Meditation Exercise on the Tetractys

I’m sure most of us have heard, at least at one point when we were growing up, that when we’re angry and about to fly off the handle, that we should calm down before we act rashly.  One common way to cool off when we’re emotionally heated is to count to ten: take a deep breath, count from 1 to 2 to 3 all the way up to 10, then breathe deeply again, and by that point we should have calmed down enough to act at least a little more rationally and reasonably instead of like the geomantic figure Puer on caffeine.  Turns out that this little counting trick is good for other things, too, and I’ve adopted it as a basis for a short but powerful mathetic meditation exercise.  We’ve already described at least one method of mathetic meditation before by meditating on the letters by means of sound and by means of symbol, and we’ve alluded to meditating on the structure of the Tetractys, but now I’d like to make that latter part more specific.

First, let’s talk about breathing.  Breathing is the ultimate means of meditation for the vast majority of us: by simple awareness of breathing, we calm the mind, we cool the body down, and we take control of our spirit for deeper contemplation.  It’s hard to overestimate the full power of the breath, since with the breath we control our bodies and selves in a deep way; Jason Miller even says that a magician who can’t control their breath is no magician at all.  What I like to use as the basis for breathing in meditation is something that’s called the fourfold breath.  While sitting with the back straight but relaxed, such as in a chair, lotus position, or seiza position, close or relax the eyes and proceed with the following:

  1. Exhale completely, breathing out from your center.  This is the preliminary emptying breath; it might help to make a soft popping noise with the mouth (“peh peh peh peh peh”) to completely empty the lungs.
  2. Inhale into the center deeply, filling your lungs from the bottom up.  Count to four at a slow and natural rhythm.
  3. Hold the breath without closing the throat.  Count to four.
  4. Exhale completely, emptying your lungs from the top down from your center.  Count to four.
  5. Hold the lungs empty without closing the throat.  Count to four.
  6. Repeat from #1 as necessary.

This is the basis of the fourfold breath that other authors, such as John Michael Greer and Jason Miller, have used in their meditative and contemplative work, and I’ve used it before in my meditations on the geomantic figures as well as for devotional meditations using the Trisagion prayer.  It’s a great way to start off any meditation session, and a great meditative tool in its own right which can lead to deep insights, if not complete enlightenment a la the vipassana tradition in Buddhism.  Before proceeding with the actual mathetic meditation below, give this a try for a few sessions lasting at least five minutes each.

Once you’ve got the hang of this simple breathing meditation, let’s proceed with the actual meditation exercise.  When you’re relaxed and rested, recite an old Pythagorean prayer called the Invocation of the Tetractys.  I plan to use this prayer before any mathetic exercise, so it’s a good and short prayer to memorize and keep handy for all such meditations.  I’ve adapted the prayer from an older form, and the one I use is this:

Bless us, divine Number, you who enform gods and men!  O holy, holy Tetractys, you who contain the root and the source of all eternal and eternally flowing creation! For the divine Number begins with the profound, pure Monad until it comes to the holy Tetrad, then it begets the mother of all, the all-comprising, all-bounding, first-born, never-swerving, never-tiring, holy Decad, the keyholder of all!

Perform ten fourfold breaths as above to calm the mind and settle the body and spirit.  Next, perform another ten fourfold breaths, but this time we’re going to do something different on the exhale:

  1. On the first breath, intone the number “One” in your native language, breathing out from your center (or vibrate it, if you’re into that).  Visualize a single point in your mind and hold the image.
  2. On the second breath, intone the number “Two”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a second point beneath and to the left of the first with a single path linking the two.  Hold the image.
  3. On the third breath, intone the number “Three”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a third point to the right of the second, with two new paths linking this third point to the prior two.  Hold the image.
  4. On the fourth breath, intone the number “Four”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a fourth point beneath and to the left of the second, with two new paths linking this fourth point to the second and third points.  Hold the image.
  5. On the fifth breath, intone the number “Five”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a fifth point to the right of the fourth, with two new paths linking this fifth point to the fourth, second, and third points.  Hold the image.
  6. On the sixth breath, intone the number “Six”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a sixth point to the right of the fifth, with three new paths linking this sixth point to the fifth, second, and third.  Hold the image.
  7. On the seventh breath, intone the number “Seven”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a seventh point beneath and to the left of the fourth, with one new path linking this seventh point to the fifth point.  Hold the image.
  8. On the eighth breath, intone the number “Eight”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a eighth point to the right of the seventh, with five new paths linking this third point to the seventh, fourth, second, fifth, and sixth points.  Hold the image.
  9. On the ninth breath, intone the number “Nine”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a ninth point to the right of the eighth, with five new paths linking this third point to the eighth, fourth, fifth, third, and sixth points.  Hold the image.
  10. On the tenth breath, intone the number “Ten”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a tenth point to the right of the ninth, with two new paths linking this third point to the ninth and sixth points.  Hold the image.

