Rediscovering Our Lost Chord
Originally printed in the September - October 2004 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: Oliveria, Linda. “Rediscovering Our Lost Chord.” Quest 92.5 (SEPTEMBER - OCTOBER 2004):165 - 169.
By Linda Oliveira
We have to become translucent, instead of opaque as we mostly are, and bring about that harmony between the inner and the outer, the higher and the lower, which is a condition of true understanding and fitness
WHEN a musical chord is struck, a certain harmony is produced by that combination of notes. But a chord in which just one note is incorrect produces discord, dissonance. This has a very definite effect.
So it is with human beings. If one aspect of us is out of harmony with the rest, then we do not function smoothly, and our actions come from fields of consciousness that are not integrated. This could result in ill health. Following from this, if the chords of enough individuals are not in harmony, then groups of humans can become mutually destructive, as we witness today. The community of humanity is experiencing ill health because, clearly, there is discord in so many areas.
In contrast, let us consider nature. Nature is like an orchestra that somehow blends together countless keynotes. Since the time of Pythagoras, this cosmic symphony has been known as the Music of the Spheres. According to this concept, every tiny atom is attuned to a musical note and is constantly in movement at incredible speeds, each speed having its own numerical quality or note. It follows that if we had the ears to hear, we could actually hear a tree grow or a flower blossom. Equally, we would hear the deep cries of other humans and life forms on the planet and be better equipped to soothe them.
We humans seem to be forever searching in an attempt to rediscover something from Nature that we have lost—the chord of harmony with the universe. Harmony is not an airy fairy concept. It is very relevant to everyday life. Further, harmony is not limited to the individual, the family and the human community. Rather, it implies a state of deep inner resonance with all life in the terrestrial world and ultimately with all life that resides in still subtler domains. The search for this lost chord has led us in myriad directions. We are seeking to fill gaps within our makeup, to help make us whole. Consequently, human beings are great adventurers. We search every nook and cranny of life to try to rediscover that precious treasure —through excitement, drugs, alcohol, new forms of pleasure, wealth, gurus, meditation, and so forth. It would be fair to say that the human being is often like a clogged backwater rather than an active participant in the great stream of life. We can only become one with the stream, reconnect with it, when we rediscover our depth. How do we, as individuals, rediscover the deeper notes of our existence, that can then help us move consciously toward a state of harmony?
Moving toward Harmony
Each of life’s myriad forms has a unique set of vibrations. This includes the human being. Can we sense the deeper notes of another person? Do we really listen to another—not just to spoken words but to the person's gestures and eyes, to that which is not spoken, so that we apply our inner senses to what the person is communicating? Krishnamurti commented that we always listen with a preconception or from a particular point of view. Can we listen with “new” ears?
Do we actually trust life, or are we afraid of it in some ways? Our actions may be based on fear, such as fear of what someone else will think of us. As we evolve, the conventions of society loosen their grip somewhat and our individual morality becomes the basis of our life rather than the morality of the world, which may be out of harmony with the workings of the universe. In The Mahatma Letters there is an important statement by Master K. H.: “[A Mahatma] must obey the inward impulse of his soul irrespective of the prudential considerations of worldly science or sagacity.” Worldly wisdom, so called, may be but a poor reflection at times of that wisdom that can enter from subtler realms, flooded with the light of buddhi. As we become more inwardly confident, fears such as these recede and we trust life because somehow we trust ourselves. We learn to cope better with situations, with our relationships, with heavy burdens, and with the task immediately at hand.
To what degree do we genuinely take responsibility for what we do? If we can take responsibility for our actions, then we become more consciously responsible for the state of the world. The idea of karma may be nothing more than an interesting notion moving around in the mind. But a conscious cooperation with the workings of karma in our everyday life results in a conscious assumption of responsibility for our actions.
Aspiration may be thought of as the heart of the spiritual life. One of the meanings of `aspire' is “to seek after.” “Seeking” suggests searching for something that is hidden, like some undiscovered land. For example, when we aspire toward Truth, or seek it, we are stretching . beyond the mundane, the commonplace, beyond our known limits, into new territory.
Coming to Truth
Theosophical teachings suggest that we fracture Truth through the divisions of the concrete mind, just as sunlight is divided when it passes through a prism. Microbiologist Darryl Reanney, in his book Music of the Mind, comments that our primary mode of physical expression, language, also fractures Truth. We should qualify this, though, because language also provides opportunities to reach beyond the mundane. We may hear or read beautiful, evocative words that act as catalysts for new insights, new understandings. Language is our primary mode of expressing thought, and thought has many manifestations. Therefore, language must give voice to that which is lofty and inspiring, as well as the grosser aspects of the human mind. Ultimately, though, Truth may not require language, as the following story form the Zen tradition illustrates.
