While researching Michael Jackson, his music, lyrics and body of work I discovered something remarkable. In fact, I discovered many remarkable things in this journey with Michael. In this space, I would like to share some of those discoveries.
I claim no authority about Michael’s work. Michael Jackson’s work is its own authority and is of course, in the ‘eyes of the beholder’ but that is exactly the point. My musings come from my training and background which is spiritual, shamanic, mythical, mystical and metaphysical and from being trained in observation. So of course, that is the focus. I found the work to be glaring in its complexity and richness and stunning in its depth. And I am in awe of this genius who walked among us and so generously shared his gifts. I leave you to form your own conclusions…
In all traditions of Shamanism, there are worlds within worlds. The world that we perceive with our five senses is only the surface of the entire reality of creation. Most of us live everyday life in this mostly superficial reality where we only believe what we can verify with the senses. There is more; much more.
Shamanic traditions are a part of every culture and continent in the world. They speak commonly of three levels or worlds. Shamans have various names for these worlds depending on the tradition but for simplicity sake, we will call them the general names of: the lower world, middle world and upper world.
Tolkien, for example, knew of these alternative realities and in the epic Lord of the Rings he wrote of Middle Earth. Other realities are depicted in films like Harry Potter, Star Wars and even Avatar.
The middle world of the shaman is a kind of mirror of this world, while the upper world and lower worlds have their own kind of landscapes and features. Remarkably, when Michael Harner of The Institute for Shamanic Studies did exit interviews with hundreds of his students after their journeys, he found their descriptions of the three worlds very similar. So it appears Shamans’ worlds have common landscapes and features.
Some traditions call these three realities cauldrons. The three cauldrons also correspond to the human chakra system: The sacral chakra relates to the lower world, the heart chakra to the middle world and the third eye or brow chakra and above relates to the upper world.
People whose lower chakra is open and dominant are solidly grounded in the material world. Their orientation and primary way of being is physicality and living solidly anchored in the body with all its pains and pleasures.
Middle chakra people live in their heart and emotions. They live in a world animated by feelings and their perceptions come from that place.
People who spend their time in the upper worlds are spiritually oriented. They perceive from that space of observation and devotion.
What is interesting about Michael Jackson’s music, is that his lyrics and sound impacts all three worlds and the three parts of the human. He wrote songs that appeal to all three of these worlds. His sensuality, the sexual overtones and songs about physical love and relationships corresponds to the sacral chakra and the people who live primarily in physicality.
His ballads and songs of healing the world, brotherhood and agape love appeal to the heart, to emotional and social issues and are middle world. The emotional seat of the human responds to the love vibe in those lyrics and songs as they tear the heartstrings.
And the spirituality of his lyrics and songs can be found in all of his work, however, they are prominent in particular songs. They are especially evident in Michael’s work in Ghosts with its Is That Scary for You and Too Bad.
The miracle of those songs and lyrics is that they impact people on all three levels so they appeal to everyone. And that is the magic of Michael Jackson and his universal appeal. You can witness that multi-level enchantment in his concerts, his films, his songs and lyrics– in all of his work. It was genius because Michael’s work appealed to people wherever they live. His music and videos held something for everyone. Everybody got his message on their own level. Michael is not the first teacher in human history to do that. In some circles they called this communication: parable. Michael Jackson was also a sound shaman, and vocal shaman using sounds and voice to convey message.
In this space, we will journey together through the lyrics, music and films that comprises the art of Michael Jackson. You may just be surprised. The journey will begin soon. Four… three…two…one…
More about Michael’s work:
Author Joe Vogel released his “Man in the Music” book about Michael Jackson’s body of work and his life of music making. Here is my review and a link to Joe’s website:
I felt like an amateur archeologist who donning my iconic Harrison Ford hat, came along for an adventurous dig in a modern ‘valley of the king.’ Joe Vogel is a guide to unearthing ‘marvelous things’ from within a more modern tomb of work all but buried under the shifting sands of tabloid opinion and caricature. He reveals treasure in that previously desert landscape revealing a fountain of information in this refreshing definitive work examining Michael Jackson’s musical legacy.
I didn’t know I thirsted for this amazing knowledge and understanding of a confusing and confounding man who was both iconic figure and sculptor of contemporary history—until I was quenched of it by Joe Vogel. The story of Michael Jackson, ever a mystery, remains unsolved and unresolved for many. This book is the answer to that question that modernity may not realize it has asked: “Who was this man, this Michael Jackson?” Man in the Music answers that perhaps unvoiced but haunting question.
