Revisiting the Revelations of the Numbers

I didn’t expect to write this post so soon after the last one.  After months of nothing new happening, suddenly I write two posts on mathesis and Iamblichean number theory on the Tetractys?  It’s good to be back, that’s for sure.  I suppose this downtime since last year has done me good and given me time to internally process a lot more than I expected.  Get a drink, dear reader, because I’m gonna go on at length for a bit here.

Okay, so, last time, I started (again) contemplating this mathesis stuff I started developing back in 2014.  Mathesis literally means “teaching”, and is the style of theurgy and ritual I’m developing as an exploration of Neo-Pythagorean, Neoplatonic spirituality based more on Hellenic philosophy than the Jewish philosophy inherent in Kabbala, mangled beyond recognition into Hermetic Qabbalah, and which has unfortunately formed a procrustean bed of occultism to which so much (maybe even too much) has been chained down by.  To be fair, there’s a decent amount of Pythagoras in QBLH (regardless of whether it’s Jewish Kabbala, Christian Cabala, or Hermetic Qabbalah), but nobody really knows what Pythagoras actually taught.  We know he was A Thing, but we don’t know which Things he was.  And…well, I find lots of issues that’ve collectively poisoned the well for me in Hermetic Qabbalah, and I find it hard for me to go back to it anymore.  Yeah, I still use the stuff when it’s called for in Western Hermetic ritual, but I want to find something better, hence my exploration of this system I’m (slowly) developing.  A crucial aspect of it is focusing on the Tetractys, the sacred triangle of ten points that represent the fundamental ideal for all things in the cosmos.  Yes, this path involves a lot of meditation on Pythagorean number theory, handed down to us by the Neoplatonists such as Iamblichus, so let’s go back to the basics and recall what we’ve discussed before about the numbers themselves.

In this sort of Pythagorean Tetractyan math, there are ten numbers plus a special “zero” non-number liminal amount that we should concern ourselves with.  Each of these numbers has a special attribute given to it:

  1. Mēden: Emptiness
  2. Monad: Individuation
  3. Dyad: Relation
  4. Triad: Harmony
  5. Tetrad: Form
  6. Pentad: Growth
  7. Hexad: Order
  8. Heptad: Essence
  9. Octad: Mixture
  10. Ennead: Realization
  11. Decad: Wholeness

Moreover, we noted before that there are special relationships between pairs of these numbers if you take the whole Tetractys and reflect it around a central horizontal axis:

  • Being: Mēden/Decad
  • Becoming: Monad/Ennead
  • Variation: Dyad/Octad
  • Accordance: Triad/Heptad
  • Structure: Tetrad/Hexad
  • Growth: Pentad

tetractys_decad

These relationships are, in a sense, a more “ideal” version of each of their correspondent numbers, and form a sort of meta-Tetractys.  For instance, the Monad has the secret of individuation (a thing in the process of becoming a single thing), while the Ennead has that of realization (a thing in the process of becoming real); both reveal the secret of becoming, but do so in different ways.  The numbers after the Pentad are reflections of the numbers going before, both reflecting off an ideal numerical concept.

As a sort of exercise, let’s now take another look at that picture above.  If you take the lower inverted Tetractys, it implies the existence of two boundary “hidden” tetractyes, such that the Hexad is really just a tetrad plus two monads, the Heptad a triad plus two dyads, and so forth.  If we were to keep this all truly reflective, and if there are two “upright but hidden” tetractyes bounding the lower tetractys, then we should also envision two “inverse but hidden” tetractyes bounding the upper tetractys.  Thus, the Monad is just an ennead minus two tetrads, the Dyad an octad minus two triads, and so forth.

tetractys_decad_full

This can then imply another set of mutual relationships between the numbers:

  • Monad and Tetrad
    • Upper Monad/Lower Tetrad = Monad and Hexad
    • Lower Monad/Upper Tetrad = Ennead and Tetrad
  • Dyad and Triad
    • Upper Dyad/Lower Triad = Dyad and Heptad
    • Lower Dyad/Upper Triad = Octad and Triad
  • Pentad

I list the Pentad here as well, but it has no relationship to anything else, as it is not properly part of the Tetractys (either one, upper or lower, upright or inverse), and also because it is “hidden” as something apart, a balance around which the other two tetractyes stand.  That said, if anything, the Pentad is part of a relationship with the Decad, being exactly half of it, and also thus in a relationship with the Mēden, nothingness and emptiness which is nothing more than the flip side of the same coin as the Decad.

However, this all implies that the Monad is not truly just the Monad that is built with nothing before it, but that it is formed from subtracting from the Ennead.  If we treat all numbers as equally and c0-eternally present, then sure, that would work, but that’s not how the ancients thought about these numbers.  To them, the Monad was first, and underlies all other numbers without relying on them for existence.  Thus, it is the Ennead that relies upon the existence of the Monad and not vice versa, so perhaps we shouldn’t rely on this way of conceiving relationships between the numbers.  Alternatively, we might say that the “ideal” concepts of Becoming, Variation, Accordance, and Structure are identical to those of Individuation, Relation, Harmony, and Form in all ways, simply being another set of terms for the same exact things.  This would mean then that the other four ideas of Realization, Mixture, Essence, and Order are reflections of the “pure” or “true” upright Tetractys, and not that they are on the same level being reflected from the “ideal” concepts.  We might then conceive of Mixture being a higher “register” of Relation, that the Octad is a higher “evolution” of the Dyad, much as people claim Uranus is a higher “octave” of the forces of Mercury, or how 20 is a higher base of the number 2.

Thinking of the numbers in this sense means that, every time we proceed from the concept of Monadic Becoming to Tetradic Structure, we then hit the concept of Pentadic Growth, then proceed back up from the Tetrad to the Monad to…well, the Mēden or Decad, take your pick, depending on how you want to conceive of it.  Then you bounce back down from the Monad through the Tetrad, grow upon the Pentad, then back up, then back down, and so forth.  If we use an expanded version of the Tetractys, going from the Monad to the fifteenth rank, we can see this in action, as below:

tetractys_pendedecad

We first proceed from the Monad to the Dyad to the Triad to the Tetrad, then hit the Pentad.  Then, upon reaching the Hexad (really the first higher register of the Tetrad), we go to the Heptad (higher register of the Triad), then the Octad (higher register of the Dyad), then the Ennead (higher register of the Monad), and then we hit the Decad, which you might consider to be a higher register of the Mēden.  After that, we hit the eleventh rank (the Hendecad if you want to be fancy about it), which as we see is an even higher register of the Monad.  Thus, the Dodecad (rank 12) is an equally-high register of the Dyad, the Tridecad (rank 13) of the Triad, and so on.  Note, though, that just as the lower tetractys has two hidden upright tetractyes supporting it on either side, the tetractys of the ranks higher than twelve has four hidden tetractyes, two on each side of each type.

