Gustav Mahler, (1860–1911) was a composer born under the birth sign of Cancer. He wrote with the deep mysticism of that hierarchy. He himself was a mystical dreamer, and his early efforts at composition centered in fairylike themes. His genius expanded until he said that his art became his religion, the conductor’s stand an altar, and the score a ritual.
Mahler and nature
Mahler was a devout worshipper of nature. He was a new-age composer who caught the Aquarian theme that awakens the spiritual centers. His music is important for meditation during the period of pregnancy, especially the Resurrection Symphony (the second symphony) and the eighth symphony.
During a period when his soul was torn with sorrow and with the struggles that occur with the water sign, he cried:
O my beloved earth, O when will you take the abandoned one into your lap! See, mankind has driven him forth and he flees from its cold, heartless bosom to you. Receive the lonely, restless one, O eternal Mother.
He called nature his Mother, and he returned to nature for comfort and courage, and what he called the Holy place of nature. This devotional impulse is woven into his symphonies, and we find him incorporating the songs of the flowers and the voices of the winds into his music. He wrote, “I climb the hills caressed by the breath of God. I go to the meadows where the tinkling of the herd-bells lulls me to dreaming.”
The ascended master Cuzco has said that the finale from Mahler’s eighth symphony “as well as other compositions by Mahler have to do with earth changes and the holding at bay of major planetary upheaval. You would do well to play tapes of this music continuously.... Music is what has saved the planet in the past. Yet music must be used judiciously.”
There are profound implications in the eighth symphony, as there are in the Resurrection Symphony. In the Resurrection he captures the music of the feminine ray being resurrected. And when that ray is resurrected it brings forth the Holy Spirit.
In meditating upon the works of Mahler, certain powers of the soul are unleashed. His music can be used to develop the formation of the child in the womb, of the psychic centers, the soul centers, the chakras. It cultivates a sense of beauty, an attribute that is greatly neglected.
The symphonies are very lengthy, and it requires a great deal of patience and concentration in following the flow within them, because he is going through the four lower bodies and resurrecting the energies of Spirit. As he takes you through these bodies, you are also aware of a certain dissonance, a certain disturbance that the resurrection flame is contacting, transmuting and overcoming. It takes a very high meditation upon the feminine ray to follow the thread of his music, which is the thread of the power of the resurrection for the Aquarian age.
The eighth symphony
First performed in 1910, the eighth symphony was dubbed the “Symphony of a Thousand” because of the number of voices and instruments involved in its performance. The text of Part I of the symphony is the medieval Latin hymn Veni, Creator Spiritus. Part II is set in the closing redemption scene from Goethe’s poetic drama Faust.
Mahler’s purpose in combining these two themes, writes Michael Kennedy, “was to emphasize the link between the early expression of Christian belief in the power of the Holy Spirit and Goethe’s symbolic vision of mankind’s redemption through love.”
In Goethe’s work, Faust, a scholar who does not find satisfaction in his intellectual pursuits, makes a pact with the Devil: if he ever gives in to slothfulness or says of any moment in life, “Linger awhile—thou art so fair,” the Devil will win his soul. Faust goes through a number of inner struggles in his life and when he dies the Devil’s demons attempt to seize his soul, believing the Devil to have won his pact; but Faust is victoriously borne to heaven by a choir of angels who say, “He who exerts himself in constant striving, him we can save.”
Harold C. Schonberg writes in The Lives of the Great Composers that “every one of [Mahler’s] symphonies can be described in terms of unrest, struggle, aspiration.” This is summed up in Mahler’s Chorus Mysticus, the conclusion of the eighth symphony, when the heavenly chorus sings:
All that is transitory
is but a symbol;
here is fulfilled;
here is done;
the Eternal Feminine
leads us aloft.
As Michael Kennedy explains:
The concluding Chorus Mysticus, beginning in a hushed whisper and ending in a mighty blaze of sound, sings of the Eternal-Feminine drawing mankind towards heaven.... At the end, in an instrumental coda, Mahler brings back the Veni, Creator Spiritus theme from the symphony’s opening but with its rising seventh expanded to a ninth as the brass triumphantly affirm the faith in both man and God.
Mahler’s unique effect is achieved by his masterful use of musical dissonance alternating with resolution through progressive modulations (key changes). The rising motion created by this compositional technique is supported with gradual additions of voices and instruments, producing layers of sound that build to a magnificent crescendo.
The music and voices of the Chorus Mysticus represent “the twilight zone” of Faust (and all souls) who experience the inner struggles of life but who through constant striving are “victorious in the noonday sun” as they make their ascent to heaven at the conclusion of their lives.
Speaking of the eighth symphony, Mahler said:
I have just finished my Eighth! It is the greatest thing I have as yet done and so individual in form and content that I cannot describe it in words. Imagine that the whole universe begins to sound in tone. The result is not merely human voices singing, but a vision of planets and suns coursing about.
Elizabeth Clare Prophet, October 28, 1973.
Pearls of Wisdom, vol. 38, no. 27, June 25, 1995.
- Gustave Mahler, letter, quoted in Gabriel Engel, Gustave Mahler: Song Symphonist, chapter 3. Project Gutenburg Australia, http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks03/0300041h.html
- Cuzco, “Make the Difference!” Pearls of Wisdom, vol. 38, no. 27, June 25, 1995.
- Michael Kennedy, commentary on the eighth symphony, in booklet accompanying the audio recording Mahler: The Symphonies, by Sir George Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, p. 21.
- Harold C. Schonberg, The Lives of the Great Composers (New York: Norton, 1997), p. 448.
- Conclusion of the eighth symphony, translation by Lionel Salter.
- Kennedy, commentary on the eighth symphony, pp. 23–24.
- Gustave Mahler, letter to Willem Mengelberg, quoted in Nicolas Slonimsky, Music since 1900 (New York: Coleman-Ross, 1949), p. 62.