"The beauty is in the truth that the simple numerological pattern of the
harmonic overtones and undertones - the “As above, so below” of which
ancient traditions speak - are what provide the real and demonstrably
objective evidence for the origin and fundamental structure of the
My books are really a series of essays. Most were originally written as letters to my teachers, Thomas Forman and James George, and were simply attempts to get my mind around the formidable ideas I was encountering in the modern day mystery school known as the Gurdjieff Work, of which I considered (and still consider) myself an ardent disciple. Since I am a musician by profession, the ideas, for me, were already the most approachable by way of music and its laws. When evaluated from the musical perspective, Gurdjieff’s cosmology immediately became more accessible of understanding. As, one-by-one, the enigmatic ideas were opened by the musical keys, they brought to light a far different picture of the world and man than what was being handed down by the bastions of present-day culture. I became absolutely convinced that musical laws are the “keys” that unlock the treasure chest containing the Mysteries.
Certainly one of the values of music lies in its internal consistency and reliability of numerical laws that can be demonstrable on strings and pipes. For this reason, music was prized in ancient times not only for its practical, but also (and especially) for its theoretical aspects. Music was divided into three kinds: (1) music that described the orderly motion of galaxies, solar systems, the earth, nature, and the elements; (2) music that controlled the mind, body, and soul of man; and (3) music performed on instruments, including the voice, which reflected the laws of the cosmos and man. Performing musicians were held in low regard, however, for they were generally more concerned with exhibiting their skills and pleasing man’s senses, than with examining music’s laws. Conversely, the musical theorists were held in highest esteem for their aim was to comprehend the holistic scheme, the “mind of the gods,” as it were. I had played piano from the age of three, and had had my fill of “virtuosos,” myself and others. I wanted to be a music theorist.
Undeniably, there is a unique perspective that comes from comprehending the theory of music, as anyone who perseveres in its study discovers. As the ancients already knew and we today are beginning to rediscover, musical laws are not the way to explain about fundamental truths. They are the Truth. Even so, few today value music as the proof-positive underlying physics and chemistry and biology and psychology; and probably even fewer recognize that musical laws provide the “storylines” for every true religion. Not only our contemporary scientists and religionists, but even the music theorists themselves fail to take these things into account. The ancients did not make that mistake. It would not be inaccurate to say that they recognized both science and religion as written in a secret code - the musical code. The highest purpose of man’s life on earth was to decipher that code. Once deciphered, one recognized the Self. To “know thyself” was actually actualizable. No wonder the ancients regarded music as special.
These essays, my attempts to explain that code, are the individual efforts of a seeker of the truth. They were never intended, really, to be read by “just anybody.” Undoubtedly some of the lines of investigation used here may seem especially strange and even bizarre - especially to those mainstream scholars who refuse to put aside the blinders of certitude. The nature of these essays is akin to that of a hologram: that is, each suggests the whole. Such a presentation at first glance may seem confusing, but in truth is really only a necessity, for the ideas cannot be pigeonholed and organized in the usual ordinary ways. Like holograms, their nature belies a linear structure, and requires all at once the whole of the mind. And while various musical diagrams are utilized to explain the “word pictures,” it must be stressed that there is no “one right way” of comprehending their meaning. In fact, the diagrams are also like holograms (interference patterns of light with itself) and there is no “one location” for an idea or image. The placing of the diagrams depends upon rhythm and timing: what is appropriate may be apropos in different contexts.
