Finding the tonic note

When Hazrat Inayat Khan sailed to the west in 1910, he was filled with deep emotion and a high sense of anticipation.  He had always been attracted to the west, and judging from comments in his autobiography, he felt there was some vast, divine purpose behind this journey, but it was a purpose that only became clear with time.  During years of constant journeying, he came to understand that his life’s mission was not to serve music; in India, music was the shrine where he had offered his soul to the divine, but in the west, he recognised that he was called to serve humanity by delivering the divine message.

It is not a new message; if there is truth in it, it cannot be different from the same message that has been given again and again to the world through the millennia.  Therefore, although it has been called ‘the Sufi Message,’ it was not created by the Sufis and does not belong to them; it belongs to all, for it has come from the Creator of all.  The expression only means that it is now the responsibility (but not the exclusive responsibility) of the Sufis to serve and spread this precious gift.

The message has also been called, ‘the Message of Love, Harmony and Beauty,’ which is perhaps a clearer description.  There is an exquisite inter-relationship between these three terms.  It is the perception of beauty that awakens love; for the sake of love we naturally seek to make harmony; harmony is the essential foundation of beauty–and so the circle continues, if only we tend it properly.

Love is a subject that we feel we know, although a wise person would say, “I wish I knew it better.”  Similarly we each have our view of beauty, although a thoughtful person will observe that our ideal is not fixed but evolves constantly throughout life.  But what can we say about harmony? Every person appreciates harmony, but who can say what it is, or how to achieve it? Inasmuch as harmony is the quality of a relationship – between two musical notes or between two people, for example – there is an infinite field for its expression, and that which promotes harmony in one moment may not do so in another.  This elusiveness  is shown in the list of qualities expressed in the so-called 99 Names of God.  There are several that relate to love and beauty, but none that refers explicitly to harmony.

Discussing this quality in ‘The Mysticism of Sound’ (in vol. II of the Message series) Hazrat Inayat speaks of two aspects of personal harmony.  One is the harmony of body and soul, the integration necessary to make a person a whole, human being.  Not surprisingly, he urges the seeker to keep in view that the satisfaction of the body does not necessarily serve the longing of the soul.  He writes: The outlet of all earthly passions gives a momentary satisfaction, yet creates a tendency for more; in this struggle the satisfaction of the soul is overlooked by man, who is constantly busied in the pursuit of his earthly enjoyment and comfort, depriving the soul of its true bliss. The true delight of the soul lies in love, harmony, and beauty, the outcome of which is wisdom, calm, and peace; the more constant they are the greater is the satisfaction of the soul.

The other aspect of personal harmony, according to this text, is learning to harmonise with others: often difficult and frustrating, for it relates to the interaction of two egos, our own and that of the other person. How can that be accomplished?  A clue lies in the structure of music: the notes of a scale (and therefore, of a composition) may not all be in harmony with each other, but the tonic or ‘do’ of a scale will be in harmony with all the other notes.  For that reason it is called the keynote.  When we experience disharmony with another, then, we could try to dig deeper into the matter until we find the tonic, that note where our spirit is in harmony with the other person.  We need not give up our note, nor need the other person give up theirs; both notes have their place in the composition.  All that is needed is that we become conscious of the note where our separate tones resolve, and then we will find harmony.

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