In his book “Music and the Soul,” Kurt Leland writes about achieving “cosmic normative balance” through transcendent musical experiences. Leland employs the Chakras as a mental map not only of the levels of consciousness but also of ascending musical modalities, including the sensory, emotive, cognitive and intuitive ways of knowing and being. Is samplings of classical music, jazz and rock are fun to explore with or without his theoretical superstructure.
What speaks to me in Leland’s book are several things. First is his obvious enthusiasm for music, especially the many moods of classical music. Second is his desire to cultivate a greater sense of subtlety and nuance of human perception and awareness through music appreciation. Third is his commitment to listening to serious art music as a form of spiritual practice. I confess that I share these enthusiasms.
I know that I am blessed to live in the quiet and picturesque countryside where the most natural activity of each day is to sit in silent meditation and wait for the sun to rise upon the surrounding hillside. It’s a majestic experience, one I never grow tired of experiencing in the quiet dawning of each day. This has become a daily practice for me, cultivating inner stillness and gratitude for the gift of life as I seek to be present to the ever-present and ever-unfolding origin of Being that is made new every morning. My job is to stand still and be present to the sense of wonder.
To have “a room with a view” is to find our still point in a turning world, a sacred place from which to observe at the beauty of the earth. It is to become habituated to the practice of gazing outward upon the world and gazing inward upon the life of the soul within. Such a practice serves to relax the body, clear the mind, open the heart, re-enchant the soul, and illumine the spirit.
For me the reflective life is also the ecstatic life. There is no essential difference. The “great work” of the scientist, philosopher and historian and the “great work” of the musician, artist and poet are complementary aspects of holistic human intelligence. It is folly to drive a wedge between them, although a close reading of the major players who shaped the Enlightenment Spirit and the Romantic Spirit might lead one to think a choice must be made between these two sensibilities and casts of mind. It is entirely artificial, though it cannot be doubted that different individuals and cultures have their habitual preferences which they tend to reify. There is a creative dialectic between reason and romance, sense and sensibility, logic and paradox, knowledge and wisdom. Likewise, there is a creative dialectic between will and being, initiative and receptivity, judgment and perception, action and contemplation. The Western Mind is habitually dualistic, and at times this dualism has served useful pragmatic purposes. But we could learn something important about how to cultivate “normative cosmic balance” by augmenting this dualistic habit with the non-dualist sensibility of the Eastern Mind. Sometimes “both-and” is more profound than “either-or.” The technological, rationalistic and entrepreneurial Western Mind is all about the Will to Power and Taking Charge. The aesthetic, emotive and contemplative Eastern Mind is about Being Present and Letting Go. Years ago the Swiss physician and psychologist Paul Tournier asked the question, “When will we learn to become tranquil and inspired men?” Indeed! It is when we learn to cultivate “Normative Cosmic Balance,” a sense of the sublime unity of Being within the riotous plurality of existence. In a noisy, hurried, anxious and acquisitive society we must recover the gift of solitude and the practice of meditation.