Saturday, March 21, 2009
Understanding David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes
David Bowie’s 1980’s song and video Ashes to Ashes is a classic dream journey and understanding it will explain the fundamentals of a “journey into the Unconscious.” It is a mythical journey fraught with psychological danger; the one who will survive is the one who can see – and walk – “as a child.” C.G. Jung pointed out that this must be as a child sees, not like a child sees. It often becomes a kind of infantilism; one acts like a child to avoid adulthood and responsibility. But not Bowie. He feels first broken and afraid – “no money, no hair” – useless to the world even with his material and celebrity success. And now he is genuinely afraid, because he is receiving a “call form the Unconscious. He has received a call form the “action man” – “oh not, say it’s not true.” He understands the danger of the dream journey, which causes madness to the artist who actually enters the Unconscious. You should look at this video as telling two story is: The pictures tell one story as a painting or a children’s folk tale tells a story. The words tell another story. For the mythical dream journey, the words are irrelevant. Entering the Unconscious actualizes different region of the psyche; words fail there as the artist enters a kind of trance. The artist follows Anima; the female inner spirit – much as Neo in the Matrix followed the girl with the white rabbit tattoo. Bob Dylan in “Visions of Johanna” and John Lennon - “The girl with kaleidoscope eyes” - in “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” both follow Anima into the deep part of the Unconscious where the artist jewels are (Lennon finds an eight-pointed star; a BaGua - in this case an approximation of SELF as well). These two, with Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes are among the most profound of artistic expression of that period. Anima brings Bowie to the Earth Mother herself – the spirit of the earth. He enters “as a child” dressed for the journey in clown suit. Remarkably – better even than in the Dylan and Lennon pieces, he encounters the Three Sisters; the essence of yin consciousness. This runs parallel to the German folk tale – and many others – of the Rhine Maidens – another aspect of the Three Sisters archetype; they tempt the adept to the bottom of the river – the Unconscious: that is where the gold nuggets are. But only the artist may go there and in during so, the artist, reflecting Bowie’s frustration at the beginning on “sordid details” of love, loses the gift of love. And Siegfried, the external warrior - the extrovert - is warned away.
Loki, however, he of the flaming red hair; the Trickster, prototype for the artist, who can be seen as a prototype of Bowie the artist, dangles his toe in the water with the Rhine women.
The story is conspicuously about drugs but that is irrelevant to the inner story. It is the journey into the Unconscious which is causing him fear and trepidation. The earth mover plows through and eventually ballerina and the Three Sisters lead him to SELF; the core of human psyche. The use of drugs with these three at first drops away the normal external reality and the artist finds ability to enter there. But it is irrelevant to the actual journey. Here though is what makes the artist: Many took drugs, but only these three and a few others found their way to the SELF. As with the Surrealists, these are extremely private and conservative stories; little windows to God, said Marie Louis von France, hiding in distraction to dissuade the uninitiated.