PART II: MUSIC
Music, the word we use in our everyday language, is nothing less than the picture of our Beloved. It is because music is the picture of our Beloved that we love music. But the question is what is our Beloved and where is our Beloved? Our Beloved is that which is our source and our goal; and what we see of our Beloved before our physical eyes is the beauty which is before us; and that part of our Beloved not manifest to our eyes is that inner form of beauty of which our Beloved speaks to us. If only we would listen to the voice of all the beauty that attracted us in any form, we would find that in every aspect it tells us that behind all manifestation is the perfect Spirit, the spirit of wisdom..
What do we see as the principal expression of life in the beauty visible before us? It is movement. In line, in color, in the changes of the seasons, in the rising and falling of the waves, in the wind, in the storm, in all the beauty of nature there is constant movement. It is movement which has caused day and night, and the changing of the seasons; and this movement has given us the comprehension of what we call time. Otherwise there would be no time, for actually there is only eternity; and this teaches us that all we love and admire, observe and comprehend, is the life hidden behind it and this life is our being.
It is owning to our limitation that we cannot see the whole being of God; but all that we love in color, line, form or personality belongs to the real beauty, the Beloved of all. And when we trace what attracts us in this beauty which we see in all forms, we shall find that it is the movement of beauty; in other words the music. All forms of nature, for instance the flowers, are perfectly formed and colored; the planets and stars, the earth, all give the idea of harmony, or music. The whole of nature is breathing; not only the living creatures but all nature; and it is only our tendency to compare that which seems living with what to us is not so living which makes us forget that all things and beings are living one perfect life. And the sign of life given by this living beauty is music.
What makes the soul of the poet dance? Music. What makes the painter paint beautiful pictures, the musician sing beautiful songs? It is the inspiration that beauty gives. Therefore the Sufi has called this beauty Sake, the divine Giver who gives the wine of life to all. What is the wine of the Sufi? Beauty in form, in line, in color, in imagination, in sentiment, in manner; in all this he sees the one beauty. All these different forms are part of the spirit of beauty which is the life behind them, a continual blessing.
As to what we call music in everyday language, to me architecture is music, gardening is music, farming is music, painting is music, poetry is music. In all the occupations of life where beauty has been the inspiration, where the divine wine has been poured out, there is music. But among all the different arts, the art of music has been specially considered divine, because it is the exact miniature of the law working through the whole universe. For instance, if we study ourselves we shall find that the beats of the pulse and the heart, the inhaling and exhaling of the breath are all the work of rhythm. Life depends upon the rhythmic working of the whole mechanism of the body. Breath manifests as voice , as word, as sound; and the sound is continually audible, the sound without and the sound within ourselves. That is music; it show that there is music both outside and within ourselves.
Music inspires not only the soul of the great musician, but every infant which, the instant it comes into the world, begins to move it’s little arms and legs with the rhythm of music. Therefore it is no exaggeration to say that music is the language of beauty of THE One every living should has loved. And when one realizes this and recognizes the perfection of all beauty as God, our Beloved, one understands why the music we experience in art and in the whole universe should be called the Divine Art.
Many in the world take music as a source of amusement, a pastime, and to many music is an art and a musician and entertainer. Yet no one has lived in this world and has thought and felt, who has not considered music as the most sacred of all arts, for the fact is that what the art of painting cannot clearly suggest, poetry explains in words; but that which even a poet finds difficult to express in poetry is expressed in music. By this I do not only say that music is superior to art and poetry, but in point of fact music excels religion; for music raises the should of man even higher than the so-called external forms of religion.
By this it must not be understood that music can take the place of religion; for every soul is not necessarily tuned to that pitch where it can really benefit by music, nor is every music necessarily so high that it will exalt a person who hears it more than religion will do. However, for those who follow the path of the inner cult, music is essential for their spiritual development. The reason is that the should who is seeking for that is in search of the formless God. Art no doubt is most elevating, but at the same time it contains form; poetry has words, names suggestive of form; it is only music which has beauty, power, charm and at the same time can raise the soul beyond form.
That is why in ancient times the greatest of the prophets were great musicians. For instance, among the Hindu prophets one finds Narada, the prophet who was a musician at the same time, and Shiva, a God-like prophet, who was the inventor of the sacred Vina. Krishna is always pictured with a flute.
There is also a well-known legend of the life of Moses, which says that Moses heard a divine command on Mount Sinai in the words: Muse Ke, Moses hark; and the revelation that thus came to him was of tone and rhythm, and he called it by the same name, Musik; and the words such as Music and Musike have come from that word. David’s song and verse have been known for ages; his message was given in the form of music. Orpheus of the Greek legends, the knower of the mystery of tone and rhythm, had by this knowledge power over the hidden forces of nature. The Hindu goddess of beauty, of knowledge, whose name is Sarasvati, is always pictured with the Vina. And what does it suggest? It suggests that all harmony has its essence in music. And besides the natural charm music possesses, it has also a magic charm that can be experienced even now. It seems that the human race has lost a great deal of the ancient science of magic, but if there remains any magic it is music.
Music, besides power, is intoxication. When it intoxicates those who hear, how much more must it intoxicate those who play or sing themselves! And how much more must it intoxicate those who have touched he perfection of music and have meditated upon it for years and years! It gives them an even greater joy and exaltation than a king feels sitting on his throne.
According to the thinkers of the East there are five different intoxication’s: the intoxication of beauty, youth and strength; then the intoxication of wealth; the third is of power, command, the power of ruling; and there is the fourth intoxication, which is the intoxication of learning, of knowledge. But all these four intoxication’s fade away just like stars before the sun in the presence of the intoxication of music. The reason is that it touches the deepest part of man’s being. Music reaches farther than any other impression form the external world can reach. And the beauty of music is that it is both the source of creating and the means of absorbing it. In other words, by music the world was created, and by music it is withdrawn again into the source which has created it.
In this scientific and material world we see a similar example. Before a machine or mechanism will run, it must first make a noise. If first becomes audible and then shows its life. We can see this in a ship, in an airplane, in an automobile. This idea belongs to the mysticism of sound. Before an infant is capable of admiring a color or form, it enjoys sound. If there is any art that can most please the aged it is music. If there is any art that can charge youth with life and enthusiasm, emotion and passion, it is music. If there is any art in which a person can fully express his feeling, his emotion, it is music. At the same time it is something that gives man that force and that power of activity which make the soldiers march with the bet of the drum and the sound of the trumpet. In the traditions of the past it was said that on the Last Day there will be the sound of trumpets before the end of the world comes. This shows that music is connected with the beginning of the creation, with its continuity, and with its end.
The mystics of all ages have loved music most. In almost all the circles of the inner cult, in whatever part of the world, music seems to be the center of the cult or the ceremony. And those who attain to that perfect peace which is called Nirvana, or in the language of the Hindus Samadhi, do this more easily through music. Therefore Sufis, especially those of the Chishtia School of ancient times, have taken music as a source of their meditation; and by meditating thus they derive much more benefit from it than those who meditate without the help of music. The effect that they experience is the unfoldment of the soul, the opening of the intuitive faculties; and their heart, so to speak, opens to all the beauty which is within and without, uplifting them, and at the same time bringing them that perfection for which every soul yearns.
THE MUSIC OF THE SPHERES
BY this title I do not mean to encourage any superstition, or any idea that might attract people into fields of curiosity. My aim is to direct the attention of those who search for truth towards the law of music which is working throughout the universe, and which in other words may be called the law of life; the sense of proportion, the law of harmony, the law which brings about balance, the law which is hidden behind all aspects of life; which holds this universe intact and works out the destiny of the whole universe, fulfilling its purpose.
There are many in the world who look for wonders; if one only noticed how many wonders there are in this world, which is all phenomena! The deeper on sees into life, the wider life opens itself to one, and every moment of one’s life then becomes full of wonders and full of splendor.
What we call music is our everyday language is only a miniature, which our intelligence has grasped from that music or harmony of the whole universe which is working behind everything, and which is the source and origin of nature. It is because of this that the wise of all ages have considered music to be a sacred art. For in music the seer can see the picture of the whole universe; and the wise can interpret the secret and the nature of the working of the whole universe in the realm of music.
This idea is not a new idea; yet at the same time it is always new. Nothing is as old as the truth, and nothing is as new as the truth. It is man’s desire to search for something traditional, for something original, for something new; all these tendencies can be satisfied in the knowledge of truth.
All the religions have taught that the origin of the whole of creation is sound. No doubt the way in which this word is used in our everyday language is a limitation of that sound which is suggested by the scriptures. Language deals with comparative objects, but that which cannot be compared has no name. Truth is that which can never be spoken; and what the wise of all ages have spoken is what they have tried their best to express, little as they were able to do so.
The music of the universe is the background of the small picture which we call music. Our sense of music, our attraction to music, shows that there is music in the depth of our being. Music is behind the working of the whole universe. Music is not only life’s greatest object, but it is life itself. Hafiz, the great and wonderful Sufi poet of Persia, says, ‘May say that life entered the human body by the help of music, but the truth is that life itself is music’. What made him say this> He referred to a legend which exists in the East and which tells how God made a statue of clay in His own image, and asked the soul to enter into it; but the soul refused to be imprisoned, for its nature is to fly about freely and not to be limited and bound to any sort of capacity. The soul did not wish in the least to enter this prison. Then God asked the angels to play their music, and as the angels played the soul was moved to ecstasy, and through that ecstasy, in order to make the music more clear to itself, it entered this body. And it is told that Hafiz said, ‘People say that the soul, on hearing that song, entered the body; but in reality the soul itself was song!’
It is a beautiful legend, and much more so is its mystery. The interpretation of this legend explains to us two great laws. One is that freedom is the nature of the soul, and for the soul the whole tragedy of life is the absence of that freedom which belongs to its original nature; and the next mystery that this legend reveals to us is that the only reason why the soul has entered the body of clay or matter is to experience the music of life, and to make this music clear to itself. And when we sum up these two great mysteries, the third mystery, which is the mystery of all mysteries, comes to our mind. This is that the unlimited part of ourselves becomes limited and earthbound for the purpose of making this life, which is the outward life, more intelligible.
Therefore there is a loss and a gain. The loss is the loss of freedom, and the gain is the experience of life, which is full gained by coming into this limited life which we call the life of an individual.
What makes us feel drawn to music is that our whole being is music; our mind and our body, the nature in which we live, the nature which has made us, all that is beneath and around us, it is all music; and we are close to all this music , and live and move and have our being in music.
Therefore music interests us and attracts our attention and gives us pleasure, because it corresponds, with the rhythm and tone which are keeping the mechanism of our whole being intact. What pleases us in any of our arts, whether drawing, painting, carving, architecture, sculpture, or poetry, is the harmony behind them, the music. What poetry suggests to us is music, the rhythm in painting and drawing it is our sense of proportion and our sense of harmony which give us all the pleasure we gain in admiring art. And what appeals to us in being near to nature is nature’s music, and nature’s music is more perfect than that of art. It gibes us a sense of exaltation to be moving about in the woods, and to be looking at the green; to be standing near the running water, which has its rhythm, its tone and its harmony. The swinging of the branches in the forest, the rising and falling of the waves, all has its music. And once we contemplate and become one with nature our hearts open to its music.
We say that we enjoy nature. But what is it in nature that we enjoy? It is music. Something in us has been touched by the rhythmic movement, by the perfect harmony which is so seldom found in this artificial life of ours; it lifts one up and makes one feel that nature is the real temple, the true religion. One moment standing in the midst of nature with open heart is a whole lifetime, if one is in tune with nature.
When one looks at the cosmos, the movements of the stars and planets, the law of vibration and rhythm, all perfect and unchanging, it shows that the cosmic system is working by the law of music, the law of harmony; and whenever that harmony in the cosmic system is lacking in any way, then in proportion disaster comes to the world, and its influence is seen in the any destructive forces which manifest there. The whole of astrological law and the science of magic and mysticism behind it, are base upon music.
Therefore the whole life of the most illuminated souls who have lived in this world, like the greatest prophets in India, has been music. From the miniature music which we understand, they expanded the whole universe of music, and in that way they were able to inspire. The one who receives the key to the working of life, is he who becomes intuitive; it is he who has inspiration. It is he to whom revelations manifest, for then his language becomes music. Every person who comes to us, every object we see, is revealing. In what form? It tells us its character, nature and secrets. Every person tells us his past, present and future. In what way? Every person explains to us all that they contain. In what manner? In the form of music, if only we can hear it.
There is another language: it is rhythm and tone. We hear it, but we do not hear it with our ears. A friendly person shows harmony in his voice, in his words, in his movement and manner. An unfriendly person in his very movements, in his glance and expression, in his walk, in everything, will show disharmony if tone can but see it. I had a friend in India who became cross very easily. Sometimes when he visited me I would say, ‘Are you cross today?’ He would ask, ‘Now how do you know I am cross today?’ I said, ‘Your turban tells me. The way you tie your turban wrongly shows disharmony.’
One’s very actions show an inharmonious or harmonious attitude. There are many things one can perceive in handwriting, but the principle thing in reading handwriting is the harmonious or inharmonious curves. It almost speaks to you and tells you the mood in which the person wrote. Handwriting tells you many things, the grade of evolution of a person who has written, his attitude towards life, his character and his mood when writing. You do not need to read the whole letter he wrote, you only have to see his handwriting. For line and curve will show him to be either harmonious or inharmonious, if only one can see it.
In every being you can see this, and if one looks with deep insight into the nature of things one will read it even in a tree. According to the fruit or flowers which the tree bears on discovers what music it expresses.
You can see from the attitude of a person whether that person will prove to be your friend, or will end in being your enemy. You need not even wait until the end; you can see at the first glance whether he is friendly inclined or not, because very person is music, perpetual music, continually going on day and night; and your intuitive faculty can hear that music. That is the reason why one person is repellent, and the other attract you. It is the music he expresses; his whole atmosphere is charged with it.
There is a story of Omar, the well-known Khalif of Arabia. Someone who wanted to harm Omar was looking for him, and he had heard that Omar did not live in palaces though he was a king, but that he spent most of his time with nature. This man was very glad to think that now he would have every opportunity to accomplish his object. And as he approached the place where Omar was sitting, the nearer he came the more his attitude changed; until in the end he dropped the dagger which was in his hand and said, ‘I cannot harm you. Tell me what is the power in you that keeps me from accomplishing the object which I came to accomplish?’ And Omar answered, “My at-one-ment with God’.
What did Omar mean by that at-one-ment with God? He meant being in tune with the Infinite, in harmony with the whole universe. In other words, Omar was the receptacle of the music of the whole ;universe.
The great charm that the personality of the holy ones has shown in all ages has been their responsiveness to the music of the whole being. That has been the secret of how they became the friends of their worst enemies. But it is not only the power of the holy ones. It manifests in every person to a greater or lesser degree. Every one shows harmony or disharmony according to how op[en he is to the music of the universe.. The more he is open to all that is beautiful and harmonious, the more his life is tuned to that universal harmony and the more he will show a friendly attitude towards everyone he meets. His very atmosphere will create music around him.
