Although he begins by speaking of the effects of music on animals, including his own experiments of playing music to cows and peacocks, Hazrat Inayat Khan quickly moves on to the spiritual effects of music on Sufis.
To speak now of the effect of music on animals: it is best to make experiments with those animals that are much associated with man, such as the horse, the dog, the cows and oxen, and pet animals such as parrots and cockatoos. By association with man, these animals have some human qualities reflected onto them. The horse that is associated with man has much more kindness, much more sympathy and understanding than the horse in the jungle. The dog that lives with man becomes faithful, obedient; the wild dog is a very fierce animal.
I have made experiments with cows and found that they liked very much to listen to music. There was one old ox in particular which, when it heard an instrument played, would leave its fodder and come to listen. The birds are very fond of music. I have seen that a peacock, when music was played before it, would listen and spread out its wings and begin to dance, and then it would follow the player, and each day it would come a little nearer. It took such a delight in the music that it danced and quite forgot everything else. When I stopped playing it would come and tap the vina with its beak to get me to come back and play again.
The snakes, too, are easily attracted by music, by the Indian flute, a piece of bamboo, or by the vina if they hear it. But the vina players are serious people, and would rather charm human beings then the snakes. A special raga is used for charming snakes.
The yogis and the Sufis in their meditations have always had music. Music is the greatest mystery in the world. The whole manifestation is made of vibrations, and vibrations contain all its secret. The vibrations of music free the soul, and take from a person all the heaviness which keeps him bound.
There is this difference between the Sufis and yogis and all other mystics: their ideas, their thoughts, and their life are quite the same, but you will see the Sufis sometimes in tears and sometimes in joy. Worldly persons think, “They are mad,” and mystics may think, “They are on the surface. They are not on the same level.” To the Sufi, self-pity, tears at what happens to the self, are haram, prohibited, but tears at the thought of the Beloved, at the realization of some truth, are allowable. Extreme joy for what happens to the self is not allowable, but joy in the thought of the Beloved is allowable. The heart is touched, it is moved by the thought of God. It is then that the dervishes dance. Sometimes the dance expresses the action of the Beloved, sometimes it is the face of the Beloved.
The Sufis have used music, not as an amusement, but as purification, as a prayer to God. The Chishti Order of Sufis especially uses music. This Order exists chiefly in India, and has come from Russia – “Chishti” in Russian means “pure,” and “Sufi, safa,” means “pure.” There are different means of purification. According to our view, all seems good or all seems bad. The old Greek motto says, “Evil is to him who thinks evil.” Music reaches the soul in a moment, as the telegraph reaches from here to New York. What may seem an amusement, something light, is a prayer to God. There are different ways of praying to God. In times when the world was most interested in music, art, science, and amusement, these were used to bring before people the idea of something higher. Music and plays have been used, and the churches have used some sort of show. If you go among people of other occupations, you will find them cold. They will pay little attention, they will speak to you just one word. But the heart of musicians, who have to do with sound, is warmed by sound.