Left Field Finds: Sebastian Temple – The Universe Is Singing (12 Songs In The Spirit Of Teilhard De Chardin)

photo 1Sebastian Temple – The Universe Is Singing (12 Songs In The Spirit Of Teilhard De Chardin)
(GIA, 196?)

Less a concept album than a lecture series, this is novel religious music, in the style of American folk and country and with a unique and purposed message. Released on the christian label GIA in 1960-something, it’s neither a feel-good community band as the Temple moniker might suggest, nor is it a guilt and brimstone soapbox, but somewhere in between. Sebastian Temple is a songwriter and scholar, and this album is an exposition. South African born and Catholic convert later in life, on this album Sebastian Temple offers a biography of the french Jesuit philosopher Teilhard De Chardin and a breakdown of his ecstatic universalist ideas, revolutionary ideas in the Catholic church. In a mostly country western style, shuffling guitar-driven melodies pick up and are accompanied by hand drums. A few selections dip into a quieter, more introspective vibe, moments of peace in the presence of the holy (“Some of us call it art and other call it God”). What attracts me to novel religious music like this is the earnestness and mission of the production, and some of these tracks are just damn catchy.

Some are peace songs, songs of fellowship and charity, in the spirit of pacifist Catholicism of the 1960s. Mostly Sebastian Temple’s songs are more focused on the philosophy of belief and the nature of God. Chorus’s on tracks like “Cosmic Christ” are easy to sway to, while the lyrics pack in a dense vocabulary dealing on the unity of matter, the evidence of the holy ghost in evolution and entropy, and a single stream of universal consciousness through all things. There isn’t so much fire and brimstone, but “Fire of Love” taps into a subtle apocalyptic lean, and the story of Teilhard De Chardin’s death is cast as prophetic in a weird, culty way – “consume this offering with the radiance of your love”

(dl link in the description)

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