by Marinus Jan Marijs
The idea that the Kosmos itself makes music can be found in different cultures: The Hindu’s speak of Nada Brahma, the Sufi mystics of the Saut-e-soermad; Christianity contains the idea of celestial harmonies, heavenly music. The ancient Greeks spoke of the harmony or the music of the spheres. This idea goes back to the Greek philosopher-mystic Pythagoras, according to whom the Kosmic music of the spheres was produced by the movement of the celestial bodies. Each sphere in its orbit produced a different tone, and the different musical sounds produced by the spheres together created a musical harmony. Through the centuries this idea has been put forward into the world literature. Plato referred to it in his writings, in his treatise “About the heavens”, Aristotle wrote about the harmonious sound brought forth by the heavenly bodies.
In the Dream of Scipio, Cicero wrote:
“ …And he replied: “This melody composed of unequal intervals, yet
proportionately harmonized, is produced by the impulse and motion of the
spheres themselves, which by blending high and low tones produces uniformly
And: “ …And learned men imitating this mystery with strings and vocal harmonies…”
And: “…Mortal ears cannot contain it…”.
Scipio’s Dream would later become the basis for an opera by Mozart entitled Il sogno di Scipione (K. 126) based upon Scipio Aemilianus’s ‘soul-journey’ through the cosmos.
In the Divine Comedy, Dante writes about hearing the music of the spheres as he ascended to heaven.
In Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice”:
“How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here will we sit, and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears; soft stillness and the night become the touches of sweet harmony.
Sit, Jessica. Look how the floor of heaven is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold;
There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’st.
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young ey’d cherubims:
Such harmony is in immortal souls;
But, whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.—“
Milton in his poem: “Arcades”:
“To the heavenly melody, that no being can hear who is of human stature with
perfect impure ears.”
The theme of the symphony ‘The Planets’ by Gustav Holtz is the music of the spheres.
Whether one sees the music of the spheres as a mathematical construction, a poetical idea or as a metaphor pointing to a transcendental cosmic force, we shall come closer to our subject if we look at the source of inspiration of the great classical composers.
Of all the great works of art, the musical compositions created by the great classical composers are perhaps the most abstract, highest and most sublime form of art. The question is, how it is possible that these composers could have created such great works of art. There can be no doubt that a composer needs highly developed technical skills, but the greatest of them claimed that this was not enough. There is an additional element which is absolutely necessary to create a composition of lasting value, and that is inspiration, the source of which is outside the composer.
The term ‘inspiration’ is used with several different meanings:
- Stimulation of the intellect or emotion to a high level of activity.
- Being strongly influenced by another person or work of art.
- A sudden intuition as part of solving a problem without the use of rational processes.
- Divine guidance or influence exerted directly on the mind or soul of a person. This form of inspiration is also called revelation, communion with the divine.
The etymology of the word ‘inspiration’ comes from the Latin translation of the Greek word theopneustos. Literally, ‘God-breathed’; in Latin; ‘divinitus inspirata’ (divinely breathed into).
The idea of inspiration as a spiritual, almost mystical form of communication with the divine is also something we find in the field of classical composition. When the great classical composers talked about their inner experience when composing, the idea of communication with a force or forces on the highest transcendental level was seen as the only way to create music of lasting value and essential to their art [The quotes below come from the following books: Arthur M. Abell: “Talks with great composers”, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, G.E.Schroeder Verlag, 1964; Julius Bahle: “Der Musikalische Schaffensprozess”, Kontanz, Paul Christiani 1947; J.P. Fockema Andreae: “De inspiratie van den Componist”; K.B. Sandved: “The world of music”, Publisher: Waverley Book Co, 1954.]
The German composer Ludwig von Beethoven declared that his ideas came from God, that he was aware of his connection with the Divine:
“I was conscious of being inspired by God Almighty”.
And: “I know that God is nearer to me than to others of my craft”.
The German composer Johannes Brahms:
“Straightway the ideas flow in upon me, directly from God, and not only do I see
distinct themes in my mind’s eye,
but they are clothed in the right forms, harmonies and orchestration.
Measure by measure, the finished product is revealed to me when I am in those rare inspired moods…”
And about the spirit that worked through him;
“Spirit is universal. Spirit is the creative energy of the Cosmos.”
“Aid from a higher source, a source outside themselves.”
Brahms on the divine source of inspiration:
“No atheist has ever been or ever will be a great composer.“
And: “…Then when I felt those higher Cosmic vibrations, I knew that I was in touch with
the same power that inspired those great poets and also Bach, Mozart and
Beethoven. Then the ideas which I was consciously seeking flowed in upon me
with such force and speed, that I could only grasp and hold a few of them; I never
was able to jot them all down; they came in instantaneous flashes and
quickly faded away again, unless I fixed them on paper.
