The Theosophical Forum – January 1949


The Oriental mind is accustomed to accept the scientific accuracy of the ancient Aryan scriptural texts; as well as their deeply philosophical and religious significance. Basic cosmical concepts and the cyclical time periods of evolutionary progress were, once, common knowledge. The power over the processes of Nature that this information conferred was abused. Consequently, scriptural literature ceased to set forth the metaphysical facts that are the foundation of the natural sciences, except in cryptical allusions. Nevertheless, the keys to a scientific interpretation remain extant in all of the greatest treatises upon the constitution of the Universe and of the laws that govern it. Among these texts, the Bhagavad-Gita is, perhaps, the most illuminating synthesis of all the salient facts. Initially, Mr. T. Subba Row, F. T. S., drew the attention of Occidental minds to its basis of mathematical physics in his Notes on the Bhagavad-Gita published in 1888. Pertinent excerpts therefrom are quoted as an introduction to a further elaboration of certain specific features.

In studying the Bhagavad-Gita. it must not be treated as if isolated from the rest of the Mahabharata as it at present exists. It was inserted by Vyasa in the right place with special reference to some of the incidents in that book. One must first realize the real position of Arjuna and Krishna in order to appreciate the teaching of the latter. Among other appellations Arjuna has one very strange name — he is called at different times by ten or eleven names most of which are explained by himself in Virataparva. One name is omitted from the list, i.e., Nara. This word simply means "Man." But why a particular man should be called by this as a proper name may at first sight appear strange. Nevertheless herein lies a clue, which enables us to understand not only the position of the Bhagavad-Gita in the text and its connection with Arjuna and Krishna, but the entire current running through the whole of the Mahabharata, implying Vyasa's real views of the origin, trials and destiny of man. Vyasa looked upon Arjuna as man, or rather the real monad in man; and upon Krishna as the Logos, or the spirit that comes to save man. To some it appears strange that this highly philosophical teaching should have been inserted in a place apparently utterly unfitted for it. The discourse is alleged to have taken place between Arjuna and Krishna just before the battle began to rage. But when once you begin to appreciate the Mahabharata, you will see this was the fittest place for the Bhagavad-Gita.

The Bhagavad-Gita may be looked upon as a discourse addressed by a guru to a chela who has fully determined upon the renunciation of all worldly desires and aspirations, but yet feels a certain despondency, caused by the apparent blankness of his existence. The book contains eighteen chapters, all intimately connected. Each chapter describes a particular phase or aspect of human life. The student should bear this in mind in reading the book . . .

The student must first go through the Bhagavad-Gita, and next try to differentiate the teachings in the eighteen different parts under different categories. He should observe how these different aspects branch out from one common centre, and how the teachings in these chapters are intended to do away with the objections of different philosophers to the occult theory and the path of salvation here pointed out. If this is done, the book will show the real attitude of occultists in considering the nature of the Logos and the human monad.

It is to be observed that the number eighteen is constantly recurring in the Mahabharata, seeing that it contains eighteen Parvas, the contending armies were divided into eighteen army-corps, the battle raged eighteen days, and the book is called by a name which means eighteen.

The real Sankhya philosophy is identical with the Pythagorean system of numerals, and the philosophy embodied in the Chaldean system of numbers. The philosopher's object was to represent all the mysterious powers of nature by a few simple formulae, which he expressed in numerals.

In further elucidation, W. Q. Judge compiled commentaries on the Bhagavad-Gita between 1887 and 1895. The following quotation from this source forms an introduction to the more specific features that this article treats of:

It has been said of old that "the Deity geometrizes." All forms evolve from within outwards. From the "point" whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere, a radiation equal in all directions begins, and establishes a circumference; a sphere within which the activity of the "point" is particularly confined. The "point" spreading out horizontally becomes a diameter dividing the sphere into positive and negative hemispheres, forming a basis for action and reaction. A further extension of the point vertically to the circumference divides the sphere into four parts, represented on a plane surface as a cross within the circle. Remembering that these extensions of the "point," or center, are lines of force proceeding from the center and tending to return to it, we can conceive of the beginning of a revolution of the sphere whereby the ends of the vertical and horizontal lines extend towards each other, forming at first the ansated cross, and finally the square within the circle, in reality, a cube or six-sided figure within the sphere. The cube, if looked at from either side presents the appearance of four angles, which, if we can conceive of them as being luminous points equidistant from the bright center, would be seen as a four-pointed star, the symbol and sign of the animal kingdom. If we can imagine Arjuna as seeing within the "divine form" all living lines of force and the forms produced by them, the four, the five, the six-pointed star, and the many-sided figures, all in motion and of wonderful brilliancy of light and of many colors, presenting the activities of all beings of every grade in the universe, we may obtain some conception of the descriptive parts of this chapter.

