Skip to comments.A Christian Investigation of David Bowie's "Blackstar"
Posted on 02/09/2016 5:35:48 PM PST by Faith Presses On
What's in "Blackstar"
(To make it easier to follow the song/video description below, I've given numbers to different areas of the song/video. )
1. The video begins by showing close-ups of an unmoving human being apparently in an astronaut suit, which is patched up here and there with duct tape.
Then from a greater distance, the astronaut is shown, lying motionless against a rock. He is in a world which resembles an alien planet or a moon. It's very rocky, barren and cold looking, and a large "black sun" or "blackstar" is in an equally black, star-filled sky.
Just as in every other scene in the video which will follow, though, the world portrayed is obviously an artificial, artistically-rendered world. There is no attempt to try to make the watcher of the video believe that what he is seeing is real, like in most science fiction movies or television shows of today. Every scene is unrealistically rendered, and obviously so, like the visual set of a play or older science fiction t.v. shows from many decades ago. Consequently, the viewer is expected to "play along" with the obviously fake scenery.
While this first shot of the motionless astronaut in the alien world is on screen, the "Blackstar" symbol slowly fades in and then out.
2. A woman then enters the picture. She appears otherwise like a normal human being, except that she has long tail whose movements might resemble that of a cat. She approaches the motionless astronaut, bends down and lifts the visor of his helmet.
Instead of the viewer seeing what she sees, however, the video cuts to the image of a large, vase- or volcano-shaped white candle, which is lit. It's apparently the only thing in one particular room of an ancient-looking building which doesn't appear in the initial scene with the astronaut and the woman.
Next the woman is shown again, and the viewer sees what she sees under the astronaut's visor - a skull encrusted with jewels. She is soon shown carrying the jeweled skull, placed within a glass display case, through a deserted ancient town, presumably heading towards the room with the candle. At the edge of the town is what might best be described as a mount, which overlooks it. There are a number of buildings on the mount, including three particularly tall ones.
3. Interspersed with these scenes are ones of Bowie, singing the words of the song and wearing a partial mask, in which the eyes of the mask are two buttons. The implication is that the mask prevents him from seeing as the button eyes are there in the proper places where eyes should be, but are useless.
Bowie is in the attic of an apparently long deserted building. Large gaps between boards in the ceiling let in sunlight. Behind him, in a separate room, two men, one white and one black, and one woman, who is white, tremble and jerk violently. They seem to be almost in a trance, and move so much that they appear to be almost dancing.
4. Then in another location, whose background is entirely dark so it's impossible to say what it might be, about a dozen women gather and form a circle. They are dressed in what might be considered plain and traditional "prairie" style dresses from a century or so ago. After jumping up and down in synchrony, the circle ritualistically disbands, with one woman following another so that the circle uncoils itself.
The women's ritual coincides with the video showing the astronaut's skeleton, minus the skull, floating into space towards the blackstar.
5. Then as the scene of the women's circle fades, Bowie appears, without the mask and apparently out-of-doors somewhere, with a patently artificial blue sky in the background. The scene is suggestive of a peaceful and tranquil afterlife. Bowie peers into the distance while holding up and in front of him what resembles a Bible, but instead has the large "Blackstar" symbol emblazoned on it. Behind him stand the two men and the woman from the attic. They are calmly standing now, almost as if entranced, and as Bowie slowly waves the Blackstar book and looks into the distance, they look into the distance too.
Then Bowie is shown alone in the attic, where the two men and woman had been trembling and jerking, and which now is shown to be interspersed with old junk, such as several books and dolls, and a bird cage. In an almost tender and nostalgic tone, he sings:
"Something happened on the day he died Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried (I'm a blackstar, I'm a blackstar)"
Bowie himself doesn't appear to sing "I'm a blackstar," but instead turns his head and acts as if he is surprised to suddenly hear that line being sung by someone else quite a distance away, ostensibly outside of the attic.
6. Then the video shifts back and forth between extreme close-ups of the eyes of Bowie and the woman of the attic. From what expression can be read from only their eyes and that area of their faces, they are sometimes curious, confused or searching, and at other times happy. The woman winks. There are also a couple of shots of the woman's lower body interspersed during this sequence, and in one, she pivots in a circle, compass-like, propelling herself with one foot as the other remains rooted to the floor.
Bowie, "cocking a snook" (or "snoot")
7. Then both Bowie's voice and the music change, sounding menacing, insincere and mocking. Bowie is still in the attic, and he sings:
"I can't answer why (I'm a blackstar) Just go with me (I'm not a filmstar) I'm-a take you home (I'm a blackstar) Take your passport and shoes (I'm not a popstar) And your sedatives, boo (I'm a blackstar) You're a flash in the pan (I'm not a marvel star) I'm the great I am (I'm a blackstar)"
As Bowie sings about the flash in the pan, he places his thumb on his nose and wiggles his fingers in a "cock a snook" (or "snoot") gesture of disrespect; then as he sings "I'm the great I am," he grabs his suit lapels and sticks out his chest, evidently to show puffed-up pride.
8. Around this point, another entirely new scene appears. Occasionally up to this point there has been a close-up shot of surreal stalks of wheat in a wheat field, waving in the wind, and now the whole wheat field comes into view.
