The Hermetic Universe
By Michael Hayes
Ever since my formative years, when I first began to think in concepts, I have always been confounded by the mystery of human existence. By and large we all tend to take this consciousness of ours for granted, but for me it has always been a source of wonder.
Equally perplexing is that ultimate question in life: death – that future happening looming over the horizon of all of our lives like some conceptual black hole. What, one wonders, is the purpose in the unending cycle of the genesis and inevitable destruction of all of us? Why are millions of sentient beings all over our planet created, only to starve or be slaughtered wholesale, many without ever having been given the opportunity to fulfil themselves?
On the wider scale of evolution, we see evidence in palaeontological and fossil records, of the emergence and subsequent violent extinction of whole races of people and species of animal. These entities come and go with alarming regularity. But to what avail?
In the greater universe also, existence is no less capricious, with the continuous formation and devastating destruction of planets, stars – even entire galaxies. And who knows what countless other life-forms out there are being indiscriminately annihilated in this way? Just normal, everyday occurrences – but these inviolable and often disturbingly violent events have persistently gnawed at my reason. Why, I ask myself, would the theologians all-wise and all-knowing Benefactor – if he exists – create such a myriad of wonderful forms and then turn round and simply destroy them? These endless cycles of life and death, creation and destruction – what kind of devilment is this?
The ongoing debate over the possible existence and modus operandi of a conscious, all-knowing creator proceeds unabated, with contributors from all disciplines lining up to have their say. However, owing to a specific sequence of events which led me on a solitary quest which was to last nearly fifteen years, I believe I have found a way of understanding what might really be going on in and around us. And ultimately, if I am right, the future looks not all bad. What is more, in this particular scheme of things, God is tangible, very much alive, and undeniably omnipresent.
Strange as this may seem, this whole scenario can all be explained with numbers.
Introducing the Hermetic Code
It is now generally accepted by all but the most hardened sceptic that the classical pi ratio – 22/7, or 3.142857 etc. – is incorporated in the dimensions and proportions of the Great Pyramid. That the Egyptians knew of this value is further substantiated by a key piece of non-pyramidal evidence. This appears in the form of a royal decree, one of the most important administrative documents of the Old Kingdom, which appoints the high priest and Grand Vizier Shemaj Director of Upper Egypt. This document officially places all twenty-two nomes (districts) under his authority, enumerating them from first to last. Some time later the pharaoh appoints to the post of deputy the overseer vizier j, who seems to be the son of the same Shemaj. But then comes the most interesting part of this ancient decree, which states that the son’s jurisdiction, as deputy, extends to only seven nomes. The symbolism is obvious: father over son, twenty-two over seven: pi.
Most people are aware that pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. However this ratio exists separate from circles as well. It resonates in and around us and is the answer to innumerable maths puzzles. It is intrinsic to the solutions of probability and statistical questions; and it is part of how we interpret phenomena as varied as the structure of atoms to the motion of stars. Is it not remarkable, therefore, given its uniqueness and sophistication, that the ancient Egyptians incorporated this symmetry, not only in the proportions and dimensions of what is undoubtedly one of the most impressive pieces of architecture of the ancient world, but also as a basic model for the conduct and interactions of their high priests?
Now, apart from geometry and the solving of probability and statistical questions, there is another, much more important aspect of the pi convention. This is its musical conformity. 22/7 is in fact an expression of three consecutive octaves of resonance. An octave, as everyone knows, comprises seven fundamental notes: Do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti. The eighth note, Do, a repeat of the first but with double the pitch frequency, is the first note of the second octave. Accordingly the eighth note of the second octave – again, Do – is the first note of the third. Taken together these three octaves contain twenty-two notes.
