A commentary on the history, contexts, and meanings of the word "genius," in addition to articles on other related subjects and many new era Christian sermons.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Gospel ofTruth —II--Forgetfulness; childlike; naming

Gospel ofTruth —II

Last week we plowed into the first section of the Gospel of Truth, attributed to Valentinus, ending with numerous descriptions of a Heaven on Earth. The last section that we read was this knotty Zen puzzle:

“And as for him, them he found in himself, and him they found in themselves, that illimitable, inconceivable one, that perfect Father who made the all, in whom the All is, and whom the All lacks, since he retained in himself their perfection, which he had not given to the all.”

A wondrous concept is embedded in the descriptor: “in whom the All is, and whom the All lacks”. And it generates much food for thought, much revamping of our WASP visual image of God as a benevolent Grandfather with an unconditional forgiving kiss for all his erring children. This sentence implies that God exists inside and outside of Himself, and was Himself responsible for the flawed universe that Valentinus complained of. Remember, last week we heard Valentinus accuse God of creating evil: 

“Forgetfulness did not exist with the Father, although it existed because of him.”

In other words, God created the forgetfulness which drew Sophia away from the Pleroma. With the phrase, “in whom the All is, and whom the All lacks” is summarized the Gnostic attitude toward the Father. To be sure, as a mythologem, mind you, God is still the “illimitable, inconceivable one, that perfect Father who made the all”, but, “he retained in himself their perfection, which he had not given to the all.” God has held something back for Himself, the I AM Presence has declared its sovereignty over All, including anything in the NOT ALL. Here, again, we find the portrait of an infinitely loving God face to face with an evil, self-centered, demonic God.

Let us review Wikipedia’s summary remarks on the Gospel of Truth, which try to reconcile Valentine doctrine with the doctrine of the Catholic Church, by citing parallel meanings found in the accepted gospels; equating, specifically, Valentinus’ “error”, with the canonical gospels’ “Satan”, and Valentinus’ “fullness' for the 'deficient” with the canonical gospels’ “inexpressible joy”:

“In this gospel we see darkness and Satan recast as 'error', which can be taken as another way of describing the same thing. It's a poetic way of presenting the data of life: the world is dark, Jesus is the light. But Jesus is also the path to the father. What the father brings, according to this gospel, is 'fullness' for the 'deficient'. But this is clearly the same thing as the 'inexpressible joy' and the peace that passes all understanding discussed in the canonical gospels. It's the place of rest. It's the Kingdom of Heaven, which followers of Jesus find, and live in, while they are still on earth.”

Thus, we arrive again at this phrase:

“the Kingdom of Heaven, which followers of Jesus find, and live in, while they are still on earth.”

Knowledge of the God of Light and the God of Dark, the God of existence and the God of non-existence, frees the devotee to enter the celestial realms from any dimension, including Earthly existence; knowledge, of the God of the All, allows the devotee to enter the inarticulate Cloud of Unknowing and Know All in union with the Father, while yet retaining a memory, an image, of the lower world. Moreover, knowledge of the God of Light and the the God of Dark, ensures that the devotee may live a righteous, purposeful life with one foot in Heaven and, still, one foot on Earth.

Going on with Valentinus:

“The Father was not jealous. What jealousy, indeed, is there between him and his members? For, even if the Aeon had received their perfection, they would not have been able to approach the perfection of the Father, because he retained their perfection in himself, giving it to them as a way to return to him and as a knowledge unique in perfection. He is the one who set the All in order and in whom the All existed and whom the All lacked.”

Once again, we see a God who is satisfied with His creation including its flaws, or more generally put, its deficiencies, its negative charge. I have heard it said the material world, including all of us, is God’s “play”. This idea certainly smacks of anthropomorphism, and yet the paragraph above makes it seem almost as though God’s creation is a little game He plays with Himself; He takes away knowledge of the Pleroma with a cosmic forgetfulness, and then leads the way back to Himself, somehow made more perfect through the disciplines of mundane existence.

Going on:

“As one of whom some have no knowledge, he desires that they know him and that they love him. For what is it that the All lacked, if not the knowledge of the Father?”

Note the phrase, “he desires that they know him”; such is God’s game: He creates All, inflicts forgetfulness on It, and then He DESIRES its return unto Himself; thus, in the last analysis, the devotee’s motivation to acquire knowledge, gnosis, is Love of Self; it is Self-Love that generates the DESIRE in God the reclaim His lost Selves. God hides Himself from the insensitive, but for the initiates He manifests His Cosmic Personality through every sign and wonder emanating from the material world. God loves the world as He loves Himself; and, even in disguise, His Presence can be felt. This sentence makes me realize how every minute of my life is filled with Love, the connectedness of Love, the artifacts of Love. I don’t think Love motivated the creation of Man, but Love pervades every molecule of my existence, pulling me back to the Source. Are we really little cosmic yo-yos, endlessly going up and down the heavenly stairs, or is there a point of stillness where all activities cease, and peace reigns over the waters? Who can know?

Going on, we encounter a change in narrative direction; we have turned from a discussion of the Father to what can only be understood as a discussion of the Son; in fact, the paragraph almost seems to refer to the episode in Jesus life when He, a 12-year-old boy, instructed the doctors in the synagogue:

“He became a guide, quiet and in leisure. In the middle of a school he came and spoke the Word, as a teacher. Those who were wise in their own estimation came to put him to the test. But he discredited them as empty-headed people. They hated him because they really were not wise men.” 

This doesn’t necessarily have to refer to the 12-year-old episode, because Jesus had this negative reaction to His teaching often enough, during His career spent trying to change the world’s mind. Sometimes, because we esteem Jesus so highly, we kid ourselves into thinking that Jesus was universally hailed as a hero and a saint, that Jesus’ enemies were an exception not the rule; but there was probably more negativity attached to His reputation among His contemporaries than we think. It is interesting that Christianity took hold in the hearts of the common man—the experts rejected Him. It just goes to show that power over others corrupts itself, and moral acts performed on the basis of Law are dangerously infected with Evil Intent. A doctrine based on the Law has no heart. On the other hand, Jesus’ Doctrine contained, among so many other things, the seeds of democracy: the seeds of a universal equality among Men—a new idea that could, only after ages of evolution, flower into a kind of freedom, a freedom inexorably driving toward a Heaven on Earth.

We will recall Jesus’ declaration that Heaven is only available to a child-like heart. Perhaps this is why it was easier for the uneducated (child-minded) peasant folk to resonate with Jesus’ message, than it was for the San Hedron to abandon their Law. Here, Valentinus refers to the child-like knowledge of children—innocent but knowing, intimate with the inarticulate truth:

“After all these came also the little children, those who possess the knowledge of the Father. When they became strong they were taught the aspects of the Father's face. They came to know and they were known. They were glorified and they gave glory. In their heart, the living book of the Living was manifest, the book which was written in the thought and in the mind of the Father and, from before the foundation of the All, is in that incomprehensible part of him.”

This paragraph is so rich in meaning I don’t know where to start. It begins by reminding us that, to acquire knowledge of the Father, Child-like innocence is necessary as a starting point; but it goes on to say that spiritual progress is made through the acquisition of deeper knowledge. “When they became strong they were taught the aspects of the Father's face. They came to know and they were known.” This sentence reiterates the suggestion, I have made several times, that spiritual progress is made in the physical; the energy of motion, of time, has a mysterious effect on the spirit, and growth acquired in the physical translate to growth in the celestial. 

I was pondering the question of why innocence is required of the initiates, when it occurred to me that this is not an unheard-of concept in my field, music teaching. For instance, it is customary for new music students to relearn their technique, because teachers prefer to build a student from the ground up—preconceived ideas will often come between the student and the new concepts he has come to the new teacher to learn. 

I had a friend who won a prestigious performance competition on the cello; her reward was to get to play the Dvorak Cello Concerto with the New York Philharmonic, and to get free lessons for the summer with a famous French cellist. So she played what is arguably the hardest cello concerto in the literature with one of the world’s great orchestras, and then she went to this teacher who wouldn’t let her play anything but open strings for a month! She had to relearn her bow technique from the ground up; that is to say, she had to UNLEARN a lot of bad habits. We have bad mental habits too, and we must unlearn them in order to experience the virgin birth in the Kingdom of the Father. That does’t mean we have to STAY childlike—we just need to be childlike enough to start over; then the work begins. 

Once again we return to the issue of language. Remember that our thoughts are made out of words, and that misdirection of semantic meaning is one of Satan’s favorite tricks. Therefore, the more a verbalized doctrine dominates a person’s thinking, the harder it for him to tear all those verbal structures apart and start over; also, the easier it is for Satan to feed us false thoughts. 

Notice that the passage ends with:

“They came to know and they were known. They were glorified and they gave glory. In their heart, the living book of the Living was manifest, the book which was written in the thought and in the mind of the Father and, from before the foundation of the All, is in that incomprehensible part of him.”

So, the innocent mind state, you might say the “tabula rasa”, offers a perch for the new knowledge of the Father to take hold and grow into an expanded awareness of the Father. But the devotee does not acquire this knowledge by sustaining the ignorance of childhood—he comes to know, he becomes KNOWN, he gets himself NAMED, and, once his name is inscribed in the Book, he joins the Father in the incomprehensible realm of the Cloud of Unknowing.

Then there is the “Praise” factor: 

“They were glorified and they gave glory. In their heart, the living book of the Living was manifest, the book which was written in the thought and in the mind of the Father,”

It seems the drive to “manifest” is essential to our spiritual structure; the desire to bring spiritual knowledge into physical reality motivates our every mundane act. In fact, the manifestation of spiritual reality may be properly thought of as “Praise”. Therefore, every note of music we hear, every word we read, every image we project onto the screen of visual sensation, is Praise. And Praise is a direct manifestation of the Face of the Father. Thus, every physicalization of an inner reality, any idea, any image, any project, MUST be thought of as Praise, and therefore, sacred.

Now what about this section?

“In their heart, the living book of the Living was manifest, the book which was written in the thought and in the mind of the Father and, from before the foundation of the All, is in that incomprehensible part of him.”

For me, the key to this passage is the idea that the “book”—by this we can safely assume is meant the “akashic record”— the “book” “is in that incomprehensible part of him.” The book cannot be written and cannot be understood, and yet it is written on the heart; it LIVES in the heart. This sounds like the Cloud of Unknowing to me.

I will now quote a lengthy section without interruption. It is all about Jesus’ teaching, the mystery of His purpose on Earth, and His ultimate demise on the cross. It opens with the statement that the truth of the “Book” was reserved for the Christ (the anointed one) alone, perhaps because He is the only One Who could understand it:

“This is the book which no one found possible to take, since it was reserved for him who will take it and be slain. No one was able to be manifest from those who believed in salvation as long as that book had not appeared. For this reason, the compassionate, faithful Jesus was patient in his sufferings until he took that book, since he knew that his death meant life for many. Just as in the case of a will which has not yet been opened, for the fortune of the deceased master of the house is hidden, so also in the case of the All which had been hidden as long as the Father of the All was invisible and unique in himself, in whom every space has its source.

For this reason Jesus appeared. He took that book as his own. He was nailed to a cross. He affixed the edict of the Father to the cross. Oh, such great teaching! He abases himself even unto death, though he is clothed in eternal life. Having divested himself of these perishable rags, he clothed himself in incorruptibility, which no one could possibly take from him. Having entered into the empty territory of fears, he passed before those who were stripped by forgetfulness, being both knowledge and perfection, proclaiming the things that are in the heart of the Father, so that he became the wisdom of those who have received instruction.”

It is the intercourse of temporal and eternal values in this paragraph that make it so mind-bending; man’s mind, however fervently it seeks clear-cut answers to cosmic questions, seems doomed forever to receive paradox instead of verbal reassurance. Indeed it is the ability to see two things at once that enables higher spiritual sensitivities to emerge.

There are so many beautiful, heroic expressions in this paragraph:

“Oh, such great teaching! He abases himself even unto death, though he is clothed in eternal life.”

This paragraph identifies the sacrifice of Jesus as a LESSON; by example, Jesus shows us the impotence of death, as well as the possibility of an Earthly life suffused with heavenly light. The drama of it excels all possible fiction, the flamboyance of it takes my breath away. Jesus knows no shame, for His knowledge of the Father repels all attacks on his ego; Jesus has no false ego structures, like the ones we languish under, because He is all-knowing and never falls for Satan’s sleight-of-hand. The armor of God has nary a chink, nary a scratch; it keeps out Evil and holds in the Good. Likewise must we be shameless, even in the shadow of Original Sin, because the gnostic experience cancels all Karmic debts, and frees us to explore ever-higher spiritual frontiers.

I want to emphasize this last point:

“he passed before those who were stripped by forgetfulness, being both knowledge and perfection, proclaiming the things that are in the heart of the Father, so that he became the wisdom of those who have received instruction.”

The heart of the Father became wisdom. The HEART of the Father. How are we to be instructed by the Father. I’m glad you asked:

“But those who are to be taught, the living who are inscribed in the book of the living, learn for themselves, receiving instructions from the Father, turning to him again.”

Well, so much for that question—we learn for ourselves, receiving instruction from the Father. This instruction must be of a type that cannot be written. One time at an interview for a church choir job, an earnest young assistant pastor asked me, in close, inquisitorial tones, “Who do you think Christ is?” Well the question pissed me off right away, because the term Christ is a TITLE not a name—if he had asked me who I thought the Christ was, or who I thought Jesus Christ was, I would have liked it better. Still, unperturbed, I gave the answer that I couldn’t say, that was a very personal thing, my relationship with Jesus is very private, and also inexpressible. Anybody who can describe a spiritual experience has not had one. My answer was not in this guy’s playbook. I did not get the job.

Going on, the soul’s aspiration to ASCEND to the Father is supported by the magnetism of the Father drawing the soul back to Himself:

“Since the perfection of the All is in the Father, it is necessary for the All to ascend to him. Therefore, if one has knowledge, he gets what belongs to him and draws it to himself. For he who is ignorant, is deficient, and it is a great deficiency, since he lacks that which will make him perfect. Since the perfection of the All is in the Father, it is necessary for the All to ascend to him and for each one to get the things which are his.”

The sentence, “it is necessary for the All to ascend to him and for each one to get the things which are his”, refers to things which are already his. What are these things? Clearly they are the self in God which has been forgotten. The devotee’s ascent to God is an ascent unto himself—the self he has always known but has temporarily forgotten.

Here, I will read another long quote without interruption. This is a very powerful section and speaks for itself with the tongues of angels.

“He registered them first, having prepared them to be given to those who came from him. Those whose name he knew first were called last, so that the one who has knowledge is he whose name the Father has pronounced. For he whose name has not been spoken is ignorant. Indeed, how shall one hear if his name has not been uttered? For he who remains ignorant until the end is a creature of forgetfulness and will perish with it.

If this is not so, why have these wretches no name, why do they have no sound? Hence, if one has knowledge, he is from above. If he is called, he hears, he replies, and he turns toward him who called him and he ascends to him and he knows what he is called. Since he has knowledge, he does the will of him who called him. He desires to please him and he finds rest. He receives a certain name. He who thus is going to have knowledge knows whence he came and whither he is going. He knows it as a person who, having become intoxicated, has turned from his drunkenness and having come to himself, has restored what is his own.”

It’s no wonder that this material was rejected by the Nicean Council—it is jammed full of mysticism: calls from invisible voices, astral communication with spirits (probably angels), merging of wills, turning from drunkenness into what is his own. Claiming a cosmic birthright doesn’t quite jive with the Catholic emphasis on guilt and spiritual sobriety.

I want to emphasize the sentence: 

“If he is called, he hears, he replies, and he turns toward him who called him and he ascends to him and he knows what he is called.” 

These words so are full of comfort and hope. I particularly like the phrase “and he ascends to him”. There is such an interplay pf magnetism and intention here. There is actually a little story here, told in steps, one stage to the next: 

“God calls the forgetful devotee, whose face is turned away, the devotee turns toward God, and God’s magnetism (His Love) pulls the devotee ever closer the Source.” 

It is the ASCENT that brings Heaven to earth—in other words, Heaven does not come down, we go up to meet it. Remember the passage from last week’s sermon:

“The apostle Paul has many comfortable words on the subject:

  • Colossians 3:1-7:
  • 1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 
  • 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
  • I really hate to admit it, but sometimes Paul hits the nail on the head! The secret to creating a heaven on Earth is to simply will it, and there it will be: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things”. This advice is based on the proposition that where your mind goes, your body follow. Heaven on Earth is a tangible reality for me—I reach with my imaginative self into a place beyond where I can see, and there is Heaven vibrating with colors and sounds unheard in the physical dimension. It falls over me like a blanket, and my cosmic memory suggests traces of ancient doings, times out of memory.”

In conclusion, let me reprise some of today’s discussion: today we have contemplated unusual perspectives on the Father, and considered the purposefulness of physical incarnation. For me, the operative word in this section is, above all, “ASCENT”. Religious texts are usually scantily supplied with actual play-by-play descriptions of the interplay between spirit and flesh, but this section describes the process of communication with heavenly intelligence. They are simple, vague instructions, to be sure, but there is still a very recognizable series of steps, that the initiate will already understand and the novice may soon discover by opening his attention to an abstract realm above and beyond his limited mundane ego structure. Here they are again:

1. If he is called, he hears, he replies, and he turns toward him who called him and,
2. he ascends to him and he knows what he is called. 
3. Since he has knowledge, he does the will of him who called him. He desires to please him and he finds rest. 
4. He receives a certain name. 

Oh to hear one’s name in the BOOK. What glory!. What a relief!

Let us pray:
Jesus, the majesty of your overwhelming personality leaves us speechless; and perhaps that is a good thing. Amen.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

On the Relationship Between Forgiveness and Attachment

On the Relationship Between Forgiveness and Attachment

It is the quandary of my life that I've been so respected by so many musical big-shots in the professional world, yet have never become a big-shot myself. I look at the level of talent that fills the number one spot in any of the areas where I have expertise (mainly violin, conducting, and composition, but also in the important realm of teaching), and I say to myself, “I can do that, I can sound like that! Why is it not recognized that I deserve the same respect that these people enjoy?”

The answer always comes resounding back out of the void in great black cartoon letters, spoken by the voice of grandmother God, “YOUR PERSONALITY SUCKS!!!”

“oh,” I say.

I have given so much thought to this problem, and have so many times stubbornly set my heels in the dirt against the pull of change, I thought I must ever remain  frustrated and cursed by a character flaw that I was powerless to transcend. Of the many things upheld against my father, his total failure to nurture a talent in his son that he really couldn't comprehend in the slightest, I blame my father for this personality trait because it is the exact same trait that plagued him all the time I knew him, and that eventually brought them down to the lowest possible professional level, that of a janitor. The short temper, the egocentricity, the always thinking I'm always right, the reveling in being the oddball, the superior attitude to the world, these all came from him. I loved and respected my father, and imitated him so well that it brought about our alienation and loss of contact. It is a terrible thing to have what you have had thought were significant gifts, and watch the world pass you by, and all because you can't control your obnoxious behavior in public or at home.

The big argument I kept coming back to over and over when I was refusing to adopt certain social conventions that might have made be more accessible to many, was that my best qualities in teaching and conducting are my spontaneity, my honesty, my caring enough to get personal right away; I thought if I started acting fake I would cheapen and deaden my aesthetic sensitivities--it would be like constantly feeling everybody's hands all over me, chains! chains! I've actually got better with the polite clichés recently, but the central problem remains, the central problem remains, the central problem remains.

I believe it must start with envy--coveting my neighbor's goods--the first ugly entangling vines from the seed of ATTACHMENT. I am in need of security, I'm in need of freedom from the fear of death, that my life will have net something, and I am so ATTACHED to the transitory delights of the physical world that I begin to interpret success in terms of material accomplishments. This leads to holding a grudge against the wall for not giving me what I deserve, starting at the top with the publishers didn't publish me, and the colleges that didn't hire me, straight down to the janitor who works in this crummy shithole where I work, where they are so desperate they have to hire me because nobody from Juilliard would touch this job. 


What a realization! I am treating store clerks and secretaries like shit because I never got published!

I have started a campaign my life to forgive the world for not appreciating me and mistreating me. “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” Why not let them know what they do, let them know the person they are screwing by spreading vicious gossip, or forming step judgments that don't change for the next 10 years. Let yourself like people! Let yourself “give as before”. There is no ultimate value to any of the things we do on this earth, so why let attachment to a false value screw up your play time here in Eden?

The enormous pressure of pent-up tension and anger is released through the power of forgiveness. By letting go of my personal desire for fame I am thus able to forgive the world for not giving me fame, and am thereby made free to love and cherish the spiritual, the non-transitory realities of life. If I put myself in God's hands and trust Him to realize my potential at His leisure, I am happier, more confident, more powerful, more powerful, and even better equipped to create and handle success for myself than ever before. 

It is with this revised attitude I enter the new year. It is my sincere desire to remain a small part of your life. In any case we are sure to catch up with one another in the next life.



Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Musician Seeks His Own Level

A Musician Seeks His Own Level

When describing the potential for human achievement, it is often cynically and offhandedly stated that, where groups are concerned, 
“Water seeks its own level." It is my purpose, in this article, to do battle with this shallow truism, and to show that the average-seeking characteristics of water (i.e. the physical dimension) are not necessarily those of human consciousness—human consciousness is physical but also spiritual, and therefore it is individuality-seeking not average-seeking. It is a basic premise of this article that human beings are spiritual beings and do not need to be limited by the laws of the physical universe unless they choose to be; that by choosing to make more of themselves, people and groups can transcend the group-created self-limiting concepts and can become more than physical laws normally allow. By seeking his own level, finding and realizing his own unique spiritual identity, an individual contributes to group identity that is more than the sum of its parts—that is on a higher energy level than the average of its parts.

I recognize "pride" as a significant motivating factor behind my indignant attitude toward this statement. I'm exceptional, and have tried not to allow myself to let the lukewarm energies of my peers make the fires in myself burn less brightly, though this is not been an easy task; indeed, my struggle with making mediocrity (in the literal " middle seeking " sense of the word) is ongoing and seemingly endless. The story of my battle with mediocrity in various contexts constitutes the main body of this article. It is my desire to demonstrate, using myself as an example, that it is not necessary to submerge one's uniqueness for the sake of a group identity; rather, that the group identity is enhanced, by the raised consciousness of all the members of the group, of their own beautiful, singular individuality.

I do not represent myself as an ascended master holding the secrets of divine power. I'm just a man struggling to find himself in a society where self’s widespread alienation from self has not only become accepted as normal, it has become a moral standard for proper social behavior. Where I am concerned, I find that even when I get free of the mean-finding tendencies of social organizations, there is still the mediocrity in myself which I must unceasingly attempt to transcend; I am still quite far from achieving that great goal. Oh well, this is not such a terrible thing from the standpoint of this article, because I'm not attempting to write some fascinating account of my personal confessions, nor am I attempting to make the reader want to be like me (much is my petty ego might like that). I am attempting to make the reader aware of a materialist social consensus; this consensus is materialist because it treats man as though he were merely physical, and subject absolutely to laws governing the material world. I wish to describe (also to condemn) the social phenomenon that works against the integrity of the individual as a social being and is a spiritual being endowed with the infinite potential for achievement, for the creation of good. The expression “Water seeks its own level”, suggests that human organizations can only achieve ends determined by the desires of the average of the members of the group. It is a self-limiting concept that is blindly accepted by millions, when it might, by an act of will, be overthrown, thus freeing individuals to seek their own unique level, and revolutionize the quality of excellence that people and groups normally experience.

I admit it, I'm a musician, and the personal experiences I'm about to relate come mostly from the contexts of professional music-making; that makes this article of interest primarily to musicians, in a way. I would hasten to add, however, that the fundamental issues of this article are not about music, and I beg the non-musician to be patient and try to see that the psychological patterns I'm describing are by no means specific to music. Although I will be describing situations that musicians will be able to relate to most easily, is my hope that the reader will perceive the musical context as microcosm of the way people in all kinds of groups perform their social functions; the inspiration I seek to offer to apply to the process of serving on a Parks and Recreation planning committee, just as well as the process of playing in a string quartet.

It was somewhere during grade school that I embraced the philosophical attitude that individuality was good. I think I learned it in school, it might of been from television, I might have just known it intuitively. Anyway, the idea being my own person, doing my own thing came naturally to me. My father was not the slightest bit interested in my doing things my way, but he was very interested in doing things his way, so I was provided with a model I would come to emulate more and more as time went on, my different drummer thrum- thrumming louder and louder.

It was not really until junior high that I began to realize the tragic paradox that was to become a major theme of my life, namely, the individualist, much-glorified in word and song, was, in daily life, a much-maligned social entity. Almost every element of my public education was in some way self-contradictory on this point. We would read Thoreau, that magnificent phrase-maker, then be instructed as to exactly what to think about him, and what school-speak phrases we were allowed to write about him. It was during an oral report on Brave New World, that rhapsodic lament on the death of individuality, that the teacher actually said to me, “Who are you to criticize Huxley? " "I am me," I replied, ungrammatically. The teacher was unconvinced. Whoever heard of someone that wasn't famous having a valid opinion about anything? To her, I was a slot in a great book, and my application for a poetic license (among other things) was denied on the grounds that there was no room to notate such irregularities in my slot. “Why, " I wondered, "do they give us this stuff to read if they consider the content to be untrue? "

In music class there was a different atmosphere. There, my talent and leadership abilities were appreciated and nurtured by the teacher, who thought that it was so good to have someone who could play and keep going, that any quirkiness in my personality was indulged as a fair trade for my positive impact on the class. I realize, now, that I was lucky in this respect, for I have known many tremendously gifted music students who have been shot to pieces by less-gifted teachers.

So, lucky me, I came to consider music a haven from the hypocrisy of society and the educational system. I progressed rapidly and developed many strong soloistic qualities, which distinguished my playing from those around me. I was also singled out of a pack of kids at music camp, to be taught privately by a world-famous teacher, who happened to be a great genius and a great pioneer. His influence caused my playing to become more individualistic than ever, because of certain technical innovations he had created in his laboratory. It was agreed by all, that, by the time I finished college, I played "pretty good".

So, I jumped out of the ivory tower nest and tried my wings in the professional world; almost immediately things began to go bad. I was hired as a "ringer" in various community orchestras, did a fair amount recording, and was fairly well respected by a number of contractors, so that I kept getting hired; but an annoying pattern began to emerge, a pattern that began to get more telling every time it happened: I would be playing my heart out, making beautiful sounds, when, out of the blue, someone would tell me to tone it down. There were variations on this theme, some more polite than others, but all of the same underlying message: I was doing something that was different enough to be noticed by the players (by no means would this differentness be obvious enough to be discernible by the audience, except, perhaps, visually) and they wanted me to stop it. There were never any real musical complaints, it was more like an aura of confidence and superiority that they didn't like; they wanted me to be one of the guys, to fit in, to seek their level.

Once I was actually kept out of an orchestra that badly needed strong players on the instrument, because the conductor thought I was "too flashy", that I would alienate the other weaker players around me. I've already admitted that he was right, in a sense, and will continue to cite further examples of how right he was, but, in a larger moral sense it was wrong that he was right; he should not have been right, it was bad for him, the orchestra, and me that he was right; and I later proved him wrong about what he had been right about, by joining the orchestra later  (under a different conductor) and eventually by playing under him, and receiving the unanimous approval of the orchestra and lavish praise from the conductor himself.

Another time I had a section leader tell me, “You’re section leader material, but you do not have a section leader position,” ergo, I should stop playing like a section leader, i.e. with confidence, tone, and personality. The idea was that it was okay for him to play well, but not me—I was a follower, a little tin soldier, and I should know my place. A covert implication of this whole line of reasoning was that this section leader didn't want anybody else sharing the spotlight, and this, not even out of any particularly egomania, but merely because this is "the way it is done".

Here, we begin to arrive at the crux of the matter. In musical organizations, and, if I'm correct, all social organizations, a group consensus is arrived at, unconsciously, as a consequence of an averaging process (sort of like democracy), whereby the average energy level of the group comes to be interpreted as the standard energy level, such that all significant deviations from the standard are taken as socially obnoxious. Through inference, "socially obnoxious" comes to be interpreted as "musically obnoxious", even though the only musical offense may be merely this stepping outside the established social boundaries.

To be more specific: there are, in the music world, certain geographic areas where a certain style of playing predominates over other styles which are to be readily encountered and accepted in other geographic areas. These styles are, after all, mere variations on a theme, with no fundamental differences; however, the exponents of these various styles cling to their specific eccentricities with passionate intensity, and, like devout churchgoers, proclaim their style to be the only true style. Therefore, when a social deviant from out of town arrives on the scene, there will naturally be some ruffling as the new man seeks to integrate himself into the system. If the home folk recognize the out of towner as a legitimate player, with something to contribute, there is an enriching of the two styles as their energy amplitudes are added to each other. Sadly, prejudice and religious fervor all too often eliminate the new player and the richness before has had a chance to gel. 

There have come to be elaborate rationalizations ("schools of thought ") to justify this average-seeking phenomenon as proper musical behavior:

One word that is much bandied about among the mediocre is “blend". The term “blend" has come to refer to the depersonalization of the individual sound quality in favor of a group sound that is even, neutral, and usually bland and innocuous. The theory is pretty simple-if you play without any personality "you will fit in with a bunch of other people playing without any personality. When you sound very nearly like everybody else you are "blending", and when you sound different you are marring the “blend".

The idea of “blend” refers primarily to sound quality, which is the single most personal aspect of playing an instrument; to reject a musician’s sound can be thought of as the most personal rejection a musician can experience, and it is on a personal level rejection is felt, causing the sound-offender to suffer great loss of confidence and personal motivation.

Now, no reasonable musician would promote the idea of people playing a piece in contradictory styles at the same time-the idea of a section is to sound like one big instrument— but the definition of contradictory styles has become too narrow in many people's minds, such of the sound that is different is automatically considered contradictory, even though it might, with a modicum of acceptance, be seen as truly complementary, and in a glorious, truthful way.

Style is not the same as sound in the vast majority of orchestra playing contexts (excluding musicological efforts with original instruments, etc.); therefore the questions of sound and style are very separate issues; very many different sound qualities are acceptable within a given style, as can be demonstrated by the recordings of great masterpieces produced in widely divergent geographical locations, and (now, in 1988), several different time periods. A largeness of mind on the subject of sound quality will result in an attitude of acceptance toward sound variations, since no connoisseur of discography can reasonably reject the playing of Elman or Kreisler in favor of Heifetz, Oistrakh, or Perlman, though serious examination of these artists will reveal more fundamental disagreement in terms of sound than of style.

The element of style most critical in section playing is to be seen in the area of rhythm and nuance; if these elements are uniform throughout the section, the ideal of sounding like one big instrument will be achieved regardless of the level of richness of sound. In terms of style, the extent to which a musical performance is correct is the extent to which it remains faithful to known musicological facts having to do with articulation, embellishment, tempo, etc.; however, the extent to which a musical performance is alive is wholly due to the personal commitment of each player to giving his best self to every moment of the piece. I am, in this argument, attempting to show that just by making yourself sound like everybody else, you do not necessarily make the section sound like a single instrument, as you can, by undercutting your own energy, make the section sound like a wimpier instrument; by lowering your personal energy level to accommodate the group level, you rob the orchestra of a dimension of its potential group identity.

There is a long list of great conductors who encourage their players to play like soloists. These conductors have been big enough themselves to see that the music gets its life from inside the hearts of the people playing it; these conductors have recognized that they will only reach their own level of peak artistic expression by allowing the players to achieve their own level of peak artistic expression. I'm not saying that playing music is all cathartic fun and feeling, no, the Apollonian constraints placed upon musicians are numerous and necessary, since the mind is often the round-about road to the heart; a musical group must be led to a piece of music through a keen intellectual alignment. But the SOUND is where the player’s soul meets his instrument in a glorious Dionysian revelry that cannot be understood or controlled intellectually without repression of energy.

Let us examine the term repression a little more closely. Since art is understood largely in psychological terms, the idea of repression, as an element in the truthful representation of the human condition, must play a part in developing an attitude toward repression in the interpretive act of playing. The music, the composer is often objectively describing the feeling of repression; just as often the composer is actually feeling repressed himself, as he struggles to overcome some personal issue which is the subject matter of his composition. In either case, the end result, the finished piece, is expression. Even if the repression in the piece is a consequence of unconscious psychological processes, the notes on the page are an expression of repression (as opposed to a repression of expression—ha ha.). The player, therefore, must always be expressing (out + pressing) repression, not feeling repressed; at least not feeling personally repressed. He may create the feeling of repression in himself as he acts out the drama of the piece, but to feel repressed by forces external to the forces of the music can only result in distraction, lack of focus, and frustration.

Frustration is a natural consequence of repression, because to be made to be less than you are is the most unpleasant, insulting violation of basic human freedom a person can experience; to be less than you truly are makes you feel like nobody. Indeed, the frustrations of anonymity are the single most published complaint of orchestral players in the world; whenever professional musicians are interviewed, they bitch and moan that they don't feel that it matters whether they play well or not, as they are part of a huge depersonalized machine. It is true that the fight for identity is fierce in large social organizations, but so many people attempt to deal with the problem by giving in to the situation--by giving up their personal identity before all the votes are in. By admitting at the outset that you will make no difference, you ensure the fact that you will make no difference, and obliterate the possibility of your ever making a difference. Consequently, in a system where conformity is a conscious goal, the strong players become weak, and the weak players, without the inspiration and example of their betters, become weaker. No one takes any responsibility for the music except to make sure that no one else takes responsibility for the music.

Another argument against the enforcement of average-seeking is the fact that some players are just plain better than other players and naturally play with more personality because they have more personality. In a situation like this, there is a tendency for the better player to "stick out", but this is not necessarily a bad thing. First, a soloistic sound, singing above a more bland section sound, can give a clarity and punch to the sound, an added harmonic that is very pleasing. This is a common trait of the great concertmasters of the world, and “sticking out " is precisely how they lead their sections. If more players in the section "stuck out" the sound would be even more brilliant. Secondly, the better players, if accepted by their peers, can have an inspirational effect on the weaker players to raise the energy the section. I've seen this happen again and again, especially among younger, more innocent professionals who are more willing to be influenced by positive energy around them, and anxious to imitate that which their hearts identify as "good". It is usually the older pros, set in their ways, who resist the influence of the new, and who actually resent soloistic playing. Is the old pros who band together during the intermission to collectively repress energies of the offender. I think they may be thinking that they are "keeping the niggers down", but they are really committing a crime against heaven, the orchestra, and themselves.

I've heard vocal ensembles (where the term “blend” is most often used, and where there is a greater variety of sound qualities than any other musical context) consisting of singers whose voices sounded very different from each other, but whose “blend” was a truly glorious milkshake of sounds. Each person’s best self harmonized with the others to create a synergistic whole that was unexpected, and unconventional, but truly beautiful and exciting, precisely because of the richness of the sound palette. If the sounds agree with each other in terms of objective criteria, like intonation, rhythm, dynamics, etc., the more subjective quality of sound can only be enriched and energized by individualistic contributions. Every rose does not have to be red to make a garden. To play with your heart and to give to the orchestra your best self is a most beautiful and courageous humanitarian act. It is such a shame that musicians insist on undercutting each other's individuality and constricting their musical reality. Then they complain about anonymity. Dumb.

An even more serious consequence of musical conformity is a habit I've encountered very often in orchestras who suffer from a lack of confidence; the problem is that of playing behind the beat. In groups where people are afraid to take a chance, there's always the question of “Who is going to play first?” To my mind, when you're supposed to play has always been a fairly uncomplicated matter-you play when the conductor's baton hits the bottom of its trajectory; the rhythm in the conductor's body becomes the rhythm of the group. However, I have played in so many orchestras where all the players are so afraid of making a mistake, of sticking out, that they have developed a style of waiting for the baton to fall and bounce back before they play, so that the visual effect is what you get when you listen to music outside, from several thousand feet away-you see the baton go down a second or two before you hear the sound. Orchestras play this way because they wait for each other to play rather than trusting their own ability to play with the conductor. As a conductor, I'm always searching the orchestra for uplifted eyes to make contact with; for this reason, I've always been appreciated by other conductors when I'm playing in the section, because they can always rely on my eye when they search the orchestra for contact.

It is my understanding that the role of orchestral conductor was invented when ensembles got too large for chamber music ensemble playing (hearing) to keep people together; rather than listening to things happening (sometimes over an area of 100 feet and more), the visual impulse of the conductor was used to keep people together. No doubt, it is more difficult to play music from a visual cue rather than an aural cute, because, rather than the immediate feedback of the physical sounds, the playing takes on an inner quality, as the individual player draws the sound out of a kind of silent void; granted this is difficult, but it is the price we pay for the creation of large ensembles, and anyway, it develops faith and character. The system of visual cueing really does work if the conductor is clear and strong, and is able to convince the people that they must follow him and not each other.

The unfortunate fact is that everybody doesn't follow, especially in the back of the orchestra. Time after time I've heard rhythms radiate outwards from the podium like a row of falling dominoes, such that by the time the guy in the back figures it is safe to play, the guy in the front is already playing the next note. The conductor complains “It's late! It's sounding late!" to which the back bench player pathetically replies, “But we can't hear!" I say, in all humility, ha ha, “You're not supposed to hear! It is assumed you can’t hear, that's why where paying this conductor so much money, so you don't have to hear! If you would only have the courage to play with what you see, you would all play together!! !”

In this kind of group, a strong player in the back can make a section sound very off-the-beat because he will be playing ahead of the people in front of him, and sometimes even ahead of the section leader, if the section leader subscribes to the "behind the beat" philosophy. Such a player, playing with the conductor and not waiting his turn in the line of dominoes, will sound like he is making a mistake, and everybody will jump on him for "rushing", etc.; only he and the conductor will know his secret virtue, and even the conductor will have to say, “Folks, it's not together."

There is a further complication concerning section leading that deserves mention. I have sometimes been accused of playing ahead of the section leader. This is always a shock, because I felt certain that I was playing with conductor, and assumed the section leader was too. I hang back and check out the situation, I usually find that, yes, the section
leader is playing behind the beat. What a dilemma-to play with the conductor or play with the section, every one of whom follows the late section leader with sheeplike devotion? This really should not be a problem, since it is understood by all that, in the orchestral hierarchy, the conductor is the final word; yet, it is a problem because people have such an underdeveloped sense of their own ability to do their job that they are always, at every turn, looking to someone else for guidance. Consequently, there is often a situation where the various sections of an orchestra are perfectly together as sections, but are not playing anywhere near together as an orchestra. There would be no argument from the players that this is the wrong situation, but in actual practice, it is clear that they would rather be one of the 6 to 10 wrong people than the one right person. Dumb.

The problems of playing behind the beat are most acutely felt in situations where the tempo is changing. More rehearsal time is lost rehearsing ritards (slowing down) and accelerations than any other single musical effect, because the players will simply not trust themselves to respond instantly to the conductor signal; because they must hear the effect first, then repeat it by rote, tempo changes must be rehearsed twice every time they occur, whether they are surprise changes or extremely conventional things like ritarding the end of a piece. The operatic literature tends to be very easy music, technically, but because of the rhythmically erratic nature of dramatic music, or, indeed, any music where there is a rhetorical emphasis, an orchestra can spend hours getting it together by rote, and then if the singer feels it differently in the performance, runs out of breath, etc., it still won't be together. often, in such rehearsals I lament the Toscanini “A curse on Guido d’Arezzo for inventing music notation!"

I find it interesting, as I consider what I've just written, that the two main areas of orchestral individuality-repression that I have described, i.e., sound quality and rhythmic strength, are opposite each other on the right/left brain model of mental functioning that has come to be generally accepted over the past 10 or 15 years. Specifically, sound quality is the creation of the right brain, subjective sensitivity to space and emotion, while rhythm is clearly a left brain, objective, small- information-byte-processing function. It was seen then that what I have said is true—that the better players play both with a better sound and better rhythm; they are simply more conscious—in that both halves of their brains are more active when they play music. I will not go so far as to say these people are more awake mentally in all areas of life; we can readily cite examples of very mentally awake people, like Einstein, for instance, who were mediocre musicians, and we can also see excellent musicians who get overwhelmed by the idea of balancing a checkbook, or taking a simple telephone message for their wives. Neither can we categorically ascribe superior playing to superior training, because I've seen many superb musicians succumb to the herd propensity toward average-seeking tone quality and falling-domino rhythm.

At the level of consciousness of which I am speaking, the problem is not one of intelligence, or training, but is more a disease of the will. There develops, in any group, a consensus; it's a mind-set that comes to be accepted by all unless it is stubbornly resisted by those who refuse to let their personal energy level be dictated by an impersonal democratic process. I speak of a disease of the will because the mind-set is not a function of talent, it is a learned thing, and can be changed by an act of will. A person can achieve on a level several quantum leaps higher than the average, merely by wanting to. The wanting is critical. From wanting all else will follow.

In order to refute the idea that the water of man's collective consciousness necessarily seeks its own level, I must make some strong statements about the relationship of man's mind to his will. The mind as a physical machine that is prone to habitual repetition of similar functions. Yet, because the mind is also a vessel for the translation of spiritual realities into physical manifestation, the mind can be taught to respond, with superhuman energy, to suggestions of the will. There is so much about music that is not of this world anyway, that even the slightest suggestion can trigger thought processes and physical acts that are unearthly-impossible, according to the materialistic expectations of science and common sense. Wanting something is an act of will. Imagining something is an act of will. If there is faith in the will, there can nearly always be a material manifestation of a consciously expressed desire. Hence, by wanting to achieve an artistic effect, a person who believes in the power of the spirit to change the physical world, can change not only his own energy level, but the energy levels of those around him. Mind is dumb, and slow, but it is also obedient to the will, so by merely ordering the mind to reach up, the will can cause the mind to be filled with light from heavenly sources.

If other minds are reaching up for the same divine truth that will be, not an addition of their power to each other, but a geometric (or hyper mathematical) multiplication of their energies by each other. This is the truth. This is what can be.

This, patient reader, is why consciousness does not have to seek its own level— because consciousness is infinite, incalculable, and ultimately singular in its identity. The minds of a group of orchestral players can become one in a singular act of will. When this happens, there is no question of leading, following, sticking out, blending, or any such physical considerations. When people become of one mind, that divine mind equalizes everything-all individuals are perfectly harmonized in a divine symphony of joy and power.

At the beginning of this article, I referred to "pride" as a serious stumbling block for myself. I consider pride to be a very serious problem for most people, professional musicians possibly more than others. Performers must develop their ego-consciousness more than most people, because performers routinely put their best selves on public display. The ego, thus constantly exposed to the critical eye of society must be tough and solid, or it will buckle under the pressure. However, this toughening all-too-often results in a hardening of the arteries of the heart, and emotional responses which once were spontaneous and authentic begin to become automatic, calculated, and false. Pride becomes merely a self-limiting concept, a false self image. This is an on-going process that can continue to take place over many years; it is the main reason young players are so much more flexible and enthusiastic than "seasoned" professionals. This is my prayer: “Oh God, please never let me become a "seasoned” professional! Let me always find the new and fresh in music! Let me give life-support to an endless stream of newborn feelings and ideas, let me animate the paper notes with my single, unique, best self. Let me bury my pride and resurrect my single, unique, best self. Let me bury the pride and search the depths of my soul for that divine source from which all power and individuality spring!”

It is my conviction that man is a spiritual being, and that making music is a process of manifesting spiritual realities in forms that can be appreciated by man in the physical dimension. Music, being a kind of message-in-a-bottle from a divine source, draws on human powers and understanding several levels deeper than normal day-to-day living consciousness. Unfortunately, the attitude of devotion necessary to achieve this level of understanding is sadly lacking in the practice of music-making in the professional world. For the "seasoned” professional, music-making becomes a "normal” activity, like grocery shopping, and the magic wears off and is not renewed. Thus, as I have complained about all through this article, when someone comes along whose heart is still full of youthful enthusiasm and derring-do, his antic attitude is looked on with suspicion and fear, and his "inappropriate energy" is squashed by those practicers of the blasé who have forgotten, or never knew, how to be young.

Verily, verily I say unto you, it is possible to stay young. At a meta-level of self-programming, an individual can learn to, 
1. prevent the critical left brain from automatically responding to every new or unusual energy with negativity, and, 
2. to allow spontaneous self-created energies to overflow to overthrow the tyrannies of the petty ego, and fill the individual’s being with the light from a higher-than-normal level of consciousness.

At this point in my article, I wish I could follow through with the lengthy, detailed, rational description of the method of consciousness raising that would make better musicians out of everybody who tried it. I confess I cannot, not because there is no such method, but because for every musician, every person, the method is different. Learning to exercise the will in consciousness-raising is both the simplest and yet most impossibly complex thing that can be done. The power to make music live is found along the pathway to the heart, and every pathway to every human heart is different. This is the dilemma and this is the joy, that every human heart is and must be different. This is not a cop-out, because every heart shares, at its source, the same divine identity, so that the general description, or, you might say, roadmap to the heart is the same; but only the wildest fit of arrogance could persuade me to prescribe for others the techniques for awakening their spirit consciousness that I have used. Nevertheless, I will say that the first step along the path is to want to take a step. I cannot point the way any further than wanting to take the first step inward. From there on, "where your treasure is, there is your heart also."

Every musical performance should begin with an invocation of divine power, a turning of the consciousness inward, toward the heart. When this happens, many unusual and sometimes terrifying things can happen, because the supernatural worlds express themselves in our world in many unusual and terrifying ways. The reason for the terror is that they are never the same—the flow of time down the cosmic river provides endless variety of manifestation, and because we evolve and change with every second, we never get a chance to familiarize ourselves with the experience—everything is new every time. Because of this we must have completely anomalous aesthetic responses to same piece every time.

The key concept, for me, is acceptance; to accept who I am, to accept the rich and strange aspects of myself that come out when I dig deep, and to accept those around me, who, on a fundamental level, are a part of me. It is my hope that more people will learn to identify with the common thread that joins them to other people, and to stop being so quick to deny the humanity of, and to repress the energies of, those who are different from themselves. If you are a victim of repression, it is my hope that you will find the courage to continue to fight the good fight, and never stop believing in yourself and the power from God that is yours simply by wanting it.


Laus Dei

The Conductor:Medium of Divine Communication

The Conductor:
Medium of Divine Communication

Music is spoken of as the universal language. All people understand music. However it is precisely the fact that all people understand it, that indicates that music is not a language at all, but something higher. A language is a system of symbols with refer to tangible things. Although there are logical identifiable symbologies present and music of all times and places, the archetypal forms underlying these linguistic eccentricities do not refer to physical realities. These archetypal forms are divine realities manifesting in the physical—the spirit made flesh (or something like flesh-sound). These forms are not symbols for things, but actual spiritual truths brought into an objectification as sound in air.

The higher mind of man perceives and vibrates sympathetically with these truths and sends impressions down to the lower mind (what we call the conscious mind, although it is only a tiny fraction of total consciousness), where thoughts or ideas are created. In the sense that these thoughts are created in response to music, music may be thought of as a language, but it is a language removed by one; initial appreciation of music as a spiritual (therefore universal) reality has nothing whatever to do with linguistic references. The experience of music, before it becomes objectified in the lower mind, is the alchemical process of spiritual energy acting on the soul to create change, and spiritual advancement.

Nevertheless, to create the experience of music, there must be a constant dialogue between the higher and lower mind, as the individual elements of the experience are combined and mixed like chemicals in a laboratory. This is where the conductor of a musical organization comes in. The conductor is, in a real sense, the medium of communication between the higher and lower mind of the group. In fact, the conductor is the grand central station through which are channeled the higher and lower minds of the composer, the players, the attending divine Angels (angels, guides, etc. ), the audience, and himself. At a certain point in the composition’s life, the composer was the window through which the light of God's truth shone down on the earth; however, when a piece gets to the performance stage, the conductor becomes this window through which are reflected all the complicated energies that go into the creation of a human social event. The truth of the piece must shine through the conductor into the hearts and minds of his players (choral conductor substitute singers for players), and his players’ truth must channel through him into the hearts and minds of the audience. Thus, mystery and change attend every step in the process of music making.

One of the exciting things about music is that: as unique as each human soul is, that is just how unique the experience of music is to each participant. This gives a richness and majesty to the light of God's truth as it glints through the many facets of his created beings. However, since the dualistic nature of man's physical existence creates opposites, certain aspects of man's physical vibration tend to get out of phase with each other and cancel each other out, thereby diminishing the experience for all. One of the conductor's most important jobs, therefore, is to focus all the little lights of the players into one great ray, with all its constituent aspects in phase with each other, to create the brightest possible light. This is an heroic act of courage, for to become such a lens, to withstand the onslaught of so much accumulated power, requires great strength and breadth of character.

It also requires humility, for only by sacrificing ego to the higher purposes of God’s manifested truth, are the energies of all the players maximized and synthesized. Too many conductors make the mistake of imposing narrow interpretive ideas on the players, causing them to restrain or repress their own God-given energy; this is a tragic loss, and is the bane of the orchestral player, and the orchestra itself.  The razor's edge the conductor must walk is that of finding a way to get more out of his players than they thought they were capable of, while getting them to contribute this energy to a selfless group energy. The magic of the conductor's contribution to the music-making process is in his creation of a group consciousness that synergistically transcends the sum of the individual consciousnesses. This is accomplished by lighting a fire in the players’ minds for a single truth, and getting them to work together toward manifesting that truth. 

The relationship of thought to feeling determines the character of the group identity. Feeling is the link between the lower objective mind (where literal meanings are stored and manipulated), and the higher subjective mind (where there becomes less and less distinction between thought and reality). The feelings expressed in music are the universal truths which make music understandable to all men; as such they have a constant or static, unvarying quality; but, as mentioned before, the interpretation of these feelings by the lower mind results in mental structures, thoughts or ideas, which are as various as the individual minds interpret and him. Thus, the conductor’s first step in creating artistic unity is to take a single feeling and objectify the residual thought patterns into terms which do not neutralize each other either by contradicting each other, or by causing repression of energy among the players.

One tragic flaw one tragic flaw that too often mars the education of serious music students is that: teachers tend to become aligned with one or another of a variety of interpretive thought patterns, and then pass on this alignment (prejudice) to the students, preaching it as the gospel. This dogmatic approach to music teaching is so sad because it teaches students to think of music as thoughts rather than the larger feelings behind the thoughts. Nothing is so tragi-comical as two musicians from different schools of thought trying to argue out their “po-tay-toes” and po-tah-toes”, and then finally (in the words of Ira Gershwin, “Let’s call the whole thing off”; this, when they might have, by focusing their attention on the larger issue of feeling, found the common ground of higher understanding. The conductor’s job is to find this higher ground, and convey the sense of it persuasively to his players. He was make them understand that no artistic aspect of musical interpretation (tempo, style, sound quality, etc.) are matters of choice, and that, just as there is feeling behind every thought, there is life, a legitimate reality, behind every choice; that, and creating unity, choices must be made that sometimes contradict one's training, but are not, therefore, to because considered wrong.

Indeed, the whole issue of right and wrong (which is a subject for a separate article, if not a book) can too often come between the player and his enjoyment of his task. There are so many small decisions to be made in shaping a piece, and there are so many different attitudes toward each one of them, that squabbles over the “right” way can cause divisiveness and estrangement among the players. The conductor neutralizes this tendency by becoming the final decision-maker, dictating which way all the players must do their job. He must impress on them that there is no “right” way, there are only “good” ways, and good comes from making the best of every situation, even if, on the surface, it goes against the grain. There is a sense in which every literal configuration of meanings can be true, and it is never difficult for an open mind to find truth in a statement that, in another light, may appear false. The selfless player must subdue the petty ego, expand his consciousness outward to embrace the unity of group consciousness  consciousness outward to embrace the unity of group consciousness, and join with the group consensus shaped by the conductor.

“Good” is everybody's best effort. “Good enough” is an expression that has nothing to do with GOOD. “Good enough” is an objective standard created at different times by different individuals, today by the recording industry, pointing the way toward a level or type of perfection which may very well be “good”, but may also be, instead, merely “ right”. Conductors striving for a level of “good enough” that sounds like somebody's record, but which is not inherent in the temperaments of the players in hand, does not maximize those players potentialities, but rather, dehumanizes them and makes them resent both “the good enough” they cannot achieve, and the conductor for wanting them to be something they are not. Now players are always capable of giving more from a broader push from a broader spectrum than they think they are, but people are also individuals and should not be asked to parrot back somebody else's sound or phrasing when they may have a legitimate weight of their own that, for the person rings truer than the “good enough” way. The conductor should seek to bring forth the good inherent in the players in hand, probing into each player’s soul for the best that player has to offer. Rather than imposing some objective standard on the group, the conductor should reveal the group's own subjective reality to itself. Let the didactic conductor be warned, mismatching ideals is a deadly game, bringing much heartache and disappointment for all; it is like the poor tourist we find weeping brokenhearted on the steps of the church because he did not find the Mona Lisa anywhere inside the Sistine Chapel.

How does the conductor bring out the best in his players? First, he must get their attention. People do not automatically walk into a rehearsal revved up and on fire for the music; it is the conductor’s job to light the fire. Many conductors are so passionately in love with the music that they are shocked and insulted when the players do not immediately share this enthusiasm. Thus, emotional scenes and bitchiness ensue that have a tendency to awaken the lower minds of the players to concentration, but shut the doors to which spontaneous feeling must flow. The players become concerned with getting the conductor off their back, instead of finding the music. The annals of conducting are filled with tales of bitchy, even vicious conductors who were able to bring along unfocused players to a level of higher-than-normal intensity; but the price you pay for this kind of excellence is so dear, and it is so unnecessary to pay it.

There are many paths to higher consciousness; fear and grief are viable paths to higher levels, but they have a limited range of positive benefits; they also create a very unhealthy drop in energy when they wear off, so that a conductor may intimidate a group into performing one musical moment at a high vibratory rate, then pay for it with low vibration playing the rest of the night. Fear is a very unstable energy-it can cause things to go well, or it can cause things to get worse and worse. 

There is a story (true or mythical) of an orchestra rehearsal where a conductor publicly humiliated the principal flutist by making him practice a solo over and over in front of the whole group, meanwhile making rude comments about the flutist’s musicianship, intelligence, character, etc. That night of the concert, the flutist played the solo brilliantly, evoking a great smile from the conductor. Then the flutist rose from his chair, drew a gun from his vest, and shot the conductor. 

It is true that the conductor who is namby-pamby about giving direction, is not a good leader, and will not inspire respect or trust from his players; but it is also true that the great genius assholes of the art world, by any other name, are still assholes. The intensity achieved through impatience, arrogance, and intimidation is a shallow thing, and holds no promise for future growth. The apostle Paul points out that love, among other things, is long-suffering.

So how does a conductor get intensity from a cold group without yelling at them? A rehearsal is an intense thing, and must become intense immediately; but insulting the players’ ability, or denigrating their level of commitment (guilt tripping) only causes repression and contention. To get intensity from the players, the conductor must draw the players out, get them interested in the music for what it has to offer them, get all their minds focused on the concrete goal which feels and sounds good when it is achieved. Intensity comes from focus, focus comes from something to focus on. Thus, to literally objectify the goals, of the rehearsal, is the first task in beginning a rehearsal.

The word "objectify" is very important, especially since we have already spoken at length about the overriding importance of the “subjective reality " that a piece of music creates in the physical. The key to understanding is is to be found in the relationship of the objective meaning to the subjective state of being. For example, many times a conductor may desire a certain sound quality, or a certain style, which he hears clearly in his head, but not in the rehearsal room. He will begin to rhapsodize and poetic terms about the sound, describing it with onomatopoetic expressions. Most of the time this subjective treatment may mean something personal to the conductor, but usually relates personally to a small fraction of the players. Efforts to convey subjective realities through verbal means to those who did not already share the subjective reality higher-than-verbal level always fail. The players may try again, but since they have failed to understand, they fail to realize the conductor’s vision. More poetry, more failure, then insults, fits, frustration, anger, etc.

When describing the big picture (subjective content) fails to communicate the conductor's intentions, she should break the image down into smaller pieces. By breaking the subjective image down into pieces he is objectifying the image, reducing the high spiritual truth to a system of literal meanings which can be apprehended by the lower mind. Any sound or gesture can be so broken down; a crescendo, a ritard, a phrasing may consist of many discrete elements which can be rehearsed one at a time. This progressive building of an idea into a living gestalt can be grueling work, but a conductor should be man enough to teach his players, patiently, (no matter how good they are, or are supposed to be) what he wants down to the gnat’s eyebrow, because once a particular link is learned in a microscopic context, it is much easier for the players to extrapolate the information and transfer to other contexts. A conductor who can only generalize, and cannot explain what he wants in technical terms, this just an air beater. Even if his heart is full of enthusiasm, his mind alight with an inner vision, he must express enthusiasm and vision in terms that can be shared. To be sure, objective understanding is not the highest level of musical understanding; however it must be remembered that a vast chasm spreads between normal consciousness and higher subjective consciousness, and objectivity is our only pathway to the divine. Objective insights act like little links in a suspension bridge, which, when completely assembled, allow subjective insight to flow across from the higher mind and light the lower mind with truth and power. The objective analysis of a spontaneous gesture may momentarily drain some of the life out of the gesture. As the gesture is dissected, a synergistic unity is destroyed; but when the pieces are put back together, the conductor will reap the rewards of patience and insight which our joy and accomplishment, rather than the rewards of impatience and pride which are disappointment and anger.

Now, the use of imagery in directing the players’ attention toward a subjective reality is not always as ineffective as the preceding arguments may have implied. To tell the horn player that his solo should sound like “the rising sun", can give him insights that telling him to “play louder” cannot. However, the conductor should not just mention the rising sun, he should mention getting louder as well. Intangible, poetic quality should always be objectified by including direction toward getting the players to do something.

The physicalization of emotional qualities is the most crucial creative leap in music-making. Through physicalization, the word is made flesh. The conductor physicalizes the music through his movement. In this sense, his movement becomes a poetic image of the music as much as his verbal instruction; however, unlike his verbal instruction, his movement was always attempt to look like what the players do (to their instruments) to make the music. The conductor should dance the music for the players, taking care that his gestures are directed toward inspiring the player to perform specific actions. Many conductors’ movements degenerate into indistinct flopping and waving which, again, contain only subjective meaning. The conductor should never, for an instant, lose sight of the responsibility of the players to make them play better. The music comes from the players, not the conductor; when this fact becomes confused in the conductor's mind, petty ego takes over, and there is a breakdown of energy for the group; but when he loses contact with the group, and dwells on his own emotional investment in the music, the flow is interrupted. Therefore, the most selfless act the conductor can perform is to stop listening to the music, and focus himself on leading the players through their parts, moment by moment, letting the audience listen to the music. The conductor can always listen to the tape

There is an aspect of imagery which is para-physical, but which is nevertheless an instruction from the conductor to the player to perform an act. This is the act of will demanding than normal consciousness reach up into higher realms for insight and power. Most of the time the conductor’s plea for concentration or intensity is merely a plea for the player to  consciously enter a paranormal mind state. We do it, we all know how it feels, but somehow, in a materialist culture, we have neglected developing techniques for consciously entering higher mind states; therefore, we must rely on chance, or gargoyle-like fits from the conductor, to scare us into the divine realms.

Actually, it is very easy to get a group to raise its own consciousness, but it does take courage—for certain materialist predispositions, which, unfortunately are ingrained social attitudes, must be dispensed with. 

1.The first step in this “dispensing process” is to adopt the assumption that: the human personality is not confined to the human body-that we all, as holistic entities, take up more space than just our bodies do. 
2. Thus,we must then realize that, by reaching out with our senses, we can encompass much more space than our bodies might tell us we can. 
3.Lastly, we must realize that we can share space with other people. 

This sharing space is crucial to developing a group and identity. The senses that are reaching out are not physical senses, and the space shared is not physical space; but the registration of this experience in lower consciousness is just like the physical sensation of touching, only it is somehow more intimate than touching because we can feel the presence of the other person or persons through and through. The subjective experience of sharing a group consciousness can provide more unity of feeling and expression in any other single technique. Through this technique, sounds are blended, differences are unified, and energies are compounded. A moment of silence before the downbeat (preferably with eyes closed) can do more for her performance than anything in the world.

Now the conductor must take up more "space" than anyone else. The conductor must surround the entire group with this personality. He must have more confidence than anyone else (for the concentration and strength to reach out so far is enormous), but he must also be more selfless than anyone else (because to disperse his ego so far, he must give himself up completely to divine influence, and, on conscious and subconscious psychic levels, convey direction too many people at once.

We may speak of imagery in this regard because mental imagery is the technique most commonly employed to bring these energies into manifestation. The conductor may imagine the group enveloped in a cloud of pink light, or he may imagine rays of white light coming out of the top of everyone's head, joining in the central vortex above the group. Whatever the visualization, it is important to realize that the visualization makes it real. What our eyes cannot see, our spiritual eyes can see very well. Thus, through an effort of will, the conductor can create a divine reality, and if he asks the players to join him in the effort, the effects become exponentially enhanced.

Music is divine reality manifested in the physical. The goodness of God is that singular impulse which binds us together. Oneness is the object of all human endeavor; as such, music holds a special place in human activities, being such a perfect link between lower and higher mind functions. The conductor, more than any other person involved in a musical performance, is responsible for creating an atmosphere in which oneness may be achieved. This is a weighty responsibility indeed, and can reap, for him, great spiritual rewards. It can also load him down with tons of Karma (sic) if he allows ego and pride to come between him and the music and the players. God can change the world through music, and since the conductor is the high priest in this ministry, he must be tireless in his efforts to make himself a more and more perfect open channel for divine inspiration.

Laus Dei

November 17, 1987