Medieval Solfeggio within the Heptagonal Church of Rieux Minervois

This paper responds to Reichart and Ramalingam’s study of three heptagonal churches[1], particularly the 12th century church at Rieux Minervois in the Languedoc region of France (figure 1a).

image: The Church in situ

Reichart and Ramalingam discuss the close medieval association of the prime number seven[2] with the Virgin Mary, to whom this church was dedicated. The outer wall of the original building still has fourteen vertical ribs on the inside, each marking vertices of a tetraheptagon, and an inner ring of three round and four vertex-like pillars (figure 1b) forming a heptagon that supports an internal domed ceiling within an outer heptagonal tower. The outer walls, dividable by seven, could have represented an octave and in the 12th century world of hexachordal solmization (ut-re-mi-fa-sol-la [sans si & do])[3]. The singing of plainchant in churches provided a melodic context undominated by but still tied to the octave’s note classes. Needing only do-re-mi-fa-sol-la, for the three hexachordal dos of G, C and F, the note letters of the octave were prefixed in the solmization to form unique mnemonic words such as “Elami”.It is therefore possible that a heptagonal church with vertices for the octave of note letters would have been of practical use to singers or their teachers.

The official plan of Rieux Minervois

12th Century Musical Theory

In the 10th Century, the Muslim Al-Kindi was first to add two tones to the Greek diatonic tetrachord of two tones and single semitone (T-T-S) and extend four notes to the six notes of our ascending major scale, to make TTSTT. This system appeared in the Christian world (c. 1033) in the work of Guido of Arezzo, a Benedictine monk who presumably had access to Arabic translations of al-Kindi and others [Farmer. 1930]. Guido’s aim was to make Christian plainsong learnable in a much shorter period, employing a dual note and solfege notation around seven overlapping hexachords called solmization. Plainsongs extending over one, two or even three different hexachords could then be notated.

Hexachords conceptually overlapped (figure 2, left); another starting when the previous hexachord reached fa, the fifth, or when the melody again reached a given hexachord’s do of G, C or F. The Solmizations, prefixed with their note letters using Boethius’ Gamut system (Starting with our G (for Gamma ut G to e”) then A, etc., as we do today). For example, e’ would be uniquely called “Elami” since it was the note E, and the solfege la, for hexachord of G, whilst also mi, in the hexachord of C.

In contrast, the modern solfége of key signatures, without note letters, refers us to the major diatonic scale when equal tempered keyboards enable modulation of key signatures. By retaining the note letters, the hexachordal world could still reference the octave as a locational framework whilst also loosening the grip of do as tonic, as with modulation. The white notes of our keyboard were the basis of solmization with one exception: the minor hexachord starting at F had to impose the major diatonic T-t-s upon the T-t-T sequence of the diatonic scale by the solitary chromatic Bb.

Figure 2 The relations between Hexachords and the Octave of note names.
[on left, Willi Apel, 1969]

The solmization code created a namespace of unique composite words[1]. By combining note letters and hexachord positions, notes became unique words like Elami. Each note became linked to Beothius’ Gamut from G to e”, the solomised names explicitly identifying their context in the octave as well as the hexachords they belonged to (Figure 3).

Figure 3 The Solmization namespace combining Boethius’ note letters and Guido’s Solfeggio [Willi Apel, 1969]

When melodies exceeded the hexameter within which they were currently set; “In order to accommodate melodic progressions exceeding the compass of one hexachord, two (or more) hexachords were interlocked by a process of transition, called mutation”, since “in medieval theory the compass of tones was obtained not by joined octaves but by overlapping hexachords” and “tones of higher or lower octaves were not considered ‘identical’ within a Boethian scale of G to e””. [Willi Apel. 1969]

The Church as Octave within Solmization

If do of the “natural” hexachord (C) is placed on the (exactly) northern outer vertex of the fourteen vertices, then the three round pillars land, using Just intonation, in the midst of the Pythagorean tones of the major diatonic whilst the four vertex-like pillars coincide with the uniquely Just tones and semitones[1] (figure 4). The southern door marks the tritone between fa (F the minor hexachord) and sol (G, the hard hexachord). The walls of the church could therefore have usefully symbolised the intervals and note classes of the major scale[2] during the perambulation of the hexachordal plainchant, verbalized using Solmization. That is, if the church symbolized the successive octaves of the tonal world notated using hexachords, the building might have been a regional school for training singers, outside the customary cathedral and monastic schools of the 12th century. Guido’s method (staff notation and solfeggio and solmization) rapidly became famous and was widely adopted throughout north Italy and elsewhere[3]. When built, 12th century Languedoc and northern Italy was strongly populated by Cathars, so triggering the crusade from Rome and hence the subsequent confiscation of the church from its feudal owner.

[1] The practical scale of the day would have been the major diatonic since its three major thirds (between do and mi, fa and la and between sol and si) are achieved using the fifths and fourths of Pythagorean tuning in combination with the major thirds. This automatically generates the different tones and semitone found in Just intonation: T = 9/8 and t =10/9 form, in combination, the major third of T × t =5/4, short of the perfect fourth by the new Just semitone, s = 16/15.

[2] the natural scale for Just intonation when tuned using fifths, fourths and major thirds

In numerical tuning theory, the Virgin Mother would be the perfect symbol for an heptagonal church since the world of music springs from an octaval womb (whose number symbol is 2); only the male numbers (3 and 5) can reach into and divide the octave to create octaves of Pythagorean and Just intervals, then symbolic of Christ’s birth. The seven intervals and the notes of the diatonic scale provide a framework within which the magic of hexachordal singing expresses melody with a suppressed Ego or tonic. Hexachordal music strays across many tonic contexts. Numerical harmonists may have viewed tonics as titular deities of the limiting numbers required to theoretically generate Just Intonation[1], like the demiurges creating worlds but becoming an enemy of melodic freedom within them, by seeking to reference everything to their tonic. Arguably the natural tension, between static tonics of the octave and developmental movements like those found in hexachordal music, manifested the Classical traditions of sonata, concerto and symphony.

Drawing the intervals within the Church

If the two types of tone are each given a span of two or three sides of the tetradecagon, and the semitone a span of only one side, the total would be 3 + 2 + 1 + 3 + 2 + 3 + 1 equalling 15 sides rather than 14. But if one respects the natural symmetry of the tone circle about Re, as the (modern) Dorian scale, then one can make the initial tone of 9/8 symmetrical with the following tone of 10/9. In practice, nothing is lost since the church is only loosely a tone circle, with no imposition of logarithms except for those native to the ear, that hears intervals of the same size as the same size irrespective of pitch. Modes other than major could then have similarly been expressed by choosing other starting notes and vertices explicitly given within the fixed solmization words as the note letter prefix[2].

Figure 3 The encoding of intervals within the church

In the arrangement proposed, the disposition of round pillars coincides with the disposition of Pythagorean tones (of 9/8) on the outer wall, whilst the vertex-like pillars face the Just tones of t = 10/9 and s = 16/15. Pythagoras saw these now-eponymous tones of 9/8 as divinely perfect and hence a circular form is appropriate: The pure tones 9/8 are born (in numerical tuning theory) only by the divine male prime number 3 and the female octaval number 2 seen in 9/8[1]. In addition, Just tone 10/9 and semitone 16/15 require the humanly-male prime number 5 to birth them within the womb of the octave’s tone circle. The northern round pillar would also identify the necessarily shortened whole tone as Pythagorean, despite its being shortened, thanks to the association of pillar shapes with either type of whole tone.

As stated above, one can imagine that in a church, designed to represent an octave in the round, one could conduct the choir in Solfeggio.

