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Music and Philosophy/Esotericism as a way of self exploration

edited September 5 in Off-topic

For a long time I have been struggling with finding a way to combine my interest in philosophy and esotericism with my strong inner need to express myself through music. I have a well developed left brain, but I’m also a visual thinker and someone who resonates with symbolism and atmosphere expressed through music.

My struggle boils down to the fact that I find it hard to express myself musically in a way that satisfies my search for self knowledge and truth. Maybe I’m trying too hard or maybe I am trying to use music as an instrument to a goal for which it is not suited. That being said, I’m drawn to musical acts and genres in which the musicians try to convey a certain concept or view on life. Genres like black metal, ambient and ritual music have a strong connection to self exploration. Often these musicians don’t rely on sound alone, but also use visuals and words to convey the feelings and ideas they want to express.

In short: I’m interested in your ideas on this broad topic. I’d love to develop an ongoing dialogue and possibly a musical collaboration with people who, like me, are driven by their search for truth and are enchanted by the mysteries of life. I’m open to all kinds of perspectives, but would like to meet people who are serious and determined in their approach and feel a similar urge to express themselves in the way I described.

I’m aware of the fact that I’m kind of exploring a niche here and that many people make music in a much more layed back manner, without straining some much. That’s fine of course. I’m just hoping to connect to people who have similar struggles and goals. Thank you for your interest and I’m looking forward to reading your 5 cents.

Ps. Writing on the above topic can be quite cumbersome. I’m open to a Skype conversation if you’re seriously interested in this topic. My native language is dutch, but I feel quite at home in both the english and german language, so feel free to respond in your mother tongue.

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Comments

  • The main roadblock to deep expression musically for me comes down to lack of skill. To be free to flow in creativity, one needs to not have to think about how to get those thoughts and emotions from the brain to the instrument. Some are born with talent that allows them to bond with an instrument, or instruments, such as their voice, a guitar, a piano. Some develop it. But all need that ability or creativity is stifled.

    Developing that level of conversant skill, for those of us who do not have it naturally, is key. Fortunately, one can pursue it both separately (disengaging the creative and working on the mechanics), and together (forcing oneself not to worry about quality of execution but on expression).

    Distraction by the many, many shiny new toys on iOS, can be a problem, unless the breaking out of routines opens new learning pathways, which often it does.

    I feel like creative blockages are finally starting to break down and I'm finally re-entering an expressive zone. Paradoxically, my "need" to express myself musically is diminishing. Maybe there's a relation there. Like when I was no longer living abroad, failing under the pressing need to learn French, and returned years later to find I could now converse effortlessly.

    I dunno ... just ramblings. I'll be very interested in following this thread. B)

  • edited September 5

    For me all acts of creativity and expression are a manifestation of what God has divined in each of us to create for our fellow brothers and sisters. A symbolic act of inspiring and moving the spirit in others.

    Whether it be art, music, poetry or presenting ideas in my day to day life, I seek first God for my guidance and intention to manifest my work which I then express. He is my foundation when I AM struggling to convey a concept, when I seek to understand my intention when framing together a song or product idea...for I know that when I come from this place, insight and direction emerges.

    FWIW, in my many years around this planet I have sought different ways of triggering the 'muses', of gaining esoteric insight into the act of creation...the Surrealist method of automatic writing and hypnagogic reverie were tools I used a lot...but they always left me empty...wanting more...as if I were a leaf twirling down river, I yearned for a deeper connection to the banks along this river of life...it took years to realize the right way for myself. I was reborn a Christian and took Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and ever since that day, when I seek insight into a new idea or a new song, or the right way to present an idea to a larger team, I lean on HIM with all my spirit and listen for his guidance. He never fails me. It is amazing how insightful and 'truth' laden the Psalms and Proverbs are for me.

    God and his Spirit provides me with endless reserves of energy, for I know it is him working thru me which allows me to be creative and insightful as I develop daily, my craft of divinely inspired creativity.

    How is this done you might ask?
    Simple, "Ask and you shall receive...for it is done..."

    I thought since you asked, I'd toss my personal perspective into the mix.

    Cheers!
    -echo opera

  • wimwim
    edited September 5

    @echoopera is an example to me of someone who has found that expressive link in what I used to consider a non-conventional way. As opposed to highly developed musical chops that allow direct expression to a traditional instrument, he has made the connection with sequencers, FX, generative apps, etc, in ways that allow him to express himself through pure melodic and atmospheric, seemingly effortlessly. It's inspiring and fun to watch. :)

    (not saying he doesn't have musical chops too. ;) )

  • @wim
    Hahaha. Thanks mate. My chops are mutten at best 🤪👊🏼™️

  • @Wim, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate it.

