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Is There Cosmic Harmony?

cosmic-harmonyIs There Cosmic Harmony?

by Shay Lumelsky

Macro to microcosm – the orbits of the planets, the oscillations of the stars, the quanta of the atom's nucleus, the spin of its electrons, the periodic structure of the elements, the forms of molecules, the growth of crystals, the flow of currents of water, the double helix of DNA, the shapes of leaves, the development of plants, the migration of flocks of birds and schools of fish, and the proportions of the parts of the human form – of all the trillions of possible movements and forms of the universe, why does the universe seem to prefer those which harmonize with our sense of order and beauty?  In other words, why is our world so harmonious?

Matter and energy fill our physical universe. Matter exists and things happen to this matter.  That is, matter as essence and accident.  In his understanding and application of the physical sciences, man is able to find unity in its diversity and thereby live harmoniously with creation.  Furthermore, he is given the key with which to accomplish this task in that the same laws of harmony that are found in music are merely a reflection of the same relationships found outside of music. 

The science of music proceeds from the understanding of the laws of vibration, which are the laws of harmony, which is a study of proportions.  The same proportions which produce sounds that are pleasing to the human ear may be found in the forms and structures basic to the sciences of chemistry, physics, astronomy and biology.  That is, the same proportions found within the harmonic series may also be found within the sciences which explain our physical environment.  (Cf. Haase, Grudlagen der Harmonikalen Symboli; Kayser, Lehrbuch der Harmoni; Borchard, Our Harmonious Cosmos.)  The Rabbis call music a branch of science which exists within man and which serves to explain the physical sciences. 

The astronomer Johannes Kepler postulated the elliptical orbits of the heavenly bodies in accordance with harmonic proportions.  Even though the planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto were discovered after Kepler’s death, they fit perfectly into his postulations.  In the later nineteenth century, Max Planck, instrumental in the development of our modern conception of theoretical physics, was inspired by the leaps of the intervals of the musical harmonic series in formulating quantum mechanics. 

The periodic table of elements can be understood as an harmonic array, an integral and orderly arrangement, of the elements of the universe according to their atomic structures.  Similar elements often appear in octave relationships. 

At the heart of the plant kingdom, and thus the food chain, is chlorophyll which changes sunlight into chemical energy.  Central to the chlorophyll molecule is the magnesium atom with its twelve protons and twelve electrons, corresponding to the twelve notes in the chromatic scale.  It is surrounded by nitrogen atoms with their seven protons and seven electrons, corresponding to the seven notes in the diatonic scale.  Traditional music theory indeed teaches harmony in terms of chromaticism and diatonicism, the twelve chromatic and seven diatonic tones. 

DNA, the genetic material, contains the phosphorus atom with its atomic number of fifteen forming a double octave major scale, the spin of its particles exactly matching a double octave major scale.  The structures of the DNA molecule itself concur with the musical intervals of the octave, fifth, fourth and major second which form the basic musical root harmonies. 

The manner in which the seeds arrange themselves on the dead of the sunflower, the geometrical patters exhibited, the logarithmic spirals of shellfish, the proportions of various animals from insects to mammals, the human form itself, as well as the classical architectural structures that man has built and the music which he has created have a certain commonality.  They are all united by proportions found over and over again in all of nature, inorganic and organic.  These proportions are such as the 'golden mean', the square root of five, the Fibonacci series, and the basic musical root harmonies.  Not surprisingly, these are proportions intrinsically related to each other. 

In music, the relationship of the second harmonic to the fundamental is the strongest of all the relationships existent within the harmonic series.  It is the relationship which is the most stable.  It produces the least tension. The musical interval, or distance between pitches, that this 2:1 proportion generates is called the octave.  It is called the octave because there are eight steps from the fundamental tone of the major scale to its octave.  There are seven steps, or separate pitches, in the scale, and the eighth step is a return in the scalar cycle to a pitch of the same name on a higher level, the next octave. 

An analogy may be made from the steps of the major scale to the days of the week.  Whichever day of the weeks we would designate as “one”, if we were to count “eight”, we would reach the same day of a week later.  We can also compare the seven degrees of the major scale to the Sabbatical cycle (Leviticus 25:2-7).  As the major scale consists of two symmetrical tetrachords, or four 0-tone scales, each comprised of intervals of two whole steps followed by one half step, so too the Sabbatical cycles consist of consecutive years of second tithe followed by one year of tithe for the poor (Deuteronomy 14:22-20). 

In the Jubilee year, which follows the cycle of seven cycles of seven years, slaves return to their lands of origin, and the land returns to the original tribal owners.  Seven represents the concept of plurality.  And the step beyond seven, that is eight, represents return. 

Not only is there a common proportionality to the universe, but the order of the universe has increased with time, the opposite of entropy and Malthusian economics.  The fact is that the world supports more people today than it ever did before.  This is only possible with the orderly, harmonious arrangement of the matter and energy of the world.  The golden mean, the square root of five, the Fibonacci series, and the basic musical root harmonies are keys to understanding our cosmos, not only in providing the means by which we are able to manipulate and control our world, building all manner of devices and using various energies in order to fulfill the Divine Commandment of increasing our physical presence, but also in the sense of a spiritual increase in our perception that there is an harmonious order to the universe and that our supreme benefit lies in harmonizing with it. 

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