My book on the role of musical theory in terms of both the number involved and ancient cosmological thinking is called The Harmonic Origin of the World. It came about through a virtual apprenticeship with Ernest G. McClain whose books The Myth of Invariance and The Pythagorean Plato revolutionized the subject (both books can be read in pdf at his posthumous website.)


Apel, Willi. Harvard Dictionary of Music. 1969.

Farmer, Henry George. Historical facts for the Arabian Musical Influence. 1930.

[1] Three Heptagonal Sacred Spaces by Sarah Reinhart and Vivian Ramalingam, pages 33-50 in Music and Deep Memory: Speculations in ancient mathematics, tuning, and tradition. in Memoriam Ernest G. McClain. ICONEA Publications 2018.

[2] which cannot join with any other number below ten or even twelve.

[3] then known as Ut–re–mi-fa-so-la-Sa-Io after the mnemonic “Ut queant laxis, resonare fibris, Mira gestorum, famuli tuorum, Solve pollute, labii reatum, Sancte Iohannes”: So that your servants may, with loosened voices, resound the wonders of your deeds, clean the guilt from our stained lips, O Saint John.

[1] Ernest G. McClain, The Pythagorean Plato 1978.

[4] a namespace arises when each name is unique whilst shared elements common to the other words, such as note letters and the solfege within hexachords.

[2] This transpositional modality is reminiscent of our later key signatures to which solfeggio is now applied.


[1] Ernest G McClain The Myth of Invariance, 1976

Cologne Cathedral Facade as Double Square

image: The Gothic cathedral of Cologne by night, by Robert Breuer CC-SA 3.0

On the matter of facades of Gothic cathedrals, I hark back to previous work (February 2018) on Cologne cathedral. This was published in a past website that was destroyed by its RAID backup system!

As we have seen with Chartres, some excellent lithographs with scales can often exist online from which one can interpret their sacred geometrical form and even the possible measures used to build that form. The Gothic norm for a facade seem more closely followed at Cologne facade which has two towers of (nearly) equal height.

We saw at Chartres that an underlying geometry using multiple squares may have been used to define a facade and bend it towards a suitable presentation of astronomical time, in a hidden world view that God’s heaven for the Earth is actually to be found in the sky as a pattern of time. This knowledge emerged with the megaliths and, in the medieval, it appeared again in monumental religious buildings built by masons who had inherited a passed-down but secret tradition.

A Prologue to Cathedral Music

In my book Matrix of Creation I observed that the Lunar Year of 12 months appear to be like Plato’s World Soul, of 6:8::9:12 only raised by a fifth (3/2) to be (9:12::13.5:18). The number 12 is then the 12 lunar months of the lunar year and the 13.5 are the 13.5 lunations which are the synodic period of Jupiter (398.88 days). The synod of Saturn (378 days) is then caught between the 12 and 13.5, near the geometric mean of the octave 9::18, as a location known to tuning theory as the upper Just tritone of 64/45 (= 1.422), a prime example of the diabolicus in music. That is the Moon appears to be a central part and factor of an astronomical instrumentality relating Jupiter and Saturn, the two outer gas giants of the solar system.

Without knowledge of geocentric astronomy, megalithic metrology, sacred geometry, and the study of numbers (the four higher parts or Quadrivium of the Traditional Arts), it is impossible to read such monuments, and the truths placed within them.

The Double Square

The properties of the double square, here proposed as a vertical 2 by 1 rectangle embracing the whole facade, are to be seen in many other posts you might want to reference (this link opens a new search tab). It seemed to me that the key orientation was the crossing of the lower square’s diagonals, a location where Chartres has its Rose Window and in this case, the domed top of a major rectangular window.

Referring to the diagram below, the bottom square is the cosmic octave’s “ballast” of 9 lunar months and the top square the “active portion” of an octave in which 12 lunar months (or lunar year) is the fourth note of the octave uplifted numerically by 3/2. Saturn’s synod of 12.8 months is 12.8/9 = 64/45, musically √2 which is the length of the lower square’s diagonals which cross the arch of the main window. The red arrow thus signifies by its arc the location of Saturn as the tritone (geometric mean) of the octave.

The Façade of Cologne as the double octave of Plato’s World Soul elevated by 3/2.

The left tower is slightly lower that the right, indicating that the Saturn synod (378) is less than the Jupiter synod (399). Musically, Jupiter is 3/2 is the fifth in the octave 9::18, numerically 13.5 lunar months. If one halves the right side of the upper square into two, this is where the fifth belongs and this point is also a whole tone (9/8) above the lunar year, whilst Saturn is 16/15 above the lunar year as 12.8 lunar months.

Plato’s World Soul, transformed

In a single figure, the transformation of Plato’s World Soul of 6:8::9:12, as simplest solution, then masked the hidden doctrine that, in lunar months, the very same is implemented in the relationship of the outer giant planets to the Moon as lunar year but trasformed by a musical fifth. The dominant and subdominant are the lunar year and Jupiter synod, with the Saturn synod providing the “satanic” tritone which acts in denial of the octave “god”. This octave of 19::18 has only survived in the Supplemental Glyphs of the Olmec (additional to long counts), who appear to have received it from the collapsing Bronze Age of the Eastern Mediterranean around 1500 BC (see my Sacred Number and the Lords of Time).

Abandoning the geocentric perspective of the planets for the heliocentric “washed away [this] baby with the bathwater”, that the moon was the intermediary in simple numbers of months of the principle of cosmic harmony in the higher worlds. Holding us back from seeing the old perspective is our fond belief that cosmic design was part of religious fantasies in which God, gods or angels had made the sky of the earth. Whilst we know so much about space, time has been neglected for its astronomical action upon the present moment within which change is the prime phenomena, as the Buddha said “change is the only thing that does not change.”

Gurdjieff, Octave Worlds & Tuning Theory (2019)

This is a paper I suggested for the All and Everything conference in Cumbria, but it was not selected. It developed a number of strands, which I offer here as a snapshot of my thinking and research around 2019. This text was modified to become appendix 3 of my Sacred Number and the Language of the Angels (2021).


The first part presents what has only recently become known about ancient musical theory, to better understand the All and Everything of Gurdjieff’s intellectual output. This must include In Search of the Miraculous (Search, 1916-18) Beelzebub’s Tales (Tales, 1949) and Meetings with Remarkable Men (Meetings, 1963). In part 2 ancient monuments are shown to record a ‘lateral octave’ connecting humanity to the planetary world, 24. Part 3 explores the significance of the Moon in Gurdjieff’s lectures and writing. An appendix reviews the conventional virtues of the Moon as accepted by modern science, stabilising earth, enabling life and beings such as we, to evolve into appropriate habitats.


Abstract 1
Introduction. 3
Part 1: Ideas relating to a ‘science of vibrations’
The Role of Octaves
LikelySources of Gurdjieff’s Harmonic ‘Ideas’
Did Gurdjieff understand Numerical Tuning Theory?
Was Gurdjieff a Pythagorean?
Pythagorean Tuning
Greek versus Chinese Tuning?

Part 2: Where are the Lateral Octaves?
Part 3: The Significance of the Moon
Appendix 1: A Moon that created Life?
Appendix 2: Reference Charts from Search
Appendix 3: Index of the Moon in Search & Tales
Moon in Search
Moon in Tales


Publications about Gurdjieff’s ideas appeared after he and Ouspensky had died. The main works of Gurdjieff’s words are Search, Tales and Meetings. Beyond these lie autobiographical books and compendia of Gurdjieff’s ideas, by his students. Some of his students also looked into traditional sources such as Sufism and Vedanta, and followed up on new scholarship relating to cosmological ideas such as world mythology (Hamlet’s Mill, The Greek Myths); the number sciences of Pythagorean schools and Plato (Source books); ancient buildings (Megalithic Sites in Britain, Ancient Metrology, The Temple of Man); and musical tuning theory (The Myth of Invariance, Music and the Power of Sound).

