Imagine a circle of people, 20 to 40, adding their voices to the drone and tune of a reed organ, repeatedly singing a phrase for an hour, or longer, with short intervals when the organ’s tune breaks into musical improvisations, only to return to the melody and phrase. In the end the sound slows and fades, leaving the echo of your voice as an indispensable part of all voices.
Then imagine a deep silence.
One of many musical tunings my spiritual Sufi friend created went with these words:
There is a place of beauty –
There is a place of peace –
There is a place of harmony –
Before you grunt at the sheer illusion of such place, consider the evocation of beauty, peace and harmony as an ideal, a means – not a goal – a means towards the hub of the mill, where the grain is ground to flour in a process of transformation.
Musical tunings are regular events among Sufi friends. Their rhythmic repeating, with or without words, produces a trance-like state in participants – not aiming at escape, but at a homecoming. Fazal Inayat-Khan’s teachings broke rules, exceeded conventions. While honouring the value of traditional methods, he introduced contemporary phrases, like the one above, and responded to his audience with spirited musical improvisations.
The purpose of such events is remembrance of the Self, or the One. In traditional Zikr it would be Allah, God, though in strict Islamic circles music is not allowed.
I occasionally play and sing the above tune on my reed organ, especially when distressing incidents happen around the world and I have a need to tune mind and body. The place of beauty, peace and harmony only exists in the imagination, as a timeless inner realm, a state where duality co-exists, a state of unknowing, where the spirit of eternal potential lingers.
For me these group events were profoundly renewing. The body, my temporary home, became a tuning fork brought into resonance with the ground and the marrow of my bones. Suffused with consciousness, any mind-chatter merged with the yearning sounds, and my atoms realigned in new constellations.
Intention does not bring us to this uncharted and unmeasured inner place. And even glimpsing a truth flashing from there may shock the angels in us. Catching such truth can happen equally through other means … nature, art, dance, literature, drugs, breath work, praying, guided imagery, computer programming, psalm singing, sport, silence, fasting, dreams, etc., but resonance is needed, and a deep desire for truth must lurk in the heart.
While practices towards this ungraspable inner realm may have repetitive elements, the place is never repeated but ever fresh. It is where the breath of life pulses, just not at our timescale.
Returning from the inner realm to the contemporary flow of time, we get on with life. Yet such deep memories remains and will respond to a sincere recall, where we detect once more how matter is revealed in its essence and shine. For the psyche this is gold. This inner place shows that while we embody birth and death, light and darkness, good and bad, past and future, in true essence we are pure consciousness.
To remain grounded and prevent the fate of Icarus, I tolerate the company of my little devils.
My angels like it so, agreeing that while the obscure company I keep makes living complex, painful, a challenge, it also makes existence more interesting for that, and aids the psyche’s expansion of consciousness.