Pythagoras- Music of the Spheres

Sometime during my junior year at Berklee I had a dream that changed the course of my life. I had had many lucid dreams before this one. These were dreams where I woke up during my dream. When I 'woke up' I became fully aware of my conscious self. I knew my name and I was aware that I was dreaming. Usually when this happened the dream would suddenly become more vivid. The colors would get brighter and I would see faces clearly and even highly detailed architecture. The moment I woke up in these dreams I would also gain some amount of control over them. I might be able to fly or move objects around with my thoughts. At the time this particular dream happened I was completely immersed in music. I was playing my horn about eight hours every day and listening to music the rest of the time. When I woke up in this dream I heard something that changed my entire perception of reality.

The dream was like this; I was on the moon looking at the earth. The earth was exploding with multiple nuclear explosions and the sky was filled with bright multi-colored lights. These colors looked similar to a puddle of oil, except fully illuminated. I heard the most amazing sound. As low and as high as I could hear there were innumerable voices, rather instruments. In the dream I could hear more than the usual eleven or so octaves that we usually perceive. I heard many more octaves. It was as if there were an infinite number of different instruments. Each and every one of them had it's own unique timbre or tone. Each and every one of them was playing a unique melody . Not one of the voices sounded the same or was playing the same melody! Imagine octaves and octaves of different instruments playing individual melodies. You would reasonably expect that this would be the most chaotic noise possible. It was the exact opposite. It was by far, the greatest and most beautiful music that I had ever heard. The totality of melodies created a piece of music so amazingly perfect that in an instant I knew that there had to be a master musician directing this music. This master musician had the talent to make what by all right should be total chaos into an infinitely beautiful symphony. To me this proved the existence of an infinitely intelligent creator, but more importantly a creator that was a musician, and outside time and space. Every dissonance in the song was balanced and harmonized in some other voices, which might be many octaves apart. It was as if each voice was improvising it's own melody but the the rest of the voices were in perfect harmony with these improvisations. I knew that what I was hearing was paradoxical. It seemed to be impossible. But I heard it and, as my mentor Lawrence Williams says, hearing is believing. When I woke up, which was more just like opening my eyes, I was stunned and amazed. What the hell had I just heard? I had never read or heard of anything even remotely like my dream, so I just kept it to myself for a while.

About a year later I ran across a book about Pythagoras that described what I had heard exactly! Pythagoras called it the 'Music of the Spheres'. He taught that everything in the universe makes music. The planets all create music as the orbit the sun and every person creates music as they live their life on the earth. All the planetary orbits follow the musical laws of harmony and everything is an expression of number. There are no random events. Every note has a musical purpose. The universe is more like a song than a machine. It moves between consonance and dissonance to ultimately create a supremely beautiful piece of music. This music is alive. Each voice creates it's own song, yet the master musician is always conducting the whole. Pythagoras was scoffed at for centuries because of his 'Music of the Spheres' idea. Scientists were thankful for his other contributions to math and acoustics but they thought he was a fruit-loop because of this. We should also keep in mind that Pythagoras was trained in the initiatory schools in Egypt. His concepts were anything but new inventions.

I am relating my personal experience to the best of my ability and also at some risk of sounding like a new age freak. This experience led me to the study of esoteric music, which is sometimes called Pythagorean or neo-platonic philosophy. I had to learn more about what I heard on that fateful night and I would spend the next twenty years trying to figure it out.

Here are some good links related to esoteric music philosophy:
Music, mathematics and philosophy
Pythagoras: The whole thing is a number
Greek Esoteric Music Theory Charts
The relativity of Musical Conceptions
The Magic of Tone and the Art of Music
The Quality of Vitality: Music by Harry Partch
Joscelyn Godwin's great 'Harmony of the Spheres' book
The Pythagorean Theory of Music and Color
The Life and Philosophy of Pythagoras
The Sonata of the Master Musician
Mysticism and Spiritual Harmonics in Eighteenth-Century England
Joscelyn Godwin- the top esoteric music author today
Notes on the Function of Music
Music and Number

Additional notes:
Years later I ran across a book about people who had near-death experiences and had all heard this same music.

We as humans and as musicians have the option of either harmonizing with the rest of creation or of creating dissonance in our enviroment and forcing the rest of creation to harmonize to us.
The first option is much easier on us and on our environment.

