Towards a Greek Kabbalah: Letters on the Paths of the Tetractys

Where do we stand on our system of kampala, or Greek kabbalah?  We have letters, we have spheres, we have paths.  We’ve combined the paths with the spheres, and now we need to combine the paths with the letters.  This is the last big thing we have yet to do in order to fully develop our use of Greek letter-number-stoicheia mysticism into a full-fledged theurgic framework, turning simple grammatomancy into grammatotheurgy.  Last we checked in on our Tetractys of Life, we have the following ten spheres linked together with a set of 24 paths: alchemical_planetary_tetractys_paths Each sphere is associated with a particular alchemical concept as well as a cosmic heaven, all coming down from the single, divinely simple, undifferentiated, all-generating Monad.  Seven of the ten spheres are moderate enough in their forces to be connected as completely as they can, while three are too extreme to be connected to any except their closest two forces.  So far, so good.  Now, let’s talk about the letters of the Greek alphabet.  It’s hard to assign the letters to these 24 paths based on their symbolic looks alone, and although the Greek letters are number, it’s also difficult to assign pure number to the paths by virtue of their cardinality, parity, or magnitude.  However, we have another route: using the stoicheia, or occult associations, of the Greek letters, which provide many more qualities and concepts on their own which can help us to figure out which path might best be represented on our Tetractys of Life.

Recall that the practice of stoicheia assigns one of the 12 signs of the Zodiac, one of the seven planets, or one of the five elements to each letter of the Greek alphabet.  After all, 12 + 7 + 5 = 24, so this can easily be done.  And, lo, it is!  Recall that there are three groups of letters in the Greek consonants: vowels, simple consonants, and complex consonants.  There are seven vowels (Α, Ε, Η, Ι, Ο, Υ, Ω), twelve simple consonants (Β, Γ, Δ, Ζ, Κ, Λ, Μ, Ν, Π, Ρ, Σ, Τ), and five complex consonants (Θ, Ξ, Φ, Χ, Ψ).  In that case, our division has already been made for us.  We give each of the vowels to one of the seven planets, starting with Alpha as the Moon and Ōmega as Saturn; we give each of the simple consonants to the twelve signs of the Zodiac, starting with Bēta as Aries and Tau as Pisces; we give each of the complex consonants to one of the five elements from most dense to least dense, from Thēta as Earth to Khi as Fire and Psi as Spirit.

The simplest way to assign these forces and their corresponding letters to the Tetractys of Life would be to base the selection on the geometry of the paths itself.  For instance, in the Jewish kabbalah’s Tree of Life which uses the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, there are three sets of paths: twelve diagonal paths, seven vertical paths, and three horizontal paths.  The diagonal paths are given to the zodiac signs; the vertical paths are given to the planets; the horizontal paths are given to the elements (Hebrew mysticism recognizes only Air, Fire, and Water as elements, with Earth and Spirit not being considered).  Kalagni over at Blue Flame Magick describes how he developed his own set of qabbalistic correspondences between the paths and the Hebrew letters based on their stoicheia, finding a closer resonance to the Jewish practice using the Hermetic Kircher Tree, which is different from the traditional Jewish kabbalah Tree of Life.  The Golden Dawn’s use of the Tree simply plots each path in a particular order from 11 at the top to 32 at the bottom, and gives each path a letter based on its order in the alphabet.  Kalagni and I agree in that this doesn’t suit the actual significance of the letters, so I should find some way to assign the Greek letters to the Tetractys of Life based on the geometry of the paths themselves.

Unfortunately, the 24 paths on the Tetractys don’t split up well into groups of 12, 7, and 5, so of course I’m going to have to think about this and figure out deeper connections that aren’t immediately apparent.  However, 24 is a nice number and can be easily and evenly divided into many smaller numbers: 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12.  Is it possible to use any of these factors to devise a scheme to divide the zodiac signs, elements, and planets into even groups?  And, if so, is there a coherent way to assign these groups to different groups of the paths? Recall from our meditations on the Greek divine name ΙΑΩ that we were able to divide the paths up into four groups of six: horizontal, right-going, left-going, and hexagram:

The number four immediately brings to mind the lowest rank of the Tetractys, the realm of the four elements: Earth, Water, Air, and Fire.  It might be possible that each of the paths in each set given above shares something about one of the elements in common, but how might we discern what those connections and relationships might be?  Let’s take a closer look at what the paths are actually connecting, again going back to our meditations on ΙΑΩ.

  • The paths that go right increase in activity; they are an expression of the masculine or active principle between levels of manifestation.  The Monad, as it differentiates itself into a Dyad, becomes the active force of Light; as Light differentiates itself, it becomes the active force of Sulfur; as Sulfur differentiates itself, it becomes the active force of Fire.  Fire is the lower-rightmost sphere on the Tetractys, indicating that the active principle as represented by an element is Fire.  The paths that go right are thus best associated with the element of Fire.
  • The paths that go left increase in passivity; they are an expression of the feminine or passive principle between levels of manifestation.  Thus, as the Monad descends into the elemental world, it becomes first Darkness, then Salt, then Earth, which is the lower-leftmost sphere on the Tetractys.  The paths that go left are associated with Earth.
  • The paths that are horizontal change in activity or passivity depending on which direction you’re going, but do not change in a level of manifestation.  The Monad, being undifferentiated, cannot change from itself except into itself; Darkness becomes Light, and vice versa; Salt becomes Mercury, and Mercury becomes Sulfur, and vice versa; Earth becomes Water, Water becomes Air, and so forth.  These horizontal paths demonstrate fluidity in energy while maintaining manifestation, which I understand to be the primary quality of Water, which flows from place to place.  The horizontal paths are associated with Water.
  • The hexagram paths change in diverse ways, some only in manifestation level while preserving the active/passive balance, some in drastic active/passive ways while changing manifestation only slightly.  The ability to change in such dramatic ways that should normally take several paths speaks of the quality of Air to me, since Air allows communication over long distances as well as rising and setting among and filling the gaps between the many heavens.  The hexagram paths are associated with Air.

Okay, so now we have four sets of paths that each share an element.  Thus, there should likewise be a way to divide up the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet into four groups of six by respecting their elemental associations.  We know that there are four letters for the four elements of Earth, Water, Air, and Fire; we also know that there are 12 letters for the signs of the Zodiac, which can be divided up by triplicity (elemental quality) into four groups of three.  Thus, we already have four groups of four letters for a total of 16:

Earth Water Air Fire
Capricorn Cancer Libra Aries
Taurus Scorpio Aquarius Leo
Virgo Pisces Gemini Sagittarius

This leaves seven planets and the leftover element of Spirit for a total of eight more letters.  Spirit, for the purposes of this analysis, can be considered a planet, since Spirit is not truly an element, nor is it truly a planet or zodiac sign, but a type of meta-force that can fit anywhere and accomplish anything as a foundation for other forces to combine and work with it.  Since Spirit is kinda-sorta higher than an element and kinda-sorta lower than a planet, yet can fit amongst either, we can think of these as a group of eight forces, which can be divided up into four groups of two based on their element.  Happily, by our association of the planets with the elements in our alchemical Tetractys of Life, we already know that Saturn is of Earth, Venus of Water, Jupiter of Air, and Mars is of Fire.  This leaves the Moon, Sun, Mercury, and Spirit:

  • The Moon, being on the direct descent from the Monad along the Earth paths to Saturn is given to the element of Earth.
  • Similarly, the Sun is given to Fire, since it’s on the direct descent from the Monad along the Fire paths to Mars.
  • Mercury is present in the center of the Tetractys, able to change in many ways to many other forces but never in the same ways that the Air paths do, leaving Mercury assigned to Water.
  • Spirit, being leftover, is given to Air.  However, Spirit as a raw force can transform anything into drastically different forces, performing miracles and works that no other element can, so this attribution is also fitting.

So now we have four groups of six forces, zodiacal and planetary and elemental, divided up along elemental lines:

Earth Water Air Fire
Saturn Venus Jupiter Mars
Moon Mercury Spirit Sun
Capricorn Cancer Libra Aries
Taurus Scorpio Aquarius Leo
Virgo Pisces Gemini Sagittarius

Alright, so now we need to find a way to assign the forces to the paths.  Of the four groups of paths, the Air sign is the odd one out (since it doesn’t fit the pattern of the other three), so let’s leave that aside for now and focus on the Fire, Water, and Earth paths.  We know that we can divide up these groups of six paths into a kind of partial-tetractys of their own consisting of three ranks (a trictys?): the first row has one path, the second row has two, and the third row has three.  We know that, among each division of our forces, we have one element, two planets, and three signs:

Element Earth Water Air Fire
Planet Saturn Venus Jupiter Mars
Moon Mercury Spirit Sun
Sign Capricorn Cancer Libra Aries
Taurus Scorpio Aquarius Leo
Virgo Pisces Gemini Sagittarius

So, based on this 1/2/3 division of both paths and forces, we can assign the single element to the single path of each group, the two planets to the row of two paths in each group, and the signs to the row of three paths in each group.  Assigning the element to the single path is trivial: give Water to the topmost horizontal path, Fire to the leftmost right-descending path, and Earth to the rightmost left-descending path: Tetractys_paths_elements_AWE We know that we have three sets of two planets, and one set is attributed to the elemental spheres directly on the lowest rank of the Tetractys of Life.  The other three appear higher up, indicating a more unmanifest or rarefied nature.  The Fire and Earth planetary paths have an upper path that link the Dyad and Triad and a lower component that link the Triad and Tetrad.  The lower path is given to the “lower” planet, lower as in the sense of manifestation according to the Tetractys, while the upper path is given to the “higher” planet in the same sense.  Thus, the upper path of Fire is given to the Sun, and the lower path to Mars, and the upper path of Earth is given to the Moon and the lower path to Saturn.  The Water path only has two horizontal components within the same rank, though one connects to a passive reagent and the other to an active reagent.  The path that connects to the passive reagent is considered “lower” in the same sense as above, as the path that connects to the active reagent is considered “higher”; thus, the leftward path of Water is given to Venus, and the rightward one to Mercury.