The difference between the material and the spiritual point of view is that the material point of view sees matter as the first thing, and considers that intelligence and beauty and everything
else evolved from it. From the spiritual point of view we see the intelligence and beauty first; and from them comes all that exists. From the spiritual point of view we see that one considers last to be the same as first; and therefore in the essence of this whole being, as the basis of all that exists, there is music. One can see that in the essence of the seed of the rose there id the rose itself, its fragrance, form and beauty; and although in the end it may not be manifested, at the same time it is there. And the one who tunes himself not only to the external but to the inner being and to the essence of all things, get an insight into the essence of the whole being; and therefore he can to the same extent find and enjoy even in the seed the fragrance and beauty which delights him in the rose.
The greatest error of this age is that activity has increased so much, that there is little margin left in one’s everyday life for repose. And repose is the secret of all contemplation and meditation, the secret of getting in tune with that aspect of life which is the essence of all things. When one is not accustomed to take repose, one does not know what is behind one’s being. This condition is experienced by first preparing the body and the mind by means of purification; and by making the senses fine one is able to tune one’s soul with the whole Being.
It seems complex, and yet it is so simple. When one is open to one’s tried friend in life, one knows so much about him; it is only a question of the opening of the heart; it is the at-one-ment with one’s friend. We know his faults and his merits, but be know also how to experience and to enjoy friendship. Where there is hatred and prejudice and bitterness, there is loss of understanding. The deeper the person, the more friends he has. It is smallness, narrowness, lack of spiritual development, which makes a person exclusive, distant, different from others. He feels superior, greater, better than the others; the friendly attitude seems to have been lost. In this way he cuts himself off from others, and in this lies his tragedy. That person s never happy. The one ho is happy is he who is ready to be friends with all. His outlook on life is friendly. He is not only friendly to persons, but also to objects and conditions.
It is by this attitude of friendship that man expands and breaks down those walls which keep him in prison; and by breaking down those walls he experiences at-one-ment with the Absolute. This at-one-ment with the Absolute manifests as the music of the spheres; and this he experiences in all sides, in the beauty of nature, in colors of flowers, in everything he sees and in everything he meets. In the hours of contemplation and solitude, and in the hours when he is in the midst of the world, the music is always there, he is always enjoying its harmony.
THE MUSIC OF THE SPHERES (Continued)
THE nature of creation is the doubling of one. And it is this doubling aspect which is the cause of all duality in life; one part is positive, the other is negative; one expressive, the other responsive. Therefore spirit and nature in this creation of duality stand face to face. There is the first aspect which is sound, and the next which is light. In these nature-aspects, or responsive aspects, at first only the light works; but when on goes deeper in creation where is sound. In nature which is face to face with spirit, what is first expressed is light, or what man first responds to is light; and what man responds to next, what touches man deeper, is sound.
The human body is a vehicle of the spirit, a completed vehicle which experiences all the different aspects of creation. This does not mean that all other forms and names which exist in this world, some as objects, others as creatures, are not responsive to the expression of the spirit. In reality every object is responsive to the expression of spirit. In reality every object is responsive to the spirit and to the work of the spirit, which is active in all aspects, names and forms of the universe. One reads in the Masnavi of Rumi, that the earth, the water, the fire and the air, before man are objects, but before God they are living beings. They work at His command, as man understands living beings working under the command of a master. If creation can be explained, it is the phases of sound or of vibration, which manifest in different grades in all the various forms in life.
Even what we call matter or substance, and all that does not seem to speak or sound, is in reality all vibration. And the beauty of the whole of creation is this, that creation was worked in two ways. In one way it has expressed and in the other way it has made itself a responsive mold. For instance, there is substance, matter to touch, and there is a sense to feel, to touch. There is a sound, and at the same time there are ears which can hear sound. There is light, there is form, there are colors; and at the same time there are eyes to see them. And what man calls beauty is the harmony of all one experiences. What after all s music? What we call music is the harmony of the audible notes; but in reality there is music in color, there is music in lines, there is music in the forest where there is a variety of trees and plants; and there is harmony in how they correspond with each other. The more widely one observes nature, the more it appeals to one’s soul. Why? Because there is a music there; and the wider one’s outlook on life becomes, the deeper one’s understanding of life, the more music one can listen to, the music which answers the whole universe. But the one whose heart is open need not go as far as the forest; in the midst of the crowd he can find music. At this time human ideas are so changed, owing to materialism, that there is hardly any distinction of personality. But if one studies human nature, one sees that even a piano of a thousand octaves could not reproduce the variety of human nature. How people agree with one another, how they disagree; some become friends after a contact of a moment, some in many years cannot become friends. If one could only see to what pitch the different souls are tuned, in what octaves different people speak, what standards different people have! Sometimes there are two people who disagree, and there comes a third person and all unite together. Is that not the nature of music? The more one studies the harmony of music, and then studies human nature, how people agree and how they disagree, how there is attraction and repulsion, the more one will see that it is all music.
But now there is another question to be understood. That what man knows is generally the world he sees around him. Every few trouble to thin tat there is something beyond what they see around them. To many t is only a fable when they hear that there are two worlds. But if one looked deep within oneself one would see that it is not only tow worlds; it is so many worlds that it is beyond expression. That part of one’s being which is receptive is mostly closed in the average man. What he knows is expressing outwardly, and receiving from the same sphere whence he can receive from himself. For instance, the difference between a simple man and a thinking person with deeper understanding, is that when a simple person has received a word he had heard it only in his ears; whereas the thinking person has received the same word as far as his mind. The same word has reached the ears of the one and the heart of the other. If this simple example is true, it shows that one person lives only in this external world, another person lives in tow worlds, and a third person lives in many worlds at the same time. When a person says, ‘Where are those worlds? Are they above the sky, or down below the earth?’ the answer is that all these worlds are in the same place as that person is himself.
As a poet has said, ‘The heart of man, if once expanded, becomes larger than all the heavens.’ The deep thinkers of all ages have therefore held that the only principle of awakening to life is the principle of emptying the self. In other words, making oneself a clearer and more complete accommodation in order to accommodate all experiences more clearly and more fully. The tragedy of life, all its sorrows ad pains, belong mostly to the surface of the life of the world. If one were fully awake to life, if one could respond to life, f one could perceive life, one would not need to look for wonders, one would not need to communicate with spirits; for every atom in this world is a wonder when one sees with open eyes.
In answer to the question as to what is the experience of those who dive deep into life, and who touch the depth within, Hafiz has said, ‘It is not known how far is the destination, but so much I know, that music from afar is coming to my ears’. The music of the spheres, according to the point of view of the mystic, is like the lighthouse in the port that a man sees from the sea, which tells him that he is coming nearer to his destination. What music may this be? If there were no harmony in the essence of life, life would not have created harmony in this world of variety. And man would not have longed for something which was not in his spirit. Everything in this world which seems to lack harmony is in reality the limitation of man’s own vision. The wider the horizon of his observation becomes, the more harmony of life he enjoys. In the very depth of man’s being the harmony of the working of the whole universe is summed up in a perfect music. Therefore the music of the spheres is the music which is the source of creation, the music which is heard while traveling towards the goal of all creation. And it is heard and enjoyed by those who touch the very depth of their own lives.
THE ANCIENT MUSIC
When one looks at this subject form the Eastern point of view one finds that the Eastern idea of music originated from intuition. But the tradition of any art or even science will tell us the same thing. It is only later that man begins to believe in the outer things and forgets the origin, which is intuition. Music according to the ancient people was not a mechanical science or art; music was the first language. The proof of this can be found even now in the language of the animals and birds, who express their emotions and passions to one another, though there are not words, only sounds. It is the combination of the different sounds of the animals and the birds which also has an effect upon the numberless multitudes of the lower creation. If music was the first expressive thing in the lower creation, so it was in mankind also. And since it was the first expression of emotions and passions of the heart, it is also the last expression of the emotions and passions; for what art cannot express, poetry explains; and what poetry cannot express, is expressed by music. Therefore to a thinker music in all ages will stand supreme as the highest expression of what is deepest in oneself.
When ancient music is compared with modern music, one will no doubt find a gulf which is too vast to span. But if there is anything which gives one some idea of the original music of the human race, it is Eastern music, which still has traces of the ancient music in it. And if it had been considered in the East only as music, it would perhaps not have been kept intact as it has been; but it has always been taken to be part of religion, and that is how it has been preserved for thousands of years through tradition. One might ask how the music of ancient times can be kept pure, as there is always a tendency in human nature to alter things. The point is, that it was always difficult for the human race to change its religion. Anything else might be changed, but there was one thing that was always kept, and that was religion. The religion of the Hindus has come form
the Vedanta; and in the Vedanta the fifth aspect named was music, which was called Sama Veda.
One can trace back in traditions, by the study of Hindu music, that thousands of years ago they already made as fine a distinction of tones as quarter-tones. But it was not only the degree of the sound that was considered in that way, but also the nature and character of the sound was analyzed, just as in chemistry. We can find today in ancient traditions the different effects attached to the different effects, because the distinguishing is now done from the instruments, and in those times it was done only from nature. And yet it is most interesting that we find today in the Sanskrit scriptures the different pitch of sound distinguished in ancient times. In the absence of the piano or of tuning-forks they had to determine the pitch by the sound of different animals and birds; and also the sound was distinguished in different aspects of one special thing. This scientific aspect developed in the same way as the art of the ancient Hindu music. One might wonder about this, thinking it perhaps natural that art should develop thus because these people were so near to nature; but that science was so developed at that time is, in a way, more interesting.
Of the way the art developed among the ancient people references are to be found even now in the East. The idea was that they attached different themes of music to different seasons, and different strains of music to different times of the day and night. And as there is nothing in the world which is without reason, that also was not only an imagination or a fancy; there was a logical reason for attributing certain melodies to certain times. If it had been only a poetic fancy, it would have lasted for a short period and would have influenced only a limited circle. But it has lasted for ages, up till now, and has influenced the whole country; it is a usage which was carried on for thousands of years; and today in the East or West, North or South, the same raga is to be found sung at the same time. When sung out of that time, it is not appealing.
When we look at it from the metaphysical point of view, we shall find that the realization that science has today and will every have, that vibration is at the root of the whole of creation, was a certainty to these ancient people and was the basis of their whole science. They knew that that which has created and which is holding, the whole manifestation and the whole cosmos, is one power: vibration. And it is because of this that astrological science, which had much to do with the way human beings and different countries were influences, also arose from that science of a great deal to do with the influence of the planets and their action upon the earth were the basis of the ragas on which their music was founded.
In the Sanskrit tradition of ancient times there were verses to be found having relation to certain planets. Therefore according to the influence of the planets and of the cosmos, they made their program; and that program was carried out through the whole year. One might think that these influences would be too vague to perceive, that one could not make a program upon the influence of the planets; nevertheless humanity in all periods has arranged its life according to the planetary influences.
In order to keep their music close to nature it was necessary for them to give liberty to the singer and player to sing and play as they wished. Naturally uniformity was lacking, and a standardized system could not be made. That is why their music always remained an individualistic art, not a general education. The music of the ancient people therefore had its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages were this: that a musician, a singer or a player was never bound to sing in a particular way in order to execute properly the music he wanted to place before people, but was always free to give it according to his inspiration at the time. It gave him full liberty to express his emotions, his passions, without any outward restriction which he should obey. No doubt when there were a number of singers and players it was necessary to set a certain standard. Yet that standard did not restrict them very much. And it is this order which was called music.
The word music, or Sangita in Sanskrit, has three aspects. One aspect is language; the other aspect is playing; and the third aspect is movement. The Hindus have never regarded the science of movement or dance as something separate form music; they have always combined the three aspects of what they called music. As the music of the Eastern people developed, each of these three aspects developed also. For instance, the singing of the more refined people was quite different from that of the peasants; the song of the temple was altogether different from the song of the stage. It was not only that there were particular rules and regulations to be followed, a mechanical difference, but there was also a natural difference.
The most important or valuable thing about the music of the ancient people, which so greatly benefited humanity, was that they distinguished the different aspects of music, and thereby came to realize that there was a certain way of expressing the tone and rhythm which brought about a greater emotion or inclination towards action; and they found out, together with this, that there was a certain use of time and rhythm which brought about a greater equilibrium and a greater poise. This science, developing after many years of practice, formed in itself a special psychological science or art; and this science was called Mantra Yoga.
The meaning of the word Yoga is unity, or connection; and Mantra Yoga means the sacred union between the outer life and the deeper life. For the Yogis discovered that there are psychological inclinations. For instance, one of the tendencies of the breath is to go outward, and the other inclination is to go inward. And these two tendencies are to be found in nature also, in the ebb and flow, in the sunset and sunrise. One sees these differences in oneself; the vibrations of one’s own body and action are very different in the morning and in the evening. Therefore the yogis regulated the rhythm of the circulation, of the heart, and of every action of the breath, by the help of the vibration of music, of both tone and rhythm. This brought them from the audible vibrations to the inward vibrations, that is to say from sound to breath; and for these the Hindus have one and the same word:Sura, a name for both sound and breath. One thing blends into another, because it is the same thing in the end. It is the breath of an object which may be called sound; and it is the audibility of the breath which may be called voice. And therefore breath and voice are not two things; even breath and sound are not two things if one could understand that both have the same basis.
If there is any explanation of why man rejoices or is impressed by the music played to him it is this. Is it only an amusement or a pastime? No, there is something else besides that. The principal reason is that in man there is a perpetual rhythm going on, which is the sign of life in him; a rhythm which is expressed in his pulsation and his heartbeats, even in his heart. And upon this rhythm depends his health; not only his health, but his moods. Therefore, anywhere, a continued rhythm must have an effect upon every person; and upon each person its effect is distinct and different.
It is amusing and interesting to know that when jazz came into fashion everyone said, ‘Something crazy has come into society’, and yet no one has really resisted. It has come more and more into fashion. Yet however much a person hates it and is prejudiced against its name, he at least likes to stand and listen to it for five minutes. What is the reason? The reason is that in whatever from the rhythm is emphasized, the effect upon both body and mind is psychological. It is aid of a very great Persian poet, who was also a mystic, that when he got into a certain mood he used to make circles around a pillar which stood in the middle of his house. Then he would begin to speak, and people would write down what he said, and it would be perfect poetry. And there was a lawyer who, when he could not find an argument at the bar, would turn himself around, and after that he would find the right argument.
