ARTHUR FARWELL • INTUITION

 


Farwell's initial musical experiences were visionary in nature. Intuition was always of conscious importance to him. He would regularly apply the intuitive techniques of meditation and visualization to his music for decades. As he matured the importance of intuition in Farwell's mind only grew greater. He became more fascinated by the prophetic visions of his youth. He began lecturing on intuition, projecting drawings or watercolors of his visions, and lecturing on intuitive philosophy, a la Thomas Troward. Troward's "new thought" or "mental science" philosophy uniquely offered direct and thoughtful advice on the philosophy and practice of intuition. Farwell constantly used Troward's language in his own philosophy. Here is a taste of Troward's thought:

Intuition works most freely in that direction in which we most habitually concentrate our thought; and in practice it will be found that the best way to cultivate the intuition in any particular direction is to meditate upon the abstract principles of that particular class of subjects rather than only to consider particular cases. Perhaps the reason is that particular cases have to do with specific phenomena, that is with the law working under certain limiting conditions, whereas the principles of the law are not limited by local conditions, and so habitual meditation on them sets our intuition free to range in an infinitude where the conception of antecedent conditions does not limit it. Anyway, whatever may be the theoretical explanation, you will find that the clear grasp of abstract principles in any direction has a wonderfully quickening effect upon the intuition in that particular direction (The Edinburgh Lectures on Mental Science)

It was around 1930 that Farwell began writing his treatise on intuition. He called it Intuition in the World-Making. By the time of his death, this work had expanded to 600 pages. In it Farwell explains the nature, laws, and application of human intuition. He makes comparisons to other visionary artists--Blake, Wagner, Strauss--citing them as examples. He expounds at great length on his prophetic series of dreams, the vision of the "Great City." This vision involved a series of six dreams. Collectively they depict the story of a faltering civilization and global apocalypse--Farwell, his mother, and brother are present in these dreams. However, through the Divine and illuminated sound of an organ the world is healed and society evolves to Divine heights. Farwell sees a new city being collectively built by a happy society. He interpreted these dreams in historical terms. The breakdown of civilization he believed was WWII, while he was also witnessing the Great Depression and a massive environmental drought. He was inspired to express these visions musically, in works like his Symbolist Study No. 5. Farwell's definitation of intuition is inclusive of dreams and visions. He writes:

Intuition, then, will embrace the commonly understood intuition (inclusive of what is popularly known as the “hunch”), the artistic, scientific, philosophical or spiritual inspiration, in fact, all creative revelation in any sphere, the symbolic dream, the vision, and other related subconscious phenomena of a revelatory nature, and all of these reason-transcending illuminations as experienced both in their spontaneous, unexpected manner, and also as the result of conscious and purposeful inducing of them. The name of none of these so different appearing phenomena, other than “intuition” itself, may suitably be used to include them all (1972, 96). 
 

 

Intuition wasn't just practical for Farwell, it was sacred. "Without intuition," he writes, "the people perish." Farwell clearly understood how artistic and spiritual intuition could be united. He saw his spiritual calling, through music, as a devotional service. "In the request for intuitive revelations I would be offering myself as a candidate for unlimited mental expansion." And despite the waning of his career in his later years, it was Farwell's intuitive service that kept him strong. His son, Jonathan Farwell, reflects:

              I felt that my father, on the other hand, had a firm grip on a well-grounded approach to the life of the soul, based on years of thought, serious study, and his own inner experience of what he called
              intuition. All this resulted in rather firm convictions about his place and mission in the scheme of things, and, for better or worse, he lived by these convictions and used them creatively. I think all
              this gave him the strength to survive the frustrations and penury of his latter days with dignity and, yes, a kind of nobility. I'm sure it was not easy for him, after the life he'd had, and the recognition
              he had received, to realize in his final decade, that he had been passed over, and was to all intents and purposes a "forgotten man." To the end, he spoke of life with enthusiasm and humor, at least
              as far as I was able to observe.
"The Organ," one of Farwell's hand-drawn visions from the "Great City"

"The Organ," one of Farwell's hand-drawn visions from the "Great City"

Farwell describes the vision above as follows: An earthquake shook the foundation, a trembling light filled the upper chamber. An enormous organ began loudly intoning a "torrent of sound" and a rainbow of light, which caused the storm to subside. “In the great torrent of the organ outburst,” Farwell wrote in 1930, “music was revealed as a colossal elemental force, a veritable cosmic power, continuous in its being and action with the mightiest world-generating forces, and well worthy to be the ‘Announcer’ of a new human dispensation…” (Farwell b, 36). Farwell goes on:

The unearthly and tumultuous music of the organ was so overwhelming and staggering to me in the vision that I had no room for anything but a spiritual reaction to it; the technical sense, which grasps music note for note, was almost completely submerged and obliterated. This music experience of the vision is equally indellible in the memory as every point of vision-experience generally, but it is precisely this spiritual overwhelmingness, with its consequent technical vagueness, that constitutes its indelible factor. To have received it in a condition reducible to note and bar would have been to see its spiritual significance wholly destroyed. Nevertheless, later in the day following the vision, I recorded a certain impression of this music, a fugitive moment of its scaring turbulence, which up to the present I have not used in any composition. As a symbol of a cosmic principle only indirectly knowable in its real essence, this music was of an entirely different order from the other, where I heard music which was the direct expression of a wholly knowable state of consciousness.