MARCH, 2007

 

Mythic Prelude:

The City of Eight

Greetings, and welcome to the Universal Festival Calendar for March, the mystic month when the Sun moves through the depth of Pisces before it emerges into Aries at the Spring Equinox, and often shows us why Pisces is so closely linked with theatre and dance. It isn't just that Pisces rules the feet, or that this sign and its ruling planet of Neptune have long been linked with music and especially with live theatre. The distinction between Uranus as the pyrotechnician of movies and TV, and Neptune as the fabulist of live storytelling, is worth noting. One deals in often ephemeral tricks of Industrial Light and Magic, as George Lucas calls them, in action stories about what we most want to get and escape. The other is more about the fantastic weirdness of the human condition, the mirth of seeing how dumb we've been, and above all -- such things as dreams are made on, as Prospero put it in Shakespeare's Tempest at the moment when he leaves his sorcery behind, and along with it all the painful illusions it brought to himself and others.

Thus the end of Pisces month in March really is a time when the impossible schemes and dumb mistakes of the last solar year, the follies, self-delusions, bozo trips, the other flakes, frauds and fantasies, and the addictive opinions we've nursed for much too long, can be released in Neptune's ocean before the Sun moves into the glare of Pisces, and starts to burn the fog away. That's why the Virgo Full Moon, when the Sun is in Pisces (March 3) is always the focus of comedy festivals like Holi and Purim, as the old year gets laughed out just before the new year is lighted in. The nature of the jokes and the whole comic squint, and which of our self-deceptions we'll let go this time, depend each year on the other celestial dynamics that are in play.
This time, to pause a bit for stellar orientation before we visit our destination of the month, the given circumstances of the comedy are in the recurring opposition of Saturn in Leo and Neptune in Aquarius, and the conjunction of Uranus with the Moon's North Node in Pisces. There's more about both of these in the Astral Notes for Winter, 2006 - 2007. For now, the brief upshot of these alignments is that old self-deceptions and outright lies (Neptune), often delivered through the most dazzling Uranian technologies of Aquarius, are at showdown with Saturn in his role as the severe teacher. He has nothing but time. That's why the Greeks called him Chronos. He is limitlessly patient, and will keep raising the price we pay for our obtuse choices and stubborn beliefs until we finally get it and start making more enlightened moves. That's why the US State Department's announcement on Feb. 27 -- only a few hours before the Saturn-Neptune opposition was exact -- that it would finally begin talking with Iran and Syria about Iraq is a classic Saturn vs. Neptune outcome. Finally, after years of very painful self-delusion, much of it rooted in religious fantasy, the much-chastened miles gloriosus (the braggart soldier of the old comedy) begins to wake up and ask the locals for directions to the nearest exit.
Other long-overdue wakeup calls triggered in recent days by Saturn-vs.-Neptune can be cited here: the decision of England and Denmark to withdraw troops from an Iraq misadventure that is now waged by a coalition of the wishing rather than the willing; the World Court ruling that Serbia did indeed commit a campaign of genocide against Bosnian Muslims; the declaration by environmental scientists that global warming is a fact that can be attributed to human activity; the revelations about Walter Reed Army Hospital, where wounded soldiers from Iraq have been treated with such cold, arrogant stinginess that the major general in charge has been dismissed from his post, and the Army Secretary has just resigned; the unassailable proof just published in the journal Neurology that marijuana is effective in relieving the pain of peripheral neuropathy, and could "bring much-needed relief to millions suffering from cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and other debilitating illnesses." In all these cases, what is happening in this early March week is that illusions and denials that have been held for several years -- or for three generations, where the Feds' mule stance about cannabis goes -- are now popping and cracking. Other eye-openers will follow in the weeks to come, and in the Saturn's last pass opposite Neptune in the spring. So -- thanks, Saturn. Sorry these things are taking us so terribly long.
