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A cocktail at the end of the world

Image courtesy Dangerous Minds
Artist Jean Delville’s title page for Scriabin’s Promethée, originally a section of the Mysterium.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Although drawn to it for the briefest of instances, I did not in fact read a curious post today over at Dangerous Minds (“Lot of truth in the “Late, Late Show.” Ya know they slip it through there, they figure nobody’s watchin’…”) with a headline “Scriabin’s ‘Mysterium’: Music to Destroy the Universe” accompanied by a an eerie bit of esoteric artwork.

I normally would read an article claiming a composer composed music that could “destroy the universe,” but I didn’t. Why?

But a few hours later (about 15 minutes ago) I’m lying in bed reading Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montefiore. In fact, I’ve been reading a lot on 20th century Russian and Soviet history while my wife has been focusing on the 19th century and the Romanovs and having us watch the Disney film Anastasia, complete with a ghoulish Rasputin (voiced by Back to the Future "Zeus" figure Christopher Lloyd).

Anyway, I’m reading a chapter called “The Kremlin Family” and the author introduces us to the “Old Bolshevik” Vyacheslav Molotov, “the only man to shake hands with Lenin, Hitler, Himmler, Goring, Roosevelt and Churchill.” Molotov would achieve notoriety far beyond his role in Stalin's government. During the USSR-Finland "Winter War," the Finns would refer to improvised incendiary weapons of war during that conflict as "Molotov cocktails." 

Writing about Molotov’s background, Montefiore writes, much to my astonishment: “Born in Kukarla, a provincial backwater near Perm (soon renamed Molotov), Vyacheslav Scriabin was the son of a boozy salesman, a poor nobleman but no relation to the composer”(!!)

It goes on to note that Scriabin/Molotov “had played the violin for merchants in his home town," so while the two Scriabin's were altogether cut from a different cloth, they both had a love of music while both being rather ruthless in their pursuits in life. 

The composer Alexander Scriabin, the very person I had wanted to know more about via that intriguing Dangerous Minds headline but had put aside for the moment?

It was as if reading about Molotov’s real name had been a trigger of sorts to go back to that article and learn more about this fascinating man who died at the age of 43 in 1915.

According to the Scriabin Society of America, “Scriabin’s thought processes were immensely complicated, even tinged with solipsism. ‘I am God,’ he once wrote in one of his secret philosophical journals. He embraced Helena Blavatsky’s Theosophy. In London, he visited the room in which Madame Blavatsky died. Scriabin considered his last music to be fragments of an immense piece he called Mysterium. The seven-day long megawork would be performed at the foothills of the Himalayas in India, after which the world would dissolve in bliss.”

Far out!

And yet Scriabin had wanted “the whole world” to be there at this performance. Not just humans, but all sorts of animals and that “artists of all kinds would contribute to the seven-day ritual as the Mysterium work incorporated “Sanskritic roots … cries, interjections, exclamations, and the sounds of breath inhaled and exhaled.”

And while it was never completed due to his early death, Scriabin’s biographer, Faubion Bowers – and others, including the folks at Dangerous Minds, emphasize that Mysterium would completely destroy the universe when it reached its crescendo and that “mankind (would be) plunged into the holocaust of finality.”

Quite incredible! And yet 100 years ago (right about now, a century ago, World War 1 was starting, just as Carl Jung’s dreams and visions had predicted) these sorts of ideas were far more common. Using art to commune with the universe, or even destroy it.

In the case of my great-great uncle Walter Burley Griffin (who would die in northern India in 1937) and his wife Marion Mahony Griffin, winning the 1911-12 contest to design the capital of Australia – Canberra – was an opportunity to incorporate both occult and democratic ideas in their designs, not all of which were utilized by the provincial-minded Australian bureaucrats. There was an idea that an amphitheatre at Castlecrag along Sydney Harbour would be where the “Great World Teacher” would share universal knowledge with humanity. Perhaps Krishnamurti?

After all, it was during the Griffins time in Australia where they fully embraced Theosophy and later Anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner’s offshoot, something that was confirmed for me at the recent meeting of the Walter Burley Griffin Society of America. Both Griffin and Scriabin have societies in America devoted to them.

The mad Russian composer, meanwhile, is alluded to in this Stalin biography I’m reading. Here on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the true kick-off of World War I. And Russia is indeed on the minds of many these days. Are they tied together somehow? Now I need to read the Bowers biography of Scriabin and learn more about his life and his universe-destroying Mysterium.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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