The song Quicksand from David Bowie’s album Hunky Dory is loaded with occult references and metaphors that reveal the musicians own relationship to mysticism.
Today I asked an online friend, who we will call Mirabella, what she thought the following lyrics from the song were about:
“Don’t believe in yourself, don’t deceive with belief; knowledge comes with deaths release.”
Mirabella’s responses were:
“Life doesn’t matter a shit, have fun, have as much of it as you can.”
“I take it to mean don’t take stuff too seriously, death is final that is the knowledge.”
Even though I am only working from my own interpretation, I am absolutely certain that the song was not intended by Bowie to be a lighthearted endorsement of nihilistic hedonism as my friend had implied.
I could easily debunk that theory of the song with the examination of a single line, but what fun would that be? Instead, I am going to deconstruct the entire song for my own entertainment and hopefully yours. There will be an even bigger message about modern art and thought at the end. But before we start…
I’m closer to the Golden Dawn
Immersed in Crowley’s uniform
The Golden Dawn is a system of magic from late 19th century Britain which sought to endow it’s users with supernatural understanding and capabilities through a wide plethora of knowledge, rituals and methods. One of the ways they did this was through communication with the ‘Secret Chiefs’ – transcendent beings who possess knowledge of all realms of existence. A state that a human might aspire to become via magical means.
Suffice it to say the Heremetic Order of the Golden Dawn did not place as much value in the life/death dichotomy as Mirabella does.
Aleister Crowley was a poet, mountain climber, philosopher, inventor and one time member of the Golden Dawn. An image in a popular tarot card, The Magician, is often thought to be one of Crowley. In tarot the magician is dressed in one garment symbolizing purity and innocence, and another symbolizing experience and knowledge. The magician embodies these dualities in order to dissolve them, in the same way magic is a way of overcoming the life/death dichotomy in order to be transformed into something greater.
So again, in just those first three lines Bowie has referenced ideas that are opposed to the modern materialists life/death dichotomy and the nihilism that follows it, and has cast himself in the role of a magician trying to break free from that duality.
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