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Inner alchemy archives - Music and harmony

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Date: Fri, 16 May 1997
From: Judith Rasoletti

Dear Alchemists,

On the subject of music and the vibratory energies set into motion by the
sounding out of the notes set in rhythm, look up the book "The Secret
Power of Music" written by David Tame (Rochester, VT: Destiny Books,
1984) ISBN 0892810564. There are some interesting ideas one can extract
from these chapters.

Let me ask: be it rap music or symphonic compositions, how does music
correspond to the alchemical processes? We ordinarily assume that music
should please, heal, uplift etc, yet some stages we go through in our Work
are disruptive, divisive, destructive before reconstruction can begin. Is
there work being done with music to help the alchemical process?

Maybe what makes some music take on that harmonious aspect is the quality
of the silence that precedes and follows each note, each sound.

Best regards,

Judith Rasoletti

From: Anthony House
Date: Sat, 17 May 1997


Everything in nature contains the three essentials. Music and sound affect
the body, soul, and spirit of every human being. Thus, the three essentials
of music being rhythm=salt, melody=sulfur, and tone color or
harmony=mercury, are effective means for development of the human soul.
Rhythm develops the will building concentration, attention, and
determination. Melody opens up the world of emotions. Since tone color and
harmony are the vehicles of sound itself, our innner hearing is developed.

Every human is born with an instrument in our throats and the pentatonic
scale of five tones to the octave is the musical scale of all countries
originally. These original five tones la do re me so la...can be related to
the five elements, possibly being at the core of the human life itself.
Also the five vowels a e i o u...and the Hebrew letters yod he shin vau
he...correspond to these tones imprinted in our souls.

Further references would be: Robert Fludd, John M. Addey;Harmonics in
Astrology, Lawrence Blair Rhythms of Vision, Peter Michael Hamel Through
music to the Self, G.L. Hersey Pythagorean Palaces: Magic and architechture
in the Italian Renaisance, Hans Kayser Akroasis: The Theory of World
Harmonics, Hazrat Inayat Khan The Mysticism of Sound, Ernest G. McClain The
Pythagorean Plato: Prelude to the Song Itself, Dane Rudyar The Rebirth of
Hindu Music. Frater Albertus 7 Rays of the Q.B.L.


From: Dr. Charles L. Tucker
Date: Sun, 18 May 1997

Dear All
I did not recall who said what about RAP music but I will throw in my two
cents worth. The question is not about whether RAP music leads to GOD or the
Opposite. The question should be Does the rate of vibration raise my own so
that it harmonizes better with the ONE? Steve Halpern proved that certain
music is detrimental to one's physical harmony and that other music soothes
the physical, heals it, and promotes the lifting of the inner self. Isn't
this is what Alchemy is all about? The raising of the inner vibrational level
to become one with the maker? Point.. RAP may be one persons way .. It may
lead to higher vibrational awareness.. As one advances they will put aside
former learnings for more higher vibrational feelings. Where we are on the
path is relative, no up or down, no higher or lower, only being. Alchemy is
the expansion of BEING.
Dr. Charles L. Tucker

From: Eric C. Friedman
Date: Mon, 19 May 1997

The Seven natural Pythagorean tones can be seen and used as a
parallel (perhaps as a "bannister", so to speak) to the Seven
Steps/Stages of the Work. In this context, the "Eighth Stage" is the
attainment of the Harmonic Octave (Ogdoad). This raises the original
state to a "doubled frequecy" of vibration. The process can be repeated
numerous times, with each "scale" of Seven Stages operating at a much
higher level of vibration. Eventually, a frequency may be reached where
the alternations from one extreme to the other are incidental, and the
Unity of the Stable Center is realized. At this conceptual frequency, all
other frequencies are "Harmonics", and Unity is resonated throughout All.


Date: Mon, 19 May 1997
From: George Leake

>From: Anthony House
>Every human is born with an instrument in our throats and the pentatonic
>scale of five tones to the octave is the musical scale of all countries
>originally. These original five tones la do re me so la...can be related to
>the five elements, possibly being at the core of the human life itself.