Please note, however, that all of this does work both ways, and it's not at all accurate or fair to suppose that Neptune is nothing more than the bubbling sea foam of self-delusion when he is in fact the most mystical and compassionate of planets, the one with whose subtle help we feel the universal heart that connects us with all beings. And Saturn can be as stolid as he is bracingly severe, apt to harden into blind habit and routine, especially as he relates to traditional-minded institutions like governments, armies, banks and churches with which he's naturally associated. So at the same time that Saturn is giving the most stubbornly denial-bound, dogma-addicted people a cold dose of astringest truth, Neptune is giving the most rigid, rule-fixated people a much-needed spray of spirit and sympathy. Whichever way it goes, those who need either to sober up, or to feel the pain of others as they have not before, or both, will have a welcome chance now to jettison a whole boatload of needless psychic weight and walk at last with a lighter, goofier stride.
The other powerful celestial motor that's now humming, this one gaining strength through the end of March as the Saturn-Neptune opposition begins to fade, is the alignment of Uranus on the Moon's North Node (Dragon's Head), and opposite the South Node (Dragon's Tail). This scene is inherently conflictive and unstable, with the uniting force of the North Node squeezing in beside the shocking, upsetting force of Uranus in what feels like anything but a love seat. At the same time, the splitting force of the South Node, in perfectionist Virgo at its most opinionated, is likely to bring active indignation against whatever is wrong, or at least smells that way. This is why the momentum of March will get so wearisome to so many of us by the time it's over, as we wonder why so many people are bickering so heatedly over things that are not the least bit important to us, but are not getting aroused at all by questions that we perceive as crucial. If there was ever a month when it will be important to choose one's battles carefully, and to get choosier as the month goes along, March of 2007 is the one.
So this bring us, naturally, to a battle that the author thinks is worth a minute of your time, and your vote: the ongoing controversy about whether Pluto is really a planet. As you know, a small meeting of the International Astronomical Union ruled last August that Pluto is not really a planet -- and some mythographers, astrologers and other people of fair minds and good will have been in high indignation ever since. This IAU "decision," and the manner in which it was done, is a much weightier matter than the habit of sugar users who prefer Classic Coke, or a spasm of wounded sentimentality, or devotion to a cartoon dog by Disney. The IAU's Pluto larceny goes to the very heart of principles that many of us respect: the legitimacy of true scientific method, the honest representation of consensus within allegedly democratic groups -- and the correcting of abuses by broad-based, communal movements that are Aquarian in spirit, galvanizing righteous correction that wells up from the grass roots to oppose arrogant frauds that come down from the "top."
It turns out, as you may know, that the IAU "meeting" that rolled Pluto did not attract anything within a light year of what you and I understand as a quorum: that is, a majority of members who must be present and voting if their decisions on behalf of the whole body are to be legally valid. The IAU meeting was attended, in fact, by only 4% of the organization's members. Did the anti-Pluto ax grinders and their allies do the fair thing that you or I would have done by agreeing on a motion to be referred to all IAU members, and decided by a majority of all respondents? No, they did not. They acted, astoundingly, without polling in any way, much less conducting a peer review by, the other 96% of their colleagues. Would even American Republicans, as clever and skilled as they are in stealing elections, act so brazenly? Would they dare to claim that a GOP candidate who wins only 4% of the vote in his district has been elected?
You may feel that Pluto's status is hardly among your top ten priorities. But you may also be sure that in the months and years to come, we'll be offered one opportunity after another -- courtesy of Saturn again, in many cases -- to affirm our values and speak our truth. For those who are out of practice with this, one good way to get one's hand in again, and get ready for the bigger moments of truth to come, is to sign the Pluto Petition at the Space Weather web site. As of late February, the "pro planet" vote in favor of reversing the dishonesty of the IAU's small fraud faction, and affirming Pluto's true power and dignity, is running at 77%. You can help push it past 80. It's a story worth telling, and a fight worth winning in the interest of justice and cosmic harmony.