These subjects appear to have been investigated by the group Gurdjieff belonged to, The Seekers after Truth he describes in Meetings. Like archaeologists and linguists, they sought out ancient records but also contacts with living initiates of esoteric learning. This search was similar in form to that conducted by Pythagoras in 600 BC, after which he contributed much to western knowledge of the numerical and musical mysteries. The Seekers after Truth could today find out much lost knowledge has been recovered for them. For example, the ancient near-eastern musicology discovered within the last century on cuneiform tablets. Similar deciphering of Plato in the second half of the 20th century (by Ernest McClain and others) revealed the technicalities of harmonic numbers and their use within ancient literature, mythology and symbolism.

Part 1:
Ideas relating to a ‘science of vibrations’

The Role of Octaves

Gurdjieff’s early lectures in Search gave (in 1950) a complex but unified theory of everything, based in large part upon the behaviour of musical octaves and the role of a single musical scale in particular: the ascending major diatonic we call C-Major. Search introduced three major diagrams: The Diagram of Everything Living (Diagram hereafter); The Ray of Creation (Ray); and The Enneagram. These charts are reproduced as Appendix 2.

In Ray, the Universe according to Gurdjieff unfolds according to the major diatonic scale, which happens to be foundational in equal-tempered key signatures. This major scale is also the basis for the European Solfege notation (do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-si-do) that was employed when presenting the harmonic meaning of the Enneagram. The use of solfege in Gurdjieff’s musical exposition of the Worlds in Ray, essence classes[1] in Diagram and the six points of the Enneagram connected by its “inner lines” (see Appendix 2), avoided the allocation of use of note classes A, B, C, D, E, F, G; which would have been confusing since do can be any note class

This article aims to interpret Gurdjieff’s harmonic cosmology, using a technique only recently recovered from traditional texts.  The numbers of Gurdjieff’s World Levels (3-6-12-24-48-96) share the factor 3, then simply doubled and, he says, all these worlds have octaves between them[2]. Forming octaves according to number was a lost art of the ancient world from which much of the ancient world’s number symbolism has been shown to derive. Lateral octaves connecting worlds would require higher powers of 3.

Whilst the Diagram and Ray schematics are linear, the Enneagram is circular and cyclic, and this means it loosely resembles the Tone Circle for an octave.  However, the special virtue of the Enneagram is its capacity to integrate the law of seven with the law of three within a circular view of ninefoldness as a singular and whole process on any level, in Tales called Heptaparaparshinokh.

Figure 1 (left) The Enneagram in C Major diatonic (Ionian scale ) and (right) Tone Circle in D and the symmetrical Dorian scale native to Invariance of numerical harmony. Note that point 6 is opposite the cosmic D, making the Harnal-Aoot[3] disharmonious in Heptaparaparshinokh.

Likely Sources of Gurdjieff’s Harmonic ‘Ideas’

The official history of European musicology cites Guido of Arezzo (991/992 – after 1033) as the father of the medieval musical theory that led to modern music. One innovation was the solfege used by Gurdjieff to notate do as point 9 and other points inside the octave, connected to the Enneagram’s inner lines as re-me-fa-sol-la. However, Guido did not use solfage within the context of the octave so familiar today. The medieval solfege tradition was hexachordal (do-re-mi-fa-sol-la) rather than octaval: originally there was no si or higher do. The hexachordal system of medieval times enabled novice singers to make rapid progress learning the plainchant of church music where sub-dominant fourths (do to fa) ignored the fixed tonic of octaves.

“In medieval theory the compass of tones was obtained not by joined octaves but by overlapping hexachords. This method, although generally considered inferior to the modern practice, is actually superior in that it produces the scale without at the same time establishing a preference regarding tonality. Indeed, in the modern system the initial tone C automatically becomes the tonal center (in other words our diatonic scale is necessarily a “C-major scale”), whereas in the system of the hexachord such a fixation is avoided.” **HARVARD Dictionary of Music 2nd ed. Willi Apel. Cambridge, Mass: H.U.P. 1969. see Hexachord

The Enneagram is also not just an octave; since point 3 and point 6 can be viewed as new starting points (see figure 2 below, Enneagram Studies); point 3 at fa is then similar to the hexachordal system in the following way. The fa of a lower hexachord was a point of transition to do for the next higher hexachord, triggered to run in parallel to one already started, and this leads to a triple octave in which some octaves are “sacrificial” as with the breath which gives food a needed shock at the first semitone in Search.

Figure 2 The Enneagram viewed as an interaction between three parallel but staggered major diatonics

Search defines the third interval (between mi and fa) as a semitone within all cosmic octaves, then described variously as deflections, retardations or new directions. The purpose of an octave can only proceed through its intersection with the suitable vibrations of another octave, a simple example being: an already developed way of surmounting an obstacle. This idea is functionally like the hexachordal system where at fa (point 4) the singers can adopt the succeeding hexachord, started as a new do (then point 3). The choristers would still remember that this was fa of the preceding hexachord and may yet drop back into that notation. However, by the end section it will be clear that musical theory is inadequate to describe the cosmology of human transformation being presented in Gurdjieff’s vision.

Whilst Benedictine monk Guido of Arrezo has been credited with innovating the hexachordal solfege of the Middle Ages, it was the work of the Islamic philosopher Al-Kindi[4] (left) in the 9th century, an early Islamic world that was very creative, reusing many ideas from the Classical Greeks such as Plato and adding to them. As a Benedictine monk, Guido had access to Jewish translations of Arabic works whilst ironically, Islam would soon dispense with philosophers and musical theory.

The labelling of the Enneagram with the solfege system and the curious starting of new octaves at points 3 and 6 were probably integral to the Enneagram when Gurdjieff first encountered this symbol in Bokhara, Uzbekistan. Bokhara is the centre of the Naqshbandi Order, whose name alludes to seal, pattern, symbolism and the tomb of their founder, Bahauddin (1318-1389) who J.G. Bennett equates with the Bokharian Dervish Bogga-Eddin of Tales [Enigma, 38]

After Enigma (1963) Bennett found another complementary source of Gurdjieff’s “science of vibrations” (The Masters of Wisdom, 1977) in the school of Ahmad Yasavi. (bottom right, d. 1169).

“Ahmad Yasawi’s central school in Tashkent … is of special interest to followers of Gurdjieff’s ideas because it was the main repository of the science of vibrations expressed partly through dance and music and partly through the sacred ritual that came from the Magi. This science distinguished the Yasawis from the main tradition of the Masters …” The Masters of Wisdom. 131.

Before considering that science of vibrations here, from the standpoint of ancient tuning theory, it is important to share Bennett’s strong themic synthesis (in Enigma) between (a) the Pythagorean number sciences west of the Caucassus and (b) Central Asian knowledge about how energies are transformed within cosmic octaves.

In this way, we might agree with Bennett’s conclusion, that the knowledge Gurdjieff taught as his ‘Ideas’ came from putting together two halves of a single truth. One half is found in the Western – chiefly Platonic – tradition and the other half is in the Eastern – chiefly Naqshbandi [and Yasavi] tradition. This fusion of two halves was perhaps hinted at, by Gurdjieff, in the story of the Boolmarshano in Chapter 44 of Beelzebub. [Enigma, 41]

Did Gurdjieff understand Numerical Tuning Theory?

