Abstract: Michael Jackson’s spiritual beliefs, though well-known to his family, colleagues and fans, have received little coverage in the mainstream media. Yet, as Kerry Hennigan discusses in this month’s MJ Studies Today column (part 1 of 2), Jackson’s beliefs as revealed by himself and those who knew him, tell us much about the nature of the man and what compelled him to spare no effort in attaining his many achievements in the world of entertainment.
Column by Kerry Hennigan, editor of the free monthly newsletter, A Candle for Michael, administrator of the widely subscribed Facebook group “Michael Jackson’s Short Film ‘Ghosts’” and MJ blogger on WordPress. Kerry is a student of Ancient History and Anthropology and has a Certificate in Archaeology of the Ancient World from Cambridge University.
Hennigan, Kerry. “MJ Studies Today LXXXI: ‘He was an incredible light.’ Spiritual inspiration from Michael Jackson and his relationship with God and the Universe, Part 1” (14-9-2022). The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies 9, No. 1 (2022). https://michaeljacksonstudies.org/mj-studies-today-lxxxi/
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“He was an incredible light.” Spiritual inspiration from Michael Jackson and his relationship with God and the Universe, Part 1. By Kerry Hennigan
It is 6.30 am on the 26th day of the month in Adelaide, Australia. My alarm has gone off to signal that it’s time for the monthly online Major Love Prayer gathering of Michael Jackson fans from around the world. In California it’s 2.00 pm on the 25th – the anniversary of the approximate time when Jackson was officially declared to be deceased (shown as 2.26 pm PDT on 25 June 2009 on his death certificate). Throughout his life, Jackson had been a firm believer in the power of prayer and in our abilities to facilitate change through individual and collective efforts to make the world a better place – not just for ourselves, but for everyone. The fan prayer group began in homage to Jackson in the months following his death. Now thirteen years later, Major Love Prayer continues with the aim of doing the work Jackson believed so important for the future of the planet and “to continue Michael’s legacy of love.” 
Contrary to what has been alleged of Jackson in the media’s predominantly malignant narrative, individuals who worked with Michael or knew him personally have expressed their experience of him in glowing sentiments. “We were sent an angel. To heal, to inspire, evoke thoughts of beauty and love in this world of chaos. And we didn’t take good care of it” (actor Wesley Snipes, who featured with Jackson in the Bad short film); “he was an incredible light” (Taymoor Marmarchi, who worked with Jackson’s Heal the World Foundation in the 90s); “he loved people from the depths of his soul” (musician and recording producer Dr Freeze who worked with Michael during the Invincible sessions); “he was a very good person” (attorney Thomas Mesereau who defended Jackson successfully in the criminal trial of 2005) and “the closest thing you’d ever seen to an angel or a saint” (Howard Bloom, who declares himself an atheist, and who worked with Michael and his brothers as a publicist during their Victory tour. He is the author of the book Einstein, Michael Jackson and Me). 
Jackson never outgrew the core tenants of his Christian upbringing. He would often reference Jesus in his interviews, mentioning how he had been brought up to live as instructed by Jesus in the New Testament gospels. He not only believed but lived the example of Jesus as quoted in Luke 6:35: “love your enemies and do good to them, and lend without any hope of return.”  Even after parting ways with the Jehovah’s Witness church in 1987, Jackson remained a person of faith, still read the Bible and still believed in the power of prayer to help others. He felt passionately about the need for the family values he considered essential for the experience of a happy childhood, and these were firmly rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. 
However, his concept of God had become liberalised/globalised with his exposure to many diverse cultures and ideologies on his world tours. He showed respect for the beliefs of others, acknowledging that what we view as “God(s)” can take many forms, or no form. In 1992 he told Glenn Plaskin of the Chicago Tribune, “I don’t consider myself religious in the sense of subscribing to a particular dogma. I would consider myself spiritual – in that I believe there is a domain of awareness in which we can experience our universality. I read all kinds of religious literature, because I believe there is truth in all of them.” 
His essay titled “God” in his 1992 book “Dancing the Dream” is probably our best guide to his personal perceptions on the subject. He writes of having gazed at the night sky full of stars. “In that moment I saw God in His Creation. I could as easily have seen Her in the beauty of a rainbow, the grace of a deer bounding through a meadow, the truth of a father’s kiss.” He continues: “But for me the sweetest contact with God has no form. I close my eyes, look within, and enter a deep soft silence. The infinity of God’s creation embraces me. We are one.” 
