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12. Prelude and Fugue in F minor from Book 1




WHERE THERE IS LIGHT                                        Try speaking this in the rhythm of the opening of the Fugue subject!

It might be said that across all traditions the archetypal mystical experience is one of merging. Losing the sense of separate individual consciousness and merging with the greater whole. From the mystical perspective not only individual ego-consciousness but also couplex religious systems dissolve in an experience, however fleeting, of cosmic unity. I first remember this experience myself in Christ Church meadow in Oxford at the age of eighteen. It was a beautiful sunny November morning,; the different clocks were chiming out their eleven o’clock call for the two minute Remembrance Day silence. All the autumn leaves seemed to merge with the living and the dead together and time stopped. It was a breathing through into another dimension and I have never forgotten this initial experience of ‘how things really are’. Many years later on, at the end of the Drubchen on Holy Isle in Scotland, I was telling a Tibetan Buddhist nun about an extraordinary encounter that had occurred during the Drubchen with my father who had died nineteen years earlier. ‘How amazing this was’ I said. ‘On the contrary’ was her reply, this was ‘how things really are’. most of the time we only perceive a fraction of the reality around us. When Jesus takes his three disciples up into the heights of Mount Tabor and they see him transfigured into dazzling light the disciples enter a different dimension, a different space, where they see ‘how things really are’. it seems that for most of us most of the time we prefer to retreat behind the illusion of solidity rather than stay in touch with the free-flowing non-dualistic flow of how things really are. We have a psychologically strong need to believe in the survival of the separate personality. Ultimately though it is surely not the separate personality which survives death but the merged consciousness of the mystical experience. I once had the privilege of being on a Greek island for the celebration of the service known as the Lamentations service (Great Saturday Matins.) At one point in the service the congregation walked all around the village in a funeral procession for Christ. On returning to the church everyone entered in by passing underneath the cloth known as the epitaphs representing the tomb of Christ. This was an unforgettably powerful experience of passing through death into the glorious life and light of the Resurrection. This experience - whenever and however it happens to you - is not a symbolic experience but a visceral one. It is a taste of how things really are. I have been lucky enough to find several pieces of music in my life which have also led to this place. The Cavatina from Beethoven’s String Quartet in B flat, Op 130; the slow movement of the Schubert String Quintet; the final movement of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony; the 19th movement of Messiaen’s Vingt Regards sur l’enfant Jesus; Stockhausen’s Mantra for two pianos; Shostakovich’s Viola Sonata. Experiencing music in this way is not something that can be anticipated; neither is it something that can be repeated because of the desire to experience it again. It is something which can only be received with gratitude when it happens and let of with gratitude when it ceases - in the knowledge that this is a taste of how things really are. Music can function as an ‘intimation of immortality’ in the same way as can a mystical experience of nature. If you approach practising, performing and teaching from this perspective you are opening to the big picture - the place where the indescribable beauty and terror of the world dance hand in hand. The place where separate solidified consciousness ceases and unified consciousness abounds.