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MUSIC FOR MEDITATION

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MUSIC FOR MEDITATION

By Cecil A. Poole

The use of music as a background for various activities goes back
to the beginning of the development of music.
In our Temples it is
customary to have selections of music played during certain parts of
the ritual and for me ditation periods that may be observed in connection
with a Convocation.
This use of music is also frequently employed by
individual members in their own meditation and concentration.
It is
therefore not unusual for us to receive requests concerning suitable
types or selections of music that are most appropriate for meditation
and during Temple Convocations.
The history of music is closely related to the development of
various practices in any ritualistic type of activity.
We find in the
earliest civilizations that the development of music took place simul­
taneously with the development of activities that were associated with
religion and with other serious or more solemn practices of individuals
in any type of observance that may have been a part of their social
structure.
Music is used not only in connection with religions and
rituals, but it is also consistently used in festivals and in other
types of observances that are primarily for entertainment and enjoyment.
The history of music further shows that its progress is closely
related to the emotional life of the individual.
That its effects were
sensed more keenly by those who reached higher degrees of development,
insofar as civilization is concerned, is indicated by the simultaneous
development of music in most cases with the advancement of civilization.
As an example, we find that in ancient Egypt a great deal of time and
consideration was given to the study, the practice, and the execution
of music.
A number of very fine musical instruments were evolved and
developed.
Some of them became unique in history and were used pa r­
ticularly in connection with observances in the temples of the various
sections of Egypt where religious practices and various types of ob­
servances were held.
It is common knowledge that much of the music of the Western World
had an impetus for its development in connection with the early history
of the Christian church.
In that way religion has contributed to the
development of the heritage of music which is ours today.
Dur ing the
past few centuries, many of the great musical compositions were related
directly to church activities.
The composition, direction, and presen­
tation of music in the cathedrals and churches provided many composers
with their only means of livelihood.
In considering music for meditation and temple use, it is also of
interest to consider briefly just what music is.
Music may be thought

of as sound created by various instruments, which combine rather simple
principles.
Most musical notes with which we are familiar today are
produced by two objects coming together and producing a noise, or by a
forcing of air through a tube or some type of hollow structure, or by
an object coming in contact with a tight string or wire which produces a
certain vibration.
Music, however, is more than sound alone.
Music is related sound,
that is, certain sounds put together in a manner that is connected.
In
that sense, music can be compared with language: the notes are the letters
the phrases or measures of the musical score the words; the themes are
the sentences.
Letters and words by themselves carry little meaning,
but they can be combined into sentences, and sentences into paragraphs
which produce continuity of thought and express definite ideas.
In
other words, they say something.
And so it is that the sounds or notes
that compose music can be put together into phrases and themes and
arranged in such order that they produce, in connection with a rhythm,
a timing, and a melody, certain things which can be understood as a
whole.
Again, these notes tell us something and the theme is readily
understandable.
Music, as explained to us in our monographs, is a universal
language.
We can understand it to a certain degree without knowing the
language of the composer who wrote it.
It can be understood in the
light of our interpretation of the effect that the sound makes upon
our consciousness.
That music affects us in various ways can be proved
by a selection that is solemn, or one that has the rhythm of a march,
or music of a faster tempo usually associated with dancing or other
types of festivity.
In addition to the close relationship of the development of music
with religion, music has also been associated with many forms of
ritual and drama.
The highest form of music insofar as drama is
concerned is, of course, the opera.
Here the theme or idea that the
author attempts to tell is put into a musical setting and written to
be performed as both drama and music.
In ritual, music usually forms
the background or the means of setting the mood for the ritual that is
to be performed.
We almost immediately associate a great cathedral
with a solemn, processional type of music.
We associate a place of
amusement with music that is light and gay.
In ritual such as our own
nonreligious Rosicrucian ritual, certain phases of musical composition
are conveyed to the participant's consciousness.
These create an
attitude of calmness, also an attitude which contributes toward the
best possible understanding of the ritualistic presentation, and will
set the stage for what is more important to be accomplished by the
ritual itself.
To understand more completely the use of music as related to medi ­
tation, it is important that we thoroughly understand me ditation itself.
The subjects of meditation and concentration are so important that
they are among the first ones introduced in the earliest monographs of