But in looking for a mystery we do to need to go to these extreme cases. A person, when he cannot find an idea, taps with his fingers on the table, and the idea comes. And many who cannot get hold of their thoughts, begin to walk about the room; and when they have made two or three circles, their thoughts become clear. If this is true, we come to the realization that the human body is a kind of mechanism which must go on regularly. If this is stopped in some way, there is something stopped in the body or in the mind. This brings one to the understanding that upon rhythm the mood, the health, and the condition of man’s mind depend; not only on the rhythm which he gets from music, but also on the rhythm of his won breath. This rhythm has also a great deal to do with the rhythm of his life.
It is also very true that there are certain kinds of sound which irritate man and have a bad effect upon the nerves; but there are other kinds of rhythm which have a soothing, healing and comforting effect upon the mind.
Music is sound and rhythm. And if sound and rhythm were understood in their nature and character, then music would not only be used as a pastime, but would become a source of healing and upliftment. The Sufis of ancient times, the great mystics, used to develop this art to bring about poise in life after their everyday activity.
Some Sufis who adopt a certain method of progress on the spiritual path and who try to live a life as far away from the world as possible are known as dervishes. They are also often called faqirs, and have great powers of wonder-working and of insight. They are dreamers and lovers of God. They worship God in nature, especially in human nature. Among many ways of spiritual development they have on called Suma, which is listening to music. They listen to music in an assembly of the initiated; no one uninitiated is allowed to enter their assembly. They address one another saying ‘O king of kings, O sovereign if all sovereigns’, and are mostly clad in patched robes or in rags. They never think of tomorrow, their thought I only for the moment; to quench the thirst and to satisfy the hunger of the moment. The care of tomorrow they leave to the morrow; it is just with now that they are concerned, if they are at all concerned with life. They are the ones who are really entitled to enjoy the beauty of music; whose spirit and soul are responsive, with open centers, who make themselves into a medium of resonance for the music they hear; therefore music touches them differently from any other people; music touches the deepest part of their being. Thus moved by music, they manifest various states, termed by Sufis Hal. Anyone among them who is moved by the spirit my manifest ecstasy, Wajad, in the form of tears, sighs, or dance.
This is the reason why those who do not understand the meaning of their dance call them howling dervishes or dancing dervishes. The gold of heaven s dust to the worldly man, and the gold of the earth is dust the heavenly. To either the gold of the other means nothing but dust; their coins are not interchangeable. Therefore the bliss of the dervish is understood by very few.
But one can hear from this the theory of the whole process of their spiritual development. By making God their Beloved, and by seeing God in the sublimity of nature, they create the presence of God; and as the whole process of daily life consists of both joy and pain, so the life of the dervish is also filled with both joy and pain in the presence of God. By the help of concentration, poetry and music, joy and pain are felt more deeply. Therefore God becomes living to him; His presence is before him in all his moods. When once his pain has had an outlet in some form or other in the Suma, the musical ceremony, the condition that follows it is that of deeper insight into life. Upon whatever object or person he may cast his glance, their deepest nature, character and secret are revealed to his soul; thus the whole life is made clear to his vision in the light of God.
Suma has been the most sacred treasure for the Sufis; the great poets such as Rumi of Persia used to have music for their meditation; and by the help of music they used to still and control the activity of their body and mind.
We see today that there is an increasing tendency to nervousness. It is caused by too much activity in life. Life is becoming more and more artificial every day, and with every step forward man is yet missing that repose which has been as yeast to the human race. Therefore for the betterment and education of humanity today the art of repose, which seems to be lost, greatly needs to be rediscovered.
THE SCIENCE AND ART OF HINDU MUSIC
Music, literature, and philosophy are akin to our souls, whatever be our faith or belief or our way of looking at life. India, in the history of the world, represents a country and a people engaged in the search for truth through the realm of music, philosophy and poetry at a time when the rest of the world had not yet begun to do so. It is therefore necessary to study Indian music, philosophy, and poetry in order to understand their foundation. Linguists today agree that the Sanskrit language was the origin or mother of many languages. The origin of the science of music is also to be found in Sanskrit.
It is a fact that not only art, but even science has its source in intuition. This seems to have been sometimes forgotten, but undoubtedly even the scientist is helped by intuition, although he may not always recognize the fact. Scientists who have delved deeply into their science will admit this. Intuition working in answer to the need of the mind and the body, inventing, through matter things of daily use, and gaining knowledge of the nature and character of things, is called science. Intuition working through beauty, which is produced in the form of line and color and rhythm, is called art. Therefore, the source of both science and art is intuition.
Realizing this source, the Hindus based their music on intuition, and the practice of Indian music has been a culture of stimulating intuition, and awakening the faculty of appreciating beautiful art, philosophy, and mysticism were all directed to one and the same goal. And not only arts and sciences, but even professions and commerce were not without a religious view. One can imagine how in a country where even business and professional men had a spiritual outlook, the musicians life was full of religious thought.
No part of the world, East or West, can really deny the divinity of music. In the first place, music is the language of the soul. And for two people of different nations or races to unite there is no better means than music. For music not only unites man to man, but man to God. Now, the question comes: when is it that music unites man with God, and how? Belief in God has two aspects. One belief in God is when a person thinks, ‘Perhaps there is a God,’ or ‘As others believe, I believe too.’ He does not know God by reason nor does he see God before him. God for him is perhaps in heaven. Whether He exists or does not exist, he does not know. And from one who has just this kind of belief, a little confusion or disappointment or injustice takes it away. If is for this reason that thousands and thousands of men who worshipped God gave up their belief in Him.
There is another aspect of belief. It is gained through the realization of God’s presence, not only in the heavens, but in one’s own surroundings. When a person arrives at this point, this belief becomes a living identity. To him God is not only a judge or a sustainer. To him, He is a friend who hears the cry of his soul in the solitude, and knows the best and greatest secret he has in his heart. A Friend upon whom one can always rely in good and bad experiences, and even in the hereafter. For a musician, music is the best way to unite with God. A musician with a belief in God brings to God the beauty and perfume and the color of his soul.
From the metaphysical point of view there is nothing that can touch the formless except the art of music, which in itself is formless. There is another point of view: that the innermost being of man is the Akasha, which means capacity. Therefore, all that is directed from the external world to the world within can reach this realm, and music can reach it best. A third point of view is that all creation came from vibrations, which the Hindus have called Nada. In the Bible, we can find it as the Word, which came first of all. On this point all the different religions unite. Man, therefore, loves music more than anything else. Music is his nature, it has come from vibrations and he himself is vibration.
There are two aspects of life: the first is that man is tuned by his surroundings, and the second is that man can tune himself in spite of his surroundings. This latter is the work of the mystic. The Sufis in the East work for years together to tune themselves. By the help of music they tune themselves to the spheres where they wish to be, as the Yogis do. Therefore, the beginning of music in India was at the time of Shiva, Lord of the Yogis. The great yogi teacher taught to the world the science of breath. Among the Sufis there was a great saint, Moin-ud-Din Chishti of Ajmer. At his grave music is played, the Hindus and Moslems go their on pilgrimage. This shows that the religion of the knowers of truth is the religion of God. The prayer of the greatest devotee rises from his heart into the realm of music. All the various methods of bringing about calm and peace can be attained through the help of music.
The music of India can be divided into four periods: the Sanskrit period, the Prakrit period, the Moghul period and the modern period. The Sanskrit period is on mystical lines. The Prakrit period is expressive of emotions of different sorts. In the Moghul period music was influenced by Persia and Arabia, and developed into modern music. Besides this, the two different races in India, the Dravidians and the Aryans, both had their own tradition in music. The Dravidians or Karnatic race produced the music of Southern India, and the Aryans or Hindus, produced the music of Northern India.
The science of Indian music has come from three sources: mathematics, astrology, and psychology. We find this in Western music also, for the entire science of harmony and counterpoint is based on mathematics. In Sanskrit the science of Hindu music is called Prestara, which means mathematical arrangement of rhythm and modes.
In the Indian system there are a great many modes and rhythms which are used in everyday music. The modes are called ragas, and they are grouped together in four classes. One class has seven notes, as in the natural scale of Western music. Then there are the modes of six notes, where one note of the seven-note range is omitted. That gives quite another effect to the octave and has a different influence on the human mind. There are also ragas of five notes, omitting two notes of the scale. In China they use a scale of four notes, but not in India.
Some say that the origin of the scale of four or five notes lies in the natural instinct that man shows in his discovery of instruments. The first instrument was the flute, symbolical of the human voice. It seems natural that after taking a piece of reed from the forest, man would make four holes in that reed at distances where he could place the tips of his fingers without effort, and would then make one hole below. That made the raga of five notes. It was only later that scientists arrived at the knowledge of vibrations. But this scale comes naturally when a man places his hand on the reed, and a great psychological power seems to be attached to it. It has a great influence on human nature. This shows that the power of anything deriving directly from nature is much greater when man has made changes and alterations in order to create a new form in art.
The science of astrology was based on the science of cosmic vibrations, for everything depends on vibratory conditions, including the position of the stars and planets and of individuals, nations, races and all objects. A great deal of secret power which the Hindus have found in the science of music has been derived from the science of astrology. Every note of Hindu music corresponds with a certain planet. And every note reflects a certain pitch of the animal world.
In the ancient Vedas, the science of elements, fire, water, air and ether, is to be found. These words should not be taken as meaning the same thing in everyday language. The element of water for instance signifies a liquid state. Fire signifies heat or warmth. Through this science the Hindus have been able to arrange some ragas or modes to be sung or played at a certain time of day or night. Undoubtedly, those who knew the alchemy of the vibrations have worked wonders by the power of their music. after the songs have been sung for thousands of years, the race has developed such a sense of appreciation of these ragas, that even an ordinary man in the street cannot bear to hear a morning raga sung in the evening. He may not know the notes, but to his ears it sounds disagreeable. He cannot bear to hear it. It is like taking a stroll on a midsummer morning wearing an evening dress! We may say it is a matter of habit, and that is true. But at the same time, a mode that should be sung in the middle of the night loses its beautiful influence if we sing it at noon.
Every planet has a certain influence, and there must be a certain mode to answer it. If this is not taken into consideration music may become a pastime. But it does not do the work for which it is designed.
To an Indian, music is not an amusement or only for entertainment. It is something more than that. It answers the deepest demands of the soul. Man is not only a physical body, he has a mind too. The body hungers for food, and what generally happens is that man only administers to his bodily needs and gives no attention to his inner existence and its demands. He experiences momentary satisfaction but then he hungers again, not knowing that the soul is the finest of man’s being. And so that unconscious craving of the soul remains.
In the undeveloped person that silent craving of the soul becomes something disagreeable and makes him restless or irritated. He does not feel contented with anything in life, he feels like quarrelling and fighting. In the person of fine feeling, this hunger of the soul expresses itself in depression and despair. He finds some satisfaction in love of reading, love of art.
The soul feels buried in the outer, material world, and the soul feels satisfied and living when it is touched with the fine vibrations. The finest matter is spirit and the grosser spirit is matter. Music, being the finest of the arts, helps the soul to rise above differences. It unites souls, because even the words are not necessary. Music is beyond words.
The Hindu music is unique in character, for the player and singer are given perfect freedom in expressing their soul through their art. The character of the Indian nature can be understood by the spirit of individualism. The whole education tends to individualism, to express one’s self in whatever form one is capable of. Therefore, in some ways to their disadvantage, but in many ways to their advantage, they have to express their freedom. Uniformity has its advantages, but it very often paralyzes progress in art.
There are two ways in life, uniformity and individualism. Uniformity has its strength, but individualism has its beauty. When one hears an artist, a singer of Hindu music, the first thing he will do is to tune his tambura, to give one chord. While he tunes his tambura he tunes his own soul, and this has such an influence on his hearers that they can wait patiently, often for a considerable time. Once he finds he is in tune with his instrument, with that chord, his soul, mind and body all seem to be one with the instrument. A person with a sensitive heart listening to his song, even a foreigner, will perceive the way he sings into that chord, the way he tunes his spirit to that chord. And by that time he has become concentrated, and by that time he has tuned himself to all who are there. Not only has he tuned the instrument, but he has felt the need of every soul in the audience and the demands of their souls, what they want at that time. Not every musician can do this. But the best can. When he synthesizes, and it all comes automatically as he begins his song, it seems that it touches every person in the audience, for it is all the answer to the demand of the souls that are sitting there. He has not made a program beforehand. He does not know what he will sing next. But each time he is inspired to sing a certain song, or to play a certain mode. He becomes an instrument of the whole cosmic system, open to all inspiration, at one with the audience, in tune with the chord of the tambura, and it is not only music, but spiritual phenomena that he gives to the people.
The traditional ancient songs of India composed by great Masters have been handed down from father to son. The way music is taught is different from the Western way. It is not always written, but it is taught by imitation. The teacher sings and the pupil imitates, and all the intricacies and subtleties are learned by imitation.
It is the mystical aspect of music which has been the secret of all religions. The great ones of this world such as Christ, Buddha, and others have come from time to time to be examples for the people, and to express that perfection which is the object of every soul.
The secret, which was hidden behind all these great religions, and in the work of these teachers, was that man should reach that utmost height which is called perfection. It is the principle which is taught from the first lesson the musician gives to his pupils. The pupil does not only imitate the teacher. He focuses his spirit upon the spirit of the teacher. He not only learns, but he inherits from his teacher.
The lack we find today of spiritual awakening, the reason so many seekers after truth have not come to a satisfactory result, is that they always pursue it outwardly. They take it from a book or learn it from a teacher. There was a time in the East, and this still exists even now, when a little boy who went to a teacher to learn, had a great regard for the teacher. His respect, his attitude toward his teacher was as it would be towards a priest. Therefore, in this manner he learned to value and appreciate and respect the knowledge of the teacher. It is most wonderful to read about the lives of the great singers in India, how they imitated their teachers, and how they sometimes became even greater than their teachers.
The object of Indian music is the training of the mind and the soul, for music is the best way of concentration. When you tell a person to concentrate on a certain object, the very fact of trying to concentrate makes his mind more disturbed. But music, which attracts the soul, keeps the mind concentrated. If one only knows how to appreciate it and give one’s mind to it, keeping all other things away, one naturally develops the power of concentration.
Besides, the beauty of music, there is the tenderness, which brings life to the heart. For a person of fine feelings, of kindly thought, life in the world is very trying. It is jarring, and it sometimes has a freezing effect. It makes the heart, so to speak, frozen. In that condition one experiences depression, and the whole of life becomes distasteful. The very life, which is meant to be heaven, becomes a place of suffering.
If one can focus one’s heart on music, it is just like warming something that was frozen. The heart returns to its natural condition, and the rhythm regulates the beating of the heart, which helps to restore health of body, mind, and soul, and bring them to their proper tuning. The joy of life depends upon the perfect tuning of mind and body.
A great Indian poet sang in Sanskrit the praise of the vina, ‘That instrument of gut strings! By looking at it, by touching it, by hearing it you can be made free, even if you kill a Brahmin!’ And to kill a Brahmin is considered to be the greatest of all sins.
