Mountains, Music and Metaphysics:
An Interview with Fiona Odgren
by Deni Gross
I go to the hills when my heart is lonely,
I know I will hear what I’ve heard before.
My heart will be blessed with the sound of music,
And I’ll sing once more.
This song, The Sound of Music by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, expresses a joyful upliftment being amongst majestic mountains and nature, and echoes an expansion of consciousness and freedom of spirit which, as spiritual aspirants, we are all striving to experience. – Fiona Odgren
The Ancient Wisdom teaches that humanity is now entering a new era in which we can expect to be introduced to many challenging concepts, unfamiliar energies, and unusual vibrational frequencies, all destined to aid and quicken humanity’s spiritual development. One of the tasks of TRIUNE members is to help people adjust during this transitional period for our planet. Canadian member, Fiona Odgren, is particularly attuned to these new energies.
DG: Fiona, can you briefly give us some background information about your life growing up in England at the end of World War II?
My formative years were spent in a small historic town in Sussex in the southeastern area of England. East Grinstead is situated amidst delightful scenery about 30 miles south of London. The town features a number of Elizabethan houses and became well known for its hospital, the Queen Victoria, which had a special burns unit and offered innovative plastic surgery for tragically wounded airmen shot down during WWII. I did not come into this incarnation in England solo, but was accompanied by a twin sister, Rosalind, and from the start we were kindred spirits. Undoubtedly, our souls were closely connected in many lifetimes. For the first couple of years of our lives, WWII was being fiercely waged; and southern England in particular was the target of constant night bombing air-raids and V2 rockets which came mercilessly out of the skies without any warning. Among my earliest memories was being aware of the sombre black curtains at the windows and being evacuated at the age of one with our mother to stay with our grandmother in Northern England. Back home, a steel bomb shelter took up the entire living room and many a night as babies was spent sleeping in a drawer in this shelter.
Despite those dramatic early years of which I only have a few fleeting memories (which also included the celebrations in our garden on VE Day when peace was finally declared), my childhood and teen years were in the main very happy times. We had truly caring, loving, conscientious parents, both teachers, and a brother Andrew, five years younger on whom we doted, plus attentive relatives whose frequent visits we always enjoyed. Grandmother on mother's side came to live with us when we were 14 and her presence was a positive influence. She was religiously and mystically inclined and loved to regale us with true stories of the paranormal.
DG: Except for your experience of the horrific situation near the end of the war, you describe a fairly comfortable life of happiness and contentment amidst loving and supportive family members, including a beloved twin from whom you seemed inseparable. Whatever prompted you to move to Vancouver Island, Canada, where you’re presently living?
Yes, it certainly does seem strange that I decided to leave behind everything that was dear to me and venture forth to a place almost half a world away. Well, I do believe there is a blueprint in place before we incarnate, of which our spiritual soul is the custodian. Though certain changes and modifications can occur, the main highlights are sort of “engraved in stone,” and not being subject to change, they become part of our so-called destiny. Looking back, my decision now seems quite audacious, and yet it was almost as if the little me was drawn to the move by an irresistible force. Although a part of me did experience some apprehension as to what might lie ahead, in the main I was totally determined and convinced that I was doing the right thing.
An interest in the country of Canada was initially sparked about the age of eight, when in geography class we mapped a royal tour across Canada. In my late teens, while training to be a teacher at a college in Nottingham, a fellow student spent some months in Canada on an educational project and came back with glowing reports that made a definite impression on me. Inwardly, I hatched a plan to work in England for a few years and then experience this vast land in one way or another.
Following three years of training, my first teaching job as a music teacher happened to be in the county of Surrey, which was not far from the family home. My sister also landed her first job close to home. As it worked out, both of us found ourselves living with family again as we faced the challenges of starting our careers. We were leading very full lives; however, after a year an inner discontent began to stir, a recognition that to experience more of life, I had to break away from that which was all too familiar and comfortable and strike out to pastures totally new. The class structure that existed in southern England in those times was beginning to frustrate me. It cropped up in our lives constantly in various ways, and a part of me wanted very much to experience a “classless society” where people were not judged by their accents, family history, what schools they attended, and so forth. Canada began to loom large on my inner radar. Western Canada particularly attracted me because of its majestic scenery and mountain ranges. Both Rosalind and I had always been mad about mountains ever since a family walking holiday in Switzerland.