The themes that will endure in my compositions all come to me in this way…
I felt that I was for the moment, in tune with the infinite, and there is no thrill like
The Austrian composer Franz Joseph Haydn called composing
“to commune with God”.
The German composer Richard Strauss on the source of his inspiration:
”When in my most inspired moods, I have definite compelling visions, involving a
I feel at such moments that I am tapping the source of Infinite and Eternal energy
from which you and I and all things
Religion calls it God”.
“It is an emanation from a higher source. While I was composing those two operas,
I was, …definitely conscious of
being aided by a more than earthly power…a cosmic force.”
The Italian composer Giacomo Puccini:
“I know from my own experience when composing that it is a supernatural
influence which qualifies me to receive
Divine truths, and to communicate them to the public through my operas”.
And: “A composer will never write anything of lasting value unless he has Divine aid
also. There is a vast amount of good music paper wasted by composers who don’t
know this great truth. We are dealing in this domain with higher spiritual laws.”
“An inspired person sees things in a totally different light from one who is not
inspired. Inspiration is an awakening, a quickening of all of man’s faculties, and it
is an overwhelming, a compelling force. In short, it is a Divine influence.”
The German composer Richard Wagner:
“I am convinced that there are universal currents of Divine thought vibrating the
ether everywhere and that anyone who can feel those vibrations is inspired.”
“I believe, first of all that it is this universal vibrating energy that binds the soul of
man to the life principle to which we all owe our existence. This energy links us to
the Supreme Force of the universe, of which we are all a part. If it were not so, we
could not bring ourselves into communication with it. The one who can do this is
The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius:
“The composition of music is brought to life by means of the logos, the divine in art.”
The Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg:
“I composed as the spirit moved me, without comprehending clearly that I was
working with great cosmic laws.
Whereas Brahms realized, just as Beethoven did, that he was being aided by
Omnipotence. It is only a supreme creative genius who can rise to such heights.”
“The composers are projectors of the infinite into the finite.”
The German-born composer George Frederic Händel said, while composing “The Hallelujah Chorus” of “The Messiah”, that for him the heavens seemed to open.
The Bohemian-Austrian composer Gustav Mahler, while working on his eighth symphony, said:
“it seemed as if it was dictated”.
“It was a creating, totally out of the subconscious”,
for the enormity of which he himself almost felt fear. Because he was convinced that an artist in concentration during such hours full of inspiration reached a higher level of life, he was in a condition of clairvoyance and clairaudience
“…as a chosen instrument submissive to higher forces”.
The Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky:
“Usually the center of new work comes out suddenly, totally unexpected…
with unbelievable force and speed… it is a revelation.”
But also Bach, Mozart, Schubert and Liszt saw their composition as spiritual experiences.
The statements of these great classical composers about their inner experience when composing, go straight to the heart of the question: What is inspiration? These statements show that inspiration (in it highest form) is not brain activity:
”Their works are purely cerebral…and I assure you…that they are doomed to
speedy oblivion, because they ar utterly lacking in inspiration”.
“Fully ninety-five per cent of today’s musical output is purely cerebral, and
consequently of short life”.
“Ideas which are new and original arrive of their own accord and are not the
product of conscious thought.”
Inspiration is a force that is superior to the intellect, it is an emanation from a higher source, a source outside and transcendental to the creative genius who is in contact with the infinite force of the universe
The highest form of bhava samadhi is at a high-causal level. This is what is called the lightbody, the glorification of Christ. Krishnamurti had this experience at the age of 27, Gopi Krishna at 46. The Hindus call it Nada Brahma, the Sufi mystics Saut-e-Soermad. Robert A. Monroe writes about this experience from a second-person perspective in his book; “Journeys out of the body” [Robert A. Monroe; “Journeys out of the body”. Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York; Last part of chapter 8.]
This form of bhava samadhi on a high-causal level is not only much more powerful than other forms of bhava samadhi, it has another distinct characteristic which the other forms of bhava samadhi do not have: the substructures within its total field, which are rotating orbs of energy, produce ‘symphonic’ harmonic sounds. (This brings to mind the symphony of Gustav Holst: “The Planets”). These orbs produce different melodies that simultaneously form a harmonic whole, corresponding to the themes, melodies and harmonies in classical music. It is clear that it was this level, the high-causal – the divine – that was the source of the inspiration of the classical composers.
While the “music of the spheres” is a poetic concept, it finds its expression in the great symphonies, and its realization in the highest form of mystical experience: high-causal bhava samadhi.