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Mozart's The Magic Flute

(Die Zauberflöte)

Law of Seven per "Fourth Way" Teaching

The Law of Seven is an ancient principle known to both the Pythagoreans and Platonists and was an integral part of the alchemical sciences as practiced during the European Middle Ages and Renaissance.  In my opinion, the most lucid account of this esoteric law is that given by the "Fourth Way" teachers P. D. Ouspensky and G. I. Gurdjieff.  In Chapter 5 of his book entitled In Search of the Miraculous, P. D. Ouspensky describes the "Law of Seven"  as it was taught to him by Gurdjieff. It was a fundamental dynamic process whereby both the Cosmos (the macro-level) and individual lives (the micro-level) of people here on Earth were in a continuous state of transformation. The so-called "Absolute" was the fundamental source of all creation. Emanating from the Absolute, the process of cosmic creation evolves according to an ordered sequence of increasing complexity and density.  This process follows a law involving the seven note Greek musical scale known on the macro level as the “Ray of Creation.” The universe as a whole comprises many such emanations from the Absolute.  Unlike the Pythagorean model (see below), Gurdjieff's scheme involved a relatively modern, sun centered view of the astronomical structure of the Cosmos. A diagram representing Gurdjieff's “Ray of Creation”  for the planet Earth is depicted in the table shown below.

This Gurdjieff teaching is almost certainly a slightly updated form of the basic teachings of the Ionian Greek Philosopher Pythagoras of Samos (569-475 B.C.) and his followers in the Pythagorean School.  While only fragments of the teachings of the Pythagoreans survive, we do know that they taught that the universe was essentially an organic whole which they called the "Cosmos."  The Pythagoreans also taught that the underlying structure of the Cosmos was mathematical in nature and that the principles of the musical octave constituted the key to understanding this mathematical structure.  Pythagoras and his successors, like most people in the world until the 17th Century A.D., believed in an Earth-centered universe.  In the 4th Century B. C., the philosopher Plato, a Pythagorean initiate, defined the basic structure of this Cosmos as a system of eight concentric shells with the Earth placed at the center of the shells.  The outermost shell, a dodecahedron, was the realm of the fixed stars.  Each of the other seven shells was considered to be a sphere associated with three things: 1) a note from the Ionian Greek musical scale (known as the Lydian scale in the 6th Century B.C.), 2) a planetary body which moved around the Earth in a circular orbit, and 3) a particular Muse (one of nine Greek goddesses who preside over the arts and sciences). The entire system was called the "Harmony of the Spheres."  In all, this cosmic system had nine levels counting the earth as the first level. The outermost level was the realm of the fixed stars which did not orbit the earth. No musical note was associated with the realm of the fixed stars.

The following table depicts the structure of the cosmic octave propounded by Pythagoras and Plato compared with the structure taught by Gurdjieff and Ouspensky:


Pythagoras and Plato - Harmony of the Spheres

       Gurdjieff and Ouspensky - Ray of Creation

Muse (Goddess)

Domain of the Muse

Musical Interval (Ionian or Lydian Scale)

Planetary Sphere


Musical Note of Octave (Modern Ionian Major Scale)

# of Laws Applying to that Level

Cosmic Level









9.  Fixed Stars*



Sacred Poetry


8.  Saturn






First Shock**





7.  Jupiter




All Worlds



Love Poetry


6.  Mars




All Suns





5.  Sun







Sacred Dance


4.  Venus




All Planets

    Semitone***     Second Shock***    


Epic Poetry


3.  Mercury









2.  Moon








1.  Earth





*The level of the fixed stars was not a sphere.  The Greek philosopher Plato (a Pythagorean initiate), in his dialog called the Timaeus, makes the assertion, in an encrypted format, that the fixed stars were arranged on the surface of a gigantic cosmic dodecahedron!  In 2003, this view regarding the outer structure of the universe received scientific support from the astronomical community.

**A critical point in the Gurdjieff process is the "First Conscious Shock," between Do and Ti -- a semitone in the Pythagorean system associated with Polyhymnia (sacred poetry) and Euterpe (music). In the Gurdjieff system, only "Conscious Labor" can provide the energy necessary to pass through this critical point in the development of an individual person.

***A second critical point in the Gurdjieff process is the "Second Conscious Shock," between Fa and Mi -- a semitone in the Pythagorean system associated with Terpsichore (sacred dance) and Calliope (epic poetry). In the Gurdjieff system, "Intentional Suffering" is the best way to provide the energy necessary to pass through this critical point in the development of an individual person.

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