Yes, but his early groups in St Petersburg and Moscow did not have much clue as to numerical tuning theory, despite having been educated in musical forms and the playing of instruments within the equal tempered world of Major diatonic scales using 12 keys. On page 126 of Search, Gurdjieff uses the inappropriate numbers, 1000 to 2000 to explain how octaves and scales worked[5]. These numbers, lacking the prime number 3, are alien to numerical harmony, where an octave’s limiting number (high do) is crucial to the formation of tones within its octave.

All octaves manifest the prime number 2, the first true interval in which doubling creates a boundary only entered by tonal numbers having larger factors, of prime numbers 3 and 5: to “get into” an octave by dividing it. Since the limiting number of 2000 has no prime factors of 3 to “give” to any new integer tones within its octave range 1000-2000, whole number tones of the Pythagorean kind were not possible. One concludes from this; the poor number of 2000, presented as the limit, was either (a) not correctly remembered by the students or (b) was deliberately inadequate to scale formation, so that only the diligent would calculate the correct octave range. Gurdjieff says,

“the differences in the notes or the differences in the pitch of the notes are called intervals. We see that there are three kinds of intervals in the octave: 9/8, 10/9, and 16/15, which in whole numbers correspond to 405, 400, and 384.” Search, 126.

There is only one number that can form these three intervals to these three numbers: 360, and 360 is low do (in tuning theory) for the lowest possible limit forming five different scales, namely the high do of 720. This limit (see later) used in the Bible’s earliest chapter Genesis (written c. 600 BC in Babylon), to define Adam (whose letters, equalling 45[6], double four times to 720)

Figure 3 Harmonic Mountain and Tone Circle of 720.

The mountain for 720 (see figure 3 above) shows the initation of three scales from D (=360) to E as 405 (Mixolydian scale), to e as 400 (Ionian) and eb as 384 (Phrygian). It is as if Gurdjieff was referring to Ernest G. McClain’s “holy mountain” for 720, and if any student followed up on this clue it would show the limits intended for the scale (in the octave in the 1000-2000 example) as 360:720. At which point, they would have stepped into the world of ancient tuning theory and found the octave numerically fecund, with its five, now largely antique, scales within.

Was Gurdjieff a Pythagorean?

The ethos of ancient tuning was exactly like that of the Diagram, in that everything emanates from the number one to form the first new World numbered 3. This is exactly as Socrates and Lao Tsu[7] stated and the Pythagoreans (600 BC onwards) have given us two diagrams through which they thought the world was created: The Lambda and Tetraktys. The Lambda mixes the powers of prime numbers 2 and 3, where the numbers grow in a triangular fashion. The Tetraktys is a similar triangular shape, having, like the Lambda, 1 at the top and three rows below of 2 and 3 then 4, 5, 6 and 7, 8, 9, 10; the first ten numbers.

Figure 4 Key Cosmological Diagrams of the Pythagoreans. The Lambda form of the Tetraktys generates rows of musical fifths propagating downwards in a repeat of 2 and 3 as 2 x 3 = 6, and 6 is 3/2 of 4 and 2/3 of 9.

When it comes to books about musical scales, their tone numbers are often calculated from the “bottom up”, from starting numbers like 24, 27, 30, and 36 as low do and then applying successive intervals to achieve the scale you already have in mind. This is a lesser method since one does not then see the true behaviour of the number field in generating the scales between numerical octave limits of any size. Ancient number science had come to the more holistic approach, in which limiting numbers could be investigated to explore the evolution of scales, in the octave beneath these limits, enabling systematic discovery of those key limiting numbers associated with musical phenomena. It is this work that led to a great deal of the number symbolism found within ancient stories, buildings and art, that are part therefore of Gurdjieff’s notion that they become legominisms from which one can understand lost knowledge.

The Lambda diagram, named after the Greek letter Lambda (Λ), can locate the number factors found in Gurdjieff’s “Pythagorean” numbered worlds (2 & 3) growing from One at the vertex. The top triangle is 1 then 2 (left) and 3 (right). We are told that, between the Absolute and the Eternal-Unchanging of the Diagram, a “conscious manifestation of the neutralising force (3) … fills up the ‘interval’ between the active (1) and the passive forces (2).” [Search, 137: brackets added]

From then on, (see figure 5 below) the passive force (2) travels downwards separately from the reconciling force (3) as two ‘legs’ formed by the increasing powers of 2 and 3. The mixed powers of 2 and 3 then combine throughout the middle region, to form numbers made of all the possible combinations of 2 & 3. For example, the number 3 tracks along the left-hand side of the lambda, being doubled to create new lower World-numbers next to them, starting with world 6 as 2 x 3, world 12 as 4 x 3, and so on until the lowest world in the Ray is 96 which is 32 times 3 whilst the lowest essence class in the Diagram is 1536 which is 512 x 3. It is therefore true that Gurdjieff’s worlds, numbered according to the number of their laws, emanates from world 6 or 2 x 3, as the left-most blending of 3 with powers of two[8].

Figure 5 Creation of Worlds, in yellow, through reconciliation (3) of the denying force (2), in red, by the Will of God.

Since it is the material nature of existence which forms the passive (denying) force (Etherokrilno) of the creation, then the worlds are the blending of the reconciling force (3) and denying force, the powers of 2. This leads to numbers for Gurdjieff’s worlds in Search as 2n × 3. The Lambda diagram marks the field of possible numbers of the form 2q × 3p and the reconciling force of 32 = 9, 33 = 27, etc. appear unused. However, tuning theory has many symbolic correlations for these higher powers of 3, the most obvious having to do with the formation of the tones within scales. This will show that Diagram and Ray were indicating one portion of a greater whole relevant to the formation of octaves within these worlds. If so, Gurdjieff’s sources included a different fragment of the secret teachings of the Pythagoreans, or shared their sources.

Pythagorean Tuning

One must differentiate between the practical tuning order of a musical scale, found in the Lambda, and the more familiar ascending order of its tone-numbers found within a piano keyboard. The tuning order for a Pythagorean scale requires the successive application of powers of three, which the Lambda diagram naturally generates as its rows get wider. The Pythagorean scale of the heptachord was probably a 1st Millennium BC development, at least exoterically.[9]

Between worlds 6, 12, 24, 48, 96 only two tones can form, the fourth fa and the fifth sol, a situation called by Plato the World Soul, created by a creator god or Demiurge. Numbers with 3 squared in their makeup can generate two further tone-numbers, namely re and si-flat. The word octave means “eight notes” and therefore, if there are to be octaves between Gurdjieff’s world numbers, they cannot be found between the numbers of those worlds but must be found in the rows the Lambda provides, these inheriting ever greater higher powers of three, as the rows descend.

This reveals why the cosmic octaves were based upon C-Major since, in the tuning order for Pythagorean heptatonic octaves creates descending and ascending tones around the primordial tonic of our note D (sometimes called Deity but here perhaps Demiurge). After two descending fifths (=2/3), D (as 864) becomes depleted of two threes and is then C (as 768), the world of the essence class METAL in Diagram.

Figure 6 (above) The row belonging to world 96 seen as in C (which is yellow) and (below) normalized to a single octave

The white region to the right of the yellow Worlds 96 to 48 is the region were lateral octaves should be, following the major diatonic pattern of tone-tone-semitone-tone-tone-tone-semitone, where do is naturally C as in figure 6.

One must accept that the Lambda diagram of the worlds probably formed an introduction to a much more complex subject which later introduced the role of prime number 5 within octave ranges. This was presented three centuries after Pythagoras by Plato, yet cryptically hidden by him from our scholars until the later 20th century, when American musicologists (such as Ernest McClain) were then able to see a world-wide tradition of harmonic numbers that included factors of 5 in heroic stories and great time periods. The number two was considered female because the octave was a womb impregnated by male numbers. Plato called the number 3 a divine male and the number 5 he called the human male number, these differently creative within the octave. Through this, new diagrams emerge around the number 360-720, alluded to by Gurdjieff alongside the off-putting 1000-2000 diagram in Search, referred to above.