So far, so good.  This only leaves the three paths of each set to be given to the three signs of the Zodiac for each element.  Each of the three Zodiac sign belonging to the same triplicity (element) is assigned a different quadruplicity, also known as a modality: cardinal, fixed, and mutable.  Cardinal signs initiate and begin; fixed signs maintain and hold; mutable signs degrade and prepare for transformation.

Element Earth Water Air Fire
Planet Saturn Venus Jupiter Mars
Moon Mercury Spirit Sun
Sign Cardinal Capricorn Cancer Libra Aries
Fixed Taurus Scorpio Aquarius Leo
Mutable Virgo Pisces Gemini Sagittarius

It’s a staple of astrology that the fixed signs best represent their element, and we know from our meditations before on the name ΙΑΩ that the central path in the row of three paths “maintains” or holds the same essence as the single path on the far side of the tetractys.  Thus, since that single path represents an element, the middle path on the other side of the tetractys should be the Zodiac sign that best represents that element, i.e. the fixed sign.  Thus, the middle path on each side of the Tetractys should be given to Taurus for the Earth paths, Scorpio for the Water paths, and Leo for the Fire paths: Tetractys_paths_elements_FWE_fixed From this, it remains to assign the cardinal and mutable signs.  Much as how we assigned the “active” planet to the upper or leftward-horizontal path and “passive” planets to the lower or rightward-horizontal paths based on whether they were more manifest or unmanifest in the Tetractys, we can apply a similar method here based on whether a zodiac sign is cardinal (more active) or mutable (more passive).  Thus, as we read the Earth zodiac sign paths from the Monad down to the bottom, we read Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo; as we read the Fire zodiac sign paths from the Monad down to the bottom, we read Aries, Leo, Sagittarius.  The Water paths are more active on the right and more passive on the left, so if we read the Water zodiac sign paths from left to right, we read Pisces, Scorpio, Cancer: Tetractys_paths_signs_FWE Alright!  That covers it for the Fire, Water, and Earth paths of the Tetractys.  That only leaves the confusing hexagram paths of Air, where we can’t use the above system as cleanly anymore.  For one, instead of having three groups of 1, 2, and 3 paths, we have two cyclical sets of 3 paths each.  Both of these cycles have one vertical path, one right-going path, and one left-going path, so neither of them have an imbalance of passivity or activity.  We know that there are three signs of the Zodiac, though, so we can say that the Zodiac signs should all belong on one triangle and the element and two planets (really, the one planet Jupiter and the one meta-element of Spirit) go on the other.  So which should be which?  And, moreover, how do we figure out which line of the zodiac triangle paths is cardinal, fixed, or mutable?

Remember that, in our meditations on the name ΙΑΩ, we linked the long hexagram paths to the different sides of the Tetractys based on how the middle path of the side of the Tetractys linked to the single apex path on the far side.  These long paths then shared the same letter of ΙΑΩ as their shorter rectangular-end paths.  We can apply something similar here, too.  Also remember that 24 is divisible by many numbers, and we’ve so far been thinking about it as 4 × 6.  However, if we link the long paths of the hexagram with the Fire, Water, and Earth sets of lines as we did before with the name ΙΑΩ, we end up with 3 × 8, or three groups of eight paths:

Now, instead of thinking about the groups of paths in terms of four elements, let’s think about them in terms of the three modalities: cardinal, fixed, and mutable.  Cardinal signs are the most active; fixed signs are between active and passive; mutable signs are the most passive.  Thus, if we link these notions of activity and passivity to the three non-Air elements, we get cardinal signs associated with Fire (since they increase in activity), fixed signs with Water (since they hold the level of activity or passivity just as Water maintains manifestation across a rank of the Tetractys), and mutable signs with Earth (since they increase passivity).  Thus, on the triangle that gets the zodiac signs of Air, the paths linked to (at right angles with) the paths of a particular element receive that element’s modality.  So which triangle is the zodiac triangle, and which is the element/planet triangle?

Looking at the triangles, we notice that the one that “points” to the left has a “base” (connecting Light and Air) on the right side of the Tetractys, giving it a foundation of activity tending towards passivity.  Similarly, the triangle that points to the right has a base (connecting Darkness and Water) on the left side, giving it a foundation of passivity tending towards activity.  The type of forces that we’re looking at is the key here: the fixed stars do little on their own besides radiate power, while the planets and elements actively manifest and create far down below.  The fixed stars, then, emit power but do not control it, letting their power and presence be used rather than actively using themselves; the planets and elements emit and radiate their power in the ways they find best for them, acting more than being acted upon.  Thus, the zodiac signs are best given to the triangle pointing to the right, since they’re mostly passive with tendencies towards action, while the planets/elements are best given to the triangle pointing to the left, since they’re mostly active with tendencies towards being acted upon.

So, if the Air signs of the Zodiac are given to the right-pointing triangle, and we know that the vertical line is fixed, the right-going line is mutable, and the left-going line is cardinal, we end up with this arrangement: Tetractys_center_triangle_right_signs Therefore, the left-pointing triangle is given to the forces of Air, Jupiter, and Spirit.  These don’t really fall into the scheme of cardinal/fixed/mutable, but we do know that for the Fire, Water, and Earth sets of paths, the path for the element is always on a “higher register” directly above the fixed sign on the far side of the Tetractys.  If we apply that same logic here, we see that the fixed Air sign Aquarius is on the vertical path of the right-pointing triangle, so the element of Air itself should go on the vertical path of the left-pointing triangle.  Between the planet Jupiter and the quasi-element Spirit, we can argue that Spirit is the more malleable, pervasive, and changeable than the firm and lofty power of Jupiter, which would make Jupiter more active than Spirit.  Since the only two choices we have left here are for a cardinal-active path and mutable-passive path, that would set Jupiter on the path opposite Libra and Spirit on the path opposite Gemini, with the result like this: Tetractys_center_triangle_left_forces And that’s it!  All told, now we have all 24 paths assigned to the 12 signs of the Zodiac, the seven planets, the metaelement Spirit, and the four classical elements in a logical and coherent manner.  This means that we can finally associate each path of the Tetractys of Life with a letter, and with it a number and stoicheic force, in a manner like the following:



You’ll note that there’s some criss-cross of the paths in the center where the hexagram paths overlap with the others.  In cases like this, the path on top is going to have its associated letter’s numerical value odd (if the one on the bottom is even) or greater than the one on the bottom (if they’re both odd or both even).  To determine an odd number or even number, I ignore the magnitude of the number and reduce it to a number 1 through 9; thus, Kappa, given the value of 20, is reduced to 2, so Kappa is even.  Likewise, Tau, given the value of 300, is reduced to 3, which makes Tau odd.

For the more tabularly inclined, here’s a helpful table plotting out each of the 10 spheres and the 24 paths of the Tetractys of Life, along with a bit about the Pythagorean virtues associated with each sphere on the Tetractys:

Sphere Lambdoma Alchemy Cosmological Virtue
1 1 Monad Infinite Light Henosis
2 2 Darkness Mundus Intuition
3 3 Light Fixed Stars Love
4 4 Salt Moon Satiety
5 6 Mercury Mercury Detachment
6 9 Sulfur Sun Submission
7 8 Earth Saturn Fortitude
8 12 Water Venus Prudence
9 18 Air Jupiter Temperance
10 27 Fire Mars Justice
Path Letter Number Stoicheia Spheres
1 Α 1 Moon 3 5
2 Β 2 Aries 1 3
3 Γ 3 Taurus 2 4
4 Δ 4 Gemini 2 6
5 Ε 5 Mercury 5 6
6 Ζ 7 Cancer 9 10
7 Η 8 Venus 4 5
8 Θ 9 Earth 6 9
9 Ι 10 Sun 2 5
10 Κ 20 Leo 3 6
11 Λ 30 Virgo 4 7
12 Μ 40 Libra 6 8
13 Ν 50 Scorpio 8 9
14 Ξ 60 Water 2 3
15 Ο 70 Mars 5 9
16 Π 80 Sagittarius 6 10
17 Ρ 100 Capricorn 1 2
18 Σ 200 Aquarius 2 8
19 Τ 300 Pisces 7 8
20 Υ 400 Jupiter 3 4
21 Φ 500 Air 3 9
22 Χ 600 Fire 4 8
23 Ψ 700 Spirit 4 9
24 Ω 800 Saturn 5 8

As it turns out (and this was entirely unplanned), this is the tenth post in the series on developing a Greek kabbalah, kampala, Pythagorean framework, tetractean theurgy, or whatever.  In Pythagorean mysticism, the number ten itself is holy, being the number of completion and the number of points in the tetractys, as well as being a unity of a higher order (tens instead of ones).  This post then completes the first cycle of this study, where we now have the basic framework, tools, and understanding needed to progress further in working this system and seeing where it can take us.  At the beginning of this project, I wanted a kabbalah-like system of theurgy and mysticism that would replace the use of Jewish kabbalah or Hermetic qabbalah in place of something that felt closer to what I actually study and practice, and outlined a series of goals to that end:

