CELESTIAL MUSIC OF THE GREEKS
In Greece, mathematics played a crucial role in terms of it being a discipline of great knowledge which diverged into realms of philosophy and divinity, giving way to the formation of celestial music. ‘Musica Universalis’, or ‘Music of the Spheres’, is an ancient Greek philosophical and mathematical theory accounting for proportions in movement of celestial bodies (sun, moon, planets) producing imaginative music. “At the time, the sun, moon, and planets were thought to revolve around Earth in their proper spheres. The spheres were thought to be related by the whole-number ratios of pure musical intervals, creating musical harmony”. The Greeks believed goodness is comprised of harmonious combinations and is a form of high intelligence, because external goodness in the world was in harmonic balance with the goodness within one’s soul.
Pythagoras is credited with the discovery of celestial music by incorporating mathematics and philosophy. He discovered that a “complete system of mathematics could be constructed, where geometric elements corresponded with numbers, and where integers and their ratios were all that was necessary to establish an entire system of logic and truth”. This was considered as a phenomenon of ‘sacred geometry’, involving “sacred universal patterns used in the design of everything in our reality”. Number ratios made way to his discovery of intervals between harmonious musical notes, he noticed the common presence of whole number ratios.
He applied his concept of harmonic mathematics to the movement of the universe, and saw a link between science and music. On the notion of celestial bodies, he believed that they moved in terms of mathematical equations which created music, and hence a kind of symphony. It is said that Pythagoras claimed himself to be the only one to hear these ‘cosmic chants’ from the 'Music of the Spheres'.
~PHILOSOPHY IN PERSPECTIVE~
This idea was even influential to other philosophers we discussed about; Plato was one of them, in his ‘Republic’ he explains the following about the cosmos; ". . . Upon each of its circles stood a siren who was carried round with its movements, uttering the concords of a single scale". A more modern example of this ancient philosophical concept comes into perspective when we look at the relationship between the progression of the elements and harmonic ratios. “While making a list of the elements in the ascending order of their atomic weights, John A. Newlands discovered at every eighth element a distinct repetition of properties. This discovery is known as the ‘law of octaves’ in modern chemistry”.
Because of the way Pythagoreans (Pythagoras and his disciples) used mathematics to reason harmony, a Harmonic School was formed where students, the ‘Canonics’, believed they were working with the true principles of harmony. Recognizing the effect of music on emotions and senses, Pythagoras soon went into the notion of musical medicine; results are said to have shown therapeutic treatment for the spirit, soul and body.
Pythagoras believed the universe to be an enormous monochord, “with its single string connected at its upper end to absolute spirit and at its lower end to absolute matter--in other words, a cord stretched between heaven and earth”.
It is worth mentioning that Pythagoras is known to have had a preference for string instruments; he warned his fellow Pythagoreans not to be exposed to the impure sounds of flutes or cymbals and claimed singing solemn songs while playing the lyre had the ability to cleanse the soul.
The Pythagoreans also identified a significant relationship between the Greek heavens (which they referred to as the spheres of the seven planets) and their seven sacred vowels, each heaven was thought to sound its distinct vowel:
- 1st heaven = Α (Alpha), also the 1st Greek letter;
- 2nd heaven = Ε (Epsilon);
- 3rd heaven = Η (Eta);
- 4th heaven = Ι (Iota);
- 5th heaven = Ο (Omicron);
- 6th heaven = Υ (Upsilon);
- 7th heaven = Ω (Omega), the last Greek letter.
They believed the perfect harmony was created when all heavens sing, and ascended as an everlasting praise to the throne of the Creator. It is not explicitly mentioned from any source but it is quite possible that these “planetary heavens are to be considered as ascending in the Pythagorean order, beginning with the sphere of the moon, which would be the first heaven”.
The Pythagoreans believed all that exists has its own voice and “all creatures were eternally singing the praise of the Creator”. Humans cannot sense these divine melodies because their souls are far too enshrined with the ‘illusion of material existence’, it will only be heard if and when the soul frees itself of this lowly thinking. “Harmony recognizes harmony, and when the human soul regains its true estate it will not only hear the celestial choir but also join with it in an everlasting anthem of praise to that Eternal Good controlling the infinite number of parts and conditions of Being”.
Watch the video below, SERIOUSLY...totally worth it (and short too :D)! To view the full NOVA documentary, click here - > 'The Great Math Mystery'.
SOURCES USED FOR INFO:
NOTE: Direct quotes have been hyperlinked to their respective online source. Images have been hyperlinked with their respective image URL, and their captions are hyperlinked to the actual website source. Four YouTube videos have also been hyperlinked; one at the very beginning, two image captions (the instrumentals), and one at the end (full documentary for which the video at the end is from). The video at the end is directly linked to YouTube.