O ne mode of emotional excitability is exceedingly important in the composition of the energetic character, from its peculiarly destructive power over inhibitions. I mean what in its lower form is mere irascibility, susceptibility to wrath, the fighting temper; and what in subtler ways manifests itself as impatience, grimness, earnestness, severity of character. Earnestness means willingness to live with energy, though energy bring pain. The pain may be pain to other people or pain to one's self—it makes little difference; for when the strenuous mood is on one, the aim is to break something, no matter whose or what. Nothing annihilates an inhibition as irresistibly as anger does it; for, as Moltke says of war, destruction pure and simple is its essence. This is what makes it so invaluable an ally of every other passion. The sweetest delights are trampled on with a ferocious pleasure the moment they offer themselves as checks to a cause by which our higher indignations are elicited... The collective name for the ripe fruits of religion in a character is Saintliness. The saintly character is the character for which spiritual emotions are the habitual centre of the personal energy; and there is a certain composite photograph of universal saintliness, the same in all religions, of which the features can easily be traced. They are these:
- A feeling of being in a wider life than that of this world's selfish little interests; and a conviction, not merely intellectual, but as it were sensible, of the existence of an Ideal Power. In Christian saintliness this power is always personified as God; but abstract moral ideals, civic or patriotic utopias, or inner versions of holiness or right may also be felt as the true lords and enlargers of our life, in ways which I described in the lecture on the Reality of the Unseen.
- A sense of the friendly continuity of the ideal power with our own life, and a willing self-surrender to its control.
- An immense elation and freedom, as the outlines of the confining selfhood melt down.
- A shifting of the emotional centre towards loving and harmonious affections, towards "yes, yes," and away from "no," where the claims of the non-ego are concerned. These fundamental inner conditions have characteristic practical consequences, as follows:
William James, 1901, Varieties of Religious Experience, p. 234.
- Asceticism: The self-surrender may become so passionate as to turn into self-immolation. It may then so over-rule the ordinary inhibitions of the flesh that the saint finds positive pleasure in sacrifice and asceticism, measuring and expressing as they do the degree of his loyalty to the higher power.
- Strength of Soul: The sense of enlargement of life may be so uplifting that personal motives and inhibitions, commonly omnipotent, become too insignificant for notice, and new reaches of patience and fortitude open out. Fears and anxieties go, and blissful equanimity takes their place. Come heaven, come hell, it makes no difference now!
- Purity: The shifting of the emotional centre brings with it, first, increase of purity. The sensitiveness to spiritual discords is enhanced, and the cleansing of existence from brutal and sensual elements becomes imperative. Occasions of contact with such elements are avoided: the saintly life must deepen its spiritual consistency and keep unspotted from the world. In some temperaments this need of purity of spirit takes an ascetic turn, and weaknesses of the flesh are treated with relentless severity.
- Charity: The shifting of the emotional centre brings, secondly, increase of charity, tenderness for fellow-creatures. The ordinary motives to antipathy, which usually set such close bounds to tenderness among human beings, are inhibited. The saint loves his enemies, and treats loathsome beggars as his brothers.”
DSM: Ton Koopman’s performance yesterday in Utrecht was a dazzling, athletic tour de force. It was a veritable ‘catalogue’ of Baroque varieties of religious experience.
- Buxtehude—Praeludium in G minor (BuxWV 149)
- Buxtehude—Nun lob, min Seel, den Herren (BuxWV 213)
- Froberger—Toccata in D minor (FbWV 102)
- Frescobaldi—Toccata terza
- Buxtehude—Preludium in D major (BuxWV 139)
- Buxtehude—Nun lob, min Seel, den Herren (BuxWV 212)
- Buxtehude—Canzonetta in A minor (BuxWV 225)
- Buxtehude—Kom, heiliger Geist (BuxWV 199)
- Buxtehude—Praeludium in G minor (BuxWV 148)
- Buxtehude—Canzonetta in C major (BuxWV 167)
- Bach—Praeludium in C minor
- Bach—In dulci jubilo (BWV 608)
- Bach—Fugue in G minor
CMT: We have, too, the fantastical rose window of the church where Koopman gave this performance. It reminds me of Rilke’s famous poem—the rose window propelling one’s heart toward God. It reminds me of Borges’s famous Book of Imaginary Beings.
DSM: The relationship of the idea of ‘journey’ to the emergence of image is difficult. In terms of their symbolism, rose windows and labyrinths are paradoxical. They are simultaneously in two categories: a ‘multicursal’ form, associated with literary and verbal and musical practice, and a ‘unicursal’ form, reflected in architecture and the visual arts. In contrast to the multicursal form, the unicursal has only one entrance point, which inevitably, though not easily, leads to the center. Unlike the multicursal model, which requires constant judgment to successfully traverse, the unicursal model demands endurance and patience—it requires determination and stamina, emphasizing judgment only in the initial decision to enter.
CMT: It evokes a winding road or a meander—maybe even a fatalistic view of life, or the reception of the literal level of a literary or musical text or philosophic argument. It signifies patience in adversity, but paradoxically also persistence in folly. The adaptation of the unicursal model to textual purposes can be seen in its combination with the wheel and the rose window in Gothic cathedrals.
