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You may be wondering where I got the name "Devachan" for my music publishing company. Devachan is a Vedic word that means (roughly, since I'm no Vedic scholar) "of God." I learned the word from the writings of Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher and spiritual initiate who lived around the turn of the century, founder of Waldorf Education, biodynamic agriculture and many other social initiatives. Steiner used the term Devachan to refer to a particular realm or "layer" of the spiritual world that we reach in sleep and, according to reports from various cultures, after death. (Henry Miller also apparently used the word.)

I've heard this land described in two ways. First, as a land where everything is music, where all natural sounds like the wind and running water, footsteps and creaks of doors resonate in belled tones more beautiful than the greatest human music. Second, as that land where we meet and experience thoughts and ideas as though they were living beings. I say "as though" but it would be more correct to say: that realm where we understand once more that ideas are living beings. (Richard Dawkins' notion of memes is a more biological metaphor for the same idea about ideas.)

For me, these two ways of understanding Devachan—as the place where everything is music, and as the place where thoughts and ideas are alive—are one and the same. From the time I learned Irish tunes from the great Galway accordion player Kevin Keegan out in San Francisco—saw him turn his head to the side while he played as if he were drawing the notes down from the stars and drinking the whole world in through his ear, and sniff and draw in breath while the squeezebox puffed and sang, as if it was the very same breath flowing through lungs and bellows—I have believed that tunes themselves are living, aware beings that come down to visit with us and carry their news.

Yet also, tunes are ideas: neither brow-wrinkled logical sequences, nor casual thoughts like worrying about the shopping list you left in your coat pocket, but ideas in the sense of crystal structures of light that can leap like lightning from human heart to human heart. I say heart, because the kind of "thinking" required to hold such ideas is not just a matter of the mind, but also of the heart, and of the fingers and feet.

So: Tunes are alive. Tunes are ideas. Ideas are alive. Devachan.

In the Celtic tradition, music has always been viewed as a bridge to the Otherworld, that land which lies both far away and all around us. For those who learn to cleanse Blake's doors of perception, with the help of music, perhaps even this old world of ours can sound as beautiful.

 

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