‘Want an axe to break the ice/want to come down right now’—David Bowie, “Ashes to Ashes’
I believe in palpable strangeness, Jungian synchronicities and a universe that J. B. S. Haldane characterized as not only stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we can imagine. I put great credence in the inward-out process of gnosis (Valentinus! Valentinus!) that distinct sense of something unimpeachable and a priori gurgling up from within, though often induced by external triggers and encounters. I’m allergic to incoming missiles launched from two-bit bully pulpits. But that might be a trust issue. My father had an authoritarian bent. Maybe I project his prison onto hapless preachers.
Speaking of prisons, in the recent “Valentine’s Day” video we find our anti-hero caged beneath the city in a labyrinth complete with horned Minotaur doing shadow-puppets on the wall. A few years ago, I assembled a gun-brandishing Bowie with that same damned spindly Minotaur (complete with shadow) digging its heels (hooves?) into the ecstasy of the complicit crowd. We must use the same casting agency. We’ll get to the Gospel of John and his view of complicity later in the program. But the Minotaur feeds on the blood of the city’s innocent children as did Adam Lanza’s unconscionable rage. Some analogize it as the id-complex, the beast that lurks within who must be fed in order to maintain the superego ‘surfature’ of civilization. I won’t belabor that here, out of deference to the parents of Newtown and their unimaginable and too-fresh loss, though Bowie appears to be hovering around that ugly American syndrome. He and the Minotaur have enjoyed a long symbiotic relationship. Hell, the Cretan bull goes back almost as far as Coco Schwab. In this modernized version of the myth, the rock god comes to town enticing the children with sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. Dr. Feelgood attends as the tour-physician. During the bacchanalia at the local amphitheatre, the City Fathers sleep blissfully unaware in their beds. The children are sullied and sacrificed. The city is cleansed and preserved.
As if the lineage of stateside gunslingers weren’t enough, Rule Britannia did its own veering out of bounds. We’re fast learning that the sixties ‘Age of Aquarius’ permissiveness bullshit was a pedo-ring subterfuge designed to gain better access to the kiddies, a seedy façade to which Sir Jimmy Savile was the unabashed Patron Saint. Every Teddy Boy had a creepy fey patron. At the moment, the English are desperately trying to avoid a Grand Reconciliation Commission to assess the full impact of what amount to a pop culture hijack for the better part of fifty years. Trouble is, there’s a helluva lot of funny uncles with OBE’s and, well, can anyone name a more lucrative export product in recent memory than the British Invasion?
We covered the gun-guitar parallels on my prior blog entry. The axe only hit me on the back of the head subsequently–and then that bull, stubborn and tenacious fixture in the Bowie canon. When man’s shadow commingles with it, the admixture is a bitch to unwind. Where does man end and bull begin or is the distinction long since lost like a chimera unto death? Either Bowie, or the hoary beast within, is peddling some scandalous parallels. It’s a good thing the music provides a sort of breezy camouflage otherwise people would be coming out of their chairs. Fortunately the jangly bit, all that instrumentation, is where most ears stop.
My last and very recent blog entry also had me pondering the Prince and the Pauper conundrum wherein all pairs of moccasins cause blisters. Of course people resist this easy antidote to envy. They want desperately to trade places with the other guy (a pale surrogate for our underlying death-wish: the blessed cessation of existence itself). Those ostensibly ‘on top with everything’ are quite possibly the most tormented of all because, well, they have everything and if you’ve ever had even just a little bit of everything, it can feel far less than nothing at all. Talk about the labyrinthine walls closing in. Of course the Prince and the Pauper is a degradation of the Damocles/Dionysius myth, the sword of responsibility held eternally aloft. The influential must bear this added burden which can make the wealth of small nations feel like chump change. The universe makes sure nothing is free.
That’s why, seeing an axe hovering over Bowie’s head in the recent video (balanced by a bullet-severed guitar string?), I had what can only be described as a Crazy Eights epiphany. It recalled for me his King of Diamonds series of photos from the 1970-71 era (see below). Now, even an occult tourist like me knows the King of Diamonds is more than the functionary figurehead in a hand of Blackjack. The following extended description arrives by way of Occult View (Copyright 2011):
The King of Diamonds is the only king card shown in profile. In addition, the King of Diamonds does not carry a sword as the three other kings, but an axe. Why these differences? What is special about this card? I have a theory. The King of Diamonds does not represent Julius Caesar, but the Norse God Odin!
