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Music In Theory and Practice – Part 2

S L Macgregor Mathers

Mathers’ corollary to “The Chromatic Method”

Following on from yesterday’s post, I would like to review a similar method which Macgregor Mathers gave to the Alpha et Omega – it is set out in full detail in Pat Zalewski’s book Inner Order Teachings of the Golden Dawn.

Like Case and Bennett, Mathers made an association with colours and musical notes – however he differs in several important aspects. Firstly, Mathers starts with the assumption that Red = F, not C as in the Case / Bennett system. Secondly: there are no sharps or flats in Mathers’ system. Thirdly, the Seven planets follow a scale starting with the F above middle C, and ascending in the same order as the walls of the Vault of the Adepti. Hence:

Hebrew Letter Colour Note
Heh Pe Shin Red F
Vau Red-Orange F or G
Zayin Resh Orange G
Cheth Amber G or A
Teth Beth Aleph Yellow A
Yod Yellow-Green A or B
Lamed Daleth Green B
Nun Green-Blue B or C
Samekh Gimel Mem Blue C
Aayin Tau Indigo D
Tzaddi Kaph Violet E
Qoph Vermilion E or F

This system has its advantages – and disadvantages. From a musicological (read: “snobbish”) point of view, some of the reasons that Mathers gives for adopting the particular peculiarities of this system are suspect and inconsistent, and smack of “dumbing down.” The only reason I can see for starting with Red = F and treating the planets as he does is to make use of the spaces and lines of the Treble Clef. Perhaps if he was confident with leger lines we might have had a whole different secret teaching! It could, of course have been to allow Adepti to play the piano one-handed, the left-hand being left free to hold a ritual implement or something.

However, Mathers’ aversion to sharps and flats is something else. The reason Mathers gives for avoiding it touches upon a problem that musicians have had to deal with for thousands of years, namely Temperament. It is impossible to tune the twelve-note chromatic scale so that all intervals are “perfect” – therefore, historically, several different methods have been proposed including the Pythagorean, “Just Intonation” (like Pythagorean but with easier arithmetic), “Well Tempered” (made famous by Bach’s Das Wohltempierte Klavier), and “Equal Temperament,” amongst others. The upshot of this is that depending on which system of Temperament you are using, the actual tuning of some chromatic intervals might vary by as much as 10Hz – enough to create an out-of-tune “beating” sound, assuming two different instruments had been tempered differently.

How did the Secret Chiefs, from whom Mathers claimed to derive this teaching, resolve the problem of Temperament? Um, well, the unfortunate fact is that although they were willing to lay down minutiae on a whole host of other topics, they conveniently passed on this one: the simplest way for Mathers to resolve the situation was to avoid using sharps and flats.

Of course, on the other hand, Mathers might have interpreted “Quit the night and seek the day,” as meaning “avoid the black keys and play only the white keys.”

What we thus have from Mathers is therefore a reduction of the chromatic scale to the F-Lydian mode – ironic, as Mathers complained about using modes as well.

HOWEVER: the very fact that Mathers’ system is completely unsophisticated compared to the Case/Bennett system is in fact its greatest advantage – because it allows Hebrew words to be chanted in simple melodies. This in turn makes it highly conducive to teaching a temple full of initiates whose musical talent may well range from hardened rock-musicians reared on Frank Zappa and Led Zeppelin to, well, drummers. By way of example, I shall now attempt to re-score the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram according to the note-values suggested by Mathers.

The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, composed by Alex Sumner © 2011.

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Music In Theory and Practice – Part 1

Starting today I present a short series of blogs on the esoteric use of music in the Western Mystery Tradition.

As I understand it, there are four main methods of incorporating Music into the esoteric practices of the West. These are:

  1. The Chromatic scale method;
  2. The Harmonic method;
  3. The Modal method; and
  4. The Intuitive method.

Each of these embraces dogmatism and pragmatism to differing degrees. The Intuitive Method is the least dogmatic / most pragmatic, and typifies the approach of mainstream composers creating works for the general public, but is not necessarily best suited for a ritual unless it were specifically composed for such. On the other hand, the chromatic method is probably the most dogmatic and arbitrary – but, once learnt, it can be deployed the most quickly to create Qablalistically-correct ritual chants. However a chant thus created would sacrifice aesthetic charm for intellectual rigour, which is a polite way of saying Geekishness.

I intend to review each of the four methods: the Chromatic Method today, and the other three in blog posts in the days to come.