In the Bible, Abraham and Sarah were given the hey (=5) in their names by the Lord God, so that they could have Isaac when Sarah was 90 years old. Isaac would die at 180 years old, whilst their primal ancestor was Adam whose gematria 1.4.40 equals 45 (9 x 5) when summed and 1440 in position notation. Doubling 45 gives 90, doubled again 180 and doubled again the 360 alluded to by Gurdjieff (above) then 720 and 1440. This indicates that in the Lambda, 9 creates a set of different numbers that, times 5, created the numbers of the Patriarchs. And in the decimal world of the Semites, dividing by 5 happens when you divide by 2 and add a zero, so that 144 x 5 = 720. The row with 9 at its head sits in the Lambda beside the Worlds until 9 × 16 generates 144 which, times 5 is 720. The octave 360 to 720 sits next to and connects worlds 24 and 48. There are different ways to add 5 as a factor, see Part 2.

In the Diagram, the human essence class is centered in world 24 though humanity has generally fallen to 48, the mechanical. The Lambda is probably the best way to present the creation of the Gurdjieff’s Worlds, but it was only the first rung of a possible transmission to his students

Greek versus Chinese Tuning?

In Chapter 40 of Tales we meet the Chinese twin brothers, Choon-Kil-Tez and Choon-Tro-Pel who were the first people (after Atlantis sank) to lay anew “a science of vibration adding two of the three Mdnel-Ins to the ‘seven-aspectness-of-every-whole-phenomenon’ and form the law of ‘ninefoldness’. This appears to be the Enneagram, which is then also the Heptaparaparshinock of Tales[10], in which the law of three has been combined with the law of seven, to enable the independent and ever-renewing Trogoautoegocratic function on which the megalocosmos was “newly” based.

By page 860, Greek music is stated to have influenced the formation of a deficient modern theory, in which the seven intervals of an octave are considered to be of two types, tones and semitones. According to Beelzebub, this causes a wrong idea of there being five main notes called ‘restorials’ (‘gravity center sounds’) instead of seven in the Chinese system. One must say that here notes (aka tones) are being confused with the intervals between them and the succeeding note, and vice versa – so be warned. This was the case in ancient Indian music[11] and in Tales where the notes of the octave found in Search were superseded by seven Stopinders, the seven intervals.

In Tales we are told that one Gaidoropoolo (i.e. Guido of Arezzo[12]) saw no difference between the seven Chinese ‘whole note’ intervals and the five Greek whole tones: “in the Chinese ‘seven-toned octave’ those whole notes [sic] called ‘mi’ and ‘si’ are not whole notes at all, since the number of vibrations which they have almost coincides with the number of vibrations of those Greek half tones”, found between ‘re’ and ‘fa’ and between ‘si’ and ‘do’. This seems aberrant with respect to modern theory since the Chinese and Greek semitones differ by just 81/80, the syntonic comma found between Pythagorean semitones (256/243) and the Just semitones of (16/15) and also between Pythagorean whole tones (9/8) and Just whole tones (10/9).

In the Pythagorean tuning of the Chinese, the octave is achieved by successive applications of ascending and descending musical fifths from D. The two semitones of 256/243 arrive last, in the third “turn” and this causes the gap left in the semitone position to be equal to the eighth power of 2 over the fifth power of 3, a mere “leftover” or leimma. Since the worlds of Search were couched in Pythagorean numbers involving factors of 2 and 3, one has to add octave limits and intervals involving the number 5. And Search does talk about the Just tone and semitone 10/9 and 16/15.

In the Greek Just tuning (and before them, the Old Babylonian, Akkadian and Sumerian tunings) the extra prime 5 was identified as making simplest and more harmonious scales for human music. The new semitones of 16/15 and smaller tones of 10/9 use smaller numbers and are better sounding than the purely Pythagorean tone-set. Gurdjieff appears to suggest that, in the creation of the Megalocosmos, 5 was not employed and all the seven intervals whole in their ability to become divided into seven secondary units and then divided again (Tales p827) exactly as one finds in Search on page 135-136, and its figure 17. One should correlate the remark of Pythagoras that God preferred the tone set produced without using 5. It may be that the 1st Millennium found, in the octave and the heptatonic scale, a plausible theory at a time when the forming of theories was emerging, rather than the following of formulaic methods by rote.

It is likely Gurdjieff’s octaves between the Worlds require the human number five, enabling the transformations of alchemical traditions to act within the cosmic octaves between Worlds. The ‘science of vibrations’ seen in Search was explicitly alchemical and since the early teacher of Ahmad Yasavi was a local and idiosyncratic “alchemist and magician Baba Arslan” (Masters 128)), this may be the realistic source for some of Gurdjieff’s ideas that lie behind the monastery of Meetings With Remarkable Men.

The apparent conflict over semitones must be in connection with the cosmic octaves themselves. It may be the human purpose to create their own further evolution. As Bennett said (above) in Enigma, despite the western Pythagorean tradition having had a developed tuning theory, Gurdjieff’s notion, of transformation for the whole man through a musical cosmology, was not present, a notion which Bennett says was found in Persia, Babylon, and then the “stans” of the Masters of Wisdom: the Kazakstan of Ahmad Yasavi and Uzbekistan of Baha-ud-Din Naqshband.


[1] Essence class is Bennett’s considered word for what were presented as “classes of creatures”. Bennett took over the development of the diagram by realising that these classes had five terms, the Creature e.g. Man, the range of its evolutionary possibilities (higher and lower terms) e.g. Angel and Animal and what feeds them and what they feed (the Trogoautoegocratic reciprocal maintenance of Tales). The two classes above and the two below a given class were obviously part of a five-fold scheme of each class if you follow what the Hydrogen numbers of Diagram tell you.

[2] “In the study of the law of octaves it must be remembered that octaves in their relation to each other are divided into fundamental and subordinate. The fundamental octave can be likened to the trunk of a tree giving off branches of lateral octaves.” Search. 134.

[3] Tales. 754. Beelzebub blames the “asymmetry so to say in relation to the whole entire completing process”, an asymmetry caused by do not being on the vertical axis of symmetry opposite D when starting the ascending major diatonic starts in C.

[4] Al-Kindi was the first great theoretician of music in the Arab-Islamic world. He is known to have written fifteen treatises on music theory, but only five have survived. He added a fifth string to the oud. His works included discussions on the therapeutic value of music and what he regarded as “cosmological connections” of music. Wikipedia

[5] Gurdjieff may well have had the numbers changed by the compilers of ISM (upon whose excellent work we depend).

[6] A.D.M = 1.4.40 = 1 + 4 + 40 = 45 or, in position notation 1440 which is 32 x 45.

[7] “The Tao begot one. One begot two. Two begot three. And three begot the ten thousand things.” Tao Te Ching 42, “The ten thousand things carry yin and embrace yang. They achieve harmony by combining these forces. Men hate to be “orphaned,” “widowed,” or “worthless,” But this is how kings and lords describe themselves. For one gains by losing And loses by gaining.”

[8] This led to the study decades later of Triads, the six different permutations of the three forces, Affirming, Denying and Reconciling. Bennett saw the increasing of a world’s number as the substitution of an essential force with an existential force, thus doubling the number of triads in lower worlds (perhaps instead of the inner octave explanation of doubling).

