Elton John’s moment of redemption arrives in Rocketman when he wraps his younger, abandoned and fragile self in a loving embrace. Integration of a fragmented human is underway. Or put another way, the Self, the God within us is on the move.
Months earlier Elton strode into rehab outfitted like a demonic angel after 20 years staggering through a haphazard parade of grog, pills, cocaine, booze, sex and outrageous costumes whilst still creating music that made us devotees. Underneath, he struggled to reconcile his childhood in a hostile environment between two people in a loveless marriage. He felt abandoned. His life spiralled out of control.
Eventually, the realisation dawned for Elton that the external chaos surrounding him was a reflection of his internal dislocation. Being abandoned had consequences; he was unable to love himself and went on to abandon his inner reality and others. His was a classic tale ripe for redemption that Elton says, anyone can get if they try. That takes some thinking about given that redemption is a word still tethered to religious understandings.
Since 1935 Alcoholics Anonymous has been offering a redemptive process through their 12 Steps, which includes a strong emphasis on the idea that will power is not enough to make significant change, instead what is needed is reliance on a power greater than oneself. This power is referred to as God, not defined but open to interpretation.
However, there has been significant criticism of AA’s philosophy because it appears to be rooted in an evangelical Christian approach that supports belief in a supernatural God, which can create obstacles for many. This approach is, in part, due to the influence of what was called the Oxford Group who fostered the religious experience of Rowland Hazard, one of the early AA members.
Hazard had been a patient of the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung who recognised after three months treatment that nothing short of a conversion experience would help because Hazard’s, ‘craving for alcohol was the equivalent on a low level, of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness, expressed in medieval language: the union with God’. Unfortunately, that openness around spirituality got overwhelmed by a more literal approach for some AA groups.
A thirst for wholeness is language we can understand today. It might be expressed in different ways as people search for a soul mate, a sense of peace, belonging, connectedness or a desire to ‘get my shit together’. Whatever it sounds like the yearning for union and integration resonate. This often activates the need to go on a heroic journey to face and integrate one’s demons before re-entering life more connected with our inner centre, sometimes called God, or the Self.
For some people, including Elton John, this journey is nothing short of miraculous, but it’s not a miracle that comes from a God ‘out there’. Instead, the miracle comes about as our deeper source of being, often abandoned in earlier life, is reconnected with. Under those circumstances, God is dependent on our interaction for existence. We are interdependent. Now that’s a God I can live with.