I'm closer to the Golden Dawn
Immersed in Crowley's uniform
Of imagery
I'm living in a silent film
Portraying Himmler's sacred realm
Of dream reality
I'm frightened by the total goal
Drawing to the ragged hole
And I ain't got the power anymore
No, I ain't got the power anymore

I'm the twisted name on Garbo's eyes
Living proof of Churchill's lies, I'm destiny
I'm torn between the light and dark
Where others see their targets, divine symmetry
Should I kiss the viper's fang?
Or herald loud the death of Man
I'm sinking in the quicksand of my thought
And I ain't got the power anymore

Don't believe in yourself, don't deceive with belief
Knowledge comes with death's release
Aah-aah, aah-aah, aah-aah, aah-aah

I'm not a prophet or a stone-age man
Just a mortal with the potential of a superman
I'm living on
I'm tethered to the logic of Homo Sapien
Can't take my eyes from the great salvation
Of bullshit faith
If I don't explain what you ought to know
You can tell me all about it on the next Bardo
I'm sinking in the quicksand of my thought
And I ain't got the power anymore

Don't believe in yourself, don't deceive with belief
Knowledge comes with death's release
Aah-aah, aah-aah, aah-aah, aah-aah

Don't believe in yourself, don't deceive with belief
Knowledge comes with death's release
Aah-aah, aah-aah, aah-aah, aah-aah

Lyrics submitted by ruben, edited by stefanhinz

Quicksand Lyrics as written by David Bowie

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner Chappell Music, Inc.

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Quicksand song meanings
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  • +7
    General CommentThe song is influenced heavily by Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophy of the Overman/Superman (which is actually mentioned in the song "I'm not a prophet or a stone age man; Just a mortal with the potential of a Superman"), as well as philosophy and ideas emanating from Buddhism. Believe it or not, the song is actually a positive, hopeful song.

    Essentially, the song is about moving one's psyche away from that of god-infused egalitarianism, Platonic idealism, asceticism, or any other-worldly idealism or even nihilism and towards that of a purposed existence based on a love of this earth, a love of the world we share, a love for each other, and a love of life at this very moment.

    The song is very much about the death of the idealized view we hold of ourselves in our mind's eye and not so much about an actual physical death. The "belief in yourself" he warns against is that of idealizing yourself in an other-worldy sort of way, which is deceiving and misrepresentative of your true nature. Knowledge comes with the freeing of one's mind from the torments of idealization. Everything else will simply follow after this realization.

    In the end, a human's nature is exactly what it is. It is readily apparent and does not need to be deconstructed. The non-holistic, reductionist qualities of idealistic philosophies can lead to a sickness of the mind (insanity/introversion derived from being neglectful of the whole of being).

    These are some interesting tidbids from the Wikipedia article on the Overman (Ãœbermensch):


    Nietzsche introduces the concept of the Ãœbermensch in contrast to the other-worldliness of Christianity: Zarathustra proclaims the Ãœbermensch to be the meaning of the earth and admonishes his audience to ignore those who promise other-worldly hopes in order to draw them away from the earth.[2][3] The turn away from the earth is prompted, he says, by a dissatisfaction with life, a dissatisfaction that causes one to create another world in which those who made one unhappy in this life are tormented. The Ãœbermensch is not driven into other worlds away from this one.

    The Christian escape from this world also required the invention of an eternal soul which would be separate from the body and survive the body's death. Part of other-worldliness, then, was the denigration and mortification of the body, or asceticism. Zarathustra further links the Ãœbermensch to the body and to interpreting the soul as simply an aspect of the body.

    As the drama of Thus Spoke Zarathustra progresses, the turn to metaphysics in philosophy and Platonism in general come to light as manifestations of other-worldliness, as well. Truth and nature are inventions by means of which men escape from this world. The Ãœbermensch is also free from these failings.

    The death of God and the creation of new values

    Zarathustra ties the Ãœbermensch to the death of God. While this God was the ultimate expression of other-worldly values and the instincts that gave birth to those values, belief in that God nevertheless did give life meaning for a time. God is dead means that the idea of God can no longer provide values. With the sole source of values no longer capable of providing those values, there is a real danger of nihilism.

    Zarathustra presents the Ãœbermensch as the creator of new values. In this way, it appears as a solution to the problem of the death of God and nihilism. Because the Ãœbermensch acts to create new values within the moral vacuum of nihilism, there is nothing that this creative act would not justify. Alternatively, in the absence of this creation, there are no grounds upon which to criticize or justify any action, including the particular values created and the means by which they are promulgated.

    In order to avoid a relapse into Platonic Idealism or asceticism, the creation of these new values cannot be motivated by the same instincts that gave birth to those tables of values. Instead, they must be motivated by a love of this world and of life. Whereas Nietzsche diagnosed the Christian value system as a reaction against life and hence destructive in a sense, the new values which the Ãœbermensch will be responsible for will be life-affirming and creative."
    rog27on October 07, 2009   Link
  • +5
    General CommentThis song is both existetialist and Thelemic. I also agree with Stairwaytoheaven's idea of the songwriter's cyclical thought process. This song describes Bowie's wrestling with new Thelemic ideas and reconciling them with his past beliefs.

    The entire first stanza referrs blantantly to Crowley and the horror of the final goal of Thelemic teaching: to remove all shred of one's ego and reduce the psyche to first hyperawareness, then unawareness, then re-awareness, through a process referred to only as "crossing the Abyss". This is a process not unlike descent into schitzophrenia (and indeed, some Thelemites have been reported as having attempted the final goal and gone insane instead) and it's completely understandable why he would be frightened by it.

    The idea of "a mortal with potential of a superman" is totally Thelemic. Thelemites believe every man and woman can become a god, if they are able to properly discipline their minds and cross the Abyss.

