Friday, February 12, 2016

The Supernatural Power We Call Fame

Sometimes the strangest revelations can come from the most unlikely quarters.

Dave Stewart was one half of the 80s Synthpop hit machine Eurythmics, and has also done a lot of work as a producer and soundtrack artist, working with a number of high-profile artists and on various films and TV shows.

He's not exactly a button-down kind of guy but he's not Marilyn Manson either. So you can imagine I was a bit surprised to read this the other day:
Dave Stewart — one-half of ’80s duo Eurythmics with Annie Lennox, who’s gone on to collaborate with Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan and Katy Perry — says that since 1979 his body’s been inhabited by another being, who’s written all his songs. 
“I had a huge car crash in Germany ...I had many different [operations],” Stewart told a gobsmacked Rosanna Scotto and Greg Kelly on “Good Day New York.” 
“I died on the operating table, I flatlined, in about 1979, and somebody else slipped into my body, which is called a walk-in ...That’s the name when that happens,” Stewart matter-of-factly told the hosts. “ 
From then on, I’ve been somebody else. I am completely not me. I’m speaking on behalf of Dave, but I am somebody else who has written hundreds and thousands of songs.”
Now I've seen everything: Dave Stewart is claiming to be a Walk-In.

Oddly enough I watched The X-Files Walk-In bonanza, "Sein Und Zeit" the night before I read this article. There's nothing particularly synchronistic about that; me watching "Sein Und Zeit" just means it's a day in a week.

I thought the story was particularly interesting in the wake of the Super Bowl when Beyonce Knowles performed in "Sasha Fierce" mode, the alter ego she claimed to have created, or claims created her.

Beyonce introduced the world to Sasha Fierce with the album named in her alter ego's honor, but it appears that her imaginary friend was not actually created for the occasion and had in fact been lurking in the shadows all along, or at least since 2003. 

What she described sounded very much like possession. Did she create this character or summon her?

“When I see a video of myself on stage or TV I’m like, ‘Who is that girl?’.  That’s not me, I wouldn’t dare do that.” – Beyoncé Interview, September 2003. 
“I created my stage persona to protect myself, so that when I go home, I don’t have to think about what it is I do. Sasha isn’t me.” – Beyoncé, Parade Magazine, December 2006 
“I wouldn’t like Sasha if I met her offstage.”– Beyoncé, Parade Magazine, 2006. 
“I have someone else that takes over when it’s time for me to work and when I’m on stage, this alter ego that I’ve created that kind of protects me and who I really am”.– Beyoncé Press Statement, October 2008. 
“I have created an alter ego: things I do when performing I would never do normally. I reveal things about myself that I wouldn’t do in an interview.” – Beyoncé, Marie Claire interview, October 2008. 
“I have out-of-body experiences [on stage]. If I cut my leg, if I fall I don’t even feel it. I’m so fearless, I’m not aware of my face or my body.” – Beyoncé, Marie Claire interview, October 2008.

But again, we saw the allegedly-dead Sasha Fierce character alive and well, in her trademark black leather and gold, at the Super Bowl 
(Beyonce previously claimed to have "killed" her), whatever you might think of the mash that was unleashed during that poorly-conceived halftime spectacle.*

But as fate would have it, Beyonce wasn't the only performer who claims to be hosting another entity performing at the SuperBowl.

Chris Martin of Coldplay claims to be gloriously possessed by the demonic shade of legendary serial killer Gilles de Rais, and upon every full moon he bathes in the blood of, wait.

Sorry. Working off some incorrect information there.

Lady Gaga claims to be possessed by the spirit of her dead aunt, a spirit-transference that allegedly occurred in the womb:
"Poker Face’ singer Lady Gaga thinks she’s the reincarnated spirit of her dead aunt. The 24-year-old star thinks that her creativity comes from her late aunt Joanne, who transferred her spirit into her mother Cynthia’s womb. 'My father’s sister Joanne died when she was 19 and he was 16. And when my mother was engaged to marry my father, they were staying in his house, where he grew up, and a light came into the room and touched her stomach and went away,'  
So there's that. And as we read about way back when a woman claimed that Gaga was keeping the spirit of her dead daughter captive. Hyperbole? Metaphor? Read this:
"A still-grieving mom says her late daughter inspired Lady Gaga on her path to superstardom, and wants the 'Poker Face' pop icon to give the tragic teen her due. 
"Yana Morgana is seeking the rights to release the dozen or so songs her daughter, Lina, recorded with Gaga -- then Stefani Germanotta -- before Lina committed suicide at age 19.

"And she wants the 'Paparazzi' princess to acknowledge it was Lina Morgana's dark, edgy style that helped create Lady Gaga. 'I'm doing this because I want to keep her spirit alive,' Yana, 41, told The Post. "Lady Gaga is holding Lina's soul, and I want her soul to be free."

