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Christian Offline

Posts: 123

Wed May 07, 2014 10:27 am
Stockhausen as a spiritual teacher? reply

Stockhausen had countless students in the field of music. But how much was he also a spiritual teacher for them? Did he "suit" as a spiritual teacher or was the "private mythology", he was so often blamed for, too private to have missionary effects?
Let's take the participants of the Kürten courses: How many of them (did) adapt their religious belief to the one of Stockhausen? Many? No one? I have no idea but just therefore I think that's an interesting question...

Joe Offline

Posts: 103

Thu May 08, 2014 2:37 am
#2 RE: Stockhausen as a spiritual teacher? reply

I don't think anyone I've ever met at the courses was on a spiritual path prescribed by Stockhausen. After all, what would such a path look like? Was he Catholic? Urantian? I wonder if it's actually possibly to articulate Stockhausen's actual religious beliefs aside from a few basic facts. He prayed daily. He believed in angels and in Michael as his master. He believed in reincarnation, and that he would return to Sirius. That hardly has the makings of a system of religious thought for adherents to follow.

He said that in order to perform his music, a performer should approach it spiritually. Yet, he never was explicit about how that should be done. The closest he comes is in moments like Goldstaub, where he asks the performer fast in retreat before a performance.

More than once, I've had people assume that I'm part of "the Stockhausen cult", when I explain my background with his music. So, I think the misperception that he was a spiritual guru is common. But he clearly (to me, at least) was not interested in establishing a cult with himself at the head.

Christian Offline

Posts: 123

Thu May 08, 2014 7:30 pm
#3 RE: Stockhausen as a spiritual teacher? reply

"Part of the 'Stockhausen cult'"??? OMG! If I may ask: Who said that?
I'm dealing (as a sociologist) with cults and sects for 13 years now. And though I see many phenomena in this field critical I regard it as dangerous and unfair to brand someone to be in a cult without a further study of the facts. That people are/were blamed to be in a "Stockhausen cult" is quite obviously the result of prejudices what a "Guru" is like. These prejudices seem to work with a kind of Guru checklist:
A Guru is - as we all know -
- talking a lot about spirituality (check!)
- saying strange things like coming from a star (check!)
- has - if male - long hair (check!)
- has a typical, never changing style of clothing (check!)
- shows a deviant attitude in sexuality and/or partnership (check!)
- is convinced about his mission (check!)
- claims to be in contact with God/the divine (check!)
- makes his devotees meet at certain places where they listen to his teachings (check!)
... Did I forgot something?
Anyway, in Stockhausen's case the result and verdict are clear: 100 % Guru!!

(I hope everybody sees the irony in this post...)

Joe Offline

Posts: 103

Thu May 08, 2014 11:16 pm
#4 RE: Stockhausen as a spiritual teacher? reply


As you point out, it's easy to see why some people can dismiss Stockhausen as a cult leader. Like I said, this is an assumption that many people freely make when they learn about my involvement with his music.

The definition of a cult is a difficult thing that has been the subject of much study. Another coincidence that I would add to your funny list is the deliberate isolation of adherents, and the difficulty of leaving the organization. That is a recurring theme among Stockhausen interpreters, but it is by no means a universal experience.

There are some striking similarities between Stockhausen and L. Ron Hubbard. Both believed in reincarnation and extraterrestrial spirituality. Some of Stockhausen's formulations about what the spirit does after death are strikingly similar to the tenets of Scientology. (Reincarnation is openly mocked in the UB; although, there are other similarities between the UB and Scientology.) Both LRH and Stockhausen spoke of being able to heal themselves with their mind. But these similarities are just superficial coincidences, like the ones on your list.

Returning to Stockhausen's belief system, there is a term in religious theory for his kind of spiritual bricolage: Sheilaism. It can be applied to anyone who invents their own private theology. Originally, it was coined as a way of describing someone who takes bits from different religions to create an independent system, but it's also been recognized that every person must have their own private relationship to their faith. In that sense, even devout Catholics are Sheilaists because they craft their own version of the faith through their choices about how to adhere to it.

Christian Offline

Posts: 123

Fri May 09, 2014 5:59 pm
#5 RE: Stockhausen as a spiritual teacher? reply

Ouch, Joe! - LRH and Stockhausen have similarities??? I hope you see more differences than similarities... LRH for me is one of the most cynical, brutal and disgusting cult founders. Maybe David Miscavige is even worse but that's not an excuse. I also don't see many parallels between Scientology and the UB, perhaps you can post something about it in the UB thread...

The word Sheilaism is new to me, I have to learn more about it. But coming back to Stockhausen as a spiritual teacher I must make a perhaps very personal confession: For me he is it. Not in every aspect (I don't believe in reincarnation here on Earth), but I really do love his strong belief in a life after death in the universe. His different statements and often funny remarks about that such as "Im Jenseits geht's erst richtig los" have already given me a lot of trust, confidence and joy. They have helped me in very difficult situations to stand life here on earth - more than my Catholic faith I like very much, too, can give me. And I'm nearly jealous when I regard Stockhausen's solid unshakeable faith and trust in God's love, help and protection.
Naive??? Yes! As naive we should become just as Jesus told us in order to get to the kingdom of Heaven.

