Illustration of the hoopoe of “The Conference of the Birds” (Persian: منطق الطیر) in Manteq aṭ-Ṭayr (منطق الطیر, 1177) by Farīd ud-Dīn (فریدالدین) ‘Attār (عطار - the pharmacist). Image credit: Democratic Underground
Hafiz, our great and wonderful poet of Persia, says: “Many say that life entered the human body by the help of music, but the truth is that life itself is music.” I should like to tell you what made him say this. There exists in the East a legend which relates that God made a statue of clay in His own image, and asked the soul to enter into it. But the soul refused to enter into this prison, for its nature is to fly about freely, and not be limited and bound to any sort of captivity. The soul did not wish in the least to enter this prison. Then God asked the angels to play their music and, as the angels played, the soul was moved to ecstasy. Through that ecstasy—in order to make this music more clear to itself—it entered this body.
It is a beautiful legend, and much more so is its mystery. The interpretation of this legend explains to us two great laws. One is that freedom is the nature of the soul, and for the soul the whole tragedy of life is the absence of that freedom which belongs to its original nature. The next mystery that this legend reveals to us is that the only reason why the soul has entered the body of clay or matter is to experience the music of life, and to make this music clear to itself. And when we sum up these two great mysteries, the third mystery, which is the mystery of all mysteries, comes to our mind: that the unlimited part of ourselves becomes limited and earthbound for the purpose of making this life, which is the outward life, more intelligible. Therefore there is one loss and one gain. The loss is the loss of freedom, and the gain is the experience of life which is fully gained by coming to this limitation of life which we call the life of an individual.
– Hazrat Inayat Khan in The Mysticism of Sound and Music, (Boston: Shambhala, 1996), p. 11. Also available in David Rothenberg and Marta Ulvaeus‘ The Book of Music and Nature: An anthology of sounds, words, thoughts, Volumes 2-3, (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2001), p. 13.
This entire post pilfered from the extraordinary Entersection.