by Michael Hayes.
The Hermetic Code
A General Theory of just about Everything.
Douglas Adams famously quipped that the number 42 was the key to the secret of life, the universe, everything. Denizens of the hitchhiker's quirky world have long delighted in this revelation, so meaningless as to be almost profound. Ironically, however, Adams was unwittingly touching on an idea that does, in fact, have substance: there is indeed a number that embodies a kind of general theory of everything.
Before I expand on this, a little background information will help the reader understand where I'm coming from.
Ever since I can remember, I have always been confounded by the mystery of human existence. This consciousness of ours, which we blindly take for granted, is to me nothing short of a miracle. What it is witness to is equally profound and perplexing, natural happenings that we seldom think about, but which in reality are truly awesome. For example, millions of sentient beings all over the world, hominid and animal, being born only to starve or be slaughtered wholesale, either through natural disasters, or, more perplexingly, through gross aberrations in human behaviour. On the wider scale of evolution, we see the emergence and subsequent extinction of whole races of people and species of animal.
And existence is no less capricious in the greater cosmos, with the continuous formation and cataclysmic destruction of planets, stars, galaxies. Just normal, 'everyday' occurrences - but these inviolable and often disturbingly violent events have persistently dogged my reason. Why, I wondered, would the cleric's omniscient Benefactor - if he exists - create such a myriad of wonderful forms and then turn round and simply annihilate them? These endless cycles of light and darkness, life and death - what kind of devilish game is being played here?
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 remarkable 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. What is more, in this particular scheme of things, 'God' is tangible, very much alive, and undeniably omnipresent.
And in the end, if I am right, the long-term future of our race, powered by evolutionary forces that are encoded in the very fabric of the universe itself, looks not all bad.
Introducing the Hermetic Code
The Hermetic Code - which I am hereby promoting as 'the General Theory of just about Everything' - centres on a familiar numerical symbol: 22/7. This is 'classical' Pi of course, (as opposed to the ever illusive 'mathematical' version), a unique numerical symmetry whose discovery is generally attributed to the Greeks and which is most commonly known today for its use in maths as an approximate means of squaring the circle. More importantly, however, Pi is, in fact, 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; its influence manifests practically everywhere. The second law, the law of octaves, tells us that all phenomena generated by these three primordial forces are essentially musical structures. To sensibly visualise this concept, we need to look at the formula Pi when expressed musically. This may look baffling at first, but in reality, it's as easy as Doh re mi.
This configuration expresses in exact scientific terms everything you need to know to understand the General Theory of just about Everything. But if you are the type who finds this kind of symbolism a little daunting, all you need do is remember these key musical numbers: 3, 4, 7, 8, 22 and 64.
Three, the number of the Trinity, is the number of octaves encoded in Pi. Seven is the number of intervals between the notes of each of these octaves. Four is the number of 'base-notes' (Doh's), in three consecutive octaves. Eight is the number of fundamental notes in a single octave. Twenty-two is the number of notes in three consecutive 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 inward formula of nine octaves, or 64 'notes'. So eight is the constant and sixty-four...
- is the square of it.
So ends the maths. You really don't need to be an Einstein to venture further. It is worth noting, however, that 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 I explained in my first book, The Infinite Harmony, it was in ancient Egypt where the Pi symmetry first came to light, both in its most famous piece of architecture - the Great Pyramid of Khufu - and also in extant administrative documents of the Old Kingdom.
The law of three expressed in the Hermetic Code can be discerned 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, 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 rainbow, 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 new 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 houses, and the more periods are needed to accommodate them. The table ends with substances like curium, one of the densest of elements and more radioactive than uranium or even plutonium. The curium atom plays host to 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 of course the whole phenomenon, all atoms combined.
Further, a current method of classification in nuclear physics known as the theory of 'quantum chromodynamics' indicates that, beneath the atomic scale, in the world of sub-atomic particles, there are also distinct musical symmetries. The noted American physicist, Murray Gell-Man, proposed that certain routinely observed 'particle molecules' known as 'baryons', 'mesons' and 'pions', always combine together in families of eight called 'octets' - hence his name for the system: the 'eightfold way'. In addition, each of the eight particles in an octet is itself a triplet made up of three smaller particles, which Gell-Man called 'quarks'. Three quarks to each particle, eight particles to each octet. Sound familiar?
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 - white light.