I hate to rain on your parade, but I really don't know about some of this.
Especially this bit about "the pentatonic scale of five tones to the octave
is the musical scale of all countries"! Ever heard of quarter tones?

Also, it is all too easy to demonstrate that not all cultures recognize
"five" elements.

George Leake

Date: Sun, 18 May 97


In the archives somewhere is a posting from me on 'Flamel's' attribution of
the scale through the three and a bit octaves that are our realm of
experienced sound...
On the subject of music, other references might be:

Sufi Inayat Khan, 'Music', /Barrie & Jenkins/Sufi Publishing Co., 1962
Alain Danielou, 'Semantique musicale, Essai de psycho-physiologie auditive',
Hermann, 1978
Alain Danielou, 'The Ragas of North Indian Music', Barrie and Rockliffe, 1968
Ernest G. McLain, 'The Myth of Invariance', Shambhala, 1978
John Cage, 'Silence', MIT, 1966
John Cage, 'M', Calder & Boyars, 1973

In terms of listening, you might want to try

Michael Maier, 'Atalanta Fugiens', Joscelyn Godwin trans. and ed., Magnum Opus
Hermetic Sourceworks, 1987, wich has the most copious 'liner-notes' of any
musical series I've ever come across anywhere, and
Third Ear Band, 'Alchemy' and 'Air, Earth, Fire, Water', EMI Harvest, 1969 and
1970/71, which in my opinion are probably the two greatest albums to have ever
come out of that extraordinarily fecund and beautiful period

You might also find of interest the forthcoming publication of the 'Cantilenae
Intelectuales de Phoenice Redivivo' by Michael Maier, wherein the music -
which is extraordinarily power and present - is totally silent and of the
reader's own invention...
Here is my translation of Jacques Rebotier's essay on music available in the
French edition of this text (J-C Bailly, Guthenberg Reprints, 1984)(For those
of you who are into facsimile editions, by the way, Bailly's 'Collection
Alchimie-Hermetisme' must be the bench-mark)


Part three of the third triad of the Cantilenæ offers an interpretation of the
three apples thrown before Atalanta by Hippomene. Five years earlier, Michael
Maier had dedicated an entire volume, the Atalanta Fugiens, to this myth,
presenting to the public the fruits of his alchemico–musical researches,
already at that time figured under the number three. Its musical pieces are
set for three voices symbolising mercury, sulphur and salt, and also Atalanta,
Hippomene and the apples. Moreover, this auditory address was a third level in
a sort of attempted synaesthesia in which engravings ("emblems"), music
("fugues") and texts ("epigrams" and "dissertations") simultaneously solicited
sight, hearing and intellect, the better to penetrate the spirit of alchemical
The term "cantilena" has both poetical and musical resonance. In Maier's mind
it was undoubtedly still charged with an ancient sense of magic and
propitiation. Ricciardi, drawing on Natale Conti, recalls that the use of such
cantilenæ by the ancients in their sacrifices was so that they might come into
contact with the gods of the empyrean. And Zarlino, who also knew Maier,
wonders as a musician what the form of such cantilenæ might have been to have
had so marked an effect. From monody and madrigal to opera, from the theories
of the effetti to those of the affetti, from the Camerata Dardi to the academy
of Baïf, we know what sort of answer a Le Jeune or Monteverdi might have given

