The Law of Octaves – an overview using music

To provide an overview of the Law of Octaves and how the example of music can be used to demonstrate that our perceptions are often inaccurate (e.g.,“there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” as the Proverb goes), we can use the layout of a keyboard.  It is important to remember, however, that we are using a keyboard merely to illustrate a universal law of vibration that can be found everywhere in our lives; i.e., the Law of Octaves is not a law of ‘music’ per se, but music (which is really just organized vibration) provides a fairly simple means of illustrating how this law of vibration works.

Below we have a picture of an octave (meaning “eight” notes) as seen on a keyboard:

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If you were to play all of the white keys ascending from the first C key up to the second C key, this would be an entire seven-note scale, with the second C being exactly one octave higher than the first C (i.e., its frequency vibrating at twice the frequency or speed of the first C note), at which point the sequence of notes would repeat, but at a higher frequency than the first octave.  To hear what a major scale sounds like, click here.  (While not particularly important for the purposes of this discussion, this seven-note scale is called a C Major scale.  I will mention that a C Major scale, being the one major scale that utilizes only the white keys of a piano, lends itself well to help explain this law in as simple a manner as possible – particularly for those who may not understand music well.  The same principles would, of course, hold true for all major scales.)

It is important to notice in the diagram above the sequence of what are called whole-steps and half-steps (or whole-tones and half-tones) that make up the scale.  A half-step is the smallest music interval in Western music and can be seen in the diagram above with any two immediately adjacent keys (i.e., with no keys in between) – white or black.  For example, moving from the left-most C key to the black key immediately to the right of it, C#, would be a half-tone; as would the interval between the E and F keys (both white).  A whole tone, on the other hand, is the equivalent of two half-tones combined (i.e., having one key in between).  For example, the interval between the left-most C key and the D key to the right of it – having one black key between them – would be a whole tone; as would the interval between the E key and F#.

Keeping in mind that we are utilizing the major scale (i.e., all of the white keys ascending from the first C to the second C in this case), it is important to notice where the half-steps fall within the sequence – i.e., Whole-Whole-Half-Whole-Whole-Whole-Half – meaning that from C to D is a whole-step, from D to E is a whole-step, from E to F is a half-step, and so on.  Looking at this sequence – i.e., the progression of the octave – we SEE that the interval between the third and fourth scale degrees is different (being a half-step) from the previous two whole-steps, but, very importantly, our ears do not naturally HEAR the interval as being different.  Thinking in terms of vibration, the rate of vibration increases as we progress through the octave from note to note, and the half-steps are the points at which the rate of increasing vibration within the progression of the sequence naturally decreases, and the “twisting” of the frequencies that makes these intervals within the sequence not easily perceptible occurs at these points. It is important to understand why this is, and, being a demonstration of a universal law of vibration, the far-reaching ramifications it has in our lives.

It is interesting to note that, within the context of a major scale, the half-tone interval between the third and fourth notes sounds quite different than when the same two notes are played in succession by themselves.  When isolated outside of the progression of the octave, the half-tone has a distinct dissonance or tension to it.  As an example, think of the “Jaws” movie theme, which uses this interval extensively.  Composer John Williams understood the tension of the half-tone in isolation well enough to use it quite effectively as the theme for a movie about a killer shark.  But something very interesting happens when that same interval is played subsequently to the two initial whole-tones of an octave/scale in that our ears are “tricked” into hearing the interval differently – and this is key (pun not intended).

Take a moment to listen to the major scale that was linked above to confirm what I’m referring to and then ask yourself the following question: within the progression of the sequence of the major scale/octave, which, by its very nature, is known as having a “bright” or “happy” quality to it, where is the tension of the interval between the third and fourth scale degrees and between the seventh and eighth/first degrees that is so apparent in the “Jaws” theme linked above?  It’s the same half-tone, and yet our ears will naturally hear it quite differently within the progression of the octave.  In fact, the half-tone interval between the third and fourth scale degrees sounds very much like the previous two whole tones of the sequence, but only when played in a progression subsequently to the first/male, second/female, and third/third-force scale degrees (more on this below) – at which point the frequencies “twist.”  This is important in coming to understand how the keyboard illustration demonstrates the universal application of this law.

