Music and spirituality: How music speaks to our soul.
Music and spirituality have a deep bond in a way that allows music to speak to our soul. Spirit and matter are two dimensions of human existence that have always coexisted. When we speak of spirituality we mean that level of intangible reality, which cannot be perceived with physical senses.
Often spirituality and religion are confused and, although it is true that they have elements in common, we can note that if religion is more directed to the external search for a God, spirituality seeks within itself, with a more personal connotation and less dogmatic, more open to experimentation and based on personal experience.
Music and spirituality
Music and religion
Between music and religion, there is a very close relationship. We can not imagine sacred rites and religious services that are not accompanied by music. We know that since prehistoric times sound was attributed a sacred origin and allowed man to approach the divine in controlling the elements. Music has always been used as if it were a kind of bridge to be thrown between the human and the sacred, through dances, songs, use of instruments. The dance was often seen as a practice to drive out evil spirits and demons.
The symbolic value of music
To the sound has always been attributed a great symbolic value as well as being recognized considerable value in educating spirituality and mysticism creating a balance between heaven and earth.
Every culture has developed a relationship between music and religion, with remarkable differences between ages, civilizations, and local uses. By attempting a generalization we can say that if in the Christian religion it becomes the completion of the liturgy, for other religions it is the gateway to a transcendent dimension.
In Islam the use of music is almost non-existent while the chanting of the Koran is used. Chanting is also used by Buddhism that accepts the use of musical instruments used, however, more to mark time or in events related to the festivities. Up to the practices of trance and possession of shamanism where the sound of the drum causes the shaman to experience a state of trance that makes him reach a new consciousness entering into communication with the spirit guides.
In Western culture, music has the function of amplifying oratory, of giving more incisiveness to the word. Singing amplifies the word of God and increases the effectiveness of communication and the impact of the sacred text as well as helping to increase the sense of community. We find a use of this type for example in the times of colonialism where the Christian songs in which were inserted words of the local religious context were taught to the local populations to promote integration in the new culture that they wanted to transmit.
Today the use of music in the religious field is going even beyond this function becoming not only a way to amplify the content of the sacred texts but a means to open spaces to spirituality and meditation.
Music and meditation
The effect of meditation is the perception of vibrations, and sound is vibration of the air inside and outside of us. The music vibrates every cell of our body creating tunes, waves of different lengths that “resonate” in different areas of the body like the edge of a crystal glass singing a soprano: some sounds are heard with the ears, others in the brain, others in the stomach.
Music is “magic”, it is something profoundly irrational that speaks to us a universal language, that lets be understood rather than explained, that can give us chills or involve us totally.
You can meditate on the music, guiding your attention to the notes that flow in improvisation: the moment when our attention is struck by the musical notes, it turns within and enters the state of mindless awareness. Music becomes a vehicle of absolute and profound joy, it releases communicative energy that favors expressiveness. Music frees the mind from thoughts, clears the clouds of doubt, and leads us to the realization of the Self.
The ascetic phenomenon
In the relationship between music and religion an interesting aspect is the ascetic phenomenon. Initially, it was related to the Christian conception but later spread to other religions such as Jewish, Buddhist, and Hindu. It consists of a lifestyle that adopts a particular set of spiritual practices aimed at elevating man from the ordinary dimension to bring him to a higher state from the point of view of religious values.
A typical example is the figure of the dervish, to which today we give more a folkloristic meaning tied to dances and traditions typical of some Islamic confraternities, but originally intended as one who decides to undertake a journey of asceticism and salvation detaching himself from all that is earthly, from worldly passions, to approach the divine.
The rotating dervishes, in their search for the ecstasy that brings them closer to God, rotate for a long time on themselves guided by music, until they lose control of themselves to get in touch with a higher dimension.