Reflection 6

Mysteries of God, Cosmos, Humanity, week 6

Reflection: praising God


Many people tend to sing spontaneously while in the shower. Why? The bathroom is a safe environment and the warm running water ensures that you relax physically and psychologically while at the same time it reduces the influence of the stress hormone cortisol in your body. If you also sing, you will feel even better, because you will breathe a little deeper than normal, your blood will absorb more oxygen and the natural production of dopamine and oxytocin in your brain is boosted, which will increase your feeling of happiness. When you sing, you can’t think or worry about something else at the same time. In addition, the acoustics in the  bathroom ensure that your singing sounds better than in any other room!

People who open themselves up to the ‘living water’, that is to say to the healing and transforming rays of the seven spirit, from inner need sometimes create poems, songs and music in which something very special resonates that far exceeds ordinary consciousness. If they continue to focus on these with the help of higher dimensions, wonderful creations arise, sometimes even great masterpieces that continue to fascinate humanity for centuries. Think of the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Psalms in the Bible, Dante’s Divine Comedy, Bach’s oratorios and also the Corpus Hermeticum, which contains three hymns of Hermes  Trismegistus (see the spiritual texts of chapters 1, 6 and 9).

The nature of truly sacred writings is usually much more poetic than prosaic. A sacred text conveys much more than just the literal meaning of the words. They are more poems or songs
than stories or reflections, because they incorporate aesthetic and rhythmic properties of language – such as meter, rhyme, sound symbolism and metaphors. When you regularly recite,
sing, listen to or read such texts – even if they have been translated – you can always be touched again in your heart and grow inwardly through this touch. Speaking, singing and listening to sacred texts is more powerful than reading silently because the human voice is a creative organ. Everything that is spoken or sung is made dynamic and charged with power. And that power is even greater as the voice and words are used more consciously and from a higher level of consciousness.

Speaking is creating

Speaking is not only creating, but also consuming life force. Pupils on the Gnostic path should learn to use their life power mainly for spiritual awakening and renewal, as longed for by their deepest inner self. This means that they should not waste their personal energy by chatting a lot, for example. In chapter 3 of her book ‘The Golden Rosycross’, Catharose de Petri writes
the following.

‘The larynx, in cooperation with the mouth and throat, is one of the most perfect musical instruments available to mankind. One could say then that the human voice is the result of the cooperation of
various organs. Did you know that the human voice and the words we speak are also the result of our entire sensory orientation: of our thoughts, our emotional life, the tensions in our blood, our
total state of being? Did you know that by means of our voice we not only make our state of being known, but also spread it around us? So it is not only our radiations that cause this to happen, for
our voice renders these radiations active in this nature as a magic faculty.
When someone speaks to you personally, and you listen, his or her entire state of being is brought consciously within your radius of action and accepted by you. For behind the voice are not only
thoughts, or feelings, or the activity of the will, but also four ethers, and each of these four ethers exists in three conditions: thus there are twelve aspects. By means of the air from the lungs, which
makes the voice resound, these twelve personal etheric conditions are conveyed into your system, are more often than not accepted by you and thus rendered active. In this way, by mutual conversation,
you weave countless ties and you will inevitably be caught in this web of nature, like an insect in a spider’s web.
That is why a true pupil of a bonafide spiritual school speaks as far as possible only in an impersonal way. A true pupil avoids ordinary conversation as much as possible. Repeatedly the pupil’s attention
is drawn to reticence, to being silent, for in this way he can protect himself and prevent trouble for others.’

The importance of inner and outer silence is essential for the pupil on the Gnostic path, as repeatedly emphasized in Hermeticism. Only then can the silent whispers emanating from the spiritspark in the heart of the microcosm be heard in accordance with the motto: ‘Direct your heart upon the light and know it’ (Corpus Hermeticum 1:19). In this way we can understand why
Hermes characterises the human being who possesses the living knowledge of God as ‘A person who speaks little and does not lend his ear to much talk’ (Corpus Hermeticum 12:28).