In the distance, there is what appears to be a mock Crucifixion scene - three men dressed as scarecrows, and tied at the wrists to crosses made up of sticks, against a dark and foreboding sky. Their bodies twist slowly, but apparently not because these men are being executed. Instead, their movements are decidedly sexual, and their being tied to crosses is clearly meant to suggest sadomasochism.
Nothing seems to indicate that they're being lifted off the ground, and the crosses don't seem capable of supporting their weight, so they're apparently merely standing on the ground. The stalks of wheat in the foreground make this question finally unanswerable, though, along with the fact that the video is both surreal fantasy and ambiguously symbolic. Perhaps the viewer is to "pretend" that the men are actually suspended on the crosses.
9. Then the video shifts back to the women in prairie dresses. Again they're in near-darkness. There are twelve of them, and between two even lines of the women standing at attention, another woman walks to the front of them, carryig a skull. She is wearing a bejeweled headdress and necklace, and Bowie apparently chose for her to be a woman of color - she seems either Indian, Native American, or possibly a light-skinned African. All of the other women in the video have been white, most seeming to have long, dark hair.
The other women bow their heads in deference to the woman carrying the skull, who seems to be their leader, and a type of priestess, or perhaps, head witch.
She holds out the bejeweled skull to them, in a gesture of ritualistic presentation, and they instantly begin to shake and jerk. One woman from the rear comes to front, and begins a series of gestures before the skull. Then she kneels as if to pray, and the rest of the women twirl around, and jump up and down.
10. As they begin to pound the earth, the video shows the candle, which has appeared occasionally throughout the video. There is a flash of light, and the image shakes, as if to suggest that there is a sudden earthquake where the candle is located. Then the women get on the ground, and in synchrony beat the earth and drag their arms back and forth as they claw at the sandy dirt.
Another entirely new image appears then - that of a dark figure which resembles some sort of inhuman, nightmarish monster. There is no discernible head or face, and it seems to have a coat, in the way an animal has one, made up of flailing worm-like ropes. Its two claws become visible, and it is shown heading through the wheat field, towards the "crucified" men. Its appearance is menacing, but again, intentionally somewhat fake-looking, requiring the viewer to once again pretend that it's real, not a human invention.
The women stop dancing, but remain sitting in a circle, and then the one who earlier came forward to the priestess sets herself in what might be called "dog" position, and the priestess sets the skull on her back.
11. The men on the crosses see the monster coming towards them, and make scary faces at it, apparently their desperate attempt to frighten it off. It keeps advancing, though, and attacks them. They scream in pain, as Bowie, in the attic and with the mask on, appears to view the scene in a vision, and to recoil from what he sees.
Then the monster is shown backing away from the crosses, as the three men continue screaming in apparent agony.
The final scene is of the surreal town the woman carrying the skull had earlier walked through. It seems darker than before, and again lightning flashes in the sky around the three tall buildings on the hill.
Then the "Blackstar" symbol flashes on the screen for less than a second.
* * *
Where "Blackstar" is a mockery and rejection of Christianity
(Note: As Satan steals from the Lord, and tries to pass himself off as an angel of light, some of what follows has also been incorporated into Satanic practices, including witchcraft. Those connections will be discussed separately further on.)
Christianity is for certain referenced in the following ways:
The mock "Crucifixion" scene
Here the "Christ" figure is portrayed by an overweight man who, along with the other two men, wiggles on the cross in a sexual manner.
This scene is apparently "the day of execution" referred to several times in the song's lyrics.
The three men also seem portrayed as "seedy" and "low-class," with unkempt beards and rags for clothing, and of unrefined personality. The suggestion is that they might indeed be three criminals.
The "crucified" are obviously actual human men, but they are also dressed as scarecrows. In the context of the video's attacks on Christianity, the message seems to be that Christian leaders, and perhaps all Christians themselves, are mere scarecrows, creating scary appearances (Christian beliefs) in order to control people's lives through fright.
And besides suggesting that Christian leaders (and Christians too) are just people who put on appearances, the video also suggests that behind the false appearances meant to be fear-inspiring, Christians are as rebellious, carnal and sinful, including sexually, as anyone else. They pretend to be suffering in life by "bearing their crosses", but are actually indulging themselves.
Taken together with the huckster preacher of the attic, the message is that Christians are phony hypocrites.
It is only when the apparent Christians are attacked by the monster figure that represents physical suffering, death and the grave that the "crucified" men experience real pain, and terror as well, as their attempts to scare the monster off by making frightening faces (which probably not accidentally resemble the faces of gargoyles) are shown to have no effect on it whatsoever.
In the final scene, the monster attacks the "crucified" men by using one of his claws/hooks to strike at the lower part of their legs. (The shots at this point are so short, however, that although it is clear when watching the video in normal speed that the monster attacks the men, how he does so, by striking at their legs, became apparent to me only from watching these particular scenes in slow-motion.)
The striking of the legs of the men on the cross is a clear reference to the true Crucifixion story (and also appears to happen to only two of the three men as well, though in this case to the man in the center and one to the side).