The Zen teacher’s dog loved his evening romp with his master. The dog would bound ahead to fetch a stick, then run back, wag his tail, and wait for the next game. One evening, the teacher invited one of his brightest students to join him—a boy so intelligent that he became troubled by the seeming contradictions in Buddhist doctrine.
“You must understand,” said the teacher, “that the words are only guideposts. Never let the words or symbols get in the way of truth. Here, I'll show you.”
With that the teacher called his happy dog.
“Fetch me the moon,” he said to his dog and pointed to the full moon.
“Where is my dog looking?” asked the teacher of the bright pupil.
“He's looking at your finger.”
“Exactly. Don't be like my dog. Don't confuse the pointing finger with the thing that is being pointed at. All our Buddhist words are only guideposts. Every man fights his way through other men's words to find his own truth.”
Darryl Reanney maintains that society today confuses knowing, which is born of insight, with memory, which is born of repetition. Insight comes in its own time, when the mind is ready and is able to transfigure information into wisdom. He points out that memory enables us to access experience without necessarily understanding it, which explains the spiritual impoverishment of our age. He then makes the following statement: “For knowing, deep knowing, is a prize that can be won only by voyaging . . . into the deeps of consciousness and paying the full price of pain and patience that is demanded of those that passionately need to know.” (p. 123) And are not pain and patience integral to the life of the spiritual aspirant? They are part of a voyage into the deep. That prize of deep knowing is Truth.
Inner and Outer Worlds
Science has shown that an electron exists as a paradoxical composite of two states: wave and particle. Darryl Reanney suggests that the behavior of an electron may be an apt metaphor for the complementary coupling of the inner world of subjective (wave structured) experience and the outer world of objective (particle structured) observation.
Knowing, says Reanney, in its very nature, exists in wave form. We find that poetry is more evocative than prose because it is already partly cast in song, which has wave structure. He comments that music is the most alchemical force of all, as the resonances it sets up “can vibrate in tune with the inner logic of the universe.” The power of mantra, for example, is well known. Also, if we become aligned with a piece of music then we resonate to its harmony. Certain waves of music may transport us more easily into archetypal realms, the abode of Truth.
Searching for the harmony we have lost may be likened to seeking the illusive pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Let us consider this as an alchemical process.
Alchemy has been described as a medieval form of chemistry, the chief aim of which is to discover how to turn ordinary metals into gold. Producing gold is therefore a traditional goal of an alchemist. The first principle of the alchemist, said Madame Blavatsky, is the existence of a certain “universal solvent” by which all composite bodies are resolved into the homogeneous substance from which they are evolved. This pure gold is also called summa materia, implying the ultimate sum of that which is known about matter, or the essence of matter.
The unfoldment of a human being also requires an alchemical process. Madame Blavatsky described alchemy as the “chemistry of Nature” and pointed out that it has cosmic, human, and terrestrial aspects. She commented that transmutation of baser metal into gold is only the terrestrial aspect of alchemy, for the alchemical process also has deeper significance —namely that the “Occultist Alchemist,” spurning earth’s gold, directs his or her efforts towards the transmutation of what theosophists often refer to as the “lower quaternary” into the upper triad of the human being. Or we could say that gold is produced by the flowering of our innermost nature. Therefore HPB stated that alchemy is as much a spiritual philosophy as a physical science. She equated the mysterious process of the transformation of lead into gold with the transformation of personality into pure, homogeneous Spirit. The stone of the philosopher, she said, is born of the Spirit. She explains that this is the soul (manas) and body of the human being assimilating Spirit (buddhi). In this process they merge into the One Life.
It is interesting that HPB emphasized the assimilation of Spirit or buddhi by us, not the assimilation of us by Spirit. This underscores the significance of individual effort as we evolve, so well conveyed in the third Fundamental Proposition of The Secret Doctrine. It seems that the alchemy of the Spirit, that total transformation of the personality which produces a regenerate human being, is absolutely dependent upon effort—at least up to a point. Therefore, the quality, time, and orientation of the effort of each of us is of paramount importance and may enable the alchemical process to proceed exponentially.
The Importance of Silence
Darryl Reanney has another way of putting this: through purifying your knowing from the noise of ego, the “you that is truly you” can join the symphony of creation, and the song you have become can meld seamlessly into the music that is. In other words, purifying our knowing, implying purification of the mind, is crucial to reharmonizing ourselves. This is the work of lifetimes and is central to works such as Patañjali's Yoga Sutras. Perhaps one way of purifying the mind is through learning to be quiet.
