Chapter Excerpt

COME TOGETHER: The Mythic Union of John & Yoko

COME TOGETHER: The Mythic Union of John & Yoko

allyouneedismyth

August 21st, 2013

0 Comments

“Before Yoko and I met, we were half a person. We are two halves, and together we’re a whole.”

–John Lennon

 

When John Lennon left the Beatles to partner with Yoko Ono, the pair merged male and female energies and Western and Eastern cultures. Yoko’s concept of “Life as Art” brought to the partnership—and to John’s creative process—the abstract (masculine/art) expressed as the physical (feminine/life). No longer was John content to simply drop acid and sing about love; now it was he and his wife’s mission to help love manifest in the world.

Everything we experience in our material world is realized and created through a dance with its opposite. The resolution of duality and the harmonizing of opposites is a primary theme in savior mythologies, and with the Beatles, these themes were distinctively represented by the songwriting team of Lennon & McCartney, by the band’s music and travails in 1968, and finally, by the creative and romantic union of John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

yin-yang copyMost people in the West are familiar with the yin yang, the Daoist duality symbol which depicts the male yang—representing light, action, and the spirit—interlocking with the female yin—representing darkness, passivity, and the body.

In myth, the notion of duality is often represented by male/female couplings. In Hinduism there are god/goddess consorts, where each major male deity has a female partner/counterpart. The female aspects can be understood as the physical manifestations of the abstract concepts associated with the male god. For instance, Shiva is destruction, and Kali is the warrior and death. Brahma is creation, and Saraswati is music, art, and language. Vishnu is sustenance and Lakshmi is wealth, health, and prosperity.

As their relationship progressed and deepened, John and Yoko continued to develop and hone their Life as Art thesis, using their lives to model ideal humanity as they envisioned it. They dedicated their work, their images, their relationship, and their life stories to the message of peace, truth, and love.

One of the ways they did this was by literally inviting the world into their bed. When they got married in the center of a media hurricane, Yoko and John had joked that the reporters and fans really would have done anything to be invited to their honeymoon. The lovers wound up giving them what they wanted, albeit, demurely dressed in pajamas and robes, with all the lights on. Behind their bed, signs advertised their message of peace.

yoko magnifyNever before had John or any of the rock gods so intentionally wielded and directed their own mythology. John and Yoko were intensely aware of the power their unprecedented fame had bestowed upon them, and used that power with more directed attention than any of their contemporaries. Entering into unparalleled fame as an adult (she was thirty-three when she met John), far-seeing Yoko provided a perspective on the power of John’s (and now her) opportunity that was unavailable to a man who had it all at the age of twenty-two. John may have had the insight that he was “more popular than Jesus,” but Yoko understood the implications and responsibilities of that fact.

John and Yoko also introduced an element that had been notably absent before to the Beatles’ mythic narrative: erotic love and the sacred sex act. John and Yoko were a highly sexually active couple and very bold in sharing their sexual energy with the public, announcing themselves to the world as Two Virgins with a nude album cover. It’s now almost hard to imagine a time when it was shocking for celebrities to pose for nude photos, but in 1968, the album caused outrage, and was sold inside a brown paper bag. The pair would expose their bodies and bedroom to the public on numerous other occasions, including a 1969 short film entitled Self Portrait, which consisted of an extended shot of John’s partially-erect penis, and Bag One, a series of erotic lithographs by John depicting various sexual acts between him and his new wife.

There are parallels between John and Yoko’s relationship and many different pairs of divine sexual-spiritual couples, but given the Beatles’ (and John Lennon’s, in particular) role as the Savior, the most resonant is probably that of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene.

BedIn350It’s been a popular view for the past several decades that Mary Magdalene was at one time viewed as Jesus’s wife or lover, then demonized by the patriarchal Church, who labeled her––revisionist-style—a sinner, a hysteric, and/or a prostitute. In fact, apocryphal texts suggest that this contentious relationship between Mary and the Church boys’ club began during her lifetime. In the Gnostic texts Pistis Sophia and the Gospel of Thomas, St. Peter (whose legend has him going on to head up the Church on earth and, later, guard the gates of heaven as a transcended being) is especially recalcitrant toward Mary, but the rest of the male disciples also display resentment, disdain, and jealousy toward the “apostle to the apostles,” whom Jesus kisses “on the mouth.” In the Gospel of Philip, the disciples ask Jesus directly, “Why do you love her more than all of us?” One can only imagine a confused and jealous Paul, George, and Ringo asking the same question as John made it clear that Yoko was now his primary—really, his only—collaborator.

The public’s reaction to Yoko definitely exposed still prevalent sexism and racism in America, and her gender and race were easy targets in a male-dominated culture that still associated Japan with the Axis powers and World War II. Plus, John and Yoko’s involvement represented John’s inevitable transcendence away from the Beatles, which terrified the public, afraid of losing the vision they had of their Savior. Yoko was literally called a witch, and widely blamed for the break-up of the band. In fact, Yoko’s adjoining with John allowed him to establish his independence from the other three, and thereby underline his primary, creative position.

In their very public personal relationship, John and Yoko modeled a novel type of equality, balance, and mutual respect for the popular culture of the 1960s and 70s. The two were equals—a feminist ideal that had existed only as an abstract pipe dream to most people until they saw it modeled in real life. They worked together, they created together, and they seemed to be in a perpetual, cyclical state of mutual inspiration. The autonomous intensity of their relationship was evident from the moment it started, but it became even more undeniable after their failed separation, a year-and-change-long “Lost Weekend” during which John stumbled through LA with high-profile drinking-buddies Harry Nilsson, Keith Moon, and Ringo Starr, making a general intoxicated spectacle of himself.

John and Yoko reconnected in 1974 at an Elton John concert at which Lennon was a guest performer. Back at home together, the couple set up an enclosed, all-encompassing domestic life. Remarkable for the 1970s, they switched gender roles. Yoko went to work every day managing their finances and various art and activism projects, while John stayed home and learned to bake bread, proudly referring to himself as a “House Husband.” They became the image of a romantic couple in perfect balance, synthesis, and harmony. They never seemed to tire of one another; in fact they seemed to dive deeper into the depths of their two- (and eventually, three-) person universe, reveling in its completeness. Their union was creative, supportive, self-contained, and self-sustaining, and allowed them (or perhaps forced them) to renounce the outside world almost entirely.

john_yoko_baby

Since John and Yoko were not materialistic, their wealth didn’t entrench them in the material world, but freed them from it. Like Shiva and Parvati, the two married ascetics making love and practicing yoga in their house in the clouds, they were free to fully dive into and explore every detail of ideal romantic domestic partnership without the hassles of society.

Their astronomical fame also served to liberate rather than shackle them. Our concept of fame is the abstract flipside to the material metaphor of fortune. Both are ways we measure the public’s perceived level of value around a given object, idea, or person. Because John and Yoko had both abandoned their selves to serve a higher cause (and existed in the material world in a completely fulfilled, self-sufficient, connected symbiosis), the normal egoic pitfalls of fame were avoided. Instead, they could selflessly use their celebrity, art, bodies, and love as vessels for greater understanding. They seemed to effortlessly embody the tenet “All You Need is Love.”

 

johnyoko copy

Comments are closed.