Music of the Spheres

Before you listen to Coldplay’s new album, listen to the original soundtrack.

Coldplay’s ninth album, “Music of the Spheres,” is out now. In it, the band turns its attention to the cosmos. That ought to interest Christians, as God loves the cosmos, the world (Jn.3:16). He created the original, so I’m curious how closely Coldplay’s cosmos hews to it.

The album cover is promising. It features an arrangement of planets, moons and satellites in a solar system, each corresponding to a song. This is straight out of the medieval world where the “music of the spheres” is part of how medieval people imagined the cosmos, “the heavens and the earth” that God created (Gen.1:1). But C. S. Lewis felt this music of the spheres is unfamiliar to us modern folks, so if you’re curious, here’s the original music.

The soundtrack begins with the fundamental image of God as a sphere. He created the cosmos as a series of spheres, or heavens, expanding from the center out. The first heaven begins at the bottom of our feet and extends up through the top of our head. The second heaven is the firmament, the stars and planets. The third heaven is a sphere called the Primum Mobile (the “First Movable”). It has no luminous body and is therefore invisible to our senses.

Beyond the third heaven is God, the very Heaven, full of God. So when Dante passes that last frontier he is told, “We have got outside the largest corporeal thing into that Heaven which is pure light, intellectual light, full of love.” It’s an indescribable experience.

Indescribable because at the third heaven’s frontier, the whole spatial way of thinking breaks down. For starters, eternity is the end of spatiality (our lived sense of space). The same with the end of time, for eternity is timelessness. The end of spatiality and time is transcendence, where the light beyond the material universe is light that’s full of God’s ineffable love.

Ineffable means indescribable, and Lewis would have felt God is certainly more describable than the modern take on him being up there. “The old definition of God,” he writes, is “a circle whose centre is everywhere and circumference is nowhere.”[1] God’s center is present throughout the cosmos—up there, in here, out there, everywhere—so the entire cosmos is filled with God, “tingling with life, dancing… a festival not a machine.”

This includes the stars and planets. They’re angelic creatures whose “high dance” makes the pattern of events unfolding here on earth meaningful for each planet each sings a certain note. Sung with the other planets, this produces a harmony, an ordered whole, making the order of things “a humanly meaningful one which gives shape to our lives.”[2]

The center of this shape is love, for Lewis writes the “music of the spheres” is moved by love, by God, who is love. The cosmos moves and has its being in God’s love. This is why I wrote last week that a sphere, denoting love, is at the center of all, even the cross.

This “music of the spheres” is felt in our soul and is all around us—inescapable and invisible. That’s because music is primal. Language is secondary in depicting spheres.[3] Lewis felt if this music of the spheres ever ceased in any part of the universe (it won’t, for God never ceases to exist), we’d feel that the bottom had dropped out of our lives. Life would become meaningless. We’d become dis-enchanted.

I sense Chris Martin of Coldplay feels a bit of this. A few years back I wrote a piece about Coldplay’s post-Christian sentiments. Perhaps Martin is feeling the incoherence of modern life that Max Weber described, our “dis-enchantment” as science and technology has displaced the magical world of the medieval age.[4] I hope so, for as Lewis liked to say, everyone gets at least part of the story right for everyone is made in God’s image. Let’s see how much of the original “music of the spheres” Coldplay gets right.

And what about us? How many of us are familiar with the original “music of the spheres?” It can be heard throughout the universe, in many songs today, and especially in the Song of Songs, the wondrous music of a man and a woman, husband and wife, making love. If you’re unfamiliar with this music, read the Song of Songs. Or read Lewis’ The Discarded Image. Learn how the western world discarded the magical cosmos for a didactic universe that’s deadening. You start longing for stars and planets tingling with life, making music.

 

[1] C. S. Lewis, The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature (Cambridge University Press, 1964), 212.

[2] Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007), 60.

[3] Iain McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary (Yale University Press, 2009), 102-105.

[4] Max Weber, Charisma and Disenchantment: The Vocation Lectures, ed. Paul Reiter and Chad Wellmon, translated by Damion Searls, (New York Review Books, 2020)

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