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Musical Sense of Persian Mysticism by Henry Corbin

Musical Sense of Persian Mysticism by Henry Corbin

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Published by: YaHaqq on Jun 29, 2010
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12/01/2014

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THeMusrcnlSeNsropPeRsla,N vsrtclstvt'
A-ong all themystical raditionswe dealwith in compara-tivereligion, Persianmysticismstandsout ashaving alwaystendedtowardsa musical expression,and as findingits com-pleteexpressionnly inmusic. n these ewpages,would liketo offer someviews related o this.Through the centuries,musichas not had the sameate n Islamiccountriesast has n theWest.Nodoubtthis is becausehose who condemnedts usesaw onlyprofanedistractionin it. Yet what thesemysticshaveproduceds the equivalentf whatiscalledsacredmusic'Thereasonor this is soprofound, that to understandt is to see hatallmusiccanonly appearas sacred,rovidedhat t surrendersitself o its supremeinality.But doeshis notpresent s with anewparadox?I imagine hat anylranian canmore or less all tomemorythe famousprologueto theMathnawi ofJalaluddinBalkhiRumi-he whomweaddressmore familiarlyas MawlanainIran. It may be hatthisprologueontainshe resolutionf theparadox haveustasserted.waspersuadedf thisby arecentdiscoverymadewhile studying heworks of an eminentsev-enteenth-centuryranian hinker,QaziSa'idQommi'Althoughhe is almost unknownto most readersoday, I feel surehat the
'Lectureivenat theCit6 Universitaire fParis,May 19, 1967,duringaneveningof Persianmusic,poetry,and dance.tt 231
 
'r.,{r!ltlt v()y^(;lANt)II MISSfN(ifR
timewill comeor himro be givenheplacehe deservesn ourilnthologiesfthe historyof philosophyndspirituality. noneofhisgreatworksstill inmanuscriptorm,this philosopherrecallsndcommentst lengthuponsomesayings yanotherwhohasaprominentplacen Iranianhearts:MawlanaAliibnAbiTalib,the Firstmamof theShiites.Accordingo this tra-dition,the Firstmamoncedeclaredo his ntimates:,Becausemyheartheldcareswhich gaveise oanguish,nd becausefoundnoneto whomIcould confidehem,struckhe Earthwiththepalmof myhand,and confidedmysecrers nto ir-sowell,that everyimeaplantgerminatesromthe Earth,hisplantis oneof my secrers."Obviouslyhesecret eres notan agronomicne.TheEarthhespeaksf is notthesame she one whichsupportsur feet,andwhichis nowbeingdevastatedythe ambirionsof ourrecklessonquests.tis the"Earthof Light,',whichone canonlyperceivewith theeyesofthe heart.Bur it isupto us, tocachone ofus, o regardhts Earthwitheyeswhichare capa-ble ofseeing t,andto actso rharthrs Earthof Lightlooksagainuponus,and concernssalso. t isup tous o followtheImam'sexample,trikinghegroundof thisEarthof Lighrsothat wemayseecertainplantsemergewhich revealo us ourownsecrets,hoseexistenceebarelysuspect. he philoso-pherQaziSa'idQomminamedhe reedasoccupying pre-emi-nentplaceamonghese lantsforthis s the eedromwhichthemystic lutescarved,he reedwhose amentsbreathed nthe prologueof theMathnaui,andthe flutewhich weknow isassociatedithall religiouservicesfthe orderof Mawlana.Wehaveallheardat leasta few oftheseoupletshanted:Listento thestoryof tbe reedflute,of thesepardtionswhosetuailingitbreathes.
llllM!\tcAtst.Ns[()ltlR\l Nt\t\,\|(]t\it4 2.1.t
Sincewascutfrommyreedfieltl,mywail hasmademenandwomencry.Mysecretsneuerfarfronmyuail,but itsightreacbesei_thereye norear.Tbebodyis notueiledothesoul,andthesouls notueiledto thebody;yetnoneispermittedtoseehesoul.Thesoundoftbisfluteisfire,itis notabreathofwind.Whoeuerackstbisfire -mayhedieto himself!Cerrainlyo onehaseverseenhesoulhroughhe eyeswithwhichwenormallyseeherhingsof thisworld.ltcan onlybesensedn thewailingofrhemysticlure,cutoff fromitsorieinintheEarrhofLight.Thatwhiehsproutsromthis EarthofLight,andisthenseparatedromit-the historyofexileandreturn-this iswharhauntsallpersianmysticism.tisnotsomethingwhichcanbeseenhroughrarionaldemonstration.spoken,orperceivedithdirectvision.Onlymusicalncan_tatroncanmakeus feelandsometimeseet,inasmuchs is-teningtomusichasthepowertosuddenlyrenderus"clairvoyanr.Verybrrefly,his swhatI wouldlikerosuggesrinspeakingfthe musicalsensefpersianmysticism.It isthemystic'suryto speakheunspeakable,nd itis astorywhichshatterswhatwecall.,history."Wewoulddo bet-terto calft metabistory,ecausehe eventtspeaksf isocat_edat theoriginoforigins,beforeanyeventrecordedorrecordablenourchronicles.hemysticepicsthatof theexilewhohasarrivedna strangeworld,andson hiswayhome.ohisownworld.Suchanepicsattemptingorpeukhed..a-.of aprehistory,he prehistoryofthesoul.Thesedreamsofthepre-existencefthesoulbeforehisworldalwaysappearo usas akindof forbiddenshore.hisiswhyinanepicsuchas heMathnaui,itmakeslittlesenseospeakof asequencef
 
