The Spiritual Meaning of Music, From Ancient Greece to Today

In Ancient Greece, music was the gift of the Muses to man. The Muses were the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, and all knowledge and art were under their dominion. They were the sponsors and protectors of mousikai, an integral part of the fabric of everyday life, which was comprised of singing and lyrics, and the Όρχισης (Orchisis)—an organized group of dancers. The term mousikai is used in order to distinguish from what today we call “music” – the science and art of organized sound.

Besides a cultural practice, mousikai was also a means to higher levels of consciousness through the art of sacred geometry, placing it in the sphere of the divine. In Greek antiquity, the Olympian god Apollo is directly connected with the Muses and with mousikai as a divine art. He is represented as their leader in dance and song, and given the epithet mousagetes (leader of the muses), as the historian Pausanias informs us in his “Description of Greece.” Continue reading “The Spiritual Meaning of Music, From Ancient Greece to Today”

Gnosis, Glory, and The Greater Man and Woman

When we speak of the warrior of ancient culture, we are speaking, paradoxically, of the artist and the thinker. Egill Skallagrímsson, a Viking Age warrior known for his brutality, was also a poet — and the first to compose in Old Norse using end rhyme (rather than rhyming at the beginning of sentences). Likewise, as I’ve mentioned before, celebrated samurai Miyamoto Musashi was also a painter and a calligrapher.

Classical civilizations have found great depths in man — in spirituality, ritual, theology, in brotherhoods, in training for battle, in family, the arts, ethics, and so on — and outside of man — sacred sites where a god or saint had lived; in the classical and ancient belief that the world was Created by God; or created from the slaughtered body of a giant; in the Tao; in natural law as proof of God’s existence, and so on. Continue reading “Gnosis, Glory, and The Greater Man and Woman”

Conan The Initiator: The Barbarian Path to Enlightenment

“If I die I have to go before him [the god Crom], and he will ask me what is the riddle of steel. And if I don’t know he will cast me out of Valhalla,” so says Conan in the 1982 movie Conan The Barbarian. Valhalla (Hall of the Slain), as you are probably aware, is the hall in Asgard, the home of the Aesir gods, according to Norse myth. From this statement alone it would seem that Conan The Barbarian deals with the metaphysical, and that we may be able to read the movie as an allegory of initiation and self-overcoming.

There are several stages in the cult movie. In the opening scene of Conan The Barbarian we see a sword being forged. We are reminded, again, of Norse myth, and, in particular, of the sword called Gram or Gramr (“Wrath”) used by the hero Sigurd to kill the dragon Fafnir. Continue reading “Conan The Initiator: The Barbarian Path to Enlightenment”