Much of the information in these essays is brand new. Scholars looking for “references” will find them to be few and far between. Mostly, the proofs are the cogent and compelling musical facts, which rely upon the numerical science of ratio and proportion. Granted, the usual way of writing is to prove assertions - first by citing ancient authors, and then by adducing comparisons or disagreements in the secondary literature. This associative thinking, i.e., the reliance upon the footnote that associates the thought of one writer with another, may well be called the “footstool” of scholarship. In these essays footnotes are not eschewed, but are considered as partial; otherwise, overstepping their authority, they can turn into stumbling blocks that get in the way of real knowing; perhaps even causing one to trip over one’s own feet, as it were. Here, the burden upon the footnote (which for century after century has born the heavy weight of man’s confusions) is relieved. Instead, the premise is based primarily upon the calculations of notes and intervals whose simple ratios and proportions result in a mathematical framework not subject to translation or interpretation or dispute. Thus the number of footnotes quite naturally is reduced.
Two new integers have been factored into the equation: (1) a trust in the intuitive faculty, and (2) a sound regard for the many pregnant clues afforded in Gurdjieff’s writings. The principle written source for these essays is Gurdjieff’s epic work, All and Everything, which is written as a triology: the first series is titled Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, the second series, Meetings with Remarkable Men; and the third series, Life Is Real Only Then, When I Am. A second book, In Search of the Miraculous, subtitled Fragments of an Unknown Teaching, written by one of Gurdjieff’s foremost pupils, the Russian mathematician and writer P. D. Ouspensky (and which won Gurdjieff’s nod of approval) is also cited as an important reference source throughout this book. From now on, this second reference will be referred to simply as Fragments.
After more than three decades of personal intensive study, I am proposing that the narratives as well as the numbers encoded within Gurdjieff’s writings are best understood as straightforward musical allegory. In particular, Beelzebub’s Tales (herein often referred to simply as Tales for convenience) is literally filled to overflowing with musical data; therefore, any in-depth study of the ideas naturally requires a sufficient knowledge of music theory to ensure a proper understanding of the specific and exact mathematical/musical information contained within the pages. I will go so far as to say that any attempt to study the Work ideas found in the Tales will inevitably end in failure and frustration unless one has the musical key. Only then do the strange encoded messages begin to open to understanding.
What is set down here in these essays cannot really be called “my own.” As I wrote to my teacher, Thomas Forman, over twenty years ago:
"Many times what has been seen comes as an illumination, a gift. If what is written here contains truths, I cannot take the credit. Volumes of erudite scientific treatises are compiled and published regarding the origin and species of musical scales. I do not speak to that. If illumination is that perception of reality not clouded by conformism, fear, habit, or prejudice, then it is an illumination that the overtone series is a keystone of universal laws described in number and tone, whose secrets have been passed over by scientists and musicians alike. If illumination is that immediate realization giving evidence of things unseen, then it is an illumination that there is an undertone series which the scientific academy is unable to detect (and to this day are content to insist that does not exist), whose vibrational effects continue to irrigate (and irritate!) the unsuspecting world above.
The overtones and undertones are the basis for our two great musical systems, the Just and the Pythagorean, whose precise scale ratios are only partially recognized today. Rather than taking into account harmonics - overtones and undertones - as the basis of the natural order, scholars today assume such scale structures to be artificially contrived by man, and smile condescendingly at the naiveté and superstition of so-called primitive peoples who would base their patterns of life and death upon a numerological scheme of simple ratios. The beauty is in the truth that the simple numerological pattern of the harmonic overtones and undertones - the “As above, so below” of which ancient traditions speak - are what provide the real and demonstrably objective evidence for the origin and fundamental structure of the universe. If I have one certainty, it is this: that whatever it is that drives me to seek is the same source that provides the illumination whenever it occurs."
Yes, I could have written those same words today.
Illumination or not, some who read these essays will be quick to say that such writings are foolhardy; that few will be interested in abstruse musical systems; and still fewer will appreciate, or see the point, or even approve of the efforts to correlate Gurdjieff’s writings with the complexities of musical science. To them, and to those others who will still strenuously object that the Work teachings have, as their foundation, the theory of music and its laws, I can only say (“and as the blind man once expressed it”), we shall see. Gurdjieff, Beelzebub’s Tales, “The Arousing of Thought,” p. 4