some study a metric shit-ton of otherwise “forbidden” esoteric subjects.
There is very little in VC’s study of “Blackstar” that feels over-the-top or batshit crazy or “reaching.” VC even manages to tie in such obscurities as the 1895 esoteric novel Etidorhpa and puts the spotlight on the overt Kabbalistic elements of Bowie’s 1976 Station to Station album.
What one might find problematic, however, is the inevitable conclusion that VC makes: that because Bowie was interested in the Occult, he was somehow “evil” and part of a grand conspiracy to corrupt the world. Go to the comments section of the article, and you’ll get a whole raft of homophobic slurs and the old standard, “I hope when DB is burning in hell he remembers how he blasphemed Christ.” And this is the double-edged sword of delving into this type of research: you’re going to be sorting through a lot of muck to get to the gems.
For (highly) esoteric breakdowns of the video devoid of that type of dogmatically-driven perspective, I’d recommend articles like “David Bowie’s Blackstar: Possible Occult Interpretations” by Kyle B. Stiff, and The Secret’s Sun’s analysis.
II. SO WAS DAVID BOWIE REALLY INTO THE OCCULT?
The best online text on the subject—and the most extensively quoted-from—is “The Laughing Gnostic: David Bowie and the Occult” by Peter R. Koenig. It’s densely-packed with information regarding Bowie’s connection to topics such as Gnosticism, Aleister Crowley, sci-fi novels, William S. Burroughs, Buddhism, the 1974 Brian DePalma movie Phantom of the Paradise, Charlie Manson, Hammer horror films, and just on and on and on. Block out half-a-day to really dive into this one.
For more of the darker side of Bowie’s occult interests (and temporary flirtation with Fascism), try another article on the same site, “David Bowie: Outside, Aleister Crowley, And the Holy Grail” by Steele Savage.
UFO Digest quotes from two mainstream books detailing long-circulated rumors of Bowie’s alleged occult misadventures. Marc Spitz in the biography Bowie recounts his attacks of paranoia in the 1970s, where he was afraid he would be abducted Rosemary’s Baby-style to force him to sire “the anti-Christ.” In ex-wife Angie Bowie’s Backstage Passes: Life on the Wild Side With David Bowie, she recounts the time he supposedly saw a “demon” rise out of his Los Angeles swimming pool—prompting a hasty exorcism.
Did these stories really happen? Well, he was doing a lot of drugs at the time and dabbling in magick. Maybe? Also read: “Meet The Mysterious ‘White Witch’ Who Exorcised David Bowie’s Cocaine Palace.”
III. DID BOWIE PREDICT HIS OWN DEATH?
Well…obviously, he knew he had cancer and the anticipation that he might die was interlaced all over the album Blackstar and especially the video “Lazarus.” In that sense, these artistic projects were used by him not only to process his own strong feelings, but as a document for others.
However, the best theory suggesting that Bowie predicted his own death many years in advance would be in the Secret Sun posts “Bowie: The Starman Returns To The Sky” and “Bowie’s Stunning 1999 Prophecy.” In them, Chris Knowles analyzes cover elements of the musician’s 1999 album Hours and theorizes they contain clues to not only Bowie’s death but the exact date.
IV. DID BOWIE PREDICT THE RISE OF KANYE WEST?
One of the most popular conspiracy theories floating around the Web is that the 1972 Bowie album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust “predicted” the popularity of Kanye West and that Blackstar only confirmed it (because…West is a “Black star,” get it?). Among the “proofs” cited are photos on the “Ziggy” album, birth dates, lyrics, and…it gets deep.
VARIOUS AND SUNDRY OTHER THEORIES, SYNCHRONICITIES, AND FEVER DREAMS
Was Bowie’s and Rickman’s death “staged?” (watch at your own risk)
Bowie’s last song was “Lazarus” and Rickman played “Dr. Lazarus” in Galaxy Quest (and of course they both died at age 69 from cancer like a day apart)
and so on and so on…
In sum, the death of iconic musicians such as David Bowie, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, and others fire up the collective imagination—everybody perhaps seeing what they want to see, as if in a mirror darkly. And yet there are, perhaps, elements of synchronicity and the uncanny that might have their own independent “life” outside of the subjectivity of the crowd. Perhaps the public’s collective energy, interwoven with the work of the artist, creates its own unique “objective” existence.
At any rate…I’m pretty sure the Bowie Mythos is far from over.