How does this law have universal application?  A simplified example will be presented here to help illustrate how the law must ultimately become something practical that we strive to consciously work with each day.  It should be remembered when reading this example, however, that it is only one of countless possibilities at many different possible levels (e.g., for individuals versus groups, families, organizations, countries, etc., or over the span of  a day, a minute, a lifetime, etc.) and based on many possible factors.

One may initiate an octave in their life, for example, with a commitment to work towards accomplishing a certain goal based on self-observed past failures, such as a goal to maintain better self-control during arguments with a certain loved one – rather than responding in a reactive and retaliatory manner that has become customary for the person.  This intention could be a “Do” movement, which is the active/male movement that initiates the octave, though, like any degree of an octave, could at the same time be a step within other, previous octaves; part of a sub-octave within a larger octave; and/or could contain a sub-octave within itself.  A possible “Re” movement would be a situation that arises – reflective of the “Do” step of the sequence – in which a situation or argument with the person’s loved one arises that would likely result in the typical retaliatory and reactive response that resulted in the person’s desire to set the goal of maintaining better self-control in the first place.  Note that the “Re” is the reflective/female movement that follows the initial “Do” movement in the sequence.

In the “Mi” movement – the third-force balance of the active and reflective movements of the sequence, yet, at the same time, the “Do” of its own new sequence and possibly being a part of any number of other concurrent octaves as described earlier – a series of possible choices are set up from which the person must choose (i.e., that crucial point between stimulus and response).  And this is the point at which the rate of increasing vibration within the progression of the sequence naturally decreases and the twist occurs – though often imperceptibly (not unlike the half-step within the sequence of the octave that we mistakenly hear as a whole-step) – that we must strive to straighten.

At this point, in the heat of the moment of the situation or argument, the person’s aspects of self from the multitude within that tend to come to the surface and overtake the person in these situations will almost certainly be invoked, and at that moment, without some degree of conscious oversight and direction of the multitude of personalities within, a shift will unknowingly occur and, in that moment, the person’s typical / auto-pilot response may seem to be the correct one – oblivious at that time to the other aspects of self that seek to respond differently during such situations and of the goal of same.  Outside of the heat of the moment, such as initially when the goal was set or after the situation has passed in retrospection, what had seemed correct in the moment during the argument (e.g., the retaliatory, defensive, reactive response) could perhaps be seen more clearly for what it is – i.e., a loss of self-control that results in words and actions that are later regretted for example.  In the moment of the argument, however, the octave twists and the interval at which a choice is presented for the person to respond as previously intended when the octave had been initiated may not be readily apparent – potentially veering the person off course from their original intentions and often without any awareness at the time that it is even occurring (an example of what we refer to as being “asleep”).

The key to straightening the twist and working to overcome the laws therefore, rather than being blown about by them unknowingly like a leaf in the wind, is consciousness (resulting in what we could refer to as true free will) – analogous to our keyboard example above to training our ear to hear the intervals between the third and fourth (and seventh and first/eighth) degrees within the progression of the octave more as the half-tones that they are.  Consciousness, of course, is a separate and huge topic unto itself.

In closing, I would like to say that it is largely through the tests of life at the crucial intervals of the octave (those points between stimulus and response during which we must choose from a series of possible choices) that provide us with the opportunity – through the choices we make – to progress and advance up the rungs of Jacob’s Ladder, or alternatively, remain stuck where we are, or even move backwards, until which time we are truly ready to overcome and succeed.  As often stated on the forums associated with this website, “no one can ever possess any greater amount of Truth, than they are willing to live and manifest in Word, Thought, Desire and Deed.”  These tests or opportunities are therefore good, though it often may not feel that way in the midst of them.

For an in-depth study on the Law of Octaves, click here.

Shalom.

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