Whilst still on the subject of theoretical physics, it is also interesting to note that the square of the musical constant, the number sixty-four, has surfaced in the somewhat obscure theory of superstrings. This theory describes all particles everywhere in the universe as being the product of the vibrations of infinitesimally small, one dimensional 'strings' of energy which permeate throughout the whole of space. You really can't get more intellectually obscure than superstring theory, involving as it does no less than ten or even eleven different dimensions (three of space, one of time, six of God-knows-what - and maybe one over), and a system of higher mathematics guaranteed to make the layman's eyes glaze over in seconds. But no matter, all we need to know here is that this incredibly complicated system has created a highly resonant 'superstring' of inter-changeable energies that has precisely sixty-four degrees of movement associated with it.
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 vibrations and symmetries of light itself, but also in the movements of the planets in relation to the sun. All of these planetary cycles as I explain in my book, beat out endlessly repeating intervals developing in time which exactly conform to the relative values of the fundamental notes of the major scale. The fabled 'music of the spheres' is not simply legend, but fact.
Perhaps most crucial of all aspects of the Hermetic Code is that this same pattern of symmetry occurs in the digital format of the amino-acid scale of living cells. Amino acids are synthesised from templates, or 'codons', comprising any three of four chemical 'bases'. There are sixty-four possible combinations of these bases, and these in turn code for the synthesis of one or another of exactly twenty-two 'notes' in this fundamental biochemical scale - twenty amino acids and two additional digital signals coding for starting and stopping the process of synthesis.
So we can see that all phenomena - from the microcosmic to the macrocosmic - are, in effect, simply differing 'crystallised' forms of the self-same, universal 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, which again, as we see from the periodic table, is prevalent throughout the whole of nature. There is, of course an eighth note in the scale of the periodic table, the sum of all the previous notes, sounded by all atoms everywhere. Remember, everything, even the apparent cacophony of so-called 'chaos', is music.
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 is that.
By now it should be apparent that the Hermetic Code is not merely some crank or arbitrary invention. It is a remarkably resilient evolutionary concept that 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 discovery.
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.
It is my contention, from the proportions evident in the Great Pyramid of Giza, that the formula Pi and its derivative number sixty-four was the original blueprint from which the whole edifice was constructed. Everyone agrees that the Great Pyramid's dimensions incorporate the Pi symmetry, its height standing in relation to the circumference of its base in the same proportion as a radius stands in relation to the circumference of its circle. What is not unanimously agreed is that this relationship was intentionally projected into it by its designers. However, this proposed intent is in fact supported by extant administrative documents of the Old Kingdom in which the key numbers of 'classical Pi' - 22 and 7 - appear in a royal decree. This directive appoints the Vizier and High Priest, Shemaj, director of all twenty-two nomes (districts) of Upper or Southern Egypt. The crucial second part of the document appoints the Vizier's son as deputy director of just seven nomes. This symbolism could not be clearer: father over son, twenty-two over seven - music, in action, in time, in OK Egypt.
The fact that the Hermetic Code has been embodied in architecture and myth since the dawn of civilisation indicates that our remotest ancestors were somehow 'in tune' with a symmetry of composition that existed, not only throughout their physical world, but even in their own DNA. So the question arises: did they consciously know this? Or did they sense it, emote it, intuit it? There is no space here to elaborate on these questions, but as I have attempted to show in my book, I believe the answer may be yes on all counts.
Now consider this:
In the symbolism of every major religion and belief-system in history, the key numbers of the Hermetic Code are absolutely paramount. Without exception, these immensely powerful religious doctrines are all exact copies of the original blueprint.
To briefly illustrate this, we need to focus on the two key numbers of the octave: eight (the notes) and seven (the intervals between them).
The Hermopolitan theology of OK Egypt, for example, which arose at Hermopolis, the seat of Thoth himself, embraces a pantheon of eight gods, four male, four female, who are said to have appeared simultaneously on the primeval hillock known as the Island of Flame. Hermopolis itself was called, in Egyptian, 'the (city) of the eight' (Khmoun).
Exactly the same format appears in another major theological system formulated about the time of the III dynasty by Memphite priests. According to the eponimous Shabaka Stone, a slab of basalt carved at the command of the XXV dynasty pharoah, King Shabaka, the Maker of the universe manifested his creativity through the intermediary of eight forms, which 'existed in him'. This was Ptah, the god of Memphis.
The third and last major myth of the Old Kingdon was the Heliopolitan system, which differs from the two already mentioned in that the gods of its pantheon were nine in number. According to it, the god, Atum, alone and unaided, succeeded in fertilising himself to produce four divine couples.
This rather awkward detail of a pantheon on nine gods was at first disconcertingly inconsistent with 'my' musical theory. The obvious anomaly puzzled me at first, but on closer examination of this myth, I came to realise that there was, in fact, no inconsistency whatever. In fact, it actually provides us with the 'key' to to the secrets encoded in the 'sacred constant' - Pi. If we regard the 'gods' of the Great Ennead as 'octaves', we are left with a musical scale of nine consecutive octaves - precisely sixty-four notes.
