Atom (esoteric definition)

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Esotericism views the atom, and matter that is built up from the aggregation of these atoms in a much more encompassing way then does material science. Esotericism speaks of matter in terms of MATERIALITY and views matter in terms of vibrations. The suffix 'ity' in the word 'materiality' connotes 'state' or 'quality of being.' Thus all matter is the same but materiality is different. Materiality has degrees of quality associated with it that go beyond the quantatative limitations of material science.

According to esoteric science there are different gradations or 'densities' of materiality that are determined by the rate at which the atoms vibrate that comprise it. Each level has its own characteristics and the matter on one plane may not be seen to be 'material' at all from the perspective of a lower plane. Thus materiality is relative, as is matter and energy. What is material at one level may be considered non-material at a lower level, and what may be considered non-material at a lower level may be considered as material on a higher level.

As we ascend the scale of materiality, from lower orders of being to higher orders, the distinction between matter and energy becomes less clear since matter and energy are really just characteristics of the phenomenal world with which we are all familiar. As we ascend to higher orders of being, matter and energy begin to blend into each other and becomes less dualistic, at least with respect to how we commonly understand these terms.

From the point of view of esoteric science matter is not dead at all but is a reflection of the living essential Thought Centers from which all creation is manifest. Gurdjieff speaks of these gradations of materiality in terms of intelligence. As we ascend the scale of being the matter becomes more intelligent, more conscious. It is in reference to this that Gurdjieff speaks of "gradations of objective reason" in his magnum opus 'Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson.'

In Ouspensky's book In Search of the Miraculous, Gurdjieff says:

"We must now realize that the density of vibrations and the density of matter express many other properties of matter. For instance, till now we have said nothing about the INTELLIGENCE or consciousness of matter. Meanwhile the speed of vibrations of a matter shows the degree of intelligence of the given matter. You must remember that there is nothing dead or inanimate in nature. Everything in its own way is alive, everything in its own way is intelligent and conscious. Only this consciousness and intelligence is expressed in a different way on different levels of being--that is, on different scales. But you must understand once and for all that nothing is dead or inanimate in nature, there are simply different degrees of animation and different scales."
[...] "the degree of consciousness corresponds to the degree of density or the speed of vibrations. This means that the denser the matter the less conscious it is, the less intelligent. And the denser the vibrations, the more conscious and the more intelligent the matter."
"Really dead matter begins where vibrations cease. But under ordinary conditions of life on earth's surface we have no concern with dead matter. And science cannot procure it. All the matter we know is living matter and in its own way it is intelligent".

Concerning the atom of esoteric or "objective chemistry", Gurdjieff says:

"An atom of a given density, a really existing individuum, must be taken as the smallest quantity of the substance examined which retains all those qualities—chemical, physical and cosmic—which characterize it as a certain note of a definite octave. For instance, in contemporary chemistry there is no atom of water, as water is not a simple substance but a chemical compound of hydrogen and oxygen. Yet from the point of view of 'objective chemistry' an 'atom' of water is an ultimate and definitive volume of it, even visible to the naked eye".

Thus from the point of view of esoteric science there could be, for example, an 'atom of water' to designate the smallest amount of this substance possible that still retains all it's properties, both physical and cosmic.

The distinction between the different orders of materiality and it's relationship to the atom of esoteric science is well expressed in P.D.Ouspensky's book, The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution.

Below excerpt taken from pages 123 -126:

