This is the first in what I plan as occasional posts of music that I find related to the Dark or Dark-Light current. I don’t think that anyone plugs into that current the way that Johann Sebastian Bach does in many of his works, and most particularly in this one, the Passacaglia from the Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor, BWV 582. Mysterious, sublime, terrifying, unrelenting and cathartic, it captures, to my mind, most perfectly Jacob Boehme’s Ungrund concept. It can pluck you up and hurtle you deep within the darkest cosmos and spit you out to bask in the searing fire of illumination. Maybe it only affects me that way. But – it has to be performed well, as in this recording by Michael Murray. I have a recording of the work by another, very accomplished organist, and that performance leaves me very cold; while it may be technically perfect, it does nothing for me on an inner level.
The person who uploaded this YouTube video has put up the complete Michael Murray recording, which includes some other works; I tried to set it up here so that it would begin at the Passacaglia, but if it starts at the beginning for you, as is likely, then click forward to exactly the 20:00 minute mark, which is where the Passacaglia begins. I may replace this with my own video of just the Passacaglia at some point, if I get around to making one.
“For out of nature is God a Mysterium, i.e. the Nothing; for from out of nature is the Nothing, which is an eye of eternity, a groundless eye, which stands nowhere nor sees, for it is the Ungrund and the selfsame eye is a will, i.e. a longing for manifestation, to discern the Nothing”. The Ungrund thus is the Nothing, the groundless eye of eternity, yet together with this it is will, without foundation, unfathomable and indeterminate will. But this — is a Nothing, which is … “an hunger to be something”. And together with this the Ungrund is freedom. Within the darkness of the Ungrund there is ablaze a fire and this is freedom, a freedom meonic with potential. According to Boehme, freedom is contrary to nature, but nature has issued forth from freedom. Freedom is a semblance of the Nothing, but from it issues something. The hunger of freedom, of the groundless will to something has to be satisfied: … “The Nothing loves to make itself manifest from out of freedom in the deathly darkness, for then the Nothing wills not to be the Nothing, and cannot be the Nothing” The freedom of the Ungrund is neither light, nor darkness, neither good, nor evil. Freedom lies within the darkness and thirsts for the light. And freedom is the cause of light. … “Freedom exists and is set within the darkness, and over against the dark desire is still yet the desire for light, it seizes the darkness with the eternal will; and the darkness aspires after the light of freedom and cannot attain it, for then it passes with desire over into itself, and attains in itself but to the darkness”. … In the darkness there is kindled a fire and a glimmer of light, the Nothing comes to be something, the groundless freedom gives rise to nature.
Nikolai Berdyaev, Studies Concerning Jacob Boehme, 1930. © 2002 by translator Fr. S. Janos. [original German text deleted from this quoted passage]