Every time we finish one Tetractys of evolution (Becoming through Structure), we bring all of that with us each step of the way along the next time.  And, every time we finish the next Tetractys, we also bring that one with us, too; note how the third Tetractys in the picture above, ranks 11 through 14, is nestled between both upright and inverse tetractyes, one of each on each side of the central tetractys that we’re developing.  Each time we progress, we build upon and bring with ourselves all that we have done before, again another way to describe the “everything eternally flows” concept of the Gnosis Schema mentioned last time.

So, consider the Hendecad, rank 11.  This row is composed of the Monad, plus two hidden upright monads and two hidden lower tetrads.  The upper monad (rank 1) is associated with the pure concept of Becoming, i.e. Individualization, and the lower tetrad is really another way to describe the Hexad (rank 6), which is associated with Order.  We know that Order is a higher register of the same concept as Form, i.e. Structure, and since we now have both Structure and Becoming together, we now have joined the Monad and Tetrad again in the same relationship we foresaw with our little mental exercise above.  So the relationship between the Monad and Tetrad still stands, as does that of the Dyad and Triad.  Good to know I didn’t have that little mental exercise or Adobe Illustrator use go to waste after all.

So, let’s revisit the relationship between the Monad/Tetrad and Dyad/Triad and flesh those out a bit more.  If we combine the numbers of these relationships and take the median of the sum, we can tease out some finer points of the relationships these numbers have amongst themselves.

  • Monad and Tetrad.  This pairing overall combines the concepts of Becoming with Structure, the formative beginning and end of all things that allow us to discern why we come into being, and as what we come into being.
    • Upper Monad/Lower Tetrad = Monad and Hexad= 1 + 6 = 7, whose median is 4.  Individuation and Order, with Form as the balance.  As a thing comes into being for the first time, it focuses on its place in the overall order of the cosmos and universe into which it finds itself becoming.  However, being initially without form, it thus requires one; the first thing anything requires in order to begin to achieve its goal is a form conducive to its goal and purpose.
    • Lower Monad/Upper Tetrad = Ennead and Tetrad = 9 + 4 = 13, whose median is 7.  Realization and Form, with Essence as the balance.  As a thing becomes manifested and completed, it focuses on its form and how it will help it achieve its goal.  With a form and a manifestation, what becomes the focus of investigation is now purpose, our essence, our telos within the overall cosmos.  We reflect upon ourselves and our forms, having come into being, to question why and for what we come into being.
  • Dyad and Triad.  This pairing overall combines the concepts of Variation with Accordance, the principles of difference and similarity that relate to all things so as to learn what and how to achieve our desired ends.
    • Upper Dyad/Lower Triad = Dyad and Heptad = 2 + 7 = 9, whose median is 5.  Relation and Essence, with Growth as the balance.  As a thing comes into being and realizes what is around it and, moreover, what things are not itself, it learns to discern the essences of things, including its own, by means of comparison.  This is not for idle sophistry; this very act of “know thyself” is a way of growing into ones own essence.  We cannot escape our essence, but we can learn how to grow into it in a way conducive to its purpose.
    • Lower Dyad/Upper Triad = Octad and Triad = 8 + 3 = 11, whose median is 6.  Mixture and Harmony, with Order as the balance.  As we fall into place and amongst our peers and all the other things in the cosmos, we learn how to get along with them.  The sheer power of being mixed among things is the catalyst for attaining harmony, for the overall sake of creating an overall order so as to help us and all other things achieve all our purposes.

All this leaves the issue of the relationship between the Pentad, Decad, and the Mēden.  We see that, just as the Hendecad is a higher register of the Monad, and that the Hexad is a higher register of the Tetrad, we can say that the Decad is a higher register of the Pentad.  But…this is a little weird.  I mean, yeah, it logically follows, but we also know that the Decad is also a higher register of the Mēden, as both reflect a different state of Being.  I mean, right?  The Mēden is Being by Emptiness, where a thing that exists is empty of independent existence and relies entirely on all other things to exist; the Decad is Being by Wholeness, where a thing that exists is full of all things that exist, containing everything else.  And yet, the Decad is nothing more than the liminal point between one iteration of the full Tetractys counted out and another; just as we started with the Mēden before the Monad, we start with the Decad before the Hendecad.  In a sense, the Decad and Mēden are equals in their own relationship.

What of the Pentad, then?  The Pentad is the balance point between the Mēden and the Decad, and we associate the Pentad with the idea of Growth.  Growth is a distinct concept from any of Becoming, Variation, Accordance, and Structure, as it builds upon and enhances them all.  Consider that the Pentad is the only one of the numbers that can be formed in two distinct ways using distinct numbers in the sum: the Pentad can be formed by adding either the Monad with the Tetrad or the Dyad with the Triad.  All the other numbers in the Decad have only one way to use distinct numbers to form the sum (9 = 4 + 3 + 2, 6 = 4 + 2, etc.)  Even the Decad itself cannot lay claim to this little fact.  The only other number that can be considered as special is the Mēden, which isn’t even a number according to the Greeks; it has no sum because it has no value, because it is nothing.  Thus, in a sense, the Decad is conceptually equal to the Mēden, even if not arithmetically equal, because they are both Being in contraparallel ways.

The Pentad represents growth because it affords the cosmos a power of balance, reciprocity, distribution and flow in a way utterly unlike any other number.  It is neither static nor dynamic, neither oppositional nor reinforcing, neither varying nor assimilating, neither complete unto itself nor utterly and only part of everything else.  In a way, it is Growth (Pentad) and Being (Decad/Mēden) that are also part of their own relationship, and if we’re to be proper about it, we would say that the Decad is a higher register of the Pentad, and not that the Decad is a higher register of the Mēden, because the Mēden doesn’t actually exist except as everything else (being completely empty of independent existence, like a kind of hypostasis or substratum of all numbers, as it were).

