4: PSYCHIC SCIENCE, MYSTIC MUSIC
Some scientists in Queensland have recently explored the possible effects of lack of light; gloomy skies would cut down UV radiation, resulting in vitamin D deficiencies that can lead to rickets or that could stunt the development of the nervous systems in foetuses and young children. Long-term studies noting the effects of latitude, El Nino, and generally overcast weather have found a statistical correlate in the number of births of schizophrenics. De Clario failed to enlist these observations to support his thesis; likewise, a negative side effect of too much UV light falling on the skin - the production of melanoma - went unnoticed. Undaunted, he praised the salutary effects of UV on melatonin. He presumed a chemistry was provoked by photo-electricity, stimulating melatonin secretion by the pineal gland within the brain (Australians might anticipate a national consciousness-raising with thinning of the ozone layer and increasing levels of UV radiation).
The eventual result was clairvoyance and the ability to see invisible energies. The capacity to conjure up images, such as dreams, is usually associated with the interior of the brain, and many cultures have long held the 'third eye' to be the seat of wisdom and the unsighted vision. Not surprisingly, the coloured hallucinations of synaesthetes, of increasing clinical interest from the 1870s, were likened to the visions of spirit mediums. According to one Theosophist, the highly individual experiences were simply the results of overactive imaginations; with correct occult training in the use of the organ of the pineal gland, synaesthetes would come to agree on the one true form of their hallucinations.
The pineal gland was also central in the theosophy of René Descartes. He described the soul directly moving the gland, to operated 'animal spirits' and produce mechanical changes in the body, in the manner of a hydraulic transmission system. When the flow was reversed, bodily sensations affected the soul. De Clario's notion of the sixth chakra was based directly on the Cartesian model; the hormone melatonin supplied the place of the animal spirits to transmit the sensation of the highest light frequencies direct to the 'visionary' centre in the pineal gland. Though Descartes had quickly been discredited (for one thing he believed, contrary to 43% of Americans, that animals had no pineal and so no soul), De Clario was undeterred in paraphrasing this most dubious work.
Pursuing this mechanical model, De Clario claimed the pineal gland was affected by light "...even when the pathways mediating conscious light perception are severed." Such was the case, we were told, during his piano performances at Heide: concealed from view and shielded from light, he was supposedly blindfolded throughout. The suggestion that each performance was somehow psycho-automatic, seemed intended. Some of the audience saw his playing as a channelling of the influences of the full moon and the mood lighting - in spite of the blindfold, and concealment that shielded him from the direct rays of either. Others claimed themselves to feel the influence of the moon, the music and the coloured lights, directly on their own bodies. And yet others, less subject to synaesthesia, could merely "feel the gentleness", despite the cold and rising river damp in the gardens of Heide.
The idea that colour had a physiological effect gained credence at the end of the 19th century. Chromotherapy, one of many eccentric disciplines that grew out of early experimental psychology, used colour as a treatment in lunatic asylums. Cell walls painted in certain colours, or coloured glass placed in windows, were believed to alter the moods of patients. Blue was said to be calming, red stimulating, and, as De Clario was to claim, their presence felt even when the subjects' eyes were closed. By World War I, colour-cure wards were part of hospitals in London and Sydney, for shell-shock and nerve cases, while Berger marketed a line of paints for therapeutic purposes.
Medical authorities soon frowned on the spurious claims of chromotherapy. After all, they were made by the same mad-doctors who could report straight-faced on patients who, while psychologically blind, read with their ear lobe and smelled through their knees. Scant research, yielding fewer objective results, has since been conducted into the physiological effects of colour. The one detectable response of the body to light is a marginally lower heart rate under violet (high frequency) light than under red (low frequency). Maybe dilation of blood vessels, due to warming of the skin by the relatively hot, blue end of the spectrum, requires the heart to do less work.