[9] It is now thought the ancient near east, like hexachordal music, did not have an octave fixation. Richard Dumbrill notes that Just intonation, without consideration of numerical generation using primes 2, 3 and 5, used the Fifth and Thirds to fit structures like the tetrachord (Fourth) or an enneatonic, 9 toned range beyond the octave, popular for example in traditional instruments like the bagpipe today. The heptachord and its octave only enters the present historical record in the 1st Millennium BC. ICONEA 2010 “This paper will have sufficiently shown that heptatonism did not appear spontaneously on the musical scene of the Ancient Near East. The textual evidence is unambiguous as there are no traces of any heptatonic construction before the first millennium B.C.”

[10] Tales. 841. 2nd Para “… concerning the fundamental cosmic law of the sacred Heptaparaparshinokh then called the law of ‘ninefoldness’ …”

[11] Sachs. 1943. 165 para 2 and 3

[12] Arezzo is south east of Florence. Between are the farms of the delicious and sought after Valdarno chicken, or poolo for poulet. I suggest Gurdjieff had studied the solfege of Guido and Valdarno chicken came to mind.


Bennett, J.G.
1963, Gurdjieff: A Very Great Enigma, Coombe Springs Press.
1973, Gurdjieff, Making a New World, Turnstone Press.
1977, The Masters of Wisdom, Turnstone Press.
1983, Enneagram Studies, rev.ed.. NY: Samuel Weiser.

Blake, A.G.E.
1982, An Index to in Search of the Miraculous, DuVersity Publication.

Bremer, John
2005, Plato’s Ion: Philosophy as Performance, Texas: Bibal.

Dumbrill, Richard
2010, ICONEA Proceedings, Music Theorism in the Ancient World, 107-132, esp 126.

Gurdjieff, G.I.
1950, Beelzebub’s Tales, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London.
1963, Meetings with Remarkable Men, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London.

Heath, Richard
2002, Matrix of Creation, Inner Traditions.
2007, Sacred Number and the Origins of Civilization, Inner Traditions.
2011, Precessional Time and the Evolution of Consciousness, Inner Traditions.
2014, Sacred Number and the Lords of Time, Inner Traditions.
2018, Harmonic Origins of the World, Inner Traditions.

Heath, Richard and Heath, Robin
The Origins of Megalithic Astronomy as found at Le Manio,

Ernest McClain (see also for pdf)
1976, The Myth of Invariance, Shambhala .
1978, The Pythagorean Plato, Shambhala.

P.D. Ouspensky
1950, In Search of the Miraculous, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London.

Sachs, Curt
1943, The Rise of Music in the Ancient World, East and West, New York: Norton.

Traditional Studies Press
1971, Guide and Index to G. I. Gurdjieff’s All and Everything, Toronto.

Primacy of low whole numbers

  1. Preface
  2. Primacy of low whole numbers
  3. Why numbers manifest living planets
  4. Numbers, Constants and Phenomenology
  5. Phenomenology as an Act of Will

Please enjoy the text below which is ©2023 Richard Heath: all rights reserved.

What we call numbers start from one, and from this beginning all that is to follow in larger numbers is prefigured in each larger number. And yet, this prefigurement, in the extensive sense {1 2 3 4 5 6 7 etc.}, is completely invisible to our customary modern usage for numbers, as functional representations of quantity. That is, as the numbers are created one after another, from one {1}, a qualitative side of number is revealed that is structural in the sense of how one, or any later number, can be divided by another number to form a ratio. The early Egyptian approach was to add a series of unitary ratios to make up a vulgar* but rational fraction. This was, for them, already a religious observance of all numbers emerging from unity {1}.  The number zero {0} in current use represents the absence of a number which is a circle boundary with nothing inside. The circle manifesting {2} from a center {1} becomes the many {3 4 5 6 7 …}.

The number one manifests geometrically as the point (Skt “bindu”) but in potential it is the cosmological centre of later geometries, the unit from which all is measured and, in particular, the circle at infinity.

Two: Potential spaces

From one {1} springs two {2}, to which we owe all forms of doubling as reproduction without sexual division, called “barren” by Plato, yet giving the possibilities of complex worlds of different scale, in terms of their limiting number. This is the first true number of Creation which gives the quality of polarity between the two halves of (as yet) nothing, halves of a world that will create the beginnings of an everything. Super dense, as an initial Form of forms, all things will come to rotate around this Axis of axes*. (Axes, when pronounced with a long e, is the plural form of the word axis, meaning imaginary lines that run through the middles of things. The word axe is derived from the Old English word æces, the axe which divides into two. ) This is the birth of duality, as with the centre and circumference of a circle or positive and negative (opposite) charge, and the medium of the wave or vibration, which gave birth to dynamic systems, such as planetary rotation of an axis or an orbit.

When number was incarnated in our own planetary creation, it was Saturn who visibly delimited the outer limits of the visible planets. His name is close to Seth and Satan (as the necessary adversary of the heroic Horus) and he was seen as limiting unbounded growth within existence. Saturn expresses 5 synods of the planet Saturn in 64 {26} lunar months (but this is to jump in numbers, though not too far, to the planetary double octave {24 48 96} lunar months. Sixty-four governs the “eye of Horus”: a government deriving from the mythical conflict between the god Horus with his rival Set; in the context of two eyes, here the right eye was torn out but then restored, to then see the role of two within the creation, in the “afterlife”.

Figure 1 The Egyptian icon of the Eye of Horus as the components used to represent vulgar fraction as a series of powers of two. It derives from the mythical conflict between the god Horus with his rival Set, in which Set tore out or destroyed one or both of Horus’s eyes and the eye was subsequently healed or returned to Horus with the assistance of another deity, such as Thoth.

The Moon finds an exact reunion with the earth day after exactly 945 days, which equal 32 lunar months of 945/32 (29. 53125) days, very close to the actual lunar month of 29.53059, being effectively exact as 57 seconds different.

While the number two can, in being divided, create new areas of interaction (including cosmic octaves), its mere extension {2 4 8 16 32 64 128 …) forms only a backbone of potentialities, these then (see later page) borrowed by higher limiting numbers such as 720, a number containing favourable numerical factors for the creation an ideal “family” of limits, metaphorically presented by Adam and the Patriarchs of the Bible.

Figure 2 The vision of the Godhead asleep on a pre-creational ocean (of his sweat) attended by the Goddess until he awakes for a new creation.

The number {2} as dyad manifests as the geometry of the line. The line {2} from a center {1} as a rotational vector becomes the geometry of the circle.

Three and four: Actualization

The actual creation has a different planetary symbol, the equilateral triangle with three sides, seen also as the capital Greek delta, whose value is 4 because the planetary system is an Activity involving forces. These numbers are reconciled as 3 x 4 which equals 12, the number of Autocracy * and balanced action. We are told in myth that Jupiter’s twelvefold nature was “the receiving of the measures” from Saturn, as 4. Jupiter is the planetary demiurge which Plato describes carving out the World Soul “octave” {6 8 9 12}, using ratios involving Three, the cubit and its reciprocal {3/2 4/3} * (Timaeus). Only when we reach the lunar octave {24 27 30 32 36 40 45 48} will the diatonic scale of eight notes emerge, the first and last being the same note, doubled.

The first true doubling {2 3 4}, between 2 and its square, holds the first type of penetration of the octave, by Three {3}. With three, the Demiurge forms his World Soul using intervals involving only Two and Three {3/2 4/3}, which can create the fifth and fourth notes (“dominant and subdominant”) of an octave.

The number {3} gives form to the first geometry of area, manifest in the triangle which, given a right angle, becomes trigonometrical, as the functional mediation between the line and the circle.

