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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

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!

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Square Dealings

Folks, I have a confession to make: I am on the level. What is more, in this blog post I am going to reveal some of the deepest darkest secrets of Freemasonry. Now the first thing that everyone who does not know anything else about the Craft knows is that Masonry has something to do with “funny handshakes.” These funny handshakes are technically known as “modes of recognition” and are supposedly the most secret bits of the masonic rituals which true Masons will always refuse to divulge even if the rest of Masonry is publicly discussed.

The fact that most of the handshakes are described on the internet somewhere if you search hard enough on Google is beside the point.

Now I am going to reveal something which no Mason has hitherto said on a public forum. So if you hear that I have been brutally murdered like one of Jack the Ripper’s victims or been found hanging underneath Blackfriars Bridge or died as a result of a bizarre accident at a cricket match, you know the reason. The gripping revelation is this:

The traditional modes of recognition are no longer in use: instead there is a new and completely different way of telling a brother by day or by night.

Yes, I shit ye not, there is a method now in use at lodge meetings and meetings of appendant bodies for telling if someone is a real Mason or not. And I am goint to reveal it to you! It is this: you go up to a bloke you suspect of being a Mason and say:

“Have you read the new Dan Brown book? It’s really rather good!”

OK I am joshing somewhat. But the fact of the matter is that up and down Great Queen Street and the various other masonic venues in London, the current talk is that The Lost Symbol is actually the greatest advert for Masonry in a long time: it actually depicts Masons as heroes. Not that it is an accurate description of Masonry at all: Brown has deliberately played hard and loose with the details, presumably to make it more exciting.

I was watching a programme on British TV “Channel 5” in which there were some lurid descriptions of American Freemasonry, whilst UGLE’s own Director of Communications, John Hammill, appeared defending the Craft. Reading through the credits at the end, I noticed that one of the masons interviewed in the programme was the executive producer thereof, and the production company was called “Three Degree Productions.” Oh ho!

I want to clear up some ambiguities which I feel have arisen, certainly amongst people I have spoken to. Firstly, this whole business of  there being 33 degrees … there are in fact only three degrees in Craft Freemasonry, the supposed other 30 being worked by an appendant or side order known as the “Ancient and Accepted Rite,” or as it is more colloquially known in Britain, Rose-Croix. Now get this: the supreme authority for Freemasonry is not the Supreme Council of the 33rd Degree of the Ancient & Accepted Rite, it is the United Grand Lodge of England – the reason being that the former has bound itself to source all its members from Craft lodges. You see the point here? The A&AR may work more degrees than the Craft, but it is only the Craft who work the three most important ones.

In any event, the A&AR do not work all 33 degrees. The first three are not worked at all – they are left to Craft Masonry. Of the remainder, the A&AR work only five degrees, the rest being conferred in name-only.

Another cannard that pops up regularly is some idea that Freemasons are somehow involved in a giant conspiracy. The fact of the matter is that there is no mechanism in Freemasonry which would allow such a conspiracy to operate. One of the reasons why Masonry has survived so long is that subject to a token amount of supervision, individual lodges are treated with a great deal of independence by United Grand Lodge. However the flipside to this independence is that just as the central hierarchy does not generally interfere with individual lodges, so the lodges are not in a position to interfere with the central hierarchy. Hence, the mere fact of joining a lodge is not going to increase one’s influence in the new world order.

It is conceivable that a mason could eventually use his connections to achieve some influence: however, if he did that much networking, he would not need Masonry to do so.

According to my personal research, there are at least two forms of corrupt networking which are far more sinister than Freemasonry, but these are seldom mentioned by the chattering classes. The reason I think is because Freemasonry has all the glamour – the rituals, the regalia, the nice big Art Deco grade 2 listed building on Great Queen Street – it attracts all the attention!

Far more serious in the conspiracy stakes is the Old-Boy Network. It is quite easy to get into Freemasonry, so long as you have a belief in a Supreme Being, but the OBN and the “old-school tie” are by their very nature exclusive. I seem to recall that many years ago the OBN got more publicity than it does now, but that was before Stephen Knight came up with his Jack The Ripper: The Final Solution. How one badly written conspiracy theory can affect public perception!

But by far the most insidious conspiracy in the world today is neither Masonry nor the OBN. It is quite simply a matter of sniffing cocaine with the right people in the right toilets. This is especially so in some of the more glamorous industries which appeal to young and creative types.

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