Joe Offline

Posts: 103

Fri May 09, 2014 6:31 pm
#6 RE: Stockhausen as a spiritual teacher? reply

I find a great deal of spiritual inspiration in Stockhausen's work. It's along the same lines as Bach's Soli Deo gloria dedication. Stockhausen described himself as "crazy about God", which I like quite a bit.

In San Francisco, there is a church that worships God through the music of John Coltrane. I could imagine someone constructing a similar religious practice around Stockhausen's work. Having seen many forms of worship all over the world, I try very hard not to dismiss the efficacy of any particular religion. Stockhausen recognized that there are many paths to God, and though he often contradicted himself, I think he made it fairly clear that his music is more of a guidepost than a sacred object. He used that clever metaphor of being a spring through which religious material flowed, and that people should focus on the source of the spring, more than the spring itself.

It's interesting to note that his view of the afterlife blends so many strains of religious thought, but that it remains rooted in his childhood Catholicism. That remark you quoted sums it up. Many Protestants would not recognize that theology.

Adorján Offline

Posts: 57

Fri May 09, 2014 11:27 pm
#7 RE: Stockhausen as a spiritual teacher? reply

„Stockhausen had countless students in the field of music.“
Much more interesting (as compared to the question of St. being a spiritual teacher or not) would be the question what all these „students“ have in common. He talked only about his own music while teaching. Leopoldo Siano speaks in his new book of „authentic teachers“ like Schönberg or Messiaen (p. 279). In contrast he calls St. a „source of inspiration“. But what exactly was the inspiration St. gave to his students? For me, it seems much too „obscurantistic“ to state that all his students, somehow, found their individual ways. I presume that they nevertheless have something in common because they studied with Stockhausen.

Ulrich Offline

Posts: 152

Sat May 10, 2014 6:13 pm
#8 RE: Stockhausen as a spiritual teacher? reply

KS as a spiritual teacher - for me personally he is no guru at all, but sometimes a person that encourages a spiritual and an authentic way of living; not by a religious system of belief, but just through some sentences that point to the theme how one could live and see the world. In this respect I find the book "Circle of the year" very appropriate and helpful: some sentences for each day as a stimulation to think about. But that is not restricted to Stockhausen - in Germany there is a similar enterprise with Goethe, every year anew "Mit Goethe durch das Jahr". So it is not exclusive...
And surely LICHT has a spiritual teaching and is meant to have - but without exposing a new religion. Open to many forms of belief!

Jerry Offline

Posts: 145

Sat May 10, 2014 11:32 pm
#9 RE: Stockhausen as a spiritual teacher? reply

Adorján wrote: "He talked only about his own music while teaching." If this is meant to say that, while teaching, all he did was talk about his own music, then this is certainly not true. I am not a first-hand witness, but from the reports by Jonathan Kramer, Richard Toop, Michael Kurtz, Rolf Gehlhaar, Fred Ritzel, and others, it is clear that Stockhausen often set compositional exercises for his students (at U Cal Davis, the Cologne Conservatory, and at Darmstadt), and also critiqued scores the students brought to him. Jonathan Kramer (in "Karlheinz in California", PNM 36/1, 247–60) tells about one such score in a sort of Hindemith style, which Stockhausen praised and encouraged the student to continue in the same direction. Stockhausen failed in this case, according to Jonathan, because the student soon turned to "avant-garde" approaches, making a piece from the amplified noises of burning plastic-wrap falling into a tray of water.

If on the other hand the statement is meant to say that Stockhausen never analysed the work of other composers when teaching composition, then this may be true. I don't know of any evidence that he tried to illustrate points by referring to the music of Mozart, Beethoven, or Wagner, for example (as Schoenberg and Messiaen certainly did). Of course in public lectures (as opposed to composition classes) he did analyse works by other composers, including Boulez, Nono, Bussotti, Cage, Cardew, and Kagel (for example, see David Gutkin's recent account of Stockhausen's 1959 Darmstadt lectures, in PNM 50:255–305), and it seems unlikely to me that he never even once alluded to the work of these or other composers in his composition classes.

So as not to drift entirely off of the thread, I should point to p. 196 in the English version of Kurtz's biography, where one of the composition exercises from the winter term of 1973–74 is described. Stockhausen suggested as an exercise that his students "should write simple choral pieces based on texts by Hazrat Inayat Khan." Presumably because of the spiritual nature of these texts, "some of them reacted rather coolly," and Stockhausen's plan to publish them together in a single volume fell through. His own intended contribution grew into ATMEN GIBT DAS LEBEN.

Adorján Offline

Posts: 57

Sun May 11, 2014 5:39 pm
#10 RE: Stockhausen as a spiritual teacher? reply

Jerry, thank you for the clarification. I (and Leopoldo Siano) meant to say the second. But again, did Stockhausen only encourage his students or is it possible to speak of a „Stockhausen school“ of composition?

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I feel that it could be useful to have a discussion-forum on the music of Stockhausen. There are so many people from all over the world, young and old, learned and eager to get into contact with this musical world: musicologists, composers, musicians, music lovers; people who plan concerts - who write books or have to give lectures and so on. So there should be much stuff, many ideas that we can share. And when we have open questions, there may be people who studied just that and could give a hint or a stimulus. A problem might be the English language, but i feel that is the only possibility that many people who are interested can participate. And we can exercise tolerance to mistakes! Thomas Ulrich
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