For some reason I’ve been listening to two versions of the Gayatri Mantra over and over and OVER these last few days, pondering the gateways to the divine. I think there are many ways to have a mystical experience, depending on what works with your personality. Music is a common gateway, and certainly one that works for me, at times.
This is hard to write, because so much of my academic side wants to challenge and define things like “spiritual”, “mysticism” and so on 1. Today I’m just writing about experience without over-analyzing too much.
While named for the goddess Gayatri (mother of the Vedas), I think anyone who believes in a deity can sing this mantra with integrity as the words are honoring to any true g0d.
Om Bhur Buvaha Suvaha
Thath Savithur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi
Dhiyo Yonaha Prachodayath
God! You are Omnipresent, Omnipotent and Almighty.
You are all Light. You are all Knowledge and Bliss.
You are Destroyer of fear; You are Creator of this Universe,
You are the Greatest of all. We bow and meditate upon your light.
You guide our intellect in the right direction.
I found you not, O Lord, without, I erred in seeking you without because you were within. ~ Saint Augustine
I’d be remiss in describing Augustine as a mystic, he’s famous for his logical philosophy. This is the feeling side of him, perhaps? I think warmly of Charles Hodge, a christian theologian in the “Reformed” or “Calvinist” school which is traditionally suspicious of mysticism. Hodge is wary too but almost plunges in, writing of those whose “heart” theology is deeper than their head theology 2. “Until recently it was widely believed that India is ‘mystical’ and the West is ‘rational’, and many still hold this view. But in fact Indian thought has a strong tradition of rationality”. 3 There is so much more to write in this area, but insh’Allah, another time.
All this makes me desire to find a group of intellectual mystics. Now, THAT would be something! Practitioners committed to exploring the ways of both reason and the spirit.
Here’s a track that invariably made me cry, and can still do so. Tilt | Invisible
Listen to my voice
You won’t see me
You won’t see me with your eyes
Listen to my voice
I am a feeling
You will feel me deep inside
When I was a christian, I interpreted these words as speaking of the Holy Spirit (who is sometimes considered feminine), the part of g0d who interacts with us here and now. I have this record on vinyl, it’s one of my treasured possessions.
Music… wine… drugs? Ah, it might just be a feeling, but if that feeling hints at anything true, how wonderful that would be. When I was a DJ, it was these moments I lived for. To dance – preferably outdoors – to ecstatic music and maybe feel a glimpse of something special. It didn’t happen often, but when it did…
Here’s a film of an outdoor party I curated. You can even get a glimpse of me DJing at one point.
The particular music doesn’t matter – that tends to be an individual thing. For some it might be opera, for others heavy metal. It’s the sense of beauty and transport the music evokes, in the best of moments at the best of times. If the transcendent is there, if there really is something more, and if we can somehow touch it… How can we not yearn for this?
Is music a gateway for you?
1. Check some of my loose definitions and writing on atheist spirituality if you’re uncomfortable and want to go down the intellectual path.
2. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (Eerdmans, 1871). Hodge spends considerable ink on mysticism, and it’s gold, for a post-christian like me.
3. From Indian Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction by Sue Hamilton (Oxford University Press, 2001).