Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Travelling in South India has its dualities and cultural compressions that bring Robert Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" right into everyday common occurrences. Our group had the special privilege of having two guides who were practicing masters of this philosophy, which gave this expedition a very deep exposure to Eastern thought and practices.

It's a fascinating country which ultimately converges upon some strains of thought found in Western culture, specifically the viability of harmonic structures found in the Golden Section that express the proportionality followed by Greek architecture and adopted by western architectural practices. It's also known as the Fibonacci sequence, a series of numbers that produce the forms in nature, most prominently that of a spiral. It's the set of classical principles that architecture students begin studying in the exploration of form and light.

The theology and mythology of Hinduism as we learned it on this trip is explained in this site, and it starts with the symbol of AUM, the sound of creation, i.e. a harmonic.

A – The Word
U – Sleep: dreaming, spirit work
M – Dreamless sleep: awareness

It's the symbol of essence in Hinduism. It means oneness with the Supreme, the merging of the physical being with the spiritual. The most sacred syllable, the first sound of the Almighty, the sound from which emerges each and every other sound, whether of music or of language - harmonic structure in all things – light, mass, heat, gravity, living processes, natural forms.

In the Upanishads this sacred syllable appears as a mystic sound, regarded by scriptures as the very basis of every other sacred mantra (hymn). It is the sound not only of origination but also of dissolution. The past, present and future are all included in this one sound and even all that transcends this configuration of time is also implied in AUM. It represents the TRIMURTI (trinity) of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Shiva's drum produced this sound and through it came the notes of the octave scale. Thus by this sound Shiva creates and recreates the universe. AUM is also the sound form of Atman.

Upanishads are the core teachings of Vedanta (around the middle of the first millennium BCE) They postulate universal spirit (Brahman - the ultimate, both transcendent and immanent, the absolute infinite existence, the sum total of all that ever is, was, or shall be) and of an individual soul (Atman).

Cycling back to the expressions and discovery of these relationships in Western culture, an outstanding reference book to illustrate this graphically is "The Power of Limits". It's written by Gyorgy Doczi, who has practiced architecture in Hungary, Sweden, Iran and the United States. He initiated a permanent exhibit on form in nature and art at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, and is a founder of the Friends of Jungian Psychology Northwest.

Look inside the book (First Pages), you'll find the harmonics displayed in great detail here for all to see. It starts out with the Buddhist "flower sermon" and goes into Dinergy in Plants, and onward from there. This world view is one that we all brought home with us, the unifying structure of life and its interconnected existence.