What we have here, in fact, is a symbolic embodiment of the two most fundamental laws of nature, namely, the ubiquitous law of three forces (active-passive-neutral), and the lesser-known but equally all-embracing law of octaves. The law of three forces, as we shall see, is the absolute mainstay of all creative processes, whose influence manifests practically everywhere. The second law, the law of octaves, tells us that all phenomena generated by these three primordial forces are essentially musically structured. To sensibly visualise this concept, we need to look at the formula pi when expressed musically, like so:
This configuration expresses in exact scientific terms everything you need to know to understand the General Theory of just about Everything. All one need do to appreciate this is to remember the key musical numbers incorporated within it. These are: 3, 4, 7, 8, 22, and 64. Three, the number of the Trinity, is the number of octaves encoded in pi. Four is the number of base-notes (Dos) in three consecutive octaves. Seven is the number of intervals between the notes of the major scale. Eight is the number of individual notes in the major scale. Twenty-two is the number of notes in three consecutive scales or octaves. And, according to the law of three forces, the three octaves incorporated in pi are each sub-divisible into three octaves apiece, giving an inner formula of nine octaves, or sixty-four notes. So eight is the constant, and sixty-four, is the square of it.
So much for the maths. You don’t need to be an Einstein to venture further, although it is worth noting the most famous scientific equation of all time – e=mc2 – was formulated to verify this great scientist’s Special Theory of Relativity, which states that e, the latent nuclear energy contained in any given element, is equal to m, the mass of the thing, multiplied by c2, the square of the constant speed of light. As we shall see, the square of the constant occurs time and again throughout the whole of nature.
I have called this musical pattern of symmetry the Hermetic Code, after the Greek god of wisdom and patron of alchemy Hermes Trismegistus, known as the god Thoth, in Old Kingdom Egypt. As noted previously, it was in ancient Egypt where the pi symmetry first came to light, both in its most famous piece of architecture the Great Pyramid – and also in extant administrative documents of the Old Kingdom.
The law of three expressed in the Hermetic Code can be recognised by anyone. Nothing in this universe can be created without the combined action of the three forces described by it: active, passive and neutral. The three main constituents of atoms – protons, electrons and neutrons – the triplet-codon templates of the genetic code, the three pin plug, two opposing teams and a neutral referee, the three primary colours of the spectrum of light, the tripart social and political arenas, two chemical compounds and an intermediary catalyst – all of these trinities exist and interact as a direct result of the three fundamental forces described by the first law of nature. Whenever and wherever something is created, these three forces will inevitably be there.
The second law – the law of octaves – also operates throughout the entire universe. For example, the atomic scale of matter described by the periodic table of elements in chemistry conforms to this law precisely. Based on the atomic weight of a given substance, the table begins at its apex with hydrogen, the lightest of all elements, which has just one electron tracing a specific orbit, or period, around the nucleus. The heavier the element, the more electrons it hosts, and the more periods are needed to accommodate them. The table culminates with substances like curium, one of the densest of radioactive elements. The curium atom consists of ninety-six electrons, which between them trace a total of seven periods around the nucleus precisely the number of periods, or intervals, between the fundamental notes of the major musical scale. The eighth, transcendental note of this atomic scale is the whole phenomenon, all atoms combined.
There is also a current method of classification in nuclear physics called the theory of quantum chromodynamics, which indicates that, beneath the atomic scale, in the world of subatomic quanta, there are also distinct musical symmetries. The American physicist Murray Gell-Man noted that the categories of particle-molecules known as baryons, mesons and pions always combine together in families of eight, which he called octets – hence his name for the system: the eightfold way. Further, each of the eight particles in an octet is a triplet made up of three smaller particles, which Gell-Man called quarks. Three quarks to each particle, eight particles to each octet – an altogether familiar pattern. And then we have the hermetic structure of light, with its three primary colours, the seven fundamental colours of the spectrum and the final eighth note, the product of all seven colours when spun together – the white ray.
Whilst still on the subject of theoretical physics, significantly the number sixty-four, the square of the musical constant, has surfaced in superstring theory, which describes all particles in the universe as infinitesimally small strings made of a kind of vibrational energy. You really cannot get more conceptually obscure than superstring theory, with its eleven different dimensions (three spacial, one temporal, and seven others of increasingly acute curvature), and a system of higher mathematics guaranteed to give the layman a form of intellectual vertigo.