Similarly to Tutankhamen, this excavation of treasure hidden in plain sight in the landscape of music royalty ironically parallels the revealing of another historical mask in yet another time with another boy king. Ironic too, it “unmasks” the genius of Michael Jackson. The long dry spell ends with the excavation of a rich and opulent musical prowess and library. This heretofore unrevealed and buried treasure intrigues, baffles and boggles the mind. Joe Vogel shoulders our naiveté like a knapsack, shrugs and treks onward, a true tour guide and historian taking us to and far beyond the threshold of this trove.
Dusting off layers and layers of misconceptions and assumptions about the mystery man, Michael Jackson, he dares to reveal the shiny boy king and later, undisputed king of a musical genre. He helps us to remove the cobwebs and of indifference and assumption to unearth the real treasure beneath those descriptors of “icon” and “king of pop.”
Anyone who reads this serious academic work, Man in the Music, will find it difficult to see Michael Jackson ever in the same way, and even more difficult to dismiss him as simply a “pop singer” or “entertainer” as much of the world did before. Jackson once said “I attempt to bind my music to my soul” and Joe Vogel shows us, in this epic tome, just how he did exactly that. Vogel reveals the soul of the soul of Michael Jackson.
This is not merely a simple biography or story woven to capitalize or celebrate a man in his time. This is a book for all time that tells a compelling story of genius and how it not only inhabits but drives a man. There is no doubt the reader, exhausted and satiated by the hard work of Michael Jackson and the equivalency by Vogel, will come away with a much different view of the music and the man, the twentieth century and even, perhaps, the world.
This is a work that will predictably stand for all time providing a scholar’s view—ripe and juicy, of the man, the music and the creative artist who impacted a culture like no other. It speaks to the genius that informs it—in a striking body of work left behind by the twentieth century’s iconic song and dance man.
Nothing is trite or contrived about Man in the Music. The depth of this work stuns as does the work ethic and genius of a man who was not recognized in his lifetime. It’s an ancient myth and the old story of how genius is right before our eyes while we are so distracted by our own projections, that we lose sight of the gift given to enhance the times in which it was birthed and shared.
Vogel shows us not only how Jackson astounds and confounds, but how he views the world as broken and in need of reform while he begs the culture to fix it. Jackson pushes, he angers, he is sarcastic and ironic. Instead of making fun of the emotionality of Jackson and his music as others have in the past, Vogel examines and shows us how to embrace it. The contradictions of the man and the music are front and center in this work, not glossed over and avoided in favor of distractions or speculations of his personal life.
We are taken on an intimate journey through the art and deep into the mind of the artist. We learn of his prowess in musicality, the pathos that informs it, the intuition that accesses it, and the talent that conveys it. We hear from those who worked with Jackson and what they thought and what they learned as a result. We understand the man better through the process of the music that belongs to him and to the world. Beloved and mourned worldwide, we glimpse the reasons for this and for his iconic status.
This is not the perspective of a tabloidist or a fan, although it is obvious that Vogel admires Jackson’s work; this volume is a thoroughly researched and thoughtful, as it turns out—history of an artist at his craft. It showcases a craft itself that moves beyond the mere visage of Jackson and his music and deposits us more awake yet spent, at the soul of each. We learn that classical music informed much of Jackson’s craft at that relegating him to a definition of “pop artist” does not cover his body of work and the realization that Jackson’s voice was truly an instrument capable of being not just a whole orchestra but a whole planet.
We hear from Jackson’s contemporaries and collaborators and of the respect they held for the depth and height of his talent as musician and artist. We travel through his catalogue with a retrospective look at where and how his gift of music chronicles history and the times Jackson grew up in—that define the lives and times we all grew up in or may still be growing up in.
Vogel broadens our perspective and our world with this more-than-cursory glance and insider’s look around Jackson’s world of art and the world he and his music inhabited, the world it informed and the world it changed. By showing us the artiste` that we may have missed, Joe forces us to look not only at Jackson in a new way, but the world itself, and ultimately ourselves—to the place where we and the “Man in the Mirror” live. This itinerary is a journey and a deep excavation; I’m not sure any of us should miss this dig.
~ Rev. B. Kaufmann
Joe Vogel’s website: http://www.joevogel.net/