Sunday, August 12, 2012

Blavatsky and Scriabin, Again

Research into the influence of Blavatsky on the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915) continues. The current issue of the Music Theory Online, the journal of the Society for Music Theory, contains an in-depth analysis of Scriabin’s symphony Prometheus: The Poem of Fire by Anna M. Gawboy and Justin Townsend titled “Scriabin and the Possible.”

The original program for Prometheus printed in the booklet at the 1911 Moscow premiere revealed the work’s connection to Blavatsky. The text begins, “Prometheus, Satanas [sic], and Lucifer all meet in ancient myth. They represent the active energy of the universe, its creative principle. The fire is light, life, struggle, increase, abundance, thought” (translated in Bowers 1996, 206–7). This closely paraphrases Blavatsky’s description of the Lucifer/Prometheus figure from The Secret Doctrine: “Satan, or Lucifer, represents the active, or . . . the ‘Centrifugal Energy of the Universe’ in a cosmic sense. He is Fire, Light, Life, Struggle, Effort, Thought, Consciousness, Progress, Civilization, Liberty, Independence” (Blavatsky 1888, vol. 2, 245).

For Blavatsky, Prometheus’s theft of fire was an allegory for the acquisition of human intellect, a pivotal moment in the theosophic narrative of human evolution (Blavatsky 1888, vol. 2, 519–28). The Secret Doctrine described how the human soul began as an emanation of the divine spirit, a primal thrill of vibration that Blavatsky conceptualized variously as a breath, a sound, and a light. Like a dividing cell, this emanation underwent a process of differentiation over many eons, eventually resulting in a physically embodied being. Although humans had achieved full materialization at the midpoint of the cycle, they still lacked the “sacred spark which burns and expands into the flower of human reason and self-consciousness” (vol. 2, 95). The Promethean enlightenment would eventually allow humans to transcend their base material existence and begin the journey toward divine spiritual reunification.

Dramatic trajectory of the slow luce part.
a. Blavatsky’s diagram of involution and evolution (1888/2, 300)
b. The slow luce of Prometheus

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