Saturday, February 5, 2011

Esoteric Atonality

Even the new, disturbing atonal world, emerging out of Mozart’s Vienna, had links to the esoteric. Arnold Schoenberg, high priest of atonality, was a deeply religious man, with a lasting interest in number mysticism. He was also a friend of the painter Wassily Kandinsky, a devotee of Theosophy. Schoenberg was influenced by the doctrines of the Scandanavian mystic Emmanuel Swedenborg, which he came upon by way of the French novelist Honore de Balzac. Balzac was a follower of Swedenborg, and Schoenberg became obsessed with his Swedenborgian novel Seraphita and its central figure, the androgynous angel, Seraphita/Seraphitus. In Schoenberg’s unfinished oratorio Jacob’s Ladder, the angel Gabriel announces: “Whether right, left, forward or backward, up or down—one has to go on without asking what lies before or behind us,” paraphrasing Swedenborg’s teaching that in heaven, all angels face God. Schoenberg developed an intricate system of angelology, based on his number mysticism. His fascination with number, however, manifested in other ways, among them a fear of the number 13. Strangely, Schoenberg was born on September 13, 1874, and died on Friday, July 13, 1951.

Gary Lachman," Concerto for Magic and Mysticism"