The Chromatic Scale Method

This method has been advocated by Paul Foster Case and Allan Bennett. The basic principle may be expressed thus:

There are 12 notes in the Chromatic Scale; they have a one-for-one correlation to the 12 colours of the Artist’s colour wheel.

The Chromatic Scale

As those who follow the GD teachings know, the letters of the Hebrew alphabet can all be related to the colour wheel, hence on this basis when can then relate them to the chromatic scale as well. This is done by arbitrariliy saying C = Red, C# = Red-orange, D = Orange, etc. A full list would be as follows:

Hebrew letters / Colours / Piano keys

Hebrew Letter Colour Note
Heh Pe Shin Red C
Vau Red-Orange C #
Zayin Resh Orange D
Cheth Amber D #
Teth Beth Aleph Yellow E
Yod Yellow-Green F
Lamed Daleth Green F #
Nun Green-Blue G
Samekh Gimel Mem Blue G #
Aayin Tau Indigo A
Tzaddi Kaph Violet A #
Qoph Vermilion B

Armed with this knowledge you can now grab any music instrument you have to hand, such as a guitar, recorder or a keyboard (if convenient), and start working out how Hebrew divine names would sound if sung to the notes proposed in the table above. Here are some I prepared earlier:

The Qabalistic Cross

The Qabalistic Cross (chord accompaniment optional).

Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram

Divine and angelic names from the LBRP


If you are a musician and have stayed with this so far, you will probably have noticed that the use of this Chromatic method does not a pleasing melody make! More interesting, though is the fact the interval between one note and the note represented by its opposite on the colour-wheel is the infamous tri-tone, which historically is known as the Diabolus In Musica of “Devil’s Interval” (the fact that the melody of  “Black Sabbath” by the group of the same name is based on the tritone is not a coincidence!).

Finally I would just like to leave you with this video, in which a group of musicians have set the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Hexagram to music using just this method. Although it’s called “Rites of Luna,” from what I can make out in the excerpt shown the lady is just doing the regular Hexagram ritual.


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An Open Letter to Lady Gaga, on seeing that she has held a Seance.


Lady Gaga


Dear Lady Gaga,

We have not corresponded before but hopefully in the future you will look back upon this moment as the beginning of a long and fruitful professional relationship.

Have you ever imagined the sight of a bill for ghostbusting services which has the letters F O C* printed on it and felt like “Oh my God! Why didn’t I hire this wonderful man before now?” For this is the service which I, Alex Sumner, Prophet of the Age of Capricorn, Ascended Master, and all-round expert on all things Occult can provide! In fact I will start right now by proffering some advice on seeing that you have recently held a Seance whilst on tour in Ireland.

Firstly, the good news. The spirit you refer to as Ryan is unlikely to be the soul of an actual dead person in torment upon this Earthly plane. Generally speaking, the souls of dead people only hang around the material plane up to few days after their physical passing, whilst the remaining ties which bind them here are themselves dissolving. Thereupon they depart for the after-life in the usual manner.

Moreover, mediums do not generally contact dead people even though they purport to do so, because the person’s soul has long since ceased to be in a position to provide useful information. If they are collecting accurate information about a person’s life it is likely that they are reading it off the Akashic Records. NB: don’t expect a spirit to provide more information than it would have known whilst alive, and beware of any supposed spirit which purports to do so. There is a saying in the Occult: “Just because you are dead does not make you more intelligent.” This sounds so obvious but often people who go to consult mediums tend to forget it.

The bad news however is that it may very well be that Ryan is a genuine “thing” of some description. It might be some sort of negative entity or elemental which you have attracted to yourself because of emotional trouble. Like a Bad Romance for example! (Heh, see what I did there?) This is not the end of the world however as there are various ways to get rid of it, e.g. the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, or in extreme cases some of the techniques which I describe in my blog-posts about Vampires (see here and here). Furthermore, one can reinforce this by actively attracting positive and beneficial influences (see, e.g. here).

There is a remote, and I stress the word remote possibility that it is a real entity sent by someone nasty: however this is unlikely to be the case. The vast majority of people complaining about being psychically attacked by someone else are in fact nothing of the sort – if anything they are just severe cases of people attracting bad influences on themselves, in the manner I describe above. In any event, remedies such as the LBRP etc should be more than enough to protect you.

By now you should be reading these lines and becoming more and more fascinated with the idea of hiring the services which only I can provide. You will be pleased to know that you can contact me further to discuss hiring me. Hope the tour goes well,



*NB: I may have said F O C but this applies only to my ghost-busting efforts. I still charge expenses!


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