Was John Coltrane a Christian?

In many of John Coltrane’s works there are hints of his spiritual side. Most notably, in his best-selling album “A Love Supreme” he puts praise for [what he believed to be] God at the forefront. Inside the album itself, he even notes:

As time and events moved on, I entered into a phase which is contradictory to the pledge and away from the esteemed path. But thankfully now, through the merciful hand of God, I do perceive and have been fully reinformed of his omnipotence. It is truly a love supreme.

Many Christians have thought this to be a repentant plea and praise for the God of the Bible and have held Coltrane in high esteem. His status as (arguably) the greatest Jazz saxophonist, while still humbling himself as a servant, is an inspiring story to which the Church can relate to Christ’s life. Though this analogy is misled from the historical beliefs of Coltrane.

Fellow Jazz enthusiast, Louis-Victor Mialy, interviewed Coltrane and talked about his interest in eastern astrology. Biographer Lewis Porter records another interview Coltrane had which signified his inclusive attitude (through a passive interest) to philosophy and religion.

Porter puts Coltrane’s beliefs in a nutshell:

Eventually Coltrane accepted the diversity of human belief as representing different ways of recognizing one God. The titles of Coltrane’s last compositions suggest a mixture of religious influences–only “The Father and the Son and The Holy Ghost” is specifically Christian; others such as “Dear Lord” and Meditations are more general, while “Om” suggests Eastern beliefs. He is quoted on the back of Meditations saying, “I believe in all religions.” He made a special study of India. Around 1966, John Glenn gave him Light on the Path, “a little book about the occult,” inspired by Indian Buddhism, and Coltrane kept it with him. Alice Coltrane said that John continued to follow the writings of Paramahansa Yogananda, and enjoyed the writings of Gandhi. But he also was interested in what Sonny Rollins had to say about the Rosicrucians. And he found Einstein’s profound mixture of science and mysticism especially inspiring.

I [John Coltrane] am [Christian] by birth–that is, my mother was and my father was, and so forth; and my early teachings were of the Christian faith. Now, as I look out upon the world–and this has always been a thing with me–I feel that all men know the truth, see? I’ve always felt that even though a man was not a Christian, he still had to know the truth some way. Or if he was a Christian he could know the truth, or he could not. It’s according to where he knew the truth. And the truth itself doesn’t have any name on it. Each man has to find this for himself, I think.”

All this leads me to believe that the John Coltrane Church, and not true Christianity, is closer to being right.

Source: Porter, Lewis. “The Man: ‘A Quiet, Shy Guy’.” John Coltrane: His Life and Music. The University of Michigan Press. 2010. 255-260. Print.

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