Splendid News:
New CD and New Book
Creativity is a mystery

New music video here (click)

René's new song in French, Watch here


I am delighted to announce that my new album – How Are You Today? – with fresh songs about philosophies of modern life in cities is now released.
Read more here!

The feeling of presence d’esprit in the songs is strengthened by the drummer Mikko Virto and bassist Robi de Godzinsky, who play in René Gothóni's Rhythms Of Life, and who together produced the CD. The motto Music for fun sung by the choir in the intro of the first song paraphrases the well-known advice: carpe diem!

For previous CDs see here

For new CD previews See My Own City video!

Musicality revisited

After forty years as teacher and professor in the study of religions at the University of Helsinki, specialized in monasticism, pilgrimage and hermeneutics, I have rekindled my musicality, its roots of which is in the innovative and melodic pop music of the 1960s. The lyrics of the songs have their origin in my discussions with monks on the Holy Mountain of Athos in northern Greece. Inspired by the wisdom and analytical mind of the desert fathers, my aim in the lyrics has been to convey a sense of understanding and compassion for experiences and various philosophies of life common to humankind. As I have pursued my academic career I have been nurturing my musical creativity, and have allowed it to mature in my cellar like good wine. Now I feel that this musical vintage is ready to be served under the label: Music for fun!

A pilgrimage to styles of life

The greeting How Are You Today? begins this philosophical journey of reflections on how we live our life. The songs that follow provide different answers to this everyday question. Going To The Go Inn echoes the tentative steps of young adults. Lonely Soul underlines the importance of changing one’s view of life in hours of need. My Own City is dedicated to cities in which living is good. After All These Lonely Years, A Free Afternoon and Goodbye express the agony of separation. Out Of The Blue reflects the longing for someone to come into one’s life unexpectedly. Got To Get A Joker In My Home reminds us that, once in a while, we need someone to cheer us up.

Cosy Rosy and May You Always Be Near paraphrase the French cinq à sept culture and the longing for a day off with the love of one’s life. Nothing Human Passes By brings to mind that we cannot avoid the trials of being human. Kiss Me recalls the difficulty of living in harmony. When I’m Next To Your Heart describes how, over the years, we tend to grow apart and Give Me Your Hand invites us to cultivate generosity. This Is How Much I Love You and In My Mind articulate inner discussions with deceased love ones. Lullaby is dedicated to the parents and grandparents of newly born babies: the birth of a child always holds some kind of mystery. Finally, the answer to the question How Are You To Day? is to be found in Life Is Smiling Sweetly, which expresses the joys of a friendship.

»One instantly recognizes oneself and one’s way of life in the lyrical reflections», the producers Robi de Godzinsky and Mikko Virto said having heard the songs for the first time: »many will conceive of the songs as a balsam to the soul»!
Read more about the Professor at

There will be a limited number of CDs, so please order in advance to be sure to get your copy:; how to order.

Listen to a few songs here.