1. The Rune-Ing.
A diamond is the shape of a rune, the Elder Futhark’s 22nd rune “ingwaz” or ing. The meaning of this rune is the Norse god Ingwaz, or Freyr. As the 22nd rune, 2+2 equal the 4 sides of the diamond’s shape. If the diamond actually does represent a rune, what other Norse symbolism is in the diamond cards?
When Bowie was age fifteen, his friend George Underwood, wearing a ring on his finger, punched him in the left eye during a fight over a girl. Bowie was forced to stay out of school for eight months so that doctors could conduct operations in attempts to repair his potentially-blinded eye.
2. Odin the One-Eyed God
In Norse mythology, Odin discovered the runes by sacrificing one of his eyes in exchange for the wisdom of runes. Thereafter he was the one-eyed god. The King of Diamonds has one eye and is gazing at the diamond shaped rune. His hand is raised towards the diamond rune, as if offering it to us. His other eye is hidden from view, for if it was shown eyeless the meaning of the king as Odin would be obvious.
3. The Spear Gungnir
The king cards all hold swords except for the Diamond King. In Norse mythology, Odin’s weapon was not a sword but the spear Gungnir. The King of Diamonds has an axe instead of a sword…a shaft of wood with a blade at the end, which could be a stylized version of Odin’s spear Gungnir. Why have symbols of Odin offering the invention of runes to humanity? I suspect the designer used Norse mythology to make a specific point. The diamond is also a Masonic symbol used in scared geometry, and this symbolism really feels Masonic in nature.
Esoteric knowledge came at a cost, especially in the past. Historically those who did not follow the doctrines of church and state were severely persecuted (heathen, one might call them -ed) . One could lose far more than an eye…it was truly dangerous. Heresy! The King of Diamonds as a pagan god offering runes means unsanctioned, unconventional or non-Christian concepts. Hence only one side of the king’s face is shown, his public side. The other side, maimed and eyeless, is the side seeking freedom of thought and freedom from authority. And secretly offering it to those who seek the same.
Thank you, Occult View for that revealing explanation. I’m struck by the transactional implications of the last sentence. Yes, the Offeror is a False teacher. However the Offerees are no less implicated. We’re back to the most ill-fitting word in the rock lexicon: responsibility.
2 John 1:10-11 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.
Here I go skirting back to Christian apologetics. It must be a nervous tic. False Teaching imparts knowledge antithetical to Christian teaching. Note: the knowledge is not false, necessarily, but simply antithetical to Christianity. And this is where I feel many multi-occulti’s commit a crucial error. They make the mistake of throwing in with antithetical knowledge, conflating truth-content with the desired path. There are nasty little bits of truth strewn about everywhere. That’s why truth-seeking, far from being laudable in all cases, can get you into deep shit fast without some overarching spiritual manifest. That’s also how ranging intellect can run afoul in the spirit-biz. Seek grace not truth. Channeling Haldane again, I would not disbelieve that there are scores of entities and spirits floating around for purposes that lie beyond our comprehension. Indeed the Bible repeatedly acknowledges the reality of spirits and lesser beings. The point is things can be unsavory and existent at the same time. So you say your Ouija board works and has guided you to untold riches? How did sheer efficacy get to the head of the class? The proof is not always in the pudding. You are partaking of forces unseen, unannounced and of unknowable intent.
The King does not have agency over the axe. It floats behind and above his head. The occult cannot be controlled and can in fact unseat or ‘discard’ the magician du jour. The spurned adept may resort to ever more lurid appeals in order to win back the favors of the axe. Then too, the Otherness can ritualistically disavow the adept if only to show who is boss. One can easily lose one’s head over an errant floating axe. Yes, I’m back to the Mad King trope. The axe cannot be brandished. It can only be summoned, conjured or appealed to: Want an axe to break the ice. Thus it is not so much an overtly wielded weapon as a vague instrumentality beholden to the universe within which human agency becomes but a fleeting, Promethean transgression. The axe is a silent gun. The guitar emits a disembodied, otherworldly wail. The gun is a death-wish first turned on others, then on ourselves. Things don’t end well for the King of Diamonds. But then, things don’t end well for all of us, at least on this side of the transaction. I find myself gazing on with awe and weird dread as Bowie sticks to his guns, barreling right on through the next day and doubling down on a killer hand. Fellow gunslingers and inquiring minotaurs want to now: is he sticking to them or have the affinities of a lifetime glued them in place?