Of course a disciple of Hermes is never meant to completely shut off from others and to always and ever remain silent, for every human being is a social being and has received the gift of the voice to use it, but not to abuse it. In this respect it is important to pay attention to the right things. Therefore Pymander speaks to Hermes:
‘Well then, be still, oh Hermes Trismegistus, and do not forget what I shall tell you’ (Corpus Hermeticum 2:1) and Hermes in turn says to his disciple Tat: ‘Be quiet now, my son, and listen in respectful gratitude’ (Corpus Hermeticum 14:30).

The pupil can be filled with divine power due to such receptivity and emptiness. He is then like the empty sound box of a stringed instrument that resonates with the divine fullness, designated by Pythagoras as the harmony of the spheres. That can almost literally be the case when he actually sings songs of praise, but also figuratively when he experiences the joy of the inner touch. Then something sings within and he has become a person in the literal sense of the word because God resounds in him. The word ‘person’ is derived from the Latin word ‘personare’, where the prefix ‘per-’ is said to come from the Egyptian hieroglyph ‘per’ or ‘pr’ which means ‘house’. The original meaning of ‘person’ thus becomes ‘sounding house’.
The experience of being a resounding microcosmic home in this sense is accompanied by great joy which stimulates creative activity in accordance with the divine plan.

Bridging art

Through such inspiration, Gnostic-oriented persons can devote themselves to their vocation: to be living connections between the world of the senses and the world of the spirit; that is, to be a bridge between heaven and earth. This connection can lead to wonderful creations that J. van Rijckenborgh refers to as bridging art. In a speech for young people in the 1950s on the vocation and the magic of art, he said the following.

‘We will be able to recognize bridging art at some point. Then the magic of art will finally unfold. […] Then there is an inner knowing, an urge that radiates out in every possible way. […] When an artist does not have the points of the triangle of vitality, reality and ideality, he cannot achieve bridging art. A called one is also a magician. His work then emanates great strength. There are works of art of which you say: “How simple it is and yet it has such enormous power.” The artist was a magician.
As soon as a real musician sits down in front of a piano, as soon as a real author takes up the pen, that magical power emerges. You can often not say where or what it is, but the entire work radiates from that power. People sometimes pick up that magical power much more than the form, sound or color, and all those who understand the work of art have no difference of opinion about it. They then
recognize the bridging art as a spiritual culture. They will say to each other, do you see that? Did you hear that? Have you noticed that and do you see how lights flash everywhere? These are the  possibilities that lie in the bridging art of the future. Take up that work; the world awaits your action and decision on this matter. Then great things are going to happen in the future.’

Every person is an artist in a sense, yet not every person is able to create something that can be referred to as bridging art. We can see bridging art as something that people consciously create via inspiration from the spiritual world, based on a harmonious combination of the good, the true and the beautiful, which are often associated with religion, science and art. J. van Rijckenborgh speaks about the synthesis of vitality, reality and ideality. This is shown graphically in figure 11 according to the diagram that is also included in figure 1 in chapter 1. The painting showing the impossible bridges was made by the Flemish painter Jos de Mey (1928-2007).

In the Middle Ages, the so-called seven liberal arts were first practiced and taught in monasteries and later also at universities. The addition ‘free’ means that it concerns sciences that have no economic value because they do not generate any income, and also that it concerns intellectual work and not manual labor. This means that practical subjects such as acting, sculpture, dance, architecture, medicine, cooking, metal work, sewing and painting were not counted as liberal arts. In the Middle Ages, students were first taught three languages, the so-called trivium. It concerned grammar (linguistics), dialectics (logic, logical reasoning) and rhetoric (the art of eloquence). Thereafter they could also become proficient in four subjects, the so-called quadrivium. These included arithmetics (arithmetic, number), geometria (geometry, space), musica (harmony, time) and astronomia (cosmology, space and time).

