The Symphonic Juncture

A [Symphonist]: "The one who is not afraid to raise the primal force."

- Boris Asafiev (1917)

Monads, Music Theory, and the Akash: What happens now?


An ostensibly ‘5000 year-old’ word and its attributed theoretical concept, with its arcanely cosmological sketch of a precognitive plane residing externally of any known substantive or mental configurations and likewise rendering any attempts at scientific rationalization fruitless, could serve as a replacement for the grotesquely secular, and unfortunately ubiquitous understanding of how music is fundamentally given a spatial-temporal existence and even what lies before. The term ‘akashik records’, from the Sanskrit term ‘akasha’ meaning the metaphysical fifth-element ‘ether’, was first coined by the Austrian 19-20c. accomplished Philosopher and Esotericist Rudolph Steiner in his 1904 book ‘Aus der Akasha-Chronik’ [From The Akashik Chronicle] where he attempted to grapple and resolve the despondent nature of modern Psychological rigidity and man’s predilection to situate themselves solely within the clasp of perishable materialistic sentimentality. Prior to the physical materialization of organic elements into the living being called man, he stated the pre-organic identity of man was of soul [eine Seele], from this ontological place supposing that the human body is a conglomeration of ‘etheric spheres’ which, upon purposeful interaction, create human organs [in essence a body] for which a soul is then attached. To punctuate his position, he defines this asomatous realm ‘der feine lebendige Äther [The fine, living ether]’, one of four vital building blocks for the manifested human being, namely 1) Water, 2) Air, 3) Light [ether], 4) Chemical [ether], and 5) Life [ether], whose collaborative endeavours, led by the astral bodies and the sun itself [which is ‘shedding itself’ because of the living world’s dependence on its etheric bestowment], literally creates human life, the ethereal builders regarded as ‘die erste (polarische) Wurzelrasse [the first, polar, Root race]’.


It is based on this supernaturalistic understanding of the cyclical path from divinatory Immaterialism to Grotesque-bodied organicism [back to etherality on the soul’s physical emancipation] that American Esoteric Writer Alice Bailey was prompted to use Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as evidence of ‘an immense photographic film’ spanning Earth’s whole existence and which could be consciously observed when correctly attempted, a perfect example of the spokes of Steiner’s early 20c. Anthroposophical movement and its inquisitive examinations rooted in scientific rationalism, based around a reformation of set knowledge and what Steiner considered a ‘Copernican view of the universe’. Bailey’s ‘proof’ [used loosely here] is sourced from the 2b.c. Sage Patanjali, specifically his third section of the seminal work ‘The Yoga Sutras’, where he outlines the path one takes to see ‘thought-images’ which dwell in the intellectual firmament. In that scholarly abode, Patanjali states, in four points, what one would ‘see’ when connected to such dimension, that being 1) total human experiential knowledge, 2) total Animal experiential knowledge, 3) karmic thought-forms [‘based on desire’], and 4) the ‘shadow self’ and its natural forms [Dweller of the Threshold]. Although not irrefutable or remotely factually secure, Patanjali, Bailey, and Steiner all idiosyncratically come to a similar realization of the interwoven macro- and micro-structures of all finite manifestations and conversely, the incorporeal and yet fundamentally panpsychic, meta-ontological unity which subsumes all created spheres of being, including forms as minute as atoms or nebulous like air itself.


