The world has not been the same since the passing of David Bowie. His artistic output was unmatched, and he’s regarded as one of the most important figures in the world of art and pop, but how much of that had to do with his connection to the occult? Throughout his career, David Bowie used pieces of chaos magic, gnosticism, and paganism to craft a densely layered artistic persona that remains just as mysterious now as it was in the 70s.
Bowie’s interest in the arcane arts dates back to the 60s when he briefly flirted wit Buddhism. However, as the years went on he became more interested in dark magicians like Aleister Crowley, and the unsettling teachings of Russian occultist Madame Blavatsky. By the 80s he’d moved on from Crowleyism, but that doesn’t mean that Bowie stopped practicing all forms of magick.
Continue reading to find out just how magical Bowie really was, and how he used the occult to become the greatest pop star the world's ever seen.
According to author Chris O'Leary, David Bowie's spiritual quest began long before he started writing songs. In the 60s he allegedly tried to join a Buddhist monastery but was dissuaded by a monk who insisted that he would make a better musician. While he mostly crafted cosmic stories in the beginning of his carrer, the singer's interests took a turn for the occult when he started crafting dark pop songs in the late 60s. In the year between Space Oddity (1969) and The Man Who Sold The World (1970) something cracked open in the singer. Rather than singing about characters disappearing into the outer realms of space, Bowie looked inward with a newfound interest in gnosticism. The Man Who Sold The World is filled with songs referencing Nietzsche and forbidden knowledge, two interests that would define Bowie's output throughout the 70s.
David Bowie is regarded as one of the most successful and authentic musicians of all time. His work flits between genres, and even at its most obtuse his music never loses its brilliant pop sheen. What many people don't realize is that his success is due in part to the way he intertwined his occult beliefs into his songwriting process and his life. Even on his final album, Blackstar, his occult beliefs were on full display. Each of his albums reference the occult in one way or another, with the overarching theme of much of his early work being his belief in gnosticism, or transcendence reached by looking into yourself to find a personal religious experience.
Bowie had a collection of mutating, occult interests over the course of his life, but his main passions were the Kabbalah, otherwise known as Jewish mysticism, and the work of English occultist Aleister Crowley. Known as the "wickedest man in the world," Crowley pioneered a form of chaotic sex magick that shocked Victorian England and inspired everyone from L. Ron Hubbard to The Beatles and Bowie, who listed Crowley as one of his main inspirations. On page 279 of Sean Egan's Bowie on Bowie: Interviews and Encounters with David Bowie, the singer explained, "My overriding interest was in Kabbalah and Crowleyism. That whole dark and rather fearsome never-world of the wrong side of the brain." Aside from using the teachings of Crowley to guide his artistry, Bowie dressed up like the magician in a series of photo shoots, specifically taking on Crowley's spooky Egyptian look
Dion Fortune was an English occultist who disseminated a philosophy rooted in psychic warfare that she claimed was taught to her by a group known as the "Ascended Masters." Throughout the 70s Bowie kept a copy of her book Psychic Self Defense on him at all times and her work even inspired him to wear a silver cross while living in LA. He began wearing the cross while filming The Man Who Fell To Earth, which was while he was deep in the throes of cocaine psychosis, and continued to do so through the ragged sessions for Station to Station.