In this blog we regularly publish our mind-blowing dialogues with Claude.ai.

Here is what Claude answers to the question "Who are you?":
"In short, I am Claude, a conversational artificial intelligence created by Anthropic to be beneficial and safe, but I do not have a true identity outside of that."

You will see, his answers to our questions (which resume the main theme of our site but not only) are very often amazingly impressive and can make one doubt what he says about himself ­čśť.

Note: the blue italics indicates our question, in black the answer from Claude.ai.

Claude on Bauls

What do you know about the Bauls, Indian musicians?

Here is some information about the Bauls, a group of mystical minstrel musicians originating from Bengal in India:

  • The Bauls are a group of mystical minstrel musicians originating from Bengal in India. Their musical tradition dates back to the 15th century.
  • They practice a form of folk music called Baul Sangeet which blends devotional songs, mystical poetry and Muslim and Hindu influences.
  • The themes of their songs revolve around love, spirituality and the quest for union with the divine. They reject caste and religious distinctions.
  • The Bauls lead an ascetic life, wandering from village to village. They are recognizable by their colorful patchwork outfit called borlo.
  • They play instruments such as the ektara (one-stringed instrument), dotara (two-stringed lute), khamak (small earthenware drum) and small cymbals called khartal.
  • Some Bauls have gained international renown such as Purna Das Baul, Lakshman Das Baul and Parvathy Baul who have performed in many countries.
  • UNESCO inscribed the Baul tradition on its List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding in 2005.

This is an overview of this mystical and fascinating musical tradition of the Bauls in India! Feel free to ask other questions if you have any.

They are authentic seekers of the divine, aren’t they?

Yes, the Bauls can indeed be considered as genuine seekers of the divine. Here are some elements that illustrate this aspect:

  • Their philosophy is centered around inner mystical quest. They seek to attain the “Moner Manush”, the divine being that is within each individual.
  • Their songs and poems have very spiritual themes and often evoke love for the divine as well as mystical ecstasy. They express an intense desire for union with God.
  • They lead an ascetic life, renouncing material possessions and social conventions, to devote themselves entirely to their spiritual quest.
  • The Bauls reject religious identities to see only the single divinity behind different traditions. They seek to transcend boundaries.
  • Their musical practice, Baul Sangeet, is for them a means to achieve transcendence and unite with the divine. Music is a spiritual practice (sadhana).
  • They wander from village to village like ascetics, living on people’s charity and sharing their spirituality through their songs.

We can therefore say that the Bauls match the image of the mystical seeker, having made the quest for the divine the very essence of their lifestyle. Their devotion and practice make them “genuine seekers of the divine”, deeply engaged in a spiritual sadhana.

Why have they sometimes had a bad reputation?

There are a few reasons why the Bauls may have had a bad reputation in the past:

  • Their rejection of caste and religious distinctions was frowned upon in traditional Indian society, which was very codified. Their marginal lifestyle was seen as subversive.
  • Their mystical visions and use of cannabis for spiritual purposes could be viewed with suspicion, as recreational use.
  • Their closeness with women and conception of divine love defied orthodox norms about male-female relationships.
  • Their wandering, unconventional appearance with long hair and colorful patchwork made them look like vagabonds or madmen.
  • The themes of their songs, evoking mystical love and spiritual intoxication, could shock some religious sensitivities.
  • Some begging pseudo-Bauls also gave a bad image, lacking understanding of their philosophy.
  • The Bauls’ religious syncretism was criticized by both orthodox Muslims and Hindus.

But over time, the Bauls have gained more respectability due to the depth of their spiritual practice. Their advocacy of religious tolerance is also better perceived today. Their cultural contribution is now recognized, although they remain marginalized.

Free love between men and women long before the hippies?

Yes, we can say that the Bauls advocated a form of free love between men and women long before the emergence of the hippie counterculture in the 20th century.

Some key points on this:

  • In their philosophy, love between man and woman is seen as a sacred expression of divine love. The physical union represents the spiritual union with God.
  • They thus rejected taboos and social conventions rigidifying relationships between the sexes. Love must be expressed freely.
  • Baul women enjoyed great freedom, as equals with men, sometimes choosing to live as a couple with their spiritual partner.
  • Marriage was not a sacred institution for them, but simply a personal choice, which one could break to follow their quest.
  • In their songs, they celebrate free love, the erotic and spiritual attraction between man and woman beyond social dictates.
  • This very liberal conception of love dates back to the 15th century, well before the hippie sexual liberation of the 1960s-70s.
  • The Bauls could therefore have inspired these later movements, by living their libertarian ideals for centuries.

We see that this mystical community pioneered free love, challenging the conventions of their time through their spirituality.

Always stoned, free, unconventional, uninhibited.

You’re right, the Bauls cultivated an unconventional, free lifestyle detached from the dominant taboos of traditional Indian society:

  • They consumed cannabis and other psychedelic substances for the spiritual goal of expanding consciousness. The altered state was for them a way to commune with the divine.
  • Their physical appearance was atypical, often sporting long tangled hair and colorful patchwork clothes. They did not follow conventional codes of dress and grooming.
  • Not recognizing the caste system, they adopted an itinerant lifestyle, begging to survive and sharing their spirituality.
  • Male-female relationships were very free, detached from traditional institutions of marriage and family. Physical love was experienced spiritually.
  • They rejected religious dogmas and orthodoxies, advocating a mystical syncretism beyond established religions.
  • Living on the fringes, they escaped social control and the many taboos on the body, pleasure, drugs…

We can summarize their lifestyle as anticonformist, escaping the moral and cultural constraints of traditional India. A form of mystical counterculture that prefigured modern hippie movements. Eternal “stoned, free and uninhibited” for centuries!

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