So, let’s put this all together in a table for clarification, shall we?  As above, we can identify Individuation with Becoming, Relation with Accordance, Harmony with Accordance, and Form with Structure; thus, all these concepts have the same number.  However, we can distinguish between Individuation and Realization by saying that the former is “manifesting” and the latter “manifested”, like with our geomantic mental exploration of the Tetractys from before.

Concept
Ideal Manifesting Manifested
Monad Becoming Individuation Realization
1 9
Dyad Variation Relation Mixture
2 8
Triad Accordance Harmony Essence
3 7
Tetrad Structure Form Order
4 6
Pentad Growth Being
5 Emptiness Wholeness
0 10

All this is well and good, but how do we think of this in terms of a more practical manner?  I mean, it’s good to understand the numbers and their relationships for their own sake, but where does it get us?  Well, consider again the Gnosis Schema:

alchemical_planetary_tetractys_paths_circuit1

Every time we traverse one of the three systems on this schema (Hot, Cold, or Cosmic), although there are four distinct paths and four distinct sphairai, there are actually five different steps.  Consider the Hot System: we begin at Mercury, proceed to Jupiter/Air, then to Mars/Fire, then to Sun/Sulfur, and then back to Mercury.  We proceed from the Monad to the Dyad to the Triad to the Tetrad to the Pentad…which then becomes the Monad for the next system.  As we proceed from our starting point, we undergo a process of analysis and synthesis; as we return to our starting point, we complete this process and prepare ourselves for the next process.  This completion/initiation point is the liminal sphaira of Growth, the Pentad, which is hidden from but implied by the numerical structure of the Tetractys itself.

Okay, but then this leaves two issues.  The first is that the process of the Gnosis Schema doesn’t take four steps, nor does it take ten steps; it takes twelve.  To use the astrological correspondences of the sphairai:

  1. Mercury → Jupiter
  2. Jupiter → Mars
  3. Mars → Sun
  4. Sun → Mercury
  5. Mercury → Moon
  6. Moon → Saturn
  7. Saturn → Venus
  8. Venus → Mercury
  9. Mercury → Fixed Stars
  10. Fixed Stars → The One
  11. The One → Earth
  12. Earth → Mercury

The fourth, eighth, and twelfth steps are where we leave one system to return back to Mercury so as to proceed to the next system on the Gnosis Schema.  If we elide the first two of these steps by considering that we only “pass through” Mercury, we can get down to ten:

  1. Mercury → Jupiter
  2. Jupiter → Mars
  3. Mars → Sun
  4. Sun → (Mercury) → Moon
  5. Moon → Saturn
  6. Saturn → Venus
  7. Venus → (Mercury) → Fixed Stars
  8. Fixed Stars → The One
  9. The One → Earth
  10. Earth → Mercury

This way of reckoning the transitions between one system and the next as seamless might be considered ideal, thinking of the whole process of traversing the Tetractys as a Decad unto itself, although a bit forced in my opinion.  Yes, if we start at Mercury, then we may not need to consider it as a distinct sphaira that we need to reckon again.  However, this thought leaves a funny taste in my mouth.  If we undergo the process of analysis and synthesis within one system after leaving Mercury, then when we return, we’re not the same person anymore, and Mercury will have new lessons to teach us before we proceed on to the next system.  As we change, so do the lessons we must learn.  After all, παντα ρει.  Besides this, having twelve distinct steps to traverse the Tetractys is a pleasant echo of the twelve signs that the Sun passes through during the course of the year (and, additionally, is the fundamental thought behind associating these paths with the signs of the Zodiac and the rest of the letters of the Greek alphabet onto the paths of the Tetractys).

alchemical_planetary_tetractys_gnosis_paths

So much for that issue, which turned out to be moot in the end.  The other is actually more notable, and goes back to our analysis of the first four numbers of the Decad before the Pentad (Monad through Tetrad) as “manifesting” and the second set after the Pentad (Hexad through Ennead) as “manifested”, the Upper and Lower Tetractyes, respectively, and how they relate to the three systems.  Say that we start at Mercury, and proceed around the Gnosis Schema along the twelve paths.  We know that every time we complete a system, we have gone through five sphairai, beginning with and ending at Mercury.

  1. Hot System
    1. Mercury
    2. Jupiter
    3. Mars
    4. Sun
    5. Mercury
  2. Cold System
    1. Mercury
    2. Moon
    3. Saturn
    4. Venus
    5. Mercury
  3. Cosmic System
    1. Mercury
    2. Fixed Stars
    3. The One
    4. Earth
    5. Mercury

Note how we attain the Decad, the Wholeness of Being, after only having completed the second Cold System without having gotten to the third Cosmic System.  When we come back to Mercury after the Cosmic System, we end up at the Pendedecad, rank 15, which is not a completed decad.  This is awkward, since it means that one trip around the Gnosis Schema is not enough.  Additionally, if we consider that the upper “manifesting” tetractys numbers (Monad through Tetrad) and the lower “manifested” numbers (Hexad through Ennead) are different experiences, then it means that we’ve only experienced half of each system by going through it only once.  So, to be a completionist and perfectionist about this, we’d need to go through the Gnosis Schema twice:

  1. Manifesting Hot System
    1. Mercury
    2. Jupiter
    3. Mars
    4. Sun
    5. Mercury
  2. Manifested Cold System
    1. Mercury
    2. Moon
    3. Saturn
    4. Venus
    5. Mercury
  3. Manifesting Cosmic System
    1. Mercury
    2. Fixed Stars
    3. The One
    4. Earth
    5. Mercury
  4. Manifested Hot System
    1. Mercury
    2. Jupiter
    3. Mars
    4. Sun
    5. Mercury
  5. Manifesting Cold System
    1. Mercury
    2. Moon
    3. Saturn
    4. Venus
    5. Mercury
  6. Manifested Cosmic System
    1. Mercury
    2. Fixed Stars
    3. The One
    4. Earth
    5. Mercury

In this way, we get to experience both a manifesting and manifested version of each system, going through both the yin/yang, masculine/feminine, active/passive aspects of each force in turn.  The first pass through the Gnosis Schema has us go through the manifesting/yang/masculine/active Hot system, composed of active and hot sphairai, then through the manifested/yin/feminine/passive Cold system, composed of passive and cold sphairai, and then through the manifesting Cosmic system so as to bring about divinity in our lives and worlds.  However, this is only half the equation for a complete experience of everything.  We would then need to undergo, maybe even “undo”, what we’ve done by continuing on the paths: we’d then undergo the manifested Hot system, then the manifesting Cold system, then the manifested Cosmic system so as to complete the process, and allow the divinity we’ve accomplished to become fully realized both within, through, and by us.

