Rules for Solitaries and Metaphysics of Music

Welcome to our July newsletter, dear readers.

We begin this month’s selection with two of the most influential documents of the Western monastic tradition, the Rule of Saint Benedict and the Rule of Saint Columbanus, which have for centuries inspired and guided the spiritual and practical lives of countless communities throughout the world.

St Benedict’s is longer, with a broader scope, going into many particulars of everyday life,

We believe that God is present everywhere and that the eyes of the Lord behold the good and the bad in every place. Let us firmly believe this, especially when we take part in the Work of God. Let us, therefore, always be mindful of what the Prophet saith, “Serve ye the Lord with fear” (Ps 2:11). And again, “Sing ye wisely” (Ps 46:8). And, “I will sing praise to Thee in the sight of the angels” (Ps 137:1).

• St Columbanus’ (not Columba or Colum Cille) was a 7th-century Irish missionary mainly associated with foundations at Luxeuil and Bobbio. This Rule attributed to him dwells only a little on practical matters, to go instead into the particulars of the inner life of the monks.

The true tradition of prayer varies so that the capacity of the person devoted to it should be able to perdure without undermining his vow. It also depends on whether one can actually do it and whether one’s mental capacity allows for it, considering the necessities of one’s life. It should also be varied as the fervor of each one requires, according to whether he is free or alone, to how much learning he has, to how much leisure he has, to how much zeal he has, or at what age he arrived at the monastery. And so the realization of this one ideal should be variously valued, for the demands of work and place must be taken into account. So although the length of standing or singing may be varied, a person will achieve equal perfection in prayer of the heart and continual attention to God.

• And to complete our monthly selection we present a chapter by Alain Daniélou on the metaphysics of music in a comparative perspective, bringing to our attention fundamental aspects of the place of music—primarily though not only ritual music—in religion, politics and generally in preserving the order of the microcosm and the macrocosm.

For the world to be in a state of equilibrium, its different elements need to be harmonized. Since music expresses the relations between human and cosmic orders, it must respect the exact intervals on which these relations are based, as determined by the traditional data that define those relations. Disregard for such an obvious law necessarily leads to a breakdown of equilibrium and social disorder.