Variations on the Number Three

But Maier's cantilenæ are not music as such. Rising forever above the realms
of Musica or, for that matter, Optica, they are styled intellectuales or, by
extension, non auditoriæ and non visuales. As the sub–title indicates, they
spring not so much "from the voice as from the mind". That is to say, if as in
Marsilio Ficino, one of Maier's sources, the visual and musical arts are often
placed on a par, poetry, inasmuch as it stems not from the harmony of the
spheres but from the music of the divine mind, is to be seen as their
superior. Poetry thus also speaks directly to the spiritual in man although
this in no wise prevents it from participation in the essence of music for,
above and beyond verbal content, it may (if sung) also often express melody
and always makes manifest rhythm. A threefold definition sums up almost all of
musical theory starting with Cassiodorus: musica is at once metrica, harmonica
and rythmica. Maier's cantilenæ thus include music while at the same time
situating themselves beyond it, and it is for this reason that he once again
proclaims, as in the Atalanta Fugiens, "a union of the mind with objects of
the senses and those intelligible to the senses". This union is, in itself, a
harmony, and this harmony, the homage of Art to Nature reflected in the
Cantilenæ, expresses itself in the number three. Thus the Cantilenæ is pro
clave tenarum, irreserabilium, in Chymia, arcanum rationilibus ministratæ: it
is, in effect, made up of triads, nine in number, and three voices. It may be
compared in this to a volume of poetry published the same year by Lucas Jennis
(editor with whom Maier himself often published), the Trias Hexastichorum of
Maier's great admirer, Daniel Stolcius.
All of this, of course, needing to be situated within the context of
Platonism. Plotinus, Porphyry, Iamblicus, Gregory of Nysus, St. Augustine,
Proclus (published late in the same year as the Atalanta), Pseudo Dionysus the
Areopagite, John Scotus, the Chartres School and Ficino, not forgetting such
texts as The Chaldean Oracles — there is not space enough for us to follow
here the thread of these Christian and Neoplatonist reflections on the nature
of the ternary — trinity or triad — and harmony up to Maier himself.
Echoes from the first triads of Zosimus up to the Paracelsan developments on
the three principles, passing from religious allegories such as the Liber
Sanctæ Trinitatis, Aurora Consurgens or Pretiosa Margerita Novella on the one
hand, and, on the other, from musical treatises from Bœtius to Prætorius,
Fludd, Mersenne and Kircher, from the innumerable ternary classifications of
musical types, orders of sound–emission and instrument to the "triad" of the
perfect chord in alchemical literature will also be noted. The concept of
consonance itself, with the provisos of Plato and Aristotle, may be defined as
the harmonious fusion of two extremes into a third term. It is thus, too, that
we should understand the bona consonansque Musica triplex that, for the Maier
of Jocus Severus, results from the action of the high and low voices
(represented by the nightingale and owl), provided they can keep themselves
from dissonance.
The third term may also be a means of harmonising two different sounds: thus,
the mese is the middle term between the nete and hypate, highest and lowest
strings of the lyre, invention of Mercury, musician but also hermeticist. This
concept of mediality, be it incarnate in the mercury, sulphur or salt, water,
secret fire or what–have–you, is present in many alchemical texts. In Maier,
the cantus firmus representing salt in the Atalanta, has, five years later,
become the cantilena he terms "intermediate" between the voices "high" and
"low". The music for three voices is thus a musical figure for perfection, an
ideal conception actually perceivable in music (13th. century music, for
example) and which could so impress someone like Mersenne.
But each triad is also "quadrata", that perfection may be rendered tangible
