(The Origin of the God, Mathematics and Music from the Rg Veda to Plato)
By Ernest G. McClain
New York: Nicolas Hays, 1976. 216 pages. $14.50. ISBN 0-89254-003-6.
Review from Journal from the American Academy of Religion
Numerology is for many a suspect science. It seems to have been superseded by mathematics. Musicology has become an art. And yet there is something behind the concerns of these two human disciplines that the last 3,000 years Of human civilization have not been powerful enough to eliminate. The author grapples again with the problem of a proto-science of number and tone. Even for the sceptic there are two things which cannot be brushed away. the intrinsic relation between sound and mathematical scales (since Pythagoras in the West), and the astounding relations that we find from music to architecture (from the Far East to the extreme West) between musical proportions, spatial dimensions and abstract numbers. McClain is not afraid of this generally unexplored problem and based mainly on the RigVeda, Pythagoras (with his forerunners in Babylon and Sumer) and Plato, tries to elaborate a general theory of harmonical analysis as "a technique for synthesizing the tonal, arithmetical, and geometrical imagery of ancient civilizations" (p. 195).
Without entering now into the fine analyses of the author let me plead for him by putting the problem in this popular way: Either there is a God who in a primordial revelation shares the secrets of the universe with the wise men of everywhere or there is an underlying harmony between all the spheres of being which opens up to the human scrutiny since the dawn of homo sapiens. In both cases there is a primordial mystery which is more than cosmology or psychology, more than physics or metaphysics. The clues are everywhere, but we have to learn to read, to sing, perhaps really to contemplate: to love the Being of beings.
R. Panikkar, University of California at Santa Barbara