  1. Provide a cosmological framework that allows for the ten spheres of the cosmos (Earth, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Fixed Stars, Divinity)
  2. Provide a cosmological map that allows for traversing the spheres of the cosmos with paths that connect them together
  3. Provide a mapping between the paths of the map with the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet
  4. Provide a means of starting from awareness on the Earth sphere (where the majority of us live and operate on a day-to-day basis) and reaching any other sphere by means of the paths, especially that of Divinity
  5. Provide a description of the creation of the cosmos by means of the cosmological framework and mapping
  6. Provide a means of correspondence to link other forces, concepts, objects, etc. to the paths and spheres on the framework and map
  7. Be rooted primarily in Neoplatonic and Pythagorean thought, referencing Hermeticism as necessary without relying on explicitly Jewish principles that are not also present in Hermeticism

How did we do?  For the most part, we hit nearly all of these targets, and most of them dead center in our targets.  The only things that really need to be explored now are, well, the Tetractys itself.  Sure, we’ve analyzed it and meditated on it and written a lot about it, but all this has been an intellectual exercise.  Now that we have a map of the cosmos, we need to start exploring the cosmos with the help of our map.  All this is theoretical, based on relationships between alchemical and astrological principles, and now we need to put the theory to the test.  How is it that we can use the Tetractys of Life to rise through the spheres, both of the heavens as well as of reality itself, and refine ourselves to reach the One?  For that, we now get to apply our meditations and go deeper into new worlds.  In the future, as I discover more about this system and apply any necessary tweaks or refinements, or perhaps come up with a better name than kampala or Greek kabbalah (though I like the ring of “tetractyeon” more and more) I’ll discuss more about it, but I’m going to bring this series to a close for now.  As one of my favorite games has said, perhaps the ending has not yet been written.

Also, I want to give a shoutout to my good friends Rev. Michael Strojan and Kalagni for helping me out with this.  Without them, I’d still be fighting over some of the petty details and quibbling about path arrangement and such, but their vast knowledge and sharp ingenuity really guided me along the way.  Guys, thank you.

Towards a Greek Kabbalah: The Divine Name IAŌ on the Tetractys

We’ve come a good way in developing a cosmic framework and map for ourselves based on Pythagorean principles, as well as coming to understand the mysteries of the Greek letters in their roles as entities and functions of the creation of the cosmos.  I also hope you’ve kept up on your meditations, dear reader, since they’ll only ever come of more and more usefulness as we continue this path.  Last time, we analyzed the geometry of the tetractys and devised a set of 24 paths that connect the different units on the diagram, allowing us to think in terms of processes between stages of manifestation and existence in tandem with and instead of thinking of the cosmos as a series of levels or plateaus.  I want to take a brief segue here before we go onto ascribing the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet to the paths, instead so that we can talk about using a subset of the paths and how we can use them in meditation of one of the most commonly-seen names of God throughout Hermetic and Western magic for the past 2000 years: that of IAŌ, or ΙΑΩ.

This name has been declared mystical for so many reasons, not least because it has an etymological origin in the Tetragrammaton of the Jews.  Hebrew didn’t have a means for marking vowels, so all things were only marked by consonants; some of the letters pulled double-duty as vowels, but the practice varies from dialect to dialect, and the use of dots and lines (neqqudot) to denote vowels is a relatively recent creation.  Thus, the pronunciation of the divine name spelled Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh, or YHVH, has long since been forgotten, although there’s good reason to think it was pronounced something like “Yahweh” or “Yahwoh”.  The Ionic Greek alphabet has no means to describe a “w” sound (since Digamma was obsolete) or a “h” sound (since Attic Greek lost this sound in its development), and the only means to describe a “y” sound would be to use Iōta.  The use of Vav-Heh, VH, on the end of the Tetragrammaton likely produced a lengthened “o” or low “uh” sound, and the closest agreement to that in Ionic Greek script would be Ōmega.  Thus, the Tetragrammaton was likely written in Greek as a trigrammatic word ΙΑΩ, “ya-oh”, though it might be pronounced by those in the know as “ya-woh” or “ya-hoh”.

However, even considering its Judaic origin, the rules of grammatomancy give this word a special meaning, too.  Each of these letters is a vowel, and each vowel represents a planet; Iōta represents the Sun, Alpha the Moon, and Ōmega Saturn.  Saturn is the most distant of all the planets, and the Moon the closest, with the Sun representing the balance and middle of the planetary heavens.  Thus, in the word ΙΑΩ, we encapsulate the entirety of the heavens by means of its middle, beginning, and end.  Some magicians expand this into the full name ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ, representing all seven planets, but ΙΑΩ remains the original name of heavenly power.  I’ve also read further explanations about the holiness of this name, relating to the Gnostic creation of the cosmos by the Sophia Achamoth exclaiming ΙΑΩ when prevented from reentering the Pleroma, solar or Tipharethic associations in the Golden Dawn, and lunar-solar connections besides these entirely.  It remains that ΙΑΩ is a divine name worthy of our attention, however, and we can analyze its letters on our Tetractys of Life in a way that benefits our meditation.

First, let’s consider a subset of the paths we developed last time, focusing only on the horizontal paths between the units of a given level on the tetractys:


On the first row, there is only one unit, the Monad.  There are no other units on this row; the Monad is alone, single, undifferentiated, simple.  There is no connection, no relation, no path among other points in this row since there is only one point; a connection can only exist with at least two points.  The Monad describes that which Is, but never Becomes; no relationship can exist if there is nothing to relate to.  By contrast, the other rows have multiple points, and between each pair of points there exists a relationship; the Dyad has one possible connection, the Triad two, and the Tetrad three.  Each point can communicate with its equals, but only those that are nearby enough or close enough in understanding to communicate; thus, the two far ends of the Triad cannot communicate with each other except by means of the center.

Compare this to actual human conversation.  When there is only one person, no speech will communicate anything, since there is nobody to communicate with.  There is only ever the single person alone, so speech becomes as useful as silence; communication becomes a concept that simply cannot apply in this situation.  On the other hand, consider two people together; they can communicate between themselves.  With three, they can communicate together as well, but only if they are in a harmony where each idea communicated between them flows amongst themselves equally; if two people try to shout over each other, the third drops out of the conversation, so a harmony must be established where each talks to the other by means of the third to mediate and further elevate the conversation.  Four people produce this but with even more tension or instability, though again they can let ideas flow between themselves by means of each as a mediator to allow for constant change and refinement.

Each path in this pared-down Tetractys, then, indicates a relationship between the forces present within a certain level of manifestation, and we can ascribe one of the letters of the name ΙΑΩ to each path.  By this, we understand what the relationship becomes between each force within a level, as well as how the name of ΙΑΩ can illumine us in the work of ΙΑΩ, as well as expanding on our knowledge of the letters themselves present in this schema.  However, each level of the tetractys will have a different name corresponding to the number of paths present in each level.

The first level of the Monad has no paths.  Thus, there can be no letter ascribed to this level of manifestation, since this level is all about the Unmanifest.  If there is no letter, there is no speech; this level is about silence, much as I’ve discussed about the Hymns of Silence.  The Hymns of Silence are the deepest, ineffable, unutterable prayers and praise we can offer to the One, and stand present and behind everything we say but cannot itself be spoken.

The second level of the Dyad has one path, and I give this path to the letter Alpha.  Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and so represents beginnings and initiations of all kinds.  This level of the tetractys represents the beginning formation of creation, with the differentiation of Unity into two Differences, a Positive and Negative, Light and Dark, Male and Female.  This is the first step in the creation of the cosmos, and is the first time we have anything besides a single Unity; rather, we can now have our first Union.  Some ancient Greek philosophers even considered Alpha to be a symbol of the Monad itself, since by isopsephy Α = 1.  Further, when writing Greek, the use of Alpha as a prefix (“α-“) signified “not”, much as Latin “un-” or “in-“.  Alpha here indicates what things are not, which is how we differentiate things into two groups; something is Light or it is not Light, thus Darkness; something is Dark or it is not Dark, thus Light.  The Monad both is and is not everything and anything, since it cannot be described in any particular or finite terms, but it is by means of Alpha that we can begin to differentiate.

The third level of the Triad has two paths, and to these I ascribe the letters Alpha and Ōmega.  Now we have two letters indicating two relationships, and these are respectively the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.  Alpha initiates and Ōmega ends, the Beginning Principle and Ultimate Conclusion of all things.  However, which path receives Alpha and which Ōmega?  I’d contend that both of them get both letters, and each becomes the subject of its own meditation.  On the one hand, we have the name (read left to right) ΑΩ, the Beginning and the End, proceeding from the left (passive Salt) to the center (hermaphoditic Mercury), beginning a process of refinement from the base to the sublime, and continuing on to the rightmost (active Sulfur), ending the same process.  On the other hand, if we use ΩΑ, we start from the right to the center, starting a procedure of manifestation and materialization, starting with pure spirit and ending with pure body.  Alpha and Ōmega could as easily represent either path here, and we can get more information if we figure out what ΑΩ or ΩΑ mean in Greek.  They both have an isopsephic value of 801, but ΑΩ can be translated as “breathe” or “hurt”, while ΩΑ can be translated as “eggs”.  The former can be understood as a process of respiration or mortification of the flesh to as to obtain new and true life (ascending to the One), while the latter can be interpreted as the process of generation, formation, and ensouling of material forms into new life down here (descending from the One).