This instrument was invented by the Lord of the Yogis, Shiva, Whose name is also Mahadeva. He gave to the world his lifelong experiences in the practice of Yoga and is worshipped in India as a godhead. His scriptures are considered to be holy. He was a great master of breathing and an ascetic; he lived in the mountains, where he breathed the free air of the wide horizons of the East and practiced Mantras, words and phrases, which change the hole being of man. Then he wanted to make some instrument to be used for higher exaltation through music. In the forest he cut a piece of bamboo. He then took two pumpkins, hollowed them out and tied them onto the bamboo. He made gut strings from animals and these he tied on to the instrument; in this way he made the first vina, and he practiced on it in the solitude. It is told that when the deer in the forest heard him play they used to say, ‘Make the strings of my own veins, and put them on your vina, but as long as I live, continue to play’.
Mahadeva made his instrument as a help for the human body and mind, considering its condition in the morning, in the midst of the day, in the afternoon, in the night and when waking at dawn. He found that at every time of the day and night a particular effect was made upon the human body and spirit, and that a rhythm akin to that particular time should be prescribed psychologically and mystically in order to elevate the soul. And therefore a psychological science of music was made by Mahadeva, a science which was called Raga which means emotion; emotion
controlled and used to the best purpose. When his consort Parvati saw this instrument, she said; ‘I must invent my vina’. So she took halves of the pumpkins and produced another kind of vina, the Sarasvati vina. So there are two vinas; men play one, the other by women. On this latter instrument not only sharp and flat notes are produced, but also microtones, and in this way the music becomes rich. But to develop the science of microtones is so difficult that it takes a lifetime.
The musicians of India devote twelve hours or more of the day to the practice of the different rhythms, improvising on them. And in the end they produce a psychological effect which is not music but magic; a magic that can thrill a person and that can penetrate the heart of man. It is a dream, a meditation; it is paradise. When hearing it, one feels one is in a different world. Yet their music is hardly audible. Instead of it being played before thousands of people, only one or two or three persons of the same quality and nature come together to enjoy that music thoroughly. If a foreign element is present the musician does not feel inspired.
Once a musician was invited to play the vina. The musician came and was welcomed. He uncovered his vina. Then he looked here and there, and found some discord. He covered his vina, saluted and began to leave. Those present felt disappointed and begged him to play; but his answer was, ‘No matter what you give me, I do not feel like playing’. This is a very different thing from making program months ahead. The musician in the west is bound six months beforehand to play a certain program; he is helpless. But in this way it is not music, it is labor, it is done mechanically. A singer in the East never knows what he is going to sing before he starts singing. He feels the atmosphere of the place and the time and then begins to sing or to play whatever comes to his mind. It is a very special thing. I do not mean to say that the music of this kind can be universal music; it belongs to some rare person in a secluded place.
In India musicians are now dying out because of lack of appreciation. Those potentates, those Gurus, those teachers of high inspiration who lived in the past, appreciated this music. But even in India people are becoming industrialized and more materialistic, and music is dying. There are very few now of those musician of former times who would make all those who listened spellbound; they hardly exist any longer. Among millions there are perhaps three or four and they will have vanished in a few years. Maybe one day the Western world will awaken to India’s music as now the West is awakening to the poetry of the East, and beginning to appreciate such works as those of Rabindranath Tagore. There will come a time when they will ask for music of that kind too, and then it will not be found, it will be too late. But there is no doubt that if that music, which is magic and which is built on a psychological basis is introduced in the West, it will root out all such things as jazz. People seem to spoil their senses. This music is destroying their delicacy of sense. Thousands every day are dancing to jazz music and they forget the effect it has upon their spirit, upon their mind, upon their delicate senses.
There was a prince of Rampur who wanted to study music with a great teacher. But the teacher knew the character of the prince who was fond of music, and he understood that many musicians would want to show their talents before him. He said, ‘I can only teach you on one condition: I do not want to hear any musician who is not an accomplished artist, because your sense of music is destroyed. It must be preserved for delicate music, it must be able to appreciate the fine intricacies.’
When the education of the public destroys the delicacy of its musical appreciation, it cannot help the fact that it does not like listening to real music but prefers jazz. Instead of going forward, it is a great pity.
Vina-music is very much like the human voice. If you heard the vina played, you would never think that it is an instrument. Vina music is not as magnetic as the music of the human voice, but it is more attractive, more impressive. And all the delicacies of the human voice and its silky structure are perfected in the sound of the vina.
THE MANIFESTATION OF SOUND ON THE PHYSICAL SPHERE
Modern Science has discovered recently that on certain plates one can see clearly the impression of sound. It is made visible. But in reality on all objects the impression of sound falls clearly, only it is not always visible. It remains for a certain time on any object and then it disappears. Those who have discovered scientifically the different impressions that are made by sound, have found the clear forms of leaves and of flowers and of other things of nature, which is the proof of the belief that the ancient people held, and which is expressed in the Vedanta in the well known phrase: Nada Brahma, meaning Sound, the Creator. And we read in the Bible that first was the word, and the word was God, and that first was sound (the word), and then was the light. This only means that the source of creation was sound. In other words, the creative source in its first step towards manifestation was audible, and in its next step it was visible. It also shows that all we see in this objective world – every form – has been constructed by sound: it is the phenomenon of sound.
When we go further into this subject we see that from a mystical point of view every syllable has a certain effect. As the form of every sound is different, so every syllable has a certain effect, and therefore every sound made, or word spoken before an object, has charged that object with a certain magnetism. This explains to us the method of the healers, teachers and mystics who, by the power of sound, charged an object with their healing power, with their power of thought. And when that object was given, as water or as food, that object brought about a desired result. Besides that, many masters of occult sciences who have communicated with the unseen beings, by the power of sound have done still greater things: they have created beings. In other words, they have given a body – by the power of sound – to a soul, to a spirit, making it into a certain being, which is not yet a physical being, but a being of a higher kind. They called such being Muwakkuls, and they worked through these beings, using them in any direction of life towards a certain purpose.
The physical effect of sound has also a great influence upon the human body. The whole mechanism, the muscles, the blood circulation, the nerves, are all moved by the power of vibration. As there is a resonance for every sound, so the human body is a living resonator for sound. Although by one sound one can produce a resonance in all substances, such as brass and copper, yet there is no greater and more living resonator of sound than the human body. The effect of sound is upon each atom of the body, for each atom resounds; on all glands, on the circulation of the blood and on the pulsation sound has its effect.
In India there s a feast every year at which the people think of the great heroes of the past and mourn over their life’s tragedy. Certain instruments are played, certain drums; sometimes very badly, sometimes by one who knows better. There are some people who, on hearing those drums, instantly enter into ecstasy, because the sound of the drum goes directly into their whole system, bringing it to a certain pitch where they feel ecstasy. And when they are in ecstasy they can jump into the fire and come out without being burned; they can cut themselves with a sword and they are instantly healed; they can eat fire and they are not burned by it. One sees it every year at that particular time.
They call such a condition hal. Hal means condition, which is an appropriate term for it, because on hearing the drum they think of that condition and they enter into it. In order to go into that trance they need not be very educated or very evolved. Sometimes they are very ordinary people, but the sound can have such effect upon them that they are moved to a higher ecstasy.
Now coming to the question of music: why music has an effect upon a person, why a person – by nature – likes music. It is not because he is trained in it or because it is a habit, but because it is a natural effect of sound that it attracts. First it touches the physical plane. The snake charmers in the East have proved many times that by playing their simple instrument called pungi they can attract the serpents of the vicinity. The sound has this effect upon the physical body of the serpent, and it begins to feel quite different; through that effect it is attracted to the sound, even to sacrifice its life, for then it is caught by the snake charmer.
It is for this reason that the wise considered the science of sound to be the most important science to use in every condition of life: in healing, in teaching, in evolving, in accomplishing all things in life. It is on this foundation that the science of dhikr (zikar) was developed by the Sufis, and that the Yogis made mantrashastra. By dhikris not meant one particular phrase: by dhikr is meant a science of words.
Apart from the meaning a word has, even syllables of sound can bring a good result or a disastrous result. Those who know about this can recall several instances in history where, through the mistake of a poet who did not use the proper words in the praise of a king, the kingdom was destroyed. And yet, how little one thinks about it if one says: ‘Well, I have said it, but I did not mean it’. People think that by saying something they have done nothing, as long as they did not meant it. But even saying something without meaning to, has a great effect upon life.
The science of sound can be used in education, in business, in industry, in commerce, in politics, in order to bring about desired results. But the best use of this science is made in spiritual evolution. By the power of sound or word one can evolve spiritually and experience all the difference stages of spiritual perfection.
THE EFFECT OF SOUND ON THE PHYSICAL BODY
Wind instruments, instruments with gut strings and with steel wire and the two instruments of percussion, drums and cymbals, have each a distinct, different, and particular effect on the physical body. There was a time when thinkers knew this and used sound for healing and for spiritual purposes. It was on that principle that the music of India was based. The different Ragas and the modes which these Ragas contain were supposed to produce a certain healing and elevating effect.
When we consider single notes or sounds – their effect upon the physical body leads us to thing deeply on the subject. There are snake charmers, mostly to be found in India, who by playing their instrument, a wind instrument called pungi, attract cobras and others snakes from their vicinity. Often and often this experiment has been made, and one has always found that all kinds of snakes, or cobras, are attracted on hearing the pungi. First they come out of the holes in which they live and there is a certain effect on their nervous system which draws them closer and closer to the sound of the pungi. They forget their instinct which is seen in every creature to protect itself from the attack of man or of other creatures. At that time they absolutely forget, they do not seen anyone or anything. Then they are aroused to ecstasy: a cobra begins to raise its head and to move it right and left, and as long as this instrument is played the cobra continues to move in ecstasy. This shows us that, apart from the psychical effect and apart from the spiritual effect that sound has on mankind, there is a physical effect also.
From a metaphysical point of view breath is the life current, prana. This life current exists also in things, such as the gut of the string or the skin of the drums. There is also a part of life in these things, and it is to that extent that their life current becomes audible, and that it touches the life current of the living creatures and gives it an added life. It is for this reason that the most primitive tribes who have only a drum to play, or an instrument to blow, get into such a condition by that continual playing of the drum that they enjoy the state of ecstasy.
How does the great success of jazz come about? It comes from the same principle. It does not give the brain much to think about in the technicality of music, it does not trouble the soul to think of spiritual things, it does not trouble the heart to feel deeply. Without troubling the heart or the soul it touches the physical body. It gives a renewed strength by the continuity of a particular rhythm and renewed strength by the continuity of a particular rhythm and a particular sound that give people – I mean the generality – a greater strength and vigor and interest than music that strains the mind making it think. Those who do not wish to be spiritually elevated, who do not believe in spiritual things and do not which to trouble, the jazz-band leaves alone, yet touching everyone who hears it.
When one compares the voice with the instrument, there is no real comparison, because the voice is life itself. The movement, the glance , the touch, even the breath that comes from the nostrils do not reach so far, not as far as the voice reaches.
There are three degrees of breath current. One degree is the simple breath that is inhaled and exhaled by the nostrils. This current reaches outside and has a certain effect. A greater degree of it is blowing. When a person blows from his lips, then that breath current is more intensely directed; therefore healers who have understood this principle made use of it. The third degree – in which the breath is most intense – is sound, because in that degree the breath, coming in the form of sound, is vitalized.
In the Near East, among Orthodox Christians and among Armenians, there is a custom not to use an organ in the church; the use a chord or sound made by ten or twelve persons sitting there with closed lips. Anyone who has heard it, will say that they are right. The sound of the organ is most artificial in comparison with the sound that the voices of ten or twelve persons produce with closed lips. This has such a wonderfully magic effect, it reaches so far and so deeply into the heart of man, and it produces such a religious atmosphere among them, that one feels that there is no necessity for an organ: this is a natural organ which God had made.
Brahmins, when they study the Vedas, even now do not study only what is written there or the meaning of it: they study the pronunciation of each syllable, of each word, of each sound, and they study for years and years. It is not that the Brahmin hears the sound once with the ears and thinks: ‘I have leaned it’. no. He thinks that a thousand repetitions of the word will one day produce that magnetism, that electricity, that life current which is necessary, and which only comes by repetition.
Now this life current that comes through the breath and manifest through the voice and touches another person – what action does it take? It touches the five sensed: the sense of sight, the sense of hearing, the sense of smell, the sense of taste, and the sense of hearing. It is not true that a person hears sound only through his ears; he hears sound through every little ore of his body. It permeates through his whole being, and according to its particular influence it either slows the rhythm or it quickens the rhythm of the blood circulation; it either wakens the nervous system or it soothes it; it arouses a person to heighten passions or it calms him by bringing him peace. In accordance with the sound and its influence a certain effect is produced.
Therefore the knowledge of sound can place in the hand of a person a magical instrument with which to wind, tune, control and utilize the life of another person to the best advantage. The ancient singers used to experience the effect of their spiritual practices upon themselves first. They used to sing one note for about half an hour and observe the effect of the same note upon all the different centers of their own body. They noted what life current is produced, how it opened the intuitive facilities, how it created enthusiasm, how it gave added energy, how it soothed and how it healed. So for them it was not a theory, it was an experience.
When this is not understood and when people only know that sound has something to do with the body, they think that they must make some use of it, and instead of making the right use of it they make the wrong use! The Maharaja of Baroda, hearing of this science, thought that he should introduce music into hospitals. Singers were sent there who had never learned what effect sound or song has. When the singers began their technical traditional songs while the patients were suffering pains and tortures, the patients said: ‘Oh, take them away, take them away! Throw them into the river!’ But it was the maharaja’s order that the singers were to sing. After a week the patients were far more ill, and the Maharaja had to send another order: ‘No more music is wanted’.
In my travels I have seen now the same thing. There are some people here and there who think that music has a great effect upon patients, on health, but instead of using the right music, they use the wrong music, and its effect is to make people more ill.
Sound becomes visible in the form of radiance. This shows that the same energy which goes into the form of sound, before it becomes visible is absorbed by the physical body. In that way the physical body recuperates and becomes charged with new magnetism. By a keen study psychology you will find that singers have a greater magnetism than they average person: because of their own practicing their voice makes an effect upon themselves and they produce electricity in themselves. In that way they are charged with a new magnetism every time they practice. This is the secret of the singer’s magnetism.
As to the question which is the wrong and which is the right use of sound, it all depends upon the particular case. In one case a certain sound may be rightly used, in another case the same sound may be rightly used, in another case the same sound may be wrongly used, but whether it was right or wrong will be seen by the harmonious and inharmonious effects it produces. When a pitch is a natural pitch of the voice; and a person sings a note in that pitch – in any pitch which is quite natural to him – that will be a source of that person’s own healing as well as that of others. But the person who has found out the key note of his own voice, has the key to his whole life. That person, through the key note of his own voice, can then wind his own being and can help others. There are, however, many occasions when this much knowledge is not enough, because this knowledge only concerns oneself: one knows what is one’s own note and the natural pitch of one’s voice.
