Our Experience of Light, as Seen 2,500 Years Ago — Recommended Reading

Lawlor, Robert. 1994. “Pythagorean Number as Form, Color, and Light,” in Homage to Pythagoras: Rediscovering Sacred Science, Christopher Bamford, ed., Hudson, NY: Lindisfarne Books.

In this chapter, Robert Lawlor explores the early observations on light of the great Greek philosopher Pythagoras, who lived 570 – c. 495 BC.  Pythagoras, famous today for the Pythagorean Theorem, was a very influential philosopher and mathematician.  This is a fascinating journey through thinking that influenced the last 2,500 years of western thought about what light is.

“The Pythagorean symbolists assumed what may seem an obvious cosmological ground for their numerical procedures: that God has manifested himself in this universe as light…Certainly spiritual texts from many cultures abound with the association between light and the universal creator.  But Pythagoreanism, like its Egyptian sources, is an instance in which this association may be taken not only as an inspired metaphor, but also as a protocol-scientific analogy.  Leibnitz beautifully restated this Pythagorean time, saying, ‘The exquisitely orderly behavior of light indicates the underlying radical patterned order of reality'” (p187).

Light and other forms of radiation can only be absorbed if they carry precisely the right amount of energy to promote an atom from one rung to a higher rung.  As the atom falls back to its fundamental state the absorbed radiation must be removed, carrying away the difference between the two levels.  This released energy appears as a photon or a quantum of light having a particular wave-length determined by the energy difference in the rise and fall within the structure of the atom…[This] occurs according to a very precise rhythmic scale.  Every atom possesses a preset harmonic energy scale, ‘a musical organization’: an in-formed vibratory gradation” (p201).

Substance and light are of the same electromagnetic energy; they are fields of force whose movement/form is detectable as wave phenomenon.  Substance varies from radiated light in that it has been organized into relatively stable geometric vortices by the three primary principles of organization, the protonic, the neutronic and the electronic: the movement towards centrality, centrality and the movement away from centrality.  The varying proportions of these three powers determine the geometry of the substance” (p203).

All light is invisible until it has encountered a substance.  All substances to some varying degree absorb and re-emit light.  This interaction is color, and it is the signature of the inner form of the substance” (p203).

“The logic of Pythagoras is the logic of light and vibration.  It is inclusive of the concept of an octave contained within an octave; but it also understands that the essential form-nature of an octave (the consonance of its proportions) is connected to all other octaves through resonance” (p204).  “For the Pythagorean, this universe is a universe of perception.  Perception is the transformation of light into forms of itself.  And light is consciousness imaging itself” (p 205).

The development of a perspective that still penetrates much of our current understanding of the experience of light.