Seated one day at the organ,
I was weary and ill at ease,
And my fingers wandered idly
Over the noisy keys.
I know not what I was playing
Or what I was dreaming then,
But I struck one chord of music
Like the sound of a great Amen.
–Arthur Sullivan & Adelaide Ann Proctor
Seated one day by the window, I was “weary and ill at ease,” as I contemplated the frozen ground covered with snow. It was a murky day, with the sunlight painfully missing. In this desultory state I contemplated the absent image of the sun.
From my boyhood I knew the sun was ninety-three million miles away, and that it took its rays eight minutes to reach the earth. I also knew it furnished the energy to support life. But there is more to the story. Gazing at the stark wintery landscape outside, I reviewed what I knew about this nearest star. I have learned its awesome heat results from atomic fusion, and that it has fuel sufficient to last billions more years. What we see as light is derived from just a miniscule fraction of the energy constantly bombarding the earth. The sun’s radiant energy contains an enourmous range of frequencies, from mere thousands to trillions of cycles per second. This radiation includes ultraviolet and infra-red light, X-rays, and gamma rays.
Basically the sun’s electromagnetic radiation is invisible. The narrow band of frequencies that we “see” as the color spectrum is an illusion, produced by our brain. It turns out the world we see around us, including color, is a creation of our own making.
With these thoughts ruminating in my head, I was suddenly bathed in a burst of sunlight that brought a welcome warmth to my body.
It was as if I had struck that “Lost Chord.”
I seem to have been in tune at that moment with a cosmic event which served to lift my spirit. The incident also reminded me that the mundane and the psychic level of the unconscious are related. This applies to collective as well as to individual thinking.
Take the field of medicine, for example, In modern medical practice, the emphasis is on examining the symptoms and making a diagnosis. Causal thinking seeks to find an appropriate cure. With yoga, on the other hand, a wholistic approach treats both body and soul, bringing the two into harmony.
Just so, in my experience at the window, the sun played this latter role, by way of science and soul.
The same applies to medical treatment. The Western doctor, having made a diagnosis, has but to prescribe the appropriate medication. Any notion of establishing a relationship with the patient is virtually ignored. For example, a patient who had had his prostate removed may be asked by the physician to leave a urine sample, with the doctor ignoring the reality that he is incontinent from the operation and cannot easily comply. Or an elderly patient, technically blind and preparing for cataract surgery, is given several prescriptions, but no thought is given to the fact that she can’t possibly read the dosage instructions. Bedside manner went out long ago along with house visits. Machines and fast-paced, by the book doctors increasingly replace personal contact.
And it’s not just medicine. I used to know the bank teller. Now I’m asked for ID at the neighborhood bank I’ve used for decades. The personal touch is missing.
Back to the sun. If it is looked at scientifically, the coincidence of my thoughts and its timely burst of warming light is just that: a coincidence. But suppose there is a connection, where psyche and matter are one, where the two things can relate to each other synchronistically in a meaningful way.
This way of seeing things offers a deepening the two realities, so that a kind of wholistic thinking becomes possible. Seeing the sun as being connected to me in this way gives it a meaning that science alone cannot achieve.
Arthur Sullivan’s piece, “The Lost Chord,” popped into my mind “out of the blue” after the sunlight burst through my gloom. From Wikipedia I learned that Sullivan, the composer half of the famed comic opera duo of Gilbert & Sullivan, composed this piece in 1877, five days prior to the death of his brother. The music was written to accompany the poem of that name by Adelaide Anne Procter, which had been published in1858. This triad of events, the details of which I did not know, illustrates how a wholistic experience can enrich our lives.
Scientific rationality needs to be tempered by the knowledge that other modes of thought are vital to our health and the health of our planet. Science without soul, as exemplified by our modern medical model, is incomplete.
It quieted pain and sorrow
Like love overcoming strife.
It seemed a harmonious echo
From our discordant life.
DAVID LINDORFF, Sr. is a retired electrical engineer, a practicing Jungian analyst, and is author of Pauli and Jung: A Meeting of Two Great Minds (Quest Books, 2004). He lives with his wife in Mansfield, CT, and can be contacted by email