Joscelyn Godwin - Music and the Occult
French Musical Philosophies
This book is an adventure into the unexplored territory of French esoteric philosophies and their relation to music. Occultism and esotericism flourished in nineteenth-century France as they did nowhere else. Many philosophers sought the key to the universe, some claimed to have found it, and, in the unitive vision that resulted, music invariably played an important part. These modern Pythagoreans all believed in the Harmony of the Spheres and in the powerful effects of music on the human soul and body.
The book begins with the anti-Newtonian `color harpsichord' of Père Castel, and closes with the disciples of René Guénon and their fierce anti-modernity. The major forces in between Fabre d'Olivet, Charles Fourier, Wronski, Lacuria, Saint-Yves d'Alveydre, and their disciples -were truly Renaissance men, ranging over the whole field of learning.
For them music was a blend of science and art that could bringinsight into the cosmic order and even into the mind of God: a `speculative music' in the tradition of Pythagoras, Plato, Ficino, and Kepler, which is generally thought to have died with the coming of the Enlightenment. On the contrary, as this book shows, it flourished more vigorously than ever.
A widely published musicologist and authority on esotericism, Godwin is able to give a clear and concise context for these philosopher's often surprising beliefs,and he demonstrates how this `speculative music' influenced composers such as Satie and Debussy, who were familiar with occultism. His long study of music and the Western esoteric tradition makes him uniquely qualified to unravelthe strange story of these forgotten sages.