The next idea which it is necessary to master is the materiality of the universe which is taken in the form of the 'ray of creation.' Everything in the universe can be weighed and measured. The Absolute is as material, as weighable and measurable as the moon, or as man. If the Absolute is God, it means that God can be weighed and measured, resolved into component elements, calculated, and expressed in the form of a definite formula.
But the concept 'materiality' is as relative as everything else. If we recall how the conception 'man' and all that refers to him--good, evil, truth, falseness, etc. -- is divided into different categories (man number one, man number two and so on) it will be easy for us to understand that the concept 'world' and everything that refers to the world is also divided into different categories. The ray of creation establishes seven planes in the world, seven worlds one within another. Everything that refers to the world is also divided into seven categories, one category within another.
The materiality of the Absolute is a materiality of a different order from that of 'all worlds'. The materiality of 'all worlds' is of an order different from the materiality of 'all suns'.
The materiality of 'all suns' is of an order different from the materiality of our sun.
The materiality of our sun is of an order different from the materiality of 'all planets'.
The materiality of 'all planets' is of an order different from the materiality of the earth and the materiality of the earth is of an order different from the materiality of the moon.
The idea is at first difficult to grasp. People are accustomed to think that matter is everywhere the same. The whole of physics, of astrophysics, of chemistry, such methods as spectro-analysis, etc., are based on this assumption. And it is true that matter is the same, but materiality is different. And different degrees of materiality depend directly upon the qualities and properties of the energy manifested at a given point.
Matter or substance necessarily presupposes the existence of force or energy. This does not mean that a dualistic conception of the world is necessary. The concepts of matter and force are as relative as everything else. In the Absolute, where all is one, matter and force are also one. But in this connection matter and force are not taken as real principles of the world in itself, but as properties or characteristics of the phenomenal world observes by us. To begin the study of the universe it is sufficient to have an elementary idea of matter and energy, such as we get by immediate observation through the organs of sense. The 'constant' is taken as material, as matter, and 'changes' in the state of the 'constant' or of matter, are all manifestations of force or energy.
All these changes can be regarded as the result of vibrations and undulatory motions which begin in the center, that is in the Absolute, and go in all directions, crossing one another, colliding and merging together, until they stop altogether at the end of the ray of creation.
From this point of view, then, the world consists of vibrations and matter, or of matter in a state of vibration, of vibrating matter. THE RATE OF VIBRATION IS IN INVERSE RATIO TO THE DENSITY OF MATTER.
In the Absolute the vibrations are the most rapid and matter is the least dense. In the next world vibrations are slower and matter denser; and further on matter is still more dense and vibrations correspondingly slower.
'Matter' may be regarded as consisting of 'atoms.' Atoms in this connection are taken also as the result of the final division of matter; in every order of matter they are simply called certain PARTICLES of the given matter which are indivisible only on the given plane. The atoms of the Absolute alone are really indivisible; the atom of the next plane, that is, of World 3, consists of three atoms of the Absolute or, in other words, it is three times bigger and three times heavier, and its movements are correspondingly slower.
The atom of world 6 consists of six atoms of the Absolute merged together, as it were, and forming one atom. Its movements are correspondingly slower. The atom of the next world consists of twelve primordial particles, the next worlds' of twenty-four, forty-eight and ninety-six.
The atom of world 96 is of enormous size compared with the atom of world 1; it's movements are correspondingly slower and the matter which is made up of such atoms is correspondingly denser.
The seven worlds of the 'ray of creation' represent seven orders of materiality. The materiality of the moon is different from that of the earth; the materiality of the earth is different from the materiality of the planetary world; the materiality of the planetary world is different from the materiality of the sun, and so on.

Mouravieff also speaks of the esoteric atom in his book Gnosis, pages 89-93:

