The person must have carried out specific preparation to be able to conceive of new possibilities, understand new concepts, and participate in transformative experiences. To an unprepared psyche, Perennialist art appears lackluster or bizarre.
1995, Harper, San Francisco
Wallace Stevens begins this poem with a seemingly academic title:
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow
The Mystical Formulation
Contemplation and Meditation
clear, direct, plain, easily understood
I wonder to what these words are referring
"The simple, absolute
certain, positive, undeniable, supreme
Whatever these words are referring to, it is something unusual
"The simple, absolute, and immutable
constant, enduring, unchanging, everlasting
Okay, it is easily understood, undeniable, and unchanging
"The simple, absolute and immutable mysteries
How can mysteries be easily understood? Undeniable and unchanging, maybe
"The simple, absolute and immutable mysteries of divine Truth
mysteries of divine Truth?
An extraordinary kind of divine Truth whose mysteries are easily understood, undeniable, and unchanging
"The simple, absolute and immutable mysteries of divine Truth are hidden in the super-luminous darkness
gleaming, glowing, light-producing darkness?
So this is something other than what is encountered in the "natural" world
"The simple, absolute and immutable mysteries of divine Truth are hidden in the super-luminous darkness of that silence which revealeth in secret.
The psyche experiences upheaval; the intellect cannot fathom this
I must use spiritual discernment if I am to understand this
"The simple, absolute and immutable mysteries of divine Truth are hidden in the super-luminous darkness of that silence which revealeth in secret. For this darkness, though of deepest obscurity, is yet radiantly clear; and, though beyond touch and sight, it more than fills our unseeing minds with splendours of transcendent beauty. . .
"We long exceedingly to dwell in this translucent darkness and, through not seeing and not knowing, to see Him who is beyond both vision and knowledge--by the very fact of neither seeing Him nor knowing Him. For this is truly to see and to know and, through the abandonment of all things, to praise Him who is beyond and above all things.
"For this is not unlike the art of those who carve a life-like image from stone; removing from around it all that impedes clear vision of the latent form, revealing its hidden beauty solely by taking away. For it is, as I believe, more fitting to praise Him by taking away than by ascription; for we ascribe attributes to Him, when we start from universals and come down through the intermediate to the particulars. But here we take away all things from Him going up from particulars to universals, that we may know openly the unknowable, which is hidden in and under all things that may be known. And we behold that darkness beyond being, concealed under all natural light."
"The Egyptians believed that sound was the basis of creation; their most sacred ceremony, the Mystery of Mysteries, used sound frequencies to create a connection between the earth's center and the pole star of the heavens. The frequency codes of this sacred ceremony, was called 'The Raising of the Djed.'. (The Djed is the earliest known World Tree archetype and was the central focus of the Osirian mysteries.) A cylindric column of light, it was considered the cosmic axis that linked Earth to the Pole Star, the still-point around which the heavens revolved. The ceremony, prefaced by the reenactment of a mythic cosmological drama, was performed to evoke stability, continuity and regeneration during unstable periods between cycles. Historically, the Djed was raised at Winter Solstice, and was a time of intense joy and celebration. The event was orchestrated with resonant acoustic formulas performed by sacred drummers and chanters. Rhythms of systrum and cymbal filled the air, along with the percussive clapping of hands and beating of feet. Research of the texts of the Temple of Horus indicate that the Djed served its greatest purpose at the ending of one world age and the beginning of another. According to ancient calendric reckoning, Winter solstice December 21, 1992 inaugurated such a period."
Some musical compositions--"high musical art"--contain Perennialist strains only, but nonetheless possess levels of meaning.
An artist's--soloist's or conductor's--rendition of a Perennialist or "high" music composition can be at any of the various levels, depending on his or her level of spiritual awareness. Only an artist who has an understanding of the highest level of meaning of a musical composition can reveal the true essence of the piece. A soloist must be a master of his or her instrument to perform a rendition of the composition which is at the highest level.
