Harmony Reflections: Essays

These reflections explore ancient religious and philosophical traditions that speak of Harmony. We plan to make these essays available in full during 2019.

Harmony and Glory according to Christian Orthodoxy

Priest-monk Silouan – Wisdom Hermitage 

Orthodox Wisdom sees harmony in the light of the mysteries of union in Christ and the Holy Trinity, where the harmonic proportion of 1:1 corresponds to divine unity, 1:2 to the generation of the Logos as unity in difference, 2:3 to the triune completeness of Holy Trinity and 3:4 to the fourfold balance of deified creation.  Orthodox seers do not regard harmony as something fixed and static but as healthy dissonance without cacophony and wholesome consonance without monotony.  This frees harmony from alienating reification, giving expression to the Great Harmony which is always already present wherever we turn.  Such harmony handles unity without confusion and difference without division, in the image of the mysteries of Christ, unveiled in Holy Trinity, present in every sacred wisdom, but expressed differently in each traditional world.  Such wisdom opens the crises of our time to the healing energies of the light of glory which transmit harmony in unexpected ways, restoring wholeness where consumerism wrought havoc and dissipation.


Harmony and Wisdom

Priest-monk Silouan – Wisdom Hermitage 

Harmony is always already present even when its disruption tempts us to despair and we feel doomed and overwhelmed by crises driven by blind pride and relentless greed.  For it is primordial harmony in and around us that illumines so we can see, original harmony that unveils harmony in harmony even when the destruction of harmony threatens to destroy us.  But it is wisdom that discerns that harmony is always already present, so the practice of wisdom is the indispensable basis of sustainable harmony practice.


Death and Dying in Biomedicine in Islam

Mehrunisha Suleman – Research Associate, University of Cambridge 

The entry will explore the role of and need for harmony at the interface between biomedicine and Islam. It will present an exploration of the interconnectivity and relationships between the two fields/traditions of knowledge and practice and will present end of life care as a case study of this relationship. I will examine key concepts pertaining to end of life that are relevant to both of these field of knowledge and how the two fields offer us an understanding of terms like health, illness, life, death and dying. I will also share some of my research findings to illustrate how the latter concepts within the scope of end of life care help to delineate a juxtaposition between Islam and biomedicine and how this can be appreciated through an examination of the practice of the two fields, particularly around advanced care planning and values around hope, acceptance, quality of life and futility.


Harmony in Judaism

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg – Rabbi 

I experience harmony and disharmony on an almost daily basis. I find harmony in the quiet of listening, to the wind, the birds, the sound of running water, the words of favourite poems and prayers; I find it in absorbed attentiveness to another person’s memories, reflections, soul. My heart settles and I feel at one.

I encounter disharmony in the unrelenting news of disaster, shootings, a suicide bomb in a crowded market, desperate refugees drowned at sea, floods, drought, children, animals, trees all weak with thirst; I experience it in lies from political leaders, abusive conduct, gratuitous cruelty, casual heartlessness and contempt. I shrink back, afraid. I don’t know precisely of what nature the trouble will be; I don’t know exactly from where it will come. But the intuition of imminent disaster, from which I find it ever harder to escape and only for diminishing periods of time, sometimes leads me close to despair.

I often feel as if the good in the world, the gracious, the compassionate and the harmonious, is discontinuous with the discordant, the violent, and the cruel, as if they formed two distinct and separate worlds. I would like to draw the causes of disharmony and everything which perpetuates it closer to where the influence of harmony can disentangle, calm and ultimately transform its terrifying discord. The brief reflections in this essay, rooted in classical and mystical Jewish exegesis, are directed toward that end.


Harmony – Perspectives from the Sikh Dharam Bhai Sahib (Dr) Mohinder Singh

Bhai Sahib (Dr) Mohinder Singh – Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha 

To understand any concept, it often helps to think about its opposite.  The simplest way to understand harmony is to imagine a piece of music being played off beat or out of tune.    One would get a sense of inadequacy, of things not tying together and not going anywhere.  A state of harmony would instead give one a feeling a wholeness, connection and direction.  From a Sikh faith perspective, this comes by educating the mind to live attuned to the spark of the Divine which resides in each of us.  It has practical implications because it determines the kind of values and virtues we embody and put into action.  Today, successive environmental, social and economic crises have opened our eyes to the consequences of a narrow, self-serving human mindset. It is dawning on us that, as interconnected and interdependent global villagers of this 21st century, we need a new consciousness to carry us forward.  As I reflect on the faith teachings which have guided me over the decades, it seems that our neglect of the principle of harmony is the underlying crisis we must attend to.


Harmony Within and Harmony Without

Sister Jayanti – Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Univerity

Inner harmony is the seed of harmony between us and around us and enables us to create structures that sustain rather than undermine harmony. It is not a passive state, but rather the constant harmonising of different elements or energies within the self, different parts of the whole being. It is the process of constantly keeping a close eye on the integrity of our emotions, conscience, thoughts, words and actions. When we achieve this inner harmony, our decisions and behaviour are motivated by feelings of security, contentment and love, rather than neediness and blame.

Throughout history, real change has always happened as a result of a small minority of committed individuals coming together to create a critical mass that brings about a shift of consciousness. In the same way, we cannot leave change to governments or politicians. Harmony will be restored to the world when each one of us has the understanding, capacity and commitment to maintain harmony within the self. I believe that the key to this lies in the regular practice of silent reflection and meditation.


Exploring Harmony in Islam through the Self, Society, Nature and the Greater Cosmos

Muhammed Foulds – Head of Chaplaincy, HMP Bristol 

This essay looks at different aspects of the religion from prayer to the Arabic language to the Quran to the pilgrimage of Hajj exploring how every aspect of the religion follows systems, patterns, orders. If one was to study in depth one would see the interconnectedness between man and the universal laws showing that everything is one.


Harmony in Buddhism

Maria Reis Habito – Museum of World Religions

Any discussion of harmony in Buddhism necessarily takes its starting point from the spiritual realization of the Buddha, the “Awakened One,” that is, with the harmony that “begins in the mind.”  This is the foundation of Buddhist teachings on communal and societal harmony.  This is also connected to the Buddhist insight on our interdependence and interconnectedness with the natural environment.  My essay will approach the topic of Harmony in Buddhism along those three lines.


Photograph: Richard Dunne

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