Universal Brotherhood Path – September 1900

THE SPIRITUAL THREAD IN OPERA — William A. Dunn

The usual meaning of the word "Opera" is — "a dramatic composition, set to music." A "dramatic composition", therefore, being a play which unfolds a series of events in life, and "music", being a manifestation, through the sense of hearing, of the inner World-Harmony which interpenetrates and binds into one whole all human and natural lives, it follows that the union of these two arts — drama and music — in Opera, gives to the latter a deep and vital significance.

Opera, considered in the broadest and truest sense, is the outward representation of the whole inner life of man. Correctly speaking, the "inner" and "outer" are but two aspects of one reality, for no outer can be perceived by any man except that which is in vibratory unison with his inner conscious perceptions. The law of sympathetic or corresponding vibration, establishes the identity between "inner" and "outer", and the adjustment between subject and object.

In Opera, the Soul may witness the action of, and interplay between, all human faculties and attributes; and discern that interpenetrating Spiritual Reality in which the faculties move and are synthesized, and through which the Soul shines upon the mind it illuminates and informs.

The "Spiritual Thread" is not to be found in particular characters or incidents. We should rather look behind and between the incidents of an Opera, if we would contact the golden ray which first inspired the composer, and around which he wove the details into form for outward representation. Light from the Soul always precedes artistic form, whose creation it directs.

Behind every creation of Genius, whether it be a Gospel, a Drama, a Painting, or an Opera, there is embodied within the artistic form an unseen Trinity. It is Idea — Light — Cohesion, and the three are one. A familiar commonplace will illustrate the truth of this. In language there are but twenty-six letters, yet these few elements answer for all literary forms, for all degrees of expression through language. That which marks the difference between a flimsy novel and a Drama by Aeschylus, is immediately sensed by any one of average intelligence. All life in words arises from the power within the man that classifies and combines them, and this power is conveyed through language as light is through varying transmitting media. All classical literature has behind it Idea — which radiates light with its many colored meanings, and Cohesion, that stamps the work as enduring. Glass is not the Light which it transmits; neither are words anything in themselves. They only momentarily live when the Soul makes use of them as a medium for expression. Therefore Spiritual meaning must be looked for in "That" which classifies the particular elements used — whether of sound, color, or language. This classifying power is the unseen Trinity which builds around itself, and determines the degree of, every form in life, nature, and mind. A magnet placed beneath a sheet of paper upon which are strewn loose iron filings, beautifully declares this truth. The unseen magnetism determines the form into which the filings are thrown, which form is not in the iron particles so arranged. The same truth underlies all the works of Nature, varying degrees of cohesion, form, etc., corresponding to the "Status" of the incarnating Soul or Entity.

The Spiritual Reality embodied in an Opera is just such an unseen power, that becomes a Trinity in manifesting through the appearances of brain consciousness represented by the details and incidents of the play.

Let us, in imagination, consider the question from the point of view of the Genius, within whose Soul Opera first had birth. An audience must begin with the external, and first grasp the details, then the form, and finally the "Idea" or "Thread" which ensouls it all. Genius, on the contrary, begins at the other pole — within the Soul. An Idea of Beauty and Power there has birth. It is "The Logos" of the work about to be created. Under the guidance of its light, the composer then erects a stately temple from the elemental world of sound, upon the ideal etheric form within his mind. This palace of sound, held together by that cohesive power, which stamps a work as classical and eternal, enshrines, and is illuminated by, the light which radiates from "The Logos" or original inspiration — the light and cohesive power being always relative to the spiritual idea, which could only have had birth in an ennobled heart and mind. Such Souls are inspired types of what the whole of Humanity will attain in the course of evolution — nor will it rest there — but pass to mightier ends. But for the present the "Sound Temple", erected by Master-Musicians, is our guide and refuge.