As early as the fifth century BC, the Greek initiate Pythagoras taught the students of his mystery school in the four mentioned math subjects. Through such intellectual work, students of the mysteries could gradually decrease their fascination with the sensory perceptible world, improve their thinking and concentration and arrive at an orderly knowing. All that is necessary in order to be a truly renewed person in a spiritual sense.

From concrete to abstract

Since numbers played a predominant role in the Pythagorean mystery school, there everything was more abstract than in the older Egyptian mystery schools, which were mainly characterized by impressive temples with hieroglyphics and large statues of gods, all of which exerted a strong influence on the senses and on the feeling. Pythagoras changed the character of the mysteries by shifting the focus from myths and feeling associated with the world of the soul – called the world by Pymander – to science and abstract thinking, associated with the world of the spirit, which Pymander referred to as eternity (see image 4).

Pythagoras thought music was very important. He regarded music as a movement of interrupted and uninterrupted sounds in which cosmic laws are expressed. This movement
corresponds to the pitches and intervals in the scale. The intervals are related to the spiritual development of the people and the harmony of the cosmos.

Pythagoras set the distance from the Moon to Earth as one tone. From the Moon to Mercury and from Mercury to Venus was a semitone; from Venus to the Sun one and a half tones; from the Sun to Mars one tone; from Mars to Jupiter and from Jupiter to Saturn each a semitone; and from Saturn to the zodiac, one and a half tones. According to Pythagoras these tones together  formthe octave, the basis of the harmony in the universe. And the person who goes the spiritual path symbolically travels through the seven heavenly spheres and reaches their fulfillment in the eighth sphere, which is called the ogdoad.

There is no art form that approaches the spirit of divine love as well as the art of tone. Like the mind, music is fleeting and intangible. Like the mind, music has no past or future but it comes to life, to activity, in the immediate ‘now’. And just as with a spiritual touch, sparks can jump in music: sparks of the divine fire.

Gods and music are closely linked in Greek mythology. For example the god Apollo carries a lyre as a symbol of his victory over chaos. When Apollo starts to play, all creatures are silent and they listen. All conflicts are over and even Ares, the god of war, stops his bloodshed. Apollo’s music calms, harmonizes and enhances inner elevation. Under the effect of its harmony, the soul experiences the majestic order in the cosmos. The Greek singer Orpheus also plays a musical instrument. He symbolizes the human being who understands divine harmony. His mental powers are so great that even the spirits of hell remain silent in order to listen to his singing. Orpheus dares to go through hell because he is accompanied by divine sounds. The protective, healing and uplifting effect of good music has been known for a long time. The following quotes about music are significant.

  • Music is the can opener of the soul. Henry Miller
  • Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy. Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Every day: Hear some good music, read from a good book, see a beautiful painting and speak a few reasonable words. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music. Aldous Huxley
  • Music starts with silence. Mstislav Leopoldovich Rostropovich
  • Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent. Victor Hugo
  • What is best in music is not to be found in the notes. Gustav Mahler

Innumerable scientific studies have been conducted on the influence of music on people. Thanks to the availability of modern measuring equipment, much is now known about the
effect of music on the human brain. Most studies show that music we love is life-enhancing: it makes us healthier, nicerand more stable. Whether we listen to music, make music or sing songs, it all appears to contribute to the development of the brain. People with autism, dementia, Parkinson’s disease and other conditions can revive when their environment is
enriched with music.

While music can be a carrier of eternal truths, its form is subject to change. The essence of the music therefore constantly searches for new expressions that fit the evolving psyche of humanity. Even though some expressions of music have a long flowering period, they will all be forgotten sooner or later just like all other cultural expressions. Much of the music that has been composed did not originate from an elevated state of consciousness and therefore cannot be a support for inner exaltation.