The fourth level of the Tetrad has three paths, and these receive all three letters Iōta, Alpha, and Ōmega. However, which paths get which letters?  Alpha receives the middle path, between elemental Air and Water, since it falls under the topmost horizontal path between Darkness and Light in the Dyad; the path between Water and Air is a “lower register” of the path between Darkness and Light.  As for Iōta and Ōmega, a similar case exists with Alpha and Ōmega in the Triad above it; Iōta can be given to either path, and Ōmega to the other.  On the one hand, reading from left to right, we have ΙΑΩ; on the other, ΩΑΙ.  In either case, we now have representations of the whole heavens and the process of manifestation and becoming and existing in full among the lowest level of elements, the level of substance in the Tetractys.  Going from left to right, ΙΑΩ indicates a Solar beginning, a Lunar middle, and a Saturnine end: a process of bright enlivening followed by maturity and growth followed by decrepitude and passing away.  This describes how something of base material Earth becomes living Water, which then becomes spacious Air, and then luminous Fire, burning away to dust and out of this world.  Reading ΙΑΩ from right to left, however, we then see how pure ethereal Fire becomes gifted with sense and ability into communicative Air, which then condenses into emotional and sensitive Water, which further consolidates into physical, tangible Earth.  In either direction, we begin to see how creation and destruction, or materialization and sublimation, takes place in this level as it does a higher level.

So now we’ve analyzed the name ΙΑΩ according to a division of its letters based on the horizontal paths of the tetractys.  However, the analysis doesn’t stop here; note that there are two more sets of these types of paths on the tetractys that we’ve yet to inspect: those that go down and to the right to one’s nearest neighbor, and those that go down and to the left to one’s nearest neighbor:

These have the same types of paths as before, but this time they’re on different “rows” of the tetractys.  I claim that each one of these, the horizontal set, the right-down, and the left-down set, each can be used in a type of meditation on the name ΙΑΩ but with different “seed” letters.  For instance, we used Alpha as the seed letter for the path that connected the Dyad, then augmented Ōmega in the Triad, then augmented Iōta in the Tetrad.  These other two tetractyes (yes, that is the plural of tetractys) can be set up such that they each have a different seed letter.  But which should be which?  Consider that, as we descend from the Monad to the right, we increase in a level of materialization (increasing the amount of differentiation and the ways of becoming more complex) but in a more active way: from the Monad we reach Light, then Sulfur, then Fire.  If we start at the Monad and descend to the left, we increase in materialization but in a more passive way: from the Monad we reach Darkness, then Salt, then Earth.  Taking a combination of left and right paths as we descend can yield different combinations of activity and passivity.  Thus, right-going paths increase in activity, and left-going paths decrease in passivity.  Horizontal paths, however, change the level of passivity or activity without changing in materialization.

So, which of these two tetractyes should start with Iōta and which with Ōmega?  If we use grammatomancy for this, Iōta  is assigned to the Sun, an active and masculine planet and associated with Sulfur, and Ōmega is assigned to Saturn, a passive and feminine planet associated with Earth.  Thus, the right-going tetractys should start with Iōta as the seed vowel (connecting the spheres of Salt and Water), while the left-going tectractys should start with Ōmega (connecting the spheres of Sulfur and Air).  The last connected row of these tetractyes would have that same seed letter in the middle path, with the other two letters around it; the right-going tetractys could have its tetradic paths read as ΩΙΑ or ΑΙΩ, and likewise the left-going tetractys could have its tetradic paths read as ΙΩΑ or ΑΩΙ.  As for the triadic paths, however, which should be the letter we augment to the original seed?  If we started with Alpha and augmented it with Ōmega in the horizontal tetractys, Ōmega is the next-most passive letter to Alpha, since Alpha began the process of differentiation in that tetractys and Ōmega provided a means for it to continue.  Thus, for the right-going tetractys with the seed syllable Iōta, we should augment it with Alpha, since Alpha is more passive than Iōta but not as passive as Ōmega (note how Alpha follows Iōta in the word ΙΑΩ).  Conversely, for the left-going tetractys with the seed letter Ōmega, we augment it with Iōta, because at the most extreme end of passivity that Ōmega represents, the only thing that can counter it is extreme activity, represented by Iōta.

Thus, for the three tetractyes, we have the following sequences of divine names:

  • Horizontal: Α, ΑΩ and ΩΑ, ΙΑΩ andΩΑΙ
  • Right-going: Ι, ΙΑ and ΑΙ, ΩΙΑ and ΑΙΩ
  • Left-going: Ω, ΩΙ and ΙΩ, ΙΩΑ and ΑΩΙ

If you’re confused, here’s what they look like graphically:

Now we have a set of meditations on the names of God, which are permutations and combinations based on the name ΙΑΩ, for 18 paths of our tetractys.  But there are six paths leftover, aren’t there?  They’re the ones that connect the center spheres on the Tetractys of Life.  Can we develop a method of meditating on the name ΙΑΩ for them?  They don’t follow the same rules of being divided into groups of one, two, and three paths each based on tetractic rank, but we can figure out a system based on the horizontal, right-going, and left-going tetractyes all the same.  First, consider these leftover six paths:


Note how, if we make a hexagon instead of a hexagram, we get the following:


Remember anything special about these paths?  These are the paths that have a single letter attributed to them of the name ΙΑΩ, either the seed vowel itself (if it’s part of the Dyad rank) or the central vowel in the trigrammatic Name (if it’s part of the Tetrad rank):


We can form the six hexagram paths by connecting the paths that share the same vowel:

Seeing the relationship between these paths, we can assign the letter that forms the upper and lower boundaries of each rectangle to the paths that form the sides.  Thus, because the two vertical paths form a rectangle with the top and bottom paths given to Alpha, these two vertical paths are also given to Alpha.  The same logic goes for the other four paths here, giving us another two cyclical sets of three paths, each given to one of the vowels of the Name:

With these paths, we lack a single-letter name and a two-letter name, but we have all possible three-letter names to meditate on depending on where and how we want to start.  More importantly, these paths form a cycle, a loop that can be continued on indefinitely, as opposed to the other path names that terminated.  Yet, by connecting them back to the other three tetractyes, we can form even more complex names that can consist of any combination of the letters Alpha, Iōta, and Ōmega.  Yet, because these paths cycle indefinitely with no distinct start nor end, it’s difficult to say whether these particular paths can be used for vocal meditation.  Rather, these paths indicate the many faces and paths of the name ΙΑΩ as a whole, a unit, a process that, though it may appear distinct, forms part of an undifferentiated Whole, the Monad.

This fourth set of paths on the tetractys is especially interesting because these paths don’t follow the same rules as the other paths that “stick to their rank”, as in the horizontal tetractys, nor do they indicate a part of manifestation from or sublimation to an original source, as in the right-going or left-going tetractyes.  Rather, these hexagram paths indicate something else entirely, a kind of communication or hidden link between forces of different rank and, sometimes, of different levels of activity and passivity, that can bring one to a whole new kind of understanding entirely that wouldn’t be obvious from the more rational or generational models of cosmic gnosis.  This helps us understand the difference in the types of paths that we’ve seen, not only to better understand the nature of change, ascent, and descent within the Tetractys of Life, but also to understand the paths themselves and how they can be grouped in different ways.  We’ll continue this soon as we begin to look at how we can use this foundation to build a set of correspondences between the paths themselves and the Greek letters.

And with that, I leave you once more with our Tetractys that with all its connections to meditate on using the name ΙΑΩ in all its parts and permutations:


Towards a Greek Kabbalah: Plotting Paths on the Tetractys

So now we have a basic map of creation based on the tetractys, using a combination of Pythagorean numerology, Neoplatonic cosmology, and Renaissance alchemy to describe how things come to be.  In the beginning, there is the undifferentiated, divinely simple Monad, from which all things ultimately come.  From this Monad comes a Dyad, the Differentiation between Light and Dark, or Heaven and Mundus.  From these two principles comes a Triad, the three Alchemical Reagents of Sulfur, Mercury, and Salt.  From these three reagents come the four Elements of Fire, Air, Water, and Earth.  Collectively, they form the basic building blocks, processes, and guiding principles of all creation, starting from a simple and complete One to a myriad of forms through differentiation, change, and substance.  It’s through the unification of these substances by means of alchemical processes and knowledge, or better, gnosis of principles that we reverse the process of creation to reattain Union, to ascend back to the Monad and Source.  However, these units on the tetractys tell only half the story; they’re centers and ideas unto themselves, but on their own they can’t do much.  They’re cut off from each other and don’t describe how things actually become, just that they do.

This is where the other half of the Tetractys of Life comes from: we have the stages themselves, now we just need the processes that allow things to progress or regress from stage to stage.  These paths, much as the paths on the Tree of Life in Jewish kabbalah or Hermetic qabbalah, describe how power and essence flows from one stage to the next in order to produce creation or guide henosis, and this is where we combine our meditations on the Greek alphabet with those on the tetractys of emanations.  However, in order to make use of them, we first need to actually figure out what the paths themselves should be and what spheres they should connect on the tetractys.  Also, as a side note, let’s start calling the individual units of the tetractys, when using them as alchemical/planetary concepts, as spheres.  Just to make that clear.

So, we have our unconnected Tetractys of Life.  For simplicity, I’ll use the alchemical version:

Alchemical Tetractys

We know that all things are ultimately connected to and come from the Monad.  However, we run into a problem that’s similar to one on the Tree of Life in kabbalah; we can’t reach many of the spheres directly from the Monad since they’re blocked by other spheres.  For instance, although we might want to connect the sphere of Light with that of Fire, we must first travel through the sphere of Sulfur.  Thus, without trying to “skip” the spheres that block its way, the Monad can only connect to the two spheres immediately below it (Light and Darkness) as well as Mercury in the third row (since that way isn’t blocked by another sphere.