Chromotherapy rated a passing mention from Gaugin; typically, Kandinsky gave it more sweeping importance, along with colour synaesthesia, as an example of colour's emotive and spiritual power. In formulating his dynamic conception of colour. Kandinsky resisted the impulse to be over-specify his colour theories, so he was able to adjust his position as the intellectual climate around him changed. Other artists were less cunning: the American architect and designer, E. J. Lind committed himself early to a codified approach to colour. As a student in London, he read George Field's "Chromatography" (1835) and "Chromatics" (1845), recommending the painter followed musicians in matters of harmony As increasing numbers of cases were reported of synaesthesia triggered by vowel sounds, . Lind transposed the Newtonian colour-music code he found in Field to apply it to speech. In "The Music of Color and the Number Seven" of 1900, Lind paraded his bizarre code to visualize a most extraordinary text, as shown below.
"Sevenness: Sublunar" may seem a harmless, even beneficial diversion, apart from the gratuitous theories propped up by bits and pieces of science. But De Clario retreated into "the dark/invisible world" of the occult, taking some of his audience with him, and such practices sit uneasily with mainstream religions. While some churches adapt their forms of worship to accommodate alternative approaches, orthodox religions remain jealous of their market share. They may have little tolerance for cranky cult practices as they already have their own rituals, and a stock of mystics that includes at least one pianist. The young Mozart had also improvised, while blindfolded, as a parlour trick and the Swiss Protestant Karl Barth built a theology of divine revelation around him in the 1930's. Barth's commentary, like De Clario's, evoked a holistic universe realized through music, by a channelling process:
In the interpretive realm of psychiatry, soft-core therapies based on colour and music are likely to be tolerated, if not ignored. They may even be condoned for a placebo effect, when coupled with meditation techniques that alleviate stress. Painting and music, as vehicles of self-expression, find a place in broader treatment programs for certain conditions, such as schizophrenia. At a theoretical level, Gestalt psychiatry places great emphasis on visual acuity, and Rudolf Arnheim, in "A Psychology of the Creative Eye" of 1966, applied its principles to painting and music. He concluded that both the palette and the scale are notable for their discords as much as their concordances, and found formal systems of colour or music harmony at best incomplete, telling us next to nothing about a completed work. The doctrines of colour music are of no use - and any bid for inclusion they might make could easily be gazumped by the Jungians.
Since 1916, Carl Jung had been developing his own orientally-inspired model, the mandala, as an instrument of meditation and diagnosis. In Jung's mind, it was the product of deepseated universal rules, and any mandala produced by an individual could yield interpretations that were both personal and collective, historical and timeless. A strict colour code of red, blue, green and gold was applied, and if any one were missing, a psychological imbalance was presumed Complex. interpretations of the colours were given impeccable 17th century credentials, by cross-referencing to alchemy and religious symbolism.
"Sevenness: Sublunar's" promises of well-being seem mere side effects of the main intent of drawing believers closer to spiritual goals, near to those of the established Churches. They have less focus by encompassing a plethora of existing approaches (science for one and eastern mysticism for another were co-opted with little respect for accepted contemporary usage). As an expression of alternative religiosity, "Sevenness: Sublunar" was a weak pastiche of stale traditions and a retreat into simplistic ideas originating from the Hermetic tradition of the Renaissance. Like a parody of antique mystery cults or the introverted practices of early Christians, ritualised ceremonies, like the mass, were held seven times over. In hushed and reverential tones under portentous conditions, a panoply of disassociated items, events and ideas was puffed up as spirituality. Presenting "Sevenness: Sublunar" as some kind of art event, the state-run gallery at Heide allowed De Clario to preach religion: the central creed of colour-music-chakra attempted to supply a connection to the sublime that would otherwise be missed.
Compared to the music of either Hendrix or Mozart, De Clario's performances inevitably came off second-best. In fact, his limited virtuosity suggested he needed more than divine intervention to perform spontaneously for hours in one of the more difficult keys - say, B with its five sharps. I would guess, since the Roland HP keyboard he used could be pitch-adjusted by the turn of a knob, that De Clario pre-set it to the key required each night. He could then simply play on the white notes alone, no matter what key was scheduled for that evening. While concealment made it impossible to verify this, it would certainly explain much of the performance and throw doubts upon his capacity as a medium. My suspicions are in part grounded in the premise that was established by "Sevenness: Sublunar" itself, that the value of the performance resided not in the integrity of the way colour and music were used, nor in the quality of the result, but in the eternal verities of the colour-music-chakra code. Even the originator of the colour-music code, Sir Isaac Newton himself, gave not a fig for music; when woken at the end of one keyboard recital, he could admit, only grudgingly, that man Handel to be clever with his fingers.
