Where the Music Is …

It is a pleasure to share this article by the inspiring mystical teacher, Will Johnson:

“Take me to Church,” sings the Irish singer-songwriter Hozier (although his idea of “church” is not a house of worship, but the union of lovers).  What his song perfectly underscores, however, is that Church has always been where the music is.

As we enter the 21st century, music is everywhere, and the world’s young are more likely to be seen gliding along wearing Dr. Dre headphones than attending traditional venues of worship.

Forget about Esperanto.  Music is now the universal language, but its near ubiquity tends to make us forget that, up until the middle of last century, music was a sublime rarity and mostly only ever heard in the context of religious worship:  in Gregorian chant, the singing of Jewish cantors, the muzzein’s call to prayer, the earth shaking sound of a grand pipe organ, the ecstatic hymns of bhakti mystics and Southern Baptists alike.

The I Ching tells us that “music has power to ease tension within the heart and to loosen the grip of obscure emotions.”  This healing power is the action of real religion, and music is one of its most reliable actors.

If church is indeed where the music is, then the whole world now appears to have become an expanded church, promoting a gospel of the easing of tension, the loosening of emotional holding, the breaking through to the sublime, and this is happening as much on our city streets and in our dance clubs as in our more traditional houses of worship.

Joshua is recorded as having brought down the walls of Jericho with sound alone (they may have been real walls; they are certainly, metaphorically, the walls encasing our hearts).  Technologies like iAwake send binaural frequencies into our bodies through our ears, altering patterns of brain waves and even appearing to break up bodily tensions that keep the natural expression of our hearts enclosed (not perhaps unlike how blasts of ultrasound frequency break up kidney stones).

Young people dance together all night long at raves, their bodies reverberating to the sounds of drum and bass instead of a pipe organ.  The most sacred mass gathering I ever attended was my very first Grateful Dead show in 1969 at which I–and everyone else in the audience, in a single moment of exaltation–became a dancer.

When you sit in meditation and hum, the sound can be felt to vibrate through your entire body.  Take me to church indeed.

Many years ago, while visiting Malaysia, I saw a young man sporting a T-shirt that proclaimed “music is the weapon of the future.”  The music that is being so incessantly broadcast around the world today is music that makes our bodies want to move, and it’s going to be increasingly difficult to force-feed stale and hateful dogma to a young person whose body has connected with its impulse to move, to dance, to express itself with joy.

So let’s all become soldiers in this new army of peace, bombarding the world not with weapons of destruction but weapons that melt and dissolve hatred, creating healing in ourselves and others through every note we hear and play, giving our bodies permission to move whether we’re responding to the ear shattering beats in a club or the subtle rhythm of the breath as we sit on our meditation cushion.

Take me to church?  We’re already there.

You can explore Will Johnson’s innovative work at www.embodiment.net