I make this sound like going through the Gnosis Path once is pointless until you do it a second time, but it’s not.  As we complete one iteration of the Gnosis Schema, we have gone through the ten states of the cosmos, the ten sphairai of the Tetractys, and have brought about completion.  However, in doing so, we prepare ourselves by this very completion to continue along this path in another, more natural, more intuitive way.  It’s akin to what’s said about one attaining K&CHGA in modern Western traditions: once you are under the tutelage of your Holy Guardian Angel, you complete your initiatory phase and begin your actual Work, since your HGA would lead you henceforth as teacher and tutor.  What happens after that is continuing along the Lightning Path of the Tree of Life, but in different ways above the Veil of Paroketh that mimic what was done below it but in a greater, grander magnitude.

To offer a parallel about this, I propose to think that that the first iteration of one’s trip around the Tetractys on the Gnosis Schema is meant to intentionally manifest one’s paredos or Agathodaimon by undergoing initiation in the three Systems, and the whole cosmos generally.  It is only after that, under the direction of the Agathodaimon, that one allows what was intentionally manifested before outside oneself to naturally manifest within oneself, and vice versa, to the cumulative effect that one not only brings God down into this world (first iteration), but that we become God ourselves in all worlds (second iteration).  I mean, I only propose to think this; I don’t yet claim that that’s what would actually happen, but it’s a useful way to think about it.  If true Gnosis is to be attained, then one must experience both sides of all coins, not just the shinier side; the darker, more hidden side would be impossible to experience without the aid of the divinity we’ve worked to manifest, and to become manifested as divinity ourselves would be even less likely.  If the manifesting and manifested aspects of the Tetractys are different, then going through each of the systems in its different aspect is as important as returning to Mercury after each individual system, since we are ourselves different after each individual process of analysis and synthesis.

Mathetic Exercise: Light-bringing Breath

Today, while making an offering to Apollo, he (if you’ll forgive the pun) shed some light on a bit of mathetic practice.  I’m still dusting off some of the tools and prayers I was working on, but he’s given me some ideas to work with.  While he’s still pretty stoic and detached in his approach to me, he’s generously helped me begin the process of refining and applying some of the things in mathesis I’ve been wanting to develop.  Of this, in addition to the usual daily mathetic stuff I would be doing, he’s given me a breathing exercise to do.  I don’t know if you’ve seen this one particular GIF around the Internet recently, but it suddenly popped in my mind when I asked him what should be done.

8d06cda5f63ac5e3b8e004587547fb72

So, I took that idea, hashed it out a bit with Apollo, and applied it.  It fills a need I wasn’t aware I needed, but it makes complete sense in retrospect, especially with some ideas I’ve gotten from the late Neoplatonic philosopher and theurgist Iamblichus as of late.

Before we get into the exercise, though, let’s go over a bit of geometry.  We all know the Tetractys, right?  We all know the Tetractys.

Tetractys

One of the many mathematical interpretations of the Tetractys is that it can represent the first four dimensions of geometry, starting with with the zeroth dimension:

  1. A single point, with neither length nor breadth nor depth.  No measure, only location.
  2. Two points, forming a straight line segment with length.  With a line segment, we can identify an infinite line extending in two directions: forward and backward.
  3. Three points, defining a triangle with length and breadth, together known as area.  With a triangle, we can identify an infinite area (a plane) extending in four directions: forward and backward, left and right.
  4. Four points, defining a tetrahedron with length and breadth and depth, together known as volume.  With a tetrahedron, we can identify an infinite volume (a space) extending in six directions: forward and backward, left and right, up and down.

Dion Fortune in her Mystical Qabalah (chap. 28, para. 25) says as much, in more sephirotic terms:

The point is assigned to Kether;
the line to Chokmah;
the two-dimensional plane to Binah;
consequently the three-dimensional solid naturally falls to Chesed.

We can see this using the ten sephiroth of the Tree of Life by dividing it up into four groups of points: one (Kether), two (Chokmah and Binah), three (Chesed, Geburah, Tiphareth), and four (Netzach, Hod, Yesod, Malkuth).  Such a diagram illustrates this idea of emanation in both a geometric way as well as a qabbalistic way.

A11p12fig10.1

In a Hermetic, Neoplatonic, Iamblichian, Pythagorean, or whatever sense, the Monad (a.k.a. Kether, the Source, whatever) is the fundamental principle that defines and underlies everything that exists.  (Whether it’s a distinct entity/non-entity/process is something of a debate in the blogosphere and I don’t presume to get into it here.)  Looking at the Tetractys, the Monad is the first step in the process of manifestation: from the Monad comes the Dyad, from the Dyad the Triad, and from the Triad the Tetrad.  The Tetrad is what gives us body and form, but it comes from a higher principle, and that principle comes from a higher one, and so forth.  If we really want to bring change from above down to here, we have to give it form in some sense, or we have to align some part of our being with the process of bringing power from the Source to us.

However, although four points identifies the minimal solid there can exist, we are far more than just four points.  Yes, we are a combination of fire and air and water and earth, but not in equal measures, nor in a regular fashion.  Our bodies are animal, but our spirit partakes in something of the Divine; in order to better make our lives and bodies more appropriate to interacting with the divine, we should try to induce a slightly different body in ourselves that makes ourselves more divine.  For the Neoplatonic Iamblichus, this is the form of the sphere, the most ideal solid there can be, and the body of the heavenly entities.  A sphere is not a tetrahedron, but they are both bodies.  We don’t want to be content with a tetrahedron, as we’re already far too complex to abide in it, but we want to get to a sphere.  In one sense, going from a tetrahedron to a sphere is nothing, after having gone and passed through the point, line, and shape in order to get a form; in another, going from a tetrahedron to a sphere is the most daunting thing of all, as we go from one point to two to three to four is one thing, but to go from four to an infinite number of points is daunting, to say the least.