The words of the song invoke Christian beliefs in order to mock them
When Bowie sings that "something happened on the day he died," and further states that "Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside/Somebody else took his place," he is clearly speaking of Christ and denying his Crucifixion.
It's immediately reminiscent of the Muslim teachings about Christ, and it shouldn't be overlooked that Bowie's own wife, the Somalian Oman, is a Muslim herself.
Then there is the section of the song where Bowie sings menacingly. From his words and gestures, and the accompanying music, it's clear that he wants to project the image of a scary, unscrupulous predator, whose treachery is unmasked. His words here invoke images of abusive authority, including the police, TSA and government in general, as well that of a would-be child kidnapper trying to lure his victims. The "just do what I say, but I can't tell you why" lines also echo the words of unbelievers who claim that in the Christian faith, God unfairly requires blind trust while no "real" answers are ever provided.
Around this point, in an obvious reference to the Christian belief that all human beings are sinners, Bowie also sings:
"I can't answer why (I'm not a gangster) But I can tell you how (I'm not a flam star) We were born upside-down (I'm a star star) Born the wrong way 'round (I'm not a white star)"
The Blackstar "Bible"
Bowie holds up and waves the book with a "Bible-like" appearance as if it is the answer to all things.
At this point, the scenery is surreal and obviously fake, but also somewhat Heavenly, like what a peaceful afterlife might be envisioned to be. The suggestion is that he and the three people from the attic, transported to this new locale from the prison of the decrepit, deserted attic, have been reborn, saved, or resurrected.
The witch-like women
There are twelve of the women followers, and one apparent high priestess, emulating Jesus with His twelve apostles.
The women are also conservatively dressed and adorned, for the most part. The "prairie dresses" are associated with Christian dress for women from colonial times up until the twentieth century.
The "cat-woman" who finds and carries the skull back to town (and presumably to the priestess) wears "sensible shoes" along with her prairie dress.
The women, as they engage in their rituals, also act "brainwashed," without their own individual identities, as they execute exactly the same motions in unison. This is reminiscent of a common false charge made by unbelievers against Christianity and all religions - that believers give up their own identities to become "one" with their group.
The cat-woman's encounter with the dead astronaut
This is reminiscent of Mary Magdalene coming to Jesus' tomb. Whereas she went looking for her Lord, met up with angels, but Jesus' body wasn't there, the cat-woman seems most likely to be wandering aimlessly, while there is nothing around them but cold, dead space, and she finds the astronaut's skeleton within the "tomb" of his spacesuit.
This encounter is also reminiscent of the story of Eve's temptation by Satan. The cat-woman is driven to wander, searching for whatever seems to strike her fancy. The video suggests that in finding the astronaut's remains, responding positively to the beautiful jewels adorning his skull rather than the death his skull represents, and taking the skull back to her people, she radically alters life on her planet, as Satan's successful temptation of Eve did on Earth. Her taking up of the bejeweled skull also suggests she has been deceived into ignoring the death represented by the skull due to her fixation on the jewels.
The purpose of the coven's first ritual
The first ritual performed by the witch-women seems to bring about the "ascension" of the astronaut's skeleton, minus the skull, to the blackstar. It is an unmistakable reference to the Christian belief in Jesus' bodily ascension to Heaven.
The wheat field
The wheat field is reminiscent of the many different times in which Jesus spoke of His return and the Last Judgment, when the angels will reap the Heavenly harvest of souls and the Lord's wheat (those who believe on Him as their Savior) will be eternally separated from the tares, which were sown by the Devil.
The song's first and seemingly most important refrain is this:
"In the villa of Ormen, in the villa of Ormen Stands a solitary candle, ah-ah, ah-ah In the centre of it all, in the centre of it all Your eyes"
This segment of the song seems to have multiple meanings, and one of them involves the importance of one's eyes/vision. And in a spiritual and symbolic sense, eyes and vision are highly significant and represent many important things.
Returning to the "cat-woman" as an Eve, she first enters the video at a point when "your eyes" is being sung, and she appears to be searching with her eyes.
We recall that when Eve looked at the fruit which God had forbidden, the Bible says, "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat..." (Genesis 3:6)
Then she also gives some of the fruit to her husband, "And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons," (Genesis 3:7).
So human vision, which elevates itself over God's Word, figures prominently in man's original rebellion against God.
We also know that God's response to His own Creation as recorded in Genesis was this: "And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness," (Genesis 1:4).
A notable scene in the video occurs towards the middle when Bowie is singing in the attic and the picture alternates between close-ups of his eyes and those of the "attic woman." It is suggestive of intimacy between a man and a woman (and in the context of this video's emphasis on attacking Christianity, it is suggestive of Adam and Eve).
The Bible also talks frequently of spiritual sight and blindness.
"Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them." (John 12:39-40)
The "solitary candle" also is part of the song's most important refrain.
Of course, Jesus directly calls those who believe in Him a type of candle, which gives off His light, and says Christians shouldn't hide that light. "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16)
And the light within believers is the only true light, the light of Jesus Himself:
"Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." (John 8:12)
The Mount and Three Tall Buildings
A recurring image in the video is that of the forlorn ancient village the cat-woman walked through.