But no matter, all we need to know here is that this incredibly complicated system holds that there are eight degrees of manifestation or modes of movement inherent within the string itself. Moreover, in order to account for the four-dimensional structure of classical space-time geometry, the superstring theory is further developed through calculating the formulation of the string in four dimensions, the mathematics of which apparently produces precisely sixty-four specific degrees of movement associated with it. The detailed mechanics of this theory involves a language all of its own, inaccessible to the general reader, myself included. The point is – and any lay observer can see this – even the most complex and advanced mathematical formulae of present-day scientific thought, taken as symbols, reflect virtually every aspect, every nuance, of the original Hermetic Code.
As well as the microcosmic music of the underworld, there is also a cosmic aspect of the Hermetic Code. This is dramatically reflected, not only in the musical symmetry of light itself, but also in the movements of major planets in relation to the Sun, many of which, as I explain in my book High Priests, Quantum Genes, beat out endlessly repeating intervals developing in time, which exactly conform to the relative values of the fundamental notes of the major scale. Ergo, the music of the spheres is not simply legend, but fact.
Perhaps most crucial of all aspects of the Hermetic Code is that it actually resonates throughout the entire organic world. Probably most of you will have heard of the genetic code, a chemical arrangement used by the DNA in the cells of your body to manufacture amino acids, the building blocks of all organic life. In the genetic code there are four kinds of fundamental chemical bases: adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine. In this respect it is significant there are exactly four base-notes, four Dos, in the triple-octave of resonance described by pi. It takes three of these bases to make what is known as a triplet-codon, an amino acid template, of which there are precisely sixty-four variations. Each of these codons correspond to one or another of twenty-two more complex components, namely, the twenty amino acids and two further coded instructions for starting and stopping the process of protein synthesis.
All this, therefore, is crystallised music, composed by nature from units and sub-units of the constant number eight and its natural multiple, the square of the constant, sixty four. This same universal harmony is also reflected in the ever present number seven of course, which again, as we see from the periodic table, is prevalent throughout the whole of nature. This is simply because it, too, is an expression of the law of octaves, which describes eight fundamental notes, but with seven intervals between.
So the General Theory of just about Everything is described in its entirety by the Hermetic Code, an exact blueprint, not only of the underlying structure of the physical universe, but also of the genetic code, of the DNA molecule, of life itself. This unique evolutionary concept has been in existence at least since the time of Old Kingdom Egypt. And, remarkably, the symmetry it describes is currently resonating through the entire spectrum of modern scientific enquiry. How strange is that? Well, not quite so strange, for the seeds of science were sown long ago, as we shall see when we go back in time. Consider this:
In the symbolism of every major religion and belief system in history, the key numbers of the Hermetic Code are paramount. Without exception, these immensely powerful religious doctrines are all exact copies of the original blueprint. To briefly illustrate this, we need only to focus on the two key numbers of the octave: eight (the notes) and seven (the intervals between).
In ancient Egypt, where the Hermetic Code first came to light, the people revered a pantheon of eight principal gods. There were three main theologies in the Old Kingdom: Hermopolitan, Memphite and Heliopolitan, and in all of them the octave format formed the basic blueprint.
In China, in the third millennium BCE, the legendary sage Fu Hsi introduced a belief-system which was subsequently condensed into a book we today know as the I-Ching, whose chapters were numbered using a combination of eight three line symbols called trigrams. Confucius, who later added commentaries to this enigmatic book, subsequently introduced a system of instruction known as the Eight Steps of Learning.
The body of writings known as the Vedas of Indian tradition described the nature of reality as being supported by a system of proofs, of which there were considered to be eight fundamental types. Reminiscent of this also are the systems of the Buddha, with his Eightfold Path, and the Persian Zoroaster, with his pantheon of eight Bounteous Immortals. Pythagoras, as we know, reinvented his own take on this oldest of sciences by working out the precise mathematics of the octave. In the Book of Genesis of Mosaic tradition, we read that God worked for six days, rested on the seventh, presumably starting over again on the eighth. Later still, Jesus Christ acted out possibly the greatest musical performance of all time through the Passion, which began on Palm Sunday and ended, seven days later, on the Sunday of the Resurrection. Finally we have Mohammad, last of the great revelationists, whose famous night journey began at the sacred site of the furthest mosque (The Dome of the Rock Temple in Jerusalem – the first note), and continued up through the seven heavens.