Teachers were needed in many parts of Canada, and I managed to have an interview in London with a superintendent from British Columbia. Within a couple of days, I had landed a job as the music teacher at a high school in the small yet growing town of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. Once my twin sister realized I was truly serious about Canada, she decided she would come too. A job practically landed in her lap, also on Vancouver Island, working with severely physically challenged youngsters. So as destiny worked out, I did not have to leave my homeland on my own, but with my beloved twin in tow.
DG: If you and your sister were, as you say, “mad for mountains,” you certainly could have relocated to a mountainous region much closer to England. There must be something very special about these particular mountains!
The Coastal Range of British Columbia forms a marvelous back drop to the city of Vancouver and rises up close to the sea in the area known as West Vancouver. Victoria, the area where we live, is across the brink about 30 miles away on the southeast corner of Vancouver Island. Its closest mountains, as far as viewing goes, are the spectacular Olympic Mountains (almost always snow clad on the higher slopes, even in the summer). These are in the U.S.A. state of Washington, and can be seen clearly across the Juan de Fuca Strait to the south. They provide a wonderful panorama to contemplate when walking along the beaches and cliff paths. When driving into town, there's a place on the highway where these mountains loom into view and remind one of the Himalayan paintings of Nicholas Roerich. The Canadian Rockies are quite distant, 600 miles and two days of driving to reach them. I have vacationed there on many occasions and the thrill never diminishes. The 90-mile drive from Banff to Jasper must be one of the most scenic on our planet.
As for being mad about mountains, it could be because one is responding to their soaring heights as living symbols of aspiration and upliftment, of encouragement to strive beyond what we think we are capable of and an inspiring reminder, perhaps, of the divine strength and beauty awaiting to be discovered within each of us. Perhaps that is why some people take such extraordinary risks in climbing.
The mountains in Europe carry a different energy from the Rockies, and again from the Coastal Range. Perhaps it is due to the sheer vastness of the mountains in the Rockies and their relative freedom from human interference and the burden of history. One is never that far, relatively speaking of course, from civilization in the European mountains. The slopes, for instance, are dotted with cultivated fields and all kinds of villages, but not so with the mountains here in the West. They are more ruggedly primordial, aloof, wild and unhampered, and flying over them one senses there are vast areas where no human being has ever set foot.
Some esoteric literature has suggested the Western part of this great country, including its great mountains, will one day form the eastern part of a great continent slated to exist during the time of the Sixth Root Race. One must admit this part of the world has a certain virginity, a relative pristine quality and freedom from the ravages of history as compared to Europe. That might also fit in with what you had once mentioned to me about the mountains of western Canada and the U.S.A. one day becoming a significant focal point for the Hierarchy and the Masters.
DG: You’ve told us about your physical journey from England to Canada. Can you now tell us something of your spiritual journey?
My interest in “other worldly matters” began in childhood. I recall at a young age being deeply moved by the life of Jesus and copying out passages from the Bible, which I tried to do in a flowery style like that in the large family Bible. Although our parents were not at all religiously inclined, Mother did take us about once a month to a local Anglican church. My father, whose parents were Scottish Presbyterians, had become fascinated by science and as such tended to be agnostic, even atheistic in his thinking. However, he once confided to us that when young he had experienced the presence of an angel during a church service and had tried to share the experience with the minister. Unfortunately, the minister tended to brush it off as just pure imagination. From that day, Father became disenchanted with organized religion. However, he did not try to dissuade Mother from taking us to church, believing I suppose, the moral teachings would benefit us. Actually, we adored going to church and pleaded with Mother to take us more often. I loved the music, particularly singing hymns, and especially cherished the feeling of peace at the end of a service following the minister's blessing. A belief in God was always there, but in those days it was more a God outside of creation, transcendent, rather than immanent. However, within me there was always a constant struggle to come to terms with the great mystery of life.