The number four connects the relatedness of the Triad (3) with the existentially actual to provide an engine in which Form can become Substance through an intermediate pair of terms that fulfill the gap {2} between form and the actual situation. One could say this is the first instance of filling the octave with tones {8}, intermediate between 2 and 8. Four is the first square number which in geometry is called square as an area equal to 4 has sides equal to 2

Five: Vitality and Life

Coming next, Five {5} will also be able to divide the coming “octave” {3 4 5 6} in a superior way than three and two can alone, by redefining a new tone {10/9} for Just intonation and a corresponding semitone {16/15}, these cancelling the excessive powers of three produced by tuning only with three {3}, called the cycle of fifths, which used successive fifths and its inverse{3/2 4/3} because the ear can best define the larger musical intervals. The octave between three and six defines the framework of Just intonation where three intervals span the octave {4/3 5/4 6/5}, summing to doubling {2}.*

*This was probably referred to as “the three strides of Vishnu”, Trivikrama (‘having three steps’) being one of his 1,000 names.

The planet Venus brings a new type of harmony, which is also the sixth note {8/5 (= 1.6)} of a diatonic octave (see this page) since her synod of 584 days is 8/5 of the practical year of 365 days. The Fibonacci series allows whole number approximation to the Golden Mean {φ} between adjacent members obtained as being the sum of the two preceding numbers {0 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 34 55 …} unlike the ordinal set {1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 …}, the latter instead obtained by more simply adding one more unit {1} to the preceding number. Unlike the musical tone and semitone of Jupiter and Saturn relative to the lunar year, Venus is resonant with the Earth’s orbital period of 365 whole days, and this type of orbital resonance, with each other, is mutually attractive, providing the lowest and most stable energy between the two planets. The inner orbital diameter (semi major axis) divided by the difference in orbital diameters, equals 2.618, or phi squared {φ2}*. (See later page for more on their orbits) Structures of growth, based upon Fibonacci ratios, are commonly found within living bodies, which must achieve this algorithm in which their present size added to their digestion of previously eaten food results in the sum of the two.

Figure The Fibonacci series in two dimensions are common forms of living growth.

The Venus synod will be seen to fit inside the octaves of the Moon because 20 lunar months is 590.6 days which is less than the synodic comma {81/80} of her 583.92 day synod*.

*The synodic comma is the exact ratio connecting Pythagorean and Just versions of the same note. One of the Indian temple designs is a nine-by-nine square grid which makes the number of equal-sized sub-squares {81) divided by the count where the central square is not counted gives the ratio of the synodic comma {81/80}.

Music: Child of the First Six Numbers

The larger intervals of numerically larger octave doublings are in this way foreordained in the first six numbers {1 2 3 4 5 6} and their relative size to each other, are five musical intervals {2/1 3/2 4/3 5/4 6/5}.  Doubling has led to the pillars of Plato’s world soul {3/2 4/3} and three when doubled {3 4 5 6} has led to the three strides {4/3 5/4 6/5}, both sets summing to Two {2}.

The first six numbers, creating all the large tones of musical harmony, punctuated by Seven.

Between the five musical intervals, the tones and semitones of Just intonation are to be found {9/8 10/9 16/15} so that, as a tuning system, the Just system leads automatically to the tones and semitone of the seven modal scales, in both melodic and polyphonic harmony.

When the World Soul {6 8 9 12} is twice doubled {24 48} and doubled again {48 96}, the two octaves express the world numbers of Gurdjieff {24 48 96}, but now these numbers correspond to lunar months and, as with music when heard, all of the possible intervals are compresent in the instrument, the Moon illuminated by the Sun, since one can count from any lunar month, over any number of lunar months, to achieve any of the larger and smaller intervals between these octaves. And it is now true that the three principle planets of Jupiter, Saturn and Venus are present at the second, fourth and sixth notes, each of these relevant to Gurdjieff’s theory of octaves as stated by him in Russia, and his cosmic epic Beelzebub’s Tales. And J G Bennett continued to build on what Gurdjieff had expressed, without knowledge of the astronomical references, to populate his own Dramatic Universe, in 4 volumes and many compendia (see Bibliography). Of particular importance is how human beings figure within the cosmic vision, without which a planetary cosmos involving consciousness and creativity would be meaningless. If one resists the modern functional view of cosmogenesis: music, or other forms of harmony, can be seen to redeem the creation of a world like ours, through the short cuts numerical systems naturally provide for us, through a gravitational environment that can provide these.

Coming soon: Why numbers manifest living planets

Music, part 1: Ancient and Modern

We would know nothing of music were it not that somewhere, between the ear and our perceptions, what we actually hear (the differences between different frequencies of sound, that is, different tones) is heard as equivalent musical intervals (such as fifths, thirds, tones, semitones, etc), of the same size, even when the pitch range of the tones are different. This is not how musical strings work, where intervals of the same size get smaller as the pitch at which tones occur, grows larger. On the frets of a guitar for instance, if one plays the same intervals in a different key, the same musical structure, melodic and harmonic, is perfectly transposed, but the frets are spaced differently.

The key is that human hearing is logarithmic and is based upon the number two {2}, the “first” interval of all, of doubling. This can only mean that the whole of the possibilities for music are integral to human nature. But this miraculous gift of music, in our very being, is rarely seen to be that but, rather, because of the ubiquity of music, especially in the modern world, the perception of music is not appreciated as, effectively, a spiritual gift.

Music is often received as a product like cheese, in that it is to be eaten but, to see how this cheese is made from milk requires us to see, from its appearance as a phenomenon, what music perception is made up of . Where does music come from?

Normally a part of musicology, that subject is full of logical ambiguities, confusing terminology, unresolved opinions, and so on. Those who don’t fully understand the role of number in making music work, concentrate on musical structures without seeing that numbers must be the only origin of music.

The ancient explanation of music was that everything comes out of the number one {1}, so that octaves appear with the number two {2/1}, fifths from three {3/2}, fourths from four {4/3}, thirds from five {5/4} and minor thirds from six {6/5}. Note that, (a) the interval names refer to the order of resulting note within an octave, (b) that intervals are whole number ratios differing by one and that, (c) the musical phenomenon comes out of one {1}, and not out of zero {0}, which is a non-number invented for base ten arithmetic where ten {10} is one ten and no units.

Another miracle appears, in that the ordinal numbers {1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 etc.} naturally create, through their successiveness, all the larger intervals before the seventh number {1 2 3 4 5 6 7} leaving the next three {8 9 10} to create two types of tone {9/8 10/9} and a semitone {16/15} thereafter {11 12 13 14 15 16}: by avoiding all those numbers whose factors are not the first three primes {2 3 5}. Almost the whole potential of western music is therefore built out of the smallest numbers!

This simplicity in numbers has now been obscured, though the structure of music remains in the Equal Temperament form of tuning evolved in the last millennium. By having twelve equal semitones that sum to the number two, we can now transpose melodies between keys (of the keyboard) but we have pretty much lost the idea of scales. Instead, each key is the major diatonic {T T S T T T S} (where T = tone and S = semitone intervals) starting from a different key. The fifth is called dominant and fourth subdominant and the black notes (someway fiendish to learn) required to achieve the major key in all keys but C which is all white keys.

The old church scales are achievable by over ruling the clef with accidental notes, and the reason for different keys sounding different is that they contain aspects of what were the scales. So a pop song, for example, is usually in a scale. “Bus Stop” by the Hollies was in the Locrian scale.

Equal Temperament enabled the Western tradition to create its Classical repertoire but it has made ancient musical theory very distant and has abandoned the exact ratios it used to use since every semitone is identical and irrational. Plato described this kind of solution as the best compromise, where every social class of musical numbers has sacrificed some thing of their former self in order to achieve the riches versatility bestows upon modern musical composition.

To be continued.