So, each breath is associated with a particular stage of construction of the Tetractys of Life, proceeding in the order of the images below:

In your mind, you’ll’ve constructed the structure of the Tetractys of Life, all ten sphairai with all 24 paths between them.  After the ten constructing breaths, perform another ten fourfold breaths intoning nothing, just holding the image of the Tetractys in your mind, letting yourself become absorbed in its structure.  Once the tenth breath is complete, perform one last fourfold breath.  On this last breath, let the image dissolve into your breath on the inhale, disseminating throughout your body on the exhale, and exhaling a clean, pure breath at the end.  The meditation is complete.

I like the idea of using one’s own native language to count; it’s a linguistic curiosity that thinking of numbers and using them in speech takes place in a different part of the brain than other types of prose or poesy, and it’s a mark of innate fluency when you can instinctively count in a different language other than your native one.  In using your native language’s words for the numbers, the meditation becomes a little easier on the mind and makes the whole experience more natural and intuitive.  However, if you want to be a little more mystical, you could also use “Monad”, “Dyad”, “Triad”, “Tetrad”, and so on up to “Decad”, so it’s up to you.  I prefer the use of the simple native counting numbers, personally.

Now, the above meditation process is fairly straightforward, and I find it good for people who haven’t yet gone through the ritual of initiation into mathesis, a kind of “outsider” meditation that anyone can use who may want to begin work with the Tetractys.  It’s simple and clean, and it works.  However, I don’t particularly care for the order of how we visualize the sphairai above, since it feels a little awkward, especially in light of how we traverse the paths on the Gnosis Schema of the Tetractys, so more advanced mathetists may want to try a slightly different visualization.  The process is overall the same and starts off with the Invocation of the Tetractys and the initial ten breaths, but there are a few changes once we get to the construction breaths, where we use twelve breaths instead of ten:

  1. On the first breath, intone the number “One”, breathing out from your center.  Visualize a single point in your mind and hold the image.
  2. On the second breath, intone nothing.  Hold the image.
  3. On the third breath, intone the number “Two”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a second point beneath and to the right of the first with a single path linking the two.  Hold the image.
  4. On the fourth breath, intone the number “Three”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a third point to the right of the second with a single path linking this to the second point.  Hold the image.
  5. On the fifth breath, intone the number “Four”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a fourth point to the right of the first with three paths connecting this to the first, second, and third points. Hold the image.
  6. On the sixth breath, intone nothing.  Hold the image.
  7. On the seventh breath, intone the number “Five”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a fifth point to the left of the first with two paths connecting this to the first and second points. Hold the image.
  8. On the eighth breath, intone the number “Six”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a sixth point beneath and to the left of the fifth with a single path connecting this to the fifth. Hold the image.
  9. On the ninth breath, intone the number “Seven”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a seventh point between the sixth and second points with five paths connecting this to the sixth, fifth, first, fourth, and second points. Hold the image.
  10. On the tenth breath, intone nothing.  Hold the image.
  11. On the eleventh breath, intone the number “Eight”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a eighth point above and to the right of the first with four paths connecting this to the fifth, first, second, and fourth points. Hold the image.
  12. On the twelfth breath, intone the number “Nine”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a ninth point above and to the left of the eighth with a single path connecting this to the eighth point. Hold the image.
  13. On the thirteenth breath, intone the number “Ten”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a tenth point to the left of the eighth point with six paths connecting this to the ninth, eighth, fourth, fifth, seventh, and fifth points. Hold the image.
  14. On the fourteenth breath, intone nothing.  Hold the image.

Although we have ten points to construct as before, there are twelve stages total in the Gnosis Schema, where we cross over the central sphaira of Mercury multiple times.  Once we complete a system of three points on the Tetractys around the sphaira of Mercury, we return to the central sphaira and prepare ourselves for the next system.  Thus, once we complete a system and return to the first central sphaira of Mercury, we spend an extra breath just focusing on what we’ve constructed so far.  After this, we do another ten fourfold breaths to hold the whole completed Tetractys of Life in mind, dissolving the image on a final, eleventh breath.

I think this meditation exercise, the latter Gnostic Schema form of which I used during the ten days of my ritual of self-initiation, helps in developing an intuitive and innate understanding of the Tetractys, or at least plants a seed for the further growth of which as one develops in the study and practice of mathesis.  With the Gnosis Schema variant of the meditation, it’s interesting to see how the paths develop along with the sphairai, which itself can help one with seeing how the Gnosis Schema develops a full understanding based on earlier foundations of practice as one traverses the Tetractys in this manner.  It can help to use this meditation before any work in mathesis as a preliminary preparation, perhaps starting not with the sphaira of Mercury but the sphaira one is currently “at”, such as if one has progressed to the sphaira of Salt, one begins with constructing the Tetractys there and proceeding to the “second” sphaira of Earth, then the “third” sphaira of Water, and so forth, again pausing whenever one reaches the sphaira of Mercury.  One can further enhance this meditation by adding on the letters, numbers, and stoicheia of the paths into the meditation, perhaps spending another breath per each path that develops as one constructs a new sphaira in the visualization.

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