It was not until we were 17 that Rosalind and I decided to become confirmed. We considered it “an offering of our lives to Christ.” But as my thinking capacities broadened, I began to experience serious misgivings regarding orthodox Christianity. I was under the delusion that after being confirmed, certain mysteries would become clarified, especially the mystery regarding life after death. I was very disappointed that no light on the subject was forthcoming. Another problem that caused me angst was the attitude regarding other religions. In those days in the so-called “commuter belt of southern England,” there was little opportunity to meet people of other races and religions. However, on the news at the local cinema, I would sometimes see scenes from the Far East, featuring nuns and monks of Buddhist sects and they fascinated me. How could they not also be on the right track to God? I remember when the first non-white family moved into our town. They were Buddhist Chinese. Walking by their house one day, I espied a large statue of Buddha in the window and felt strangely drawn to it. I continued for years to attend church in one capacity or another, even singing in the choir; but eventually my misgivings undermined my faithfulness to Anglican orthodoxy, and I began a serious quest beyond its confines. This seeking phase lasted many years. At first I explored other churches with less emphasis on tradition, but I received no lasting satisfaction to questions about the deeper issues of life and eventually left.
At this time I also voraciously read inspired poetry and was attracted to the mystical poems of 19th century poets, especially William Wordsworth and works such as Tintern Abbey in which he writes of experiencing: “A presence that disturbs me with the joy of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime…” These opened up for me a deeper recognition of the Divine in nature, in oneself, and the amazing unity and interrelatedness of life. In a different way, the unusual and highly symbolic poetry of W.B. Yeats also made an impact. In fact, I chose to make a detailed study of Yeats’ life and works. It was during this research that I first came across mention of Theosophy and the Theosophical Society. These immediately struck a resonant chord and I made a firm resolution to find out more. Yet the right opportunity to fulfill that resolve did not come until seven years later.
This was the turbulent 60’s, the hippie era and Beatlemania, and yoga and TM groups were springing up even in relatively remote places like Vancouver Island! I was not drawn to the hippie movement, though I was in sympathy with many of their concerns; nor did the TM movement appeal to me, though I am sure it has played a significant role in bringing Eastern thought more into the public domain in the West. I did join a yoga group which offered techniques in meditation as well as training in Hatha Yoga exercises and continued with hatha yoga exercises for many years afterward, but mainly for purposes of enhancing physical health rather than for spiritual reasons.
I joined for a relatively short time Colet House, headquartered in London, England, with centres in other countries, including Canada. It was originally started by P.D. Ouspensky, the Russian theosophist. At around 28 years of age, I finally contacted the Theosophical Society and found what I had been seeking. Just prior to that, I had been through considerable confusion and difficulties. For a number of months, I gave up teaching music in public schools and took a job as a social hostess and pianist on a “pocket-liner cruise ship” sailing to and from Alaska. It was here that I met my future husband, George, who had emigrated from Sweden and was at that time serving as first officer on this ship. Very soon after meeting, we realized we were destined for each other. The feeling of already knowing one another and being connected in the past was strangely present. We had long conversations on all the philosophical, spiritual, religious matters that had been haunting me for years. He turned out to be a serious meditator and deeply spiritual person who had been collecting books on metaphysics for a number of years. George began lending me books from his library, and very soon I had metaphysical books piled high by my bunk bed in my cabin in the bowels of the ship! Once off the high seas, we both joined the local theosophical society in Vancouver and continued to be members until the early 1980’s. When we moved to Victoria, I became involved in the Victoria group and have been since 1984.
DG: You have said, “If we don’t continue to seek, we stand still and become crystallized; and ultimately of course, the teachings we encounter have to become personally experienced and lived.” Is this one of the reasons why you joined our Ashram of Synthesis?
