Rosicrucian Writings Online

The Symphony of Life

By The Imperator
[H. Spencer Lewis]
(Written in the Italian Alps, at Cortina)
[From The Rosicrucian Digest November 1931]
BUT two days ago, in the colorful enclosure of St. Marks Square, surrounded by the canals of Venice, I spent two delightful hours listening to the municipal band and orchestra, playing classical and operatic selections, while thousands of humans from all parts of the world sat or stood in silence, illuminated by a glorious moon picturesquely moving across a typically Eastern cloud-dotted sky.
As the sixty-four highly trained and selected Italian musicians played American, German, French, Italian and other national compositions, with equal enthusiasm and unbiased rendition of the composers' emotions, I detected again the very definite rhythmic beat of the universal cycle of life's pulsations. In time with the um-um of the base violas, the boo-boo of the base horns, and the tum-tum of the big metal drums, I could hear the lap-lap of the water against the sides of the hundreds of gondolas rocking idly at the steps of the Piazza of the Square. As though unconsciously attuning with these metronomic beats, the gondoliers, in listless pose on the rear of their decorated boats, nodded their heads or tapped their toes on the decks.
Around me were men and women of all walks of life, of all nations, and of all ages and degrees of culture, from the wealthy American tourist, ever seeking new thrills and ever bored by anything once heard or seen elsewhere, to the little Italian bootblack, sitting on his box, with his head sticking out between the limbs of those standing around him.
All seemed to be lost in the sound-castles and picture-world created by the music, as though held in mental and spiritual suspension between this world of things and a higher one of hopes. None seemed to be conscious of those near by. The poor man who had stopped awhile in his night-time delivery service and had lifted the big basket of tomatoes from his head, now sat on the edge of it, his rough and wrinkled hands folded across his torn and dirty sweater, while his spiritualized eyes were lifted heavenward in concentration. His uncombed hair flopped from side to side as his head unconsciously rocked in response to that same fundamental beat of time--the rhythm of music.
All differences in social, financial, physical, racial and religious distinctions were neutralized by the blended attunement to that which was not the melody, not the theme, not the harmony, but the symphony of life's rhythm.
The following evening the Grand Canal of Venice was alive with music again, for it was the occasion of the annual carnival. Large, decorated floats vied with one another in presenting the carefully prepared programs of song and music rendered by soloists of international fame, choirs, choral societies, operatic companies, bands and orchestras.
With thousands of lantern-covered gondolas trailing these gorgeous floats for hours, packed so closely together that one could safely cross the wide canal by stepping from one to the other, there were fifty thousand persons of every country and national dress floating in rocking boats which seemed to keep time with the beat notes of the music and song. For long hours, far into the morning, the minds and souls of these persons were enchanted by the mystic power of the fundamental pulse of all music.
Tonight, far up in the snow-covered peaks of the Alps, I have been sitting on a little balcony outside the window of my lofty room, sending out my thought-self to the Cathedral of the Soul. I have centered my gaze upon the deep, dark, open space between the many clouds whose edges are silvered by the light of the moon, as is the snow on the peaks of those high points of the Dolomites, which seem to lift their noble crests right up to the ethereal spires of the Cathedral.
Here I have made perfect contact with the Cosmic Choir and Divine Music of the Spheres and, in attunement with our thousands of members in many lands, have been lost in the spell of the Peace and Power of this heavenly temple.
And, again, I became conscious of the rhythmic beats in the Cosmic music, even though this music was more simple and grand than any that emanates from the earth.
And so, I sit here, now, and ponder.
High above the level of the waters of the earth, my darkened room, lighted only by a small lamp on my writing table and the moon beams that form silver patches on the floor, I feel that I can see from this six-thousand-foot height the rest of the world spread out before me, as though viewing it from another planet.
As I contemplate the nations of peoples scattered over the lands of this earth, I am drawn, mentally and spiritually, in contact with them. As I contact each race of people I hear their music, I sense their rhythm of motion, and their synchronized pulse beats of divine emotion.
