Wednesday, April 20, 2005

music in alchemy

Here is today's Rumi quatrain again:
When your love began to fill up my heart,
Whatever else I had was burnt away,
Logic and book-learning tossed on the fire.
Now I study song and poetry all day.

This immediately reminded me of the alchemical saying: "Burn the books, lest your heart be rent asunder." (I'm recollecting this quote from my reading of Jung but I can't recall the precise work it appears in.)

I was also reminded of this illustration of an alchemist's laboratory:
alchemist in his laboratory

In the very centre and foreground of this image we see musical instruments on the table, a violin and mandolin, perhaps a harp or lyre. These are not the kind of items that a plain scientist would include in his laboratory apparatus. They point to the importance of feelings and emotions that are best expressed through music and poetry because they defy the usual concepts of rational thought.

Similar musical instruments feature prominently in the final panel [465Kb] of Blake's illustrations for the Book of Job, as if the ultimate spiritual truth can only be expressed through music.

This is the classic dilemma of mysticism and of any psychospiritual discipline: words end up getting in the way and need to be bypassed somehow. Poetry and mythic storytelling seem to offer the only bridge between the wordless expressions of music and the monotone of stories in the factual or rational genre. The latter include science, conventional news reporting, philosophy, analysis, history, and any "non-fiction" account of the world and its happenings. The poet and the mystic, the alchemist and the saint, all agree that the truth revealed by this genre is not correct. It is damaging to the soul and must be bypassed.

And yet ... it's kinda sad that logic fails. It is so reassuringly ... well, logical.

*sigh* but the world is just not made that way.

A fleeting glance

Every day I'd like to wake
And find I can invent a take
On how this world evolves or is
And which bits might be fake



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