In fact, if we simply take an abstract tetractys and plot all possible paths on it, we end up with a set of paths like this:

Possible Paths on the Tetractys

While it looks nice and is as fully connected as we can get, it contains 33 paths, which is nine paths too many for our needs.  Remember, we need to aim for a set of 24, one for each of the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet, which themselves encompass all number.  Honestly, I dwelled on this for a good few days, trying to figure out how to best create a set of paths with a coherent logic; some made sense in some ways but felt jarringly off, and others just couldn’t add up to 24 even though the logic was nice.  Eventually, I settled on a way that made sense and had the right number of paths, as well as feeling “right”.

So, let’s start with something simpler than a fully connected set of paths and trying to delete off the tetractys.  First, consider the tetractys itself:


We know that, in the process of generation, the Monad (the single dot in the first row) first produces a Dyad; from a divinely simple and undifferentiated Source comes a distinction, an observer and observed, a Mind and a Word, a Creator and Creature, an active and a passive, a positive and a negative.  This gives us our first two paths on the tetractys:

Tetractys_paths1Since all things contain the Monad within themselves and emulate the actions of the Monad in their own limited way, every point on the tetractys that has a lower level can be given the same two paths.  This is the same as in the generation of Plato’s Lambda (based on geometric series of 2 and 3 and their intermingled products), or Pascal’s Triangle (which is based on the addition of units).  This, then, gives us a set of 12 paths.  We’re halfway done!


Next, we assign horizontal paths between the units within the same row.  This connects the diversity into a whole order, a cosmos, within each row, reflecting the indivisibility of the Monad when differentiation and division are present in the world.  This gives us another six paths for a total of 18:


At this point, it’s hard to say what next needs to be connected.  Do we add in paths from the outermost points of the tetractys to the center?  Do we fully connect the points of the fourth row to the third?  Do we connect the second row to the fourth with vertical lines?  This is where we need to start thinking about the relationships between the things that the tetractys represents.  So, let’s take a look at what our alchemical tetractys looks like at this partially-connected stage:


One option for adding on a set of three paths would be to connect the spheres of the Monad, of Earth, and of Fire to the center sphere of Mercury.  After all, Mercury is common to all things and is present in all substance, right?  While it’s a convenient reason, it doesn’t actually hold up.  First, the Monad doesn’t actually have to connect to anything except the two spheres right below it; as an undifferentiated One, the only thing it can possibly do to become anything more complex is to become Two, after which Two can become Three.  So, the Monad shouldn’t connect to Mercury, although we might consider Mercury to be a “lower register” of the Monad in a more manifest way, being a hermaphroditic Reagent between the polarities of Salt and Sulfur.  For a similar reason, Earth and Fire shouldn’t connect to Mercury, either, since Mercury isn’t actually in them; Earth is the most passive of all the elements, being something like the caput mortuum, or the worthless remains or “dead head” without any Spirit left in them; likewise, Fire is already too hot for Mercury, and is what takes spirit out; there’s no volatile Mercury in Fire because Fire is the action of Spirit.

Another option to add a set of six paths, which would bring us up to 24, would be to connect the Monad to the fourth row to Water and Air, Earth to Light and Sulfur, and Fire to Darkness and Salt.  However, if anything, this is worse than the previous attempt, since all these forces are even more distantly connected and different from each other.  So it’d seem like the outermost points of the tetractys are too “extreme” to be connected any further than the two paths they each already have.  These nine possible paths, connecting each extreme point to the center point as well as to the two center points on far side of the tetractys, aren’t going to work for our purposes.

So, what do we know?  We know of 18 paths we should definitely have, and of nine we shouldn’t.  We have 18 + 9 = 27 paths we’ve considered so far, and 33 – 27 = 6 paths we haven’t yet.  What are those leftover six paths?


Six paths revolving around the center from the median two points on each side of the tetractys, altogether forming a hexagram.  Cute, isn’t it?  These last six paths are going to serve us well, but they’re also going to take a much different role in future analyses of the Tetractys of Life.  So, if we fully connect our alchemical Tetractys of Life with these extra six paths, we get the following:


Here, we have the median two spheres of every side of the tetractys connected to six other spheres, making these spheres all fully connected while leaving the extreme spheres connected only to their most closely associated concepts, both on their own row as well as to their neighbors.  This allows anything “middling” and not extreme (pure unmanifest, base passivity, base activity) to become anything else, including on a different level of manifestation.  For instance, Darkness is able to descend into the purely dark reagent Salt or the hermaphroditic reagent Mercury, but can also be involved in the creation of the dark (feminine) element Water as well as the active reagent Sulfur.  Darkness becoming Water makes sense, as does its corresponding opposite of Light becoming Air, since based on the structure of the tetractys we can claim that Water and Air are “lower registers” of Darkness and Light, much as Mercury is of the Monad itself.  Darkness becoming Sulfur, though?  It seems a little odd, but I claim that this works because the Three Reagents come from both the Two Principles, as a balance needs to be struck within each instead of solely by means of Mercury.  Similar reasons apply for Light being connected to Salt, Salt to Air, and Sulfur to Water.

So, with all of this done, we now have 24 paths on our Tetractys of Life.  Each path represents an ability to shift or change, a process between the stages or ingredients that the individual spheres on the Tetractys represents.  Some spheres cannot be connected to each other because of the need for intermediate stages (a path is interrupted by another sphere between the ultimate origin and destination spheres), or because a sphere is too extreme to be connected to another (a path cannot connect the outermost points of the Tetractys except to its two closest neighbors).  Now that we know of the possible means of transitioning between spheres on the Tetractys, we now have an even stronger tool at our disposal for meditation: the ability to meditatively or contemplatively explore the transitions themselves as processes of change between the stages indicated by the spheres.  While we haven’t gotten into the assignment of letters to the paths just yet, there’s still more analysis to be done on the different ways to divide the paths based on geometry and position, which will help to inform us on how to assign the letters to the paths as well as to guide us in meditation of divine concepts and divine names.

Oh, and if you’d like a more complete Tetractys of Life map that combines both alchemical and astrological symbols, here you go:


Towards a Greek Kabbalah: Emanations of Creation on the Tetractys

Realizing that the tetractys is pretty much the glyph I want to use for kampala wasn’t an immediate realization.  I know I wanted something like the Tree of Life from kabbalah with its ten sephiroth so nicely arranged, but of course I didn’t want to appropriate it either without making sure it was what I needed.  However, I recalled that the tetractys was another glyph of ten units that could easily describe the creation of the world, so I immediately switched to that.  One part of the problem was solved; the next was how to arrange the emanations of creation on the tetractys itself.  If the tetractys is a combination of ten units arranged into four rows, then there should be a way to describe the emanation of creation to each unit on the tetractys in an ordered way.  Since the system of emanation I’m most familiar with involves the ten heavens (Earth, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Stars, and the Source-God-Good), I decided to try my hand at arranging them in a way similar to how they’re arranged on the Tree of Life, in a top down and ordered manner.  Thus, if we assign the spheres of the cosmos to the units of the tetractys starting at the top and going down, left-to-right within a row, we get an image like this:

Naive Planetary Tetractys

Simple and straightforward.  However, there are significant problems with this.  Sure, God is at the top, which fits the nature of God as Monad or Unity.  The sphere of the fixed stars and that of Saturn are directly below, which is much like the positioning of their respective sephiroth of Chokmah and Binah on the Tree of Life.  Beyond that, though, things get weird; the Sun is off to one side instead of in the center where it probably should be in this system, and Earth is way over in the bottom right corner of the tetractys.  Honestly, nothing on this setup looked appealing to me, especially since it conflicted with other planetary relationships I had already known and studied, or even allowed for the possibility of.  This was too bizarre to feel “right” in any sense.

Okay, so maybe that wasn’t the method I should’ve used.  Let’s try another way, starting from a different perspective.  Part of the tetractys’ appeal was due to its mathematical applications, one of which is known as Plato’s Lambda, or the Lambdoma, so named because it takes the form of a lambda (Λ).  In Plato’s Timaeus, which is his treatise on Pythagorean cosmology, he describes the creation of the cosmos by a Demiurge by taking “strips” of creation and applying two mathematical sequences to it, the geometrical series based on 2 and the geometrical series based on 3.


