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Culture

The Mystic Music of the Soul

Lorraine Manifold | Apr 27, 2023

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Lorraine Manifold | Apr 27, 2023

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Somehow, when we think of religion we automatically think of music. How many churches do you know that don’t have a choir? 

Monks still sing Gregorian chants. Jewish Cantors have led their congregations in song forever, too. Buddhists sing mantras to elevate their spirits and attain a meditative state. Hindus sing ragas and Muslims improvise chants to say their prayers. Baha’is also love to sing prayers, quotations from the Baha’i teachings, and thousands of other Baha’i-inspired songs. 

In other words, humans love to raise their voices to praise God. Well, what if God’s teachings sent down to humanity were also a song? That would make the Divine Revelation the very first song, the very first melody, the song of the Mystic Dove.

RELATED: Transported by the Rapture of Sacred Music

This realization hit me recently because I’m working on a book comparing the current scientific research with the Baha’i writings on music. It’s amazing how they coincide. For example, in a talk he gave in Washington, D.C. after a children’s group sang, Abdu’l-Baha said that:

… The art of music is divine and effective. It is the food of the soul and spirit. Through the power and charm of music the spirit of man is uplifted. It has wonderful sway and effect in the hearts of children, for their hearts are pure and melodies have great influence on them. The latent talents with which the hearts of these children are endowed will find expression through the medium of music. Therefore, you must exert yourselves to make them proficient; teach them to sing with excellence and effect. It is incumbent upon each child to know something of music, for without knowledge of this art, the melodies of instrument and voice cannot be rightly enjoyed. Likewise it is necessary that the schools teach it in order that the souls and hearts of the pupils may become vivified and exhilarated and their lives be brightened with enjoyment.

Compare that statement, written more than 100 years ago, to what contemporary scientific researchers are now discovering about the power of music on our brains: scientists have learned that music training is good for every child, because music training offers life skills that will be used in a multitude of areas in a person’s journey. 

In other words, musical training is not a specialized skill reserved for only those who want to become professional musicians. Music training should probably be like math and reading, which every child studies throughout primary and secondary schools whether or not they might become a professional mathematician or the next Virginia Woolf. Similarly, some wonderful research done by Dr. Anita Collins, an Australian educator, researcher and author, shows that music training increases all of the following areas:

  • Language acquisition: 1 year gain
  • Memory capacity: raise IQ by 7+ points
  • Language syntax: 1 year gain +
  • Numeracy skills: 1 year gain+
  • Attention skills: up to 2-year gain for pre-teens
  • Reading levels: up to 3-year gain in auditory processing
  • Student resilience: up to 16% increase
  • Listening skills: up to 2-year gain
  • Emotional stability and advanced executive function
  • Motor skills: up to 1 year gain

Let’s go back to the quote from Abdu’l-Baha: “Likewise it is necessary that the schools teach it …”. Compare that to what the current scientific research tells us about the effect a mere 10 minutes of structured music learning every day at school can have on children 5-12 years old: 

  • Higher processing speed
  • Improved memory for multiple instructions
  • Greater sensorimotor integration
  • Improved problem-solving skills, both analytical and creative 
  • Enhanced auditory processing
  • Recalling and integrating language sounds
  • Improved neural connectivity
  • Increased inhibitory control: managing frustration and emotional responses
  • Better cognitive control
  • Higher ability to maintain focus and to switch attention effectively

Perhaps even more impressive is that rhythmic training improves children’s ability to read. Many students who were behind in their reading skills were given six months of percussion training – and their reading skills improved tremendously. So many studies were conducted on this effect that Dr. Collins states it is now accepted as a causal link: “When a child can maintain a steady beat, it shows that all the connections in the brain required for reading are connected.

RELATED: The Music that Makes a Ladder for My Soul

You will understand why I’m so excited about musical training. In fact, musical training is good for adults as well. It can help delay any possible onset of Alzheimer’s, it can help reduce pain, and in a nutshell, music training is like a whole brain workout. Does this motivate you to check out the closest choir in your area?

I just love how the writings of the Baha’i Faith fully align with science. This led me to delve into the writings of the Baha’i Faith about music. In addition to the quotes found in an existing compilation on Music (available here), I came across many more passages referring to the divine revelation as being sung by a nightingale or a bird of paradise. I found this concept so mystical and exciting that I compiled all the mentions I could find on the topic, and learned that they encompass more than 140 pages of quotes. I am so happy to share that all these passages are now available in a compilation called The Divine Melody: Song of the Mystic Dove. Here are a few of the many Baha’i quotations from my book:

Thus hath the Nightingale sung with sweet melody upon the celestial bough, in praise of its Lord, the All-Merciful. Well is it with them that hearken. – Baha’u’llah 

Hearken then unto that which the Bird of Heaven uttered, in the sweetest and most wondrous accents, and in the most perfect and exalted melodies … – Baha’u’llah 

… save for this song of God, no song will stir the world, and save for this nightingale-cry of truth from the Garden of God, no melody will lure away the heart. – Abdu’l-Baha 

The Divine Melody is free to download here or can be purchased online at Amazon or Book Depository. I hope you will enjoy reading about the Word of God being a melody, and the encouragement for us to sing God’s song to humanity in our respective holy places. 

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