In the distance, but seemingly still a part of the village, and perhaps its focal point, is the mount mentioned earlier. On top of this mount are the three tall, dark buildings, also mentioned previously, with some smaller ones scattered around them.
The video implies that the room with the "solitary candle" is in one of those three tall buildings atop the mount.
The three tall buildings here are an apparent reference to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit of Christian belief, and the mount, with lightning usually shown flashing around it, suggests authority and government, and recalls the mount where Moses was given the Law and where God would have talked to the Israelites, but they were terrified when they saw the lightning around it.
"And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.
And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice. And the Lord came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the Lord called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up." (Exodus 19:16-20)
"And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die." (Exodus 20:18-19)
The three tall buildings seem be situated so that they rule over the people from far above. Yet, since they are buildings, the message is clear that they are of human, not divine, creation.
With its sharply angular roof, the attic resembles a church. Bowie "preaches" from here.
* * *
There are also many references to Satanism, including to the occult, witchcraft, and sorcery. Bowie admittedly explored Satanism earlier in his life, and he reportedly said Aleister Crowley was one source of inspiration for "Blackstar." Lyrics like "How many times does an angel fall?" also make the Satanism he is invoking clear and unmistakable.
While Bowie's "black star" isn't inscribed within a circle, it is obviously meant to share characteristics with a pentagram:
"Pentagram - The five pointed star is an important symbol in magic representing earth, air, fire, water and spirit and is most commonly used by white witches. Used by Freemasonry and the Orange Order" (1) [Note that footnotes go to external links opened in a new window, while a list of references appears at the end.]
While the "Blackstar" symbol is also upright besides, it stands to reason that many people watching the video, and particularly those who are open to Satanic beliefs, will consider Bowie's watered-down black star to be a concession to the anti-Satanic public and the commercial music industry. He wanted to use the actual Satanic Bible with its inverted pentagram, that thinking will go, but settled for the upright Blackstar. That seems to be an accurate interpretation.
The "Blackstar 'Bible'"
It not only resembles the Bible, but with its huge black star emblazoned on the cover, it also resembles different Satanic books, such as "The Satanic Bible" and "The Satanic Rituals," both by Church of Satan leader Anton LaVey.
"The Satanic Bible is a collection of essays, observations, and rituals published by Anton LaVey in 1969. It contains the core principles of Satanism, and is considered the foundation of its philosophy and dogma. It has been described as the most important document to influence contemporary Satanism. Though The Satanic Bible is not considered to be sacred scripture in the way the Christian Bible is to Christianity, LaVeyan Satanists regard it as an authoritative text as it is a contemporary text that has attained for them scriptural status. It extols the virtues of exploring one's own nature and instincts. Believers have been described as "atheistic Satanists" because they believe that God is not an external entity, but rather something that each person creates as a projection of his or her own personality--a benevolent and stabilizing force in his or her life. There have been thirty printings of The Satanic Bible, through which it has sold over a million copies.
"The Satanic Bible is composed of four books: The Book of Satan, The Book of Lucifer, The Book of Belial, and The Book of Leviathan. The Book of Satan challenges the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule, and promotes Epicureanism. The Book of Lucifer holds most of the philosophy in The Satanic Bible, with twelve chapters discussing topics such as indulgence, love, hate, and sex. LaVey also uses the book to dispel rumors surrounding the religion. In The Book of Belial, LaVey details rituals and magic. He discusses the required mindset and focus for performing a ritual, and provides instructions for three rituals: those for sex, compassion, or destruction. The Book of Leviathan provides four invocations for Satan, lust, compassion, and destruction. It also lists the nineteen Enochian Keys (adapted from John Dee's Enochian keys), provided in both Enochian and translated to English." (2)
In the video, Bowie seems to present the "Blackstar Bible" as Christians similarly would the only true Bible - as life-giving and liberating, the source of all truth, knowledge and wisdom. He additionally presents himself as a prophet or preacher of it.
The Black Flame
One of the first shots of the video, a close-up on the fallen astronaut, shows what seems to be an emblem of a black flame. It appears on the visor of the astronaut's helmet.
This "black flame" emblem is clearly a reference to "black flame" knowledge and Satanic believers who believe Satan to be the Egyptian God "Set":
"Some writers equate the veneration of Set by the Temple of Set to theistic Satanism. However, the Temple of Set do not identify as theistic Satanists. They believe the Egyptian deity Set is the real Dark Lord behind the name Satan, of whom Satan is just a caricature. Their practices primarily center on self-development. Within the temple of Set, the Black Flame is the individual's god-like core which is a kindred spirit to Set, and they seek to develop. In theistic Satanism, the Black Flame is knowledge which was given to humanity by Satan, who is a being independent of the Satanist himself and which he can dispense to the Satanist who seeks knowledge." (3) (4)
Set was a sibling of Isis, the goddess, so this may be the source for where the debunked story came from that Bowie said the video was about "ISIS," the Islamic terrorist group.
The Perversion and Mockery of Christian Beliefs
As I already began to discuss above, the Crucifixion, the discovery of the Empty Tomb, and Jesus' ascension are all mocked in the song and video.
The "cat-woman." Cats are a well-known symbol in the occult, and although the tail on the woman is never confirmed to be that of a cat, the video is strongly suggestive of that.
