Founder’s Message

Ed Sarath

 

October 2018

 

Jazz Creativity and Cosmos represents a culmination of my work to date as musical artist, pedagogue, scholar and change visionary. I envision Jazz Creativity and Cosmos as a forum that unites several realms of my activity—including improvised music, music studies reform, diversity/social justice, contemplative studies and consciousness studies—that are directly linked to overarching domains, but which tend to exist in isolation. I hope Jazz Creativity and Cosmos can harness the synergistic interplay of its constituent initiatives for transformative impact in the world.   

Two constituent Jazz Creativity and Cosmos initiatives are particularly key at the outset to advancing the integral framework.

The Alliance for the Transformation of Musical Academe will work towards wholesale revolution in how our music schools envision the 21st century musician, music teacher, and listener. The word atma translates from Sanskrit as soul: Jazz, as the embodiment of the Contemporary Improviser Composer Performer (that once prevailed in European classical music) represents a richly differentiated soul pathway that is the source of unprecedented navigational and transformative possibilities. A strong social justice thrust will also be at the heart of ATMA deliberations and action steps.  

Whereas ATMA may be thought of as a new voice in the ever-growing wave of music studies reform visioning, the Consortium for Consciousness Studies in Higher Education (CCSHE) can be seen as a parallel in the emergent academic fields of consciousness studies and contemplative studies. The rich epistemological foundations of contemplative studies have much to offer the ontological quest to understand consciousness. At the same time, the foundational questions posed in consciousness studies—particularly in branches thereof that are not bound to materialist assumptions—about the fundamental nature of mind, physically transcendent dimensions of consciousness, the existence of the soul, and the relationship of individual consciousness to the cosmic wholeness have much to offer contemplative education.

As with ATMA, social justice—particularly when connected with creative and spiritual dimensions—will factor prominently in CCSHE. Here a curious inconsistency comes into view pertaining to contemplative and consciousness studies fields. While social justice is increasingly prevalent in contemplative studies discourse, it is notably subordinate in the consciousness studies realm. Yet contemplative studies arguably perpetuates social justice transgression in its ambivalence to the big questions—centered around mind, soul, spirit, cosmos—that are part and parcel of the most robust consciousness-based discourse. In other words, contemplative traditions are mystical traditions; when discourse precludes the mystical, which is the unifying ground, a kind of cultural provincialism is inevitable that marginalizes individuals from wide-ranging contemplative backgrounds.  

The irony, then, is that consciousness studies, which while not overtly tied to a social justice impetus, actually broaches dimensions that are lacking, and yet essential, to the social justice commitment in contemplative studies. I envision CCSHE as a forum to bridge these areas, in so doing deepening the essential consciousness-contemplative-social justice unity.

I also believe the time has come to critique scientific materialism—which is not to be conflated with a rejection of science—as a social justice transgression in its privileging of epistemological and ontological perspectives that run starkly counter to wisdom traditions across the globe and from time immemorial. I further envision CCSHE as ceding an important place for the arts, particularly improvised musical art, as an ontological lens into the nature of consciousness that is just as vital as the most rigorous empirical approaches in the sciences, and richest sources of spiritual practice and wisdom.

I am particularly excited about parallels between ATMA and CCSHE. Both acronyms denote important principles to the broader educational/societal shift. For ATMA, this entails restoring the realm of soul in music studies. For CCSHE, the entails the affirmation of the ascendance of the divine feminine—the “SHE” in CCSHE—as a guiding archetypal impulse that is of seminal importance to how humanity navigates this extraordinary moment in its history.

The Organization of Artists and Athletes for Spirituality in Education and Society will approach this work from the standpoint of the art-sport-spirit intersection. The athlete is a profound artist and spiritual visionary who has important wisdom to offer the world, wisdom which is often obscured by prevailing popular culture.

Finally, the International Society for Improvised Music, which I formed in 2005, may be seen as perhaps where Jazz Creativity and Cosmos began. Now that ISIM has convened events across the globe and entered its second decade, I believe a broader consortium, within which ISIM might be subsumed, is the next logical step. Indeed, the entire scope of Jazz Creativity and Cosmos is discernible within the ISIM mission and vision.

Jazz Creativity and Cosmos provides an expanded framework in which these themes may blossom and contribute to the arts-driven revolution in creativity and consciousness that is so urgently needed in today’s world.   

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