just as Christ, prototype of the homo quadratus, is the sum of all earthly
virtues, and this idea is expressed in all the arts concerning us here. That
of speech, which must be square, which is to say harmonious, balanced, "well
pitched" as it were: that the orator frame his sentences "squarely" was, for
Cicero, a point of prime importance. The point is even clearer when it comes
to the poet, careful of his prosody, and Maier himself was not unaware of this
when composing his De Circulo Physico Quadrato whose twelfth chapter is made
up of anacreontic cantilenæ. Music, too, owes it to itself not only to be well
tempered but also well measured, "square". It is amusing to note that this
term is now common coinage in the musical jargon of several musical milieus
(Jazz, Rock, Popular Song, etc.). And it is certainly not simple chance that a
XIIIth. century musical treatise, long attributed to Aristotle, and in which
is found a praise of the Holy Trinity with its persons assimilated to the
three perfect consonances, should be entitled Musica Quadrata. As to the
treatment of the theme in Alchemy, one should certainly refer to the
development in Discourse XXI of the Atalanta Fugiens, borrowing, as it does,
from the Rosarium Philosophorum and Tractatus Vere Aureus. Understood
arithmetically, however, quadrata actually means the product of a number by
itself, and even by its square (Bœtius and St. Augustine both employed it in
this sense). Nine triads for three voices, resulting in twenty–seven
cantilenæ, is three raised to its square and then cubed.
The nine obviously nourishes itself in the Enneads of Plotinus and the
Dyonisian Hierarchies. It is also, musically speaking, a fundamental number,
not only because the angelic orders, the rivals of the planetary gods and
Muses, love the music of the spheres, but equally because, as affirmed at the
start of the XIVth. century by Johannes de Muris in his Practica Musica, the
novenary is the limit beyond which all number and, thus, music, is reabsorbed
into unity.
The number 27, too, warrants our tarrying: it is the final number in the
Timæus series (1–2–3–4–8–9–27) which was commented upon regularly from
Chalcidius to Ficino. A table by Fludd, whose links with Maier are certain,
demonstrates how this number covers the universe of diatonic sound divided
into four octaves and a sixth, ambit proceeding from a threefold triple
proportion. This is the development of a schema propounded by Giorgi Francesci
in his majestic De Harmonia Mundi, a schema which expressed for its author,
not only the thought of Plato, but, since the triple novenary is contained in
the Mitatron, also that of Moses. Nicolas Lefèvre de la Boderie, "brother of
the translator" of this work, extracted from it a similar diagram of
correspondences, more complete but neglecting the musical basis.
After this glimpse of the musical notions implied by the simple terms used in
the title of the work, and before going on to examine the dedication, we
should like to point out a passage in the poems themselves. The last triad
outlines, in fact, a somewhat heterodox conception of the Trinity in which the
Father is related, not to mind or soul, but to the body. Strange continuation
of an idea proscribed five centuries earlier by Alan of Lille, who, taking as
his basis Aristotle who distinguishes form, substance and the union of the
two, relates the Father to substance, the Son to form (which is born of
substance), and the Spirit to that bringing about the union of the two
extremes. Maier, too, presents the Holy Spirit as mediator which, besides,
conforms perfectly with a Neoplatonic reading which identifies Mind with the
World Soul. The idea, already present in Augustine, was expressed with
precision by Thierry de Chartres, Guillaume de Conches, Bernardus Silvestris,
as well as Abelard and subsequently taken up with force by Ficino, who
expounded at length on the mediation in operation in the universe by means of
the World Soul, and in man by virtue of the spiritus.