"'Lina had that style. Gaga had a different style. She changed dramatically overnight,' Yana said. "Within a year of their collaboration, Lina jumped to her death from the roof of a 10-story hotel on Staten Island. About a month after the October 2008 suicide, Germanotta became Lady Gaga, took the music industry by storm and spawned an army of fans she dubbed her 'little monsters.'

'Tyler Schwab, Lina's ex-boyfriend, said he was stunned the first time he saw a Gaga video. It was the same style, the same look, the same music, the same voice, the same jaw line -- the way they expressed themselves,' said Schwab. 'And I was like, "Is that Lina?" It was so, so shocking. It was like looking at a ghost."
As crazy as this may all sound, it's not without precedent in the pop music world. Doors singer Jim Morrison famously claimed to be possessed by the spirit of a Native American shaman. From a interview with Doors co-founder Ray Manzarek:
What was that fateful meeting with Morrison on the beach like? 
We had graduated from film school, and there we were, with no prospects, whatsoever. ...So anyway, Jim was originally going to New York, but for some reason he didn’t. And we ended up running into one another on the beach. Talk about being guided by the better angels of your selves–or, even more so, being guided by the spirit of the dead Indian that was in Jim’s body. It was as if he was saying, “The two of you–psychedelic warriors–have to get together.” 

And when you're talking about the transmigration of souls and what-not, you have the famous example of Aleister Crowley, who claimed to be the reincarnation of French occultist Eliphas Levi, going so far as to catalog the reasons why he in fact was so in the 1911 release Book Four:

1. The date of Eliphas Levi's death was about six months previous to that of Aleister Crowley's birth. The reincarnating ego is supposed to take possession of the foetus at about this stage of development. 
2. Eliphas Levi had a striking personal resemblance to Aleister Crowley's father...
3. Aleister Crowley wrote a play called "The Fatal Force" at a time when he had not read any of Eliphas Levi's works. The motive of this play is a Magical Operation of a very peculiar kind. The formula which Aleister Crowley supposed to be his original idea is mentioned by Levi. We have not been able to trace it anywhere else with such exact correspondence in every detail. 
4. Aleister Crowley found a certain quarter of Paris incomprehensibly familiar and attractive to him. This was not the ordinary phenomenon of the "deja vu", it was chiefly a sense of being at home again. He discovered long after that Levi had lived in the neighbourhood for many years. 
And so on. 

So what, just crazy artist-types being crazy, right? If it's not this it's alien abduction or poltergeists or whatever. Just put them all on some pills and forget about it.

Well, as difficult as it might be for some of us to accept these are exceptional people, who just aren't like you and me. We're talking about people who distinguished themselves in a cut-throat business where 99,999 out of 100,000 people meet with total and complete failure and obscurity. They've displayed a remarkable degree of staying power, which is even more unlikely than getting your name out there in the first place. Millions of people have bought their records and been influenced by their music.

And these are just four artists here; I have no idea how many have very similar experiences who aren't open about them. I suspect there are a quite a few.

I know it's tempting for some to claim they're just "alters" or MONARCH subjects or Illuminati puppets but what that really ends up sounding like is simple sour grapes. 

I'm certainly no fan of either Beyonce or Lady Gaga, but I also wouldn't try to deny their extraordinary talent or diminish the fact that they've exerted an almost-unprecedented amount of control over their own careers.

Is there a spiritual dimension to their success? Is that indeed that elusive X-factor that separates the superstar from the second-string? Fame does seem to be a magical power all its own. I've seen what happens when it leaves the host. It does make you wonder.

What I can say with absolute certainty that what we are witnessing is the power of the irrational, the supernatural, and yes, the occult in the arts. 

The degraded occult symbolism we've seen in pop music over the past several years feels not only like intentional provocation but also very much like a counterpoint to the dominance of the hyper-rational everywhere else.

We wouldn't see so much of it were it not resonating in the culture. It moves product and it gets much sought-after clicks. And that includes all the people who claim to abhor yet can't seem to get enough of it.

In comes down to this: The more we try to push the irrational, the supernatural to the far fringes, the more we try to deny its place in our culture, the greater influence they actually have.

Why? Because they have real power.

And the irrational expresses itself best in art, which ultimately moves the human soul more than math or science will ever dare dream of. And fame itself is a power that seemingly defies the rational.

The term charisma comes from the Greek meaning "a gift from the gods," from the root word kharizesthai, meaning "to show favor to." Once again, those benighted ancients were several steps ahead of us.

So no, it's not too much of a stretch to call fame a super-natural power. It's a gift that seems to be bestowed on so very few of us and of those very few can maintain it. No one can quite figure out how or it would surely have been mass-produced by now. And attempts to do so have always fallen short.

It's certainly no accident then that so many stars have some hint of magic or the supernatural about them, if you just care to look.

*I've read a lot of interpretations of the show but I'm still going with the "militarization of women" theme we seem to be seeing, especially given the fact that the stories about the female militias formed to fight the Islamic State suddenly popped up in the media again this past week.