G. K. Chesterton is said to have quipped that when people stop believing in God they don’t believe in nothing but in anything. This sad and tragicomic truth is seen in the pathetic life and tragic death of Peaches Geldof, who died in April, aged 25, from a heroin overdose.
In an age that has replaced the cult of the saints with the cult of celebrity, Geldof was famous, at least in her native England, for being famous. Although she is largely unknown on this side of the Atlantic, she was celebrated in England for being the daughter of famous parents. Her father, Bob Geldof, was a former punk rocker and founder of the charity supergroup, Band Aid, which recorded “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, one of the best selling singles of all time. Her mother, Paula Yates, first became “noticed” as a model in a pornographic magazine before building her professional reputation as a risqué and crude TV presenter. Yates’ own mother had been a show girl and writer of erotic fiction.
When Peaches was five-years-old, her mother deserted her father to pursue an affair with Michael Hutchence, another famous rock singer, who committed suicide two years later. On September 17 2000, Peaches’ mother died of a heroin overdose on the tenth birthday of Peaches’ younger sister, Pixie.
As a child of sexually “liberated” parents the life and death of Peaches Geldof can be seen as a microcosmic metaphor of the culture of death into which she was born and to which she was ultimately a victim. “I can’t even begin to describe what that poor girl lived through,” said Gerry Agar, a family friend.
Apart from being famous for being famous, Peaches followed in her mother’s footsteps as a journalist, model and television presenter. More recently, with the rise of social media, she had hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter and Instagram.
At the age of sixteen her media career “blossomed” (a ludicrous malaprop) when she presented a documentary series, “Teenage Mind” (a laughable oxymoron). She designed a collection for the fashion label PPQ and signed a lucrative contract to become “the face” of Ultimo underwear. The deal fell through amidst rumours of her drug taking and after the appearance on the internet of scurrilous pictures of her failing to wear any underwear at all. It seems that even lingerie companies have some minimum standards of decency.
Having followed in her mother’s footsteps in posing naked for the camera, she followed her mother’s example still further in marrying a rock singer and in giving her children what she herself described as “exotic yet pointless names”, naming them Astala Dylan Willow and Phaedra Bloom Forever.
It would be easy to dismiss the life of Peaches Geldof as being as shallow as it was sordid. There was, however, a more serious side to her life which illustrates the dark underbelly of the culture of death even more graphically than does her very public “private” life. She had a great desire to find meaning in her life by discovering the meaning of life itself. She declared herself fascinated by “quantum physics” and “wormholes” and the theories of Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins. “I’ve always been really interested in how we came to be and why,” she said. “Which is how I guess I got involved in spirituality and stuff.”
From the scientism of Hawking and Dawkins it was an easy quantum leap to the superstitious idiocy of Scientology. Having declared herself to be a Scientologist in 2009, she explained it in terms of an ongoing need for a spiritual faith. “I feel like I needed a spiritual path. I felt I was lacking something when I didn’t have a faith.” In November 2009 she joined 5,000 other Scientologists at the 25th anniversary of the International Association of Scientologists at Saint Hill Manor in East Grinstead, West Sussex, which reportedly included the actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
Lacking sufficient faith in the dogmatism of L. Ron Hubbard, Geldof flirted briefly with Judaism before taking the downward plunge into the diabolical dabblings of the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), the gnostic and pseudo-satanic quasi-religion founded in the early 20th century by the occultist Aleister Crowley. Popularly dubbed the wickedest man in the world, Crowley indulged in ritualistic “sex magic”, advocated homosexuality and sympathized with the elitist ideas of Nietzsche and Hitler. Showing her adherence to Crowley’s perverse “religion”, Peaches Geldof had the initials OTO tattooed on her left forearm.
Considering her descent into evil, it would be easy to hold Peaches Geldof in scornful contempt. Yet it is difficult not to pity her. Her father had shot to fame through his attacks on the Catholic Church, declaring on Irish television during his early days as a punk rocker that the Church was responsible for many of Ireland’s problems. Responding to some nuns in the audience whom he’d obviously offended, he accused them of escaping from the troubles of the world by selling themselves body and soul to the Church. In 2012 he described himself as being “a quarter Catholic, a quarter Protestant, a quarter Jewish and a quarter nothing—the nothing won”.
Having a father who denigrated religion and boasted of his belief in “nothing” and a mother who in more candid days would have been called a whore, Peaches Geldof did not have much of a chance. Desiring the truth, she had “nothing” to go on. Christianity and the true salvation it offers was never on her radar. She had been blinded at birth by the pride and prejudice of her parents.
In the sad and pitiful case of Peaches Geldof, a living microcosmic symbol of the culture of death, we see that Chesterton is right. Those who cease believing in God do not believe in “nothing” because “nothing” does not exist. They believe in anything. Contrary to the naive nihilism of Bob Geldof, “the nothing” never wins. His own daughter, in her tragic death, is living proof of that.
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