Friday, November 17, 2006

Musical Throne

Musical Throne -

My friend here at the yeshiva told me that a Rabbi of his told him that secular music has a higher potential for emotional connection than religious music. He didn't state why, but my impression is that secular music doesn't bother limiting itself in scope as to what it says or how it expresses things, and therefore it is like an unbound animal. Therefore, music of this type speaks to a very active part of the human being, which is the animal side, and the truth is that a larger percentage of humanity does not bother controlling the animal in them and therefore secular music is a popular mode of expression for much of humanity. According to my friend, the Rabbi stated that music of this type is almost barbaric, which I understand him to mean not necessarily barbaric in content but barbaric in that it does not regulate itself.

Music can be aligned with spirituality and with religion, and through the ages human beings have used music in their connection to the spiritual, be they pagan or philosopher or monotheist. But why would religious music offer less of a connection than secular, which might be very, very spiritual? I have a feeling that only people who have managed to tap into what it means to be a religious person have been able to connect to religious music, whose spirituality is deep and rich but concealed in a particular train of thought which is also deeply connected to the way one lives life. Nevertheless, the spirituality in religious music is not inaccessible to the general population. It is almost as if one has to sensitize his/her ear to religious thought before one can comprehend in the inherent spirituality within it, and religious thought is not separable from religious living. The perception for many people, whom do not live religious lifestyles, is that religious music is not as spiritual as secular music, because the latter offers a more readily accessible palatte of sounds and lyrics that speaks to a very base element of humanity. The perception that secular music is more spiritual than religious music is due to the number of people whom have not genuinely found a religious connection in thier lives and therefore it is more difficult for them to see the rich colors present in religious music. There is a giant pot of emotions in secular music, a huge mish-mosh of uncharted emotions and sentiments, and therefore the general populace finds solace in this music because it speaks to everyone. The kind of emotions and sentiments which religious music taps into is more directed and eager to move in a specific direction than is just plainly spiritual music, eager to surround the listener with a particular sense of meaning, which plainly spiritual music does not contain. Spiritual music comes from a lower and baser place in the human soul, the animal spirit, and religious music, which is also spiritual, comes from a higher place in the human soul, the G-dly soul, the piece of the human and humanity which is actually a part of G-d. To find meaning and beauty and spiritual and emotional connection in this type of music, one must work to find a way to bring him/herself into a place of connection to his higher self and only then will that purview be made visible to his eyes.

The Torah says that high levels of spirituality can be reached through unholy things, i.e., things which do not have their source in G-dly spirituality. To use a contemporary type of example, people who are involved in dirty or base endeavours; drugs, permiscuity, crime, etc... are seen to give off an aura of confidence and heightened spirituality and which makes them alluring and charismatic individuals. The same thing is true of people on the opposite side of the spectrum, they reach a level of confidence and heightened spirituality which draws people to them through clean and pure means. In Parshat Balaam, Balaam, who is a prophet of Midian (a polytheistic peoples), reaches high levels of spirituality and even prophecy through engaging in relations with his female donkey, which the Torah specificially mentions is a "she-donkey." This is one of the lowest, basest, and filthiest acts possible, but it elevated Balaam to heights that most likely many "normal" people had not reached. Somehow, through these horrible and filthy acts, Balaam was able to tap into a heightened state of being - he was able to lose himself to the point where he found something outside of himself, but in the process he also ruined himself. G-d made the donkey turn around and speak to him, and the Midrash says that G-d did this in order to make Balaam understand that prophecy comes from Him, not from any form of klippah, a chassidic term for something which separates Man from G-d.
Musical Throne
Many high levels of spirituality can be attained through impure means, but pure means can bring a person much closer to G-d than any of those.

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