These studies eventually led me to the study of the Hebrew Qabbalah and the mysticism of the letters. I developed my own acoustical 'Tree of Life' model which was based on the overtone series and the whole number ratios as musical intervals/letters. I will get into this at a later date.


Anonymous said...

Great resources. Thank you David. I heard something very similar to your description on DMT a few months ago. It was crazy--I was only able to bring back 2 notes of it! :P

Anonymous said...

P.S. You mentioned people hearing this in NDEs. DMT is thought by some to be released in peoples' brains in large amounts as they're dying (& its artificial experience is considered by many to be like experiencing death).

David Carlos Valdez said...

Very interesting Brian.

How was what you heard different?

Did you see millions of tiny robots or anything else equally freaky?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

David, as we've talked over many times, the lucid dream is a tresasure of information and musical experience. Some of my best melodies came from these dreams.
I was curious about brian berge's comments that the DMT experience is "artificial". I was wondering how he meant that.
All experience has a chemical exchange component. But if we reduce the experiece to the exchange we can easily become confused as to where the operating structures are that caused the effect. DMT was present, but so was oxygen and hundreds of other chemicals. The question is: what role does DMT play in the experience?
Not to mention the obvious: What is the experience we're caling NDE and lucid dreaming?

Brian Berge said...

David: I'll post something about my experience & link to it here soonish.

Gerard: By an "artificial" experience of DMT I meant smoking it (usually in synthetic form) or maybe even ingesting it with an MAOI (in plant form as with ayahuasca/yage); as opposed to the more "natural" experience of DMT created in our bodies in large enough amounts to experience (as yogis in high trances are thought to, or again people having NDEs). I don't really mean to imply a value judgement between "artificial" & "natural", though; & I agree the chemical is just the chemical & personally I consider the physical science behind it to be theoretical. I think the experience itself is the more emperical reality of the matter, & I think your question of "where [are] the operating structures...that caused the effect" is the great question!...like that which might respond to the great imperative "Know thy Self": "Where is my Self?"

David Carlos Valdez said...

I think that modern scientific idea that all states of consciousness are the result of chemical reactions is wrong. Yes, chemicals can obviously alter states of consciousness but the reverse is also true. Many seekers employ chemicals to access new states of consciousness, as Brian did with his DMT trip. I think that using chemicals only gives you a fleeting taste of these higher states, not a lasting persistent attainment. In Sufism they would say "states rather than stations".
Chemicals force open the doors the higher states but they do not give you the keys to open them at a later time. Every chemically induced state can also be accessed by natural methods (i.e.- yoga, pranayam, meditation, ritual). The natural methods are much safer (though still with some danger) than the chemicals and do not leave you unbalanced and physically weakened afterwards.

I don't think that lucid dreaming can be explained by any chemical as Gerardo hinted. Unless maybe you could find a chemical that strengthened the will power, stilled the emotions and developed the imagination. Though my father told me the once years ago he took an anti-depressant for a short time that did give him incredibly vivid dreams.

I think the quickest way to having lucid dreams is to practice a discipline like meditation or the LBR......

Anonymous said...

Yes - I sometimes had dreams where I was one of the sound sources. What is weird is that often I was playing the trumpet as the sound source - an instrument I have absolutely no experience with.

Regarding esoteric philosophy - Western Sufi schools as taught by George Gurdjeff and Peter Ouspenski - claim there are two fundamental laws which govern ALL creation:

1. The law of triads
2. The law of octaves

Apparently music is so fundamental to creation that it is no wonder we feel hooked-up to something much larger than ourselves.

David Carlos Valdez said...

Me too Randy. I almost never dream that I'm playing the saxophone. If I do it'll be a dream where I'm at a big concert and don't have any reeds, kind of like the no pants dream at school. I've dreamed that I was playing trumpet, trombone, bass clarinet.

iaming said...

During this especially constantly
intense year, I feel my awareness
is keenly channeled at times to audible celestial harmonics through
home electronic equip. and bathroom
having heard awesome angelic harmonic voices singing which I have never heard or duplicated this
hearinf sensation anywhere else. In adddition, I heard a speaking voice which spoke with great deep
importance, respect in unbreakable continuance in a foreign language which sounded perhaps like Latin.