Theosophy Northwest View

The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society

April 2008 -- Vol. 11 Issue 2

Cosmogony, an Intelligent Plan

Today a few more facts may be added to the informa­tion which is already known to every Orientalist. The sacred­ness of the cycle of 4320, with additional cyphers, lies in the fact that the figures which compose it, taken separately or joined in various combinations, are each and all symbolical of the greatest mysteries in nature.  Indeed, whether one takes the 4 separately, or the 3 by itself, or the two together making 7, or again the three added together and yielding 9, all these numbers have their application in the most sacred and occult things, and record the workings of nature in her eternally periodical phenomena. They are never erring, perpetually recurring numbers, unveiling, to him who studies the secrets of nature, a truly divine system, an intelligent plan in cosmogony, which results in natural cosmic divisions of times, seasons, invisible influences, astronomical phenomena, with their action and reaction on terrestrial and even moral nature; on birth, death, and growth, on health and disease.  All these natural events are based and depend upon cyclical processes in the kosmos itself, producing periodic agencies which, acting from without, affect the Earth and all that lives and breathes on it, from one end to the other of any manvantara [period of manifestation].  Causes and effects are esoteric, exoteric, and endexoteric, so to say.  H. P. Blavatsky

The Circle of 360°

It is from Babylonia, but originally from India, that we got our manner of dividing the circle into 360° – each degree consisting of 60', the latter of 60".  Does anyone know the reason why the Babylonians chose the number 360?  Why didn't they choose some other number?  I will tell you: The number 360 arises from a teaching of the ancient god-wisdom of mankind, to the effect that the true number of days in a year is 360, the cycle of the seasons.  But as the ages passed, and due to the fact that the Earth is an individual with a will of its own, it does things at times, not exactly disobeying the mandates of the system in which it is enmeshed, but determined, as are the other planets, to move a little on its own.  So that as the ages pass along – taking the mean of 360 days in a year – the daily rotation of the Earth (making the day and night) quickens a little bit for a while, and the days become 361, and then 362, in a year, and then 363, 364, and now at the present time our year consists of 365 days and a fraction, 1/4.  Then this libration returns to the normal 360 days in a year; and then the Earth slows down its rotational period, so that for ages – how many ages is a question that does not enter into the picture here – any one of our earth-years is less than 360 days: 359, 358, 357, 356, until it reaches the end of that libratory cycle.  Then it begins to swing back; and thus the Earth continues to follow this libration.

That is why the Babylonian initiates, getting their ancient wisdom originally from India, divided the circle into 360 points or degrees; because in their temple-crypts and initiation chambers they were taught that the true earth-year consists of 360 units or days.  Thus the circle became adopted in mathematics as divided into 360 points, cogs, degrees.  It is a wheel, a wheel of time, which actually applies to the Earth.  – G. de Purucker


 From times immemorial, knowledge superior to that of our present age has been preserved in symbol, sacred allegories, and myths. They formed a secret wisdom handed down from person to person and from age to age. There appears to be a system of symbols common to all religions around the world. According to H. P. Blavatsky, there never was, nor can there be, more than one universal religion, for there can be but one truth concerning the Divine. The symbolism of every people reflects the same spiritual principles, and the symbolism of all mythologies has a scientific foundation and substance reflecting spiritual potentialities.  – Phyllis Immink

Monthly Discussion Group

"Magic and Mystery of Numbers" is our next subject. We will be discussing such questions as: Are numbers real? How far is math a human construct, and how far a property of nature? How are music and the other arts related to number? What about proportion, symmetry, rhythm, and harmony? How have various cultures used numbers and geometry to describe the universe and its genesis? Is the universe infinite? Are we? What are the philosophical and mystical meanings of the various numbers as well as figures such as the circle, triangle, square, pyramid, cube, point, and tetraktys? What about gematria and other mystical uses of numbers?  Come and share your ideas! 

Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge

Upcoming Topics

These subjects are currently being considered for the Monthly Discussion group. As always, those who have a particular topic they would like to have featured are encouraged to contact us.

May 15: Facing Illness
June: Tao, Yin, and Yang
July: Understanding, Tolerance, Respect

Theosophical Views

Pythagoras' Contribution

By I. M. Oderberg

Pythagoras was a Greek philosopher of the sixth century BC, best known in our school days as a mathematician and formulator of the theorem of the right-angled triangle. There was, however, another side to his teachings: that involving the development and training of character. While we do not have any of his own writings, those of his immediate students and later followers testify to the quality of his life and teaching that survived his personality.

Pythagoras' message focused, firstly, on the soul, and secondly, on the processes of the physical universe which he expressed in a mathematical system, numbers representing not only relationships but also ideas and entities. Our mathematical concepts are built more or less upon the foundation of Euclid's, but the Pythagorean view was richer and deeper, for number had a living reality that was qualitative rather than quantitative.

For example, in the Pythagorean Tetraktys or Decad (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10), the figure 1 refers to the essence of Divinity, the One, expressing itself through 2, duality, the first manifestation of spirit-matter after a rest period; the 1 and 2 produce 3, the animating "soul" of a cosmos or world order.  The figure 4 refers to the unfolded cosmos in the physical aspect we perceive with our senses, and the 10 to the whole as a functioning organism.  The components of the universe were thus viewed through the perspective of an all-embracing cosmology.


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The Pythagorean Tetraktys (1+2+3+4 = 10)

As stated, the Tetraktys symbolized the first appearance of the cosmic monad of consciousness and its emanation of successively materializing aspects of itself into the universe as we know it.  The Tetraktys is sometimes depicted with and sometimes without an enclosing triangle.  Within a triangle it can symbolize a universe; without a triangle it suggests an infinite number of such universes, each a manifestation of the all-pervading cosmic consciousness.

Helena Blavatsky throws light upon the Pythagorean system by identifying it with the Hindu scripture Aitareya Brahmana of the Rig-Veda:

The harmony and mathematical uniformity of the double evolution – spiritual and physical – are elucidated only in the universal numerals of Pythagoras, who built his system entirely upon the so-called 'metrical speech' of the Hindu Vedas. – Isis Unveiled, 1:9

The Pythagorean philosophy was thus founded on the numerical or vibrational ground of reality. Pythagoras was credited throughout Greek antiquity with the invention of the musical scale derived from his discovery of the ratios of musical intervals which he demonstrated on a monochord.  His "music of the spheres" – the individual vibratory notes which the moving planetary and stellar bodies emit – conforms to a harmonia, cosmic law as expressed through nature, a cosmic harmony.  It has been said that we human beings can be "changed, improved, brought closer to divinity," if we allow the "sweet harmony" of the music of the spheres to influence our lives (see Touches of Sweet Harmony, Pythagorean Cosmology and Renaissance Poetics by S. K. Heninger, Jr.).  For Pythagoras, and Plato after him, the word music had deep philosophical overtones, being derived from the Muses, the nine goddesses who preside over the arts and learning.

The kinship of all entities in the cosmos as parts of a larger organism might have been the basis for the ethical conduct and morality of the Pythagorean communities.  The members tried to conform their lives to the laws of the universe, every Pythagorean feeling his relationship with the all-permeating divine essence.  This may have helped invest the Tetraktys with its sacred tone, for its utterance was regarded as their holiest oath.

Summing up the rich contribution of Pythagoras and his school to the long line of inspiring instruction: they taught that the entire world exists through the harmonia among all its children.  The Pythagorean view entailed so much more than a mere linking of material forms; rather it embraced all the qualities and possibilities latent as seeds in the heart of divinity.

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