The great drawback today in the world of song is that people are going far away from what is called the natural voice, and this is brought about by commercialism. They have made a hall for one hundred persons, then for five hundred, and then for five thousand persons. A man must shout in order to make five thousand people hear him, in order to have a success – a success that can be had at the ticket office! But that magic charm of the voice is in the natural.
Every person is gifted. God has given him a certain pitch, a natural note, and if that pitch develops and he develops that natural note, it is a magic, he can perform a miracle. But he must think about the hall where he has to sing, and of how loud he must shout!
There was a man from India visiting Paris. For the first time in his life he went to the opera to hear the music and he was trying hard to enjoy it. The first thing he heard was a soprano who was doing her best, and then came the tenor, or the baritone, and he had to sing with her. So this man became very annoyed and said: ‘now look, he has come to spoil it!’
When we come to the essence and the inner principle of sound, the closer to nature we keep it, the more powerful, the more magical it becomes. Every man and woman has a certain pitch of voice. Then the voice producer says: ‘No, this is alto, soprano, tenor, baritone, or bass’. He limits that which cannot be limited.
How can there be so many voices? There are as many voices as there are souls; they cannot be classified. As soon as he is classified, that person is obliged to sing in that pitch. If his pitch is different, he does not know it; if his voice is higher, he does not sing in that pitch. Because the voice producer says: ‘This is a soprano’, that person cannot be anything else. Besides that, a person has to depend upon what the composer has written. The composer never know the voice of that particular person, the composer wrote only for a distinct pitch, either this one or that one. When a person has to sing in the pitch that is prescribed, then he loses the natural pitch he had.
Apart from singing, even in speaking, among one hundred persons you will find one who speaks in his natural voice, and ninety-nine who imitate. They imitate someone else; they do not know it. The same thing that you find in grown-up people you will find in little children. The tendency in a little child is to change and to imitate. Every five or ten days, every month a child changed his way of speaking; his voice, his words, many things he changes. And where does he learn it? From the children in school. He sees a child walking in some way, or making gestures, or frowning, or he hears it speaking in a certain way. He does not realize it, but he has heard it and he does the same thing; so he goes on changing.
In the same way every person – also without knowing it – changes his voice, and so the natural voice is lost. To retain one’s natural voice is a great power in itself, but one cannot always retain it. In order to have a great, a good, a powerful effect with one’s voice and sound, one does not have to be a singer. What one has to do is to practice the breath in different ways. One must first know how to breathe; one must then know how to blow; one must then learn how to make a sound, how to say a word. If one practices in these three ways, one will attain that power which is latent in every soul. One need not be a singer, but for every person it is necessary that he should give some part of the day – even the shortest time he can give: five, ten, or fifteen minutes to his voice, to the development of his voice.
The voice is not only indicative of man’s character, but it is the expression of this spirit. The voice is not only audible, but also visible to those who can see it. The voice makes impressions on the ethereal sphere, impressions which can be called audible; at the same time they are visible. Those scientists who have made experiments with sound and who have taken impressions of the sound on certain plates – which impressions appear like forms – will find one day that the impression of the voice is more living, more deep, and has a greater effect. Sound can be louder than the voice, but sound cannot be more living than that the voice.
Knowing this the Hindus of ancient times said that singing is the first art, playing the second art, and dancing the third art which make music. The Hindus who have found that by these three different aspects of music one attains to spirituality much sooner that by any other way, have discovered that the shortest way to attain spiritual heights is by singing. Therefore the greatest prophets of the Hindus were singers: Narada and Tumbara. Narada inspired Valmiki who wrote the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the great Hindu scriptures.
There are three principal kinds of voice: the jelal voice, the jemal voice, and the kemal voice. The jelal voice indicates power; the jemal voice indicates beauty; thekemal voice indicates wisdom.
If you take careful notice in everyday life, you will find that sometimes before a person has finished his sentence you have become annoyed. It is not because of what he has said, but it is his voice. An you will also notice – perhaps not every day in your life, but sometimes – that you once heard someone say something that has always remained with you: it gives always a beautiful feeling, it is always soothing, it is healing, it is uplifting, it is inspiring.
A doctor coming to see a patient may, by his voice, frighten the patient and make him more ill if his voice is not harmonious. And another doctor may, by his voice, treat the patient so that before the medicine is brought he is already feeling better. The doctor gives the medicine, but it is the voice with which he comes to the patient that counts.
In the history of the world have not men marched hundreds of miles with strength and vigor, not knowing what they were going to face, on hearing the voice of their commander: ‘Quick march!’? It seemed that all fear, all anxiety were taken away, and all vigor and courage were given to them, as they were going to march. And again have you not heard of commanders who said: ‘Fire!’ and the soldiers turned back and fired at them? That is the voice too.
The voice, therefore, is a wine. It may be the best wine, and it may be the worst liquor. It may make a person ill, or it may uplift him.
There are five different qualities of the voice, which are connected with the peculiar character of the person. The earth quality of the voice is hope giving, encouraging, tempting. The water quality is intoxicating, soothing, healing, uplifting. The fire quality is impressive, arousing, exciting, horrifying; at the same time it is awakening, because very often warning is given in the voice of the fire quality. The use of the words ‘tongues of flame’ in the Old Testament is narrative of that voice and word which were warning of coming dangers. It was alarming for the people to awaken from their sleep, to awaken to a greater consciousness, to a higher consciousness.
Then there is the air quality of the voice. It is uplifting, raising a person, taking him far, far away from the plane of the earth. And the ether quality of the voice is inspiring, healing, peace giving, harmonizing, convincing, appealing; at the same time it is most intoxicating.
Every jelal voice, jemal voice, or kemal voice has one or another of these five qualities predominant in it, and according to that it creates an effect.
The most wonderful part in the study of voice is that from the voice you can find out a man’s particular evolution, his stage of evolution. You do not need to see the person, just his voice will tell you where he is, how far he has evolved. There is no doubt that the character of the person is apparent, is evident in his voice. There is another most wonderful thing to be found in the science of the voice: that the fortunate person has a different voice from the one who is not so fortunate. If you gather five persons who have really proved to be most fortunate, and you hear their voices, you will find what great difference there is between their voice and the ordinary voice. When you compare the voice of great people – no matter what their line may be – with the voice of others, you will find that there is a difference.
But what is meant here is the speaking voice. When we come to singing it is quite different, because today the art of singing has become as artificial as can be. The whole idea is to train the voice and make it different from what it is naturally. The training of the voice does not develop what is natural in it, it mostly brings into it something which is not natural to it. Therefore when a person sings according to the method of the day he has a different voice. It is not his voice, it is not his character. He may have a great success, he may be audible to thousands of people, but at the same time he is not singing in his natural voice. Therefore the real character of the person is to be seen in his speaking voice.
Then there is another thing to be understood: that is the softness and the loudness of the voice; that there are times when the voice is softer, and there are times when the voice is louder. Naturally that shows the condition of the spirit at that particular time, because sometimes the spirit is tender, and with the tenderness of the spirit the voice becomes softened. Sometimes the spirit is harder, and with the hardness of the spirit the voice becomes hardened. In order to scold a person you do not need to put on a hard voice; the voice becomes hard naturally. In order to sympathize with a person, in order to express your gratitude, your love, your devotion, your affection to someone, you do not need to soften your voice; your voice is soft before you can feel it, before you can think about it. This shows that the voice is an expression of the spirit. If the spirit is soft, the voice is soft; if the spirit is hard, the voice is hard; if the spirit is powerful, then the voice has power; if the spirit has lost its vigor, then the voice loses its power.
Furthermore I should like to tell you an amusing thing on this subject. Sometimes a person comes to you and begins to speak about something; and then he says: ‘Hm, hm’; next he says another word and then continues to say: ‘Hm, hm’. It may be that he has a cold, but it may be that he has not. Yet that time he is doing this. Why? Because there is something that he is bringing forth from his mind, and it does not come quickly. The same condition that is going on in the spirit is manifesting in the voice. He wants to say something, but he cannot say it: the voice does not operate, because the mind is not operating. If in the mind there is some obstacle, some hindrance, then in the voice there is also something hindering.
Inspiration chooses its own voice, and when a speaker has to change his voice in accordance with the hall where he is going to speak, then inspiration is lost. Because the inspiration begins to feel: ‘It is not my voice’, it does not come. Then the speaker has to struggle twice: one struggle is that he must speak without inspiration, and the other struggle is that he must be audible to the number of people present. That cannot be done!
Nowadays people have adopted a new method of elocution. A person who has learned elocution can shout as loudly as ten people shouting at the same time, and everyone will thing: ‘How wonderful!’ But what impression has it made? None!
Nowadays radio technicians have made a kind of horn which they use at stations in the United States. A person takes that horn and on speaking into it his voice becomes twenty times louder. It is all right for trade and business purposes, but when you come to life itself, and when you come to conversation, to speaking to your friends, it is different. It is most psychological occasion when you speak to one person or to many persons, because something is taking place which has its echo in the cosmos. No word ever spoken is lost; it remains, and it vibrates according to the spirit put into it. If a person makes his voice artificial in order to convince people, in order to be more audible, and in order to impress people, it only means he is not true to his spirit. It cannot be. It is better for a person to be natural in his speech with individuals and with the multitude, rather than that he should become different.
Now coming to the subject of singing: there are certain things which must be retained in the voice. However much the voice may be developed, however great its volume, however far reaching it may be and should be made by practice, at the same time one must feel responsible for keeping one’s natural voice through every stage of development – that the natural voice is not hurt by it. It does not mean tat one should not have afar reaching voice, it does not mean that one should not have a voice of a larger volume, that one should not have a voice that is vigorous and flexible. Everything that enriches the voice is necessary and must be developed by practice, but all the time keeping in view: ‘I must not sacrifice the natural quality of my voice’. For every person, every soul must know that there is no other voice like his. And if that particularity of its own voice which each soul has is lost, then nothing is left with it.
Besides this, every person is an instrument in this orchestra which is the whole universe, and his voice is the music that comes from each instrument. Each instrument is made distinct and particular and peculiar, so that no other voice can take the place of that particular voice. If then – with the instrument that God had made and the music that God has intended to be played in the word – one does not allow that music to be played and one develops a voice which is not one’s own, naturally that is a great cruelty to oneself and to others.
For those on the spiritual path, thinkers, students and meditative souls, it is of the greatest importance to know the condition of their spirit from time to time by consulting their voice. That is their barometer. From morning till evening one can see the weather – the weather created by oneself: whether it is warm or cold, or whether it is spring or winter. One’s voice is that barometer that shows to us what is coming, because what will come is the reaction, the result of what is created, and the voice is indicative of it.
Those who think still more deeply on this subject will be able to see how, step by step, they are progressing in the spiritual path, if only they consult their voice. Every step in the spiritual path brings about a little change. By a distinct study of the voice you will find that it is so. When you go back, you will find by the change: ‘I had gone so much further, and I have gone back again’. The voice will tell you.
There is another point which is most wonderful about the voice: that once you have worked with the voice and have cultivated it, deepened it, widened it, and it has become invigorated, and then you have left it, you may leave it for months and years, and the voice may take a different shape and a different appearance, but at the same time what you have once developed remains with you somewhere. It is just like a deposit kept in a bank. You do not know of it, you have forgotten it perhaps, yet it is there. The day when you will touch it again,, it will come back in the same way and it will take very little to complete it.
If the voice has developed a spiritual quality and one finds later that it has lost that spiritual quality, one must not be discouraged or disappointed,. One has not lost it. One must correct oneself and want to go forward again, and be sorry for having gone backward, but never be discouraged, never be hopeless, because it is there; it only wants a little touch. It is just like a little candle which has gone out, but once you strike a match it is lighted again; it is a candle just the same. The voice is light itself. If the light has become dim, it has not gone our, it is there. It is the same with the voice. If it does not shine, it only means that is has not been cultivated. You must cultivate it again, and it will begin to shine again.
THE MYSTERY OF SOUND AND COLOR
The attraction one finds in color and in sound makes one wonder if there is a mystery hidden behind them, if there is a language of color and sound which could be learned. And the answer is that the language of color and sound is the language of the soul, and that it is our outer language which makes us confused as to the meaning of that inner language. Color and sound are the language of life. Life expresses itself on all the different planes of existence in the form of color and sound. But the outer manifestations of life are so rigid and dense that the secret of their nature and character is buried underneath.
Why is the world called an illusion by the mystics? Because the nature of manifestation is such that it envelops its own secret within itself, and appears in such a rigid form that the fineness, beauty and mystery of its character are hidden. Therefore the seekers after the truth of life, the students of life, are of two opposite kinds. The one wishes to learn from outward appearance. The other wishes to find out the secret that is hidden behind it. The one who learns from the external gets the knowledge from the external, which we call science. The one who finds out from the within, from what is hidden in this manifestation, is the mystic. The knowledge he gains is mysticism.
The first question that arises in the mind of the intelligent person is: what is it in sound and color that appeals to man? It is the tone and rhythm of color as well as of sound which have an influence on the tone and rhythm of our being. Our being is our capacity for the resonance of tone and rhythm which comes from sound and color. This capacity enables us to be influenced by sound and color. Thus some have a liking for a certain color, others have a liking for another color, and some are attracted to a certain kind of sound. In singing some are attracted to a baritone or a bass voice, others to a tenor or soprano. There are souls to whom the deep sounds of the cello appeal. There are others who are interested in the sound of the violin. Some enjoy the sound of the horn and the trombone. And others prefer the flute. What does this show? It shows that there is a certain capacity in our hearts, in our beings, and it depends upon that particular capacity what kind of sound appeals to us.
At the same time it depends upon man’s grade of evolution, his character, his nature, whether he is gross or fine. Also upon his temperament, whether he has a practical nature or is dreamy, whether he loves the drama of life or whether he is absorbed in the ordinary things of life. According to man’s condition, his temperament and his evolution, color and sound affect him. And the proof of this is that he often changes his fancy in regard to color. There are times when he takes a fancy to blue or he craves for yellow or for orange. There are some who like deep colors, others like light colors. It all depends on their temperament and their grade of evolution.
Music of every kind appeals to some person. The best or the worst, somebody likes it. Does one not see how children can enjoy themselves with a little tin can and a stick? The rhythm comes within their capacity of enjoyment. Human nature is like that. It takes in everything, from the highest to the lowest. It has such a wide capacity that there is nothing left out. Everything has its place and everything is assimilated by human nature. At the same time there is action and inaction. It is not only the grade of evolution that makes man change his fancy for different colors and tones, but it is also the different colors and tones that help him in his evolution. And they change the speed of his evolution.