Music of the Olmec Heads

Seventeen colossal carved heads are known, each made out of large basalt boulders. The heads shown here, from the city of San Lorenzo [1200-900 BCE], are a distinctive feature of the Olmec civilization of ancient Mesoamerica. In the absence of any evidence, they are thought to be portraits of individual Olmec rulers but here I propose the heads represented musical ratios connected to the ancient Dorian heptachord, natural to tuning by perfect fifths and fourths. In the small Olmec city of Chalcatzingo [900-500BCE] , Olmec knowledge of tuning theory is made clear in Monument 1, of La Reina the Queen (though called El Rey, the King, despite female attire), whose symbolism portrays musical harmony and its relationship to the geocentric planetary world *(see picture at end).

* These mysteries were visible using the ancient tuning theories of Ernest G. McClain, who believed the Maya had received many things from the ancient near east. Chapter Eight of Harmonic Origins of the World was devoted to harmonic culture of the Olmec, the parent culture of later Toltec, Maya, and Aztec civilizations of Mexico.

Monument 5 at Chatcatzinga has the negative shape of two rectangles at right angles to each other, with radiating carved strips framing the shape like waves emanating from the space through which the sky is seen. The rectangles are approximately 3 by 5 square or of a 5 by 5 square with its corner squares removed.

Monument 5 at Chalcatzingo is a framed hollow shape. The multiple squares have been added to show that, if the inner points are a square then the four cardinal cutouts are described by triple squares.

The important to see that the Olmec colossal heads were all formed as a carved down oval shape, that would fit the height to width ratio of a rectangular block. For example, three heads from San Lorenzo appear to have a ratio 4 in height to 3 in width, which in music is the ascending fourth (note) of our modern diatonic (major or Ionian) scale.

Even narrower is the fourth head at San Lorenzo, whose height is three to a width of two. This is the ratio of the perfect fifth, so called as the fifth note of the major scale.

And finally (for this short study), the ratio 6/5 can be seen in Head 9 of San Lorenzo and also at La Venta’s Monument 1 (below).


If the heads were conceived in this way, the different ratios apply when seen face on. The corners of the heads were probably rounded out from a supplied slab with the correct ratio between height and width. The corners would then round-out to form helmets and chins and the face added.

And as a group, the six heads sit within in a hierarchy of whole number ratios, each between two small numbers, different by one. At San Lorenzo, Head 4 looks higher status than Head 9 and this is because of its ratio 3/2 (a musical fifth or cubit), relative to the 6/5 of Head 9. We now call the fifth note dominant while the fourths (Heads 1, 5 and 8) are called subdominant. These two are the foundation stones of Plato’s World Soul {6 8 9 12}, within a low number octave {6 12} then having three main intervals {4/3 9/8 4/3}* where 4/3 times 9/8 equals 3/2, the dominant fifth.

*Harmonic numbers, more or less responsible for musical harmony, divide only by the first three primes {2 3 5} so that the numbers between six and twelve can only support four harmonic numbers {8 9 10}

San Lorenzo existed between 1200 to 900 BCE, and in the ancient Near East there are no clear statements for primacy of the octave {2/1}, nor was it apparent in practical musical instruments before the 1st Millennium BCE, according to Richard Dumbrill: Music was largely five noted (pentatonic) and sometimes nine-noted (enneadic) with two players. However, the eight notes of the octave could instead be arrived at, in practice, by the ear, using only fifths and fourths to fill out the six inner tones of a single octave; starting from the highest and lowest tones (identical sounding notes differing by 2/1). A single musical scale results from a harp tuned in this way: the ancient heptachord: it had two somewhat dissonant semitone (called “leftovers” in Greek), intervals seen between E-F and B-C on our keyboards (with no black note between). Our D would then be “do“, and the symmetrical scale we today call Dorian.

The order of the Dorian scale is tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone, tone {T S T T T S T} and the early intervals of the Dorian {9/8 S 6/5 4/3 3/2} are the ratios also found in these Olmec Heads*. The ancient heptachord** could therefore have inspired the Olmec Heads to follow the natural order tuned by fourths and fifths.

*I did not consciously select these images of Heads but rather, around 2017, they were easily found on the web. Only this week did I root out my work on the heads and put them in order of relative width.

**here updated to the use of all three early prime numbers {2 3 5} and hence part of Just Intonation in which the two semitones are stretched at the expense of two tones of 9/8 to become 10/9, a change of 81/80.
(The Babylonians used all three of these tones in their harmonic numbers.)

To understand these intervals as numbers required the difference between two string lengths be divided into the lengths of the two strings, this giving the ratio of the Head in question. The intervals of the heptachord would become known and the same ratios achieved within the Heads, carved out as blocks cut out into the very simple rectangular ratios, made of multiple squares.

The rectangular ratio of Head 4, expressed within multiple squares as 3 by 2.

The early numbers have this power, to define these early musical ratios {2/1 3/2 4/3 5/4 6/5}, which are the large musical tones {octave fifth fourth major-third minor-third}. These ratios are also very simple rectangular geometries which, combined with cosmological ideas based around planetary resonance, would have quite simply allowed Heads to be carved as the intervals they represented. The intervals would then have both a planetary and musical significance in the Olmec religion and state structure.

Frontispiece to Part Three of Harmonic Origins of the World: War in Heaven
The seven caves of Chicomoztoc, from which arose the Aztec, Olmec and
other Nahuatl-speaking peoples of Mexico. The seven tribes or rivers of the old world are here seven wombs, resembling the octaves of different modal scales, and perhaps including two who make war and sacrifice to overturn/redeem/re-create the world.

A Musical Cosmogenesis

Everything in music comes out of the number one, the vibrating string, which is then modified in length to create an interval. Two strings at right angles, held within a framework such as Monument 5 (if other things like tension, material, etc.were the same) would generate intervals between “pure” tones. However Monument 5 is not probably symbolic but rather, it was probably laid flat like a grand piano (see top illustration). Wooden posts could hold fixings, to make a framework for one (or more) musical strings of different length, at right angles to a reference string. This would be a duo-chord or potentially a cross-strung harp. Within the four inner points of Monument 5 is a square notionally side length. In the image of Monument 1, and variations in height and width from the number ONE were visualized in stone as emanating waves of sound.

The highest numbers lead to the smallest ratio of 6/5 then the 6/5 ratio of Head 9 can be placed with five squares between the inner points and the 3/2 ratio of Head 2 then fills the vertical space left open within Chalcatzingo’s Monument 5.

Monument 5’s horizontal gap can embrace the denominator of a Head’s ratio (as notionally equal to ONE) so that the inner points define a square side ONE, and the full vertical dimension then embraces the 3/2 ratio of the tallest, that of Head 2.

It may well be that this monument was carved for use in tuning experiments and was then erected at Chalcatzingo to celebrate later centuries of progress in tuning theory since the San Lorenzo Heads were made. By the time of Chalcatzingo, musical theory appears to have advanced, to generate the seven different scales of Just intonation (hence the seven caves of origin above), whose smallest limiting number must then be 2880 (or 4 x 720), the number presented (as if in a thought bubble) upon the head of a royal female harmonist (La Reina), see below. She is shown seeing the tones created by that number, now supporting two symmetrical tritones. The lunar eclipse year was also shown above her head (that is, in her mind) as the newly appeared number 1875, at that limit. This latter story probably dates around 600 BCE. This, and much more besides, can be found in my Harmonic Origins of the World, Chapter Eight: Quetzcoatl’s Brave New World.

Figure 5.8 Picture of an ancient female harmonist realizing the matrix for 144 x 20 = 2880. If we tilt our tone circle so that the harmonist is D and her cave is the octave, then the octave is an arc from bottom to top, of the limit. Above and below form two tetrachords to A and D, separated by a middle tritone pain, a-flat and g-sharp. Art by by Michael D Coe, 1965: permission given.