01 Oct The Mysticism of Sound: Hazrat Inayat Khan
The Mysticism of Sound
—An Excerpt from the writings of Hazrat Inayat Khan—
Before its incarnation the soul is sound. It is for this reason that we love sound.
The man of science says that the voice comes from the spine, the diaphragm, the abdomen and the lungs. The mystic says that sound comes from the soul, the heart and the mind . . .
The effect produced is in accordance with the soul and the heart from which the sound comes. If there are four violinists, all of whom have studied for the same length of time, and they all play the same piece of music one after the other, they will each play very differently. Each will play in accordance with his musical temperament, his heart and his soul. Therefore it is very necessary for a musician that his heart and soul should be trained.
The shopman, after he has given us the change, says: ‘Thank you’. That ‘thank you’ is forgotten before we have gone two steps, because it comes from the lips. A grateful person may say: ‘Thank you’- only that, but it goes to the heart, because it comes from the heart. One singer may sing just one note, and all the audience is moved. Another sings dozens of notes, and no effect is made.
The force of the sound is in proportion to its duration. If we strike a stone, it gives out a short sound that has no effect. If we strike a bell, the sound is more lasting and the effect greater. If we prolong a tone the effect is greater, for the life is greater. Sound is breath, the breath which is life. If there is a bell and a stone . . .the bell will give out a sound, but the stone will not. That which is alive gives out a sound that is alive. That which is dead gives none. The soul which is dead gives no sound. That is why in the ordinary song there are many notes, but not one note that lives. All are dead sounds. The music of the great composers lives still. Its echo has come down to us; the echo of the great souls is still here. Thousands who have never thought of anything but the self, have gone, and we do not even know that they have existed. The dead souls, the ordinary people, go to hear that dead song. The living soul hears the music that is alive . . .
The heart finds a joy in feeling, in sorrow. It feels that it is used, and in that there is a happiness. The Sufi trains the heart in feeling . . .the music of devotion and praise, the music that arouses feeling, the feeling of devotion, of sorrow . . . to think how foolish we are . . . Every feeling is practiced. When the heart is made capable of feeling, it can feel the sorrow and joy of others. Every thing touches it, every little sign of mercy, every feeling of admiration. In this there is happiness . . .
Sorrow and mirth should be under control. The feeling of kindness must be kept as long as we wish, whatever obstacle we meet with. When this control is learned, then no sorrow can come near.
Then there is the music of the soul . . . There are few words, the syllables have a hidden meaning. It is to awaken the soul, to make the soul conscious of its immortal life.
The longer the thought is kept in the mind, the stronger it becomes. The mystic keeps one thought in the mind for ten minutes, for twenty minutes. He practices this. He practices it with music . . . There is no anger, no bitterness, no prejudice, no attachment, nothing that keeps him bound to the ego. Then there is no outward sound; he keeps the sound in his mind. Then he begins to hear the sound of the breath, the fine sound that the ears cannot hear . . .
[The mystic] hears the sound of his heart—what it speaks, and he hears what the heart of another speaks . . . First he must hear what his own heart says; then he hears what is in the heart of others in their presence and in their absence. We are accustomed to call that which our ears hear sound, but there is also the sound of the mind, of the heart, of the soul.
Why do we all like to be alone? We may think that we like to be where we have some company, to talk, to be in the society of others, but we are not happy unless we are alone, away from the town, sitting by some stream or lake. It is because then, unconsciously, we hear the sound of the soul . . .
[To hear the sound of the soul consciously] is very difficult, because for this all the tubes and veins must be open. The soul is a finer essence, and if the veins and tubes are blocked by the fluids, by very much eating and drinking, by alcoholic substances, by very much sleep, by very much comfort and luxury, this sound cannot enter.
The Vedanta speaks of Nada Brahma, the Sound-God, the sound that is God, of which all things are made. Sufis call it . . . the sound that intoxicates man . . . Before this world was, all was in sound, God was sound, we are made of sound. That is why we like music . . . Although it has been dimmed by manifestation, your thought, your mind, is made of sound.
Hazrat Inayat Khan ( 1882 – 1927) was an exemplar of Universal Sufism and founder of the “Sufi Order in the West” in 1914 (London). Later, in 1923, the Sufi Order of the London period was dissolved into a new organization formed under Swiss law and called the “International Sufi Movement”. He initially came to the West as a representative of classical Indian music, having received the title Tansen from the Nizam of Hyderabad but soon turned to the introduction and transmission of Sufi thought and practice. His universal message of divine unity focused on the themes of love, harmony and beauty. He taught that blind adherence to any book rendered any religion void of spirit.