    The chorus (or refrain, I suppose) seems to be a sort of counterpoint to this thinking. He is telling himself not to worry about it so much, that things will work out after death. But he continues to contemplate, and worry about the state and potential of his soul, and the cycle continues. Thus he's sinking in the quicksand of his thought, piling the concepts onto his mind, churning them until he can barely hold his head above the surface.
    Aliceloveon February 27, 2006   Link
  • +5
    General CommentThis song is one of the most intelligent and complex Bowie wrote.

    First, I don't think it can be that easily be linked with a philosphy, neither existensialism or nihilism. It can't be seen as buddistic or occult neither, it's just a big mix of all of these theories and spiritualities.

    First, for what is of the philosophies, it's important not to use only single words of the song out of their context. In this song, Bowie isn't denying the concept of God, or at least the concept of afterlife. "Knowledge comes with death release" he says, implying there's something after death. If there's knowledge coming after death, there's an afterlife. The use of the word "Bardo"(not Brigitte Bardot but the buddhist concept about the differents steps, called bardos, in afterlife) goes in this direction.

    Yes, there's a lot of Nietzsche references in the song. First the "superman" can be linked to the Overman of the philosopher. And Bowie sings about "bullshit faith". But the song does not adhere to the thinkings of Nietzsche completely, but just uses it as interrogations, a kind of counter-part.
    "I'm tethered to the logic of Homo Sapien
    Can't take my eyes from the great salvation
    Of bullshit faith "
    The statement about bullshit faith is here balancing the previous sentence, where is obsessed by the great (religious) salvation.

    So I'd say this song isn't about answer, but questions. Bowie cannot be linked to any of the thinkings he's quoting. I personally think he wrote this song during his own experiences about occult religions and questions on afterlife. On one hand, he seems to be willing to believe, but on the other hand, he's torn by his nihilist side.
    "I'm torn between the light and dark
    Where others see their targets
    Divine symmetry "

    The song is all about questions without answers. And the worst things about mysteries is that the more you think about it, the more you want to find a defintive answer, which is impossible. So he's "Sinking in the quicksand of his thought" knowing that one day he'll know his there's or not an afterlife.

    The day of his death.
    Jeepon June 14, 2009   Link
  • +3
    General CommentSorry, but you have totally missed the boat here. Bowie often spoke of how Americans loved to try and read into his lyrics, almost always getting them wrong. He often wrote straight forward, as in this song, but the masses tried to anylize it far too much. If you truly listen to 'quicksand', it is Adolph Hitler himself, as the narrator. The Crowley, Himmler, Garbo (the spy), living proof of Churchills lies (Hitler himself was that living proof). All of these were things Hitler was heavily into, and he is mourning the fact that he is about to enter the ragged 'hole' (the bunker), where he begins to sink in the quicksand of his thoughts, and he 'aint' got the 'power' anymore.

    He realizes now that he had the potential of a superman, but is just a mortal. He began life as a follower of God, but turned on faith in God, for the occult. He wonders if he should taste the vipers fang (poison) of shoot himself. Bowie was fascinated with Hitler, and this is his take on the sadness and resolve he felt in his last moments in the bunker.
    Exiledonmainstreeton October 28, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis song is definately a reenactment of the basic tenets of existentensialism - - denial of God, the reliance of Choice by the individual, that isolation will be felt by those who choose to pursue independance fom society and that are basic quest as humans is to give life meaning so as to greater understand the bigger picture. Essentially, Bowie is singing with quiet resignation to the fact that life is a downward spiral (or a vat of quicksand) culminating in the ultimate realization upon one's death that it was all pointless. Probabley one of his bleakest works, I still do adore it because he is asking profound questions and setting it to such a cascading melody. When he signs "Don't believe in yourself" he almost makes doomful resignation sound gentle and lovely. Obviously Bowie was reading lots of Nietsche at the time.
    davidbeauyon October 23, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI'm seeing a giant correlation between this and Crime And Punishment. Poor Raskolnikov. And Bowie.
    ashre_ashreon September 17, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentOh how David Bowie longed to be insane... perhaps to escape this world. Thats where I connect with his lyrics.
    WalkandTalkon June 28, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commentamazingly introspective song.
    i love the way bowie makes you think
    about the things most of us think we already know.
    he often asks questions of himself
    that we should all be asking.
    the demo version of this song kicks my ass.
    way more than the album version.
    common alchemiston January 28, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWow. Some very well thought out ideas here and all very thought provoking. But while much of this analysis can help you in getting a better understanding both of how Bowie came to write Quicksand, as well as the many ideas he may have been thinking about, writing about and singing about during the time in which this song was created, there is one line in it that no one has yet mentioned and it's a line that is key for coming to an understanding: the "Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, ahhhhhh, ahhhh, ahhhhhhhhhh-ahh-ah-ahhhhhhhh" refrain after "knowledge comes with death's release". A wordless line in a song full of words. The words in Quicksand hint at many things, some nihilistic, some pessimistic, some optimistic. Did any of these or some combination of them ultimately win out Bowie's mind? Only the ahhh-ahhh-ahhhs can tell us. Penetrate to their depths and you will find Quicksand's meaning...if any such meaning exists.
    mabryon November 04, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI am shocked and appauled at the fact that no one has written a single comment for this song. First off, this song is amazing and I often feel like this. The song seems to be about Bowie focusing on only one person himself. The world revolves around him, and this is because he is not interested in the rest of the world. He is confused by the way the world works, by the way society thinks, the concept of religion, it all is confusing and these thoughts are pulling his mind slowly towards insanity like quicksand. The ending says to just give up and do not think of these things and to not fool yourself with false ideals because you're only hurting yourself. Everything will be clarified in due time(death).
    BowieOwnsAllon January 11, 2005   Link

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