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Harmonies of Heaven and Earth: Mysticism in Music from Antiquity to the Avant-Garde Paperback – November 1, 1987

4.3 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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  • Harmonies of Heaven and Earth: Mysticism in Music from Antiquity to the Avant-Garde
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Through a rich, eclectic mix of mythological, philosophical, literary, and scientific references, the deeper meanings of sound and music are revealed." (Gnosis)

From the Back Cover

MUSIC / PHILOSOPHY

What lies beneath the surface of music and what gives it its transcendent power? For many people, music is the primary catalyst for experiences of expanded consciousness. Musicians and lovers of music--all those who have ever reflected on its inner reality--feel that a true philosophy of music cannot deal with physics and psychology alone. It must include the universal and mystical aspect of which Plato, Kepler, Rameau, and Novalis wrote, and of which Wagner said: “I feel that I am one with this vibrating Force, that it is omniscient, and that I can draw upon it to an extent that is limited only by my own capacity.” The spiritual power of music surfaces in folklore, myth, and mystical experience, embracing heaven and earth, heard as well as unheard harmonies.

Joscelyn Godwin explores music’s perceived effects on matter, living things, and human behavior. He then turns to metaphysical accounts of the higher worlds that are the birthplace of Harmony, following the path of musical inspiration on its descent to Earth, and illuminating the archetypal currents that lie beneath Western musical history. A final section gives the fullest account ever published of theories of celestial harmony, from Pythagoras to Rudolf Steiner and Marius Schneider.

JOSCELYN GODWIN, Professor of Music at Colgate University, is the author of The Harmony of the Spheres, Arktos: The Polar Myth, The Theosophical Enlightenment, and many other books on music and esoteric traditions.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Inner Traditions; Reissue edition (November 1, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0892815000
  • ISBN-13: 978-0892815005
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #694,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on December 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
This was the book which started my continuing quest for information regarding the foundation of music. It is a difficult read ONLY because one needs a huge background covering many individuals--Pythagoras, Kepler, Fludd, Hermes Trismegistus, Gurdjieff, the theosophists Blavatsky, Steiner, and Scott--all of whom I had but scant knowledge prior to reading this book. Godwin covers a wealth of information but only touches briefly on each: cosmology, the monochord, music of the spheres, temperment. I have reread this book several times; whole paragraphs are underlined. If you realize something is seriously wrong with the way music is presently used and abused by society, this book may be a starting point for you as it was for me six years ago.
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Format: Paperback
Though this may seem an unnecessary addition to my review, Professor Joscelyn Godwin is a professor I have had/will have again at Colgate University, and a man of utmost scholarship. That said, this book suffers from one minor flaw, not worth removing a star: his archaic writing style. Godwin's ideas are intelligent, thought-provoking, and well-presented...but his writing style is the kind that can make the average reader's eyes glaze over. Of course, the "average reader" will not be reading this book, but a bit of accessibility stylistically never hurt anybody...then again, who am I to judge Professor Godwin? He was just grading my papers, hehe.

Anyway, this book is brilliant. Vast amounts of information are thrown at the reader in a manageable and coherent fashion, and all the chapters follow a logical course of thought which supports the ultimate thesis that the universe we live in is a musical one, dominated by harmonies and melodies of untold beauty, not equations of mind-boggling complexity. His own 4 chapters are excellent forays into speculative music, presenting scientific evidence of the effects of music in the universe, as well as anecdotal/mythological excerpts to support the idea. At times, it seems as though fact and fiction are indistinct, and this would be an accurate view. But even Godwin himself notes this in Chapter 2. The ultimate relevance is that, whether fact or fiction, Godwin has touched upon some kind of truth (in my opinion), which his scientific evidence backs up, and his anecdotal/mythological evidence presents to us.

The final section is the clearest description of complex musical philosophies I have yet found.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Harmonies of Heaven and Earth is an intriguing read if you are musically inclined and have a background knowledge of both music and medieval metaphysics. For the lay person it is a little more difficult to wade through. Still, a lay person can gain an appreciation for both music and speculative knowledge of its effects on matter through a perusal of this book.

The author, Mr. Joscelyn Godwin, applies knowledge from folklore, and mysticism to the subject of music, introducing several themes including the linkage of music on matter, living things, and their behavior. He explores the affinity between music and the soul, and then he turns to medieval metaphysics, exploring the 'Chain of Being,' the birth place of music in higher realms of being and its descent to earth.

In his final chapters he discusses the musical scale and its correlations to planets, utilizing medieval conceptions of cosmology and their notions of the 'spheres.' For me, the most compelling part of this book was it gave insight into the medieval worldview and its ideal of a unified conception of the universe; a conception that was first shattered by Copernicus, then Einstein and the quantum physicists. We still await the unified theory that the medievalists believed they held in their grasps.

The downside of this book is there is little information on recent advances in science and the ways it would compel a re-conceptualization of music and its effects on matter. Instead, the reader wades through speculations on where Gurdjieff obtained his law of seven from, among other anecdotes that are not current science.

Still if one is interested in alchemy, hermetic knowledge, and esoteric lore this will make a nice edition to the library.
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This is an excellent book for those who are interested in the metaphysical, transcendent power of music! As a professional music therapist who sees the power that music has to facilitate changes within people on a daily basis,I highly recommend it!
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An amazing book on music and spirituality. The harmonies of the spheres become clear through this book. One has to be very familiar with both music and spirituality to better extract all the knowledge within this book.
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