If we start at 1 at the top and go left to 2, we keep doubling the next number in the sequence, so 1 becomes 2, 2 becomes 4, and 4 becomes 8.  If we start at 1 at the top and go right to 3, we keep tripling the next number in the sequence, so 1 becomes 3, 3 becomes 9, and 9 becomes 27.  The left side is a sequence of even numbers, and the right a sequence of odd numbers.  The Pythagoreans considered even numbers female or passive and odd numbers male or active, which we can still see vestiges of in modern numerology (cf. the Tarot, where trump I is the Magician and II the High Priestess).  However, 1 was neither odd nor even, so 2 was the first even number and 3 the first odd number, hence their use in starting their progressions.  If we fill in the blanks, so to speak, in the Lambdoma with extra numbers based on the Tetractys, where a new number is the product of the two numbers above it, we get 6 in the third row (being the product of 2 × 3), and 12 and 18 in the fourth row (2 × 6 and 6 × 3, respectively):

Filled Lambdoma

The original lambdoma has seven numbers: 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 8, and 27.  Three of these are odd, three are even, and one is neither odd nor even.  The number seven recalls the seven planets, and I’ve seen a system of dividing the planets where three are in one category, three are in another, and one is in neither group.  This is called sect, which refers to whether a planet is more powerful in the sky or under the earth either in the daytime or at nighttime.  This is a type of polarity much like femininity or masculinity of a planet, and the planets are divided into three groups like this:

  • Diurnal: Sun, Jupiter, Saturn
  • Nocturnal: Moon, Venus, Mars
  • Hermaphroditic: Mercury

If diurnality is equitable to masculinity and nocturnality to femininity, then diurnal planets can be ascribed to odd numbers and nocturnal planets to even numbers.  The Sun and Moon are the most diurnal and nocturnal, respectively, with Jupiter and Venus following them, and Saturn and Mars following them.  Mercury, being neither diurnal nor nocturnal, adapts to either; it can be given a value of 1 in the lambdoma.  Thus, if we use the original lambdoma to plot the seven planets, we get a figure like this:

Planetary Lambdoma by Sect

However, that still leaves three slots in the tetractys to be filled in, and having everything come from Mercury at the top isn’t quite true, especially when Mercury can obtain a sect depending on whether it rises just before or just after the Sun.  Thus, if we move Mercury down to where 6 is in the completed lambdoma (the combination of an even and an odd number, suitable for Mercury), we have an empty slot at the top for the Monad.  This leaves two more slots at the bottom, which can be reserved for the Earth in slot 12 (2 × 2 × 3, more female than male) and the Stars in slot 18 (2 × 3 × 3, more male than female):

Filled Planetary Lambdoma

While this arrangement makes sense, having the Earth and Stars in the same row as Saturn and Mars still didn’t feel right, and trying to draw connections between everything felt wrong.  Mercury being in the middle, being the communicator of the gods and a middling connecting force, felt right, as did the Moon on the left side and Sun on the right, but this doesn’t agree with the standard emanationist models I’m used to.  After all, shouldn’t the sphere of the fixed stars, the ultimate barrier between this world and God, be higher than the Sun and Moon?  Should the Sun and Moon, luminaries though they might be, be representative of the two principles of Duality?  I was stumped, honestly.  Further, Plato in the Timaeus groups the planets into two groups based on their relative speed: three that move roughly together (Sun, Venus, Mercury) and four that move with unequal motion to the first three and amongst themselves (Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn).  This was in the same section as the use of the lambdoma and mathematical progressions of 2 and 3, so surely a better grouping could be made that would exemplify this.

It was at this point that I started getting a headache and an odd itch on my back, and not just any itch, but something that didn’t feel too physical.  I recalled what I had on my back: the Golden Chain of Homer, a tattoo that symbolically describes Man’s creation from and evolution to God using alchemy.  It was when I realized that the Chain is a sequence of ten stages that I facepalmed and reinspected this tattoo I got a while back and thought it so important to be inscribed onto my mortal coil.  I reread the book available to me on the Golden Chain, and that’s when I found this description of principles:

Elements of AlchemyWould you look at that?  It’s an organization of different alchemical principles: four elements, three reagents, two principles, and one source.  Arranged in a one-two-three-four pattern, a tetractys.  Who’d’ve thunk it, really.  The realization that my tattoo was a key to the system I’m working on gave me a sort of nauseating tremble, but that’s revelation for you, I suppose.

So, maybe my trying to base a Tetractys of Life on planetary principles right off the bat was misguided; perhaps I should start from here, since this pretty much points out the path ahead.  If, instead of using planetary principles to describe sequential emanation through the tetractys, I use the notion of different stages of development in different levels of manifestation, perhaps a more reasonable tetractys layout could be found.  The diagram above needed some tweaking, however; Nitrum (Male, Light) and Fire were on the left side, while Salt (Female, Darkness) and Earth were on the right, and the Lambdoma has the two sides switched so that the left side was feminine and the right side masculine.  Further, Mercury was on the male side when I feel it would more properly be in the middle, since (to me) Sulfur speaks more forcefully than Mercury, and mercury more than Salt.  I’ve also seen other diagrams presenting Mercury to be completely feminine and Salt to be in the middle, so it would seem like these principles are still up for debate in alchemical terminology.  To my mind and for my analysis, I’m establishing Mercury as between the purely active reagent and purely passive reagent.  So, taking these alchemical principles together, I developed the following alchemical tetractys:

Alchemical Tetractys

Note that in this diagram, the Sun symbol stands for Light, Activity, or Masculinity, and the Moon symbol stands for Darkness, Passivity, or Femininity, not their corresponding planets.  Mercury stands for the alchemical reagent of Mercury, but we’ll get to more on that in a bit.

Okay, so now it might be more possible to assign the planetary spheres of the cosmos to the tetractys based on their corresponding alchemical forces.  Obviously, the Monad would stay the Monad, and alchemical Mercury would likely best remain planetary Mercury.  I didn’t like having the Sun and Moon remain representatives of the two principles of Light and Dark, but instead decided that they’d fit better as the alchemical reagents of Sulfur and Salt, respectively.  In this way, we have the most Light of the planets, the most Dark of the planets, and the hermaphroditic Median of the planets, all together in the same row.  This left six spheres left: the four Planets, Earth (or Mundus, to differentiate it from the element Earth), and the Stars.  To me, having Mundus and the Stars represent the principles of Darkness and Light, or Female and Male, made more sense than using the Moon and the Sun; there’d be the lowest and passive receptacle of creation, compared to the highest and most ethereal initiator of creation.  Thus, Mundus and Stars became the two principles at top.

This left the last four nonluminary planets to be given to the four elements.  Saturn, being the darkest and coldest of the planets, seems fitting to be the natural progression from the Moon on the left (more feminine), so Saturn would be attributed to the element Earth.  Likewise, Mars would be given to Fire, since Mars is the hottest of the planets and befits a more masculine progression from the Sun.  This leaves Venus and Jupiter, the former of which is cooler than Jupiter according to Agrippa (book I, chapter 26 and chapter 28), even though they’re both airy planets (book II, chapter 7).  Assigning Jupiter, a diurnal and masculine planet, and Venus, a nocturnal and feminine planet, to either Water or Air was something of a sticking point for me, since I could argue for either arrangement with a variety of reasons.  I originally put Venus as Air to be paired with Mars as Fire, and likewise gave Jupiter to Water to be paired with Saturn as Earth.  However, I realized that it’d be a better arrangement to have Venus as Water and Jupiter as Air, since although they’re equally moist in elemental terms, Venus is cooler than Jupiter, and since Venus is nocturnal, it had more in common with the Moon than the Sun; the converse case applied with diurnal Jupiter and the Sun.

So, in the end, after assigning the spheres of the cosmos to the tetractys based on alchemical principles, the Tetractys of Life is starting to have actual form:

Planetary Alchemical Tetractys

(Note that, in this diagram, the alchemical representation of a sphere is in the upper-right half, and the planetary representation is in the lower-left half.  The Mercury symbol, however, stands for both alchemical and planetary Mercury, and “Monad” represents, well, the Monad.  The pentagram represents the sphere of the fixed stars, because typing takes up too much space, like my blog.)

It’s an interesting layout, but I like it.  It represents another view of emanation that isn’t necessarily sequential but, in a sense, simultaneous; in the beginning, there is only God (Monad), but as soon as there’s Differentiation (Heaven and Mundus), there’s Process (Sulfur, Mercury, Salt) as well as Substance (Fire, Air, Water, Earth).  Each of these forces can be related to a planetary sphere, but it’s not in a sequential order as in the Tree of Life.  For instance, in kabbalah, the Lightning Bolt Path descends from God to the Fixed Stars to Saturn to Jupiter all the way down to Earth.  On this tetractys, the Monad could descend into the Fixed Stars, but then into the Moon, Mercury, Sun, or maybe even Saturn or Jupiter, or even directly to Earth.  It’s hard to assign a type of sequence to this tetractys, and indeed, even considering all possible paths that could be drawn on this setup between the spheres, it’d be impossible to draw a path that connects all the spheres in a direct sequence without passing through other spheres disrupting the order.  Perhaps that’s a good thing, depending on the paths we assign and take and what the paths themselves mean.

Speaking of sequences, is there a way to sequentially number the spheres on the tetractys?  In a simple way of ordering them from 1 to 10, not really; for convenience, I number them from top to bottom, left to right, such that the Monad is 1, Mundus is 2, Stars is 3, and so forth to Mars being 10.  It makes more sense to use the Lambdoma numbering, personally, which is what I plan to base further exegesis and analysis on in the future, but for now, we’ll refer to the spheres on the tetractys by their alchemical or planetary assignment.

So, with all this at our fingertips and our disposal, what can we meditate on now?  Plenty more, as if we needed more (we always do).  Between the relationships that the tetractys indicates to all other things in existence, or the process of coming into existence, we now also have processes and principles that guide our meditations.  We have relationships between principles, reagents, and elements with the planets, as well as with notions of masculinity/activity/light and femininity/passivity/darkness as well as with number and mathematics.  Most importantly, we now have destinations between which we can start creating paths, and assigning to them the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet to tie those into our process of emanation and creation.  We’ll talk about paths on the Tetractys of Life next.

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.