A Novenary Cosmology

It is in the dedication that the most specific musical references are
developed in a classical econium musices, expressed in eight points:
(a) God has created the world based on number, weight and measure.
(b) Harmony thus dwells in all that exists, visible or invisible.
(c) The relationships of consonance, third, fifth and octave thus govern the
macrocosm (earth–moon–sun–fixed heavens).
(d) The same is true in terms of the microcosm (feet–liver–heart–brain).
(e) This is true again of the (alchemical) micro–world, comprising, as it
does, three natures expressed as three voices (high–pitched, medium and bass).

(f) These present a harmony similar to that heard by Pythagoras.
(g) Contemplation of this harmony gives rise to a triple–voiced musical echo
in the mind of man.
(h) This music, audible only to philosophers, is silence.

Everything is here: the Biblical reference to "number, weight and measure",
the anecdote of Pythagoras being moved by the musical grace in a blacksmiths
forge, the three worlds, the place and role of man. The originality of Maier's
variations on the theme stem from the fact that, on the one hand, he holds to
a ternary ordering and, on the other, that he was something of a musician. He
thus conceives of each of the three worlds as being ruled by three consonances
amongst whose number he counts not the fourth but the third. This mutation,
which enables him to obtain perfect harmony — the trias harmonica of the
earliest Baroque musical treatises, contemporary with the Cantilenæ
(Baryphonus, Lippius, Prætorius...) — clearly reveals a desire to take into
account the reality of the musical practice of his time. For nearly all
Renaissance theoreticians, the third is as yet no more than an imperfect
harmony. It would be correct to point out here that Ficino, who undoubtedly
had knowledge of the Musica Practica (Bologna, 1482) of the steamy Ramos de
Pareja, showed himself extraordinarily innovative on the subject: his brief De
Rationibus Musicæ, dating from around 1484, not only demotes the fourth in
favour of the third, but also integrates this last into a triad comprising
third, fifth and octave, which he attributes to the three Graces. Perhaps it
was in this text that Maier found the inspiration to so reconstrue the ancient
tradition of the music of the spheres: where all sources agree, at least, in
according a whole tone to the distance between the earth (if this is not mute)
and moon, and a fourth between the moon and sun, the Cantilenæ, following
neither Fludd, Mersenne nor Kircher, proclaims a major and a minor third. As
to the distances advanced in commas (8, 35 and 61), they are approaching the
values that might be drawn from the theory of Zarlino (19, 75, 35, 90 and 61,
37 commas), rather than those of Pythagoras, which goes to prove that Maier
knew what he was talking about when it came to the practice of music. From
this point of view, the harmony of the spheres proposed by Maier has this one
immense advantage: in avoiding the cacophony that would result from the sounds
of an entire scale sounding simultaneously as in the systems of seven, eight
and nine sounds or more, or of a simple system of four sounds containing the
interval of a second (earth–moon), it is the only one that can actually be
sounded without discord and, in this, bears witness to an effort at
This perfect harmony is applicable with the same originality to the "little
world" of man, of which four parts are thus retained, such that the three
intervals may clearly be distinguished. The choice is perhaps guided by Plato
for whom the sense of hearing affected man from the head to the region of his
As to the world of the philosophic work, there is one ternary that cannot be
ignored, that of the principles. Everything seems to point to the fact that
the system takes its roots there but, contrary to the two others, this
"smaller than small world" has only three terms, from which only two
consonances would arise. They would not thus be the sounds of a "chord" but,
rather, veritable melodies playing point–counterpoint.
These musics resonating through the three worlds can, following Boëtes, whose
classification was the obligatory port of entry for all musical theory over a
period of ten centuries, be qualified as musica mundana, musica humana and
musica instrumentalis. Each of these being for Maier ternary, the novenary of
the knowable universe, echoed as it is in the nine triads of the Cantilenæ, is
reabsorbed, for those who can hear it, into the musica supramundana where all
is silence. Plotinus and St. Augustine sing the praise of this silence, and
Giorgi Francesci invites meditation on it in the conclusion to his De Harmonia
Mundi, in a modulus vigesimus: silentium.

Hopefully this is of some interest.


From: Anthony House
Date: Tue, 20 May 1997


If there is a parade I'm only a spectator there with an opinion like your
own. I'm not the feature, the cartoon clowns, or the sponsor of any parade.

The development of the musical scale systems is very interesting. Note that
the peoples of different countries, such as the Chinese, Celts, Scots,
African Negroes, North American Indians and Polynesians produced their own
music along similar lines even though they were generally separated from
each other geologically. They created their own cultural scales. The music
of these countries was based on the pentatonic scale. The pentatonic scale
consists of five tones to the octave, containing no semi-tones. All of the
intervals of the overtone series are inherent in this scale with the
exception of the two most dissonant intervals: the minor 2nd and the
tritone (augmented 4th or diminished 5th). The structure of the scale is
that of our natural minor scale from which the 2nd and the 6th degrees (ti
and fa) are missing. Thus: la do re mi so and the repeat of la. The scale,
of course, is only a basis for melody and the interval distances by
relating the scale to the black keys of the piano.


Date: Wed, 21 May 1997
George Leake

>From: Anthony House
>The development of the musical scale systems is very interesting. Note that
>the peoples of different countries, such as the Chinese, Celts, Scots,
>African Negroes, North American Indians and Polynesians produced their own
>music along similar lines even though they were generally separated from
>each other geologically.

