What I Learned from Beethoven
A while back Brad did something he had only done once before in his life — before going to sleep he prayed that I have a vision. (The other time he did so was many years ago for his son, who was a child at the time).
Brad did not tell me that he made this prayer.
I woke up just after five in the morning because I had been sent to a visionary classroom. I was overcome with emotion and told Brad what I experienced. After weeping together with joy, he asked me to immediately get up and write down my report:
I was in a small classroom on an old campus. It seemed crowded even though there were less than ten students. It was a very traditional looking place with brick walls covered with ivy. I was very excited to be back in school because the teacher was challenging and I have always loved learning. I sat at the front of the class and the teacher was stern.
The subject of the lesson was Ludwig van Beethoven. The instructor was explaining that Beethoven was not only a great composer, but also a scientist who discovered a very important “equation.” He found that when something is being measured, at some point it becomes its negative or opposite. For example, at a certain point, “+1” becomes “–1.” Beethoven, the teacher said, first discovered this equation or scientific law in relationship to measuring a mountain.
I was concentrating very hard and was excited for the teacher to reveal more about what seemed like an impossible theory to grasp fully, knowing that it held an important truth about the nature of reality.
As the teacher was slowly revealing more, I suddenly thought that time must be the missing factor in understanding this teaching. I raised my hand and asked, being deliberate and careful with my words, “But at what point in time — or at what instance — does the mountain become its negative?” I had an image in my mind of the fabric of time bending the mountain in on itself, and thought this surely must be what Beethoven had discovered. The teacher responded strictly, “Wait, we haven’t gotten that far yet.”
The teacher went on to say that Beethoven had been misunderstood, persecuted, and thrown in jail (keep in mind that visions sometimes contain metaphors that convey more truth than historical facts). There he languished, was forgotten by his peers, and almost lost his mind. He thought he could not finish developing his theory of how things can exist as both their positive and negative. He was utterly broken and felt he could no longer compose.
And then came the music.
After being released from jail, the teacher said, Beethoven sat alone one night in deep sorrow; his life as he had known it was over. At this moment in my vision I could actually see Beethoven slumped over in his chair, cast in darkness and shadow. It is difficult to describe the depth of sorrow and anguish I saw in him. It seemed I was witnessing a great tragedy of mankind. Suddenly, however, I heard musical notes rise up and out of Beethoven’s heart.
When I heard this, it pierced my own heart and I began to weep. The teacher then went over to his piano and played the first few notes of the song I heard, which I now recognized as the melody from “The Windmills of Your Mind.”
(Why this song? I don’t know — such is the mystery of visions. While this song was actually composed by Michel Legrand, it follows a similar harmonic progression that Beethoven used in “Moonlight Sonata.”)
I felt the notes so deeply that I experienced myself merge with Beethoven — I could see inside Beethoven’s heart and feel his sadness lift with every musical note. I exclaimed to the teacher, “This story and this music move me so much!” The teacher was very excited that I was so deeply touched.
Then the teacher said, “When Beethoven heard these notes rise up from inside his heart, he immediately realized the rest of his theory concerning the relationship of the positive and negative — this tension enables the heart to open like an envelope, revealing musical notes that rise from empty space.”
I was so moved by the truth of Beethoven’s experience — that he was alone, broken, and nearly empty inside, and then a melody came bubbling up out of his heart, bringing indescribable joy and his life to fruition.
After telling me about the envelope, the teacher went back to his piano and played the entire song, “Windmills of Your Mind,” in a classical style with such passion, precision, and fervor that I began weeping again. Words cannot readily convey the extraordinary emotion I felt. The music filled the room and I was saturated with the power of the song.
Though this vision brought many teachings, its clearest teaching echoed what Brad had always taught me: Music is the holiest medicine and a spiritual lifeline delivered straight from God into our heart. When all else fails and we are truly broken, divine music arrives to lift us straight to heaven.
Music is the Rope to God
We later discovered that Beethoven had written,
“Music is the one incorporeal entrance into the higher world of knowledge which comprehends mankind but which mankind cannot comprehend.”
“Whoever gets to know and understand my music, will be freed from all the misery that drags down others.”
The negative forces in Beethoven’s life were not limited to his being misheard and misunderstood. They also included the great suffering brought by his deafness, a description of which can be found in his letters:
“But what a humiliation for me when someone standing next to me heard a flute in the distance and I heard nothing, or someone heard a shepherd singing and again, I heard nothing. Such incidents drove me almost to despair, a little more of that and I would have ended my life — it was only my art that held me back. Ah, it seemed to me impossible to leave the world until I had brought forth all that I felt was within me.”
Beethoven composed one of the most famous classical music compositions of all time, his 9th Symphony, while deaf. Beethoven was a song catcher. He could pull music down from the highest source, just as it flowed up from the depths of his being like a natural spring. What we hear played by a symphony is likely but a fraction of the music he heard in the cosmos and carried inside his heart. Music was his rope, his lifeline, and his link to the sacred.
I feel as if I may never fully penetrate the mysteries of that vision, but I did learn this:
Words cannot reach the experience of simultaneous ecstasy and tragedy; it can only be expressed through music.
Somewhere in the great tension between positive and negative, heaven and hell, music is born.
Like Beethoven, no matter what, do not leave this world until you have brought forth all that is within you. Grab hold of your rope to the divine — the source of your art — and let it carry you forward, pulling every drop of art out of you until your last breath.
I will never forget the ecstasy of feeling Beethoven’s heart — my heart — brought back to life and lifted to heaven with every note of that song. And I will never hear Beethoven’s music the same way again.
P.S. Thank you, Michel Legrand, for catching this song!
P.P.S. Listen to this recording Brad made for me, inspired by this vision.
– Adapted from Climbing the Rope to God: Mystical Testimony and Teaching.