In China, sometime in the third millenium BC, the legendary sage, Fu Hsi, introduced a belief system, which was later condensed into a book now known as the I Ching, or the Book of Changes, whose chapters were 'numbered' using a mysterious combination of eight three-lined symbols called trigrams. Confucius himself, who much later added commentaries to the book, taught a system of initiation at his school known as the 'eight steps of learning'. Also in ancient China, entirely reminiscent of the mythology of Egypt, a sign that a country had reached the maximum of plenty and fertility was that one woman should bare four pairs of twins.
In the Book of Genesis of Mosaic tradition we are told that God worked for six days and rested on the seventh. Presumably he started over on the eighth.
In Nepal, in the 6th century BC, the Buddha introduced his eightfold path to enlightenment. In Persia, Zoroaster created his mythic pantheon of eight 'Bounteous Immortals'. And in Greece, on the island of Samos, the original philosopher himself - Pythagoras - re-invented his own version of the oldest science on earth by working out the precise mathematics of the octave. About five hundred years later, in Palestine, Jesus Christ enacted the greatest musical performances of all time: the eight days of the Passion, from Palm Sunday to the Sunday of the Resurrection. Later still, Mohammed appeared and impressed millions in Arabia and beyond with the narrative of his famous night journey, from the sacred site of the Dome of the Rock temple in Jerusalem - called in the Koran the 'Furthest Mosque' - up through the 'seven heavens'.
And the number sixty-four:
We have already seen how the I-Ching is overall a composition of sixty-four separate texts. In the time of the Buddha, in Nepal, it was customary on issues of supreme importance for the nobility to consult a council of sixty-four Brahmins. It was such a council that, according to legend, predicted their Avatar's birth. Contemporary Greek thinkers attached great importance to 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, incidentally, is a Romanised version of Hermes/Thoth, the Egyptian 'messenger of the gods'. And again, in the Koran, there is a crucial chapter on the 'sacred light of Allah' - chapter sixty-four.
But what does all this mean? It means many things, whose separate strands all lead back to the same hermetic blueprint, the master plan. It means, for example, that the Hermetic Code, the design plan for everything existing - particles, celestial bodies, living cells - is applicable literally everywhere, not only in the wider universe, but also in the ephemeral realms of the collective human psyche. After all, if everything is music, then everything is hermetic, genetic, alive. There is one singular saying attributed to the Egyptian god, Thoth, which sums up this idea perfectly: 'As above, so below'. This message couldn't be clearer: man below and the greater cosmos above, as stated so emphatically in Genesis, are made in the same image. Everyone, quite literally, is a miniature universe.
Care to expand anyone?
If Hermetic is genetic, this means that the universe itself is alive; it is an organism of infinite size. So if you are looking for a 'god', we have here a candidate that outshines all of the abstract deities vaguely alluded to by theologians - an all-powerful and all-encompassing entity that actually does exist.
Assuming, then, that the universe is a living entity, and that we are all copies of it, this would suggest that the more advanced products of an organic brain - ideas, theories, concepts, - are also in some way alive, they are metaphysical genes, as intrinsically organic as the brain from which they originate. The ancients seem 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, I believe, is precisely why 'religion' was first invented and why every seventh day was marked out as a 'sabbath', to instil into the consciousness of humankind the necessity to harmonise ones movements and 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 'scale' above. This greater scale, a scientific concept describing a higher dimension accessible to the trained mind, is the 'heaven' expressed in all religions.
The great innovators of the past mentioned above have, in a sense, already 'transcended' on to a higher dimension, to the next 'scale' of evolutionary development. They have, as is said in scripture, 'immaculately conceived', they have fortuitously caught a glimpse of the greater picture and subsequently impressed all humanity by lucidly translating their experiences into seminal ideas - enduring theories and concepts, which, quite literally, are still alive today, as vivid and meaningful and powerful as they ever were. Think of the works of Hermes and his builders, of Confucius, Zoroaster, the Buddha, Pythagoras, Christ, Mohammed, or great scientists and artists like Einstein or DaVinci, Newton, Michaelangelo, even Darwin - and others too numerous to mention. These unforgettable individuals are, in a sense, already 'out there', communing with the godlike inhabitants of the real world, waiting patiently for us to join them in the party that never ends, a celestial celebration to which, apparently, we have all been cordially invited. Tickets are free, but it seems that the evolutionary journey of the spirit is long and precipitous, and travelling restrictions are such that absolutely no excess baggage can be accommodated.
High Priests, Quantum Genes. Black Spring Press, 2004