First I reach out to my own land far across the mountains, plains and ocean. I come in contact with noon-time services in Grace Church in New York. The magnificent organ is sending forth the old-time tunes of Christian song, while hundreds of tired business men and women sit in reverential silence and worship, seeking contact with God through the mysterious power of the harmonies of sound. There is peace, hope, and love there--and God is revealed to them in His one channel of attunement.
I pass on westward and find myself drawn to the upper floor of an old building. It is just past sunset of Friday there, though where I have my physical body, it is early Saturday evening. In this old building I hear strange harmonies. A hundred men, standing with covered heads and facing a few others in embroidered robes, are swaying from side to side while they chant, religiously and devotedly. They, too, are seeking contact with God--and use the only method they know. This may be Jewish, it may be the typical and truly orthodox Synagogue service; the harmony and movement of the chant may be distinctly different from the Christian music I heard a few moments ago, but there are the same pulsing notes of universal rhythm.
I wonder where such chanting and swaying of bodies might be duplicated; and, as I contemplate, I find myself passing over other lands and seas and drawn to a wooded section adjoining a desert in Eastern Africa. It is night-time, the moon is high and its light makes the desert sand look like the surface of a lake. In the shadows of the wood strange lights are moving about with well-timed regularity, and now I hear the beating of the tum, tum, tum, accompanied by the production of soft notes in quarter-values of the musical scale.
I reach down and place my consciousness in attunement with the strange men and women, I find assembled around an open space in the wild shrubbery. In the center of this sand and stone-covered area there rises a crudely carved altar upon which a fire burns, and over this, supported by water-soaked sticks, lies the body of an animal, now unconscious and slowly scorching from the heat.
Around this altar, in a large rotating circle, are a hundred or more men, women, and children, dark skinned, slightly clothed, but highly decorated with paint and ornaments. They are dancing, swaying their bodies, and periodically extending their hands toward the burning sacrifice. Back in the deeper shadows are seated seven men with huge kettle drums formed of skins stretched over hollowed tree stumps, and strange flutes made of bamboo. Some of the dancers are chanting while others carry flaming torches.
The tum, tum, tum, of the drums again present the rhythmic pulsations of the universe, for they are identical with those I have heard in many lands and in hundreds of forms of music.
These people are seeking contact with God, through the only method ever revealed to them--the rhythm of music and chant.
I pass eastward and soon find myself in the center of a sunrise ceremony along the banks of the Nile, in that ancient--and little modernized--section known as the Fayoum.
In the golden and purple shadows of an old temple a group of native Egyptians, in white robes with red sashes, is standing with faces turned toward the rising sun, and arms extended horizontally. Near them are kneeling a number of young men, beating their hands upon small skin-covered vessels or blowing through long pipes, while the standing figures rhythmically bow to the sun and chant.
Weird music and song, indeed, but still the tum, tum, tum of the action of life helps them to worship God, in the only manner they have found efficient.
Again my consciousness is attracted toward another section of this continent of darkness. Instantly I find myself in touch with a group of very primitive people near the southern extremity of the Sahara Desert. I see a great number of women--large, coarse, wild in action, and heavily dressed in colored silks, cotton and wool, with many beads and ornaments--standing in a large circle around a vessel of steaming water. They are rhythmically swaying and bowing, the while singing and chanting in extremely high-pitched notes, producing at times blood-curdling shrieks which seem to reach my very soul. Back of them in the shadows of the crude tents, which they have constructed through their continuous pilferings from unfortunate caravans, stand the men of this desert tribe, silent, disfranchised and belittled, while close to the steaming vessel squats a young woman playing a "m'zad," a one-string instrument. There is no real melody, no bewitching tune, but there is movement and progression in her playing, and there is the eternal rhythmic beat of time, the accented note with definite periodicity that controls the swaying of these women of the Tuareg Camp of the Sahara and lifts their spiritual beings out of this primitive environment to attunement with the Cosmic, bringing them closer to the only divine consciousness they know--an unnamed and un-nameable God.
