Universal Brotherhood – March 1899

HARMONY — Amy N. Wharton

The dictionary informs us that Harmony is the just adaptation of parts to each other in any system of things intended to form a connected whole — or a concord. Harmony is then what we absolutely require for Universal Brotherhood, and without it this knitting and binding together of the human race would be impossible. In order to become this connected whole the first thing to study is how to recognize and then how to obey this great Law of Harmony. H. P. Blavatsky in the "Secret Doctrine" says "the world had been called out of chaos (or matter) by sound or harmony." The voice of the Great Spirit that moved on the face of the waters saying "let there be light," was the harmonious commencement of life, sound producing light, showing the subtle and occult connection between these two. "From harmony, from heavenly harmony, this universal frame began," says Dryden. The rhythmic vibrations, interpenetrating all space are the root of being; the whole normal nature of man should therefore be attuned to Harmony. Discord and variance are the cause of disease and sin, consequently our great work is to restore the harmonious vibrations of the Universe. When two hearts beat in accord there is harmony, and when a large number of individuals agree and are in accord, the rhythmic wave has force that carries all before it.

Music, which is the succession of harmonious sounds, has great power in producing unanimity of kindly feeling, or otherwise in arousing the worst sentiments and passions. Witness the effect of the Marsellaise on the French populace, its inspiring strains awakening the martial spirit in all who heard it. In his poem of 'Alexander's Feast,' Dryden shows the power of music in swaying the passions of the multitude, and rings the changes from war to love. Thoreau calls music "the arch reformer," and it has also been used as a cure for certain diseases. A physician has stated that "the effect of music is transmitted by a reflex action on the nerves which govern the supply of blood. The effect of music is to dilate the blood vessels so that the blood flows more freely and increases the sense of warmth. By increased blood-supply nutrition is effected." In this way music may aid in the cure of disease. The physiological effects of music have also been studied by a Russian named Doziel, who states that "the action of musical tones on men and animals expresses itself for the most part by increased frequency of the beats of the heart," that the "variations in the blood pressure are dependent on the pitch and loudness of the sound and on tone color," and that "in vibrations of the blood pressure the peculiarities of the individuals, whether men or lower animals, are plainly apparent."

Tolstoi, in his remarkable little book, "The Kreutzer Sonata," shows the evil effects of certain forms of music playing on a physique strung, by tension of the sense nerves, to a condition when only the discords are excited, as then strange flaws and defects of nature come to light that else had not been dreamed of. Tolstoi puts into the mouth of the man who has killed his wife in a fit of jealousy these words: "People say that music elevates the soul; nonsense! falsehood! It exercises an influence, a frightful influence — but not of an ennobling kind. Under this influence I seem to feel what I do not feel, to understand what I do not understand, to be able to do what I am not capable of doing — music transports me immediately into the condition of soul in which the composer of the music found himself at the time he wrote it. For him the music possessed a meaning, but for me none — and that is how it happens that music causes an excitement which remains unalloyed — one does not know what, during this state of excitement, should be done. This is why music is so dangerous and acts at times in so terrible a manner."

In this passage is plainly shown the peril there is in music of a certain kind through the power it possesses in arousing states of feeling that are debasing, but on the other hand the higher, nobler music has power to awake the nobler side of man's nature.

We are told that Thebes was built by the music of Orpheus. Carlyle, speaking of this legend, says: "Our Orpheus walked in Judea eighteen hundred years ago. His sphere-melody flowing in wild native tones, took captive the ravished souls of men; and being of a truth sphere-melody, still flows and sounds, though now with thousand-fold accompaniments and rich symphonies, through our hearts; and modulates and divinely leads them."