Very often man gives such great importance to color and tone that he forgets what is behind them, and that leads him to many superstitions, fancies and imaginations. Many have fooled simple people by telling them what color belonged to their souls, or what note belonged to their lives. Man is always ready to respond to anything that can puzzle him and confuse his mind. He is always willing to be fooled. He enjoys it so much when someone tells him his color is yellow or green, or his note is C, D or F, that he does not care to find out why. It is like telling somebody that Wednesday is his day and Thursday some other person’s!
In point of fact all days are ours, all colors are ours. It is man who is the master of all manifestation. It is for man to use all colors and tones. They are at his disposal, for him to make the best use of. There would be no life in this. It would be a form of death. The staircase is made for us to ascend, and not to remain standing on one step. Every step is our step, if we could only take it.
Coming to the mystical point of view, the first aspect that makes Intelligence conscious of manifestations is sound. The next aspect is light (color). The proof of this can be found in the Bible, as well as in the Vedanta. The Bible says, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God.’ And it also says that first was the Word and then came the Light.
What is color? It is an aspect of light. We read in the Vedanta, that the first aspect of the Creator, the source from which the whole creation was made, was sound. In the Qur’an it is said, ‘The first command was “Be,” and it became.’
In explaining the process of creation all the mystics and prophets and great thinkers of the world, at all periods of history, have given the first place to sound. And the scientist of today says the same. He will speak of rays, atoms, electrons. And after going through all the different atoms of substance he arrives at something he calls movement. Movement is vibration. It is only the effect of movement which we call sound. Movement speaks and we call speech sound when it is audible. When it is not audible, it is because there is no sufficient capacity. But the cause of sound is movement. And movement is always there. This shows that the existence of the movement does not depend upon capacity.
Color also is movement. And its capacity makes color concrete to our vision. At the same time, although we may call a color green or red or yellow, every color is different to each person. In fine shades of color people do not see alike because the capacity is different in each of them. The tone is according to the capacity. In other words tones or colors have not got different values, but to us they become different when we sense them or feel them. In relation to us they are different.
The conception of the five elements, which the mystics have always had, cannot be explained in scientific terms, because the mystics have their own peculiar meaning. Although the elements may be called earth, water, fire, air and ether, this must not be taken literally. Their nature and character, according to the mystics, are different. But, as words are few, one cannot give other names to these elements, although in Sanskrit we have distinctive words for them. ‘Ether’ is not ether in the scientific sense. It is capacity. ‘Water’ is not water as we understand it in everyday language. It is liquidity. ‘Fire’ is understood differently. It means glow or heat, dryness, radiance, all that is living. All of these words suggest something more than is ordinarily meant by them.
The working of these five elements is distinguished by different colors and sounds. The five elements are represented by sound. In the musical scales or ragas of India and China, the raga of five notes is considered the most appealing. And my own experience is that the scale of five notes is much more appealing than the scale of seven notes. The scale of seven notes lacks some vital influence which the scale of five notes possesses.
There is a relation between sound and color. In reality they are one. They are two aspects of life. Life and light are one. Life is light and light is life, and so color is sound and sound color. Only, when sound is color it is most visible and least audible, and when color is sound it is most audible and least visible. One can find the unity of color and sound by studying and practicing the science of breath. When one hears something one’s first tendency is to open one’s eyes, to try to see the color of it. That is not the way to see it, although color is a language. The very life which is audible is visible also. But where? It is visible on the inner plane. The mistake is that man looks for it on the outer plane. When he hears music he wants to see the color before him. Every activity of the outer world is a kind of reaction. In other words a shadow of the activity which is behind it and which may have taken place twelve hours earlier is now visible in color on the outer plane. This is also the explanation of the effect of dreams on life. Of something that one has seen in a dream at night, one may perhaps see the effect in the morning, or even a week later. This shows that there is some activity which takes place behind the scenes. And it is reflected on the outer life according to how the activities of the outer life are directed.
This is the reason why a seer or mystic is very often able to know beforehand his own condition and the condition of others, what is coming or what has passed, or what is going on at a distance. For he knows the language of sound and color. And now the question is, on which plane does he know the language of sound and color? In what way does it manifest to him? One cannot restrict it by a certain law, yet at the same time it follows a certain law. And where does he see it? He sees it in his breath.
Therefore the whole culture of spiritual development is based upon the science of breath. What made the Yogis, the mystics, able to see happenings of the past, present and future? Some lay behind creation. A certain working of the mechanism, which is a finer mechanism. And how can it be seen? By opening one’s vision to one’s self.
According to the mystics there are five capacities of one’s being, which may be called five Akashas. The one capacity which everybody knows and is conscious of is what may be called the receptacle of food, the body. And the other which is more or less recognized is the receptacle of the sense, which resides in the sense. And the third capacity is a world in itself, where one is conscious of the finer forces of life, which are working within oneself. They can convey to one a sense of the past, present and future, for the reason that they are
clear to one’s vision. One sees them.
But you may ask, ‘How can someone find out the condition of another?’ It is not because he knows more about others, for a person is made to know most about himself. But many are unconscious of the third receptacle, that of life. The one who is conscious of this receptacle of life is able to empty the capacity he has and make it possible for the life of another person to reflect upon it. He does it by focusing his mind upon the life of another, and by that he discovers that past, present and future. Only he has to put the camera in the right place. It is exactly like photography. The plate is there. It is clear because its own capacity is empty. And the black cloth which the photographer puts over the camera and over his own head is concentration. When man has mastered concentration, he becomes the photographer. He can focus all the light upon one spot. It is all scientific when we understand it in this way. It only becomes a puzzle when it is put before us as a mystery. Everything is a mystery when we do not know it. When we know it everything is simple. The true seekers after truth are lovers of simplicity. The right road is simple, clear, distinct. There is nothing vague about it. And the more one follows this path of the mystery of life, the more life is revealed to one. Life begins to express its secret, its nature. What is required of man is an honest following of life’s law. Nothing in this world is more important than the knowledge of human nature and the study of human life, and this study lies in the study of self. It is the study of self which is really the study of God.
THE SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE OF SOUND AND COLOR
It seems that what science realizes in the end, mysticism realizes from the beginning, according to the saying of Christ, ‘First seek ye the Kingdom of God and all will be added.’ When one hears of the present discoveries about sound and color from the scientific point of view, one begins by being surprised. One says, ‘What! A new discovery, something we have never heard of? It is something quite new.’ And yet when you open the Bible, there it says, ‘First was the Word, and the Word was God,’ and if you open the still older scriptures of the Vedanta, you read in their verses that in the Creator there was that word, or that vibration. And when we come to the Qur’an we read there, ‘First there was the word “Be” and then it became.’ The religions of the world, the prophets and mystics who existed thousands of years ago, knew of these things. Today a man comes with a photographic plate and says, ‘Here I have a photograph of sound. This shows how important is vibration and its action upon the plate.’ He does not realize that it is something which has always been known, only it has been spoken of in spiritual terms. What has been spoken man does not think about. What is being spoken he thinks is something new. But when we realize, and Solomon has said, that there is nothing new under the sun, we begin to enjoy life, seeing how time after time the same wisdom is revealed to man. The one who seeks truth through science, the one who searches for it through religion, the one who finds it through philosophy, the one who finds it through mysticism, in whatever manner they seek truth, they find it in the end.
Once I was introduced to New York to a scientist who was also a philosopher, and the first thing he said about his accomplishments was, ‘I have discovered the soul.’ It amused me very much that while all the scriptures, thinkers, mystics and prophets have spoken about it, this man should come and say, ‘I have discovered the soul!’ I thought, ‘Yes, that was the new discovery that we were expecting, something that we never knew.’ Such is the attitude of mind today, the childish attitude. When one looks into the past, the present and the future, one sees the life is eternal. And what one can discover is that which has always been discovered by those who seek. Philosophy or science, mysticism or esotericism, will all agree on one point if they touch the summit of their knowledge. And that point is that behind the whole of creation, behind the whole of manifestation, if there is any subtle trace of life that can be found, it is motion, it is movement, it is vibration.
Now this motion has two aspects. And this is because we have developed two principal faculties, sight and hearing. One aspect appeals to hearing, the other to sight. The aspect of movement or vibration which appeals to our hearing is what we call audible, or sound. The aspect which appeals to our sight we call light or color, and we call it visible. In point of fact what is the origin of all that is visible, all that is audible? It is motion, it is movement, it is vibration. It is one and the same thing. Therefore, those who can see can trace color even in that which is audible, and which is called sound. And to those who can hear even the sound of color is audible.
Is there anything that unites these two things? Yes, there is. And what is it? It is harmony. It is not a particular color which is in itself harmonious or which lacks harmony. It is the blending of that color, it is in what frame it is placed, how the color is arranged. In accordance with that it has its effect upon the one who sees. And so it is with sound. There is not any sound which is harmonious or inharmonious in itself. It is the relation of one sound to another sound that creates harmony. Therefore one cannot point out that this or that certain thing is harmony. Harmony is a fact. Harmony is the result of the relation between color and color, the relation between sound and sound, and the relation between color and sound.
The most interesting aspect of this knowledge is how different colors appeal to different people, and how different people enjoy different sounds. The more one studies this, the more one finds its relation with the particular advancement of a man’s evolution. For instance one will find that at a certain stage of one’s evolution one loved a certain color and then one lost contact with that color. With one’s growth and evolution in life one begins to like some other color. It also depends upon a person’s condition, whether he is emotional, passionate, romantic, warm or cold. Whether sympathetic or disagreeable. Whatever be his emotional condition, in accordance with that he has his likes or dislikes in colors. It is that which makes it easy for the seer, for the knower, to read the character of man even before having seen his face, by only seeing his clothes. His preference for a certain color expresses what the person is like, and what is his liking. His liking for a certain flower, his liking for a certain gem or jewel, his liking for a certain environment in his room, the color on his wall, all that shows what a person is like, what is his preference.
And as man evolves spiritually through life, so his choice of color changes. With each step forward he changes. His ideas about color become different. There are some to whom striking colors appeal. To others pale colors. The reason is that the striking colors have intense vibrations, and the pale colors have smooth and harmonious vibrations, and the pale colors have smooth and harmonious vibrations, and it is according to the emotional condition of man that he enjoys different colors.
It is the same with sound. Every person, whether he knows it or not, has a predilection for a certain sound. Although most people do not study this subject and therefore man usually remains ignorant of the idea, yet every person has a special liking for a certain sound. This explains the saying or belief that each person has his note. The fact is that each person has his sound, a sound which is akin to his particular evolution. Besides all the divisions that have been made such as tenor, bass or baritone, each person has his particular pitch and each person has his special note on which he speaks, and that particular note is expressive of his life’s evolution, expressive of his soul, of the condition of his feelings and of his thoughts.
It not only has effect upon people to hear certain sounds and to see certain colors, but it also has effect upon animals. Colors have a great effect and influence upon all living creatures, animals or birds or human beings. Without their knowing it the influence of colors works in their lives, turning them to this or that inclination. Once I was visiting a house which had been taken by a certain club, and one of the members told me, ‘It is a very great pity, since we have taken this house there is always disagreement in our committee.’ I said, ‘No wonder. I see it.’ They asked, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘The walls are red, they make you inclined to fight.’
A striking color from all around gives you the inclination to disagree. The emotions are touched by it, and certainly those inclined to disagreement are helped by it. And it is from this psychological point of view that one finds in the East the ancient custom, especially at weddings of a certain color being chosen for the time of wedding and certain colors for other times and festivities. It all has its meaning. It has a psychological significance at the back of it.
Since both color and sound are perceived differently, and we have different senses to perceive them, we have made a distinction, between visible and audible things. But in reality those who meditate, who concentrate, who enter within themselves, those who trace the origin of life, begin to see that behind these outer five senses there is one sense hidden. And this sense is capable of doing everything which we seem to do or to experience.
We distinguish five external senses. They are five because we know five organs of sense. But in reality there is only one sense. It is that sense which through these five different organs experiences life, and distinguishes life in five different forms. And so all that is audible and all that is visible is one and the same. It is this which is called in Sanskrit Purusha and Prakriti. And in the terms of the Sufis, Zat and Sifat. The manifested aspect is called Sifat, the outer appearance. It is in the manifestation as Sifat that one sees the distinction or the difference between what is visible and what is audible. In their real aspect of being they are one and the same. According to Sufi mystics the plane of existence where they are one and the same is called At, that knowledge of the inner existence in which one sees the source and goal of all things.
Color and sound are a language which can be understood, not only in the external life, but also in the inner life. For the physician and the chemist color has a great significance. The deeper one goes into the science of medicine and of chemistry, the more one recognizes the value of color. And that each element and the development or change of each object is distinguishable by the changing of color. The physicians of old used to recognize diseases by the color of the face and the body. Even today there are physicians whose principal way of recognizing a man’s complaint is from the color of his eyes, of the tongue, the nails, and the skin. In every condition it is color which is expressive of man’s condition. Also in objects the condition and the change of the object is recognized by the change of color. The psychologists have recognized the condition of objects by their sound, and of people by their voice. What kind of person a man is, whether strong or weak, what his character is, what his inclinations are, and what his attitude is towards life, all this can be known and understood through his voice.
Color and sound are not only the language by which one communicates with external life, but also the language by which one communicates with the inner life. One might ask how it is done. The answer is found in certain scientific experiments: special plates are made, and by speaking near such a plate, one makes marks upon it with sound and with vibration. And those marks make either harmonious forms or inharmonious forms. But every person from morning till night is making an invisible form in space by what he says. He is creating invisible vibrations around him and he is thereby producing an atmosphere. Somebody may come into the house and before he speaks you are tired of him, you wish to get rid of him. Before he has said or done anything you are finished with him, you would like him to go away. For he is creating in his atmosphere a sound and this sound is disagreeable. There may be another person with whom you feel sympathy, to whom you feel drawn, whose friendship you value, whose presence you long for. Harmony is continually created through him. That is a sound too.
If this be true, then it is not only the external signs, but also the inner condition which is audible and visible. Though not visible to the eyes and not audible to the ears, yet it is audible and visible to the soul. We say, ‘I feel his vibrations, I feel this person’s presence, I feel sympathy, or antipathy towards that person.’ There is a feeling. And a person creates a feeling without having said anything or done anything. Therefore a person whose vibration is wrong, without doing or saying anything wrong, creates the wrong atmosphere. And you find fault with him. It is most amusing to see how people may come to you with a complaint: ‘I have said nothing, I have done nothing, and yet people dislike me and are against me!’ That person does not understand that it is not what he says or does. It is what one is which speaks louder than anything one says. It is being. It is life itself which has its tone, its color, its vibration. It speaks aloud.