Towards a Greek Kabbalah: Symbolism of the Greek Letters

From before, a letter has four parts: a name, a glyph, a sound, and a meaning.  The first three were discussed last time, along with a basic set of meditations to get us familiar with the first three of these parts.  We didn’t discuss the final part of the letters, however, which is the meaning of the letters.  Unlike the name, glyph, and sound for a letter, of which there tends to be only one of each, there are many layers of meaning for each letter: numerical, astrological, divine, oracular, Phoenician, Greek, and more.  This is what makes the divination system of grammatomancy so powerful, in that a whole world of knowledge can be unlocked with a single letter.  So, even though the meaning of a letter is the fourth part, there are many parts to the meaning of a letter.

What are some of those meanings?  Honestly, if I had to indicate all the meanings of the letters, this blog post would become a whole blog in and of itself, so I’ll simply list a few sets of meanings along with links or links to books for further reading, though my ebook on grammatomancy lists many of them:

  1. Numerical:  my page on isopsephy and gematria, Kieran Barry’s The Greek Qabalah
  2. Astrological: my page on stoicheia, Agrippa’s table of letters (book I, chapter 74, though I reverse how he arranges the planets to the Greek vowels)
  3. Oracular: Apollonius Sophistes’ Greek Alphabet Oracle
  4. Divine: a post linking the Greek gods to the letters for purposes of a lunar grammatomantic ritual calendar

Honestly, with all that down, we already have a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips, but there’s another way to give meanings to the Greek letters: their original Phoenician names, and Greek words related to the letters.  Even the Greeks were aware, to an extent, of the Phoenician origin of their alphabet, which doesn’t diminish its importance in the least for our purposes.  After all, the Phoenician script was the origin of many of the world’s writing systems (especially if you buy the argument, as I do, that it formed the origin of the Brahmic script in India, which connects it even to the Far Eastern Korean).  The diagram below shows Phoenician in the center column, Hebrew to the right of Phoenician and Arabic to the right of that, and Greek to the left of Phoenician and Latin to the left of that.  Letters of different scripts in the same color boxes show the origin of the letter, while arrows show derivations of other letters.

Origins of Letters from Phoenician


Phoenician script has 22 letters, the same 22 as modern Hebrew; there’s a 1-to-1 mapping between those two scripts.  The Ionian Greek script, however, got rid of three of the letters (digamma/waw, qoppa, san/sampi), added four (phi, khi, psi, omega), and moved the position of the derived form of Waw (which became Upsilon) further back in the alphabet.  Each of the Phoenician letters had their own name, many of which provided the names for their corresponding Greek letters.  These names referred to, in many cases, earlier Egyptian hieroglyphs or related words that provided a basis for what the letter looked like.  Many of these names were maintained in Greek, often in derived forms, such as Alpha from ʾĀlp, Bēta from Bet, Gamma from Gimel, and so forth.  For the Greek letters that have Phoenician origins, either in name of the letter or its form, their Phoenician meanings might include the following:

Letter Phoenician Meaning
Α ʾĀlp Ox
Β Bet House
Γ Gimel Throwing stick weapon, camel
Δ Dāleth Door
Ε He Window
Ζ Zayin Weapon, sword
Η Ḥeth Wall, courtyard, thread
Θ Ṭēth Wheel, good
Ι Yōdh Hand, finger
Κ Kaph Hand, palm of a hand
Λ Lāmedh Goad
Μ Mēm Water
Ν Nun Fish, serpent, whale
Ξ Simketh or Sāmekh Fish, tent peg, prop support
Ο ʿAyin Eye
Π Mouth
Ρ Rēš Head
Σ Form from Šin
Name from Simketh
Τ Tāw Mark, cross
Υ Wāw Hook
Φ Form from Qōph Back of the head, sewing needle, eye of a needle, monkey
Ω Form from Omicron

Of course, by the time the Ionian Greek script was adopted and spread throughout Greece, many of the letter forms were so far removed from their Phoenician counterparts (if any existed) that many of these meanings became meaningless or detached from the letters.  However, the Greeks themselves often found new symbolism for the names, often from a variety of sources.

  • Words or names that started with the letter itself
  • Images or concepts that bear a resemblance to the shape of the letter
  • Words that bear a strong resemblance or things that have a connection to the name of the letter
  • Assigning a letter to parts of the body, starting with Alpha at the head and going down to Mu at the feet, then starting again from Nu at the feet and going back up to Ōmega at the head (cf. the Body of Sophia)
Letter Meaning
Initial letter Graphical Importance Body
Α  Man, air, Apollo  Beginning, invention, source, God  Head
Β  King, help  Duality  Neck
Γ  Earth, birth  Shoulders and hands
Δ  God, ten  Breast
Ε  Build  Justice, Apollo  Diaphragm
Ζ  Life, Zeus  Back
Η  Hera  Belly
Θ  God, death, Mars  The world/universe  Thighs
Ι  Jesus, jot, single  Line, perfection, Rod of Moses  Knees
Κ  Lord, Caesar  Lower legs
Λ  Lion  Ratio, progression  Ankles
Μ  Mary, myriad  Middle  Feet
Ν  Feet
Ξ  Ankles
Ο  Circle, heaven  Lower legs
Π  Father, fire, five, Mars  Knees
Ρ  Thighs
Σ  Savior  Belly
Τ  Cross, crucifix  Back
Υ  Son  Moral choice, dilemma  Diaphragm
Φ  Voice, sound  Breast
Χ  Time, Christ  World soul, cross  Shoulders and hands
Ψ  Psyche, soul  Holy Spirit  Neck
Ω  Ocean, Orion  End  Head

You’ll note that I’ve started to include Abrahamic and Christian references; this is intentional, and not simply me copying entries blind from Kieran Barry’s “The Greek Qabalah”.  After all, as a Hermeticist, I’m not opposed to including Christian or Jewish references here (despite my trying to distance myself from Jewish kabbalah); rather, including them reaches back and allows for more access to much of Renaissance and Medieval development of Hermeticism as well as its classical and pagan origins.

So, where does all this leave us?  Between the graphical shapes and names of the letters, along with their oracular meanings, divine connections, numerical and isopsephic connections, and astrological or planetary or elemental connections, we have whole worlds of meaning for each of the letters.  These can all be incorporated into the meditations on the letters by visualizing or contemplating on them while intoning or repeating the letters.  The images and symbolism of the letters, coupled with their pronunciation, will further open up more doors in exploring the worlds and meanings of the letters and how they affect the world through their presence and, by their presence, the will and presence of the gods and God.

In fact, speaking of doors, let me share a method of scrying I like to use for deeply exploring a particular symbol.  Once the meanings and symbolism of the letters in all their complexity and layers have been learned and reviewed, and after meditating briefly to calm and clear the mind but before leaving the meditative state, I visualize a doorway with a particular symbol inscribed on it.  In our case, that symbol would be one of the letters of the Greek alphabet.  Knock on the door, mentally intoning the letter itself, and open it up.  Everything inside is a representation and symbol connected to that original symbol; explore the world, perhaps calling on the genius or spirit of the symbol to guide you or to send you a guide, or calling on your own HGA or personal tutelary spirit to guide you through it.  Explore the world as deeply as you care to, and when you’ve decided you’ve had enough, take the same route back through the world, passing by all the things you passed by before, and exit the same way you came.  Close the door, clear the mind again, and exit the meditative state.  I’ve used this skill to great efficacy before, notably on my meditations on the geomantic figures and the elemental archangelic kings, and it can be adapted to any number of symbols.  Using this method with the Greek letters can increase one’s deeper knowledge of them by exploring the deeper symbolism and worlds behind the letters which wouldn’t be apparent from simply reading up on their symbolism, and can indicate other symbols not listed above as well as connections to other letters that might not be apparent.  Further, the technique can be augmented by having it take place in one’s astral temple, or astrally projecting into the world itself.

Towards a Greek Kabbalah: Meditating on the Greek Letters

So, if the gods reveal themselves by signs and omens, and those signs are the basis of the Greek letters, then the gods reveal themselves by means of the Greek letters.  This isn’t that big a stretch; after all, there is grammatomancy, that awesome divination system (which I strongly recommend buying the ebook I put out for it for more information on the Greek letters in magic, hint hint) where the Greek letters themselves are messages.  Plus, the Greek letters are also associated with number, which is the foundation for the creation of the cosmos according to Pythagoras, so if the gods didn’t make the universe by means of the Greek letters, then the Greek letters can certainly indicate how they did so by means of number.  Even if we don’t worship the gods or engage in explicit theurgy (which we really should be doing anyway), even coming to a deep understanding of the Greek letters themselves, on their own terms, as their own entities, will still help us achieve a deep understanding of the cosmos approximating or equalling a full theurgic understanding of the cosmos.

The question then becomes “how should we go about understanding the Greek letters”?  Well, let’s say that there are four parts to a letter:

  1. Name, the word by which we refer to a letter, such as “alpha”, “beta”, etc.
  2. Glyph, the graphical sign that refers to a letter, such as Α/α, Β/β, etc.
  3. Sound, the sound the letter produces, such as [a], [b], etc. (Knowing IPA is helpful for this part.)
  4. Meaning, the occult and esoteric meaning of the letter

The first three parts are fairly straightforward, barring regional and temporal variants in the Greek script.  For the purposes of kampala, I’m going to be using what’s been considered the Greek alphabet in use for the past 2400 years, the classical Ionian script, adopted by the archon Eucleides in 403 BC in Athens and quickly standardized across the rest of Greece shortly thereafter.  This script has the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet we’re all familiar with in the same forms we’re all familiar with, and has been roughly unchanged since their adoption.  Their pronunciation has shifted slightly in accordance with basic phonological laws over the millennia, but this is to be expected and isn’t that great an issue.

