This musicological study, by persuasive explanation, shows how, adhering to certain exact ratios and proportions, music gains objective power. The inquiry is scientific, the solutions ingenious. Following unexplored and unconventional lines, the author brings together what, on the surface, appear to be three separate lines: Judaism, Hinduism, and the Gurdjieff Work. Their link is musical harmonics, or the magical science of connection between sounds.
The failure of modern musicians to achieve the magical effects long ascribed to music by the ancients is due to the prevailing ignorance of those who know nothing about the objective laws on which music is based. Ancient cultures knew how the laws of harmonics (or what comes in between the tones) could evoke metaphysical correspondences of a spiritual nature, as did Gurdjieff. The Hebrews encoded harmonics in their Tree of Life diagram, the Hindus incorporated the potent musical information in a secretive “Music of the Path”, and Gurdjieff enshrined it in the Enneagram symbol of the Work.
In this groundbreaking book, the author presents a provocative and engaging picture of how these laws work. The wealth of new information will have a profound impact on modern views of music and its laws.
A review of
"Nearly All and almost Everything"
by James and Barbara George
For a pupil of G.I. Gurdjieff, comparing her own book, even tongue-in-cheek,
with his magnum opus, All and Everything, is both brave and provocative. Yet why not, if she wants to attract the attention of those who she most hopes will read her book, why not be provocative? After all, Gurdjieff himself was a master provocateur. The sub-title of his first book, Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson - with Beelzebub himself as the central character-demonstrates that.
DeWhitt makes some very substantial claims in this book, maintaining that musical theory is the field where a "theory of everything" may be discovered. She attempts to prove this through a study of the comprehensiveness and concordance of traditional musical systems, both historically and as they might apply to quantum mechanics.
A serious study of the whole of Gurdjieff's cosmological ideas can reveal the outline-sometimes even the details-of this field that contains "everything." Since the publication of All and Everything in 1950 , such studies have been made by individual students who found themselves attracted to one or another manifestation of the laws that, according to Gurdjieff, power all of life, such as art or psychology. DeWhitt's study has also been within a portion of his cosmology: the pursuit of clues that might lead to a fresh understanding of the universality of musical theory, across cultures and over time, which lie hidden in Gurdjieff s writings and oral teachings. This seems to me to be the purpose and central idea of her trilogy, of which Nearly All and Almost Everything is the second book.
In this book, liberally strewn with helpfully simple diagrams instead of mathematical equations, we are shown how Western music since Pythagoras has been based on the same metaphysical and mathematical principles or laws as the music of India, and that the same laws also apply to the heart of Hebraic metaphysics, the Kaballah. The differently worded templates of the Sefiroth, the shrutis of the Upanishads, and Gurdjieff's cosmological ideas are all concordant and their musical math can be placed on the same universal diagrams-for example, on the enneagram, which Gurdjieff first brought out of the traditional closet early in the the last century.
With the help of Gurdjieff's ideas, DeWhitt has unlocked some of the hidden esoteric meanings most contemporary musical historians have considered lost beyond recall. Moreover, she has expressed them mathematically, making it harder (but not impossible) to argue with her. Take, for example, the 22 shrutis, which are the musical notes that are the vocabulary of traditional Indian music. According to most musical historians, the intervals between the shrutis are approximations-not exact. DeWhitt claims, on the contrary, that the shrutis are based on precise logarithmic calculations that any mathematician can verify. This is just one example of how she brings rigor and meaning to ancient systems of knowledge, the keys to which we thought had been forever lost.
It will be interesting to see what, if anything, the scientific community makes of this book. DeWhitt is not shy about suggesting that her discoveries of lost ancient knowledge might be seminal for today's physicists seeking the Holy Grail of a "Theory of Everything." This claim, from a professional musician with no scientific credentials, seems likely to be challenged; but then we may remember that the great Indian mathematician, Ramanujan, did not have a degree in mathematics or science either. If the laws apply to everything, music may be as good a starting point as any other aspect of a quantum reality that is certainly vibrational and universally interconnected. The sounds we can hear may be only a peep-hole into the ultimate nature of reality, but the laws of sound may indeed have far wider application to the electromagnetic spectrum as a whole.
In reading this book, one may be increasingly bothered, wondering why higher knowledge having to do with the nature of reality would be hidden in musical theory, which has only a limited application and audience. Isn't the need for a range of possibility that is universal, not simply musical? Perhaps there was a need to hide such knowledge. If knowledge is power, there may have been good reasons for keeping it hidden from those who, without an awakened conscience, would use it only to assert their authority and would degrade such knowledge by their ownership. But when we are living in such critical times, the risk of misuse must be weighed against the possibility that DeWhitt's insights into the laws might help to awaken in some scientists a breakthrough in consciousness and corresponding discoveries. For this reason, Nearly All and Almost Everything is a "must read," and not only for the Gurdjieffian community. Without such an evolutionary shift of perspective, how can we be optimistic that the aberrant human behavior, which is proving so destructive to both people and our planet, will be transformed in time to save us? Every little bit of light can help when it is getting dark.