    First of all, I’m happy to read you’re entering the creative phase again. I recognise the problems you mention. The hurdles of “skill” and “abundance of musical toys” can really hinder the creative process. Related to that, I’ve discovered that my personal need to express my philosophical side tends to go hand in hand with wanting to create complex music: i.e.: many layers, many notes, lots of brainwork.

    To balance that extreme, I’m drifting to soundscapes and types of music that focus on atmosphere and minimalsim instead of complex architecture. I find that my body and feelings react in much more direct way when choosing this approach.

  • Investigate Gurdjieff. He was very connected philosophically and metaphysically to music and dance. Thanks for the thread. My kind of topic in this vast binary wasteland 😈.

  • There is no zero datum.

    There is only higher than, lower than, or the same as.

  • it might be impossible not to express yourself, just a thought...

  • +1 for @LinearLineman.

    Start with the chapter on the moon to get things rolling, then read as you like...

    https://www.holybooks.com/wp-content/uploads/The-Theory-of-Celestial-Influence.pdf

  • @LinearLineman I came across Gurdjieff a few years ago. Just like Rudolf Steiner he has written extensively on music/art in relation to truth. Being the left brained critter that I am, I’m trying to resist the urge to consume more books. Instead, or parallel to that, I want to just grab my guitar and other musical tools and just express myself. But then, I feel this pendulum movement in me, swinging from the conceptual to the purely experience oriented side. When my mind boils over I just want to drown myself in a pool of primordial atmosphere. That is where my fondness of atmospheric black metal, ambient, post rock, ritual music, etc. comes from.

  • @kobamoto said:
    it might be impossible not to express yourself, just a thought...

    You’re absolutely right about that. The problem is not that I’m unable to express myself, but my constant self criticism and insecurity concerning the “truth” of my expression. It is a process of discovering the measuring sticks you’re unconsciously using and which have as much of a constructive as a limiting effect. But then again, once these questions pop up, the left brain takes over again. Perpetuum Mobile :)

  • edited September 5

    Regardless of whether you like their style of music, ideas or way of life, the musicians in the following video series are inspiring examples of people who try to find a way of musically expressing themselves that suits their needs :

  • Maarten, my knowledge of this part of G’s dogma does not go very deep, but I think he put his ideas into practice in both music and dance. Respectfully and humorously it sounds like you are driving yourself a bit crazy with a one or the other position. You can have it all.

    Tho not very interested philosophically, I have had a deep connection to a simple spirituality in making music. Get myself out of the way and let the music come thru. Lots of folks here use that direction, I believe. It took effort for me personally to have that happen more than not. Of course, now I am too old to care one way or the other.

    Maybe you need to put this particular question to the side and investigate the connection between feeling and the mind. To talk about making “music” can depersonalize it, IMO. To talk about feeling gets more to the heart of the matter and leaves your actual musical experiences unimpaired by too much intellectual investigation. The philosophy of feeling, perhaps?

  • Thank you LinearLineman, I think Zappa would wholeheartedly agree with you: shut up ‘n play yur guitar ;)

  • wimwim
    edited September 5

    @LinearLineman said:
    Maarten, my knowledge of this part of G’s dogma does not go very deep, but I think he put his ideas into practice in both music and dance. Respectfully and humorously it sounds like you are driving yourself a bit crazy with a one or the other position. You can have it all.

    Tho not very interested philosophically, I have had a deep connection to a simple spirituality in making music. Get myself out of the way and let the music come thru. Lots of folks here use that direction, I believe. It took effort for me personally to have that happen more than not. Of course, now I am too old to care one way or the other.

    Maybe you need to put this particular question to the side and investigate the connection between feeling and the mind. To talk about making “music” can depersonalize it, IMO. To talk about feeling gets more to the heart of the matter and leaves your actual musical experiences unimpaired by too much intellectual investigation. The philosophy of feeling, perhaps?

    Music, art, dance ... doesn't matter the mode of expression. The essential piece is how successful the connection between the psyche and the expression of it is. This is bounded by our perception of the success of that expression. Someone alone in a room just expressing how they feel through movement, free of any need to appear skillful to anyone, including their own self, may have that connection completely. The same for finger painting or wailing on a harmonica. It's when we constrain ourselves to an acceptable level of skill in our own eyes or the world that we get bottled up.

