Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Journal of a Soul 3


We humans know more than we are conscious of, according to the late great Victorian Catholic theologian John Henry Cardinal Newman.  In other words, the rational is only one small part of the human mind.   There are also our emotions to consider.  Newman did not talk about the unconscious as such, because for him those unknown spaces in the human heart were in fact the seat of the Holy Ghost as they would have called the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity in those halcyon days.  This was the profound mystery of humanity and that of the human soul, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit at the very centre of human life.  All Christians believe in this doctrine: viz., the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit.If you are not a Christian in the strict Church-going sense, but belong to those who are pilgrims on a more humanist journey through life, you can still be open to the fact that the above doctrine is a wonderful metaphor for the mystery that is at the heart of the human person.

These posts in this new blog will not be discursive or academic in any sense. Rather, they are going to be journal entries recounting my journey in search of Self.  In this case they will be spiritual in the broadest sense of the meaning of that word.  My understanding of "spiritual" is the innate ability within us to connect both with the mystery within us and with the mystery outside of us, both in others and in all the world in general.  In that sense, I mean also our innate ability to tap into the source of life - whatever that may be - some call it God, others a Benign Energy at the heart of the universe, others Order, and others still the impersonal inner drive of the universe towards a more perfectly evolved manifestation of itself.  Now, these posts, being essentially existentialist (if the reader will excuse the juxtaposition of two seemingly contrary words) my aim is to be personalist in tendency and to desist from any polemics here at all.  In these pages, no pure philosophy or theology or science of any description will be found.  In short these posts will be, in the words of the wonderful Pope John XXIII, "The Journal of a Soul."

The Music of the Soul

Ever since I was a young boy I can remember my teachers always telling us that "Music has Charms to sooth a savage Breast," and lines of poems that I like have a tendency to stay with me always.  On checking, I find that these lines come from the pen of William Congreve (1670 – 1729) who was an English playwright and poet.  On perusing the provenance of the lines, I further find that they are the opening words of a play called The Mourning Bride (1697) and are well worth quoting here:

Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.
I've read, that things inanimate have mov'd,
And, as with living Souls, have been inform'd,
By Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound.
What then am I? Am I more senseless grown
Than Trees, or Flint? O force of constant Woe!
'Tis not in Harmony to calm my Griefs.
Anselmo sleeps, and is at Peace; last Night
The silent Tomb receiv'd the good Old King;
He and his Sorrows now are safely lodg'd
Within its cold, but hospitable Bosom.
Why am not I at Peace?

As you will have realised after reading the above there is much profundity in these lines.  The question: "What then am I? Am I more senseless grown//Than Trees, or Flint?" even when taken totally out of context as I am doing here, is so relevant to every human being.  We, too, even though unbenighted by grief as the bride is here, can ask what it is actually to be, to exist at all?  We can also ask the last question here, too - "Why am not I at Peace?"  A teacher-friend of mine, long since retired, always said wisely that in the end we have to live with ourselves.  There is much wisdom in this saying.

As I journey on the road - in via - to self-knowledge, nay, further, to self-acceptance, there is much truth in his observation.  As I exist in my world, I find that I am a being with a moral centre, too.  How am I to act in this, that or the other situation in which I find myself from one hour to the next as I journey through life.  What is the moral self?  This is also a question worth asking, if I am to live with myself with any degree of equanimity and peace of mind.  As I pursue these reflections hopefully I'll come up with some existential answers to these questions.  Quite clearly at this juncture I have nothing further to say about this moral self.  These are not academic or polemic posts and so they will be solely the result of my reflections and meditations a personal discernment.

And, in that journey to self-acceptance music has helped me greatly.  Returning to my opening lines in today's post, I believe the power of music is such that, although at times it may be combined with verbalization as we find in song lyrics, there is much in music that hits us at an unconscious level, at levels of being far deeper that we are cognitively aware of.  As we listen on and as we note our reactions with ever more trained an ear we will become more aware of these hidden depths.  There will be deeper stirrings of our being which may even bring a tear to our eyes as well as balm to a tired spirit.  I am not at all a music cogniscento and know little except that which stirs my soul.  I will finish this post with two versions of one of my favourite songs - Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen (the composer) and the late great Jeff Buckley.  Both these renditions rock me to the foundations of my being.

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