Which brings us to the ancient city of Hermopolis, near El-Minya (the "City of Love") in central Egypt. Our visit will be one of several brief preview pieces of the book Double Harmonies that I aim to complete this year about the sacred music and sound science of the ancient Khemitian (aka Egyptian) people, and which will appear in this space in the months to come. All of them will be aimed at showing: (1) that Khemitian sound practice was ancient and sophisticated long before Diodorus Siculus wrote that "Tehuti [Thoth] was the first to observe the orderly arrangement of the stars and the harmony of the musical sounds and their nature." (2) That Khemitian music was admired as the standard of both virtuosity and virtue long before Plato came to visit Khemt, and later, in The Laws, idealized "Egypt" for its conscious use of pure music modes and rhythms for the educating of youth, and keeping of harmony and order in the state. (3) That Pythagoras might have been astonished to know that some centuries after he studied for 20 years in Khemt, he'd be acclaimed by Europhile propagandists as the inventor of mathematical and musical laws that he learned from the priests of Hermopolis. (4) That the old Khemitian melodies did not die out with the fading and hiding of the old religion, but have actually survived and can be heard in streams of music that are still flowing today. The top-line question that Double Harmonies will address, and that we begin to probe here, is extremely ambitious but simple: Is the rediscovery of the ancient Khemitian music somehow connected with the sonic retuning of our planet and our people as we approach a possible moment of cosmic awakening in or near 2012? For now, we only pose the question. The years ahead will test it.
There isn't much to see at Hermopolis today. Most of it looks like this. The few pillars that still stand, the crumbling walls here and there, do not begin to suggest how famous, how magnetic this place once was, how it combined Newton's Cambridge, Caltech, the Juilliard School of Music and other houses of pure and applied mathematics into one place that may be more extensive than the temple complex at Karnak in Luxor. Though the area all around Hermopolis has been built up into zones
for offices, factories and homes, the site of this ancient polytechnic center has been kept clear of new buildings, and not just because today's authorities won't allow construction there. For a very long time now, long before there was even a word for "Egyptology," this ground has been kept clear, as though everyone understood that the sacred knowledge was still there and must not be disturbed, and the tones of cosmic order are still sounding here, even if they can't now be heard.
The building began centuries before Amarna and other areas nearby became better known as the new capital of Akhnaton. As old edifices fell, the Ptolemies erected new ones like this one. It's been called a "basilica" since the Christian era. The two columns complete with their capitals near the top right of this picture were once united with the columns in the foreground in one structure that was central, and majestic. It had to be, as it was the central per-neter of Djehuti himself.
This august and beloved being, better known as Thoth or Thot -- about as close as we normally come to the true suf pronunciation of Tuh - HOT -- is the tutelary neter of this website. His city is called Hermopolis today because the Greeks identified him with Hermes/Mercury, and knew him as Hermes Trismegistos, the triple-great, for having invented the arts of astronomy, music and sacred writing, all of them understood to be unified by principles of geometry and numbers. Two of the 42 books that Clement of Alexandria attributed to him were said to be about music.
He is usually depicted as the ibis-headed scribe at left, and for good reason: Khemitian farmers knew that the ibis always seeks the spot in the river where the water is purest, making this bird the perfect symbol of the quest for precision in the search for truth. Djehuti's other symbol was the baboon, shown playing a tambour in this relief from the chapel of Het-Hor (Hathor) at Philae. As the ibis seeks pure water, the baboon takes joy in pure light, jumping in delight as the Sun rises each day.
The Khemitians called Hermopolis Khmunu -- cognate with Hebrew Shmun -- meaning eight. The consensus among egyptologists is that this number comes from the ogdoad, the "eight old neters" who worked together to form the cosmic egg of creation. But the Djehuti priesthood was more interested in other eights, and their neighbors at seven and nine. They found in their very early music experiments that when a harp string stopped at half its length is plucked, it produces the octave of the open string. This and other fingerwork soon led them, as we'll soon see, to work out the entire set of seven tones in a modal scale, and to connect the musical octave with a grand cosmic octave in which the seven visible planets and the two worlds of Earth -- the one we live in, and its counterpart where our doubles of the opposite sex reside and resonate with us -- are all in perfect harmonic order. The Khemitian sound scientists knew millennia ago what we have only begun to realize today, a century after Planck presented quantum theory: that if a body is in motion, it vibrates, as everything from the cells in our bodies to the largest planet does, and every body has its home key where it is at peace with itself, and in concord with other bodies. Thus our celebrated mythic image of the music of the spheres did not originate in ancient Europe, but in a Khemitian world view that our earthly music is good and true when it is alignment with the divine music of the planets that "singing in their glory move," in Milton's phrase, in heaven's choir.
