It seems to me that Bowie really overdone them all, I mean the artists (musicians, poets, writers) of a similar vein. Not only did he manage to make his death into “a work of art”, he also managed to use it to rip himself off (or to purify as he would probably say) from any remaining traces of humanity. This is truly stunning because death usually brings the humanity of an individual into the unbearable light. The humanity in its nakedness, being placed against death, usually can be seen clearer than ever, by the dying person and those around him. A dying or deceased person is unique and precious to the extreme: he is free from generalisations and categories. And, because we are all mortal we can easily relate to dying or dead human being with compassion. A dying or dead person is also extremely vulnerable and defenceless. This is why it is often said that Jesus Christ was the most human in His Passion and death. All the earthly life of the Son of God was a continuing self-reduction, self-squeezing into that needle point of humanity so we could relate to Him on the Cross – dying – dead – just as a human being, not some impersonal deity on the cross but the Man with his unique personality, as He was well-known to others. Hence His human death on the cross is, for humans, the gate into personal communion with God.
Jesus Christ, being the ideal Man, is the ultimate model of what a human being is supposed to be. This sentence of course is “nothing” or even a subject of mockery for many. Still, one can attempt to imitate Christ as his ideal; one can simply do nothing with Him via removing Him as a point of reference; or one can do everything possible to be not like Him. While the middle case, indifference, does nothing as the reflection of Christ, the first and the last work like positive and negative images which cannot exist without reference to the original. I wonder if Bowie’s fans notice that he acknowledges that despised ideal by his works, his life, and his death. He does it via his progressive embodiment of all that ideal is not. And, while it is usually not so impressive when an artist does it in his art only (there is plenty of such art) or even when an artist styles himself as “the Beast” (again, there is no lack of them around) it is very impressive if one does so with his own death. And not just does so, but does it perfectly, with meticulous attention to detail, without “screwing it up” like Mishima for example who had glorified the aesthetics of death in his writings and yet screwed up his harakiri (that immediately rendered Mishima human).
I find it absolutely astonishing that the man, just a few hours before his own death, issued his last message to the world saying in effect “God is the last thing I want to hear about”. It is stunning not so much because of its content but because of its “artistic form”. Truly, if someone is dying simply cursing God, literally, with own words, it is nothing compared with the postmodernist subtleties as it was done by Bowie. To swear at God is humane because it can be an expression of rage, despair, whatever but it is the personal expression, from a man to God, even in curses. God the Person would “easier” bear personal curses than an impersonal message, not because He is “proud” but because for Him to get a human being to address Him directly, even via curses, is the only way to save him.
However, I rushed ahead. I must return to my previous thought, that Bowie was progressively incarnating all that Christ is not. It is too simply said. Bowie’s activity was quiet complex and imaginative; it had three stages but their boundaries are extremely blurred.
Roughly speaking, first he creates multiple personas, utilising attributes of Christ and perverting them. It is the stage of “Ziggy”, “aliens”, “thin white dukes” etc. This is still quite a fleshy state i.e. the personas are quite carnal and their author as well. With time though Bowie’s personal features would blend more and more with those of each persona but the final product would still have some reference to the humanity of the author. This is the stage of incarnating the pseudo-Christ, on a primitive level, until he and the pseudo-Christ are one.
Then Bowie begins “upgrading” pseudo-Christ = himself to the next level, via his own depersonalisation. He disperses and erases himself via his collage techniques and other postmodernist methods of mutually excluding statements and references. He created worlds where any attempt to find the real creator is doomed because the reflections of the reflections are endless. In the ‘Next Day’ it went to the extreme and marks, in my mind the end of the self-depersonalisation/ dehumanisation of the author.
One may ask for which purpose Bowie bothered to destroy something he had been building for so many years of his life, most of his life actually. I think it was simply the natural result of the spiritual evolution of Bowie. It appears to me that at some point he understood that by “giving his flesh” to the pseudo-Christ he actually affirms the existence of the original. His pseudo-Christ could only be destroyed via self-depersonalisation and this is what I believe he did. However, the destruction of pseudo-Christ was only the prelude to the next and the ultimate stage, “the final and certain” destruction of God.
I am speculating of course but to me it looks like Bowie understood the fundamentals about God, that He can be “killed” via the destruction of the human-person-and-the-Person, i.e. the relationship between the human person and God. Christian mystics know, via their communion with God, what God is and, as a consequence, what evil is (what is its true nature); Bowie understood something important (albeit quiet twisted) about God via his communion with the-evil.