To get a sense of the different levels of renditions performed, listen first to:
Scherchen's rendition of the Bolero allows us to understand that this is an Eastern Perennialist composition--there is nothing Western in it. Ravel apparently was allowed by a genuine Sufi group to hear the actual Bolero. He was then able to reproduce--in the first part of his composition--the exact sound he had heard. Then, in the second part of his Bolero, Ravel interprets the essence in a more orchestral framework. When experiencing this work of art, the same sort of psychic upheaval occurs in us as in our experience of all other Perennialist art.
The level of a rendition of a piece of music is in relation to the performer's understanding of that particular composition. So, for example, the Bernstein/New York Philharmonic rendition of Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini is at a higher level than the Leonard Slatkin/Abbey Simon (pianist)/ St. Louis Symphony Orchestra rendition of the same composition by Rachmaninoff.
While most soloists merely play the notes and produce what they understand to be the sounds, master soloists are able to reveal the essence of musical compositions. To experience this phenomenon, listen to Edward Kilenyi's rendition of Chopin's Twelve Etudes and then listen to any other soloist's rendition of the same pieces.
Chopin knew spiritually the essence of the piano, so he was able to write music which could reveal this essence--if performed with perfection--as in the case of Kilenyi.
Part of the magick of an "advanced" musical artist is to reveal not only the essence of musical compositions but the "reality" of a musical instrument. When we listen to Kilenyi playing Chopin's Twelve Etudes, we suddenly, for the first time, realize that the piano is actually ten different instruments. The sounds Kilenyi produces with a piano reveals that it is a multi-faceted reality, not the simple instrument we had thought.
In 1935, when Sir Thomas Beecham, famed English conductor, first heard Edward Kilenyi play, he remarked: "That's the way to play the piano!" and booked young Edward on a concert tour to introduce him to the entire English musicloving nation. Born in 1910 in Philadelphia, Edward Kilenyi was the son of violinist-composer Edward Kilenyi Sr., with whom George Gershwin studied composition from1919 to1921. Edward studied in Hungary with Ern� Dohn�nyi. An appreciator--reader, listener, viewer, experiencer--must be at a certain level of understanding to even experience--hear, see, etc.--the higher level of meaning and excellence in a rendition of a musical composition or in the performance on a specific instrument.
"Chartres embodies the most profound expression of the Dionysian divine darkness that the world has, or probably ever will see. For Chartres, even in summer is always dark, and yet its darkness is by no means ordinary, for it has a jewelled darkness. It mediates a dappled, jewelled light which comes through countless windows of the most beautiful and priceless stained glass. Quite apart from the biblical stories depicted in them, or the huge biblical characters who look down as from on high, the colours of the glass itself, the deep reds and blues, create a light which is mystical, which transforms the vast emptiness of the building to a sacred space, as if by some alchemical magic.
"The primary reason why pilgrims still flock to Chartres, consciously or unconsciously, is to experience the beauty of this dark alchemical light.. . The primary reason for building it architecturally in the way we see it today, was to express and embody the mystical theology of Dionysius, and to increase the possibility of experiencing the darkness of God as on the mystic journey--through the vibrations, the aura, the subtle body of the building itself.
"The call of Dionysian mysticism still comes silently to all through the beauty of the stained glass, which bathes the carefully crafted and finely tuned sacred space in mystical light. No one can be entirely free from the possibility that their soul will be touched by this beauty, which speaks of the darkness and of the light of God together; of light in the darkness, of the light behind the darkness. . . This is the journey towards the darkness of God in which, paradoxically, we eventually find ourselves nearer to the transfiguring light of his presence." 1
This same magical use of light and darkness became the theme of painters such as Vermeer, Van Eck, and Van Gogh. Vermeer "suspended the war between light and darkness, gave the victory to light, and made light a manifestation of living-kindness. Even when stealing into Vermeer's darkest interior by a narrow window, light is welcomed as a lover, The far corners whisper hello to light. Instead of humping their backs like angry cats the shadows under the furniture are purring. A lady smooths a table-cloth: light smooths it for her and gently holds her hand upon it, saying, 'This usual busy morning is forever.'" 2
Perennialist art produces psychic upheaval in us, thrusting us into another state of consciousness, and, with Rumi, we wake up asking, "Who looks out with my eyes?"
1 Gordon Strachan, Chartres: Sacred Geometry, Sacred Space, 2003
2 Alexander Eliot, Sight and Insight, 1959