The idea of synthesis especially resonates with me. Being open and broad-minded with respect to different spiritual persuasions and networking with various spiritual groups and affiliations is so important for the future unfoldment of humanity. I was initially attracted to the Ashram of Synthesis because of its very eclectic mandate, open policy and fine objectives. As we transit into the Aquarian Age, humanity as a whole is developing greater freedom of thought and becoming less and less willing to comply with figures of authority who attempt to over-dominate. To be in step with the Aquarian energies and the new era, an organization cannot in any way contravene the freedom and independent thought of its members. TRIUNE is an ashram receptive to these newer energies impacting our planet.
DG: We know you love mountains and metaphysical literature, but your other great love is music.
Classical music is my favourite, which does cover a large range and a number of centuries. For me, works written from the 17th century to the 20th (excluding the atonal and 12-tone music of composers such as Schoenberg, which to me is totally soulless and purely mechanical and devastating to the ears!) includes my range of preference. My favourite composer is Beethoven, probably because of the great range of emotive power demonstrated in his extraordinary symphonies, concertos and sonatas, and the power of his music to touch the soul and lift the consciousness. I resonate to the odd-numbered symphonies, particularly #9 with its tremendous last movement featuring the great Ode to Joy.
In Discipleship in the New Age, Master D.K. via Alice Bailey strongly advises aspirants/disciples to listen to the music of Beethoven because of its positive influence on the higher chakras. This has certainly been my experience. The theme of freedom is very strong in Beethoven's works, coming as it did at an important historical time with peoples rising up against extreme oppression and inequality. Additionally, the positive effect of Beethoven's piano sonatas were said to free up the emotions of women in the excessively suppressive Victorian times.
My other favourite composers are Bach, Brahms, Chopin, Faure and Mozart. The Mozart works I love best express strength, such as The Magic Flute, extremely symbolic of the spiritual path and inspired by his interest in the Masonic movement and its high ideals. Mozart's music expresses great lucidity and has a calming, therapeutic effect on the mind. My favourite Bach includes The Saint Matthew Passion oratorio. When attending the performance of this in a concert hall in Vancouver, I had a memorable mystical experience involving an expansion of consciousness.
My love of music, however, is not confined to classical. In the 1960’s, I was strongly drawn to the songs of the protest/freedom movements, such as those of Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, the Kingston Trio, and enjoyed very much singing these songs with my students when teaching music to teens in secondary school. The songs of the Canadian song-writer and singer, Gordon Lightfoot, also appealed very much to me, as did of course a number of the Beatles’ numbers which I also included in my music curriculum. I also love the songs of the well-known musicals of the 50’s and 60’s, especially the Rodgers and Hammerstein creations (South Pacific, Oklahoma, Carousel,The Sound of Music, etc.) which I tend to think were inspired to bring psychological upliftment and rehabilitation to a war-weary public in Europe and the U.S.A.
In a different vein, being a member of the local Sri Sathya Sai Baba Centre, I attend weekly meetings that have as a main focus devotional singing, chanting and prayers. For these sessions, I take along a portable electronic keyboard and enjoy improvising accompaniment to the singing, which in most cases includes East Indian bhajans (sung in the sacred language of Sanskrit and Hindi) and some English devotional songs. Bhajans may seem strange to Western ears at first, but I have come to love their haunting melodies and engaging rhythm.
DG: There has been a lot of discussion in esoteric circles about the “dangers” of rock music, how it breaks down our auric defenses, etc. Some esoteric teachers are adamantly opposed to our listening to rock music. On the other hand, there are others who say that atonal music, jazz, rock, etc. were vibratory frequencies that had to be introduced into culture in the last century because they were needed to break up old crystallized forms to allow for the entrance of the new energies for the new age. Any opinions on this?