Many great musicians have claimed divine guidance. Joseph Haydn once said "Not from me - from there, above, comes everything". Understandable, considering the authority of his musicianship, the age in which he composed, and his modesty when faced with overwhelming acclaim. De Clario attempted to emulate this kind of spirituality, but could not rely on the quality of his playing to transport his audience. In case the hocus-pocus of colour, music and chakra also failed to convince, he formally associated "Sevenness: Sublunar" with Christianity. Timed to start at Easter, the evenings were designed to parallel the Resurrection. Transfiguration was offered as a practical goal - achieved by the "transformation of body into spirit", with an imaginative leap from the visible to the invisible world. Program notes outlined a process of transcendence that had its equivalents in the Christian mystic tradition. But compared to the likes of St. John of the Cross or St. Augustine, whose roads to ecstasy lay through genuine hardships of starvation and even torture, De Clario's path seemed very tame indeed. Even the hardened unbeliever Oscar Wilde, writing from prison in "De Profundis", had placed more emphasis on hardship as a prerequisite to revelation, on sorrow as a necessary part of the creative process:
One alternative goal, the 'perfected excellence' of Hinduism and Buddhism, was a vital inclusion; knowing the Christian church might not approve, De Clario hedged his bets. He arrived at a peculiar compromise to encompass the differing attitudes required by the religious traditions of East and West; while practising a mild, verbal form of the saint's self-flagellation, he adopted the egoless stance expected of the enlightened one. The notes were littered with self-effacing comments, attempting to prove De Clario's credentials:
So what, in the end, is left? As repeated after each evening's performance, De Clario would have us believe "...And then amongst all this, after all, there is You." That is presuming You stayed. And that You survived the journey from the worldly or sublunar plane, through six cosmic stages to the seventh realm of pure white light beyond. As with many other New Age ventures, enlightenment and improved well-being were promised, in the hope of persuading us to paths of righteousness and truth. A traditional colour-music code, the backbone of all its rituals, emerged as a central article of faith. What remained at the end of "Sevenness: Sublunar" were the bare bones of borrowed belief - neoplatonism, western science, oriental yoga.
The intertwining of theology and technology was once a uniquely Western trait. The Chinese didn't do it though they were quite as advanced, developing calculus at the same time as Newton and Leibnitz; Hindus, too, saw no reason to complicate mathematics with religious overtones. But in the West, one end-purpose of science had been to serve the prevailing beliefs - to such an extent that it became almost automatic, arguably influencing the course of research and the results obtained. Like the Pythagoreans, who wed the gods to number, modern scientists look for arrangements that give wholesome sanctity to their theories and apparent legitimacy to their results.
Number-worship, as refined by the Pythagoreans, was applied to the fields of politics and religion by Plato. His mystic progression of Heavenly Spheres was later decorated with colours by the alchemists of Alexandria and eventually absorbed into Gnosticism, that formative stew of Hellenistic, Jewish and proto-Christian beliefs. Later, Judaism, Christianity and Islam actively suppressed that rival sect - still, systems like the Muslim Haft Rang (Seven Colours) persevered, like a fragment of the old beliefs, to inform both Persian poetry and inspire the colour schemes of architectural tiling.
The colour-music code was just one other bastard child of the liaison between number science and religion. When Isaac Newton divided the spectrum into seven to analogize the musical scale, he served a higher religious purpose, too. Similar septenary sequences had been a vital subtext to traditional religion, ever since the astronomers of ancient Sumer created the seven-day week to represent known heavenly bodies (the astrological names remain attached to the days, in modern European languages). The Hebrews also incorporated the seven-day week (and other Mesopotamian creation myths) into the story of Genesis: so the number seven gained sanctity within subsequent monotheistic beliefs.
The classical tradition of colour music was epitomised by Newton's ROYGBIV, made by an analogy based on similar things numbering seven, but now understood as parallel vibrations of light and sound. Modern colour-music-chakra codes, De Clario's included, maintain much of the intent and many of the features of Newton's prototype, though paraded in guises more acceptable to contemporary audiences. They are largely unworkable as systems of colour or music and, despite all claims, have only got what meaning you read into them.