As Moustafa Gadalla demonstrates in Egyptian Rhythm: The Heavenly Melodies -- to which this page is much indebted -- there is copious evidence that the Khemitians were first to discover the basics of harmonic systems that have been in use in Europe since Pythagoras, as is confirmed in the writing of many Greek and Roman sources who revered the Nile culture as the font of much of their knowledge, and as the ideal of peace, health and order that they aspired to equal. Most Egyptologists and other Eurocentrics, bent on insisting that Greece was the cradle of all western science and art, have consistently and inexplicably ignored the Greeks' own acknowledgements of their sources. But the testimony is there, as are the numbers that any legitimate science demands.
Everyone who's ever dabbled with a guitar knows that when you stop a string at 2/3 of its length, you get the dominant 5th tone above the tone of the open string. The Khemitians discovered very early on that by locating the fifths above and below any tone, then finding the next fifths again and again, they would complete a "cycle of fifths" containing all the full tones, semitones and quarter tones from any diatonic, chromatic or enharmonic scale over a range of several octaves. The result of the Khemitians' extensive sound engineering
experiments was instruments like these: the celebrated "Bruce's Harps," so called from the archaeologist who first uncovered them. If spectacular harps like these, used for grand festivals and occasions of state -- and others with as many as 22 strings -- could have been made as early as the reign of Ramses III, then it's clear that at about the time that the Greeks were outside the walls of Troy, not thinking about harmonic theory much, the Khemitians had already developed modal scales, including the D scale that is called the Dorian mode after a people who originated in Khemt, not Greece, as Herodotus acknowledged. The Dorian mode was but one of many that the Khemitians invented, and which later became better known under Greek names like the Lydian and Phrygian modes. It's also clear that the priests shown here are playing their harps by stopping the strings at precise intervals with one hand, while plucking them with the other -- a technique that would have been used only by players who understood how to alter a string's tone by dividing its length.
Small harps were often played by women in secular settings. But most images and texts found so far show that for religious rites, a harp kept tune for priests who
marked the rhythm by clapping. The harp was considered the only instrument worthy to be played for, or by, a neter, as in the later Greek myth about the music contest between the lyre of Apollo -- a solar deity like Hor (aka Horus), at right -- and Marsyas. The tale's grim outcome had little to do with the satyr's shaggy looks vs. the serene beauty of Apollo.
It had more to do with the loser's name, which means"battler." Just as the Greeks associated the flute with the wild, violent passions of barbaroi from Asia and maenads in the woods, while the sacred strings played the tones of peace and order -- the Khemitians, way back when the Greeks were building their citadels on the Argive plain (c. 1550 BC), saw the harp as the earthly symbol and voice of the divine harmony, and regarded the harpist as a sacred figure. This is why harpists had shaven heads and white pleated robes, even when they were not actually priests. They were often blind -- as shown here -- like the sacred musicians of many cultures whose ears, open to the One's own song, will guide their hands more surely than the eyes of the physical body ever can.
One of the ways in which we can imagine the immense tonal field of Khemitian sacred music, in everything from the solo harpist to the enormous annual Op-et harvest festival at the Luxor per-ba, is as two streams that flowed for millennia here, and still flow: a "masculine" stream of ritual music played and sung by priests, and founded on technical mastery of the mathematical systems taught at Djehuti's own university at Khmunu; and a "feminine" stream of secular music played by beautiful young women, and sacred music sung by devotees of Het-Hor to the rhythm and bell-like tones of their sistra.
