The Harmonic Cosmos

Alex Stein
5 min readOct 30, 2021

Many esoteric mystical traditions share the same core insight that the whole universe consists of a series of emanations of a single, Universal Mind. At the ultimate level, all is One. Between the ordinary level of experience, which today we call 3D, and the ultimate level of total unity lie various intermediate levels of increasing subtlety.

Though different mystical systems, like the tattvas of Tantra, the Hermetic “planes of correspondence”, and the sefirot of Kabbalah will map these levels differently, many share the same basic idea that the phenomena of the world and consciousness (which are really one and the same) consist of perceptible gradations of vibration. Vibration applies as much to the material world of science as it does to the far-flung reaches of mysticism: for example, the states of matter– solid, liquid, and gas– reflect the rate at which the molecules of a substance move, i.e. vibrate. In solids, the molecules hold nearly still, in liquids they move about more, and in gases they move freely. Sound and light are both examples of vibrations on the energetic level: just like waves on the surface of the ocean, sound waves travel through the air, and light travels through the electromagnetic field. The classical elements, common to Eastern and Western esoteric traditions relate to what modern science knows as the the three states of matter, energy, and space. Earth correlates with solids, Water with liquids, Air with gases, Fire with energy, and Ether/ Akasha with space. Our pre-scientific ancestors were not ignorant– they simply used poetic language to describe the world. This poetic sensibility– the ability to understand something as both metaphor and reality, without taking everything literally– is necessary if we wish to explore the nature of consciousness more fully.

Esoteric cosmologies provide practical maps for the awakening of consciousness. Even though we cannot scientifically prove the existence of non-physical levels of vibration, we all know what it feels like to have awareness. Awareness is real, yet intangible. How we look at the world is every bit as important as what we are looking at. A case could be made that it is more important, because after all, can we ever really say what we are looking at without considering the how? By adopting the view that reality is composed of intangible levels of vibration, we can create very tangible effects in our lives. When we transform our experience of life, we transform our life. What is life, if not an experience? Ascending the levels of vibration brings us beyond the realms of matter, energy, and physical law to those of mind, soul, and spirit. Through experiential practices of meditation, contemplation, imagination, and psychedelic medicine we can come to see all levels are present in all things at all times.

Music, the most intangible of the art forms, simulates this larger vibrating reality, translating it into a language that speaks more to the emotions and intuition than the mind. Vibration occurs in music on the physical plane as sound vibrations, yet it mysteriously transcends the physical by stimulating our emotions and imaginations like nothing else can. We can even use music as a tool to alter consciousness. While all dimensions of music, including melody, harmony, and rhythm, can provide a basis for mystical exploration, at the most fundamental level even a single musical tone is enough. Every pitched tone consists of a fundamental– the pitch you hear– as well as a vast array of higher, inaudible overtones (a.k.a. harmonics). If you manipulate the instrument correctly, these overtones become audible, as in Tuvan throat-singing or the chants of Tibetan monks, but ordinarily they blend seamlessly into the fundamental. Overtones exist literally as ascending levels of vibration embedded within the tone itself, perfectly paralleling the esoteric cosmologies of vibration. Though typically inaudible as individual harmonics, the relative mixture of overtones nevertheless produces the timbre, or unique quality, of a particular instrument: what distinguishes a note on clarinet from the same note on a piano, a guitar, or a human voice.

Similarly, we could say that the relative blend of different “overtones” within any phenomenon– whether a person, a TV remote, or a bag of rice– combine to create the unique quality of that phenomenon. Who knows? It is a fun idea to consider, and it can be a starting point for meditation and the refinement of perception. This is the basis of some tantric practices that involve using sense objects as a means of awakening. With our attention fixed upon a single tone, color, flavor, or body sensation, our meditative awareness draws out higher and higher overtones of the sensation until we merge with Divine Consciousness itself. Vibrational cosmologies act as maps to point us toward ever subtler levels of perception, guiding us beyond the worlds of the senses, the rational intellect, and even poetic imagination, into pure gnostic awareness.

If all levels of vibration, from the most mundane to the most divine, are ever-present in everything, and we know how to tune our awareness correctly, then, like the mystic P.D. Ouspensky, we can perceive the Absolute in something as mundane as an ashtray. It does not matter whether or not something is beautiful or ugly, sacred or profane, good or evil: all phenomena express all levels of vibration, even if they refract them differently. This is why Jesus can say, in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, “the Kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth, but people do not see it”, or a medieval alchemist could say that Philosopher’s Stone “lies before the eyes of all… It is glorious and vile, precious and of small account, and is found everywhere… our Matter has as many names as there are things in the world; that is why the foolish know it not.”

Remember: vibration is a literal reality, as well as a metaphor. Whatever we might say about vibration, the most important point, from the mystical perspective, is that it applies to consciousness. If applied correctly, this conceptual technique will crack our minds open to worlds beyond concepts. Playing around with such ideas changes our experience of the world, both inner and outer. This is not a matter of belief, but rather a starting point for experimentation. Take the leap. Reality will reveal more of itself. More of yourself will be revealed, and the mundane expression of your life will change in interesting and often miraculous ways.

A short demonstration of overtones in action.