The tail moves in cat-like fashion, and the connection is further strengthened by the woman's wandering, like an outdoor cat on the prowl for prey. Her face is expressionless but alert as she scans her surroundings.
The group of women who perform two rituals during the video are unambiguously witches - a coven of thirteen, including the high priestess, to be exact.
And they just as clearly come together to perform "magic" rituals in order to cast spells.
The "attic woman" also pivots during the middle section of the video, as noted above, in "compass-like" fashion.
Her movement of one foot remaining fixed in one place while the other foot propels her in a circle traces out a Satanic symbol of a circle with a point in the center:
"Point within the circle A symbol that came from Babylon where it symbolized the sun god Ra. It then evolved from the serpent biting its tail - swallowing itself - and is the symbol of the destructive. New age teachers say that the point refers to the supreme one, the god behind all gods."
As is customary in Satanism, good and evil, and light and dark, are reversed, as Isaiah wrote:
"Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:20)
The "solitary candle"
Candles are prominent symbols in Satanism and witchcraft.
Ambiguous signs and symbols
The video uses ambiguity and incompletion a great deal, typically to suggest multiple things at once and raise questions in order to plant seeds of doubt against faith in God, and Jesus Christ in particular. These are some of the suggestions:
The astronaut and his suit
Does the astronaut symbolically represent Christian missionaries who travel around the world to share the Gospel?
Does he also represent the belief that life exists on other planets, so that Christian missionaries would have to share the Gospel there, which would show Christian belief to be ridiculous, since it claims that human life only exists on Earth?
Does the duct tape suggest Bowie's view that Christianity is "breaking down" and needs to be held together by something like duct tape?
Does the astronaut represent the theory of some secular humanists that life was brought to this world by aliens who visited in the distant past? Does the duct tape then represent that these visitors weren't gods, but merely men whose inventions - including their "invented religions" - wear out?
The "centre of it all"
Is "a solitary candle" "in the centre of it all," or "in the centre of it all" are "your eyes"? The lyrics seem intentionally ambiguous on that point, so the answer seems to be "both."
The sequence of the close-ups on the eyes of Bowie and the "attic woman" seems to begin intentionally at exactly the half-way mark of the video, the 5:00 mark. There doesn't seem to be any importance to that detail except to add what might seem to some an air of mystical significance to video.
* * *
Humanism and Art (Human Invention)
While humanism is specifically highlighted here, it shouldn't be overlooked that humanism is actually part and parcel with Satanism.
Many if not most Satanists declare that they don't believe in the actual existence of a fallen angel called Satan, or any supernatural or spirtitual realm, but instead declare themselves to be secular humanists who derive satisfaction out of mocking both Christianity and "superstition."
Satanism, they maintain, is just an intellectual, adult form of play-acting and mockery of others in order to undermine "superstitious beliefs" which they say have no part in the modern world.
The astronaut, representing the highly-touted technological achievement of space travel, is a symbol of human ability, which by many is idolized as god-like. A brand of secular humanism, and Satanism, regards man himself as a type of god.
The "cat-woman" from the seemingly ancient society represents the animal nature of humanity, and suggests both evolution and possibly "evolved life" on other planets, and so is a denial of the words in Genesis that we are the creation of a God in His image.
The pretentious, campy artistry of the video is also humanistic. It suggests that perhaps everything in the video should just be thought of as pretend and play-making, so that then even the Satanism is "just for fun," and the thing that really matters is the human creative abilities that produce it and give expression to the emotional needs of the uncreated, evolved animal, man.
Christianity, as already discussed to some extent, is also suggested to be a mere human creation, though the video teaches that it is an evil one, in contrast to the natural, liberating, and empowering Satanism - which may also be superstition and fiction, but is closer to the truth of secular humanism.
The "monster" that appears towards the video's end, though seemingly "real" enough, or meant to be taken as "pretend real," shows some tell-tale signs of not being an actual monster at all, as mentioned earlier, but instead is a human creation, or a costumed human.
When viewed in slow-motion, it's apparent the "monster" wears some sort of jewelry. It either wears or carries an article with tassels that appears to have some ritual meaning, and at the ends of a few of its rope-like locks which flail in the air are what look to be large gold rings. While the "cat-woman" is not quite human, the "monster" figure, by contrast, has at the least some human in him.
Above, the "monster" with one of its metal rings visible. Below, the article carried or worn by the "monster," which appears to have a ritual meaning.
Another common humanistic theme employed in the video in multiple ways is that of human alienation and existentialism. The video seeks to connect with the feelings of despair to people so often experience - their sense of loneliness, and that life is often loveless and meaningless. According to the video, Christianity isn't the answer. The answers are intellectual Satanism, secular humanism, human artistry, and, less obviously stated, sexual relations. Perhaps the moment in the video of most human intimacy, if not the only moment of it, is the scene in which there are alternating close-ups of the eyes of Bowie (that is, his character in the video) and the "attic woman," suggesting an intimate relationship between them.
Artistry to "reveal truths" or just for its own sake
The video seems to cast itself as "truth-telling" about Christianity, religious belief, human philosophy and art, and the meaning of life and death.