One may wonder what it is, and where it is to be found. And the answer is, that what little man knows about himself is only about his body. If you ask someone to say where he is, he will point at his arm, his hand, his body. He knows little beyond that. There are many who if asked, ‘But where do you think you are in your body?’ will say, ‘In my brain.’ They limit themselves to that small physical region which is called body, thus making themselves much smaller than they really are. The truth is that man is one individual with two aspects, just like one line with two ends. If you look at the ends, it is two. If you look at the line, it is one. One end of the line is limited, the other end is God. Man forgets that end, and knows only the end of which he is conscious. And it is the consciousness of limitation which makes him more limited. Otherwise he would have far greater means of approaching the Unlimited which is within himself. Which is only the other end of the same line, the line which he calls, or which he considers to be, himself. And when a mystic speaks of self-knowledge this does not mean knowing how old one is or how food one is or how bad, or how right or how wrong. It means knowing the other part of one’s being, that deeper, subtler aspect. It is upon the knowledge of that being that the fulfillment of life depends.
One might ask, ‘How can one get closer to it?’ The way that has been found, by those who searched after truth, those who sought after God, those who wished to analyze themselves, those who wished to sympathize with life, is one single way. And that is the way of vibrations. It is the same way as of old. By the help of sound they have prepared themselves. They made these physical atoms which had gradually become deadened, live again by the help of sound. They have worked with the power of sound. As Zeb-un-Nissa says, ‘Say continually that sacred name which will make thee sacred.’ The Hindus have called it Mantra Yoga. The Sufis have termed it Wazifa. It is the power of the word which works upon each atom of the body, making it sonorous, making it a medium of communication between the external life and the inner life.
What one realizes as the first experience of one’s spiritual development, is that one begins to feel in communion with living beings. Now only with human beings, but with animals, with birds, with trees and with plants. It is not a fairy tale that the saints used to speak with the trees and the plants. You can speak today with them if you are in communication. It was not only the ancient times which were thus blessed with the old blessing. The old blessing is not old today, it is new. It is the same ancient one that was, that is, and that will be. And no privilege was ever limited to any period of the world’s history. Man has the same privilege today if he will realize that he is privileged. When he himself closes his heart, when he allows himself to be covered by the life within and without, no doubt he becomes exclusive, no doubt he is cut off from the whole of manifestation, which is one whole and is not divided. It is man himself who divides himself. For life is undivided, indivisible.
And it is opening the communication with external life which makes man wider. Then, he does not say of his friend, ‘This is my friend, I love him,’ but he says, ‘This is myself, I love him.’ When he has reached this point he can say that he has arrived at the realization of love. As long as he says, ‘I feel sympathy with him because he is my friend,’ his sympathy has not yet been fully wakened. The real wakening of his sympathy is on that day when he sees his friend and says this is himself. Then the sympathy is wakened. Then there is the communication within oneself. Man does not close himself only from external life, but also from the inner part which is still more important. That inner part is also sound, that inner part is light. And when one realizes this one knows that language which is the language of heaven, a language which is expressive of the past and the present and the future. A language which reveals the secret and the character of nature, a language which is always receiving and giving the divine Message which the prophets have tried at times to reveal.
THE PSYCHIC INFLUENCE OF MUSIC
IN the field of music there is much to be explored, and the psychological influence of music seems little known to modern science. We are taught that the influence of music, or of sound and vibration, comes to us and touches the senses from without; but there is one question, which remains: what is the source of the influence that comes from within? The real secret of the psychological influence of music is hidden in that source, the source where sound comes from.
It is plain and easy to understand that the voice has a certain psychological value that one voice differs from another, and that every voice expresses its psychological value and has its psychological power. Very often one feels the personality of one who is talking at a distance over the telephone. A sensitive person can feel the effect of the voice alone, without seeing the speaker. And many do not depend so much on words, as upon the voice that is speaking the words. This shows that psychological development is expressed in speaking, and more especially in singing.
In Sanskrit breath is called Prana, the very life. And what is voice? Voice is breath. If there is anything in life, in man’s constitution, which may be called life, it is the breath. And the sound of the voice is breath manifested outwardly. Therefore a person can best express himself in song or in what he says. If there is anything in the world that can give expression to the mind and the feelings, it is the voice. Very often it happens that a person speaks on a certain subject with a thousand words, and it has no influence; yet another person who expresses a thought in a few words can make a deep impression. This shows that the power is not in the words, but in what is behind the words; that is, in the psychological power in the voice which comes from Prana. According to its strength it impresses the listener.
The same thing if found in the fingertips of the violinist, and in the lips of the flute player. According to the influence coming from his thought, the musician produces that influence through his instrument. He may be very skillful, but if his fingertips do not produce a feeling of life, he will not be a success. Apart from the music he plays there is the value of the Prana or psychological power that he gives to what he plays.
In India there are vina-players who do not need to play a symphony in order to exert an influence; in order to produce a spiritual phenomenon. They only have to take the vina in their hand and strike one note. As soon as they strike one note it penetrates through and through; in striking one or two notes they have tuned the audience. The sound works on all the nerves; it is like playing on the lute which is in every heart. Their instrument becomes simply a source, the response to which is found in the heart of every person, friend and foe alike. Let the most antagonistic person come before a real vina-player, and he cannot keep his antagonism. As soon as the notes have touched that person, he cannot prevent the vibrations, which are created in him; he cannot help becoming a friend. Therefore in India such players are often called, instead of musician, ‘vina magician’. Their music is magic.
A really musical soul is someone who has forgotten himself in music; just as a real poet is someone who forgets himself in poetry, and a worldly soul is someone who has lost himself in the world. And godly is the soul who has forgotten himself in God. All the great musicians, Beethoven, Wagner, and many others who have left to the world a work, which will always be treasured, would not have been able to do so if they had not forgotten themselves in their work. They altogether lost their idea of their own being, and in that way they deepened and became one with the thing they had come to give to the world. The key to perfection is to be found in forgetting the self.
There are different ways of listening to music. There is a technical state, when a person who is developed in technique and has learnt to appreciate better music, feels disturbed by a lower grade of music. But there is a spiritual way, which has nothing to do with technique. It is simply to tune oneself to the music; therefore the spiritual person does not worry about the grade of the music. No doubt, the better the music the more helpful it is for a spiritual person; but at the same time one must not forget that there are Lamas in Tibet, who do their concentrations and meditations while moving a kind of rattle, the sound of which is not specially melodious. They cultivate thereby that sense which raises a person by the help of vibration to the higher planes. There is nothing better than music as a means for the upliftment of the soul.
No doubt the power of music depends upon the grade of spiritual evolution that a person has touched. There is a story of Tansen, the great musician at the court of Akbar. The Emperor asked him, ‘Tell me, O great musician, who was your teacher?’ He replied, ‘your Majesty, my teacher is a very great musician, but more that that; I cannot call him “musician”, I must call him “music”’. The Emperor asked, ‘Can I hear him sing?’ Tansen answered, ‘Perhaps, I may try. But you cannot think of calling him here to the court’. The Emperor said, ‘Can I go to where he is?’ The musician said, ‘His pride may revolt even there, thinking that he is to sing before a king’. Akbar said, ‘Shall I go as your servant?’ Tansen answered, ‘Yes, there is hope then’. So both of them went up into the Himalayas, into the high mountains, where the sage had his temple of music in a cave, living with nature, in tune with the Infinite. When they arrived, the musician was on horseback, and Akbar walking. The sage saw that the Emperor had humbled himself to come to hear his music, and he was willing to sing for him; and when he felt in the mood for singing, he sang. And his singing was great; it was a psychic phenomenon and nothing else. It seemed as if all the trees and plants of the forest were vibrating; it was a song of the universe. The deep impression made upon Akbar and Tansen was more than they could stand; they went into a state of trance, of rest, of peace. And while they were in that state, the Master left the cave. When they opened their eyes he was not there. The Emperor said, ‘O, what a strange phenomenon! But where has the Master gone?’ Tansen said, ‘You will never see him in this cave again, for once a man has got a taste of this, he will pursue it, even if it costs him his life. It is greater that anything in life.’
When they were home again the Emperor asked the musician one-day, ‘Tell me what raga, what mode did your master sing?’ Tansen told him the name of the raga, and sang it for him, but the Emperor was not content, saying, ‘Yes, it is the same music, but it is not the same spirit. Why is this?’ The musician replied, ‘The reason is this, that while I sing before you, the Emperor of this country, my Master sings before God; that is the difference.’
If we study life today, in spite of the great progress of science, the radio, telephone, gramophone, and all the wonders of this age, yet we find that the psychological aspect of music, poetry and art does not seem to develop as it should. On the contrary, it is going backward. And if we ask what is the reason, the answer will be in the first place, that the whole progress of humanity today is a mechanical progress; and this hinders the progress of individualism.
A musician has to submit to the laws of harmony and counterpoint; if he takes one step differently from the others his music is questioned. When in Russia I asked Taneiev, a very great musician, who was the teacher of Scriabin, what he thought of Debussy’s music. He said, ‘I cannot understand it’. It seems that we are restricted by uniformity so that there is no scope; and you will find the same thing in the medical and scientific worlds. But in art especially, where the greatest freedom is necessary, one is restricted
by uniformity. Painters and musicians cannot get their work recognized. They must follow the crowd, instead of following the great souls. And everything that is general is commonplace, because the great mass of the people are not highly cultured. Things of beauty and good taste are understood, enjoyed and appreciated by few, and it is not easy for the artists to reach those few. In this way, what is called uniformity has become a hindrance for individual development.
What is necessary today is that in children’s education the psychological value of music should be taught. That is the only hope, the only way in which we can expect better results as time goes on. Children learning music should not only know the music, but they should know what is behind it and how it should be presented.
Of course there are two sides to this question: outward conditions, and the presentation of the art. Outward conditions may be more or less helpful. Music or a song performed before two or three people who are congenial, sympathetic, harmonious, understanding and responsive, brings quite a different vibration, creates a different effect, from the same music or song played before five hundred people. What does this mean? It means that some people are like instruments; when good music is presented before them they respond, they become attuned to it, they are all music. They take a share in the music, and therefore a phenomenon is created. And this phenomenon can reach even the highest ideal that is to be expected of music, which is the realization of the soul’s freedom; what is called Nirvana or Mukti in the East, and Salvation in the Christian world.
For there is nothing in this world which can help one spiritually more than music. Meditation prepares, but music is the highest for touching perfection. I have seen wonders happen through the psychological power of music, but only when there were congenial surroundings. Five or six people, a moonlight night, or dawn, or sunset. It seems that nature helps to complete the music, and both work together, for they are one.
If a great opera singer or violin soloist has to play before ten thousand people, with all his ability he cannot touch every soul there. It depends upon the greatness of the artist of course. The greater the artist the more he will reach. But he has to consider what will please his audience, not what will be pleasing to God. When music becomes commercial its beauty is lost, and also much of its value. There was a time in the East when every effort was made by the aristocracy of India to keep the art of music from being commercialized, and they were successful for some time in doing so. Musicians felt that they should have the surroundings of harmony and beauty; they were generous and their doors were always open to others. They were always in debt, but their debts were paid by the king. Besides this the musician was not restricted by a program; he was left to feel by his intuition what people wanted. He had to decide at the moment he saw them, and as he went on playing or singing he knew more. The chemical effect of the listeners’ minds told him what they wanted, and the result was a spiritual feast.
The secret of all magnetism, whether expressed through personality or through music, is life. It is life, which charms, which is attractive. What we are always seeking for is life, and it is lack of life, which may be called lack of magnetism. And if musical teaching is given on this principle, it will be most successful in its psychological results. It is on the health of the physical body, on thought, on imagination, and on the heart, which is very often cold and frozen, that psychology depends; and it is this life which one expressed through one’s finder-tips on the violin, through one’s voice when singing.
What the world is seeking, what human souls yearn for, is that life, whether it comes through music, color, lines, or words. What every one desires is life. It is life, which is the real source of healing; music can heal, if life is put into it. There is not great secret about this, if only a person I able to understand the truth in its simplicity. When a person plays mechanically, the fingers running about the piano or violin almost automatically, it may create a temporary effect, but it soon passes. Music which heals the soul Is music which a soothing effect. One can produce a soothing effect, or a harsh effect; and this depends not only on the musician, but upon the composer also, upon the mood that has inspired him. A person aware of the psychological effect of music will find it easy to understand what mood the composer was in when he wrote. If he has put life and beauty into his music it will still prove to be beautiful and life giving, even after a thousand years. No doubt study and qualifications help him to express himself better; but what is really needed is that life which comes from the expanded consciousness, from the realization of the divine Light which is the secret of all true art, and which is the soul of all mysticism.
THE HEALING POWER OF MUSIC
The idea of healing through music really belongs to the initial stage of developing through the art of music. The end of this is attaining through music, or as it is called in the Vedanta, Samadhi.
In the first place, if we saw what was at the back of all the medicines which are used for healing purposes, if we ask what it is in them that heals, we shall find that is it the different elements which constitute our physical being. The same elements are present in those medicines, and that which is lacking in us is taken from them, or the effect which should be produced in our body is produced by them. The vibration which is necessary for our health is created in the body by their power. The rhythm which is necessary for our cure is brought about by bringing the circulation of the blood into a certain rhythm and speed.
By this we learn that health is a condition of perfect rhythm and tone. And what is music? music is rhythm and tone. When the health is out of order, it means the music is out of order. Therefore, when the music is not right in us the help of harmony and rhythm is very necessary to bring us into a state of harmony and rhythm. This way of healing can be studied and understood by studying the music of one’s own life, by studying the rhythm of the pulse, the rhythm of the beating of the heart and of the head. Physicians who are sensitive to the rhythm determine the condition of the patient by examining the rhythm of the pulse, the beating of the heart, the rhythm of the circulation of the blood. And to find the real complaint a physician, with all his material knowledge, must depend upon his intuition and upon the use of his musical qualities.
In ancient times, and even now in the East, we find two principal schools of medicine. One which came from the ancient Greek school through Persia, the other which came from the Vedanta and is founded on mysticism. And what is mysticism? It is the law of vibration.
Good health is induced by understanding the nature of a complaint through the rhythm and tone that can be perceived in the human body, and by regulating the body through rhythms and tones according to one’s understanding of their proportions.
Besides this there is another way of looking at it. Every illness apparently has its special reason, but in reality all illnesses come from one reason, from one cause, from one condition. That is the absence of life, the lack of life. Life is health. Its absence is illness, which culminates in what we call death.
Life in its physical form, as perceived in the physical spheres, is called Prana in Sanskrit. This life is given by food or medicine, or the body is prepared by a certain food or medicine to be able to breathe in this life itself, in order that it may be in better health or may experience perfect health. But this Prana, which also means breath, the central breath, attracts from space all the different elements which are there, as the herbs and plants and flowers and fruits all attract from space the same element which they represent. All these elements are attracted by the breath. Therefore, the mystics, whether from Greece, Persia, or India, have always taken as their basis of spiritual evolution the culture of breath, the science of breath. Even now you will see in the East healers who magnetize water or food or the atmosphere. What is the secret of their magnetism? It is their breath. It is the influence of their breath upon water or food.
