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 Tantra, Hermeticism, and 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. The Hermetic text, The Kybalion, recognizes vibration as a law applying to everything in the universe, stating: “nothing rests; everything moves; everything vibrates”. This applies as much to the “real 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 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 vibration on the energetic level. 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 with space. Our pre-scientific ancestors were not ignorant– they simply used poetic imagery to describe the world. While science enables us to describe the physical world in higher resolution, it cannot accommodate this poetic sensibility. 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. Simply assuming the reality of intangible vibratory states, starting with the level of our own mind, can create very real effects in our lives. This attitude can transform our experience of life. And after all, what do we have in life but our experience of it? 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 provides a particularly beautiful example of vibration at work on a number of levels. It exists on the physical plane as sound vibrations, yet it mysteriously transcends the physical by stimulating our emotions and imaginations like nothing else can. It also provides a metaphor for vibration at other levels, as well as practical means for affecting our state of 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 quite literally as ascending levels of vibration embedded within the tone itself, perfectly paralleling the esoteric cosmologies of vibration. Though typically inaudible, these overtones nevertheless produce the timbre, or unique quality, of a particular instrument. The relative mix of overtones makes it so that the same pitch will sound different on a clarinet than it does 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. There 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. This is alchemy.