By coincidentally bringing together scenes of a witches' ritual with scenes of the mock Crucifixion, it appears that the witches' ritual conjurs up the monster figure and causes it to attack the "crucified" men, even though it may only be an effect of editing since the two scenes are apparently unconnected in time and spice.
And of course the point then may be that humans accidentally give things meaning, connecting unconnected things and finding meaning where none exists, or on the other hand, missing it where it does by explaining away connections.
In the final use of the skull in the witches' ritual, the video similarly suggests that "magic" and the power of "occult forces" is just made up and make-believe, and can be created through sleights-of-hand or camera tricks, which people just as easily fall for.
Throughout the video, the images have been distorted by all manner of blurring, jumping, splitting and re-arranging. Again, these effects are certainly to be taken as products of the human artistry making the video, but the video also suggests that possibly Bowie is just using photography to portray real supernatural activity, which he believes in.
This ambiguity is played out during the skull episode near the video's end. As the skull sits on the back of one of the witches, the distorting camera work causes it to seem to move, which appears to suggest a transformation in which it may have come alive and attached itself to the woman somehow.
In normal speed, and without much reflection, it appears to do just that to the eye. But when the scene is viewed in slow-motion, and also according to our understanding that the video editor is using virtual distortion techniques, we should conclude that the appearance of the transformation is nothing but a trick of the mind accomplished by the same video editing we've seen throughout the video, which meant nothing but that we saw an image shift a bit.
The question left by the video, then, is what Bowie believes about artistry - is it a means used to represent a supernatural world that Bowie believes in, or is it used to fake a supernatural world that people want to believe in?
In the case of the skull, should the viewer interpret its "movement" on the witch's back as human artistry portraying something truly supernatural, or is the message that the supernatural ismerely created by the combination of human artistry and a human willingness to believe in something?
Bowie may not have decided what he believed about the answers to these questions, or may have decided not to reveal his beliefs. The video does, though, suggest that the human imagination can be exploited so that what's impossible might be accepted as true.
For example, it's possible in the video for the "cat-woman," who appears mostly human, to walk about in a world that appears to have no atmosphere, and the viewer watching likely won't object to such an impossibility being portrayed.
The possibilities of the human imagination are endless, in other words, and both clever artistry and frauds can exploit people's imaginations, the video asserts.
Here again, the symbolism of eyes, vision and blindness comes into play. Bowie seems to be saying that what often really matters most is not what actually happens, but what people, looking at things, either believe has happened, or are led to believe has happened.
* * *
David Bowie's personal, self-referencing statements and suggestions
While some of what Bowie conveys is about all and meant for all, some of it in particular ways speaks about him and his life.
Bowie seems to advocate for both Satanism and secular humanism, in strong opposition to Christianity.
His video portrays Christianity as fraudulent, and lording over human beings by instilling fear and creating mindless traditions and unquestioned and unquestionable beliefs.
Bowie also portrays himself as heroic and genuine, as opposed to the "frauds" of the world - a message of timeless appeal, especially since 1960's to the young, those in the target age for rock music.
"How many times does an angel fall? How many people lie instead of talking tall?"
"I'm a blackstar, way up, oh honey, I've got game I see right so white, so open-heart it's pain I want eagles in my daydreams, diamonds in my eyes (I'm a blackstar, I'm a blackstar)"
Bowie also puts himself in the role of Satan as Lucifer, the "bringer of light" in Satanist and secular humanist belief - one who isn't unjustly rebelling against the perfect God of the universe, but one who is either freeing himself and others from a cruel and unjust god, or from a man-made god created in more primitive, fearful times.
Since both the video and the Satanic "Bible" held up by Bowie during the middle of it are identically named "Blackstar," we should conclude that he is saying that the book is the video, and the video is the book.
That means that the content of the book, if it were to be opened and read, is the video, and the video is of the spiritual magnitude of a "Bible." Bowie is therefore casting himself as a real, not imaginary, prophet.
Bowie apparently wanted "Blackstar" to be considered as "profound" and as much of an "artistic achievement" as a single music video and song could possibly be. The video aims to introduce spiritual, religious and philosophic questions and some possible answers, and to do so in the most artistic ways possible for a popular music video, particularly by invoking a very great number of themes and symbols - from the ancient and the modern, to witchcraft, spiritual and physical sight, the Bible, and Jesus Christ and His crucifixion and resurrection.
In short, great attention and thought was given to every detail in the video, so that the everything in it would be as "meaningful" as possible.
One example of packing the video with meaning is in the physical appearance of what is most likely "the villa of Ormen" - the deserted ancient town which is frequently shown. The look of the town apparently wasn't hastily or casually created, but instead was probably inspired at least in part by an actual ancient town that still exists - Ksar Ouled Soltane in Tunisia. Ksar Ouled Soltane wasn't "discovered" by Bowie or any of his team, however, as it had already been featured in the "Star Wars" movie series.
"The villa of Ormen"
Ksar Ouled Soltane (Wikipedia)
Then there is the couple of instances in the video of Bowie's upraised arms, which remind one of Christian worship of God.