Primarily, we may assume that the number eighteen is connected directly with the "positive and negative hemispheres" in the foregoing paragraph. They form "a basis for action and reaction" as between the 180 degrees of each hemisphere. Otherwise stated this sets forth eighteen categories with each of them in action and reaction on ten planes of consciousness.

Their mythological personifications are enumerated in the 18 Puranas and, in the Mahabharata there are 18 Prajapatis exclusive of the Trimurti: Agni, Vayu and Surya. The attributes are specified for Prakriti (Mulaprakriti) by H. P. Blavatsky, as: Causeless, eternal, universal, immutable, single, independent, unqualified, simple, sovereign and their polar opposites. Furthermore, with reference to the ten planes of consciousness, the Kabbalah Unveiled, by S. L. MacGregor Mathers, lists ten each of the following personifications: Sephiroth, Divine Names, Archangels, Orders of Angels, Demons and Arch Devils. Numerically, the 432 of Mahayuga divided by 18 equals 24. The precession of the equinox of 25,920 years and the recession of the apsides (solstitial axis of the ecliptic ellipse) of 115,200 years come into equilibrium in 9,331,200 years. This divided by 18 equals 5,184, or one-fifth of the 25,920 year period. Also, four square yards contains 5,184 square inches. Thus, time, space (93,312,000 miles Earth to Sun) and the ancient English square measures (planes of consciousness or manifestation) are linked by the factor 18. Finally, the division of the 24 hours into 18 and 6 marks the day's thermal and the night's rotative effects from the magnetic Solar Sweep as indicated in Cosmic Machinery by H. A. Staples. Their summation is in the 360 degrees of the circle and brings us to a consideration of the "Music of the Spheres" of Pythagoras. Its essential aspects may be clarified by the following statement of H. P. Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine:

Tetraktys or Harmony is a diatesseron in sesquitertia (4:3) and the division of the canon of the monochord was made by the tetraktys in the duad, triad and tetrad; for it comprehends a sesquitertia, a sesquialter (3:2), a duple (2:1), a triple (3:1), and a quadruple (4:1) proportion, the section of which is 27. In the ancient musical notation, the tetrachord consisted of three degrees or intervals, and four terms of sounds called by the Greeks diatesseron and by us a fourth.

Obviously, the Tetraktys is a symbol of universal application. Its ten dots in the four rows of an equilateral triangle are the ten integers or Digits of Divinity. They represent the ten solar influences that pertain to the ten planes of consciousness. The three corner dots signify the three hierarchical aspects of Atma, Buddhi and Manas that remain unmanifested. The remaining seven dots form a hexagon of six principles with their synthesis in the seventh central one. In his treatise on The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac, Subba Row summarizes the Signs as follows:

1. Eternal Brahma
2. Pranava (Aum)
3. Androgyne Brahma (Adam Kadmon)
4. Tetragram (4 States)
5. Fivefold Brahma (Jeevatma)
6. Astral Light (Holy Virgin)
7. 36 Tatwans (Ratios of Avidya from Tat or categories)
8. Universe in Thought (Divine Concept)
9. Nine Prajapatis (Assistants of Demiurgus, Elu. of the Nine three triads)
10. Dodecahedron in mind of Demiurgus (Derived geometrically from Icosahedron or, inferentially, the Astral Light)
11. Fourteen Lokams (spiritual spheres and material worlds)
12. Five Elements (Aether, fire, air, water, earth)

The first ten pertain to the realm of divine ideation, or the Empyrean. The seventh indicates the dual ratios of the eighteen categories as in pairs of opposites.

Harmonically, we find that Thomas Taylor in his Theoretic Arithmetic sets forth the greatest harmonies as lying in the ratios 12-9-8-6 and 24-18-16-12. His information was derived from Boethius as the most reliable commentator on the musical connotations in the "Pythagorean system of numerals" mentioned by Subba Row.

The first ratio may be regarded as the celestial harmony and the second, containing 18, as its terrestrial reflection in the lower hemisphere noted by Judge. Its ratios are geometrical 24-18-16-12, arithmetical 24-18-12 and harmonic 24-16-12. A tone (9-8 ratio) is in 18-16 relation, which is sesquioctave. Incidentally, it is a dissonance that must be resolved in the living of life if it is to be harmonic. The 16-12 is sequitertian and gives the harmony diatesseron. The sesquialter ratio is in 18-12, giving the diapente, and the duple 24-12 gives the diapason. The triple is 18-6 and the quadruple is 12-3 in the relation of differences. Thus, as in the Tetraktys, the complete division of the monochord is represented. In addition, we find that John Tyndall utilized the 18-16 ratio on the upper disk of the double siren by which he established scientifically the exact vibratory rates per second of musical consonance. His other disks had 15-12,12-10 and 9-8 for their perforations and he drew attention to the fact that 12 was common to both sirens, as in the harmonies given by Taylor.

(To be continued)

The Theosophical Forum