Purifying our knowing from the noise of ego demands that we make available opportunities to reduce that noise if we are to remain lucid and sane in today's world. Jocelyn Underhill wrote that one of the most distressing features of modern life is the fear of silence that pervades every rank of society. Much idle and inconsequential chatter, she said, arises from fear. Perhaps silence creates a seeming void, something that is unknown and that we therefore fear.
Silence is critical in spiritual life. What does it mean to be utterly quiet? The body is quiet; it does not fidget. Its cells are not agitated. The emotions are at rest and the mind is still yet alert. It is interesting to observe the silences between thoughts. They become longer and may change in quality over time. The experience of time itself also changes when we experience inner states of awareness.
What is silence? Commonly, we consider it to be the absence of sound. But Jocelyn Underhill says, “Silence is much more than the negation of sound, it is sound itself.” Spiritual things viewed from the lower worlds more often than not present themselves as paradoxes. Therefore they may not be easy to grasp, and sometimes they require a leap of faith before they can be truly known. The notion of silence being sound is, of course, well exemplified in the theme of that wonderful Theosophical classic, The Voice of the Silence. A former general secretary of the Australian Section, Helen Zahara, suggests that this voice takes different forms, depending on our state of consciousness:
Sometimes we feel an inner compulsion or guidance toward taking a particular action. This will not be an unfamiliar idea to many. The question is whether the impulse is a genuine spiritual impulse. We need to find out whether our emotional desires or thoughts are influencing us. To do this, discernment needs to be developed. A key here is to examine our motive.
Conscience is another kind of inner voice that determines the extent of our morality. True conscience comes from the realm of spirit. But what we think is conscience may have an external origin, produced by society.
Sometimes a strong thought appears in the mind, almost like a voice speaking. Again, we need to determine its source in order to know whether it is a manifestation of the “Voice of the Silence.”
Throughout history there have been accounts of mystics and visionaries who have been inspired by an inner voice. The mystic state seems to be one of great interior illumination, a flood of inner light and joy, a tremendous sense of unity. That presence, that state of consciousness, has its own voice, and yet attempts to describe it may only approximate the reality that has been known.
These provide some intimations of what “the Voice of the Silence” means. How might we describe this in Theosophical terms?
Helen Zahara quoted a definition by C. W. Leadbeater: “The Voice of the Silence for anyone is that which comes from the part of himself which is higher than what his normal consciousness can reach.” Therefore, it is logical and natural that this voice changes as an individual evolves. These changes may be considered as three stages:
For those who are focused in the personality, that voice might originate in the subtler aspects of the mind, in which there is a synthesizing and conceptual quality of comprehension.
For the more sensitive individual, it might be the voice of buddhi which provides an illumined understanding.
Eventually that voice would come from the level of anima. We could then regard the voice as spiritual will. Monadic evolution would lie primarily in the future for humanity.
When adeptship is reached, no doubt there are still subtler expressions of this voice. According to the Wisdom teachings, this originally commenced with the Word or the Great Breath, which thrilled through space at the beginning of the universe and through seven great fields of consciousness. If the universe consists of these vast fields, and if we are of One Life, then hearing that Word or Sound means surely to become awake at each of these levels. As The Voice of the Silence says, “Before thou sett'st thy foot upon the ladder’s upper rung, the ladder of the mystic sounds, thou hast to hear the voice of thy inner god in seven manners.' These seven manners are sometimes equated with vibrations of these seven fields or domains but may also have other connotations.
Silence need not be feared. In fact, it can be a great comfort if we can bring to it the whole range of our experience—our deepest griefs, noble thoughts, and so forth, right through to our highest aspirations. Can we create space for silence, allow silence to brood over the deep waters of the soul?
Silence does not need to be confined to moments of meditation, and this is something that we can experiment with. What, then, of those moments when we cannot retreat into physical silence? Perhaps the secret is to allow noises to flow through us rather than meet them with resistance. Then harmony is not disturbed.
Australian aborigines use the term “songlines” to describe the “interwoven pattern of time tracks that criss cross the landscape of their land.” Darryl Reanney refers to a songline as the “fullness of knowing over time.” In reply to “Who am I?” he says, “We are the songlines of our lives.” In other words, our full knowing resides within us. He comments (125) that if the songline of your life is out of tune with the chorus of creation, it cannot become part of the universe, the one song, the music that makes the world or the harmonic summation of all that is. In the course of evolution, dissonant sounds will eventually blend with this vast sea of harmony, the Music of the Spheres.
Linda Oliveira is national president of the Theosophical Society in Australia. The article is reprinted from The Theosophist, 24:11 (August 2003).
Blavatsky, H. P. The Voice of the Silence. Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1888.
Reanny, Darryl. Music of the Mind: An Adventure into Consciousness. London: Souvenir Press, 1997.