David Bowie: Closet Occultist!

Q: “So were you involved in actual devil worship?”
A: “Not devil worship, no, it was pure straightforward, old-fashioned magic.”
Q: “The Aleister Crowley variety?”
A: “No, I always thought Crowley was a charlatan. But there was a guy called [Arthur] Edward Waite who was terribly important to me at the time. And another called Dion Fortune who wrote a book called ‘Psychic Self-Defense‘. You had to run around the room getting bits of string and old crayons and draw funny things on the wall, and I took it all most seriously, ha ha ha ! I drew gateways into different dimensions, and I’m quite sure that, for myself, I really walked into other worlds. I drew things on walls and just walked through them, and saw what was on the other side!”

David Bowie, interviewed in NME, 1997

It being 2021, this year will inevitably see many five year anniversaries marked, none more keenly felt than that of the great David Bowie, who together with the passing of Lemmy marked the start of the second worst year of recent memory, to wit – the dreaded 2016. The tragedy was so great that it had the effect of drawing the Occult community, which is normally riven by fractious arguments, together to an unprecedented degree. Ironically, this post which I wrote at the time became the most read article ever on my blog.

So the news this week has been dominated by the passing of David Bowie, and when I consider how much attention was paid to the untimely death of Freddie Mercury – the last pop star of comparable status to leave us – it is almost certain that this event will remain in public consciousness for years to come. Anywho: amongst the magical community, it has been widely noted that Bowie was interested in the occult, as witness his interview with NME quoted at the top of this page, and the back cover over the Station to Station LP, below left:

Photo used for the back cover of Station To Station (1976)

Photo used for the back cover of Station To Station (1976)

Video for Lazarus (2015)

Video for Lazarus (2015)

NB: given the amount of Charlie he was packing away at the time, his precise allegiance might well be pinned to the Holy Order of the Sun! Interestingly, Bowie resurrected the costume covered with, ahem, “white lines,” for his almost-certainly-not final music video “Lazarus” (above right). Might not this video be suggesting that David Bowie did not just keep this costume but this persona hanging up in the closet all this time?

But I digress.

There is an image in the Lazarus video on which a number of bloggers have already commented: where Bowie sits frantically writing at a desk, on which rests a skull. Now the obvious interpretation is that it was a reference to Bowie’s own impending mortality, but when I saw it, it stirred the Sumner Family Brain Cell to life, and got me thinking, where have I seen that before?

See: 3minutes 38seconds.

The answer is: it comes from the first degree (Apprentice) ritual of the Ancient & Primitive Rite of Memphis and Misraim – a particularly esoteric form of Freemasonry. Assuming the candidate for initiation passes the ballot, just before the ceremony of his initiation,

…[t]he Expert (i.e. Junior Deacon) then takes possession of the Candidate in the Parvis, carefully binds his eyes and leads him to the Chamber of Reflection. He has him sit before a table, sparingly furnished with a real human Skull; a lit wax Candle, half-consumed; a sheet of white paper, pen and ink. The seat is a stool without a back. He lights a little Myrrh, the traditional funereal perfume, in a corner of the room, in a Censer containing lit coals.

Expert: – Sir, alone, left to yourself, before an image of termination of terrestrial Life, I invite you to write your Philosophical Testament.

The “Philosophical Testament” consists of the candidate’s reflections on his duties to God, the World, and himself: but more especially, like its name suggests, how the candidate would answer these questions if his words were the final legacy which he leaves on Earth. However, the code-word “philosophical” indicates that one is meant to interpret it alchemically. In other words, Death is not the end for the candidate – i.e. for David Bowie – but is the first step on the path to spiritual transmutation.

So, there you have it – Bowie indulging in esoteric symbolism right up until the last!


Filed under Comment

33 responses to “David Bowie: Closet Occultist!

  1. His choice of Master’s reflect my own. Seemed pretty successful as those things go.
    He chose well….

  2. Closet my behind! He was open about it. In the 1970s he openly practiced occultism / witchcraft. There are references in Diamond Dogs among other things. At one point (while on drugs) he became paranoid that evil sorcerers wanted his bodily fluids to do sinister things to him. So he would store his own urine. He became convinced that a coven of sorcerers were “out to get him.” And at one point it rained over his house and no where else (while in California) and Angie said “Glad it’s not me their after.” (according to Stardust: the life story of David Bowie published in 1986). Bowie had his home exorcised and claimed the pool boiled. He openly believed in the occult. It’s in Lazarus as well.