Creativity is a mystery

What do I mean when I say that the lyrics in My Own City have their origin in experiences of city life? What is life, if not experience? What, then, is experience? In German language there are three notions of experience – Erlebnis, Einfühlung and Erfahrung –, which clarifies the different connotations and meanings of the English word ‘experience’.
The noun Erlebnis from the verb erleben primarily means ‘to be still alive when something happens’. It refers to the immediacy with which something is grasped and which hence is attested by one’s own experience: What is experienced is always what one has experienced oneself. At the root of this conception of ‘experience’ is the aesthetic vision of the world present in the nineteenth-century biographies of artists and poets, and the attempt to understand the works of art from the Erlebnis aspect of an artist’s life. This means that something becomes an ‘experience’ not only insofar as it is experienced, but also, and especially, insofar as it being experienced makes a distinctive and memorable impression that gives it lasting importance. The notion of Erlebnis as ‘lived experience’ originates from the realm of aesthetics and in the idea that by recreating in oneself the ‘lived experience’ one comes to understand the creative Erlebnis of the artist.
The concept of Einfühlung, discussed at length by Theodore Lipps (d. 1914) in his theory of empathy, is also of relevance in an excursion into the concept of ‘experience’. By Einfühlung Lipps refers to the sentiment of ‘feeling onself at one with’, something that takes place psychologically in an aesthetic experience. Empathy is described as an act of sympathetic projection into objects or persons distinct from the agent. It is objectivated enjoyment of self in the sense that the agent discovers and identifies him-/herself with something psychological in the actual qualities of an object of aesthetic contemplation, or in another human being. The aesthetic pleasure is related to the spectators’s ability of feeling at one with (Einfühlung) a work of art, for instance, and it derives from his/her active encounter with it in the imagination.
In an aesthetic experience the distinction between self and object dissolves and one finds oneself totally absorbed in contemplation of the object. The result is that what flows in the object, flows in the self. William A. Earle (d. 1988) argues that we need to feel something of the greatness of Rembrandt, for instance, in order to be able to say something of value about his painting. As an aesthetic object, a painting makes a variety of suggestions to us, which we may accept or oppose. But, according to Earle, we need to surrender ourselves to the suggestions and if we find it in accord with our natural inclinations and needs, we experience an agreement between the stimulus that speaks to us in the painting and our inner activity; we experience great pleasure.
The third notion of experience, Erfahrung, refers to firsthand knowledge and understanding. Understanding in the meaning of making ‘sense’, from the Latin noun sensus and the verb sentire, is ‘to learn by experience’ and ‘to undergo’. ‘We have sensus of what is erlebt’, Clive S. Lewis (d. 1963) concludes after analysing the way Tacitus (d. 276) and Cicero (d. 43 bc) used the word ‘sense’. As prices went up, says Tacitus, the mass of people gradually came to know (sentire) the ills of war’, in other words people gradually realized what war really meant and how it affected everyday life. Cicero, too, referring to his own experience in life, relates that his own sensus told him how strong love between brothers could be.
It is obvious that ‘experience’ in these quotations does not refer to the word Erlebnis as Dilthey conceived it. Here it expressly stands for something we undergo – Erfahrung – so that subjectivity is overcome and drawn into an ‘event’ of meaning, as is the case in the expression ‘learning through suffering’. Suffering is not something we choose, but something that happens to us, strikes us and forces us to reconsider and rediscover our own experience of being-in-the-world. Suffering gives us something to understand, which we express by words.
When, in my lyrics, I give voice to experiences and familiarities of modern life in the cities, I refer to this kind of Erfahrung experiences. This means that certain words and expressions have struck me and inspired me to follow the line of thought further until words of the song form an integrated whole. Let me give you some examples.
The lyrics of my song Out Of The Blue have their origin in the expression ‘music and light’, which was a line said by an actor in a film, the title of which I cannot recall as I immediately, struck by those words, began to work on the song of which eventually got the title aforementioned. The expression ‘music and light’ triggered the creativity in me. I started to pluck the strings of my guitar searching for a tune that sounded appealing and in harmony with the expression ‘music and light’ After some tentative searching for the ‘right’ cord, both the cords and the lyric led me in what to me seemed an inherent direction, in other words the song grew into the flower it wanted to and I simply followed its lead: ‘Music and light all through the night, all through the night with you. This is my dream, though it may seem that it will not come true’ . . .
The lyrics of After All These Lonely Years grew in much the same way as in fact has the lyrics in all my songs. A friend of mine asked me early in the morning as we were walking to a scholarly conference held in Ouranoupolis in Greece, next to the Holy Mountain of Athos: ‘Did you hear the rain last night?’ These words were almost instantly transformed into a melody followed by words that then completed the question into the sentence: ‘Did you hear the rain last night my love? Did you hear the sound of tears? Do I sing in vain for you my love? After all these lonely years’.
In the case of Cosy Rosy it was the nice rhyme of the two words that inspired me to reflect upon what kind of girl that Rosy might be and so the song rather quickly came to completeness: ‘Cosy Rosy, I had a wonderful time last night. Did you enjoy it, too, until the morning light the way singles do.’
You may quite rightly ask, what is the mystery of this? Well, the answer is simple. It is a kind of mystery that first, you have nothing, a blank sheet and no cords, and then suddenly, out of the blue, a few words or an expression attracts your attention, speaks to you, struck you as if there were some inherent energy in these words that wishes you to complete them into a sentence and then a song. This process is not something that you can control, not something that you can create on command or order, but it requires humility and an attentive listening to the inbuilt energy that wishes to be discharged. As a singer-songwriter you are merely an instrument for this process towards completeness. Herein is the mystery in my experience and I can frankly confess that I am never so happy and satisfied as when I am in the middle of the process of fulfilling this mysterious and sacred act.
I sincerely hope that you, too, who listens to the songs can sense something of the birth and message of the songs. May God give you many years filled with mercy: Kyrie eleison!

René Gothóni is Professor of Comparative Religion at the University
of Helsinki, a life member of Clare Hall, Cambridge, and a life
member of the Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters. He is also
President of the Finnish Society of Friends of Mount Athos. His
publications include Attitudes and Interpretations in Comparative
Religion (2000) and The Unknown Pilgrim (2006), and he edited
How to do Comparative Religion? Three Ways, Many Goals (2005),
³The Monastic Magnet. Roads to and from Mount Athos (with G. Speake,
2008) and Pilgrims and Travellers in the Search of the Holy (2010).
Religious Experience: North and South (2012).

© 2014 René Gothóni. Distribution:

Listen to a short example from the song "Going To The Go Inn"

René playing piano during the "How Are You Today?" recording session.

Drummer Mikko Virto during the session.

(© René Gothóni 2013