    But of course, the need to express is most often coupled with the need for others to understand and / or appreciate. Hence the need to master a language, in some degree, in that media.

  • @wim said:
    The main roadblock to deep expression musically for me comes down to lack of skill. To be free to flow in creativity, one needs to not have to think about how to get those thoughts and emotions from the brain to the instrument. Some are born with talent that allows them to bond with an instrument, or instruments, such as their voice, a guitar, a piano. Some develop it. But all need that ability or creativity is stifled.

    Developing that level of conversant skill, for those of us who do not have it naturally, is key. Fortunately, one can pursue it both separately (disengaging the creative and working on the mechanics), and together (forcing oneself not to worry about quality of execution but on expression).

    Distraction by the many, many shiny new toys on iOS, can be a problem, unless the breaking out of routines opens new learning pathways, which often it does.

    I feel like creative blockages are finally starting to break down and I'm finally re-entering an expressive zone. Paradoxically, my "need" to express myself musically is diminishing. Maybe there's a relation there. Like when I was no longer living abroad, failing under the pressing need to learn French, and returned years later to find I could now converse effortlessly.

    I dunno ... just ramblings. I'll be very interested in following this thread. B)

    I think there’s a lot of truth in what you say here, especially that last bit about returning to France and realising you could now converse fluently. I do stuff like that all the time, albeit in a lesser form. For example, I struggle to learn new stuff when teaching (not music, btw) and find it hard going, but once I stop thinking about it it all somehow magically fits together. I think trying hard stifles the fluency, but then I forget about it and it all comes naturally. But now I’m rambling!

  • Maarten, No, don’t stop, IMO. I guess the thing is to look closely but not lose your balance. Changing the question subtly can often relieve a lot of pain and create new insights. Good luck to all of us!

  • No you're not, you're expressing yourself. :D

  • I study flamenco guitar. Part of my reason for doing this is influenced by Taoist thought, especially as it became expressed in Zen. This is just my interpretation of the philosophy, but I think of what i’m doing as in some way similar to what Eugen Herrigel found and wrote about in Zen and the Art of Archery.

  • @Maarten said:
    For a long time I have been struggling with finding a way to combine my interest in philosophy and esotericism with my strong inner need to express myself through music. I have a well developed left brain, but I’m also a visual thinker and someone who resonates with symbolism and atmosphere expressed through music.

    My struggle boils down to the fact that I find it hard to express myself musically in a way that satisfies my search for self knowledge and truth. Maybe I’m trying too hard or maybe I am trying to use music as an instrument to a goal for which it is not suited. That being said, I’m drawn to musical acts and genres in which the musicians try to convey a certain concept or view on life. Genres like black metal, ambient and ritual music have a strong connection to self exploration. Often these musicians don’t rely on sound alone, but also use visuals and words to convey the feelings and ideas they want to express.

    In short: I’m interested in your ideas on this broad topic. I’d love to develop an ongoing dialogue and possibly a musical collaboration with people who, like me, are driven by their search for truth and are enchanted by the mysteries of life. I’m open to all kinds of perspectives, but would like to meet people who are serious and determined in their approach and feel a similar urge to express themselves in the way I described.

    I’m aware of the fact that I’m kind of exploring a niche here and that many people make music in a much more layed back manner, without straining some much. That’s fine of course. I’m just hoping to connect to people who have similar struggles and goals. Thank you for your interest and I’m looking forward to reading your 5 cents.

    Ps. Writing on the above topic can be quite cumbersome. I’m open to a Skype conversation if you’re seriously interested in this topic. My native language is dutch, but I feel quite at home in both the english and german language, so feel free to respond in your mother tongue.

    Lots to discuss.

    I wonder what experience you have had exploring alpha waves, and other studies with sounds, frequencies, and emotions.

    I would start there for what you say.

    Philosophy is less part of my music, it is more psychology and sometimes sociology for me.

    My philosophy evolves from self. I don't try to see through another's eyes, rather see if I think a way I could imagine what a person would see through mine.

  • DB said talking about music is like dancing about architecture.

  • edited September 5

    Hi Maarten,

    Forget all the artifices you've put up, they are barriers to creativity i.e. truth, meaning, religion, etc. Get an instrument of your choosing, learn how to play it really well in a number of different styles, plus learn how the masters of composition approached your chosen instrument. That's lifelong learning, and through lifelong learning you will find what you need, but it will not be the answers you now hope for. Taking some science courses would be a good idea as well, because contrary to popular notions, a disciplined mind is open to creativity.