We find that musical vibrations throw grains of sand into the shape of ferns, flowers, trees, also into symmetrical and mathematical forms. Pythagoras went so far as to state that the octave gave our planet its shape, and it is said that certain experiments have shown that when an octave is sounded the sand on a plate of glass arranges itself in the form of a circle. Plato, in the perfect city that he planned, gave to music, in its larger sense, the first place — he makes it the chief subject in the study of the young. "Gymnastics for the body, and music for the mind," he says, and continues, "must we not then begin by teaching music?" He goes on to say that melody has three constituents, sentiment, harmony and rhythm, and that these three should correspond with each other — remarking that rhythm will follow after harmony, and advising that "our citizens pursue not ever-varying rhythms having a variety of cadences, but observe what are the rhythms of an orderly and manly life," that these should compel time and melody; to subserve sentiment, and not sentiment be in subservience to time and melody, by which I think he intended to show that the senses must be kept in subjection by the Higher Self, and that the end in view was not the gratification of the individual, but the harmonious life of all. There is so much about Harmony in Plato's "Republic," that quotation but feebly conveys an idea of his meaning. The work well repays the study of any who care for this subject. The Greek idea of music was, of course, very different from the modern development of that art, but it was seen to be at the root of esoteric education, for in the school of Pythagoras no candidate was admitted unless he was already proficient in the sciences of arithmetic, astronomy, geometry and music, which were held to be the four divisions of mathematics, this latter being the science that treats of numbers and magnitude, or, in other words, the commencement of creation, by co-relation of force to matter; as H. P. B. says: "The world had been constructed according to the principles of musical proportion."

Beethoven speaks of music as "the mediator between the spiritual and sensual life." Harmony is the rainbow bridge that spans the mystic gulf between the material and ideal world; we can often cross that chasm on the wings of sweet sound; music is the medium of thought that comes from another plane, that has no other language; from it we can sometimes even deduce memory of long past ages, and ideas we have no words for take shape in music. It is a means by which we can leave this land of shadows, and enter that bright country where we can know as we are known. 'Twas across this radiant bridge that the gods retreated to Walhalla, from a world that was becoming too material, in which they could no longer exist. It is over this bridge that they must return to us when we make an atmosphere in which they can once more live among us. Time was when the gods walked on this earth, and men dwelt in peace — that was indeed the golden age. "When the morning stars sang together and the sons of God shouted for joy." Can we not make that time possible again by turning the discords of life into harmonies, first for ourselves, and then for all others?

It is said in the "Secret Doctrine" that "there is one eternal law in nature, one that always tends to adjust contraries, and to produce final harmony. It is owing to this law of spiritual development, superseding the physical and purely intellectual, that mankind will become free from its false gods, and find itself self-redeemed." In "Letters that Have Helped Me," W. Q. Judge says, speaking of books that had been of service to him, especial the "Gita," "All these are instinct with a life of their own, which changes the vibrations. Vibration is the key to it all, the different states are only differences of vibration, and we do not recognize the astral or other planes because we are out of tune with their vibrations."

In the "Voice of the Silence" we are told that: "Disciples may be likened to the strings of the soul-echoing vina, mankind unto its sounding-board, the hand that sweeps it to the tuneful breath of the great World Soul. The string that fails to answer 'neath the Master's touch in dulcet harmony with all the others, breaks and is cast away." There is only true harmony when each answers with all as one to the Master's hand, when all are in tune.

How delightful is the feeling experienced on entering some beautiful gothic cathedral where the perfect combination of parts forms an exquisite harmony! Who thinks of the masses of stone hewn from the quarries, the trees grown in the forest, or the metal drawn from mines in the Earth's heart; one only perceives a vast and perfect entity which exhales its soul to the Infinite in clouds of Incense and Music; such should our Universal Brotherhood be, each, separate, being as naught in power, but welded together by the Master Builder, forming a force that nothing can withstand. Browning signifies the mystical knowledge expressed in music in his wonderful poem of "Abt Vogler," in which he makes the musician say: "All through music and me — earth had attained to heaven, there was no more near or far." And again, "therefore to whom turn I but to the ineffable name? Builder and maker thou of houses not made with hands." At the end of the poem are these significant words:

"What is our failure here but a triumph's evidence
For the fulness of the days? Have we withered or agonized,
Why else was the pause prolonged but that singing might issue thence?
Why rushed the discords in but that harmony should be prized?
Sorrow is hard to bear, and doubt is slow to clear.
Each sufferer says his say, his scheme for the weal and woe;
But God has a few of us whom he whispers in the ear;
The rest may reason and welcome: 'tis we musicians know."

How necessary then that we should have harmony in our hearts, for until we feel a peace within which nothing can ruffle, until we have that "eye made quiet by the power of harmony" how can we hope to help those around us to vibrate in unison. Let us see to it that our own discords do not mar the harmony, and so spoil our vision of a golden future. I will conclude with the following fine passage from the "Journal of Amiel": "O Plato! O Pythagoras! Ages ago you heard these harmonies, surprised these moments of inward ecstacy, knew these divine transports. If music thus carries us to heaven, it is because music is harmony, harmony is perfection, perfection is our dream, and our dream is heaven."


Universal Brotherhood

THEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE