Blavatsky and music

Madame Blavatsky was known best for her occultism, obviously, but her professional life included concert tours in Italy and Russia playing the piano under the pseudonym ‘Madame Laura’. Olcott reports (in his Old Diary Leaves, first series, p. 458) that she had been a pupil of Moscheles. He says that sometimes, when occupied by one of the Mahatmas, ‘her playing was indescribably grand. She would sit in the dusk sometimes, with nobody else in the room but myself, and strike from the sweet-toned instrument improvisations that might well make one fancy he was listening to the Gandharvas, or heavenly choristers. It was the harmony of heaven.

It’s not surprising therefor that Blavatsky wrote about music as well. And given that esotericism was her main topic – music became part of her explanations on how the universe works. Going through her works looking for clues as to her main vision, I did not find that she had one overarching theory about how music works esoterically. What I found was more fragmentary, but suggestive non the less.

Perhaps most important for practical reasons is that she notes in Isis Unveiled (Vol. 1, p. 275) that certain types of music can put us in a frenzy, while others evoke religious aspirations. She uses it as an example to show that human beings respond to vibrations: music and colors.

The Mahatmas in their turn call music ‘the most divine and spiritual of arts’ (ML Chronological 85B, (8))

Blavatsky wrote thrilling spiritual stories. They are usually close to the genre of ghost stories or thrillers – but with occult ideas wrapped in. A few of them give a crucial part to music and it’s occult influence. One of her most thrilling spiritual stories is The Ensouled violin (longer version). Another story in which music plays an essential part is The Cave of the Echoes.

In Isis Unveiled (vol. 1, p. 544) H.P. Blavatsky notes that the Ancient Egyptians knew how to use music to heal nervous disorders. [I want to note that in my time as a teacher at a school for special education I found that for many of those kids music was one of their lifelines to normalcy and harmony. Indeed – some could sing very well. Pity I couldn’t have doubled as a music teacher, as the school had none. Blavatsky also discusses people using music as a cure in Isis, vol. 1, p. 215]

In her article ‘Occult or Exact Science’ she goes into a phenomenon that have come to be scientifically studied recently: that some people connect colors to sound, and hear music with certain smells and so on. The technical term is synaesthesia – and wikipedia shares that although the details vary per individual, there are indeed general trends. Higher tones will usually be seen as lighter colors for instance.  Esoterically Blavatsky connects colors to notes in her Esoteric Instructions (CW. Vol. 12, p. 561, 562)

All in all – enough food for thought, I would think 🙂 .