  • Maarten you have been here a while friend...like to see you post more often!

  • I’m just join to say: research in Radionics.
    I didn’t read more than the first post and I’m not going to say nothing else.
    PM if you read this and need more but don’t expect more clear response if you haven’t your homework done before.

    Only these who know will understand

    Peace.

  • edited September 5

    @Maarten said:

    @kobamoto said:
    it might be impossible not to express yourself, just a thought...

    You’re absolutely right about that. The problem is not that I’m unable to express myself, but my constant self criticism and insecurity concerning the “truth” of my expression. It is a process of discovering the measuring sticks you’re unconsciously using and which have as much of a constructive as a limiting effect. But then again, once these questions pop up, the left brain takes over again. Perpetuum Mobile :)

    I agree with your sentiments, I think there is a lot in the thought of letting go of insecurities, but then again There is a train of thought that goes something like even when you lie you're being honest because at that moment you're honestly a liar. At every moment it's possible that you might just be being the maximum you that you can be at that moment, and if that's the case then you'd also be expressing yourself at the maximum amount possible at that time, I'm not sure if there is a way to really tell. Purity might just be a constant because even the act of holding back or restricting ones self is in the moment something that you as who you are would do for whatever reason you/ the person you are would do it.

  • @kobamoto said:

    @Maarten said:

    @kobamoto said:
    it might be impossible not to express yourself, just a thought...

    You’re absolutely right about that. The problem is not that I’m unable to express myself, but my constant self criticism and insecurity concerning the “truth” of my expression. It is a process of discovering the measuring sticks you’re unconsciously using and which have as much of a constructive as a limiting effect. But then again, once these questions pop up, the left brain takes over again. Perpetuum Mobile :)

    I agree with your sentiments, I think there is a lot in the thought of letting go of insecurities, but then again There is a train of thought that goes something like even when you lie you're being honest because at that moment you're honestly a liar. At every moment it's possible that you might just be being the maximum you that you can be at that moment, and if that's the case then you'd also be expressing yourself at the maximum amount possible at that time, I'm not sure if there is a way to really tell. Purity might just be a constant because even the act of holding back or restricting ones self is in the moment something that you as who you are would do for whatever reason you/ the person you are would do it.

    Good point.

  • edited September 5

    @kobamoto, well spoken, but it is a dangerous and hard to accept path in extremis. By this way of thinking the murderer and rapist are just doing the best they can. The fanatical advaita vedantists will tell you so. No blame.

  • edited September 5

    My musical journey started off being one of avoidance.
    I didn't want to think anymore so I picked up my drumsticks and
    became a drummer which it turned out I had a talent for.
    The journey after picking up the sticks ended up being one of academia which
    I had tried to avoid, metaphysics, cultural exploration, spiritual understanding
    on many levels, an exploration of my ancestry and others worldwide,
    journeys through joy, depression, developing new coping mechanisms
    and letting go of old ones, psychology, meditation and eventually learning how to be Zen.
    Physically I have almost mastered bass, guitar, percussion, drums, voice,
    production and eventually let go of even the pursuit of Mastery and learnt how to
    create a space within myself that embodies what I consider to be Peace.
    I have seen God and the Devil for want of a better description and Evil is human.

    Music is spirituality beyond the Good books,
    it transcends the Abrahamic faiths, it truly is universal.
    Whether it comes out in dance (I've been a dancer as well)
    or playing an instrument it comes from us yet is beyond us.
    I could be in a jungle and the music of the forest will sing to me
    or in the heart of the city and music still sings to me.

    There is no difference.

    The art forms you create are a reflection for want of a better word of you.
    The outer you and the innermost you.
    Forgive me as I find words clumsy these days as I spent almost ten years
    delving into music on all levels with minimum amounts of conversation.

    Without or within, music is there.
    Harmoniously or dissonant.

    You will find everything there.

    Good, bad, right, wrong,
    God, the Devil,
    Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, Krishna,
    Shango, Paganism,
    War and Peace.

    Combine all of the art forms and you will find yourself
    Combine all of the art forms and you will find everyone.

    Remove all of the art forms and you will see existence.

    To quantify music from the stand point of a religion will blind you.
    To let yourself go into the stream of Art will free you.

    Spiritually, mindfully and physically.

  • @Gravitas said:
    The art forms you create are a reflection for want of a better word of you.
    The outer you and the innermost you.

    Oh yay! The essence of my being is four bar loops in E-Phrygian that I sometimes think are new, but are actually regurgitations from my past. Lol! :D :# B)

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