Jackson is known to have talked theology with religious figures; he also had different spiritual advisors over the years with whom he discussed his own and humanity’s relationship to God and the universe. His motivation for what he did (as we hear him say in the documentary film “This Is It”) was to “put love back in the world.” This is the legacy that groups like Major Love Prayer believe imperative to promote, i.e. Michael Jackson the humanitarian, who acted out of love. Throughout his adult life, Jackson was responsible for countless charitable acts and financial contributions which, in the year 2000, earned him the Guinness World Record for the most charities supported by a pop star.  However, Jackson’s philanthropy is a topic deserving of a separate discussion; it suffices to say here that it is inextricably linked to his belief that his talent was God-given for a purpose i.e. to heal the world.
Towards the end of his life, though older and wiser, and having weathered the ravages of false allegations and the gruelling criminal trial of 2005, Jackson’s faith seems not to have waivered, including his belief in the role divine inspiration played in the writing of his music. In his 2007 interview with Ebony magazine, in explaining his creative process, he said: “The key to being a wonderful writer is not to write. You just get out of the way. Leave room for God to walk in the room. And when I write something that I know is right, I get on my knees and say thank you. Thank you, Jehovah!” 
Michael Jackson genuinely believed he was the recipient of God-given talents, and that there was a purpose for which those talents were to be used. He dedicated his life to serving that purpose.
Part 2 of this discussion will look at various rumours about Jackson’s conversion to other faiths over the years and hear from individuals close to him who spoke with Michael about his beliefs shortly before his death.
 “Welcome! What is Major Love Prayer?” on www.majorloveprayer.org retrieved 4 Sep 2022.
 GQ magazine interview with Wesley Snipes. https://www.gq.com/story/wesley-snipes-on-trial 29 Mar 2010
 Translation of essay by Taymoor Marmarchi – Former Neverland Worker https://michaeljacksoniloveyoumost.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/sua-musica-vivera-para-sempre/
 MJ France interview with Dr. Freeze https://michaeljacksonbeat.blogspot.com/2011/02/dr-freeze-on-michael-jackson.html (original source no longer accessible).
 Kunesh, Deborah. Interview with Tom Mesereau: http://www.reflectionsonthedance.com/Interview-with-Tom-Mesereau.html
 Bloom, Howard. Einstein, Michael Jackson & Me. Backbeat Books 2020, page 7.
 Catholic Online. “Luke Chapter 6.” https://www.catholic.org/bible/book.php?id=49&bible_chapter=6
 Saraceno, Christina. “Michael Jackson Heals the Kids.” Rolling Stone magazine 15 Feb 2001. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/michael-jackson-heals-the-kids-250001/
 Plaskin, Glenn. “Out of the Mouth of Michael…” Chicago Tribune. 16 Aug 1992. https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1992-08-16-9203140099-story.html
 “Michael Jackson’s This Is It” is readily available to purchase on DVD and Blu-ray and digital download. It is also available to stream on some streaming services such as Prime Video or Netflix in various countries. https://www.amazon.com/Michael-Jacksons-This-Jackson/dp/B002VL2PTU/
 Guinness World Records. “Most charities supported by a pop star. Michael Jackson.” https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/105188-most-charities-supported-by-a-pop-star and Michael Jackson official website https://www.michaeljackson.com/news/mj-holds-guinness-world-record-for-most-charities-supported-by-a-pop-star/ retrieved 6 Sep 2022.
 Monroe, Bryan. “Michael Jackson in his own words” in Ebony Magazine, December 2007, page 98.
Indianapolis Recorder. “Michael Jackson’s spiritual journey” 8 July 2009. https://indianapolisrecorder.com/5db9ffdb-7039-5f4f-b915-27929643f58c/
Sippell, Margeaux. “Southern Christian Leadership Conference Slams ‘Leaving Neverland’ as ‘Posthumous Lynching’ of Michael Jackson.” Variety, 28 Feb 2019. https://variety.com/2019/music/news/southern-christian-leadership-conference-defends-michael-jackson-slams-leaving-neverland-1203152598/
Hennigan, Kerry, “Academic Book Review of ‘Einstein, Michael Jackson & Me’ by Howard Bloom,” The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies, 6, no. 4 (2020). Published electronically 25/06/2020. https://michaeljacksonstudies.org/academic-book-review-einstein-michael-jackson-me-by-howard-bloom-by-kerry-hennigan/
Illustration: “joy, oneness, God…” photo montage compiled by Kerry Hennigan, September 2022. No infringement of photographic copyright is intended in this not-for-profit, educational exercise.