Michael Garfield – How To Live in the Future: MG on the Spiritual Significance of Music

18 March 2009

MG on the Spiritual Significance of Music

Originally published at XtremeMusic.org.


My academic training was in evolutionary biology, ecology, and integral theory: the study of articulating as many perspectives as possible in order to honor the partial truth of each. So my understanding of music’s spiritual significance is fundamentally evolutionary, systemic, and pluralistic. Many things can be said about music and spirituality, including:

– That our entire universe is vibratory, and that order emerges through a series of harmonic relationships;

– That as micro-cosmic instances of the universe, we are the image of this fractal order, and so the study of music is literally the study of ourselves;

– That because of this nested and reciprocal relationship, human music is unparalleled in its effectiveness in evoking and engineering the states of our minds and bodies, both “mundane” and “sacred”;

– That music as a means of entraining minds and bodies, pre-verbal and psycho-physiological effects, as well as encoding dense multi-layered information, verbal and trans-verbal, frequently culture-specific messages, is an exemplary method of communication and intersubjective bonding/community development, which is the original meaning of “religion”: re-ligate and re-connect.

From an “integral” perspective, we can find the spiritual dimensions of music through methods as diverse as empiricism, psychology, hermeneutics, introspection, sociology, systems theory, art, and anthropology. Each of these discloses some aspect of music’s wondrous nature. I like to contemplate how music can be understood from each of the classical seven chakras, as a vehicle for each: as food and vital force, as sex and mutuality, as self and sociality, as justice and compassion, as expression and communication, as vision and insight, and as non-dual identity: the groundless and eternal, omnidirectional and intrinsically significant “play” of creativity.