Megatone: How to Apply Hindu Philosophy to Post-Soviet Society

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Megatone is the stage name of Marcel Gherman, a DJ and journalist from the Republic of Moldova. He is best known for a series of radio programs he hosted between 1994 and 2003, designed on state airwaves to keep the public abreast of new developments in post-Soviet electronica. The titles alone give a sense of his erstwhile interests and biases: "Techno Mix" and "Zona De Limita." After those shows came to an end, Gherman turned his attention more to the journalistic side of his CV and became a regular contributor to various local newspapers and magazines.

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Over this latter period, Gherman increased his interest in Indian spirituality, "most most notably the Advaita Vedanta doctrine and the works of Sri Aurobindo." That same doctrine developed in Hindu philosophy as a way for believers to negotiate their way through the "three levels  of truth": the apparent (home to all that is false); the pragmatic (or material, in which we reside); and the ideal/transcendental. Some of these ideas were championed by Aurobindo, an Indian philosopher and proponent of national independence from the British (he died in 1950).

The attraction of a non-material, transcendental worldview (tied in no uncertain terms to freedom from political chains) is clear enough for the post-Soviet context. Mentally, spiritually, and politically, these Indian views would frame a set of common desires after 1991 with considerable elegance. Gherman himself sets the stage for some of the resulting, abstract philosophies with a series of non-representational images. They evoke a great deal , yet shy away from the fragile specificity of realism.

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In the same way, some of Aurobindo's proclamations on a mystical unity over and above crude physicality would also be appealing. They could strike a chord with those who had seen the laudable romanticism of early Soviet history slowly ruined over several decades. By shifting metaphors of collaboration, cohesion, and shared progress into a series of abstract, transcendental practices, some of the most famous quotes of Aurobindo sound like idealist mirror-versions of materialist ideology and its quixotic goal of universal parity. "The one aim of yoga is an inner self-development, through which a follower - over time -  might discover the One Self in all. He might also evolve a higher consciousness than the mental, a spiritual and 'supramental' consciousness that will transform and divinize human nature."

The one aim of yoga is an inner self-development, through which a follower - over time -  might discover the One Self in all. He might also evolve a higher consciousness than the mental, a spiritual and 'supramental' consciousness that will transform and divinize human nature.

The socialist ideals that collapsed in 1991 could, perhaps, be redone and resurrected - in very different realms.

Some of which seemed out of this world.

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Bearing such things in mind, we come to the new release from Gherman/Megatone, entitled "The Book of Dreams vol.1." It consists of three ambient instrumentals with a shared running time of half an hour. The entire work can be downloaded for free from the Moldovan netlabel Silent Flow, based in capital city of Chisinau.

Gherman introduces the recording, at least in the sleeve notes, with another quote from Sri Aurobindo. These words read as if they've been translated into English from another language, but the basic sense is clear enough: "Unreal seeming yet more real than life,/ Truer than things true/ If dreams these were or captured images,/ Dream’s truth made false earth’s vain realities."

The central theme of layered, multiple realities emerges, something that Gherman then continues in his own prose (which we have been able to fix).

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"'The Book Of Dreams, vol. 1' is a journey into the mist-filled world of dreamscapes. Its symbolic, hypnagogic [i.e., semi-soporific/dream-like] images represent the deeper aspects of the human soul. These same symbols and archetypes are vessels for a body of knowledge; they hold meanings and interpretations far beyond the abilities of any language to express."

"As the rules and laws of the material world gradually become obsolete, people are able to experience a profound feeling of freedom in their dreams that might be likened to a sense of flying. In dreams we grow closer to an understanding of ultimate realities."

As the rules and laws of the material world gradually become obsolete, people are able to experience a profound feeling of freedom in their dreams that might be likened to a sense of flying. In dreams we grow closer to an understanding of ultimate realities.

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"This album is an attempt to bring the deeper, darker side of human consciousness into the world of daylight, and thus create a balance between experience and rational knowledge, between feelings and sense, Bhakti [devout worship] and Jnana [yoga], philos and sophia [earthly and divine wisdoms]. The soundscapes on the album are portrayed loosely, inspired by the faint colors of impressionist paintings. Another major source of inspiration was a technique of visualization employed in both Buddhism and Hinduism; it has been investigated more fully in a recent literary project by Marcel Gherman - a short story in progress."

Suddenly we realize that Gherman is speaking of himself in the third person. What began as an apparently subjective text, written by a musician in order to contextualize his own work, now looks like an act of self-objectification. A gradual removal of selfhood has, thanks to an editorial vagueness, already begun. As the images in this post show, Gherman's standard object of desire is indeed the evocation of a quiet, unpeopled realm - a state of being that offers no "de-scription" of individuality, no chance for uniqueness/personality to somehow draw itself as (proudly) separate or divorced from all actuality.

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Over the course of 2009, Moldova has seen substantial civic unrest, resulting from the troubled reappearance of communist policies. Moldova was, in fact, the first post-Soviet society to reelect such officials after 1991. Accusations of fraud and other transgressions turned into loud public protest, yet still the communists held on with a shrinking majority. An enduring romanticism in the region leads people to believe - somewhat counter-productively - that something can be salvaged from well-intentioned, though long-since discredited ideals of the past.

We should not be surprised, perhaps, that troubled, concerned musicians such as Gherman wish to take all notions of "unity" or "oneness" and remove them from the world of bruised and battered citizens. Aficionados of yoga and French impressionism are surely less likely to embezzle state funds or set fire to buses. Maybe they deserve a term in office - in which case, the music in the post could become the world's first transcendental national anthem.

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Audio

Megatone – Dark Blue Butterflies

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