The graphic below is adapted from Huston Smith’s wonderful book “Why Religion Matters, The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief” (2001, Harper Collins). I replaced Leonardo DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man with Homer Simpson as a more representative figure for ‘everyman’ in our Age of Disbelief. Smith illustrates for us here some of the comparative similarities across all religions. (Only the majors are displayed due to space constraints. The model is inclusive and works for other spiritual traditions as well.) A few of the elements presented here are:
– Humanity is pictured at the center as where our experience begins at the most physical – the five senses, etc…
– The lower half of the circle lists the Levels of Selfhood
– The upper half lists the Levels of Reality
So, if we experience our self as a ‘Christian’ for example, we experience our reality in terms of ‘Christianity’.
Moving out from the center (the physical reality of the senses) towards the periphery, in any direction, we move through various levels of mind/soul/spirit as defined by the various religions.
At the outermost regions of the circle and beyond we approach a non-dual state of consciousness, Godhead, the Unknowable, etc..
What this model allows us to see is that every tradition has very similar notions of the levels of consciousness that connect the physical realm with the spiritual realm. Each will have its unique peculiarities of course specific to cultural and linguistic contexts. But we have far more in common with one another than one might have assumed when viewed through this ‘lens’.
While music also occurs throughout the world in a spiritual context (along with its many other functions), this model may be useful as a reference in later discussions of music as a ‘ladder for the soul’ (Baha’i), the sacred science of sound (Hindu), establishing harmonious societies (Plato and Confucius), etc… Since music is vibration, it occurs at the fundamental physical level as audible sound, but also extends through ever subtler levels of harmonic overtones and undertones very much like the levels of consciousness illustrated in Smith’s model. You can click on the image to get a larger view.