David Robert Jones, also known as David Bowie, was born January, 8th, 1947 in Brixton, South London, and left his body January, 10th, 2016 in New York, NY. Although born into a working-class family with several members deeply affected by mental illness, and during a post-war period in England, Bowie’s artistic and musical talents, aspirations, and dedication to his crafts would cause him to soar through a vibrant professional, albeit spiritual, life extending for five decades. Bowie surprised the world once again when he died of cancer, which he kept private for years, and his passing occurred just two days after releasing his final album, Blackstar. Bowie lived and died as an artist exploring the realms of life and depths of the psyche/soul.
Many of his fans, including me, believe he changed the world! Bowie’s career navigated and blurred the lines between singer, songwriter, producer, actor, visual artist, and in my opinion, humanitarian. He is known for his stagecraft, musical story-telling genre originally inspired by 1950’s Black American Rock and Roll, and he created audacious theatrical personas like Ziggy Stardust, Major Tom, Alladin Sane, and the Thin White Duke. Bowie’s characters and performances were influenced by Japanese Kabuki; humankind’s missions to outer space; psychology, psychosis, and spirituality; traveling the world; various cultural traditions and archetypes; gender and identity fluidity; exploration of sexuality; art and literature; contemporary artists like Andy Warhol; and much more. Furthermore, Bowie considered himself to be an apolitical social observer witnessing the world and humanity changing over time. He used his art to document and comment on historic, current, and future events as well as patterns and constructs within the human condition.
While I have been a Bowie fan for many years, I have been surprised at how working with him as my Light Figure has touched me so profoundly and has transformed my consciousness in ways my heart has longed for. I feel like my openness to channel Bowie allowed his spirit to swoop in like an angel and help me pick up and place certain pieces of myself back together. I also appreciate that the significance of his presence, preciousness, and meaning to me, is also a mirror of the parts of myself that are resilient, creative healers capable of and primed to use and sculpt pain in productive, skillful, and beautiful ways. The Light Figure project in conjunction with Archetypal Psychology, mandala-making, meditation, unplanned soul-retrieval, shamanism, synchronicities, and much of the reading in both classes, has literally baptized and healed me. I feel like a new version of myself; that is the best way I can describe it. The Heart-Mind Matrix (Pearce; 2010) and Silence: The Mystery of Wholeness (Sardello; 2008) describe preparing one’s self for spiritual openness or entering Silence as an evolutionary and spiritual falling-forward, where the practitioner steps out in faith trusting that a ground will materialize before and underneath them. They also describe such direct experience with trusting Spirit and the unknown as clearing and allowing of one’s self to be moved or breathed into by Spirit. This can also be interpreted as a Eureka! experience, unconflicted behavior, living in constant astonishment, and personal authenticity and genius.
Well, I completely relate to these ideas and language and feel so supported and validated by the living literature taking me deeper into gnosis! In this instance, the synergistic wholeness of me and my work this quarter far exceeds the sum of all the parts or processes I have experienced. In a way, my growth feels magical, but on the other hand, there is also a solid feeling of groundedness within a brave, new reality culminating as a sense of integrated Self and wholeness. Perhaps magic for me is becoming more essential, embodied, real, and awe-inspiring in a centered felt-sense, and less about fantasy and story. Hence, my experience with feeling so rooted and stable, even as I navigate rough, stormy, and strange inner and outer landscapes. I believe I have come to this point on my healing journey because I am ready. The conditions are ripe. I have full faith in my psyche/Soul’s guidance to take me where I need to go in the appropriate timing and to not give me more than I can handle. Consequently, I couldn’t be more happy and grateful because my life has been much harder than I was able to know or express. What humans live and die through amazes me! The tender warrior in me has battled many dark forces, and I am not only surviving, but I am thriving too!
Being shown that Bowie is my Light Figure happened in an interesting, non-linear way. I feel that I chose him and he chose me too. Essentially, this project has been a collaborative, artistic endeavor, auspicious in every way.
Bowie died less than one month after Ray, which was a time of intense mourning for me and for a larger collective. Ray, like Bowie, is/was musically talented and was a creative, audacious innovator. The timeliness of both their passing was both heartbreaking and synchronistic. I started listening to Bowie’s music a lot, feeling his spirit and creativity and connecting that with the replaying of my life with and loss of Ray, and I set out to learn more about Bowie’s life beyond his work too. It is hard to explain, but this time and space with Bowie and Ray felt so alive, sensitive, surreal, painful, exquisite, and contemplative. I felt like I could dive into and swim in my grief; it has been so deep and palpable. Thus far, my journey has been to not hide, to stay present, and to feel everything, and I have, little by little. Working with Bowie and Ray on this project has further concretized parts of my knowing and connections with Spirit. Death is an interesting phenomenon, one I believe is not the end, but is the beginning and or rite of passage into a world of new relationships and dialogues for both the deceased and the living. If anything, this project has taught me how thin, perhaps nonexistent, the veil between worlds and planes of consciousness are. The concept of Oneness is really evolving for me.
As I researched Bowie and learned more about why he was so deeply loved by his fans, many personal accounts state that fans felt individually seen, understood, and loved by Bowie. His music and theatrics seemed to single you out and talk to you. While much of Bowie’s work explores concepts like subjective isolation, his work also seemed to travel beyond the beyond, landing in the fan’s personal experience with the music, letting fans know they are not alone in this existential experience of being a weird and freaky, vulnerable, perhaps hurting, human on planet Earth. I totally relate to this view on his work, have felt him reaching out to share and hold the pain of the human condition with me, and have felt so surprised by the level of communion Bowie and I share. Bowie changed the world and rock and roll, and inspired so many people because he was willing to be unabashed, strange, fluid, flawed, and fragile in front of others. I feel so grateful for his spiritual and energetic generosity and for making spaces to be more fully human, engaged in the nuances and complexities.