The religious people of India have a ceremony where something like a sacrament is given by a holy person to someone who is suffering, and that is very helpful. Their power of breath is so balanced, so purified and developed, that it attracts all elements all that one can get from an herb, a flower, or fruit and even more. Therefore, their breath can achieve a thousand times more than what medicine can do. There are healers in the East who whisper some spiritual words, but what is whispering? It is breath again: breath with words through it.
There was a physician in Delhi who mostly used this kind of healing power with his patients, and one day a skeptical friend came to consult with him. The physician whispered a few sacred words before the patient and said, ‘Now you may go.’ This skeptical man said he could not understand how such a method could have any effect on his health. The physician then did something unusual for him: he offended the man, by speaking very harshly to him. The man became very angry and said to him, ‘How can you, a physician, say such words to me?’ The physician said, ‘I hardly ever do such a thing, and I only did it to prove something to you. If my words can make you angry and ill, they can also cure you. If words can make one ill and upset, they also have the power to harmonize a patient and to put him into a good condition.’
What is music? According to the ancient Indian thinkers, there are three aspects of music: singing, playing and dancing. All three represent rhythm, and all three represent tone in some form or other. And what is the effect of music? The effect of music is to regulate the rhythm of another person, and to tune a person to the music that is being performed.
What secret is there in music which attracts all those who listen to it? It is the rhythm which is being created. It is the tone of that music which tunes a soul and raises it above depression and despair of everyday life in this world. And if one knew what rhythm was needed for a particular individual in his trouble and despair, what tone was needed, and to what pitch that person’s soul should be raised, one would then be able to heal him with music.
One might ask why it is, if music is rhythm, that so often musicians are temperamental and easily disturbed. But is it not beautiful to have a little temperament? Life is unmusical when there is no temperament. A person who does not get angry once in a while does not live. It is human to have all kinds of minor faults, the joy is in overcoming these faults. Music is not all sadness. There are higher octaves and lower octaves. Music is all, music takes in all. that is why music is even greater than heaven.
There was a time in India when music was much used for healing. It was used as healing for the mind, for the character and for the soul, because it is health of the soul that brings health to the physical body. But healing of the physical body does not always help the soul. That is why the material medical science, though it can do good for some time, does not entirely suffice the need of the patient. I do not mean by this that outward treatment is useless. There is nothing in this world which is useless, if we only knew how to make use of it. All things in this world are needed, all things have their benefit and use, if we only know how to use them properly. But if a cure is brought about outwardly, while inwardly the illness remains, sooner or later the illness which is buried in the body will come out and show itself.
Once I met a lady who said she had been to many physicians for the complaint of neuritis. She was temporarily cured but it always came back, and she asked me for something that would help her. I said to her, ‘Is there anyone in the world whom you dislike, whom you hate, or whose action is troubling your mind?’ She said, ‘Yes, there are many people whom I dislike, and especially there is one person whom I cannot forgive.’ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘that is the root of the disease. Outwardly it is a pain of the body. Inwardly it is rooted in the heart.
Often the cause of illness is within. Although, no doubt, many things are caused outwardly. No single rule will cover everything. Undoubtedly, as things have changed in the world and materialism has spread throughout the world, this has influenced things, not only in the West but in the East also. The use of music for spiritual attainment and healing of the soul, which was prevalent in ancient times, is not found to the same extent now. Music has been made a pastime, the means of forgetting instead of realizing God. And it is the use one makes of things which constitutes their fault or virtue.
Still, the remembrance of the ancient use of music remains among the poor in India. There are healers there, who have a particular instrument of healing on which they play. And there are people who go to them for healing. And by playing that instrument they arouse some special feeling which had become cold and that deep feeling which was buried begins to come out. It is really the old way of psychoanalysis. Music helps that patient to express in full the hidden influence which was there. In this way many people are helped without going to a physician. But it is no doubt a crude way of healing.
Once the Maharaja of Baroda, on hearing that healing could be accomplished through music, introduced concerts in certain hospitals, and the amusing result was that all those who were suffering began to cry out, ‘For God’s sake, keep quiet! Go away!’ that was not the music to soothe them. It only made them suffer more. It was like giving stone for bread.
In order to give healing through music one must study what is needed, what is wanted. In the first place one must study what the complaint is. What elements are lacking, what is its symbolical meaning, what mental attitude is behind the illness. Then after a close study, one can do a great deal of good to the patient with the help of music.
Even if music were not used as a prescription, particularly intended for a certain illness, the power of that illness, which has its abode in the heart of man, can still be reduced by lifting up his heart, by changing his thought. What brings illness is the thought of illness rather than the illness itself. The existence of illness in the body may be called a shadow of the true illness which is held by man in his mind. By the power of music the mind may become exalted so that it rises above the thought of illness. Then the illness is forgotten., and you will ask, ‘What kind of music can heal man? Is it singing or playing, or music for dancing?’ Singing is the most powerful, for singing is living Prana. The voice is life itself. No doubt it is also life which is working through an instrument by the touch. But in singing it is the direct life, the breath touching the heart of the listener. However, behind this voice there must be a heart charged like a battery with what is needed. And with what is it charged? With what we call love and sympathy, the greatest power there is.
A person who is material, who is struggling for himself from morning until evening, who is seeking his own benefit, who is in trouble, or bitter, who is in the midst of conflict, cannot heal. The healer must be free: free to sympathize, free to love his fellowman even more than himself.
What teaches this love? Where can one learn it? Where can one get it? The key to this love element is God. And when we look at life today with all its progress, what is lacking? It is God. God is the key to that unlimited store of love which is in the heart of man.
Once a very godly and good natured housemaid was not able to answer a knock at the door as quickly as it should have been answered and the lady visitor who was waiting at the door became very impatient and spoke crossly to her. When asked what had happened, the maid was not upset at all. She smiled and said, ‘Yes, this lady was very cross with me.’ And when she was asked if she knew what was the matter with the lady and what made her cross, the maid with perfect innocence replied, ‘The reason? There was no God!’ A beautiful answer. Where God is lacking there is no love. Wherever there is love, there is God. If we interpret rightly, what causes pain and suffering is the lack of life. What is life? It is love. And what is love? It is God. What every individual needs, what the world needs, is God. All we need to attain, all we need to gain, to bless our lives by music, by harmony, by love, by the science of right tuning, by a little life of good, is God. This is the central theme of all good.
SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT BY THE AID OF MUSIC
THE word ‘spiritual’ does not apply to goodness, or to wonderworking, the power of producing miracles, or to great intellectual power. The whole of life in all its aspects is one single music. The real spiritual attainment is to tune one’s self to the harmony of this perfect music.
What is it that keeps man back from spiritual attainment? It is the denseness of this material existence, and the fact that he is unconscious of his spiritual being. His limitations prevent the free flow and movement, which is the nature and character of life. Take for instance this denseness. There is a rock, and you want to produce sound from it, but it does not give any resonance; it does not answer your desire to produce sound. String or wire on the contrary will give an answer to the tone you want. You strike them and they answer. There are objects, which give resonance; you wish to produce sound in them, and they respond; they make your music complete. And so it is with human nature. One person is heavy and dull; you tell him something but he cannot understand; you speak to him, but he will not hear. He will not respond to music, to beauty, or to art. What is it? It is denseness.
There is another person who is ready to appreciate and understand music and poetry, or beauty in any form, in character or in manner. Beauty is appreciated in any form by such a person; and it is this which is the awakening of the soul, which is the living condition of the heart. It is this which is the real spiritual attainment. Spiritual attainment is making the spirit alive, becoming conscious. When man is not conscious of soul and spirit, but only of his material being, he is dense; he is far removed from spirit.
What is spirit and what is matter? The difference between spirit and matter is like the difference between fire and ice: frozen water is ice and melted ice is water. It is spirit in its denseness which we call matter; it is matter in its fineness which may be called spirit. Once a materialist said to me, ‘I do not believe I any spirit or soul or hereafter. I believe in eternal matter.’ I said to him, ‘Your belief is not very different from mine, only that which you call eternal matter I call spirit; it is a difference in terms. There is nothing to dispute about because we both believe in eternity; and so long as we meet in eternity, what difference does it make, if the one calls it matter, and the other calls it spirit? It is one life from beginning to end.’
Beauty is born of harmony. What is harmony? Harmony is right proportion, in other words, right rhythm. And what is life? Life is the outcome of harmony. At the back of the whole creation is harmony, and the whole secret of creation is harmony. Intelligence longs to attain to the perfection of harmony. What man calls happiness, comfort, profit or gain, all he longs for and wishes to attain is harmony; in a smaller or greater degree he is longing for harmony. Even in attaining the most mundane things, he always wishes for harmony. But very often he does not adopt the right methods. Very often his methods are wrong. The object attained by both good and bad methods is the same, but the way one tries to attain it makes it right or wrong. It is not the object which is wrong, it is the method one adopts to attain it.
No one, whatever his station in life, wishes for disharmony, far all suffering, pain and trouble is lack of harmony.
To obtain spirituality is to realize that the whole universe is one symphony; in this every individual is one note, and his happiness lies in becoming perfectly attuned to the harmony of the universe. It is not following a certain religion which makes one spiritual, or having a certain belief, or being a fanatic in regard to one idea, or even by becoming too good to live in this world. There are many god people who do not even understand what spirituality means. They are very good, but they do not yet know what ultimate good is. Ultimate good is harmony itself. For instance all the different principals and beliefs of all the religions of the world, taught and proclaimed by priests and teachers but which man is not always able to follow and express, come naturally from the heart of someone who attunes himself to the rhythm of the universe. Every action, every word he speaks, every feeling he has, every sentiment he expresses, is harmonious; they are all virtues, they are all religion. It is not following a religion, it is living a religion, making one’s life religion, which is necessary.
Music is a miniature of the whole harmony of the universe, for the harmony of the universe is life itself, and man, being a miniature of the universe, shows harmonious and inharmonious chords in his pulsation, in the beat of his heart, in his vibration, rhythm and tone. His health or illness, his joy or discomfort, all show the music or lack of music in his life.
And what does music teach us? Music helps to train ourselves in harmony, and it is this which is the magic or secret behind music. When you hear music that you enjoy, it tunes you and puts you in harmony with life. Therefore man needs music; he longs for music. Many say that they do not care for music, but these have not heard music. If they really heard music, it would touch their souls, and then certainly they could not help loving it. If not, it would only mean that they had not heard music sufficiently, and had not made their heart calm and quiet in order to listen to it, and to enjoy and appreciate it. Besides, music develops that faculty by which one learns to appreciate all that is good and beautiful in the form of art and science, and in the form of music and poetry one can then appreciate every aspect of beauty.
What deprives man of all the beauty around him is his heaviness of body or heaviness of heart. He is pulled down to earth, and by that everything becomes limited; but when he shakes off that heaviness and joy comes, he feels light. All good tendencies such as gentleness and tolerance, forgiveness, love and appreciation, all these beautiful qualities, come by being light; light in the mind, in the soul and in the body.
Where does music come from? It all comes from that natural and spiritual life which is within. When that spiritual life springs forth, it lightens all the burdens that man has. It makes his life smooth, as thought floating on the ocean of life. The faculty of appreciation makes one light. Life is just like the ocean. When there is no appreciation, no receptivity, man sinks like a piece of iron or stone to the bottom of the sea. He cannot float like a boat, which is hollow and which is receptive.
The difficulty in the spiritual path is always what comes from ourselves. Man does not like to be a pupil, he likes to be a teacher. If man only knew that the greatness and perfection of the great ones who have come from time to time to this world, was in their being pupils and not in teaching! The greater the teacher, the better the pupil he was. He learned from everyone, the great and the lowly, the wise and the foolish, the old and the young. He learned from their lives, and studied human nature in all its aspects.
Someone learning to read the spiritual path must become like an empty cup, in order that the wine of music and harmony be poured into his heart. When a person comes to me and says, ‘Here I am, can you help me spiritually?’ and I answer, ‘Yes’, very often he says, ‘I want to know first of all what you think about life and death, or the beginning and the end’. And then I wonder what his attitude will be if his previously conceived opinion does not agree with mine. He wants to learn, and yet he does not want to be empty. That means going to a stream of water with a covered cup; wanting the water, and yet the cup is covered, covered with preconceived ideas. But where have the preconceived ideas come from? No idea can be called one’s own. All ideas have been learned from one source or another; yet in time, one comes to think that they are one’s own. And for those ideas one will argue and dispute, although they do not satisfy him fully; but at the same time they ore his battleground, and they will continue to keep his cup covered. Mystics therefore have adopted a different way. They have learned a different course, and that course is self-effacement, or in other words, unlearning what one has learned; and this is how one can become an empty cup.
In the East it is said that the first thing to be learned is how to become a pupil. One may think that in this way, one loses one’s individuality; but what is individuality? Is it not what is collected? What are one’s ideas and opinions? They are just collected knowledge, and this knowledge should be unlearned.
One would think that the character of the mind is such that what one learns is engraved upon it; how then can one unlearn it? Unlearning is completing this knowledge. To see a person and say, ‘That person is wicked, I dislike him’, that is learning. To see further and recognize something good in that person, to begin to like him or pity him, that is unlearning. When you see the goodness in someone you have called wicked, you have unlearned. You have unraveled that knot. First one learns by seeing with one eye; then one learns by seeing with two eyes, and that makes one’s sight complete.
All that we have learned in this world is partial knowledge, but when this is uprooted by another point of view, then we have knowledge in its completed form. This is what is called mysticism. Why is it called mysticism? Because it cannot be put into words. Words will show us one side of it, but the other side is beyond words.
The whole manifestation is duality, the duality which makes us intelligent; and behind the duality is unity. If we do not rise beyond duality and move towards unity, we do not attain perfection, we do not attain spirituality.
This does not mean that our learning is of no use. It is of great use. It gives us the power of discrimination and of discerning differences. This makes the intelligence sharp and the sight keen, so that we understand the value of things and their use. It is all part of human evolution and all useful. So we must learn first, and unlearn afterwards. One does not look at the sky first when standing on the earth. First one must look at the earth and see what it offers to learn and to observe; but at the same time one should no think that one’s life’s purpose is fulfilled by looking only at the earth. The fulfillment of life’s purpose is in looking at the sky.
What is wonderful about music is that it helps man to concentrate or meditate independently of thought; and therefore music seems to be the bridge over the gulf between form and the formless. If there is anything intelligent, effective and at he same time formless, it is music. Poetry suggests form, line and color suggest form, but music suggests no form. It creates also that resonance which vibrates through t he whole being, lifting the thought above the denseness of matter; it almost turns matter into spirit; into its original condition; through the harmony of vibrations touching every atom of one’s whole being.
Beauty of line and color can go so far and no further; the joy of fragrance can go a little further; but music touches our innermost being, raising it to that perfection in which lies the fulfillment of man’s life.