In addition to all this, it’s known that part of the theurgic practices of Iamblichus involved a process of “light” and filling oneself up with it, which we can also see in other theurgic rituals, like that of the Mithras Liturgy from PGM IV.475-834.  In that, we find the following:

Draw in breath from the rays [of the Sun], drawing up 3 times as much as you can, and you will see yourself being lifted up and ascending to the height, so that you seem to be in midair.  You will hear nothing either of man or of any other living thing, nor in that hour will you see anything of mortal affairs on earth, but rather you will see all immortal things.  For in that day and hour you will see the divine order of the skies…

…So stand still and at once draw breath from the divine into yourself, while you look intently…

The whole Mithras Liturgy is a spiritual astral travel-type of initiation, where one ascends into the heavens and deals directly with the gods and guards of heaven.  However, important to this ritual is an act of ritualized breathing, where one breathes in rays of light or the breath of the divine, and in doing so changes or alters one’s nature or consciousness.  This is also similar to the Howl of Orpheus rite I found a bit ago, with its own special type of breathing and bellowing.  Breathing in divine light is not just the light of a particular planet or a star or fire, but to breathe in the light of the Divine itself, that of the Monad, the fundamental essence that undergirds all things that exist.

So, let’s put this all together into a coherent ritual, shall we?

  1. While sitting or standing, breathe out completely, from the head to the toes, completely exhaling all breath from the lungs.  Make a popping sound to expel all breath once the normal exhale is done.
  2. Breathe in deeply from the toes to the head, picturing a point of Light in your heart.  Hold the breath for four counts, then exhale completely, this time with a hissing sound towards the end.  Maintain the point of Light in your heart as you keep your lungs empty for a few counts.
  3. Breathe in deeply, picturing the point of Light in your heart splitting into two points, one at the crown of your head and one at the soles of your feet, connected by a line of Light rising from the feet, through the spine, to the head.  Hold the breath for four counts, then exhale completely with a hissing sound.  Maintain the line of Light in your body as you keep your lungs empty for a few counts.
  4. Breathe in deeply, picturing the line of Light extending by another point from its middle into a triangle that envelops your body, aligned side-to-side through your body, with its base at your feet and its apex at your head.  Hold the breath for four counts, then exhale completely with a hissing sound.  Maintain the triangle of Light through your body as you keep your lungs empty for a few counts.
  5. Breathe in deeply, picturing the triangle of Light extending by another point from its center into a tetrahedron, with its base at your feet and its apex at your head, completely enveloping you inside.  Hold the breath for four counts, then exhale completely with a hissing sound.  Maintain the tetrahedron of Light through your body as you keep your lungs empty for a few counts.
  6. Breathe in deeply, maintaining the pyramid of Light around you, as you hold the breath, exhale completely, and hold your lungs empty several times.  Silently call out to the Divine Source until you can form some sort of connection, until you can sense the Source of the Light that has been forming within and around you this whole time.  Repeat this step until you have sensed it and formed a connection with it, then continue.
  7. With the lungs completely empty, breathe in deeply, but this time, breathe in the Light from the Source.  As you do so, picture the pyramid around you swelling up slowly, bulging at its sides, until it becomes the shape of a perfect sphere that completely surrounds you.  Repeat this step until you can form a stable, perfect sphere of Light.
  8. Once you’ve formed a stable sphere of Light that surrounds you completely, let your image of yourself dissolve and merge into the sphere, becoming one with it, letting the sphere become your entire body.  Maintain this mental state as a form of meditation as long as desired.
  9. When finished with the meditative sphere of Light, let the image of your body form from the Light within the sphere, maintaining the boundary of the sphere around you as a shield or shell.  Exhale slowly with another popping sound to finish.

Internumeric Relationships by Addition on the Tetractys

It’d be rude and vulgar of me to leave the Tetractys as some simple geometric diagram used for plotting paths or meditations.  I mean, the Tetractys is a meditation tool, yes, but to use it merely for working with the Greek alphabet with in a mathetic framework is to ignore the deeper meaning of the Tetractys.  For the Pythagoreans, especially, the Tetractys was more than a set of ten dots; it was the key to all creation and all cosmos.  There’s no evidence that anybody’s used it to plot paths on like I did, which is probably because this is an innovative use for an already heavily used tool based purely on number.  As we’re all aware by now, the Tetractys is a representation of the Monad, Dyad, Triad, and Tetrad to yield the Decad: 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10.  All these numbers are holy to the Pythagoreans and to Western occultists generally, but there’s so much more to the Tetractys than this.

One of the traditional ways of understanding the mysteries of the Tetractys was to take the different ranks of numbers present and add them together to yield a particular number.  For instance, the Monad plus Tetrad yields the Pentad (1 + 4 = 5), while the Monad, Dyad, and Triad together yield the Hexad (1 + 2 + 3 = 6).  All these numbers have their own meaning, all of which are based ultimately on the Monad and, in succession, the meanings given to the other numbers built upon the Monad.  I’d thought I’d investigate what some of these properties are and see what the Tetractys represents in building the numbers of the Decad together based on these relationships between the ranks of the Tetractys.  Specifically, these relationships are based on the arithmetical operation of addition, the straightforward aggregation of two numbers by combining their distinct magnitudes into a single one.  Other operations exist, but those are for another time.