DSM: This transformative effect of labyrinthine music and labyrinthine iconography is reinforced through repetition: the stonework tracery of the rose window viewed from outside the structure before we go in and hear Koopman, the labyrinths woven into the music as Koopman plays, and the rose window realized as a pattern of light when viewed from within the cathedral following the shifting sun during this performance. These repetitions create a ‘coincidentia oppositorum’ that mirrors the cathedral’s primary function in guiding the community and individual souls to the perfection of the rose. They evoke a grand, labyrinthine and uncertain wheel of fortune which governs the world of human affairs and the universe. The music plays upon the clockwork of our mind—the effect is to inspire and impel us, in directions we may desire or, alternatively, in directions some of us in the audience may prefer not to go.
CMT: The surprise—my eyes were damp several times as Koopman performed—is that such music can take hold of us and transport us, can propel us so forcefully—even in directions that we may resist. For some of us, it’s not a question of resisting—it’s more the shock or surprise at being escorted to a perception of transcendence that we have known before but have not visited recently. That is what a performance of the caliber that Koopman delivers can do. He physically takes us there, regardless whether we anticipated the journey or not.
DSM: The ‘nonconsensual’ aspect of the experience is a major part of its shock value. We make our way through the routine of most days under the illusion that we have autonomy, have power, are free to choose, are masters of our lives. The ecstatic journeys that Koopman takes us on remind us of our utter dependence on others—it is not merely a sacred or ‘Godly’, let alone ‘Christian’, notion; it is instead a powerful reminder of this profound connectedness, a reminder of our inescapable mortal frailty and diminutiveness, a reminder of this ineffable and fantastic vastness of the cosmos.
I n de eerste helft van de zeventiende eeuw waren ht vooral leerlingen van Jan Pietersoon Sweelinck die de Noord-Duitse klaviermuziek nieuwe implsen gaven. Later doen ook Italiaanse elementen hun intrede, zoals de ‘stylus phantasticus’. Vanmorgen volgen we de lijn die van Frescobaldi naar Bach loopt, met Dieterich Buxtehude als stralend middelpunt… Hierin verschijnt de cantus firmus als canon tussen sopraan en tenor, terwijl ook in de andere stemmen imitatie voorkomt: oude technieken worden hier door Bach zeer geraffineerd toegepast.”
Wilmer de Jong, Program Notes, 2007, Oude Muziek Festival.
I n the first half of the seventeenth century the pupils of Jan Pietersoon Sweelinck gave particular impulse to the North-German keyboard music. Later on, Italian elements also appeared, as the ‘stylus phantasticus’. This morning we follow the line tracing Frescobaldi to Bach with Dieterich Buxtehude as radiant center… In this appeared the cantus firmus as a mutually-reinforcing ‘canon’ between the soprano and tenor voices on the organ, while in the other voices imitation and parallelism ‘prevent’ and ‘rebut’ each other: the by now old techniques are refined and applied here by Bach.”
Wilmer de Jong, Program Notes, 2007, Oude Muziek Festival.
D a drin: das träge Treten ihrer Tatzen
macht eine Stille, die dich fast verwirrt;
und wie dann plötzlich eine von den Katzen
den Blick an ihr, der hin und wieder irrt,
gewaltsam in ihr großes Auge nimmt, -
den Blick, der, wie von eines Wirbels Kreis
ergriffen, eine kleine Weile schwimmt
und dann versinkt und nichts mehr von sich weiß,
wenn dieses Auge, welches scheinbar ruht,
sich auftut und zusammenschlägt mit Tosen
und ihn hineinreißt bis ins rote Blut -:
So griffen einstmals aus dem Dunkelsein
der Kathedralen große Fensterrosen
ein Herz und rissen es in Gott hinein.”
Rainer Maria Rilke, Die Fensterrose, Neue Gedichte, 1907.
I n there: the lazy pacing of their paws
creates a stillness that’s almost dizzying;
and as one of the cats then suddenly
takes the gaze that watches it carelessly
and snatches it into its own great eye, -
and that gaze, as if caught in a whirlpool’s
circle, for a little while stays afloat
and then goes under and is lost to oblivion,
when this eye, which apparently rests,
opens and slams shut with a roaring
and yanks it all the way inside the blood -:
this in olden times out of the darkness
the cathedral’s great rose windows
would seize the hearts and forcibly propel them toward God.”
Rainer Maria Rilke, Rose Window, New Poems, 1907.
- Oude Muziek Festival, Utrecht
- Ton Koopman website
- Rainer Maria Rilke website
- Berger P. The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion. Anchor, 1990.
- Borges J. Book of Imaginary Beings (1957). Penguin, 2006.
- James W. Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature (1901). BiblioBazaar Reprint, 2007.
- Rilke R. Roses & Windows: Selected French Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke. Zuzu, 2006.
- Wiebe P. God and Other Spirits: Intimations of Transendence in Christian Experience. Oxford Univ, 2004.