Sacred Music, the Seven Castles of the Soul, and Jewish-Muslim Encounters

Welcome to our July newsletter.

We begin our monthly selection with an article on “Sacred Music and Hindu Religious Experience: From Ancient Roots to the Modern Classical Tradition.” It gives us a summary of the cosmological and spiritual import of traditional Hindu music, with links to listen to various pieces of the Khayal genre, shared by Muslim and Hindu artists alike. Read and listen!

Music is directly connected to the notion of Nada-Brahman or sacred sound. The lyrics contain the reference to Nada as divided into Anahata (unstruck sound) and Ahata (struck sound) and as being the source or fountainhead of the Svaras or musical notes, which are sung with reference to parts of the body and the twenty-two microtones.

• A contribution by Luce López-Baralt, “Teresa of Jesus and Islam: The Simile of the Seven Concentric Castles of the Soul”, explores medieval silent dialogues between Christians and Muslims, and how the cultural context in which a mystic lives may colour and help to give symbolic form to the experiences which are by nature beyond language.

You do not have to understand these dwellings one behind another like something in a thread; but instead, place your eyes on the center, which is the piece or palace where the king is, and consider it like a palmetto, which to arrive at the edible part has many coverings.

• We conclude with an historical article by Sara Sviri, “Jewish–Muslim Mystical Encounters in the Middle Ages,” carefully delineating the flow and exchange of metaphysical and mystical doctrines between East and West and between Jewish and Muslim communities in Al-Andalus. A number of fine points of comparative studies among the mightiest Kabbalistic and Sufi masters are discussed, including the various types and trends of Judaeo-Arabic spirituality within the major trends in Jewish mysticism.

It is the religious act in itself, in its concrete actuality and physicality, which reflects and embodies God’s creative powers. By carefully performing the commandments, the worshipper, in a mysterious way, participates in God’s work and its influence in the cosmos.