On retreat in my house during the pandemic, I found in a dusty corner a manuscript, about a hundred and thirty pages, written by me some years ago. There was a concluding chapter I had barely begun. On the title page was written: Celestial Songman—Music For the Kaliyuga.
It was about my former music teacher. He was an Indian monk from Rishikesh, India, an ashram in the Himalayas. My meeting him was heralded by a dream. I dreamt of a funny old man who wanted to teach me music; but, he said, there were no instruments. A few weeks later a friend told me about a master of music yoga that was in town and giving lessons. He was in fact a master of Taan, a yoga of vibrations, and apparently he possessed some pretty strange powers.
I thought back of the funny man I dreamt of, and decided to check the yogi out. I ended by taking lessons with him and following him around whenever I could. I tape-recorded our lessons and transcribed them, and they became the manuscript I recently stumbled on. I decided after reading what I wrote from my meetings with Nada Brahmananda—that was his name—that I wanted to share his story with readers. It turns out that the “instrument” would be myself, and the music we need to learn is the “music” of our own lives—if that makes any sense to you.
So I decided to complete the story, and the book will be out by next year, published by Inner Traditions. In the meantime I’m still working on that concluding chapter. Meeting Nada led me to discover new things about the power of music.
Some myths about music are mysterious and long-lived like that of Orpheus and Eurydice, a story that links the loss of one’s beloved to the acquisition of music that can tame wild animals, heal the sick, enchant the lover or empower the warrior. The fact is that in some cases this sort of thing may be based on real experiences.
I’m curious to hear of such experiences; I know there are plenty of them, and all sorts. Here’s one I heard from a jazz musician friend of mine; a story about John Coltrane blowing a high C on his horn and a ball of fire issuing from his horn and bouncing around members of his audience!
Or it could be something like a friend of mine who was the editor of a scientific journal that reviews evidence for life after death. I asked her once what for her was the most convincing evidence of life after death. She paused, and replied: “Listening to Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis.” That’s quite interesting, being convinced of something so momentous and important by a piece of music. It wasn’t all the scientific evidence that changed her belief. Being engulfed emotionally in acoustic space is different from processing concepts in a linear fashion.
It so happens if you dig deeply, in history and among the living, there are all kinds of stories of unusual power that relate to music. I was intrigued to discover there are cases of people who come near death and hear sounds that resemble what is called the “music of the spheres.” It may happen during sickness. Or it may happen suddenly to anybody in the most unexpected ways—without any known physical cause. I would welcome any account from readers about unusual encounters with music. What is so strange is that one can never predict when these strange experiences occur. Or whom they will occur to. Another dimension of mystery we need to understand, it points to another dimension of reality we need to explore.