So, to start off with, we have four basic numbers, starting with the Monad and ending with the Tetrad.  We can say that, with the exception of the Monad, all numbers are just collections of Monads in a particular relationship:

  1. Monad = individuation, undifferentiated, undifferentiatable
  2. Dyad = two Monads in relation
  3. Triad = three Monads in harmony
  4. Tetrad = four Monads in form

Note that some of these can be broken down further into simpler groups.  Without repeating any particular number (such as saying that the Dyad is two Monads or the Tetrad is two Dyads), we end up with two extra identities:

  1. Triad = Monad + Dyad
  2. Tetrad = Monad + Triad

It’s crucially important to note that the Dyad, Triad, and Tetrad are more than just a collection of monads.  Number in the esoteric sense is more than just a magnitude or amount, but also a relationship formed between the individuals in the collection.  The only number in this set that has no relationship is the Monad itself, since it exists as a unity unto itself without anything to relate to.  The Dyad is the first number that has a relationship, but can be said to be relationship itself; without the Dyad, relationship cannot exist.  In a more arithmetic sense that the Pythagoreans preferred, all numbers can be divided into two partially overlapping groups of odd (able to be divided into unequal parts only) and even (able to be divided into two equal and unequal parts).  Four, for instance, is even because it can be split up into groups of 1/3 and 2/2.  Five, however, is odd, because it can be split into 1/4 or 2/3, and neither of those are equal splits.  However, the Monad cannot be split at all into anything, and the Dyad can not be split into unequal parts, so neither the Monad nor Dyad are even nor odd, and are thus not true number, though they are sources of number.

Thus, based on the individuation of the Monad and relation of the Dyad, all other numbers can be made, such as the Triad.  It is because of this that the Triad is considered by the Pythagoreans to be the first true number, since the Monad and Dyad are something rarer and rawer.  All amounts can be formed from the Monad, but it’s the relationship (Dyad) between individual Monads that produce a number.  Thus, as the Triad is the first true number, it is also the first odd number, and the Tetrad is the first even number.

So, based on the six above identities, we can form the rest of the numbers from the Pentad (5) to the Decad (10).  If we omit the identities from above and reduce all things to a collection of Monads, Dyads, Triads, and Tetrads, we end up with two ways to form the Pentad, and one way each to form the Hexad, Heptad, Octad, Ennead, and Decad:

  1. Pentad = (Monad + Tetrad) or (Dyad + Triad)
  2. Hexad = Dyad + Tetrad
  3. Heptad = Triad + Tetrad
  4. Octad = Monad + Triad + Tetrad
  5. Ennead = Dyad + Triad + Tetrad
  6. Decad = Monad + Dyad + Triad + Tetrad

Yes, this is all basic arithmetic that we’ve been able to do since kindergarten.  Of course, it’s always the simplest things that hide some of the more profound secrets.  I won’t go over all the associations and theologies behind the numbers for that; you can get a copy of the Theology of Arithmetic by Iamblichus for cheap (or even, dare I say it, for free), and you can read about what the Pythagoreans thought about the numbers of the Decad way back when.  What I want to point out is, at a high level, what these additions of the numbers mean based on the four concepts of monadic individuation, dyadic relation, triadic harmony, and tetradic form.

Monad
The Monad is an individual, unchanging, static, and stable.  It is the only thing that exists, and thus cannot be differentiated from anything (since there’s nothing to differentiate it from).  While we can say that it contains all opposites and extremities within itself, it’d be more proper to say that no concept of opposition or extremity exists within the Monad.  While the Monad exists, nothing exists within the Monad; it can become all and any qualities, but it itself has no qualities.  It is the source of all nature, but is itself beyond nature.  It cannot be divided since it is a unit, an atom, the core of existence itself.  The Monad cannot move, as there is nothing within which it can move (which would imply something that is Monad and something that is not-Monad).  The Monad has no shape, consisting only of a single point that indicates both all sizes and all angles but without anything else to connect to.

Dyad
The Dyad is relation and difference.  Between two Monads, we now know of two things that can be compared as equals, but as different equals.  The Dyad is representative of differentiation, distinction, opposition, and motion, all of which can be thought of as different types of relation.  The Dyad represents a line defined by two points, but is still without shape; it can possess direction and magnitude, but is as yet without definition.  The Dyad allows for things to exist within, around, and outside of other things, since it creates space between and among other things.  While the Monad is pure potential for creation (and all other things), the Dyad is the act of creation itself, since it distinguishes a Creator from the Creature, or the Acted from the Actor.  The Dyad is space, change, action, and relativity.

Triad
The Triad is harmony and proportion, formed from a combination of individuation and relation.  It is the first odd number, and the first number that can be added from other distinct numbers.  The Triad gives the first shape of something, as three points can define an enclosed space.  The Triad indicates actuality, the Creature made through Creation (Dyad) from the Creator (Monad).  However, it is also indicates harmony, since two distinct and different things are linked to and joined by a third.  With the Triad, there is real existence as opposed to potential existence or becoming existence.  Quoth Iamblichus, “‘this’ belongs to the Monad, ‘either’ to the Dyad, and ‘each’/’every’ to the Triad”.  With Triad, there is time: beginning, middle, end; there is communication: speaker, listener, message; there is work: actor, action, acted upon. However, like the Monad, the Triad is static, since it provides for space and size but not change, since it is construction and creation that brought a static shape to being.

Tetrad
The Tetrad is the root of form, formed from a combination of individuation and harmony.  With three points we can define a two-dimensional shape, but with four we can define a solid three-dimensional object.  Moreover, the Tetrad is dynamic, since it is even; while the Triad measures static quantity, the Tetrad measures dynamic quantity, since it provides for motion and change while the Tetrad does not.  Further, the Tetrad allows for forms present in relationship to each other; while the Triad offers a two-dimensional form, the Tetrad allows for two-dimensional forms next to each other as the Dyad allows for Monads to be next to each other.  With both individuation and harmony, one can choose to be part of a harmony or break away from it, acting either inside or outside a given group, and allows for distinct existence apart from, aggregated with, or in conjunction with others.

Pentad
Alone among the numbers, the Pentad is the only one that can be formed in two distinct ways: from the Monad and Tetrad (a combination of individuation and form) and from the Dyad and Triad (a combination of relation and harmony).  In a way, it’s fitting; between all the numbers of the Decad, the Pentad is the middle of them.  Consider that any two numbers that add up to 10 have 5 as the mean (9 + 1, 8 + 2, 7 + 3, etc.); the Pentad is halfway to the Decad, and itself is vital to life.  It is the combination of pure potential and discrete aggregation (Monad and Tetrad), as well as of relation and harmony (Dyad and Triad); it is the combination of an even and odd number in either case, and considered to unify opposites in a dynamic way that allows for growth and change as opposed to the static way of the Triad.  If we consider the Pentad as the sum of Monad and Tetrad, we obtain a view of eternality and potentiality combined with and suspended among temporality and discretion (the four changeable elements acting under unchanging Spirit); if we consider the Pentad as the sum of Dyad and Triad, we obtain a view of motion and action mixed with and changing stasis and relationship.  In either case, the Pentad is where life and concrete reality itself begins, since in the Pentad there is balance, reciprocity, distribution, and especially of growth.

