Sacred Texts  Sky Lore  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

Harmonies of the World, by Johannes Kepler, tr. Charles Glenn Wallis [1939], at


[273] This kinship [cognatio] is various and manifold; but there are four degrees of kinship. For either the sign of kinship is taken from the outward form alone which the figures have, or else ratios which are the same as the harmonic arise in the construction of the side, or result from the figures already constructed, taken simply or together; or, lastly, they are either equal to or approximate the ratios of the spheres of the figure.

In the first degree, the ratios, where the character or greater term is 3, have kinship with the triangular plane of the tetrahedron, octahedron, and icosahedron;

p. 1013

but where the greater term is 4, with the square plane of the cube; where 5, with the pentagonal plane of the dodecahedron. This similitude on the part of the plane can also be extended to the smaller term of the ratio, so that wherever the number 3 is found as one term of the continued doubles, that ratio is held to be akin to the three figures first named: for example, 1 : 3 and 2 : 3 and 4 : 3 and 8 : 3, et cetera; but where the number is 5, that ratio is absolutely assigned to the wedding of the dodecahedron : for example, 2 : 5 and 4 : 5 and 8 : 5, and thus 3 : 5 and 3 : 10 and 6 : 5 and 12 : 5 and 24 : 5. The kinship will be less probable if the sum of the terms expresses this similitude, as in 2 : 3 the sum of the terms is equal to 5, as if to say that 2 : 3 is akin to the dodecahedron. The kinship on account of the outward form of the solid angle is similar: the solid angle is trilinear among the primary figures, quadrilinear in the octahedron, and quinquelinear in the icosahedron. And so if one term of the ratio participates in the number 3, the ratio will be connected with the primary bodies; but if in the number 4, with the octahedron; and finally, if in the number 5, with the icosahedron. But in the feminine solids this kinship is more apparent, because the characteristic figure latent within follows upon the form of the angle: the tetragon in the octahedron, the pentagon in the icosahedron; and so 3 : 5 would go to the sectioned icosahedron for both reasons.

The second degree of kinship, which is genetic, is to be conceived as follows: First, some harmonic ratios of numbers are akin to one wedding or family, namely, perfect ratios to the single family of the cube; conversely, there is the ratio which is never fully expressed in numbers and cannot be demonstrated by numbers in any other way, except by a long series of numbers gradually approaching it: this ratio is called divine, when it is perfect, and it rules in various ways throughout the dodecahedral wedding. Accordingly, the following consonances begin to shadow forth that ratio: 1 : 2 and 2 : 3 and 2 : 3 and 5 : 8. For it exists most imperfectly in 1 : 2, more perfectly in 5 : 8, and still more perfectly if we add 5 and 8 to make 13 and take 8 as the numerator, if this ratio has not stopped being harmonic.

Further, in constructing the side of the figure, the diameter of the globe must be cut; and the octahedron demands its bisection, the cube and the tetrahedron its trisection, the dodecahedral wedding its quinquesection. Accordingly, the ratios between the figures are distributed according to the numbers which express those ratios. But the square on the diameter is cut too, or the square on the side of the figure is formed from a fixed part of the diameter. And then the squares on the sides are compared with the square on the diameter, and they constitute the following ratios : in the cube 1 : 3, in the tetrahedron 2 : 3, in the octahedron 1 : 2. Wherefore, if the two ratios are put together, the cubic and the tetrahedral will give 1 : 2; the cubic and the octahedral, 2 : 3; the octahedral and the tetrahedral, 3 : 4. The sides in the dodecahedral wedding are irrational.

Thirdly, the harmonic ratios follow in various ways upon the already constructed figures. For either the number of the sides of the plane is compared with the number of lines in the total figure; [274] and the following ratios arise : in the cube, 4 : 12 or 1 : 3; in the tetrahedron 3 : 6 or 1 : 2; in the octahedron 3 : 12 or 1 : 4; in the dodecahedron 5 : 30 or 1 : 6; in the icosahedron 3 : 30 or 1 : 10. Or else the number of sides of the plane is compared with the number of planes; then the cube gives 4 : 6 or 2 : 3, the tetrahedron 3 : 4, the octahedron 3 : 8, the dodecahedron 5 : 12, the icosahedron 3 : 20. Or else the number of

p. 1014

sides or angles of the plane is compared with the number of solid angles, and the cube gives 4 : 8 or 1 : 2, the tetrahedron 3 : 4, the octahedron 3 : 6 or 1 : 2, the dodecahedron with its consort 5 : 20 or 3 : 12 (i.e., 1 : 4). Or else the number of planes is compared with the number of solid angles, and the cubic wedding gives 6 : 8 or 3 : 4, the tetrahedron the ratio of equality, the dodecahedral wedding 12 : 20 or 3 : 5. Or else the number of all the sides is compared with the number of the solid angles, and the cube gives 8 : 12 or 2 : 3, the tetrahedron 4 : 6 or 2 : 3, and the octahedron 6 : 12 or 1 : 2, the dodecahedron 20 : 30 or 2 : 3, the icosahedron 12 : 30 or 2 : 5.

Moreover, the bodies too are compared with one another, if the tetrahedron is stowed away in the cube, the octahedron in the tetrahedron and cube, by geometrical inscription. The tetrahedron is one third of the cube, the octahedron half of the tetrahedron, one sixth of the cube, just as the octahedron, which is inscribed in the globe, is one sixth of the cube which circumscribes the globe. The ratios of the remaining bodies are irrational.

The fourth species or degree of kinship is more proper to this work: the ratio of the spheres inscribed in the figures to the spheres circumscribing them is sought, and what harmonic ratios approximate them is calculated. For only in the tetrahedron is the diameter of the inscribed sphere rational, namely, one third of the circumscribed sphere. But in the cubic wedding the ratio, which is single there, is as lines which are rational only in square. For the diameter of the inscribed sphere is to the diameter of the circumscribed sphere as the square root of the ratio 1 : 3. And if you compare the ratios with one another, the ratio of the tetrahedral spheres is the square of the ratio of the cubic spheres. In the dodecahedral wedding there is again a single ratio, but an irrational one, slightly greater than 4 : 5. Therefore the ratio of the spheres of the cube and octahedron is approximated by the following consonances : 1 : 2, as proximately greater, and

3 : 5, as proximately smaller. But the ratio of the dodecahedral spheres is approximated by the consonances 4 : 5 and 5 : 6, as proximately smaller, and 3 : 4 and 5 : 8, as proximately greater.

But if for certain reasons 1 : 2 and 1 : 3 are arrogated to the cube, the ratio of the spheres of the cube will be to the ratio of the spheres of the tetrahedron as the consonances 1 : 2 and 1 : 3, which have been ascribed to the cube, are to 1 : 4 and 1 : 9, which are to be assigned to the tetrahedron, if this proportion is to be used. For these ratios, too, are as the squares of those consonances. And because 1 : 9 is not harmonic, 1 : 8 the proximate ratio takes its place in the tetrahedron. But by this proportion approximately 4 : 5 and 3 : 4 will go with the dodecahedral wedding. For as the ratio of the spheres of the cube is approximately the cube of the ratio of the dodecahedral, so too the cubic consonances 1 : 2 and 2 : 3 are approximately the cubes of the consonances 4 : 5 and 3 : 4. For 4 : 5 cubed is 64 : 125, and 1 : 2 is 64 : 128. So 3 : 4 cubed is 27 : 64, and 1 : 3 is 27 : 81.

Next: 3. A Summary of Astronomical Doctrine Necessary For Speculation Into the Celestial Harmonies