    • It’s a pun. The Lazarus video features Bowie coming out of a closet. 🙂

    • djwildwitch@yahoo.com


    • Henry Blackmore

      “He openly believed in the occult.”
      Bollocks did he. I’m wondering if you missed the whole tone of his above sentence… “You had to run around the room getting bits of string and old crayons and draw funny things on the wall, and I took it all most seriously, ha ha ha!”… particularly the last three words of it.

      Bowie’s interest in the occult was simply yet another of his fascinations with the esoteric. Unlike virtually every other (dull) rock star, Bowie thrived on everything outside of the tedious rock rules. Imagine any other 70s rock icon openly stating their influence by Anthony Newley or Stravinsky or Christopher Isherwood or mime. As others here have noted, during the 70s, Bowie’s grip on hard reality was skewed to say the least but even after he stopped being a walking train wreck, his anti-rock interests never waned. What better time was there for him to draw inspiration from his knowledge of the occult than when suffering a terminal illness?

  3. Thank You
    fantastic Blog
    Good Louck

  4. May I ask where you got the extract from? I’m interested in looking deeper.

    • It comes from an interview David Bowie gave to British music newspaper the New Musical Express (http://www.nme.com) in 1997. It has been quoted in a number of occult archives, though I’m currently having difficulty locating a reference to it on the NME’s site itself.

  5. Claudia

    hey! You are right! It is also similar to the ceremony of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite minus the encens. Thank you!! this has been an epiphany ^^

  6. Udobi

    It’s interesting how David Bowie of cancer at 69. If you look at the sign of cancer at a 90° angle at the night of the black moon. No coincidence

  7. Udobi, as a Cancerian, that had not escaped me.

  8. Reblogged this on sherriemiranda1 and commented:
    This death has affected me more than any other celebrity death since John Lennon. Which is interesting because Bowie was a huge fan of Lennon. I think Bowie showed us that you can jump off the deep end and come back from it. All these people are hiding their past, and there’s Bowie, now in his beige 3 piece suit, loving every chameleon-like change that he’s been through, but loving his last, that of being a father to a beautiful girl, the best.
    We are forever changed because Bowie was among us. Thank you, Great Britain, once again, for sharing your cherished heroes with ALL of us! We will forever be indebted to your gratitude!
    Peace, love & changes,

  9. shan

    hi guys found this online too pertinent to the thread here

    p228 and further

    They Say He Has Two Gods

    As Bowie once wondered, …

    (Edited for brevity)

  10. Pingback: Clairvoyance | Sol Ascendans - The Website of Alex Sumner

  11. Daryl

    Pursuant to Sherrie’s comment about John Lennon, mileswmathis.com/updates.html has a very interesting take on that story, and If anyone else could pull it off, it would be Bowie. The thought of the two of them raising a glass together about it is delicious.

  12. I’m closer to the Golden Dawn
    Immersed in Crowley’s uniform
    Of imagery (Quicksand)

  13. Just another fake death from the Stars

  14. Pingback: Las muertes de David Bowie | Rastreo de arcos y caídas, de Ziggy Stardust a Lazarus

  15. Jaylee Starduster

    DB was born with Sun & Mars in the 12th house – also known as a karmic closet. Video was deep. Thanks for your interesting article.

  16. Pingback: Bowie, Blackstar along with the Stories Still Untold, Part One

  17. I had the same thought when I saw the video for Lazarus. But I’ll clue you in on something: the Chamber of Reflection is not limited to the Rite of Memphis-Misraim. As I understand it, it is also used in what are called Traditional Observance lodges.

  18. Pingback: Bowie and Dion Fortune’s Psychic Self-Defense, Part 1 « Bowiesattva

  19. Pingback: David Bowies black star/sun eclipse – Hidden in the Crag

  20. Pingback: Infinite Plane Media

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