Beethoven's Spiritual Life
Music is higher revelation than wisdom and philosophy ... Music is the mediator between spiritual and sensual life — Ludwig van Beethoven
Beethoven is one of the most loved composers. His temper was perhaps as well known as his music. Mozart had once said of him: "Don’t forget his name — you will hear it spoken often!" Beethoven gave his first performance at the age of seven-and-a-half and his first composition was written at the age of 12. Beethoven started losing his hearing at the age of 28. This was one reason behind his short temper that preceded him everywhere. But it was also this deafness that gave Beethoven insights into that which existed beyond that which could be seen and heard. Beethoven was aware of the oneness of music with God from a very early age. And he was conscious of this while composing his music. "Ever since my childhood my heart and soul have been imbued with the tender feeling of goodwill. And I have always been inclined to accomplish great things."
Beethoven’s life is a paradox of sorts. On one hand, his solitary life was burdened by his deafness and on the other his spiritual insights flashed through his music. Many a times his deafness drove him to the edge and he cursed it. Yet, he also accepted it. It may be out of frustration but there is an acceptance of the divine will. "Submission absolute submission to your fate ..."
He felt he had a destiny: "I would have ended my life — the only thing that held me back was my art." In many of his letters Beethoven expresses his desire to serve God and humanity with his music. "Almighty God, you see into my heart ... and you know it’s filled with loved for humanity and a desire to do good."
This strain of thought is dominant in many of his correspondences. "There is no loftier mission than to approach the God head more nearly than other mortals and by means of that contact to spread the rays of the Godhead through the human race."
His approach to experiencing God was the path where one sees the divine spirit in all and serves that spirit in mankind.
And his music can only be understood and felt through this perspective. In another letter of his, he says any one who understands his music will understand God. Many of Beethoven’s works have been interpreted metaphysically and have symbolic representations for anyone on the spiritual path.
The Third Symphony, also known as Eroica, speaks of the individual soul’s tests, tribulations, and finally the triumph of the soul. And each major composition of his depicts a certain stage on the union with God.
Beethoven like Mozart showed no fear of death either. On his death bed he is quoted “Applaud my friends the comedy is over”. He speaks like a monk for whom the mystery of life and the universe lies revealed. Is not the purpose and existence of life/the universe a hobby for the creator? This has been revealed by many a saint and philosopher.
Beethoven’s 9th Symphony based on Schiller’s poem “Ode to Joy” is also known as the choral symphony or Ode to joy had even brought a lump to Hitler’s throat when the orchestra opened. The movement starts of with great agitation the theme breaks off and as if searching for something. The theme finds itself back again much more tranquil, there is abrupt halting of the music and then again restless agitation. With each passing moment the music is seeking to reach God. It’s like the heroes march to reach the Immortal Beloved. Finally the chorus and the orchestra merge to reach the conclusion. Music merging with the creator.
There will always be many ways to reach The One. The path will differ but not the heart that cries for that Love. The soul that seeks will always cry and feel the same pain. Wether it beats within a Bach or a monk in ochre robes. The difference is one seeks through contemplation one seeks through the magnificence of music. But once the Soul merges the Bliss that erupts will always be the same.
David Tame “Beethoven and the Spiritual Path”
Complete Letters of Beethoven
The J.S. Bach Homepage
Kavanaugh “ The Spiritual Lives of great Composers”
Paul Brians homepage