I received this lovely book to review and got to enjoy the first part of it just after I completed my grad school applications back in October and my nephew and I went off to the park so he could play and I relaxed with this book, The Call of the Mourning Dove: How Sacred Sound Awakens Mystical Unity by Stephanie Rutt. The title and subtitle piqued my interest enough to want to check it out with my musical background. It is fascinating and very thorough. It will be most interesting to those curious about contemplative prayer, the mystics, finding commonalities between interfaith, and those who identify with “spiritual but not religious”. Those who are not open to any of those terms will likely not enjoy this.
It does run a bit academic in some ways, but it’s not difficult to read. Stephanie has done a great deal of research here, which is evident both throughout the book, and by the lengthy bibliography. It is difficult to read if you’re in a hurry. It’s a book that I started back in October and would have liked to read a bit at a time, savoring in it. Now that I’m rushing to post this, I wish I had taken more time. I would like to share a few excerpts with you, as I always find that helps get a sense of what it’s about and what to expect.
“The Sonic Trilogy of Love becomes a paradigm of unification, capable of holding the healthy tension that exists between particularity defining religious difference and the ubiquitous mystical experience engendering religious unity. The Sonic Trilogy of Love invites all seekers, one and all, home.”
“As seekers across faith traditions engage the sound of God in spiritual practice, each mya enter the portal into their own unmitigated experience of the divine. Whether mentally engaging a sacred word in contemplative prayer or chanting aloud according to an ancient script, the fruits of practice begin to answer a longing, a not-so-silent cry within, as the sound of God reverberates through the inner chambers, tuning and awakening seekers to that which was previously unknown. Wondrously, if only in passing moments, seekers may start to get just a glimpse of that which is beyond understanding, to suddenly see themselves as God sees them. And if so, nothing is the same.”
Sound is the thing that Stephanie calls the common denominator of prayer, meditation, chant, and song. Sound.
Hunger for unity among the spiritual but not religious (which by the way if you’re reading this–that concept is not something that can be easily dismissed, in fact, I relate much more to this group than those who seek to distance or even to dismiss them. There is something to be said of celebrating our differences, but if we cannot also come together to celebrate in what we do have in common, then we have lost a great deal.
“Spiritual but not religious” are searching for a divine unity unbound from. constraints they perceive are imposed by existing faith traditions. And as more and more seekers are exploring across faith traditions, more are becoming aware of the commonalities related to our personal spiritual quests human and divine, past and present.”
“As an interfaith theologian, I am in constant search of that which unites the world’s faith traditions while, simultaneously, seeking to respect, indeed celebrate, what differentiates. It has been my observation that religious beliefs tend to differentiate while religious experience tends to engender resonance.”
“Traditionally religious practitioners continue to feel those reverberations of the sound of God emanating from their sacred texts, as perhaps the have long experienced. And practitioners can also experience the sound of God only now emanating from the sacred texts and practices across faith traditions.”
“Engaging the Sonic Trilogy of Love, seekers may, indeed, encounter that still small voice by engaging those very sacred sound practices embedded in the ancient religious canaons. For in doing so, the transformation effects of sacred sound open a portal into an unmitigated expereince of the divine.”
And that was just from the beginning of the book!
Stephanie continues and quotes and references many wonderful mystics, and desert mothers, and saints, and other figures and mystics from other faiths as well. Here are a few that I enjoyed:
“St. Therese of Lisieux declared, “I am the atom of Jesus,” and the Indian mystic Kabir expressed, “All know that the drop merges into the ocean, but few know that the ocean merges into the drop.” And with this profound awareness, we find our heart and God’s heart, more often, pulsing together. Though keenly aware of our particularity, we now start to see the face of God everywhere–in our neighbor and in the flower. This is how the Love has its way with us, transforming us and leaving us not where we began–in unity with all.”
Meister Eckhart: “To gauge the soul we must gauge it with God, for the Ground of God and the Ground of the Soul are one and the same…The knower and the known are one.”
Rumi said “there is a place that is made of silence, a place where the whispers of the heart…take place..? a place where voices sing your beauty, a place where every breath carves your image in my soul.”
Many familiar themes reflected contemplative prayer, including some great excerpts from Father Thomas Keating, this concept of sacred word that I teach in my classes for Centering Prayer.
“And we too, as Lovers entering the Sonic Trilogy of Love, The Love, sacred sound, come in contact with that germinal higher part of ourselves, that something “more”, our Beloved, God. And graciously, as a result of our newly found awareness within, we may start to experience our own unique practical consequences without manifesting in daily life in service to a greater good.”
In the Sonic Trilogy of Sound, the Lover, practitioner, through engaging Love, the sacred sound of God, may, indeed, experience the dominance of this religious view and, in such moments, unexpectedly, become a seer of the infinite, seeing into the whole of things and finding only the miraculous, the Beloved, God.”
“God has the ability both to be present here, immanent in this fragiel world, and at the same time transcendent, beyond what we beings in bodies on our small globe can imagine.”
“Love is justice. It is not necessarily a happy feeling or romantic attachment. Love is a way of being in the world, not necessarily an emotional affect.”
“However, it is important to know that we cannot will such moments. We can only create the conditions to invite and allow them with our intention.”
In her compelling chapter on Love as Sacred Sound, Stephanie demonstrates a deep connection not just of the Abrahamic faiths, but Hinduism and Sanskrit as well, showing the connection between Hebrew and Sanskrit, as well as Aramaic and Arabic, and she gets into the vibrations of the syllables and references the Genesis 1:1 and how creation was spoken into existence. Growing up around linguists, I find this all extremely and exquisitely fascinating.
“As Jesus spoke in Aramaic, it is important to emphasize the relationship of this ancient language to Hebrew.”
“Christ is the center of the universe. He is the center of humanity. He is the center of every human being.” As she quotes Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “With ever the same brilliance in all, Christ shines as a light at the heart.”
If any of these excerpts lit you up, you may take that as a good indication that you want to read it, I can recommend it. And now, back to grad school. Enjoy the book!
About the author:
Stephanie Rutt is founder and presiding minister of the Tree of Life Interfaith Temple in Milford, NH. She received her DMin from Andover Newton Theological School, now Andover Newton Seminary at Yale, where her thesis, the basis for this book, won the Frederick Buechner Prize for Excellence in Writing. She is the creator of the Tree of Life Interfaith Seminary, author of several additional books, and has appeared on the TEDx stage.