,'r.l(r!it \'()yA(;lANt) IltFMt\\lN(Jlt{
cpisedes,orthey areall emblematicndsymbolic.Alldiscur-sivedialectic sexcluded.The globalawarenessfpastandfuture,to whichit invitesusbeyondall limitsof chronology,can only attainits ultimateulfillmenrmusically.This.,HolyBook"of the Mathnawi,oftencalledthe"Persianeur,an,"obliges tsmysticdisciples,ntheir essence,o sizg norder tosa.Thisalsoseemso me o applyo thestructuref thosemusi-cal presentationshichoften occurinan impromptufashionamongriends nIran. Theinstrumentalisteginswitha longpreludewhosesonorityslowlymounts nintensity.he humanvoicehenappearss fat a momentof instrumental aroxysm,beginningn mutedsonorities,and finallyculminatingn itsownclimax of pathos,and then progressivelye-descendstowardssilence.Andthen comeshe conclusion,wrththeinstrumentaccompanyinghis silence,inallyseemingo loseitselfikethe arpeggiosf adistant ight,hat ight nwhichthemysticawairshe newdawn.Thatwhich iscalledsarna,spiritualconcertor oratorio,ofcourse ncludesmuchmore hanhe musicof Mawlanaand hisorder.This callso mindthe wholehistoryof IranianSufism,wherecertain rigid,evenpuritanicalmasters,eldthesecon-certsn suspicion,whereasothers,on rhecontrary,practicedthem withallthe intensiryof devotionoaritual,leavingallwhoatterrdedhemwith overwhelmingmpressions.mongthe latter,wouldliketo mentionar leastone very greartwelfth-centurymaster,uzbehanaqliShirazi,compatriotofHafizofShirazsomewo hundredyearsate(and who waslinkedo himby manyaffinities.However,atthe endof his life,Ruzbehanegan oabstainfromthe practiceof listeningo music.He hadno moreneedofthe intermediaryof audiblesounds, orthe inaudiblewas
llll r!1tJ\leAl \lN\t()lttR\lANMY\tt( l\Nl r.1.t.t5
heardby him asapurenner music.Hiswhole life rhusexem-plifieshe structureof musicalpresentationhichIjustmen-tioned. Whenone of his intirnatesquestionedhim as tothereasonsor thisabstention rom music,Sheikh Ruzbehananswered:Henceforth, t is Godinpersonwho performsnconcert or me(or:God npcrsonwho ishe concerr listeno).This is whyI refrain rom listeningo wharanyoneelsewouldhaveme hearor:any other concerthan himself)."In this culminationof an enrire ife'sexperience, hereheearof the heart,of the nner person,ecomesndifferento thesoundsof theexternal world-theseare indeed sonoritieswhichcan neverbeperceivedy the man dispersedn the exter-nal,orn from himselfby the ambitionsofthis world. Iflhar theear ofthehearthears s a soundand a music ronrbeyond hetomb, which a fewprivilegedneshaveheardnthis rvorld, othe pointthat the opaque barrierbetween he worldshasbecome ransparento them.There wrsone friend anddisciple f SheikhRuzbehanwhowas especiallynconsolablefter his passing.verymorningatdawn, hey had for yearsmadea habit ofalternatc hantingoftheQur'antogether. he friend'ssadness nd lonelinessassuch hat hc hadbegun o sit eachdawn at the tornb of Ruzbe-hanat Shiraz, nd chantheQur'analone.Butone dawn camewhen the voiceof Ruzbehanwas heardrom the nvisible,ndfrom one worldto lrnother, r rather nthe same nter-world,thetwofriendschantedonce moretheQur'aninalternation.This continued,awn after dawn,until this friend finallycon-fidedwhat was happeningo anotherof the companions."Fromthat time on." he said. "lheard he voiceofRuzbehanno more."This suggestso us hat, hough he mysticmust sing n ordcrto say, incemysticalmeanings essentially rusical,his nrcan-

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