Religion and Music – part three

Annie Besant

Theosophy AB RM 2

As the more delicate and finer sequences of sounds are produced in music, the subtle body is affected in its finer grades of matter, and similarly more massive harmonics affect the coarser grades. Hence, when this is thoroughly understood, as by a trained occultist, the vibrations can be chosen with reference to the results they produce, and we have the science of mantras, while people of lesser knowledge can produce lesser results. Emotions of any grade can thus be initiated or stimulated, and as the music is made to express finer and finer emotions, especially those of self-sacrificing love and self-surrendering devotion, responsive, sympathetic thrilling may be set up in the buddhic body — the ânanda-maya-kosha — and, lifted on the wings of the vibrations that are music, a man may reach the threshold of the spiritual world. Thus, music subserves religion both in eastern and western lands. In the West, the greatest musicians have strained their powers to express in sequences of sounds the highest emotions of man [and even animals and plants], and if you have ever the opportunity of listening to one of the Masses written by the noblest Western masters of the divine art, you will find that, though you may be ignorant of Latin and unaccustomed to the use of chords, the charm of the music will gradually steal over you, you will feel soothed and quieted, apt for meditation, and perhaps your eyes will fill with tears. . . .

I have not found in Western music, however, strong and ennobling as it is, that peculiar and elusive power which in Hindu music predisposes to the higher forms of meditation, by which, as its own sounds sink into silence for the entranced mind and heart, the consciousness slips away from the body, leaving it cradled in the melody, and passes into the higher regions. There are delicate notes given out by the instruments which thrill softly out and cause the subtlest vibrations in the higher bodies, till all sounds are left behind and spirit is set free. Those single delicate notes seem to have a power greater than any chord; the chord raises passion or emotion; these single notes thrill to spiritual ecstasy; the one predisposes to activity, the other to quiescence, contemplation, and peace. This seems to me to be the greatest service that music can do to religion. For the difficulty met with in meditation is very largely a difficulty caused by the subtle body. Accustomed to respond continually to impacts from without, this body is ever vibrating and ever changing its vibrations. These vibrations bring about continual changes in consciousness, and these again react on the body. Religious music checks these movements, imposes its own vibrations on the body and, instead of the jungle that is noise, there are the rhythmical vibrations of the music. Gradually the whole body is calmed, and held to these steady vibrations, and the calm is answered by the steadiness of the consciousness, responsive to its rhythmically vibrating vehicle. Thus, by music can the subtle body be made a help to the steadying of consciousness instead of being, as it usually is, a hindrance. This calming and steadying, then, is one of the services that music can render to meditation. . . .

As we grow into spiritual reality, transcending the dissonance of the world in which we live, we are playing the true music, creating the true melody, and are summing up our being in one pure note with countless harmonious overtones. As the earthly mantras aid in harmonizing us, we are going towards chanting that final mantra which shall be ours when the Spirit realizes its freedom, and thus reaches the true liberation, the true moksha, the mantra which shall make our bodies impervious to the jangling noises of the earth. Music will help you, if you choose it well; music will hinder you if you use it to stimulate the lower instead of the higher in you. Knit religion to music, and music to religion, and then music will become more inspired, and religion more beautiful, until the highest music and the most spiritual religion will be the atmosphere in which you can most freely breathe.


This article was also published in The Theosophist VOL. 144 NO. 12 SEPTEMBER 2023

The Theosophist is the official organ of the International President, founded by H. P. Blavatsky on 1 Oct. 1879.

To read the SEPTEMBER 2023 issue click HERE 

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