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Strange Connections

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Due to the Performance Thread, I have recently revitalized my interest in the music of Loreena McKennitt (I'm hoping to get her new CD as a Christmas Present). Her last two CDs (released in 96 and 97, I believe) are my two top favorite CDs of all time right now, followed closely by Lesiem's "Auracle" and "Aria 2: New Horizons".

"The Mask and the Mirror" This is the older of the two CDs that I so love, and the title makes reference to a line from Shakespeare's "The Tempest". A musical rendition of Profion's speech is the last track on the CD. The CD is overall beautiful, but two songs stand out in my mind: "The Dark Night of The Soul" written by St. John of the Cross (14th or 15th century) was incorporated as a beautiful musical piece. I have no idea if St. John was gay or not, but I have an immense fondness for his writings and find it strange that several translations of the poem include intimate imagery in relations to another male. It may be that this was intended to be Christ, but that is not made clear in the poem, so it leaves a universe of possibilities. (My favorite type of writing). It is also strange to think that William Shakespeare might himself have been bisexual, as made clear by several of his lesser known sonnets and poems, and with that knowledge firmly in hand how much more meaningful are the plays "Romeo and Juliet", "Twelfth Night", "The Merchant of Verona" and other plays which glorify or romanticize difficult or socially unacceptable relationships. The other song is a musical rendition of "The Two Trees" which once again, deals with forbidden or difficult love, and is a classic poem.

"The Book of Secrets" This is the newer CD (97), and her last before she went on tour. I find this interesting because the title of the CD is the same as a book written by an openly gay Sufi mystic Farid ud-Din Attar (12th Century). His chief works are "The Book of the Divine" "The Book of Affliction" and "The Book of Secrets". He wrote another book entitled "The Conference of the Birds" in which homosexual love is frequently praised for its intensity and passion, and the homosexual's ability to give up all respectability in the name of love is represented as mirroring the necessity of abandoning all restrictions and social shibboleths in the search for God.

"Abbasseh told a wondering scholar once:
' The man who's kindled by love's radiance
Will give birth to a woman; when love's fire
Quickens within a woman this desire,
She gives birth to a man; it is denied
That Adam bore a woman from his side,
That Mary bore a man? Until this light
Shines out, such truths are hidden from your sight;
But when its glory comes you will receive
Blessings far greater than you can conceive.
Count this as wealth; here is the faith you need.
But if the world's base glory is your creed,
Your soul is lost - seek the wealth insight gives;
In insight our eternal kingdom lives.
Whoever drinks the mystics' wine is king
Of all the world can show, of everything -
Its realms are specks of his authority,
The heavens but a ship on his wide sea;
If all the sultans of the world could know
That shoreless sea, its mighty ebb and flow,
They'd sit and mourn their wretched impotence
With eyes ashamed to meet each other's glance.'"

Farid un-Din Attar was the favorite poet of a number of the Sufi mystics that followed him, including Rumi.

Anyway, back to the CD... :)

The songs in "The Book of Secrets" are less romantic than those in "The Mask and the Mirror", but I find this refreshing as most popular music seems devoted to the elusive material romance, but no less spiritually intense. While listening to her music there is some crossing that occurs within, a crossing of experiences of the divine and of the physical, a strange awareness that everything is in fact one and the same, and that the pinings of physical desire are the pinings of spiritual desire just more intensely wrapped up in consciousness and physicality. In other words, Loreenna grants us a taste of the mystical traditions of the ancient world, lovingly and beautifully I might add.

I have to go to work right now, but I'll come back and try to get to a point.... (Do I have a point? I think so, :D)

I suppose what I find strange about the whole connection is that I wonder if it was done intentionally, or if this is just something that happened to spring into existence from the mental foundations of the universe. I suppose you could argue that as being intentional also, but I am referring to Ms. McKennitt's intentions. I can see no specific defense on her part for any agenda; only a beautiful attention to the spiritual and the physical at once.