As I ponder over this primitive sight in the wilds of a continent of darkness, and speculate upon the mystical significance of the steam arising from the vessel, I recall the spiritual import of fire and water, smoke and vapor, in association with music and chant. Are these uneducated, unevolved, uncivilized people, of no definite race or nation, so primitive in their spiritual awakening? Are there not millions of so-called civilized and cultured men and women practicing precisely the same ritual in more enlightened lands?
As if in answer to my question, I am drawn to a place far north. I seem to pass along the Nile, across a part of the Mediterranean Sea and then to fertile valleys and hills. I descend to a little village--centuries old in its contact with culture, and now bathed in the golden light of a rising sun. At the side of a small hill I see a long procession of men, young and old, moving forward, two by two, in rhythmic swaying and chanting. Most of them are in black robes while the leaders of the procession are elaborately robed and gowned in colored and embroidered silks, with gorgeous head coverings and trailing capes. Younger men, in white, precede them, carrying vessels from which perfumed smoke emerges, while the vessels themselves are swung from side to side in harmony with the rhythmic swaying of the bodies of all who follow. In the center of the procession are two who carry an open vessel of water from which a faint moisture arises. All are chanting--without definite melody or tune, but with the unmistakable, clearly defined accent of the beat note heard in all lands. The procession enters the little doorway, the entrance to a cave. It descends the old stone stairway, it pauses in kneeling and salutation in a large rock-covered chamber, and slowly ascends another stone stairway again. What is this holy ceremony? It is the daily celebration of the birth-place of Jesus, in the land recognized by nearly one-third of the earth's population, as the holiest of all holy lands, and the ceremony is conducted by the Roman Catholic Church, representative of what is called the most intellectual and cultured religion of all times.
Yet, I cannot refrain from comparing this holy ceremony with that which I witnessed a few minutes ago in darkest Africa. There was the swaying of the bodies, the kneeling and adorations, the tuneless chanting, the smoke, the vessel of water, and the mystic rhythm. With the tribes in Africa--and some other lands--the men were considered lacking in those spiritual qualities necessary for active participation in any holy celebration, while here the women were denied participation.
Surely, man has blundered in many ways in his attempt to interpret Cosmic law.
I think, then, of the ancient, elaborate, gorgeous ceremonies of so-called Heathen worship in Babylon, condemned by modern religions as a worship of gold and material things in all their glittering splendor. Slowly, my consciousness moves eastward and I find that I am just in time for the High Mass in St. Peter's, in Rome.
I move forward across the colonnaded plaza before the Church. I ascend the broad steps and enter a structure filled with the most costly art and handiwork of the ages. I approach a chapel or alcove room at the side and find its doorway covered with rich, gold-embroidered, red plush draperies. I lift one side of these heavy curtains as though approaching the throne of a worldly king. There comes to me the swelling volume of the chanting of a great choir. I peep inside, and I am held spellbound by the magnificence of the scene.
Ornamented walls, rare paintings, costly sculpture, gold railings and ornaments, priceless slabs of marble, beautifully upholstered seats, marvelous stained-glass windows, gorgeous draperies! Hundreds of old men and young men in elaborate robes. Groups of priests in magnificently embroidered silks and laces. Red satin sashes and hats, ermine-lined capes, gold candle-sticks, gold vessels, burning perfume and incense. A soul-stirring organ, played as only a religious devotee can play it.
Now everyone kneels. A bell rings, all make a form of salutation. They all stand. Again they are seated. The group of priests chant. The choir responds. The incense vessels are swayed from side to side. The organ is softly playing. Rhythm, rhythm, rhythm! God is being brought close to the hearts of the worshippers through attunement with that Cosmic principle. It is beautiful, soul satisfying.