In the outer Courts of this Temple — not made with hands — Humanity worships, and witnesses the divine "Mystery-Play" which the characters of Opera, officiating as Priests of the God of the inner Sanctuary, display before them. The people may only see the "Lesser Mystery" of outward representation — but that which unites player and people alike, is MUSIC — the Harmony of Spiritual Life. In it the "Greater" and "Lesser" Mysteries of "inner" and "outer" life are united as one, for Humanity finds therein momentary release from the discords of earthly existence. Music Universal and divine — is the World-Mother, — the first sheath of the Soul. It is the basis and sustaining power of all manifestation, and the mind that bathes in its pure streams finds itself upon the highway which leads to Wisdom and to God. Too often, alas, has this beautiful Art been made to subserve some sensuous theme, but since the Great Goddess — all beautiful and supreme — revealed herself through Beethoven, the redemption of Music is assured.

It is a grave mistake to imagine that music begins and ends with the limited scale sensed through the organ of hearing. The human octave upon which at present are received partial impressions of the Universal symphony, is an extremely limited keyboard, only capable of receiving that minute aspect of music to which it, as receiving instrument, is attuned. This sense octave, is but one step on the Universal ladder up and down which pass the "Heavenly Singers". Man catches but an echo as they pass through his sphere of hearing and perception. On either side extend innumerable octaves beyond the scale to which our minds and ears are as yet attuned. As pearls upon a string, the "Spiritual Thread" unites all these octaves as one, and its shining path lies open for all Humanity. To find this thread within a great Opera, is to contact a beam of light from the living Soul of the World, which, in its passage through the mental darkness of the race, carries a message that the parent source has yet more light — inexhaustible and boundless — to pour forth upon humanity when aspiration has become sufficiently intense to cleave aside the darkness of contented ignorance. The music of God never ceases — it is only our immature receiving organs of mind and sense that limit its manifestation to consciousness.

A few words with reference to sound, from whose elements music is constructed, will aid in this direction; for it is possible to suggest some truths which underlie expression through harmonized sounds that will be found identical with those that vitalize and ennoble all expressions of true life. The exact mathematical basis upon which music is constructed provides a sure foundation from which the ideas suggested by it may be easily grasped. The sound elements wrought into musical form are so crystalline in their purity, and the law which governs their harmonious ratios and cohesions so beautifully exact, that the teaching of the Brotherhood of Sound is unmistakably clear and obvious.

All "Sounds" are but different "appearances" of one underlying vibration — detailed subdivisions of, and within, the universal key-note. Any single note of music is as a molecule made up of atoms, for it contains within itself a minute universe of sounds, which proceed from the low one sensed by the external ear up through a ladder of mathematically related degrees of vibratory motion, to the vibration of the one ethereal medium, that sustains all "Sounds". Hence all notes of music, in their highest subdivisions, coalesce and become identical in essence and vibration. It is upon these higher planes of unity between "sounds" that the Soul impresses its creative ideas, which, as cohesive power and Spiritual meaning, remain behind the rays of light that are attached to, and illuminate, the notes built into a musical composition.

Difference of pitch in music is caused by difference of wave-length, and the combination of different sound-waves resulting from three or more notes sung or played in harmony is geometrical form floating upon the Akasic ocean. Following, in imagination, the forms of each chord as they succeed and superimpose one another in a master-piece, the mind can picture the erection of a most beautiful ethereal temple, into which the Soul may pass as its natural home.

It can now be seen that the notes of music which appear to the outer ear as separate, are really "fingers upon one hand", and it is obvious that the Soul which constructs and illuminates a master-piece is beyond the etheric sea that it overlooks classifying and moulding the vibratory ripples for the purpose of transmitting its light and love to the under-world of sense and darkness. And yet it must not be thought that the Soul is far from our minds and hearts. It is closer than aught else in life, for it is ourself — that uses the body as manifesting instrument. The human body is the most perfect musical instrument on earth, but the different organs have got out of tune with each other. We may find the Tuner within the heart and conscience, ready to adjust every discord. As the inner and outer are in reality one, loyalty to a spiritual leader implies corresponding polarization of mind and heart to the God within. These two poles are strictly relative and interdependent.