I also question why I think this is so important, but that is another question for another day, and perhaps one for an avid reader of me sometime after my death. I am too lost in the experience and exploring its distinct avenues and broad applications to our understanding of the universe that I do not wish to question why it is so, and just accept it as it is. If that can be defined as a fault, I hope it is my only very obvious one.

For too long have I been succinctly aware that there is more to life, the universe, and everything than meets the physical senses. Human intention, rationality, and emotionality deems it so, but few have attempted to comprehend this sense of extraordinariness that our human consciousness seems to revolve around. It is a purely psychic experience, and still one which lacks solid definition, but there is no doubt in my mind that this experience is part of what maintains the evolution of consciousness at a universal level.

For reference sake, here are lyrical renditions of the two poems I was telling you about.

"The Two Trees"
by William Butler Yeats

Beloved, gaze in thine own heart
The holy tree is growing there;
From joy the holy branches start
And all the trembling flowers they bear.
The changing colours of its fruit
Have dowered the stars with merry light;
The surety of its hidden root
Has planted quiet in the night;
The shaking of its leafy head
Has given the waves their melody.
And made my lips and music wed,
Murmuring a wizard song for thee,
There the Loves a circle go,
The flaming circle of our days,
Gyring, spiring to and fro
In those great ignorant leafy ways;
Remembering all that shaken hair
And how the winged sandals dart
Thine eyes grow full of tender care;
Beloved, gaze in thine own heart.

Gaze no more in the bitter glass
The demons, with their subtle guile,
Lift up before us when they pass,
Or only gaze a little while;
For there a fatal image grows
That the stormy night receives,
Roots half hidden under snows,
Broken boughs and blackened leaves.
For all things turn to bareness
In the dim glass the demons hold,
The glass of outer weariness,
Made when God slept in times of old.
There, through the broken branches, go
The ravens of unresting thought;
Flying, crying, to and fro,
Cruel claw and hungry throat,
Or else they stand and sniff the wind,
And shake their ragged wings: alas!
Thy tender eyes grow all unkind:
Gaze no more in the bitter glass.
Beloved, gaze in thine own heart,
The holy tree is growing there;
From joy the holy branches start,
And all the trembling flowers they bear.
Remembering all that shaken hair
And how the winged sandals dart,
Thine eyes grow full of tender care;
Beloved, gaze in thine own heart.

And "The Dark Night of the Soul"
by St. John of the Cross

Upon a darkened night
the flame of love was burning in my breast
And by a lantern bright
I fled my house while all in quiet rest

Shrouded by the night
And by the secret stair I quickly fled
The veil concealed my eyes
while all within lay quiet as the dead

Oh night thou was my guide
of night more loving than the rising sun
Oh night that joined the lover
to the beloved one
transforming each of them into the other

Upon that misty night
in secrecy, beyond such mortal sight
Without a guide or light
than that which burned so deeply in my heart
That fire t'was led me on
and shone more bright than of the midday sun
To where he waited still
it was a place where no one else could come


Within my pounding heart
which kept itself entirely for him
He fell into his sleep
beneath the cedars all my love I gave
From o'er the fortress walls
the wind would his hair against his brow
And with its smoothest hand
caressed my every sense it would allow


I lost myself to him
and laid my face upon my lover's breast
And care and grief grew dim
as in the morning's mist became the light
There they dimmed amongst the lilies fair
there they dimmed amongst the lilies fair
there they dimmed amongst the lilies fair 

Beautiful.  I'm busy copying and pasting your excerpts.  Thanks for posting.  Listening to Loreena McKennitt's music is for me sometimes a spiritual experience. 

Thank you for your very sharp observations.  I knew how multilayered her music was, but this is a revelation.  I will listen to her music again with a new eye and ear.

I, too,  hope I get her new CD as a holiday gift.

Speaking of music being a spiritual experience ..

I bought Josh Groban's new CD "AWAKE" yesterday and I am even more in love with his music than before! *sigh*
Danny, I know you love his music as well, you gotta get the new CD!  :)



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