Anthony, with all due respect I know this to be false.

Of course I suppose it does depend upon one's standards of judgement, i.e.
what is considered "similar".

George Leake

Date: Wed, 21 May 1997
From: Suzanne Romey

Thanks for the very interesting information and article. I'll read it in
the near future. I've been busy moving. It's been a lot of work, and I
wont be finished for awhile! I'll write more later.

Best wishes, Suzanne

Date: Wed, 21 May 1997
From: Judith Rasoletti

I'm sure glad I asked this question!!
Thank you for all the wonderful contributions on this topic - while I
review the suggested readings, I will listen with new eyes:

"Music always around me, unceasing
Unbeginning-yet long untaught I
did not hear,
But now I hear and am elated."

Walt Whitman

I will post my findings...

Judith Rasoletti

From: Dr. Charles L. Tucker
Date: Thu, 22 May 1997

To all:
In response to Anthony's comment on music and harmony;

Listen to the melody of the heart
and enjoy the symphony of life.

Dr. Charles L. Tucker

From: Marcella Gillick
Date: Fri, 23 May 1997

I won't pretend to understand half of the text below, or that I promote its
message, but I thought those following the music discussion might find it
interesting. I got it from Internet site
which site endorses a new kind of music called PrimaSound, developed
originally by Arnold Keyserling:

''The PrimaSounds scale is based on the one natural interval that does
not fit in the 12 tone system, the acoustic seventh. The frequency and
harmonics of the acoustic seventh interval are dissonant with all of the
other basic fractions. For this reason it is said to have no place in Music.

However, when the acoustic seventh is taken as the basic interval, to the
exclusion of the others which normally make up our musical scale, a
completely new scale is created whereby the octave is divided into
five intervals. The new tone frequencies and intervals is called

This new pentatonic scale opens hearing to the inner Universe and
in most ancient civilizations this music was held sacred. This type
of music is fractal, based on zero, the fourth dimension and the Strange
attractor. It has no melodies, rhythms or other forms or order found
in other music. It sounds almost completely chaotic, unpredictable,
yet there is a fractal order with the link to your own being which
makes the sounds soothing and leaves you serene. Being attuned
to the primal energies of the soul it has the power to throw you into
the zero dimension, to open you to the healing influences of the
Strange attractor.

7th HARMONIC/PRIMA SOUNDS. The acoustic seventh
interval, excluded in the diatonic and twelve tone scales, is the
secret basis of Esoteric Music, described but not explained by
GEORGE GURDJIEFF. The quintessence of true fractal Music lies
in its attunement to the seventh harmonic. The seventh overtone, when
tuned to alpha, produces longitudinal sound energies which interface
with transversal energies to create standing wave patterns, a sound
vortex around a point of transversal energy vibration. Resonance
therewith can tune you into the Strange Attractor. The point and
hypercube - the zero dimension and the fourth dimension - originate
the geometry of the Strange Attractor. Together they fill out
the intervals between the dimensions, the fractal dimensions
between 0 and 1, 1 and 2, 2 and 3, and 3 and 4.

The tones based exclusively on the acoustic seventh - the pentatonic
scale of PrimaSounds - can be combined spontaneously from out
of Awareness to create pure Fractal Music. Fractal Music,
previously known as Esoteric Music, when so created can
then relate the being living in the fourth dimension with the
infinity in the zero dimension and the fractal dimensions.
Listening to such music invokes the Strange Attractor which can
liberate you from past habits and the other attractors. Then you can
self organize autonomously, in tune with the entire Universe and the
spirit of the times.

With PrimaSounds and the Strange Attractor that comes with it, the
entire Mind can be cleansed - all centers - sensing, thinking,
feeling, willing, body, soul, spirit - can be changed from dependence
on the existing cosmos, to ordering the chaos. The chakras are then
opened, re-tuned and integrated. Then you can participate in the
emerging Cosmic Humanity where there are no elites, no sacred way,
but only different styles of being, living and working: the polyphony
of the rainbow civilization.''