An exhaustive examination of the names of the notes that form the musical octave shows direct correspondence with the notes of the Great cosmic Octave, as can be seen from the following diagram:
1) God. The Absolute manifest. The central Sun--- DOminus (Do)
3) Starry sky. Ensemble of all Worlds--------------- SIdereus orbis (Si)
6) Our Great World; the Milky Way ----------------- LActeus orbis (La)
12) The Sun--------------------------------------------SOL (Sol)
24) The Planetary World------------------------------FAturn (Fa) to which antiquity attributed direct influence on our destiny
48) Earth-----------------------------------------------MIxtus orbis (Mi)
96) Moon-----------------------------------------------REgina astris (Re) ruler of human fate according to the ancients
Let us return to the problem of matter-energy, to clarify the question of atomic structure as it is understood by esoteric science. We have seen that the first manifestation of energy appears in the form of a cyclic intra-atomic vibratory movement. This movement, animating a certain number of nuclei, forms matter. If we can say in effect that these moving nuclei form matter, then we must not forget that they themselves consist of energy in a static form. Conversely, energy is no more than matter taking dynamic form. The disintegration of the atom gives a clear example of such a transformation. On the other hand, we have named spherical lightning as an example of the concentration of dynamic energy in the form of nuclei.
This process is the converse of the first, and can be compared to the phenomenon of atomic fusion.
We have also mentioned that the structure of matter is subject to the principle of Equilibrium, and that its density is inversely proportional to that of the internal vibrations which animate it. This serves to introduce into our studies the notion of the atom, as described in the Tradition.
According to the classical definition, the atom is that particle of any element which is said to be simple; which can be divided no further if it is to keep those chemical properties which determine the various ways in which it combines with other bodies.
Esoteric science has a different notion. Here it is:
Definition - The atom is the smallest particle, the last division of any given substance which integrally conserves all its properties: physical, chemical, mental and cosmic. We can see that this definition is closer to that of the molecule, even though it also goes beyond that.
We therefore recognize atoms of various compound bodies as well as the atoms of those elements which chemistry considers to be simple. For example, (there is) an atom of water, an atom of air, etc. In correlation with the cosmic properties of the atom thus defined, esoteric science recognizes various Orders of Matter, classified according to the density of the typical atoms that correspond to every Ievel of the Great Octave.
Given this conception, it does not in principle admit any opposition between Matter and Spirit. If we oppose one to the other, it is as a convention for simple convenience, in the same way that astronomy continues to utilize Ptolemy's system for its practical aims, while pertinently aware that it is the system of Copernicus that more exactly reflects reality. From the point of view of esoteric science, which is in principle monistic, all is matter in the manifest world. Matter is a manifestation of energy, which is no more than a form of Spirit. In a hymn which has been preserved in Orthodoxy, the attributes of the Holy Spirit quite clearly show this form of thought:
King of Heavens, Comforter
Spirit of Truth, Omnipresent,
All Filling, Treasure of Saints,
Dispenser of Life,
Come and abide in us,
Purify us from all pollution
And save our souls, O good one!'
(Translated from old Slavonic. The author notes that this concept of Holy Spirit is represented in the form of Fire (Acts ii: 3),and is analogous to Agni in Hinduism. We should also note that in Greek the terms spirit and air are homonyms (PNUMA), as are the terms spirit and breath (doukh) in old Slavonic).
This said, we can understand that only the atom of the Absolute is really simple and consequently indivisible: here a single nucleus of Energy-Spirit vibrates at maximum intensity. It is the lightest atom; in esoteric science its matter-density is taken as unity.
Then, coming down the Ray of Creation; step by step, the vibrations progressively lose their speed. It follows that, at each successive note of the Cosmic Octave, the constitution of the atoms will require more matter: the atoms become more and more heavy and inert. As we shall see hereafter, the typical atoms of each level reflect the form of Creation in accordance with the Law of Three, as described above, in such a way that the density of these typical atoms follow the notes of the Great Octave, and can be represented by the figure on the following page.
Positive science only considers four of the seven levels of cosmic matter: it studies the level of the Earth integrally; a large proportion at the level of the Moon, and in gradually lesser proportion the levels of the Planetary World, and the Sun. As yet it does not possess any means of perceiving or knowing the three higher levels. The atoms of the Planetary World-as defined above-already appear in some way hypothetical. As for the Sun, we know very few things concerning that star. But the progress of positive science has placed us today on the eve of important discoveries in this field, as in our knowledge of out satellite. We will be surprised to learn that, objectively, the Sun has an altogether different appearance from the one we perceive, and that the Earth, seen from the Moon, appears altogether other than what we make of it.
The atom of the Absolute: the only indivisible atom
An atom at the level of All Worlds
An atom of the Milkey Way
An atom of the Sun
An atom of the Planetary World
An atom of the planet Earth
An atom of the Moon

Note: Only relative densities diagramed above. Figure is not exact.

See also