This then is the divine mission of Opera — to act as intermediary between the Soul of Humanity and its blind Lower Self.

The old Grecian priests, knowing the true nature of their duties, personified, in their music-dramas, the forms of the gods, which really represent high states of Being in man. Being able, through their pure lives and deep spiritual wisdom, to inwardly affirm identification with the Powers they personified when performing ritual, they poured forth into the hungry hearts of the people the vibrating energies their mental and physical forms were trained to convey.

The relation that the world of form bears to the ocean of formless life is here indicated. Sunlight — as everyone knows — is conditioned in its manifestation (as color) by the organism which absorbs and reflects it. In the same way, light from the Soul is conditioned in its manifestation through human life by mental and emotional forms that exist in the mind of the race. When the atmosphere about the earth has heavy clouds floating within it, the sunlight is broken up, some of it being absorbed, and what remains, reflected. But beyond the clouds, all remains bright and radiant.

So is it with Humanity. Its Soul is always pure and radiant, and never ceases to be so, even when storms and passions darken the intellectual heavens and shut out the light from the lower mind. To conquer the lower self is to transmute the sidereal contents of consciousness into such pure transparent thought forms, that the Soul may find a fit medium through which to shine in all its white brilliancy upon the lower self.

Pure music provides these impersonal forms of thought, and to subject the mind to its influence renders it easy to direct the faculties towards God; for it loosens the polarity the faculties have toward objects of lower thought set up through long exercise in that direction.

Spiritual light is forever about us, only hidden from sight and feeling by impure thought clouds and chaotic emotions which spring up from uncontrolled sense impressions. For spiritual light to illuminate the consciousness, it is as necessary to have a transparently pure heart and mind through which it may shine without obstruction, as it is necessary to have a clear atmosphere through which the sunlight may pass to paint the flowers on earth with its wonderful color-tints.

Man has within him such seeds of knowledge and power that thought of the greatness of coming races dazzles the mind; for is there not locked up within the human form the essences and memories of all past evolution, through every form of life unfolded within the world-soul since it began its evolutionary career? These memories but require the sunlight of the Soul to reawaken from the long sleep of "'Kali Yuga", the Iron Age. The over-soul of Humanity eternally is — only its sidereal contents change through countless disassociations and reconstructions, from the lowest form up towards the form of perfect man — "The Temple of God."

The Spiritual Thread in Opera (Opera being, let us remember, the outward representation of forces within human consciousness) ever tends to shine more brightly, and it carries to the heart the assurance that the sun from which it streams is surely rising, to disperse the mists and darkness which now envelope the heart of Humanity. The great advance made with Opera during the last two centuries removes all doubt that the time is quickly approaching when Master-Musicians from old civilizations will create works of Art that will ensoul the spiritual energies they are the ministers of.

That day may be hastened by increased effort towards the establishment of conditions through which they can work — by intense purity of thought, and by a love for Humanity which spreads like a stately tree with roots ever sinking deeper into the soil of practical work for Brotherhood. This is the root and branch of Occultism, and each depends on the other. Like the oak tree, which superbly withstands all storms of nature, because of its deep-rooted hold of earth soil, man may stand erect in the kingdom of God because he is rooted in compassionate service to the human race.

The inner faculties are capable of infinite application between the extremes of low sensuous servitude and identity with Universal forces. They become servants of that aspect of life towards which they are continually polarized. They cannot be chained to the Soul and to the personality at one and the same time. The acquirement of Spiritual knowledge and power depends entirely upon a compassionate attitude of mind and heart — fixed and unalterable — towards Humanity.

"The Past" exists to-day in all its fullness. Within the heart and Soul is the original inspiration of all world Religions, Philosophies, and Arts. The work of the "Universal Brotherhood" is to again impress upon outer life the same energies that brought about all past triumphs, and revivify the Spiritual Thread around which the old masterpieces were constructed.


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