Hexad
The Hexad is the combination of relation and form, producing a dynamic harmony.  Unlike the Pentad, which is dynamic growth, the Hexad is a balance between things in motion.  The presence of distinct qualities bestowed by the Tetrad in relation of the Dyad allows for various dynamic forces to exist dynamically, moving with and acting, co-acting, or reacting together without destruction.  As the Tetrad represents a body and the Dyad represents motion, the Hexad represents a body in motion and can move in six ways, or three sets of two ways: up/down, left/right, forward/backward.  Seen the other way, as the Tetrad represents qualities and the Dyad represents opposition, the Hexad represents an ordering and balance of opposites.  Further, as two Tetrads, the Hexad represents what we commonly see as “Merkava stones”, two interlocked tetrahedrons that represent a combination of bodies and opposites that together unite to form a whole.  While the Pentad is the number of life, the Hexad is the number of order.

Heptad
The Heptad is the combination of harmony and form, producing foundation.  This is hard to describe in a single word, but within the Heptad there are all things finally present to create everything, yet is short of actively creating everything; all manifest sources are present in the Heptad (seven planets of astrology, seven vowels of Greek speech, etc.), though they are as yet too unmanifest on their own.  As a combination of Triad and Tetrad, the Heptad represents the four elements and three reagents, or the three processes that transform the four elements so as to create all things.  As an odd number that cannot be divided, the Heptad is similar to the Monad in that it provides for potential creation, but unlike the Monad, the Heptad is a collection of seven entities that provide the foundation of all manifest things, while the Monad is an undifferentiatable source from which all manifest and unmanifest things come.  If the Hexad represents order, then the Heptad are the things that are ordered within the cosmos provided for by the Hexad, the meat to fill out the Hexad’s bones.  The Heptad is that which essentially exists; the Heptad is essence.

Octad
The Octad is the first addition that involves three numbers: the Monad, Triad, and Tetrad.  Thus, the Octad combines individuation, harmony, and form.  As the Heptad is the combination of the Triad and Tetrad, we can say that the Octad is that which results from the essences of creation into which they flow.  However, as we saw with the Pentad, we can also say that the Monad and Heptad combine such that the Heptad is mixed in within the Monad, as the seven planets are within the eighth sphere of the fixed stars, as the four elements are within the Quintessence.  However, we can also say that the Octad is the combination of two Tetrads, allowing for mixtures and combinations of that which otherwise could only relate to each other by processes; although Sulfur combines and transforms Air into Fire and vice versa if we use the Tetrad + Triad view, we end up with dry air or cool fire between Air and Fire if we use the Tetrad + Tetrad view.  The Octad represents solution and combination of qualities, a single entity produced from essences or qualities and their interquality transformations.  The Octad is mixture.

Ennead
The Ennead is the combination of relation, harmony, and form.  Based on how we might conceive of this, we can say that the Ennead combines the Tetrad and Pentad, the Triad and Hexad, the Dyad and Heptad, or the Monad and Octad, but at its root it combines the Dyad, Triad, and Tetrad.  At its core, it lacks the Monad and possesses the Dyad, indicating that the Ennead is an active number related to creating but not as creator or creature.  In the Ennead is all creating of manifest things, combining tetradic body, triadic intermediation, and dyadic motion.  In the number nine are all the other numbers brought together, the final single-digit whole number.  As there were nine Muses who lead to all Art and nine Curetes who watched over the infant Zeus, the Ennead brings things to completion and perfection without itself being perfect.  The Ennead is realization.

Decad
At long last, we finally reach the Decad, the combination of the Monad, Dyad, Triad, and Tetrad; of individuation, relation, harmony, and form.  In the Decad are all the basic numbers of the Tetractys, and there are many ways to add to the Decad using the lesser numbers, but at its core it is the number formed from 1, 2, 3, and 4 summed together.  Just as in the Ennead there is the process of realization and completion but without something to realize or complete, the Decad augments this with the Monad, allowing for something to be filled with the Ennead.  The Decad represents a discrete entity (Monad) that is distinct from other things (Dyad) that is stable unto itself (Triad) given physical a body (Tetrad).  Moreover, it is also something that can grow (Pentad) while maintaining itself in an order (Hexad) that combines all ethereal essences (Heptad) and concrete mixtures (Octad) being brought together (Ennead).  Without any other number preceding it, the entity represented by the Decad would be lacking and could not be fully realized.  Whether it is the universe we live in or the individual people we live as, we are all representative of the Decad and the journey it has taken to get here.  The Decad is the Whole.

I think it goes without saying that this Pythagorean analysis of the ten numbers of the Decad can easily be mapped onto the Tree of Life in Jewish kabbalah or Hermetic qabbalah, and indeed, I recall seeing many of these things present in the explanations given in works like Alan Moore’s Promethea series.  It makes sense, too, since Pythagoreanism is one of the fundamental philosophies underlying Western occult thought, deep enough to not clearly be distinguished as Pythagorean but also profound enough to affect everything that’s built upon it.  While numerology has never quite been my strong suit, this little exploration of the basic numbers has considerably helped.

Towards a Greek Kabbalah: Tetractys as Cosmic Framework

Alright, so now we understand the Greek letters as symbols of many things: zodiac signs, planets, elements, numbers, body parts, and any number of gods, images, and other concepts.  All this is in addition to their use as instruments of written language as glyphs and of spoken language as sounds and names.  While we’ve come a long way, we’re still only setting out our basic tools for further analysis.  We know of the Greek letters as units, single entities representing a single set of symbols.  To use them, we have to start seeing these letters as relationships, transferring and communicating information and power between other units.  It’s like a single word, such as “my” or “the”, being understood, but without meaning until it’s used in a sentence when it indicates relationships and distance between and among other concepts.  Within a word, letters act as relationships between the letters before and after it, but is there anything else bigger that we might have the letters act as a relationship between?

