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(Credit: Brian Hamill)

Did John Lennon have a 'God complex'?

Did John Lennon fancy himself as a Jesus Christ kind of archetype? Ever since Lennon made the controversial remark that The Beatles are “more popular than Jesus,” one cannot help but draw a correlation between the two, if not subconsciously.

Lennon was correct; at this point, the sheer magnitude of the Fab Four’s fame is only surpassed by that of the iconic Jesus Christ. A part of Lennon’s remark, which is usually not discussed, was: “Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.” It is clear that Lennon didn’t have any issues with Jesus Christ, in fact, he kind of liked him. Did he actually think he was God, instead?

There was a period in Lennon’s life when he adopted a look not dissimilar to Christ. He had the long hair, and the unkempt and peevish beard; at times, he even wore white robes, sandals and, according to Paul McCartney’s sarcastic tune, ‘Too Many People‘, he preached a lot.

Whether he had a God complex is a different issue altogether. Hippies from this era who suffered from a psychosis of heroic grandeur, were usually cult leaders, such as Charles Manson. In this context, it could be argued that one who truly suffers from a God complex, also has the propensity to kill, as such a figure believes that they have the power to create life and to destroy it. If one thing can be known for sure, it’s that Lennon wasn’t like this.

Lennon always denounced any believers who attempted to follow him and his enigmatic although often misinterpreted, prophetic qualities. His song, ‘God’, should extoll his ultimate philosophy (if he had one) on just about everything. In the tune, he denounces everything that had previously defined Lennon and his life – except for himself and his wife, Yoko Ono. “I don’t believe in magic, I Ching, the Bible, tarot, Jesus, Buddha, mantra, the Gita and yoga.”

If anything, Lennon was greatly misunderstood. It should be noted however and perhaps ironically so, that the Beatles, as a whole, were all about ‘love’ as a concept. The members most strongly associated with it, were all the Fab Four except for Lennon. Lennon was always the sceptic of the group and was famously opposed to institutionalised religion, although he had always confirmed that he had a spiritual side. Lennon was never so quick to claim anything as a supreme philosophy or even himself, for that matter.

Was John Lennon obsessed with Jesus Christ?

It is important to note that while in his songs he consistently refuted ideas of religion such as the aforementioned ‘God’ as well as one of his biggest songs ‘Imagine‘: “Imagine there’s no heaven/Above us only sky,” he had expressed strong feelings towards some form of spirituality and perhaps even religious figures such as the Buddha and Jesus Christ. 

“People always got the image I was an anti-Christ or antireligion. I’m not. I’m a most religious fellow.” 

Also adding, “but the whole religion business suffers from the ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’ bit. There’s too much talk about soldiers and marching and converting. I’m not pushing Buddhism, because I’m no more a Buddhist than I am a Christian, but there’s one thing I admire about the religion [Buddhism]: There’s no proselytizing.”

There was another controversial claim that John Lennon told his bandmates he was Jesus Christ himself. In an interview with GQ, Chris Heath asked Paul McCartney, “Did he [Lennon] really come to that meeting near the end of the Beatles and say he was Jesus Christ?”

“I don’t remember that,” McCartney replied. “I think I would have remembered that. He was the kind of guy that could do that. I don’t remember him actually ever doing it. I mean, on the Sgt. Pepper cover he wanted Jesus Christ and Hitler on there. That was, ‘Okay, that’s John.’ You’d have to talk him down a bit — ‘No, probably not Hitler…’ I could say to him, ‘No, we’re not doing that.’ He was a good enough guy to know when he was being told.”

On the contrary, according to Tony Bramwell who grew up with the Fab Four, in his book The Magical Mystery Tours: My Life With The Beatles, Bramwell wrote that after Lennon had taken a strong tab of LSD, he called a meeting to tell his bandmates he was Jesus Christ. “I’ve got something very important to tell you, I am Jesus Christ. I have come back again. This is my thing,” Lennon said according to Bramwell. 

It is hard to tell for sure if Lennon really did say this as McCartney denied it happening. Even if he did say this, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Lennon had a God complex.

Lennon had ambition and drive especially in the earlier days of The Beatles. He was considered the leader of the group as it was his band; he encouraged the others to think they were the best before they became recognised as such. This factor played a role in influencing the perception of Lennon and his larger-than-life personality.  

Was John Lennon a Christian?

While he had strong feelings towards the idea of Jesus Christ and the Buddha as spiritual leaders, he never quite liked the idea of religion as an institutionalised idea. This Lennon remark can perhaps elucidate the issue a bit: 

“Now I wasn’t saying that was a good idea, ‘cos I’m one of Christ’s biggest fans. And if I can turn the focus on the Beatles on to Christ’s message, then that’s what we’re here to do.” Judging by a comment such as this, while absurd, it would be hard to not call The Beatles ‘Christian band’ – yeah, that definitely sounds absurd.

Lennon’s comments were often absurd and just factually wrong. They were also fickle at times; he would comment one day, and then change it completely the next. While it isn’t all that crazy to infer that Lennon suffered a little from a God complex, when push came to shove, Lennon would have never accepted disciples of his own. 

If you need more convincing, then we invite you to listen to this song again:

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