And the point in which he sings, "Take your passport and shoes (I'm not a popstar) And your sedatives, boo (I'm a blackstar)." The part about "sedatives" seems there to appeal to young people and secular humanists in particular, and to suggest both the government prohibiting drug use and the Christian faith forbidding it.
A child of about eight or ten, whose sex isn't apparent (which is probably intentional), also appears to make a very brief appearance in the video, again during the middle section where Bowie sings in the attic. The child is shown singing, "I'm a blackstar." Given that no detail is in the video by accident but the meaning of the child's appearance is never addressed, the the child's appearance is therefore curious.
* * *
It's hard not to notice when watching "Blackstar" that David Bowie apparently tried to pull out all the stops for this song and video, putting much more into it than typically goes into the ordinary music video. He evidently wanted it to be the story of his spiritual life, and his message to the world about it.
I wondered at some of the musical tactics employed in the song, and not having a musical background, I looked into a few of the issues the song raised for me.
These would include:
The emotions of both music and singing
Electronically-edited music and sound effects
The emotions of music and of singing
The tone of Blackstar's music sometimes sounds demonic, and at other times somewhat heavenly, and this was no doubt what Bowie was aiming for - to invoke the idea of Heaven and Hell, brought together in one, to be both contrasted and interwoven.
The end result was to convey Satanic-secular humanist "truth" about life and what follows it that would be both gripping and appealing to viewers/listeners. For instance, to make the idea attractive that Heaven really doesn't and couldn't exist, and even if it did, you wouldn't want to go there. Hell is needed for excitement, so that for Heaven to be truly "heavenly," it must include Hell.
The Heavenly-sounding music is meant to uplift the listener/viewer and lure him or her in, while the demonic, Hellish music is sometimes used to illustrate musically the "evil" of Christianity, and at other times to provide excitement and interest.
During the middle section of the video, whose theme seems to be "exposing the truth" about Christianity and its exploitation of noble man, as Bowie appears to believe, the music gets quiet and simple, and sounds rather poignant, reflective, yearning and tragic.
It seems at that point that Bowie wants the viewer to feel on intimate terms with him, to trust him and his genuineness, and to accept his ideas on Christianity and the nature of existence as though he is a prophet conveying them.
A couple of notes on music
As I said, I don't know much of anything about music theory, but understand that music tends to sound either "happy" or "sad." This is said to be due to whether it is written in a major or minor scale, and that's in turn determined by the scale's all-important "third note," which sets the tone.
The video linked to below explains that there are four distinct types of the minor scale (though that doesn't seem to be entirely correct). These are the natural, the harmonic, the melodic, and the Dorian mode. The video characterizes their uses in general as:
The natural minor - used in popular music.
The harmonic - used in popular and classical music.
The melodic - frequently used in old movies.
The Dorian mode - used for its "dark but hopeful" sound.
I can't begin to formally characterize the type(s) of music used in "Blackstar," I do make out that in "Blackstar," the music makes a number of very emotional appeals to viewers/listeners, as if to connect to people's most primal fears and uncertainties about life. The music runs the gamut of emotions, from hopeful to despondent, with often eerie or haunting effects, including background singers that at times make "ghost-like" sounds.
"Blackstar" also makes full use of the possibilities opened up by electronic music and editing.
While my inexpert ear can't draw any definite conclusions on what electronic acoustical tricks are used on "Blackstar," some sort of effects to look into as possibly exploited by the video are delay, reverb and "pingpong."
Frequently Bowie's singing takes on a heavenly, ethereal "angelic choir" sound, and this is entirely due to such electronic effects.
While the song and video's message content, including the Satanic aspects, subtly influence viewers who find what's being said profound, the electronic effects are more musically manipulative.
* * *
"Blackstar" appears to be what Bowie wanted to say about his life and his beliefs, and what he considered to be the work of art that he wanted to survive him as both the final statement on his life and beliefs, and that would "immortalize" his influence on others by promoting certain beliefs.
In terms of his beliefs as "Blackstar" portrays them, the video promotes Satanism, secular humanism, human artistic creation, humanistic science, and primitivism, while rejecting Christianity that is faithful to the Bible.
The video doesn't appear to definitively favor any one of the beliefs promoted in it over any of the others, however.
That may mean that Bowie considered there to be "truths" in all the beliefs he was advocating for in the video, so he believed himself to be "on the right track," even though he didn't decide, or decided not to reveal, what he himself had come to believe shortly before his death.
This ambiguity, along with all of the many instances of the video promoting the idea that "truth" varies from person to person depending on their own limited and fallible viewpoint, points to a "New Age" and "many ways to God," or truth, approach.
In that case, Bowie is saying through the video that:
Satanism and witchcraft may or may not be true, but they usefully develop the human being and give their practitioners lives of positive meaning, so whether they or ultimately true or not is irrelevant. What matters is that they are true for some people and they can point someone "in the right direction" of "truth" (what he considers "truth" to be, that is), even if "the truth" isn't entirely knowable.
Human artistry may be deceptively creating religion and spirituality, but that's all right as long as what it creates is fun, exciting, meaningful and humanistically liberating by promoting human beings as they are. Christianity, which says that human beings are by nature sinful, is a "dark turn" away from that for Bowie.
