Source: Frans A.J. De Haas, “Late Ancient Philosophy,” The Cambridge Companion to Greek and Roman Philosophy, ed. David Sedley (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003) 256.
“The purpose of life is ‘likeness to God’…In progressing towards this goal, natural aptitude, training and teaching combine with the purification and preparation instilled by music and the mathematical disciplines to achieve the four cardinal virtues–courage, self-control, justice and prudence.”
This refers to the views of Alcinous, who interpreted Plato in the second century C.E. It’s been a while since I read Plato’s Republic, so I’m rather rusty about why Plato deemed music to be conducive to virtue. But the above quote reminded me of something I read in Benyamin Cohen’s My Jesus Year: A Rabbi’s Son Wanders the Bible Belt in Search of His Own Faith.
In his journey through the Bible belt, Cohen came to admire Christianity for its lively music. He wished that Judaism could have that, too, since it would bring people closer to God. After all, the temple had lots of musicians!
At first, I was skeptical. What’s music have to do with becoming closer to God? If I’m a Christian, then I have a new nature. That’s true, whether or not a fancy soundtrack accompanies my spiritual journey.
But, on second thought, maybe music can assist us spiritually. I read Scripture and listen to sermons for spiritual inspiration. Why can’t music likewise inspire me?
For the past few years, praise hasn’t been a big part of my spiritual life. Neither has music, for that matter. When I was in junior high and high school, I would walk around my room as I listened to pop rock. I don’t do that anymore, probably because I see it as a waste of time. But music makes me feel good, so maybe I should get back to listening to it.