Music as Sacred and Healing, Black Spirituality, continued

Imagination and the arts tap into soul and soul uses them as an instrument for expressing its wisdom. Says Dona Marimba Richards,

Alvin Ailey’s Vernard J. Gilmore performs an excerpt of Hope Boykin’s r-Evolution, Dream. in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Uploaded to YouTube by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Our deepest feelings are expressed through music, dance, and song; our most brilliant conceptions. Our profound and complex philosophy of life is expressed through these vehicles, and that is because we express ourselves, our essence, our souls through music, dance, and song. 

African cosmology does not separate life from religion, the “secular” from the “sacred.” For this reason one can say that Black music is sacred music.

The Mississippi Mass Choir with soloist Mosie Burks perform When I Rose This Morning by Jerry Smith. Uploaded to YouTube by malacomg

It is the expression of the divine within us. It expresses the interbeing, the profound unity between self and the community, the community and the universe.

By it one feels a part of the whole. 

In music the human and the Divine meet…. When we see beauty in the world, we sing. When we want to express how much faith we have in spirit, we sing. When the world is ugly and life is hard, we sing. 

The result is an extraordinary contribution of creative imagination to culture at large. 

Grandpa Elliott and Clarence Bekker sing the blues with Playing For Change in Brazil

Black suffering gave birth to the blues. Just as Black suffering and Black hope gave birth to the spirituals. As Africans, we say everything in music.

Indiana poet laureate Norbert Krapf, in his book Catholic Boy Blues, tells the story how he was sexually abused by his pastor as an altar boy in his small town in Indiana and that wandering into a blues club as a young teen-ager was the beginning of his healing.  It took him fifty years to tell his story—which he did through poetry.

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performs “Wade in the Water” from Revelations. Uploaded to YouTube by World Dance for Humanity.

Dance, too, along with the drum and music, is part of the spiritual language that is too deep for verbal expression alone.  In dance, the relation of interbeing and cosmology comes alive. As Dona Richards puts it: 

Through dance we experience reality as immediate to us; that is, we are identified with the universe…. We have experienced cosmic interrelationship…. Dance, for us, is a religious expression. When we dance, through Rhythm, we express ourselves as cosmic beings. Rhythm is what causes the dance—it is Ntu, the Universal Life Force (or Spirit) that revitalizes.

FOLI (there is no movement without rhythm) original version by Thomas Roebers and Floris Leeuwenberg. Dedicated to the people of Baro. Uploaded to YouTube by thomas roebers

Drum locates the Rhythm and communicates it, until finally we are able to find it within us…. The fact that Rhythm exists “outside” of us, “before” us, and yet can only be manifested in and through us, is a statement of the organic interrelationship of the cosmic order.

Notice the role that cosmos and psyche play in our efforts to link up both. Consider Thomas Aquinas: “The greatest thing about the human being is our capacity for the universe.”  Music, dance and rhythm provides that link between cosmos and psyche again.

In Rhythm all reality, all being is joined. Ntu animates the entire universe. To be touched by it is to know that all being is spirit. To find Ntu and Rhythm is to be in tune with the universe. It is said that the Drum is Africa.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells, pp. 242f.

Also see Matthew Fox, Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet.

See Norbert Krapf, Catholic Boy Blues.

Banner Image: “The Time of His Life” by Michael Paredes, Unsplash

Have you, like Norbert Krapf, found deep healing by listening to the blues?  Do you also make cosmic connections through music and rhythm?

One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths

Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet

Because creativity is the key to both our genius and beauty as a species but also to our capacity for evil, we need to teach creativity and to teach ways of steering this God-like power in directions that promote love of life (biophilia) and not love of death (necrophilia). Pushing well beyond the bounds of conventional Christian doctrine, Fox’s focus on creativity attempts nothing less than to shape a new ethic.
“Matt Fox is a pilgrim who seeks a path into the church of tomorrow.  Countless numbers will be happy to follow his lead.” –Bishop John Shelby Spong, author, Rescuing the Bible from FundamentalismLiving in Sin

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1 thought on “Music as Sacred and Healing, Black Spirituality, continued”

  1. Avatar

    Thank you for all you give and do, this is such a delight to awaken to each morning and I feel the Benedictus
    of such beauty as JOY…. no matter what is occurring in my outer life, my inner being is pure mirth ! Such is the Divine and Her Wisdom supports and calms the turbulent waters yet that is pure surface and diving deeper
    into the void is the best gift of all.

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