music piano

Some reflections on the music in the temple

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What could be said or written about the music in the temple of the Golden Rosycross, that the music itself, which can address the human being in a complex and holistic way, could not reveal more directly and vividly?

This is an attempt. The attempt at an approach. A report about my experience working as a musician in temple events, which has now spanned several decades.

This work is, first of all, a noble task, a high ideal.

Or, as Mira Alfassa, the companion of Sri Aurobindo, once said:

If you want your art to be the highest and truest, it must express a divine world brought down to the material. All true artists have a feeling of this kind: the impression of being a mediator between a higher world and physical existence.

My reality was far from this high ideal when, in my early twenties, I was offered the opportunity to work as a piano player in one of the centers of the Rosicrucian School. At that time I was still performing as a singer in various band formations. I have never forgotten a performance I had at a matinee with a jazz pianist friend of mine, after coming directly from a temple service: I was irritatingly aware of the abrupt and, for me, hardly bridgeable transition between two fields of vibration and tension. It was to be my last performance of this kind for a long time.

To express a level of vibration

This was followed by instructive years during which I was able to gain experience in dealing with my task as a temple musician under changing internal and external circumstances (at times I did not even own my own instrument). I remember how, at times, the resonance from my environment was different, and how much my own inner perception occasionally differed from the externally audible or received; how vulnerable I often felt, how much apparent or even actual "failures" could oppress me, and how much my desire for free, unhindered elaboration sometimes came into conflict with the awareness of responsibility regarding possible effects of my musical expression on the very high and fine atmospheric vibration that prevails in the temple.

One more memory: After a number of years I was given the task of playing in the temple of a Rosicrucian conference centre. Several hundred people were present there. It came about that, since there were only a few other instrumentalists present at this conference, I was to play solo at the closing event. I decided to play a classical work that was well known to me. After the speech it was time for the interlude. I sat down at the piano. Suddenly I became overwhelmed by the awareness of the responsibility I bore for the conclusion of the conference with my musical contribution. I could only hope that the listeners did not hear anything of my distress or feel how much my foot trembled with excitement on the pedal. This was a key experience for me - one of many others.

How music itself unfolds its sound

All the deep experiences on my path of life have ultimately flowed into my music, have transformed it and given it a certain timbre. However, in the course of time I have come to realize:

It is not we, with our individual abilities and our more or less educated or developed musical talent, who have to bring out the really essential in the temple. On the contrary, the more we are able to tune into the very specific atmospheric vibration in the temple and step back as an I, as ego, the more the music itself can unfold its sound and effect. To experience this is liberating and exhilarating - all the more so because a resonance field, which can hardly be described in words, is created between the player and the listeners, which has an amplifying and enabling effect.

To the extent that they are willing to open themselves up, the listeners can, in turn, be touched and transformed by the sounds of the music – to experience an elevation of the soul, a depth of internalisation and understanding that goes far beyond mere intellectual grasp or emotional movement.

Another important aspect of the music in the temple arises from the singing of the songs. This special combination of word and sound invokes an energetic field, enlivens the collective experience of a common spiritual path, and aligns the breathing frequency of the individual with that of the whole group.

It has often filled me with great joy to accompany the singing together on the piano.

When playing together with other musicians we often experience ups and downs. We can see this as a learning and purification process on our own spiritual path, which, often enough, leads to happy encounters and an enriching creative exchange.

When things are going well, ambition and ego gradually fade into the background, so that we as players finally merge completely into a humble participation in an event that is so much bigger and more important than our limited self.

From Sufism comes the following illustrative comparison:

The seeker of God is like a reed pipe through which the breath of God resounds (Rumi).

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