Such conceits as these are slippery. They may fail to respect the high technical skill of women who played the small shoulder harp, lyre and tanboura brilliantly because they had the harmonic system down as cold as any priest did. Groups of women also played, and not percussion only, in some of the great festival parades. While it's obvious that the Djehuti practice at Khmunu and elsewhere was more "intellectual" and the Het-Hor practice at Dendera and elsewhere was more "intuitive" and "intentional," as we'd call it today, the more useful point is that sacred musical practice was a fusion of male and female elements. It had to be, as the last of the seven "Hermetic" principles articulated by Djehuti himself -- after other sonic laws of Vibration and Rhythm -- is that everything in the universe consists of masculine and feminine energies. No matter how "feminine" even the Het-Hor birth ritual looks, there is still a masculine component of protection in it. And no matter how intricately mental the abstruse and "masculine" sets of numbers may look, there are feminine elements in them too. If women can master the birth rhythm and other rhythms, as we'll soon see, they can handle any numbers on Earth.
As Gadalla observes, the ancient Khemitians all knew, though modern Egyptians and others have since forgotten, that music is not merely art or entertainment or even worship. It is life itself. This is why Plutarch wrote that the Khemitians referred to the numbering of anything as "counting by fives," and that for the Nile people, the number pente for five was all but identical in meaning to panta, for everything. The core relationship within the octave of 2, 3 and 5 -- again, dividing the string at 2/3 its length to sound a fifth -- was embodied in everything from simple math to the most ambitious architecture. And, as students of sacred geometry know, the progression of 2 to 3 to 5 to 8 to 11 -- the last of these the number of tones in a chromatic scale -- are the crucial step in the coding of the Fibonacci spiral that appears everywhere in nature, just as it does in the harmonics of music. And the 2 - 3 - 5 seed is also essential to the core myth of Khemitian ritual theatre, the story of Ausar (Osiris), Aset (Isis) and their son Hor (Horus).
The Khemitians wrote the number 5 as two vertical strokes surmounting three more to express the roles of Two, the sacred feminine, and Three, the sacred masculine, in creating together the sum of Five, the sacred number of perfection and completion. The positioning in the glyph was just as the myth told it. When Two, Aset/Isis, reassembled and revived the body of Three, her murdered husband Ausar/Osiris, she surmounted him -- or flew above him in the form of a falcon -- as they conceived Hor in the summation of their love at Five.
The same key ratio appears, fascinatingly enough, in this picture of Ausar at the center with Aset (front) and their sister Nebt-het (Nephthys) behind him. This scene is from early in the story, when Ausar is still king of the upper world, before he is murdered by his brother Set, then is revived -- twice -- by Aset, and appears at last in his more familiar image, with green face and his body wrapped in mummy cloth, presiding as "Lord of the Dead" -- really the engine of Earth's Green Force -- over the Weighing of the Heart. Our notice naturally goes to the larger, more famous and august figures in the pavilion -- but the music is in the two small netert at right. More accurately, we see two images of the same being, dressed in the colors of the red desert and the rich black soil of the river valley. This is Merit, whose role in the musical universe may be even more important than Het-Hor's, for Merit is the divine
chironomid: that is, the conductor whose hand gestures call forth the tones to be sung and played. What melody and rhythm is she marking here? Is the music already underway -- or, is she cueing the figures in the pavilion, whom we see here just before they open their mouths to sound the vowels of universal order? It is in images like this one that we can sense the central role of sacred sound in helping Khemt become and remain what Herodotus called the happiest, healthy and most pious of all nations.
What does this have to do with us? Only the possibility that we have begun to prove, in programs such as Princeton's Global Consciousness Project -- more about this on another page -- that tonal vibrations held simultaneously by many people on our planet produce detectable changes in the emotional and mental field of the Earth as a whole.
And only a premise that we will keep testing, that the Khemitian music science held some wisdom and practical techniques that we can find and use again today for the sake of bringing our Earth and our people to the bliss, health and holiness of being most truly in tune. The experiments proliferate. An important one comes this month at the Spring Equinox, as Daniel Brower and his Circle of Sound team continue their series of global activations through sound ceremonies linked synchronously across the world. I will link with this network at a Sound Medicine Circle in Cairo at Insight Inside, where sacred music gatherings will now be held monthly as we do what we can to reawaken the science of sound medicine in the country that birthed it so long ago.
It is, as always, time to hear what our intuition is telling us to do, and sing. Open those pipes. Keep Holding That Frequency.

 

Copyright 2007 Dan Furst. All Rights Reserved.

 

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