Kabbalah, Nuclear fusion, and Immortality: David Bowie Signs
by Albin Wantier – preface to Schapiro’s book “Bowie”, 2016
Thanks to Daniel Power from PowerHouse Books for the kind permission to upload Albin Wantier’s preface to their publication.
Here our review: https://www.davidbowieblackstar.it/un-miracolo-americano/
When he left this world, David left us the work of a lifetime – and some of the keys to help decipher an enigma he first unveiled some 40 years ago. Bowie was a work of art in his on right, and his passing might seem the final chapter. If you think so you are missing the signs.
It’s no secret to anyone that anyone that I’m deeply shocked by the death of David Bowie, probably the performer I loved most of all for over 20 years. Since hearing of his death on Monday morning, I still can’t believe it; Al Pacino’s words in Donnie Brasco keep playing over and over in my head: “How can John Wayne die?”
That’s about I feel about David Bowie.
Obviously, I’m not going to analyze all of Bowie’s oeuvre piece by piece, or his constant obsession with eternity, immortality, and the concept of the superman. Whether in his songs, on his record ale ever, in his movies parts, and even in advertisements, Bowie endlessly reiterated the idea if a superior entity that would survive him. Even in Labyrinth, despite his weird get-up and weirder soudtrack, Bowie steals a baby to ensure himself eternal life. The Man Who Fell To Earth, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, and The Hunger all keep reharsing the themes of immortality and the superman.
What is immediately impressive about Bowie’s death is the way the artist stages his on passing. Bowie always gave the impression of being master of his work’s destiny, and his death was no exception. It was the last chapter in all-encompassing masterpiece of which he was both script write and star. In the words of Tony Visconti:
“His death was no different from his life – a work of Art.”
You don’t need to be an expert in Bowie runology to realize that the Lazarus video, appearing at about the two-minute mark. The black-and-white striped costume is the exact same one he was wearing in the photograph on the back of the CD version of Station To Station, his 1976 album – and in my view the best he ever made, heads and shoulders above all the others. The picture is taken from a series shot by the famous American photographer Steve Schapiro.
In David Bowie’s work, there is no much thing as happenstance or coincidence – everything is carefully calculated.
In the 1974 photograph, Bowie is kneeling and drawing diagrams on the floor. Several reissues of the album show the same photograph depict the Tree of Life, also in the lyrics of the title song Station To Station:
Here are we
One magical movement
from Keter to Malkuth
Although I’m not an expert on the Kabbalah, Keter (the Crown) and Malkuth (the Kingdom) are the first and the last virtues on the Tree of Life.
Other pictures from this 1974 session show Bowie still tracing his diagrams, this time in a notebook, as he gazes thoughtfully into infinity. The widest-angle photograph show and interrogation point on the wall. It can be deduced that Bowie is questioning the meaning of Life. His doodles are a quest, a starting-point.
Back to 2016: Bowie dances around his deathbed in his 1976 costume, then sits at his desk, thinks, and then scribbles frantically in his notebook in a trance-like state, to the point of jumping off the margins of the page and onto the actual table. He appears to have found the meaning he has been searching for. The Connecticut between both images, 40 years apart, is stunning. In Lazarus, Bowie finishes his last chapter, stop taking note and walks away, backwards. He has resolved his enigma, and the curtain can fall at last.
Although one cannot be absolutely categorical, a close-up of the writing in the book appears to show that it is a series of geometrical lines rather than a continuous text. Are they new Kabalistic symbols? Only Bowie can know for sure.
Another image, however, may supply the beginning of an answer. In the Lazarus video, Bowie has left a number of clues, which leads su back to a 1976 image ad well as to the unusual diagrams… which uncannily remind the viewer of other symbols, this time in connection with Blackstar.
When I ordered the vinyl version of Blackstar, I opted for the bundle version with three lithograph prints. One of them features a set of symbols eerily like those in the 1974 photographs.
After checking with a friend, I learned that they were in fact chemical formulas. The drawings represent the various stages of the nuclear fusion, which leads to the formation of a sun. Although I’m about as much of an expert about chemistry as I am about Kabballah, this is definitely a process in which atoms of hydrogen and helium are fused, releasing a colossal amount of energy at leads to the formation of a star.
I’m a blackstar…
This leads su back to the video of Blackstar, the first release of the album, which beyond a doubt was Bowie’s final testament and which he wrote fully knowing what he was doing.
Symbols a bound in the Blackstar video. There be no doubt as to the identity of the dead astronaut shown as the beginning of the video: Major Tom from Space Oddity, once lost in space, and who now at last has been found. In the video, Major Tom undergoes the funerary rites that form the main theme of the video as a whole.
So, how to interpret this tangle of symbols?
In the Lazarus video, Bowie resolves the enigma of life, which he had been endeavoring to do since 1976. His life, which was indistinguishable from his work, led him to enact various characters of his own devising; his life was itself a work of art. Now that he has finished, Bowie can close the book. However, the last chapter does not end the kind to just disappear just like that from our world. The chemical symbols that accompany the Blackstar release point where he’s going: an artistic nuclear fusion of two elements that creates enough energy to make a sun.
In the Blackstar video, both nuclei necessary for fusing are present: Major Tom, the embodiement of all Bowie’s alter egos (Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Halloween Jack, Thin White Duke, Nathan Adler) and David Bowie the man – the character and his creator, at last fused. Together, they generate enough energy to create a sun, a source of eternal light. I’m a blackstar. Bowie is at once aborbed by his creation, and his life’s work, his characters and personae, have fully absorbed him. He has reached nirvana: his life – his work – is immortal. His life and work now being one and the same, David Bowie is now eternal.
The merging of the actor and creator completes the circle. From Keter to Malkuth, Bowie has now entered the Kingdom, the plant for which he doodled some 40 years before on a photo shoot for an album:
The tenth sephirah is Resplendent intelligence, it is the receptacle of all influences. Malkuth embodies the ultimate stage of form, dense and palpable, which cannot exist in a more concrete form, it is the universe, our planet, our body, and all things animate and inanimate that sorround us. Malkuth is the Kingdom of imagined forms that are at last realized. Malkuth is also the place where one “gives up one’s soul,” where what cannot be assimilated turns to waste. The challenge to man is to one day be able to master the myriad energies and influences swarming in his kingdom.”
I always knew Bowie was a god. Now I have proof. At last I can begin to mourn him.