Music can be an invaluable aid in one's spiritual life. In its extremes (harmony and beauty at one end and utter discordance at the other), it has the ability to either expand consciousness or lower and debase the consciousness. The dangers of extreme kinds of rock music, for instance, have been sufficiently demonstrated over the years, even through scientific experiments (including the now well-known research on the effect of music on plants, which was documented in the book The Secret Life of Plants). Research shows that jagged jazz and rock rhythms affect the blood pressure adversely and release into the bloodstream chemicals which excite the organism and, in turn, over-stimulate the emotions. A less-known effect of this kind of music is musicogenic epilepsy, which causes especially vulnerable listeners to suffer a form of epileptic seizure. Another aspect to consider is the sheer volume of most of the rock music of today and of the past decades, which is causing untold harm to the hearing abilities of an entire generation. We can no longer say it is a matter of taste. There is also ample evidence of the deleterious effect on behaviour and its tendency to instill violent and unruly acts (e.g. crowd behaviour at rock concerts). As such, the opinions of spiritual teachers regarding adverse effects of extreme forms of rock music and jazz on our auras is not difficult to believe, and personally I tend to agree with their advice to spiritual aspirants to avoid it.
In Cyril Scott's book, "Music: Its Secret Influence Throughout the Ages" - which is purported to have been inspired by the Master Koot Humi - it has been suggested that atonal and some of the highly dissonant avant-garde classical music of the 20th century played a useful role in breaking down crystallized thought forms in preparation for the incoming new energies of the planetary Aquarian Age. If I recall correctly, jazz and rock were not included in this particular category but were bluntly described as being disseminated by the forces of darkness to incite moral decline, block sensitivity to higher energies, and deaden interest in spiritual unfoldment. As aspirants to the higher life, I think it behooves us to cultivate music in its most beneficent and uplifting forms.
DG: You mentioned the Cyril Scott book about music’s secret influence throughout the Ages. What, if anything, do you think the role of music will be in this new Aquarian Age?
It is my hope and speculation that music will take on a major role of assisting man’s journey back to the Divine. We are probably going to see compositions of a high order that can be used as a catalyst for closer atunement with the higher, immortal aspect of one’s being. They may involve the wonderful traditional orchestral instruments of the past, but since Aquarius is governed by the planet Uranus and there is a strong link between the new electronic devices and this sign, the new music may well resort to electronic instruments on a large scale as well. Many music purists can’t abide the use of electronic instruments, but in my experience there are some examples of New Age music using electronic synthesizers that do enhance meditation. We see the infant beginnings of this trend in the increase of CD’s being produced for meditative and relaxation purposes.
The great group of European composers who surfaced in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, according to the Tibetan Master D.K., came under the beneficial influence of the higher aspects of the fourth Ray (of harmony through conflict) which was in a strong cycle in those times. This Ray has not been prominent in the 20th century and is not so today, which may account for the relative dearth of truly inspirational and uplifting compositions in these times. Apparently, the fourth Ray will be coming again into ascendancy in the not-too-distant future, and this will bring a huge boost to the arts. There will also be a revival of the Ancient Mysteries and an increase in rituals, and undoubtedly music and chanting will play an important role in the reestablishment of great Mystery Dramas and rituals symbolic of the journey of the Soul back to its Source. The enigmatic Russian composer and great admirer of H. P. Blavatsky’s works, Alexander Scriabin, was drawn to this idea and experimented with an immense, grandiose design in his last work, The Mysterium. Unfortunately, he died before its completion. Scriabin’s vision was on an immense and unrealistic scale for the early 20th century, but it well could be that he intuited the future role and possibilities of music in the scheme of things.
I sense, too, that music will play an increasingly significant role in the art of healing. Music has tremendous power for acting upon the human organism and its subtle inner bodies and energy fields.
DG: Thank you so much for your participation in this interview, Fiona. Any final words before we close?
I cannot pass by the 1960’s song lyrics without mentioning at least one of the Beatles’ songs. The one that really comes to the fore regarding the theme of freedom and aspiration to a more ideal and peaceful world is, of course, John Lennon’s Imagine.
Imagine no possessions. I wonder if you can.
No need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man.
Imagine all the people sharing all the world.
You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.
I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will live as one.