Art is nothing less in its fundamental truth than the aspect of beauty of the Divine manifestation. Perhaps, looking from this standpoint, there will be found very few true artists; but still there are some and these can very well be considered as Yogis. For like a Yogi an artist goes into deep contemplation to await and receive his inspiration. To create something truly beautiful, he has first to see it within, to realise it as a whole in his inner consciousness; only when so found, seen, held within, can he execute it outwardly; he creates according to this greater inner vision. This too is a kind of yogic discipline, for by it he enters into intimate communion with the inner worlds. A man like Leonardo da Vinci was a Yogi and nothing else. And he was, if not the greatest, at least one of the greatest painters,—although his art did not stop at painting alone.
The Mother – Questions and Answers: CWM, Vol. 3, p. 110
Music too is an essentially spiritual art and has always been associated with religious feeling and an inner life. But, here too, we have turned it into something independent and self-sufficient, a mushroom art, such as is operatic music. Most of the artistic productions we come across are of this kind and at best interesting from the point of view of technique. I do not say that even operatic music cannot be used as a medium of a higher art expression; for whatever the form, it can be made to serve a deeper purpose. All depends on the thing itself, on how it is used, on what is behind it. There is nothing that cannot be used for the Divine purpose—just as anything can pretend to be the Divine and yet be of the mushroom species.
Among the great modern musicians there have been several whose consciousness, when they created, came into touch with a higher consciousness. César Franck played on the organ as one inspired; he had an opening into the psychic life and he was conscious of it and to a great extent expressed it. Beethoven, when he composed the Ninth Symphony, had the vision of an opening into a higher world and of the descent of a higher world into this earthly plane. Wagner had strong and powerful intimations of the occult world; he had the instinct of occultism and the sense of the occult and through it he received his greatest inspirations. But he worked mainly on the vital level and his mind came in constantly to interfere and mechanised his inspiration. His work for the greater part is too mixed, too often obscure and heavy, although powerful. But when he could cross the vital and the mental levels and reach a higher world, some of the glimpses he had were of an exceptional beauty, as in Parsifal, in some parts of Tristan and Iseult and most in its last great Act.
The Mother – Questions and Answers: CWM, Vol. 3, pp. 110 – 111
There is a domain far above the mind which we could call the world of Harmony and, if you can reach there, you will find the root of all harmony that has been manifested in whatever form upon earth. For instance, there is a certain line of music, consisting of a few supreme notes, that was behind the productions of two artists who came one after another—one a concerto of Bach, another a concerto of Beethoven. The two are not alike on paper and differ to the outward ear, but in their essence they are the same. One and the same vibration of consciousness, one wave of significant harmony touched both these artists. Beethoven caught a larger part, but in him it was more mixed with the inventions and interpolations of his mind; Bach received less, but what he seized of it was purer. The vibration was that of the victorious emergence of consciousness, consciousness tearing itself out of the womb of unconsciousness in a triumphant uprising and birth.
The Mother – Questions and Answers: CWM, Vol. 3, p. 112
Look again at what the moderns have made of the dance; compare it with what the dance once was. The dance was once one of the highest expressions of the inner life; it was associated with religion and it was an important limb in sacred ceremony, in the celebration of festivals, in the adoration of the Divine. In some countries it reached a very high degree of beauty and an extraordinary perfection. In Japan they kept up the tradition of the dance as a part of the religious life and, because the strict sense of beauty and art is a natural possession of the Japanese, they did not allow it to degenerate into something of lesser significance and smaller purpose. It was the same in India. It is true that in our days there have been attempts to resuscitate the ancient Greek and other dances; but the religious sense is missing in all such resurrections and they look more like rhythmic gymnastics than dance.
The Mother – Questions and Answers: CWM, Vol. 3, pp. 111 – 12
Do certain arts express more truth than others?
This is more or less a mental gymnastic!
There are people who say that certain arts are physical. If you frequent artists, painters, they will tell you that sculpture, oh! it is laborious, because sculptors work with the very matter, and painting may be considered not much of an intellectual art by a musician. The truth is that in all arts everything depends upon the artist, and what he does depends upon the state of consciousness in which he is. A sculptor may be an extremely spiritual man and his production extremely spiritual also, if he knows how to express his experience. And a poet can be quite a commonplace materialist if he does not receive his inspiration from a higher state. It is the mind which makes little categories (this is more convenient for it), but that does not resemble the truth very much.