Gnostic-inspired songs

Many ancient gnostic-inspired songs have been written and collected and are still available today. We can think of the Gathas of Zarathustra, the Psalms of the Bible, the Baghavad Gita, the Ashtavakra Gita, the hymns of the Pistis Sophia, the hymns of the Manichean Psalms and of course also the hymns of Hermes. Also noteworthy are the liberating lyrics of the famous Persian Sufi poet Jalal ad-Din Rumi (1207-1273), whose works are still read worldwide today. In his well-known song of the reed flute, Rumi compares man to a flute made from reed.

Separated from his origin, he longs for it, and his complaining sound is heard (see hymn 13). This song is about an exceptional beloved one who is an abyss of desire: love itself. The image of man as a reed flute through which God blows his breath also occurs in the mystical hymns of the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), for which he received the Nobel Prize in
Literature in 1913 (see hymn 14).

The Sufi tradition is an esoteric movement that originated in Islamic cultures in the Middle Ages and to which various current movements still refer. Contemporary Sufis, similar to their classical predecessors, are universal and non-dogmatic. That universal character is easily recognized in the prayers of Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882-1927), one of which is included in the second part of this book. For example, in hymn 15 called ‘Salat’ names of prophets from many traditions are mentioned. They were all inspired and moved by the ubiquitous universal love power.

Vocal and instrumental music play an essential role in almost every religious and spiritual tradition. Sacred music can greatly enhance the power of worship. This may include listening to
appropriate live music made by musicians and singers, but also participating in congregational singing. When the participants in a service sing hymns together in group unity based on
understanding and inner exaltation, they are also attuned to one another in their breathing so that a great spiritual outpouring will take place, the blessings of which are not limited to the members of the group but extend far beyond the space where they are located.

Singing spiritual songs together is a way of praising God. Does the eternal Father-Mother need that? Of course we don’t know that, and if we answer that question with ‘yes’, we are assuming an anthropomorphic image of a God who wants to be admired just like people. From such a view of God, the erroneous idea of an economic exchange can also easily be introduced. We thank and praise God and in return we receive from the Most High all the good things in life that we would like to have. A large majority of believers of all religions take this view, which is diametrically opposed to the gnostic view.

The pure gnostic premise or thesis is beautifully expressed in the well-known Lords Prayer that Jesus taught his disciples on the Mount and which can also be sung (Matthew 6: 9-13, see hymn 16). Numerous people have written comments on this prayer, also within the tradition of the Rosycross, such as Max Heindel and J. van Rijckenborgh. Like other sacred texts, this prayer can
be understood on multiple levels. For example, the daily bread that is requested can relate not only to the well-known food that we buy, but particularly to the spiritual power that we long to
receive in order to be able to transfigure into a fellow executor of the plan of God. Furthermore the seven supplications can also be related to the previously discussed four worlds, the seven planets and the seven chakras (see image 12). The high priestly prayer of Jesus from John 17 also is very gnostic and profound, as explained by Catharose de Petri (see hymn 17).

Thus we see a vast landscape of poetry, music and song as an expression of the human soul on every conceivable level. As means of communication, they surpass all mutual differences among cultures and denominations. But where music directs the desire for the light, there is a tremendous path open to man that has been trodden by humanity only to a limited extent. At
the beginning we hear pure melodies that comfort the heart; at the end of that path they become a song of the spheres. Hermes Trismegistus has practical advice for going that path.

Beware of letting yourself be turmed away from worship of the one God by weariness and distaste; and do not be induced to acknowledge more gods thean one; for if you do, you will be distracted and worn out and exhausted by your worship of them, so that your light will be quenched, your strength will be weakened, your high rank will go to nothing, and your dominion will cease; and that will be death to you. Beware then of that death, and turn away from the things which cause it. You ought, O Soul, to get sure knowledge of your own being, and of its forms and aspects. Do not think that any one of the things of which you must seek to get knowledge is outside of you; no, all things that you ought to get knowledge of are in your possession, and within you.
(Admonition of the Soul, Chapter 12)