Transitioning to G.W. Leibniz and his theoretical work on Monadology, I argue that understanding music as inherently spiritual, where the hardened musical ‘building blocks’ that constitute any compositional work are thought of as simple outward embodiments of an ineffable, all-consuming cosmos, can redirect the Academic investigation about musical compositional life away from a reliance on stringent questions like ‘what is this component’ and ‘what is its function’, to ‘what is the work’s pre-compositional lineage’, ‘what is X’s relationship to the whole’, and ‘Does it become or has it already crystallized’? Although a simplified reduction on a much larger argument of the qualms with Music Theory’s reliance on functionalist modes of thinking and discourse, often to the detriment of the very music in question where music is routinely ‘seen’ and not ‘heard’, I remain firm in my belief that when music discourse returns to its sacred plane, the place beyond rational conceptualizations, regulations, strictures, and naive claims of Academic ‘knowing’, only then will the music be ‘heard’ and not ‘seen’. To achieve this fuller auditory process, for music is only considered music when posited into the receptive field of a listener [Via Asafiev, “there is no music outside living reproduction and reception”], becoming acquainted with Leibniz’s understanding of ‘the real atoms of nature’ can illuminate the interested party into acknowledging that the composer is not the sole designer of musical structures, but rather a conduit [channeler?] whose hand dictates the will of a transcendental force, dare I say Godly, into a humanistically legible format. Already I hear the disapproving scoffs but Leibniz, in a blunt manner, supplied a partial rebuttal stating, “the Cartesian view is extremely defective, for it treats as non-existent those perceptions of which we are not consciously aware... [Cartesian Dualism] led them to believe that minds [esprits] alone are Monads[...]”, here, less-than subtly, stating that the human propensity to consider themselves the one-true Creator is not only wrong, but spiritually negligent.


This type of thinking has bled into all facets of Contemporary dialectics, where what can be consciously observed is the only ‘reality’ worth discussing, and that what lies beyond the ability to be formally studied is nothing more than fanciful, mental coercion, and must be considered non-existent at worst, and virulent mental fodder at best. As a recent graduate of musical studies, I now recognize the lack of any type of epistemic questioning [ for that matter Kantian notions of knowledge itself, Bergsonian conceptions of life’s eternal flux, or even hints of an Asafievan understanding of horizontal vitality (a gross simplification)] regarding the utilized practices of mainstream, theoretical education and its stringent methodologies in the faculty of Music, including its satellite disciplines [Composition and Musicology] which have suffered from ‘petty bourgeois’-isms. As wonderful as Conservatory training was, my Institution still couldn’t escape the acedian hand that is proceeding to distance music from its context, immaterial or otherwise, and which threatens to turn Music Theory back into a purely Formalist practice, where the end goal is a better performer who, unconsciously, has little to no interest in what lies beyond the perceptual abilities of the human consciousness as it relates to music [‘The music sounds pretty because of this cadential pattern’].


Comprising Leibniz’s 1714 ‘The Monadology’, written two years before his death, are 90 Monadological statements, the first 20 define Monadic existence, 20-28 depict the personal experience, 29-60 refer to God’s formal participation, 61-83 determine Monadic corporality, and 84-90 serving as a conclusional reminder of God’s divine architectural prowess and likewise his moral superiority. To conclude this lengthy exposition I quote in length no. 83 [which aligns itself with Asafiev’s, and likewise Scriabin’s, understanding of the supreme whole in the minute and yet that minute being part-and-parcel of the whole] as to not soil the profundity of its statement with interjectory clanger. It is my hope that Music Theory can and will incorporate back into the fold elements of its spiritual, pre-Rationalist heritage, where concepts like Musica universalis and Platonic notions of modal powers reigned over the hearts of minds of thinkers of every conceivable rank and file. There shall be a time when the Academic disregard for spiritual discourse in the realm of music shall become so secular and so very strong, that the very notion of Godly intervention shall make the Intellectual’s blood boil. However, and I say this strongly, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence". You would be wise to know this maxim, it radiates 'real knowledge'.

83) Among other differences which exist between ordinary souls and minds

[esprits], some of which differences I have already noted, there is also this: that

souls in general are living mirrors or images of the universe of created things, but

that minds are also images of the Deity or Author of nature Himself, capable of

knowing the system of the universe, and to some extent of imitating it through

architectonic ensamples [echantillons], each mind being like a small divinity in its

own sphere. -The Monadology [1714] G. W. Leibniz


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