So, with that, let’s take a look at the Greek alphabet.  There are 24 letters, which are:

Letter Name Sound
Greek Roman Greek English Classical Modern
Α A αλφα alpha a, aː a
Β B βητα bēta b v
Γ G γαμμα gamma g ɣ ~ ʝ
Δ D δελτα delta d ð
Ε E εψιλον epsilon e e
Ζ Z ζητα zēta zd, dz, z z
Η Ē ητα ēta ɛː i
Θ TH θητα thēta θ
Ι I ιωτα iōta i, iː i
Κ K καππα kappa k k, c
Λ L λαμβδα lambda l l, ʎ
Μ M μυ mu m m
Ν N νυ nu n n
Ξ X ξει xi ks ks
Ο O ομικρον omicron o o
Π P πει pi p p
Ρ R ρω rhō r r
Σ S σιγμα sigma s s
Τ T ταυ tau t t
Υ U, Y υψιλον upsilon y, yː i, f ~ v
Φ PH, F φει phi f
Χ KH, CH χει chi χ ~ ç
Ψ PS ψει psi ps ps
Ω Ō ωμεγα ōmega ɔː p

Note that some of the English names for the Greek letters simplify the vowels a bit, such that Π is “pi” in English, not the more accurate classical “pei”, though in Modern Greek it’s “pi”.  Also, where there’re different possible ways to write the letter out, those are given in the table; for instance, Χ can be written as “ch” or “kh” (I prefer the latter, personally).

The thing about the number 24 is that it has a lot of factors and a lot of ways to be split up or multiplied by equally convenient numbers, which makes it mathematically appealing; for instance, 24 × 15 = 360, or 4 × 6 = 24.  Since there are 24 Greek letters, there are different ways to split them up in different ways.  I personally prefer a 7/12/5 schema: seven vowels, twelve “simple” consonants (which themselves are broken into seven stop and five continuing consonants), and five “complex” consonants.  This schema has important symbolic meaning, but let’s focus on the phonetic parts for now:

  • The seven vowels (letters that produce a clear vocal sound) are pretty straightforward: Α, Ε, Η, Ι, Ο, Υ, Ω
  • Simple stop consonants are those which are produced from one action in the mouth and stop the airflow completely: Β, Γ, Δ, Κ, Π, Τ
  • Simple continuing consonants are those which are produced from one action in the mouth but can be vocally continued: Ζ, Λ, Μ, Ν, Ρ
  • Complex consonants are those which are produced from two actions in the mouth: Θ, Ξ, Φ, Χ, Ψ

Pronouncing the vowels can be a little tricky for some people, but it’s still easy.  Alpha, Epsilon, Iōta, and Omicron produce the same sounds you’d expect in English: “ah”, “eh”, “ee”, “oh”.  Upsilon is a little tricky; it’s like the combination of “ee” and “oo”, but a good example of the sound is the French “u” or German “ü”.  Ēta and Ōmega, to make the distinction simple, is that they were lengthened versions of Epsilon and Omicron.  I don’t mean that the sound changed (though it did in later varieties of Greek) except in how long you pronounced it.  So an Epsilon is “eh”, and Ēta is “ehhhh”.  That’s really basically it, though it ended up where Ēta had a sound only slightly closer to “ei” (between “bed” and “bait”) than “eh”, and Ōmega was more like a deeper “auh” (“thought”) than “oh”.

As for consonants, when I say “simple” versus “complex”, compare Tau and Thēta.  They both classically made a “t” sound, but the difference was that Tau was a simple unaspirated and nonbreathy “t”, while Thēta produced an aspirated (breathy) “t”.  It’s the difference between “water” (a nonbreathy “t”) and “tin” (a breathy “t”).  Thēta, Phi, and Khi are all aspirated, while their unaspirated versions are Tau, Pi, and Kappa.  The other complex letters, Xi and Psi, are combinations of two simple consonants: Kappa and Sigma for Xi, and Pi and Sigma for Psi.  The other simple consonants are pronounced the same way you’d pronounce them in English, bearing in mind the difference between aspirated and unaspirated consonants (try being aware of when you’re producing a breathy sound in the future).

Why am I spending so much time over the basics of Greek pronunciation?  Because this is going to be key for understanding the meaning of the letters in a meditative and contemplative way.  Sure, the letters have their own symbolism based on their shape and meaning, which we’ll talk about more another time, but I want to offer a method to meditate on the letters by means of their sounds.  This is similar to the use of seed syllables in varieties of Tantric Buddhism and Hinduism, as well as the use of speaking certain names of God with different vowels in Jewish kabbalah.  By truly, deeply vibrating, intoning, and focusing all of the body and mind on pronouncing the sounds of the Greek letters, we attune ourselves to them and begin to open up deeper mysteries of the letters.  However, there are many different ways to start this, so I propose the following methods:

For vowels:

  1. Intoning a single vowel.  Example: ΑΑΑΑΑΑ
  2. Intoning a sequence of vowels with a breath between each.  Example: ΑΑΑΑΑΑ   ΕΕΕΕΕΕ
  3. Intoning a sequence of vowels once.  Example: ΑΑΑΑΑΑΕΕΕΕΕΕ
  4. Intoning a sequence of vowels, cycling through the vowels themselves.  Example: ΑΑΑΕΕΕΑΑΑΕΕΕ
  5. Any of the above at different vocal pitches, such as at a high pitch then a low pitch

For  simple stop consonants:

  1. Making the consonant once, breathing out afterwards.  Example: B
  2. Making the consonant multiple times within a single breath with no sound.  Example: B B B B B
  3. Making the consonant multiple times within a single breath with an unstressed vowel.  Example: B B B B B (buh buh buh buh buh)

For simple continuing consonants:

  1. Making the consonant once, breathing out afterwards.  Example: Λ
  2. Making the consonant once, prolonging it within a single breath.  Example: ΛΛΛΛΛΛΛ
  3. Making the consonant multiple times within a single breath.  Example: Λ Λ Λ Λ Λ Λ
  4. Making the consonant multiple times over several breaths, continuing it on a single breath.  Example: ΛΛΛ ΛΛΛ ΛΛΛ ΛΛΛΛ
  5. Any of the above at different vocal pitches, such as at a high pitch then a low pitch

For a complex consonant, any of the making the consonant once but prolonging the complexity.  Example, ΞΣΣΣΣΣΣΣ, or Θ breathing out completely.  The other simple continuing consonant meditations should also be done with these, as well.

For vowels and consonants:

  1. Making the consonant with one vowel to prolong it.  Example: ΒΑΑΑΑΑΑΑ
  2. Making the consonant several times with different vowels with a breath between each.  Example: ΒΑΑΑΑΑΑ ΒΕΕΕΕΕΕΕ ΒΗΗΗΗΗΗΗ
  3. Making the consonant several times with different vowels within a single breath.  Example: ΒΑΑΑΒΕΕΕΒΗΗΗ
  4. For simple continuing consonants or complex consonants, prolonging the consonant followed by the vowel.  Example: ΞΣΣΣΣΣΑΑΑΑ or Θ…ΑΑΑΑ (exhaling halfway before making the vowel with a weak unstressed vowel, like “t-hhhuhhh-ahhh”)
  5. Any of the above with vowels coming to a stop with a consonant with no sound following.  Example: ΑΑΑΑΑΑΒ
  6. Any of the above with vowels coming to a stop with a consonant with an unstressed vowel following.  Example: ΑΑΑΑΑΑΒ (ahhhhhbuh)
  7. Any of the above at different vocal pitches, such as at a high pitch then a low pitch

And, perhaps it’s understated, but even intoning the name of a single letter (e.g. “ΑΛΦΑ”) is worthwhile, too, and I’d consider it to be the most complex of these basic meditative exercises.  Once one becomes comfortable with all the meditations on all the letters (and a good combination of consonants and vowels), the next logical step is to meditate on whole words in the same way.  This method produces mantras out of each and every letter in the Greek alphabet, as well as every combination of them, in a variety of ways to acclimate one to their pronunciation and use later in the study of kampala.  At the beginning, it might be preferred to use combinations of vowels and consonants in order (so alpha-bēta, alpha-gamma, alpha-delta, etc.) before jumping around the alphabet.

While pronouncing the letter, it also helps to give the mind something to focus on; I suggest the shape of the letter itself.  Either the capital or lowercase letter could be used; for the purposes of kampala, they’re treated the same, though all analyses are given based on the capital letter.  Visualizing the letter itself is simple, since none of the letters are particularly complex glyphs, and visualization exercises abound on the Internet.  As you breath in, let the mind clear; as the letter is pronounced, let the letter shine brightly in the mind; as the letter’s sound goes away or is breathed out, let the letter dim until only an afterimage or thought-echo is left in the mind until the breath is emptied out.

How much time should be spent on this?  As with anything, as much as you want to, and as much as you can.  I personally find it useful to sync up daily letter meditations, doing different letters and letter combinations based on the grammatomantic letter of the day of the lunar month, so I meditate on Kappa on Kappa-day, Omicron on Omicron-day, and so forth.  (I’ll be making increasing use of that grammatomantic lunar calendar throughout this kampala project, since it spreads things out nicely and regularly for me.)  This is a good way to get introduced to basic meditation on the letters, but you’ll notice that we haven’t talked about the meaning of the letters yet at all.  That’s coming up soon, and it’ll give us more things to meditate on when we do letter meditation in the future, but for now, keep it basic and get busy, since now we begin working our way into the emerging mysteries of kampala.