The number seven, or the septenary principle, is equally ubiquitous in the annals of human tradition.
It first appears in the customs of the Neanderthal race as far back as 75,000 BCE. In a cave at Drachenloch in the Swiss Alps, a known bear-hunter site, there was discovered an altar in which were enshrined seven bear skulls, each with their muzzles pointing toward the entrance.
The Hindus regarded the constellation of the Great Bear (our Plough), as the heavenly home of the Septarishi, an embodiment of the seven Rishis (properties) applicable to the whole of nature. Their land had seven peninsulas, seven islands, seven rivers, seven seas and seven mountains.
Another key number of the Hermetic Code, as noted earlier, is the number sixty-four, the square of the constant. This, too, is a vital component of many major religious and esoteric traditions. We have already noted this number is intrinsic to the pi convention, whose encoded triple-octave is further subdivisible into nine inner octaves – sixty-four notes. The Greeks recognised an Egyptian number system known as the Magic Square of Mercury, defined by the number 2080, which is the sum of all the numbers from one to sixty-four. Mercury, of course, is a Romanised version of Hermes/Thoth, the Egyptian messenger of the gods.
In the time of the Buddha it was customary for the nobility to consult a council of sixty-four Brahmins on matters of supreme importance. The ancient game of chess, whose true origins are the subject of endless debate and whose strategic possibilities are seemingly endless, is played on a board comprising sixty-four squares. The Tarot pack, with its fifty-six minor arcana cards also includes a major arcana of twenty-two cards. This major arcana, a triple-octave on one scale, must also, according to the law of three forces, be a single octave on another scale. If we add this greater single octave onto the minor arcana figure, we end up with a total of sixty-four notes. And again, in the Koran, there is a crucial chapter on the sacred light of Allah – chapter sixty-four.
So, what does all this mean? It means many things, whose separate conceptual strands all lead us back to the same hermetic blueprint. It means that the Hermetic Code, the design plan for everything existing – particles, cosmic concentrations, living cells – is applicable literally everywhere, not only in the wider universe, but also, as we see from esoteric traditions going back over centuries and millennia, in the ephemeral realms of the collective human psyche. It tells us that, if everything is music, then everything is hermetic, genetic, alive. There is an ancient dictum attributed to the Egyptian god Thoth which sums up this idea perfectly: As above, so below. The message is clear: man below and the universe above, as stated so emphatically in Genesis, are made in the same image. Everyone, quite literally, is a miniature universe. And expansion is the natural course of things.
And so, if hermetic is genetic, this means the whole universe itself is alive, it is a living organism of infinite size. So if you are looking for a god, we have here a candidate that outshines all of the ill-defined, abstract deities alluded to by clueless clerics – an all-powerful, omnipresent deity that actually does exist.
If we assume, therefore, that the universe is itself an organism, a living entity, and that we are all copies of it, then this would imply that the more advanced products of an organic brain – ideas, theories, concepts – are also in their own way alive, they are metaphysical genes, as organic as the brain from which they originate. The ancients of the remote past, in my view, seem somehow to have understood this, which is why they devised a musical mode of existence in the form of prescribed disciplines and rituals which enabled them to psychologically conform to the laws and forces controlling evolution. This is precisely why religion was first invented – to instil into the collective consciousness of humanity the necessity of harmonising one’s inner faculties according to the principles of the Hermetic Code.
The aim was quite straightforward, it was an attempt to complete the natural course of one’s evolutionary and psychological development by living-out a harmonious existence and ultimately transcending on to a higher plane, a greater musical scale above. This greater scale, a wholly scientific concept describing a higher dimension of existence accessible to the trained mind, is the heaven expressed in all religions.
MICHAEL HAYES is the author of the new book High Priests, Quantum Genes, which includes an introduction by Colin Wilson. The book is published by Black Spring Press. To order the book visit their web site www.blackspringpress.co.uk.
The above article appeared in New Dawn No. 87 (November-December 2004).
© New Dawn Magazine and the respective author.
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