Great exalted mountain;
River unharmoniously navigated,
No skill there.
Lesson VIII - Words of Warning
All throughout this meditation I have given many words of warning. The basis of those warnings is to advise you against practices that could cause you to abandon the spiritual intent of our meditations because of the skill you may have acquired by them. You must always make sounds and movements that please God because they make you closer to Him and cause you to experience His Kingdom. Sometimes we play what is pleasing to others and receive a great deal of praise for it. Our greatest temptation then is to make our actions conform to what gets the greatest praise. That temptation would then cause us to abandon what pleases God for what pleases mortal men. We would be like the whore who only does what she believes will please men while thinking nothing of her own spiritual well-being. Professional musicians can earn the greatest money by performing their pieces which are popular, over and over again to different audiences feigning the passion they would feel if they were performing spontaneously. They have become very skilled in lying, expressing only the passions they think their audiences want to see. When we play, we express what is in our minds and hearts during that very same moment that we are playing. We then stand before God naked and unadorned, and we are not ashamed.1 We are only ashamed of any garbage that has not yet been purged from us. The following is a story that may further illustrate the dangers inherent in our practice:
Once there were four musicians; an ox, a lion, a man, and an eagle.2 They rehearsed religiously for three hours, three times a week and were renowned for their ability to invoke the spirit of the ancients; the primeval serpent, BL Lacerta. When Lacerta moved, the world trembled and Ox was no longer Ox, Lion was no longer Lion, Man was no longer Man, and Eagle was no longer Eagle; but all became one in the Spirit.
Each musician had a gift and when it was given to the Spirit it gave the Spirit great power. Ox gave the spirit stability and structure, Lion gave it fire and energy, Man gave it personality, and Eagle gave the Spirit a strong desire for Deity and for the Heavens. However, these were only gifts in the light. In the darkness the gifts turned into curses. Ox's curse was stubbornness and conservativism, Lion's was anxiety and shallow aggressiveness, Man's was ego and pride, and Eagle's was transcendental escapism and irresponsibility. These curses worked to annihilate the notion of oneness at all, let alone the Spirit. For in darkness the Spirit, Lacerta, became like that evil serpent, the I WILL, while in the light, Lacerta was more like unto the Deity Himself, the great I AM,3 and did not shout the blasphemies of that evil serpent.
Few demons had the power to weaken the Spirit with darkness. Among the most powerful was Mammon; then came Necessity who brought Wrath, among others. Lust came on her own horse. Darkness would often affect Lion first, he being the youngest, and would continue to affect the others as a response to Lion. Lion would roar a little too loudly or aggressively, causing Ox to become pedantic, causing Man to outmatch Lion in his ability to roar, knowing that he (Man) was the wittiest, causing Eagle to fly away soaring back to Earth as if only to get the attention of the others.
There came a time when Mammon and his sister, Necessity, caused a great darkness to fall upon the group. Of course, the whole group was affected, but this was so great a darkness that Lion felt the need to go to the land of the previous age, for it is said that the grass is always greener when one travels. "What shall we do?" cried the other three, for Lions were scarce in that part of the world. "We seem never to be able to hold on to a Lion," they sighed. "Who will save us from this darkness?"
Then came a new lion who was called the Lion of Judah, who was also known as the Lamb, and they knew that they were saved for a great light shone from him. And he caused the other three to once again be one in the Spirit, but with Him, resolving upwards towards the Deity until the sounds that they made turned to pure gold, gently shimmering fire!4 He that hath ears to hear, let him hear!5
And the four, including the former Lion, fell down and worshipped the Lamb, singing, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is, and is to come." And they sang this both day and night, without resting, while being bathed in the light of love of the Lamb, until the end of time. Glory be to the Father, to the Lamb, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.6
Our practice, however, does help us overcome the manipulative powers of music by giving us the ability to make our own music which intoxicates us because it is focused on the Lord. We are not like Odysseus, who would temporarily go mad listening to the sirens.7 We are more like Orpheus who overcame the manipulative power of the siren's music by producing even greater music that completely occupied his shipmates' whole being.8
As we move into the next phase of our Novena, I must offer a few other words of warning. So far, I have been the only one allowed to talk and then only during these sermons. This is for a very good reason, for we monks tend to be very loquacious and easily fall into the habit of replacing actions with words. Our practice is so demanding, that we may choose to talk about our past experiences rather than seeking new ones. However, if we forbid the use of words, we will be denying a very important means of understanding. I have chosen to give words less emphasis because they are more often given too much emphasis by scholars.
Words certainly are capable of causing ecstasies in the speaker or listener, for they can describe experiences that go beyond the senses. How could we possibly begin our quest for God without Holy Scripture and the Holy Names of the Lord? Words can give our experiences more meaning by describing God's many interconnected systems. Words alert us to the wonders of God's creation and cause us to listen and watch. Words give us other means, by which we may share our experiences and understand how we are different and how we are the same.
Rule for the Day: We will speak only of our new experiences, and God, in designated areas around the monastery. Outside of those areas, we may continue our practice according to yesterday's rules. Words may be used as part of our practice but only spontaneously and in response to their environments.
1 Romans 10:11.
2 Ezekiel 1:10.
3 Exodus 3:14.
4 Stockhausen, Karlheinz; Aus den Sieben Tagen.
5 Matthew 11:15.
6 Revelation 19:4.
6 Homer. Odyssey; n.d.; rpt. 1963; Anchor Books.
7 Ovid. Metamorphosis; n.d.; rpt. 1955; Penguin Classics.