The Mother – Questions and Answers: CWM, Vol. 4, p. 312
If by Yoga you are capable of reaching this source of all art, then you are master, if you will, of all the arts. Those that may have gone there before, found it perhaps happier, more pleasant or full of a rapturous ease to remain and enjoy the Beauty and the Delight that are there, not manifesting it, not embodying it upon earth. But this abstention is not all the truth nor the true truth of Yoga; it is rather a deformation, a diminution of the dynamic freedom of Yoga by the more negative spirit of Sannyasa. The will of the Divine is to manifest, not to remain altogether withdrawn in inactivity and an absolute silence; if the Divine Consciousness were really an inaction of unmanifesting bliss, there would never have been any creation.
The Mother – Questions and Answers: CWM, Vol. 3, p. 113
But about those great waves of music that interest me—I had the impression they must be located well above the world of thought….
It’s not exactly like geography, you know!
But anyway, it’s right on the border of the higher hemisphere…. It’s the first expression of Consciousness as joy. I remember finding that same vibration of joy in Beethoven and Bach (in Mozart also, but to a lesser degree). The first time I heard Beethoven’s concerto in D—in D major, for violin and orchestra… suddenly the violin starts up, and with the first notes of the violin (Ysaye was playing, what a musician!), with the very first notes my head suddenly seemed to burst open, and I was cast into such splendor…. Oh, it was absolutely wonderful! For more than an hour I was in a state of bliss. Ysaye was a true musician!
The Mother – Agenda: Vol. 3, p. 391
Painting also is sadhana; so it is perfectly possible to make them one. It is a matter of dedicating the painting and feeling the force that makes you paint as the Mother’s force.
Sri Aurobindo – Letters on Poetry and Art: CWSA, Vol. 27, p.733
…. Painting or any other activity has to be made here a part of Yoga and cannot be pursued for its own sake. If it stands insuperably in the way, then it has to be given up; but there is no reason why it should if it be pursued in the proper spirit, as a field or aid for spiritual growth, or as a work done for the Mother.
Sri Aurobindo – Letters on Poetry and Art: CWSA, Vol. 27, p.733
You have painting and music in you and if you apply yourself they will develop in you. Only it is best to do it as an instrument of the Mother and as an offering to her, and not allow any personal desire for fame or appreciation by others or any personal pride to be the motives—for it is that that gives trouble. All work done as an offering is a great help and does not give trouble.
Sri Aurobindo – Letters on Poetry and Art: CWSA, Vol. 27, p.733
Music is a means of expressing certain thoughts, feelings, emotions, aspirations. There is even a region where all these movements exist and from there, as they are brought down, they take a musical form. One who is a very good composer, with some inspiration, will produce very beautiful music, for he is a good musician. A bad musician may also have a very high inspiration; he may receive something which is good, but as he possesses no musical capacity, what he produces is terribly commonplace, ordinary, uninteresting. But if you go beyond, if you reach just the place where there is this origin of music—of the idea and emotion and inspiration—if you reach there, you can taste these things without being in the least troubled by the forms; the commonplace musical form can be linked up again with that, because that was the inspiration of the writer of the music. …there is an inner condition in which the external form is not the most important thing; it is the origin of the music, the inspiration from beyond, which is important; it is not purely the sounds, it is what the sounds express.
The Mother – Questions and Answers: CWM, Vol. 5, pp. 68 – 69
…. For what is most important is the inspiration, in everything that one does; in all human creations the most important thing is inspiration. Naturally, the execution must be on the same level as the inspiration; to be able to express truly well the highest things one must have a very good technique. I do not say that technique is not necessary; it is even indispensable, but it is not the only indispensable thing, it is less important than inspiration.
The Mother – Questions and Answers: CWM, Vol. 5, p. 69
From what plane does music generally come?
There are different levels. There is a whole category of music that comes from the higher vital, which is very catching, somewhat (not to put it exactly) vulgar, it is something that twists your nerves. This music is not necessarily unpleasant, but generally it seizes you there in the nervous centres. So there is one type of music which has a vital origin. There is music which has a psychic origin—it is altogether different. And then there is music which has a spiritual origin: it is very bright and it carries you away, captures you entirely. But if you want to execute this music correctly you must be able to make it come through the vital passage. Your music coming from above may become externally quite flat if you do not possess that intensity of vital vibration which gives it its splendour and strength. I knew people who had truly a very high inspiration and it became quite flat, because the vital did not stir. When you can bring the vital into play, then all the strength of vibration is there. If you draw into it this higher origin, it becomes the music of a genius.