“The worst thing” he could do to God was to deny Him any possibility of rescuing him via denying any possibility of the relationship; it is so for several reasons including that God is Love and Love wants to save all and to love all. This is why he first completely depersonalized himself and then, in his carefully planned exit, attempted to depersonalize God. First he broke the mirror (albeit crooked) and then attempted to render its creator nothing, giving a very impacting sign: “see how cool I am: I do not have any fear of death because I finished my de-incarnation/ depersonalisation; it is not “God” who will choose the moment of my death – I am; God is so non-existent that it is shameful to refer to Him directly; the last word is mine; I AM.”
The whole affair was and is very public. Bowie attempted publically render God nothing making his “Twitter statement” a part of the gnostic Gospel which is the perversion of the original, of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. I wonder if anyone noticed that he issued his album on Friday and died on Sunday. The album mocks Christ on Friday when He died; the mocker dies on Sunday when Christ is resurrected, giving life to all. Bowie’s death is actually gnostic resurrection, the long-awaited freedom of the spirit from the body so there is no incoherency here. The timing is suspiciously perfect. It may be even said that such perfection could not be accidental – even if it was I think Bowie would not like his followers to think so, because of the symbolism of its timing and because it is the expression of self-will to the extreme.
Here just are a few examples which demonstrate how much the brilliance of the Bowie’s play depends on the real Passion play: his life-long de-incarnation is a counterpart of Christ’s incarnation; his totally inhumane state before death – of the extreme humaness of the Son of Man on the cross; his dehumanizing/ depersonalizing God – of Christ’s cry on the cross “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”.
I feel the need to provide here the “abstract” of Bowie activity restating the key-points of its metaphysical plot:
- First he created, reflected in his many personas, pseudo-Christ, and then blended all of them with himself. This is “the stage of seduction”, the good is constantly mixed with evil thus the evil was made attractive/ desirable via adding to it the “beautiful”; good and anything without a tint of rot consequently began looking “boring” and old-fashioned.
- Next he depersonalized himself, for the sake of the destruction of the pseudo-Christ and for the purely gnostic/ occult purpose of getting rid of own humanity = person. The various postmodernist techniques are the method of choice here; it is already not important that purely good is “boring” or that anything else is anything – everything is relative. This blurring would not be possible without the previous stage.
- Then he attempted to depersonalize God = “to kill God” via careful erasing any traces of his own humanity in the face of his death and the careful staging his final “Passion play”. In his play Bowie utilized absolutely everything he has done before, from his early pseudo-Christ personas (especially transparent in his last two videos) to his later postmodern techniques which were employed to orchestrate it, and, finally, dehumanisation, carried to the extreme, became the climax of it, the tool and the purpose in one. His play depicts the triumph of metaphysical evil over Christ = God, the ultimate impersonal over the Ultimate Person i.e. total zero, nothing as an aftermath.
And so, admirers and critics are left with piles of cross-references among which one may find even stigmata and with the sense that there is something very strange about all that.
Indeed, the notion of death as a work of art is very strange in its inhumanity; if one does not feel it there is something very wrong with that human being then. Actually, I think that Bowie made such a work of art out of himself and his death precisely because he wanted to exclude any possibility of relating to him as a human. An old man dying of cancer causes compassion. A man who is afraid of death also causes compassion. But it is very difficult to feel compassion for something that is not human. This is a very interesting point: usually the humanity of “a leader” helps to transmit the message, so-call charisma. Here we have zero humanity but its very absence, the hole, nothingness, works for the message or perhaps only non-humanity could contain such a message? This I think proves that the message itself is perfectly inhumane, empty, and essentially nothing, just a shadow. For such a message any hint of humanity, even in the face of death, would be detrimental – so he did not give us any or, better to say, the force which used him did not. By saying that there was a force, and evidently not a good one, acting through Bowie, I am not offending the deceased but proposing the reason for compassion, and also the possibility of recovering some sight of his humanity (that immediately would compromise his “play” by the way).
I am both curious and apprehensive to see what will become of all that. Currently some followers “screwing up” the work of Bowie by petitioning God or whom it may concern to “say no to David Bowie dead” i.e. for resurrection; I do not think it was in Bowie’s scheme of things. But perhaps the petitioners know what they are doing because they seem to send their messages to the same “god of Twitter” who was the last thing Bowie added to his list.