The music here is in the prelude to Wagner’s Rheingold. The purpose of this piece is to depict the motion of the Rhine river. The pedal creates a constant drone and steady a framework for the rest of the orchestra to “flow” over top of. Although the river is in a constant state of movement, the actual concept of the river is solid and steady, which is being reflected and held down by the pedal point.
As a matter of interest, the music we have just been listening to, it has strict rules of harmony and counterpoint. There is one case in which all the rules are ignored, or can be ignored, and that is when there is what they call a pedal base, a steady, long, deep note unaltered in the deep register. Then all the rules which have guided the harmony in the counterpoint can be disregarded while that pedal-base continues. Well, it’s a little bit like the situation in life today. We are disregarding the rules which have been established by experience and tradition, as were the rules of harmony and counterpoint. It generally sounds dreadful when you break them, but in our modern life we have lost the deep unchanging pedal-base, so to speak, which would otherwise hold together all those irregularities. And Yoga is the search, a series of experiments – an experimental search, not simply an intellectual search – to find that pedal-base. There is something which continues and if we can realise it and establish it and sound it, so to speak, then all the difficulties on the surface will be resolved and brought together into an integration.
Generally we think of the events of life: “What’s happening? What I’m thinking. What you’re thinking. What has happened? What’s going to happen?” If you ask people generally to give some sort of representation of a tree, with no artistic skill particularly, they will just [draw the part above the ground]. But the Chinese character for ‘tree’ is: 木 and the origin of this character was the branches and the roots. Traditionally the Chinese thought of the whole tree – branches and roots, which are often much bigger than what’s above the ground. We tend to think only of what is above the ground and in the same way, in our personalities and behaviour, we tend to think and modify and try to change, improve or control what’s above the ground. We don’t know what the roots are from which our behaviour, thought and inspiration come.
Freud thought the unconscious can only wish. But that doesn’t account for the cases, the very many cases where, for instance on rising from deep sleep, a writer or a scientist or a musician, suddenly finds there is a new inspiration. It wasn’t with him when he went to sleep and he has the conscious labour of struggling to express this inspiration. He may turn his back on it. Berlioz records in his diaries that he had, on waking from sleep, a brilliant orchestral piece, full orchestral colouring. It was wonderful. And then he thought of the immense labour of getting it down and he turned over and went to sleep. He said it came once more and the same, but never again. But the inspiration was there. It can’t be accounted for by supposing the unconscious can only wish or that the unconscious is driven by power desires.
Now, Yoga seeks for what is deeper. One of the key words is purification. We tend to think: “Oh Lord no, not that. That means sort of sweeping things under the carpet, that’s all – and saying: ‘Isn’t my room beautiful’”. But that’s not what is meant by purification. I’m not a cook myself, I don’t know – but cooks tell you that before you begin to cook you must have the utensils perfectly clean. It’s no good, I gather, trying to make a delicate consommé when the wooden spoon with which you stir has got a lot of yesterday’s gravy on it. You’ve got to make everything perfectly clean. In a laboratory, the things have to be clean and pure and then meaningful treatment or meaningful experiments can be conducted, but not otherwise. This is the sense of purification. We must be able to clear our mind of all the rubbish of memories, anticipations, hopes, fears, dreads, ambitions and have it quite clean, like the cook when he is going to begin. Then these things can be utilised meaningfully – the different elements of our personality can be utilised.
People think: “Oh you can’t do that, it means cutting away part of yourself”. Not at all. These things are not part of ourselves. The remnant of yesterday’s gravy is not part of the gravy spoon. You can make gravy again but it must be clean to start with. I saw in Japan, my neighbour, in the garden. There was a little boy of about three or four and he was playing with a bucket of water and mud and his grandfather came out. Well, the Japanese are very, very good to small children. They know what’s going to come later and they are very kind to the small children. And Grandpa said to him: “Oh, you don’t want to play with that dirty mud, you’ll get all dirty”. The little boy was splashing about with the water and said: “I’m washing it clean”.
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are:
Part 1: The source of Inspiration