This is where we start thinking about things cosmically and from an emanationist perspective, and, to be honest, I have some catching up to do on Hermetic and Neoplatonic philosophical language to describe it accurately.  Suffice to say that, like Jewish kabbalah and Hermetic qabbalah, Greek kampala also describes the creation of the cosmos in a series of stages, but not necessarily in a clearly-ordered and sequential manner like the sephiroth do.  Rather, it is through providing multiple levels of understanding of the cosmos that we can better understand it.  The Greeks loved to divvy up stuff into smaller stuff, the foundation of the problem-solving technique “divide and conquer”, and that continues here.  With that, I propose we use the geometric diagram of the tetractys, the holy diagram of Pythagoras: Tetractys   The tetractys is a diagram consisting of four rows of points, each row having an increasing number of points starting at one and ending at four, arranged in an equilateral triangle.  This was considered to be the foundational blueprint for all of creation according to that mathematical and mystic hero of Greek thought, and was mathematically significant: it combined the Monad (unity), Dyad (two), Triad (three), and Tetrad (four) into a single unit.  These four numbers, representing the One, Power or Differentiation, Harmony, and Cosmos, compose all the things of the universe, as 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10, the unity of a higher order, or the Decad.  All of these numbers were holy to the Pythagoreans, but ten most of all; given its fourfold structure, this diagram was called the Tetractys, and sometimes referred to by the Greek letter Delta (Δ).  The Pythagoreans saw it as so holy that they prayed to it and glorified it:

Bless us, divine number, thou who generated gods and men! O holy, holy Tetractys, thou that containest the root and source of the eternally flowing creation! For the divine number begins with the profound, pure unity until it comes to the holy four; then it begets the mother of all, the all-comprising, all-bounding, the first-born, the never-swerving, the never-tiring holy ten, the keyholder of all.

And, further, the Pythagoreans swore by the tetractys itself:

By that pure, holy, four lettered name on high,nature’s eternal fountain and supply,the parent of all souls that living be,by him, with faith find oath, I swear to thee.

The tetractys was considered to represent the fourfold nature of creation in eleven different ways, according to Iamblichus in his “Life of Pythagoras”.  Essentially, a single Monad (God, the Good, etc.) created a Duality of Two, which then created a Harmony of Three, which then created an Ordering of Four; by the interaction of these different forces, both within their own groups and across other groups, all other things are made.  In fact, by interpreting each row (with its difference) in different ways, we obtain something resembling Cornelius Agrippa’s Scale of Four (book II, chapter 7):

  1. According to the composition of numbers: 1, 2, 3, 4
  2. According to the multiplication of numbers: a point (0-dimensions), a side (1-dimension), a square (2-dimensions), a cube (3-dimensions)
  3. According to magnitude: a point (0D), a line (1D), a plane (2D), a solid (3D)
  4. According to simple bodies: fire, air, water, earth
  5. According to figures: pyramid, octahedron, icosahedron, cube
  6. According to things rising into existence through vegetative life: seed, length (shoot), breadth (leaf), depth (trunk)
  7. According to communities to form nations: individual, household, street, city
  8. According to judicial power: intellect, science, opinion, sense
  9. According to parts of the animal: rational, irascible, epithymetic (that which desires good), physical body
  10. According to the seasons of the year: spring, summer, autumn, winter
  11. According to the ages of man: infancy, youth, adulthood, senescence

The tetractys even helped to guide the Pythagorean musical system by taking ratios of the rows of dots:

  1. Rows 4 and 3, 4:3, perfect fourth
  2. Rows 3 and 2, 3:2, perfect fifth
  3. Rows 2 and 1, 2:1, octave
  4. Rows 1 and 1, 1:1, unison

In fact, so influential was the use of the Tetractys in Greek thought that it even influenced philosophical schools hundreds of years afterwards, even Jewish kabbalah and Hermeticism.  This can even be seen in one representation of the Tetragrammaton, the four-lettered name of God, represented in a tetractys-like form: Tetragrammaton Tetractys Plus, having ten units inside, parallels can be drawn between the tetractys and the Tree of Life, or ten sephiroth.  Dion Fortune in her “The Mystical Qabalah” even drew a comparison between the fourfold Tetractys and the first four sephiroth on the Tree of Life, especially with regards to the tetractys as demonstrator of physical space:

The point is assigned to Kether; the line to Chokmah; the two-dimensional plane to Binah; consequently the three-dimensional solid naturally falls to Chesed.

In terms of the four parts of the body, it might be better to restate tetractys #9 above (according to the parts of the human) in Agrippan terms as the Mind, Spirit, Soul, and Body.  These four parts of the human are that which links us to the divine (Mind, row 1), that which allows us to reason and intellectually understand the world (Spirit, row 2), that which feels and moves (Soul, row 3), and that which is moved and is felt (Body, row 4).  It is by the unification and purification of these four parts of the body do we practice ascension through and beyond ourselves back to the One, but that’s another topic for another day.  Suffice it to say that, through the cultivation and increasing of virtues in the four parts of ourselves, we ascend the Tetractys and the multiple parts of the world we find ourselves connected to.  If you want, give the excellent Summary of Pythagorean Theology by Apollonius Sophistes a read in the meantime, since that’ll be a huge thing for us later on.

The study and meditation of the Tetractys will become bigger and bigger later on, especially once we view it as a kampalic cosmic map much in the way that the Tree of Life functions for kabbalah and qabbalah.  As yet, we’ll leave the individual units of the tetractys unnumbered and unmarked, letting the structure speak for itself.  To let it do so, meditate on the structure and form of the tetractys, offering it the same devotion and glory the old Pythagoreans themselves would have done so.  Hold the image in your mind, and relate all the parts of the cosmos to its structure: the fourfold nature of things resulting from a threefold harmony resulting from a twofold differentiation resulting from a single Source.  To say much about the tetractys at this point would be premature, so I’ll leave it as an introduction on its own as a symbolic representation of what’s to come: first a seed, then a shoot, then a leaf, then a trunk.