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I can name that tune in 1 sphere

January 17, 2013

Ptolomy discovers the music of the spheresI’d like to take some courses. Music and astronomy. I started studying music (I had a year of theory and keyboard at Eastman) in order to be a more effective producer; I wanted to talk to composers in their language. Now I’d like to study for its own sake. My interest in astronomy is theological.
What I’m really pursuing is understanding of God. The question is do I go at it from the physical or metaphysical side? Both agree that the universe is made from two substances. Rabbi Eliezer (8th C Midrashic scholar) called them light and snow; physicists call them energy and matter. Maimonides, in Guide for the Perplexed, writes of Heavenly matter and Earthly matter which might be analogous to Relativity and quantum physics.

Maimonides Mishnah Torah, Guide for the Perplexed

Maimonides (Moshe ben Maimon, b. Cordoba 1135, d. Egypt 1204) known as Rambam. Rabbi, philosopher, physician, jurist, astronomer, Talmudist and one of the greatest minds who ever lived. Worse role models can be found.

Taurus, Aldebaran, Crab Nebula and Pleidies seen with Hubble telescope

Studying the starry skies, one’s mind can’t help but turn to divinity.

What prompted this interest astronomy and God was walking my dogs at night and looking at the velvety, star-pocked sky. I learned to recognize individual constellations, stars and planets (using of Google Sky Map) and got a telescope to further appreciate them. The contemplation of such immensity, infinisity and infinality of course leads ones thoughts to the Holy.

Since God is unknowable, the best approach we have to divine knowledge is study of His works. Not so much what—Earth and Sky are here; it’s a fact—but how. How did the stars come to be? How were they set in motion? Answering those questions begins to explain what is God. The energy, the laws, the impetus that set it forward and the tension and harmony that keep all in motion is God. I believe that our likeness to God, that is how man was made in the Divine Image, is how we also have the power to create. Man has imagination. More than that we have the capability to take a thing from perception to reality. God has only to conceive of a thing to make it real. People have to work at it.

Defining space and placing objects in it is what God does

“The creation of space and the arrangement of objects in it” is a job description for an interior decorator and the Creator.

Music and architecture, I think, are the highest callings of the intellect, the greatest types of creation, because they involve the arrangement of space, which is part of what the Creator does. Harmony is architecture comes from having the planes at proper distances from each other as well as making objects the right height, width and depth. In music fifth and eighth describe distances that make harmony. Music also manipulates spatial relationships with time which is the first dimension, God’s prime invention. (Hence “Music of the Spheres” as a metaphor of heavenly order).

Music is the space between notes. Like a meter or a parsec, a fifth is a measure of distance.

Music is the space between notes. Like a meter or a parsec, a fifth is a measure of distance.

From ecstatic dance to private meditation, there are many ways to achieve transcendence

From ecstatic dance to private meditation, there are many ways to achieve transcendence

By learning the hard facts of astral science I will gain a little bit of transcendence. There are many, many paths to transcendence. A Suffi dervish whirl and a babushka at her Rosary and a Buddhist in meditation, Madonna studying Kabbalah are all pursuing the same end.  One may deprive the senses like an ascetic or overwhelm them as an Epicure.  You can modify, mortify or ignore your body. Do Gurdjief’s Movements, eat the body of Christ, wear barbed wire or horse hair. You can stare at holy pictures or read holy texts until you merge with them. Take peyote, inhale pneuma from the Omphalus or prepare a cup a of tea.

Astronomy will be (one of) my approaches to the Creator. Music, with its own mathematical logic, tension and harmony is another way. There are others that lead to merger with the Divine, but astronomy and music and a bit of Mishnah are what my mind is capable of at this time.

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