In "Blackstar," Bowie cast himself as a New Age "prophet," apparently promoting intellectual if not actual Satanism, secular humanism, and human artistry as the "benefactors" of mankind, and rejecting Christianity as deceptively harmful. These were messages Bowie knew to have both existential and commercial appeal to popular music's target audiences.
Sadly, Bowie's final public message directly contradicts what the Bible says, which is that reliance on Satanism, secular humanism and human artistry are of the world, not God, and only the Christian faith is true.
"Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me. But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do." (John 14:30-31a)
" From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day." (Matthew 16:21)
"And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you." (Matthew 28:5-7)
"He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matthew 16:15-16)
References by topic
1. “Occult Symbols,” Christian Restoration.com
2. “The Satanic Bible,” Wikipedia
3. “Theistic Satanism, Diversity of beliefs within Theistic Satanism,” Wikipedia
4. “Temple of Set,” Wikipedia
“The Difference between Major and Minor,” Studybass.com
“4 Types of Minor Scale,” jazztutorial, YouTube
“The Major Scale Formula: Lesson 1 Music Theory,” Kennis Russell, YouTube
“Brief Introduction to Delay Effect,” How to Make Electronic Music
“Delay Effect for Lush Background Vocals,” The Pro Audio Files, YouTube
“How to Process Vocals for an Amazing Professional Sound,” Tutsplus.com
That’s a very thorough and well considered analysis of David’s most recent work. As you likely already know, it was common for Bowie to make many references to death, mortality and immortality for most of his musical career. The Man Who Fell To Earth contains one song ( I can never recall the name) with a tantalysing intro, using Gregorian Chants and a classical Spanish styled guitar riff. Diamond Dogs has the song “We Are The Dead”, plus other related cuts. Ashes to Ashes is a self descriptive meditation on our shared fate.
I think David Bowie spent most of his life learning historic interpretations of the life and death experience as perceived by others. The knowledge first served to make him a better performer, and later a more introspective human being, who knew when to leave the big stage.
I did not like everything Bowie did, absolutely not. Recently, I think it was in 2013 or 2014, Bowie came out with a music video, first one in many years. I think the name was The Next Day.
It may have been that video I saw that appalled me. There was a scene of a beautiful girl who began bleeding from her wrists, and continued to bleed, blood still heavily flowing.
I did not finish watching that video, it disturbed and disgusted me so. I decided I wanted never to see it again.
So I was reminded, that even with a clear creative genius as was Bowie, not all he touched turned to something great and precious for the listener.
Bowie has always kind of creeped me out. Music is so full of Satanism. Satan was a cherub made of musical instruments.
13 Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.
14Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.
15 Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.
16 By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.
Cripes this is long.
Bowie was an occultist.
I didn’t know how much in to it he was til he died and I read some things.
Wrong link? (goes to ABC live breaking news)
oops, my bad. too many window open.
Wasting one’s time on that lengthy hokum is something one is entitled to do, just as it was Bowie’s right to make his music.
Just not sure what the author of this post is hoping to accomplish.
I read the description of the video, then watched it. The production values were very good, but then I only watched MTV for Beavis and Butthead, so I’m no judge of music videos.
As the whether it’s anti-Christian ... if it was,
it passed me by.
Here’s an article from the Guardian.
Then, sometimes, a video is just a video.
Good Lord, I’m agreeing w/ you. Stars are exploding!
I agree with your summation of ‘Dorian’ styled music if one can use J.S. Bach’s Toccata & Organ Fugue in D Minor aka “Dorian” as a model. Vast darkness that leads to hopefulness. It’s hard to explain why I like that long and blustery highway of melody embedded within cacophony.
Bowie knows the truth now, and I’m sure it’s a shock.
Very insightful analysis of a very talented complex man.
I really liked much of his music, especially his 1983 Serious Moonlight tour sons, ie: China girl, Modern Love, Let’s Dance.
He admitted being a tormented soul during his young bisexual drugged phase in the 1970’s.
He admitted admiring Hitler / Nazism, and that he believed Rock n Roll was inspired by satan.
He seemed to settle down from his late thirties and on.
This Rolling Stones article provides further details of how troubled and insane he felt in the 1970’s.
My pastor and grandparents were right about R&R along with many other things...
Cocaine is a helluva drug. And Bowie was probably the biggest Coke head in the 70s. But he seemed to settle down after that.
Thank you for the essay. Quite a bit much for a casual study.
“the Empty Tomb, and Jesus’ ascension are all mocked in the song...”
St. Augustine wisely pointed out that the Apostle’s nets were broken because of too many fish which signifies how the Church is broken because of too many apostates (reject the faith) and heretics (twist the faith). So what causes apostasy and heresy? According to Augustine, “carnal desires.”
As you can imagine, David Bowie was fueled by carnal desire for ladies and money and probably did not read the Bible 15 minutes every day and go to confession once a month, as suggested in the Bible.
Who cares, the man is dead. Let dead men sleep. There is no satan or devil, only one God, natures God. Let go of the Zoroastrian beliefs.
You -might- be overthinking this. But im breathlessly waiting for your analysis of “Lets Dance”. Also, what do you think of Elvis and his suggestive pelvis moves?
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