Is such rhythm associated only with sacred ceremonies? My consciousness answers by taking me hurriedly to New York again, where it is still the evening before. I am led to the great auditorium of the Carnegie Hall. A program of classic concert music is in its last hour. It is nearly midnight. For over three hours a thousand or more men and women have been sitting in this close and impure atmosphere, held in some strange fascination of worship. But, it is a worship of music. Many of them have paid for these three hours what it has taken them weeks or months to save. They have gladly sacrificed many luxuries and some necessities for this one evening of soul-satisfaction and spiritual nourishment. Religion? Not at all--in the orthodox sense; for most of them attend no church regularly and few of them agree in regard to any creed. But their souls, their spiritual beings, crave this attunement, and here they find the only real God they truly understand.
I listen to the music that enchants them. The large symphonic orchestra is playing Beethoven's Opus 132. The notes of the cello in the solo parts, the passages made mystical by the tones of the violas, and the soul-appealing phrases by the violins, make a sound-picture of Heaven, and one can see, inwardly, the Divine Mind ruling over such a realm of peace and harmony. No wonder such music bears the composer's title as though invented to translate his own conception of the inspiration! "A Thanksgiving to God--in the Lydian Mode." Such was what I heard.
Then came another selection from Beethoven in which it seemed as though God--the very life and spirit of harmonious sound--projected Himself from the vastness of space into the very presence of the audience until His vibrating power thrilled each being into rejuvenated youth.
Mozart's music then came as the supreme achievement of mystical influence. It was as though a master builder was now building a great Cathedral of rare jewels and scintillating glass into which the soul of each might enter and live eternally in attunement with the harmonies of music.
Suddenly, I found myself actually in the Cathedral of the Soul, from whence I had started on my reveries. I was surrounded by not only this vast Carnegie audience, which had been brought to God through rhythm, but by all the beings I had contacted during the hours of the night.
There were the heathens of many lands, and the orthodox; the many of many creeds; the primitive and unevolved, and the moderns and intellectuals.
I could hear each nation, each tribe, each cult chanting its sacred intonations, and playing upon reed, flute, drum, violin, or what-not, its holy anthem. But there were no discords. All was harmony. It was one grand Symphony of Life. There was concordant rhythm, synchronized pulsation of time, universal accord and a synthetic blending of every note of the musical scale.
Only a master director of musicians could harmonize such diversified music. Only a transcendental motive could inspire the musicians with themes that could blend in a sunbeam of musical tones.
It was the Music of the Spheres, the music of the hearts and souls of men and women of all lands and all degrees of human evolution, rising in unison as a cry from the sanctums of their souls for contact with God. It was the universal, eternal plea of the human heart for attunement with that which each human conceives as Divine and Superhuman.
Pagan! Heathen! Orthodox! Heretic! How childish seem these terms in the face of the universal cry of the soul! Only one is lost to God, only one is shut out from contacting the Father of all. It is he or she who fails to attune with this mighty Symphony of Life, this choral of Cosmic Song, this melody of Soul Cantata.
Let such a one start now to sing. Set into vibration, today, the Grand Organ of your Soul, that its thunderous tones may reach out beyond your aura. Let the pleas and cries, the smiles and joys of your inner self break into song, sad or merry. Swing your being into chant and rhythm. Hear the life beat, the fundamental time-note all around you in the better things of life and get in attunement with it.
You will find God, and Peace, and Harmony in such a life. Your God is in your song. Let it be a song that blends with the Cosmic Symphony, regardless of what altar you erect, what sanctum you build, or what chant you understand.
The Symphony of Life is the rhythm of God's consciousness surging through you, and it knows no limitations of thought or doctrine.
Attune yourself and join the Cosmic Choir. Time will make you a master musician in the Great Orchestra and you will find Health, Happiness, and Cosmic Power flowing into your being as your song flows outwardly into the Infinite Space of Universal Consciousness.

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