the Rosicrucian teachings.
We might say that the processes of m e d i ­
tation and concentration are the fundamental disciplines of the mind.
It is through the channel of concentration and meditation that we are
able to use our mental faculties to gain wisdom, experience, and over­
all psychic development.
These are the channels by which we admit
into consciousness that which is essential for us to learn, if we
are to gain anything from the experience of life.
By concentration
and meditation we develop the ability to bring consciousness and creative
mental power to play upon the function of living and the using of our
mental faculties creatively.
Upon examining the mechanics of meditation and concentration, we
will realize that they are different.
Concentration, we might say, is
an active mental process whereas meditation is a passive mental process.
In other words, when we concentrate we try to bring all the mental
creative ability within us to bear upon a certain thing, such as a
problem or something that we are attempting to learn.
Concentration is
the funnel, we might say, through which our mental faculties are brought
to bear upon the situation to which we wish to give our attention with
the hope of reaching a solution.
Meditation, on the other hand, is a more or less passive procedure
by which we attempt to absorb those impressions that may come into
consciousness and sort out those that may have value to us.
It is a
period of reflection, of preparation wherein we attempt to rest phys i­
cally and assemble our mental attributes so they can be used in more
active mental processes.
We can comprehend consciousness in a visual way.
This can best be
done by selecting a symbol to represent consciousness, and the most
perfect symbol for that representation is the circle.
The circle is
complete and inclusive, as is consciousness, at any particular time.
Our consciousness at any moment consists of the things which we are
perceiving and the memories that are passing through our mind.
In
other words, consciousness is at any one time a composite of many
impressions that are flashing through our mind just as if we were
viewing a scene through a window.
Whatever may be our behavior at any moment is the reflection of our
conscious state.
We may be thinking of work that is immediately at hand,
or of problems w ait in g to be solved that seem difficult at the moment.
We may be having certain physical sensations which may be pleasant or
unpleasant.
We may be thinking of an engagement we have to keep tonight
or tomorrow, or of an event that may have occurred yesterday and brought
us happiness or sorrow.
All these impressions are constantly pushing
themselves into the state of our present consciousness or awareness.
We are taught, in connection with the study of concentration and
meditation, the importance of ridding our consciousness of all this
miscellany of impressions in order to succeed in concentrating our mind
upon any one thing and really directing our attention to it thoroughly

Rosicrueian Order - AMORC
ANALYTICAL DISCUSSIONS
(Supplementary Lecture)

and completely.
To thus completely dismiss from consciousness every
impression except one is a most difficult proeess to learn.
Concentrating on one thing requires practicing a technique over a long period
of time.
The circle of consciousness, that is, the state of awareness
which is composed of our sensations and thinking of the moment, is so
completely our prívate life, our personal situation at any moment, that
it is difficult to sort out or to throw any part away, or to push out
of our mind the many impressions surging through consciousness.
Even
though we may direct our attention exclusively to a problem that may
be confronting us, we are nevertheless constantly pushing back into the
unconscious or subconscious area of our being those things which we do
not wish to have intrude and bother us at a particular moment.
The circle of consciousness, then, is something which we have to
learn to control if we are to concéntrate succ es sfu lly , or if we are to
be able to free our minds for the benefit of inspirational meditation.
In concentration the attention is directed toward one fixed thing which
becomes the point in the center of the circle.
Music becomes a valuable aid in concentration when it filis our
circle of consciousness.
In meditation or in concentration the background of music attempts to occupy a certain amount of our attention,
at least enough of it that certain extraneous thoughts— certain ideas
that are cluttering our mind at a particular time— can be forced into
the background and the music allowed to take their place.
Music
becomes to a degree the content of consciousness, but we need not
direct our whole attention to it.
It can be heard in the background
and at the same time be enjoyed, if it is music of a type that tends
to inspire and to make us calm and relaxed.
It is under those circumstances that we are in the best position either to enjoy relaxed m e d i ­
tation or to bring definitely before consciousness a specific problem
and direct our whole attention upon it.
In other words, music becomes a filler for our circle of consc iou s­
ness; it becomes a background which tends to shut out those impressions
that might otherwise interfere with the puré function of meditation and
concentration.
The selection of music for that purpose cannot be
definitely regulated by any absolute criterion.
There are only certain
general principies.
Obviously, highly exciting music as used in the
most exaggerated form of the dance, or martial music that is used for a
military band, is not going to be the type of sound that will captivate
our consciousness to make it calm and at ease.
Background music, that
is, music which is built of simple melodies or simple themes and which
is quieting to the consciousness, is the most effective type.
This
does not mean that all music for meditation must be extremely soft in
volume, but it means that the ideal music for meditation runs more or
less evenly.
Certain themes and variations, such as the fugue and
other similar structures in music, are those which are ideal.
It is sometimes best not to consistently use music of which we
are overly fond or with which we are too familiar.
Music with which

Rosicrucian Order - AMORC
ANALYTICAL DISCUSSIONS
(Supplementary Lecture)

we are familiar and the words that accompany it, if used too often,
may distract our attention from the purpose of meditation and concen­
tration.
Purthermore, music of which we become very fond may attract
our attention to itself or the intricacies of its performance.
It is
therefore best to select neutral music as often as possible.
Various
compositions can be tried.
In the Rosicrucian Supreme Temple an attempt is made to select
music that is appropriate to various parts of the ritual.
No final
solution has been reached concerning the exact music that should
always be used at any particular time.
This is clearly indicated by
the fact that we are constantly looking for new music, and adding
selections of different types and moods for this use.
This music is
selected with the intention of contributing to the sense of purpose in
the Temple C o n v o c a t i o n s , and to build up, to the best of our ability,
a situation and an environment suitable for the work and worship which
is the purpose of the Rosicrucian Temple.