The Mother – Questions and Answers: CWM, Vol. 5, pp. 74 – 75
For music it is very special; it is difficult, it needs an intermediary. And it is like that for all other things, for literature also, for poetry, for painting, for everything one does. The true value of one’s creation depends on the origin of one’s inspiration, on the level, the height where one finds it. But the value of the execution depends on the vital strength which expresses it. To complete the genius both must be there.
And then there are those other kinds of music we have—the music of the café-concert, of the cinema—it has an extraordinary skill, and at the same time an exceptional platitude, an extraordinary vulgarity. But as it has an extraordinary skill, it seizes you in the solar plexus and it is this music that you remember; it grasps you at once and holds you and it is very difficult to free yourself from it, for it is well-made music, music very well made. It is made vitally with vital vibrations, but what is behind is frightful.
The Mother – Questions and Answers: CWM, Vol. 5, p. 75
But imagine this same vital power of expression, with the inspiration coming from far above—the highest inspiration possible, when all the heavens open before us—then that becomes wonderful. There are certain passages of César Franck, certain passages of Beethoven, certain passages of Bach, there are pieces by others also which have this inspiration and power. But it is only a moment, it comes as a moment, it does not last. You cannot take the entire work of an artist as being on that level. Inspiration comes like a flash; sometimes it lasts sufficiently long, when the work is sustained; and when that is there, the same effect is produced, that is, if you are attentive and concentrated, suddenly that lifts you up, lifts up all your energies, it is as though someone opened out your head and you were flung into the air to tremendous heights and magnificent lights. It produces in a few seconds results that are obtained with so much difficulty through so many years of yoga. Only, in general, one may fall down afterwards, because the consciousness is not there as the basis; one has the experience and afterwards does not even know what has happened. But if you are prepared, if you have indeed prepared your consciousness by yoga and then the thing happens, it is almost definitive.
The Mother – Questions and Answers: CWM, Vol. 5, pp. 75 – 76
I don’t know if any of you are so fond of music as to know how to hear it. But if you want to listen to music, you must create an absolute silence in your head, you must not follow or accept a single thought, and must be entirely concentrated, like a sort of screen which receives, without movement or noise, the vibration of the music. That is the only way, there is no other, the only way of hearing music and understanding it. If you admit in the least the movements and fancies of your thought, the whole value of the music escapes you. Well, to understand a teaching which is not quite of the ordinary material kind but implies an opening to something more deep within, this necessity of silence is far greater still….
The Mother – Questions and Answers: CWM, Vol. 8, pp. 235 – 236
What should one try to do when one meditates with your music at the Playground?
This music aims at awakening certain profound feelings.
In listening to it, one should make oneself as silent and passive as possible. And if, in the mental silence, a part of the being can take the attitude of the witness who observes without reacting or participating, then one can notice the effect that the music produces on the feelings and emotions; and if it produces a state of deep calm and semi-trance, that is very good.
The Mother – Some Answers from the Mother: CWM, Vol. 16, p. 233
The nature (of Mother) was rather shy, and as a matter of fact, there wasn’t much confidence in the personal capacity (although there was the sense of being able to do anything, if the need arose). Till the age of twenty or twenty-one I spoke very little, and never, never anything like a speech. I wouldn’t take part in conversations: I would listen, but speak very little…. Then I was put in touch with Abdul Baha (the “Bahai”), who was then in Paris, and a sort of intimacy grew between us. I used to go to his gatherings because I was interested. And one day (when I was in his room), he said to me, “I am sick, I can’t speak; go and speak for me.” I said, “Me! But I don’t speak.” He replied, “You just have to go there, sit quietly and concentrate, and what you have to say will come to you. Go and do it, you will see.” Well then (laughing), I did as he said. There were some thirty or forty people. I went and sat in their midst, stayed very still, and then … I sat like that, without a thought, nothing, and suddenly I started speaking. I spoke to them for half an hour (I don’t even know what I told them), and when it was over everybody was quite pleased. I went to find Abdul Baha, who told me, “You spoke admirably.” I said, “It wasn’t me!” And from that day (I had got the knack from him, you understand!), I would stay like that, very still, and everything would come. It’s especially the sense of the “I” that must be lost—that’s the great art in everything, for everything, for everything you do: for painting, for … (I did painting, sculpture, architecture even, I did music), for everything, but everything, if you are able to lose the sense of the “I,” then you open yourself to … to the knowledge of the thing (sculpture, painting, etc.). It’s not necessarily beings, but the spirit of the thing that uses you.
The Mother – Agenda: Vol. 8, p. 56