Because of this project, I aspire to be more brave, bold, vibrant, sensual, healthy, transformational, powerful, unabashed, and unapologetic in all areas of my life. I know I am a unique individual with purpose, have important services to offer myself and the world, am the flower of my ancestral lineage and sacred fortress for my familial mandala, and I am clearing and cleansing myself so that Spirit can breathe into and move me as it deems necessary. This is warrior work and I’m up for it! My work is to dive into myself, catch the big fish of the unconscious, like Lynch describes, and to allow my unique light to shine. That, I know, is part of my job here on planet Earth and I take that responsibility very seriously. Otherwise, what else is there to do? I also understand that my psyche/Soul guided me to do this work with Bowie because the qualities I love about him are qualities I see and love in me. My work is to cultivate those qualities and be the best, most brilliant me I can be! Know thy self.
Bowie knew himself:
“How many times does an angel fall? How many people lie instead of talking tall? He trod on sacred ground, he cried aloud into the crowd (I'm a black star, I'm a black star, I'm not a gangster). I can't answer why (I'm a black star). Just go with me (I'm not a film star). I'm a take you home (I'm a black star). Take your passport and shoes (I'm not a pop-star). And your sedatives, boo (I'm a black star). You're the flash in the pan (I'm not a marvel star). I'm the great I am (I'm a black star). I'm a black star, way up, on money, I've got game. I see right, so wide, so open-hearted pain. I want eagles in my daydreams, diamonds in my eyes (I'm a black star, I'm a black star)…”
One of the things I love about Bowie is that he was and was not a mensch. He was so eloquently human, dark, flawed, was confrontational and defiant, yet he and his light empowered and lifted others up. Interesting, because these are qualities I really loved in Ray. However, later Bowie was completely clean and sober and was a full-on philanthropist raising awareness and funds for humanitarian projects. Such transformation I always wanted for Ray, but his demons were too strong. I co-dependently longed for Ray to sober up and utilize his talents for the greater good, then I started awakening to the fact that I needed to focus on doing that myself.
As far as Bowie is concerned, for example, just through being himself and making his art, his music is part of the driving spirit which eventually dismantled the Berlin Wall. Again, his humanism and expression reached out to people, helped people retrieve themselves and their souls, I believe, and they felt he was talking to and singing for them. Music is that powerful! And so much that Germany has a reality consensus that his music helped to liberate their nation with the song Heroes, which was about lovers separated by the Wall. Art and music have always been and always will be revolutionary forces generating truth and liberation movements. Now, Bowie never intended on making such waves…but what he did do was allow the Spirit and Muse to use him and move through him. “Never play to the gallery. Never work for other people. Always remember that the initial reason you started working was that there was something inside yourself that you felt, that if you could manifest it in some way, you would understand more about yourself and how you co-exist with the rest of society. I think it’s terribly dangerous for an artist to fulfill other people’s expectations and they generally produce their worst work when they do that.” This explains why Bowie is a mensch in his own rite…and I adore him and the artistic bravery he inspires in me.
Speaking of adoration, my experience with intimacy has evolved in exciting ways, not blatantly, per se, in the spawning of relationships. Although, actually, that has happened! I feel a richer connection and intimacy with myself, with life, and with others. This intimacy does feel very romantic, very pure and kind, very trusting, connected, available and present…it’s lovely. It feels like me and what I am capable of. In the past, I have been what Tatkin refers to as an Island-type, in his book Wired for Love (2010). He codified personality types which are attachment-style-based. Basically, there are Islands, Waves, and Anchors. I came by the island-like tendencies and behaviors honestly through different harms I experienced, and there are even some interesting strengths, creative/artist temperaments and tendencies I developed from being island-like. Now that I am pulling through my dark night, it’s all coming out in the wash and I am learning to be an Anchor.
One big, huge, realization I have learned through the Light Figure project, and from other exercises and materials covered, the Drama Triangle specifically, is that I have been more trapped in the patterns of the Victim or Orphan archetype (Pearson; 1998) than I was aware of. After acting out The Funeral for my final presentation, I was hit with an aha! that I have been possessed with a demonic sense of entitlement that keeps me ruminating in victimhood, sorrow, regret, feelings of unfairness, preoccupation with rejection and abandonment, and more. As soon as the aha! hit, I felt enlightened with healing, insight, energy, joi de vivre, spaciousness and freedom! I felt like I was a Super Mario Brothers character who just ate the magic mushroom, gained a new life, and saved the Princess! Clearly, awareness around entitlement issues, like, ‘how dare the Multiverse for allowing bad things to happen to me,’ especially when I have only experienced a touch of the miseries others live with, will be helpful to me in many ways. Harnessing and transforming this attitude can help me be happier and healthier and can help me develop more intimacy and trust in personal relationships. As a therapist, my awareness will help me better support clients by being a present, authentic, compassionate witness, available to walk with them on their healing journey.
In conclusion, I must speak directly to my friend, angel, inspiration, and Light Figure, David Bowie, who I think is a version of or conduit for Ray, or who I need Ray to be, acting in my Life. Thank you (both) for all you have done for me as I heal and blossom in our collaboration. Thank you for being such audacious, defiant, brilliant, glamorous, loving, eternal light beam soaring through the Cosmos! Thank you for being black stars and for helping me to be the star that I am too! I love and honor you! My commitment is to use this energy to follow my dreams, live to my highest potential, and be of loving, generous service as a therapist, friend, community member, and artist. I still need you, so please stick with and lucidly dream with me—we’ll go places and do magical things together! It's going to be awesome!