Sacred Sounds – Healing Sounds
by Jonathan Goldman
Sound is among the most transformative and healing energies on the planet. It can relax us and make us calm, or move us to great heights of emotion. Sound can restore balance and harmony to our lives and make us healthy and well. Conversely, sound also has the ability to adversely affect us and bring our already stressed-out vibratory rates to new levels of imbalance and disharmony. Why and how? What is the difference in the sounds that make us healthy and those that distress us?
Sound can affect us on all levels – physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Beneficial sounds for us are often sounds that we consider “sacred.” These sounds seem to have the ability to charge and harmonize us. There are reasons for this.
Knowledge of sound as a therapeutic and transformative force is very old. The Ancient Mystery Schools of Greece, Rome, Egypt, Tibet, and India had great knowledge of sound as being the primary creative force in the universe. The ancients knew what the modern physicists now understand, that all is in a state of vibration. “The World is Sound!” these ancient mystics proclaimed, and indeed it seems to be so.
If we examine the basic tenants of many of the spiritual paths of the world, we find a commonality in them. They all share the belief that the world was created through sound. Here are but a few examples.
In Genesis, form the Old Testament, one of the first statements is, “And the Lord said ‘Let there be light!”
In St. John, form the New Testament, it is written, “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
From the Vedas of the Hindu tradition comes the writing that, “In the beginning was Brahman with whom was the Word. And the Word is Brahman.”
The Ancient Egyptians believed that the god “Thot” created the world by his voice alone.
In the Popul Vuh, form the Mayan tradition, the first real men are given life by the sole power of the word.
The Hopi Indian’s story of creation tells of the animation of all forms on earth by having the Spider Woman sing the Song of Creation over them.
Many of us know of Pythagoras as the father of geometry. However, how many are aware that in the 6th century B.C. in Greece, he had a school that taught, not only the magic of numbers, but the healing powers of music. Pythagoras taught of the Music of the Spheres and how the movement of the heavenly bodies could be perceived and reflected in the intervals of plucked strings. Today, in the West, much of this ancient knowledge has all but vanished. However, we are now in the process of rediscovering that wisdom, and adding to it through information and understanding obtained from modern science. In Healing Sounds, I discuss the spiritual and scientific understanding of the application of sound as a transformative and curative energy.
Perhaps the most profound scientific work showing the power of sound to effect shape and form was researched by Dr. Hans Jenny, a Swiss medical doctor and scientist who spent ten years of his life examining the effects that sound had on shape and formation. Jenny photographed plastics, pastes, liquids, powders, and other substances as they were being vibrated by sound. The results of these experiments are truly awe inspiring for they show extremely organic shapes being created from inorganic substances merely be exposing them to different sound frequencies. The different substances, which were once blobs of inorganic matter take on varying geometric form and begin to look like living creatures: starfish, human cells, microscopic life.
In his book, Cymatics, Dr. Jenny wrote:
“Now it is beyond doubt that where organization is concerned, the harmonic figures of physics are in fact, essentially similar to the harmonic patterns of organic nature…we have the certain experience that harmonic systems such as we have visualized in our experiments arise from oscillations in the form of intervals and harmonic frequencies. That is indisputable.”
The Healthy Body
According to Dr. Jenny, harmonious shapes and harmonic frequencies are interrelated. Through Jenny’s experiments and research we have proof that different sounds create different forms. This phenomenon is one of the basic principles of healing with sound, the principle of “resonance.” Modern physics has verified that we are all vibrating atomic and sub-atomic particles. Everything has a resonant frequency, the frequency it most naturally vibrates at. From the chair you may be sitting onto the pages of this magazine. Every part of your body also has a resonant frequency.
A concept of disease, observed by the ancients, and now speculated by certain scientists such as Itzhak Bentov in his book Stalking The Wild Pendulum is that illness is an out of tune behavior of the body. When something becomes diseased, it frequency changes and it begins to vibrate differently than it once did. Through sound, it may be possible to apply harmonizing vibrations which will cause the body to become in tune again.
In a healthy body, every organ, bone, tissue, and other part is producing balanced frequencies that create a healthy harmonic of the entire body. A healthy body is like an orchestra playing a marvelous and natural symphony, the “Suite of the Self.” But what happens if the third violin player from the end looses their sheet music? They begin to play the wrong notes in the wrong rhythm. The “Suite of the Self” begins to sour and this is what we call disease.
Continuing with this image, we find that traditional allopathic medicine would probably cut off the head of this violin player in order to alleviate the problem. But what would happen if we could somehow give this violin player back the sheet music? What if we could project the correct resonant frequency back into the imbalanced organ and allow it to vibrate to its normal healthy frequency again?
Dr. Peter Guy Manners, a British scientist who has created the Cymatic Instrument, which projects sounds into the body for healing, describes this phenomenon of resonant frequency healing this way:
“A healthy organ will have its molecules working together in a harmonious relationship with each other and will all be of the same pattern. If different sound patterns enter into the organ, the harmonious relationship could be upset…they may establish their disharmonious pattern in the organ, bone tissue, etc., and this is what we call disease. If therefore, a treatment contains a harmonic frequency pattern which will reinforce the organs, the vibrations of the intruders will be neutralized and the correct pattern for that organ reestablished. This should constitute a curative reaction.”
There is another concept which the ancients understood and which will eventually be recognized by modern scientists. This is the concept of “intention,” the understanding that sound has the ability to transmit the intention of the one creating the sound to the one receiving the sound. Intention is the energy behind the sound. It is the thought and will which we have when making the sound. If you are angry or sad when making a sound, despite the frequency of the sound (which creates its resonance), the effect of the sound will convey anger or sadness. Conversely, if we are happy or joyful when we create the sound, its effect, regardless of the actual sound being created, will be one of joy.
Kinesiology, a method of muscle testing used by many holistic health practitioners, is one way to measure the effects of intention. an angry or negative thought, when coupled with a sound, will cause an individual tested to become weak. The opposite occurs when positive intention are projected onto sound; individuals when tested become strong. Unfortunately, kinesiology is not considered to be scientifically valid and the medical community is a long way away from recognizing the importance of intention in sound creation. Yet the ancients knew of this importance. Indeed, it was vital in the soundings of any frequency which they wanted to call “Sacred.”
In Healing Sounds there is a formula I have created which incorporates this concept of intention as an important aspect of healing with sound. It is: Frequency + Intention = Healing
With sacred sounds, the intention of the individual making the sound is to align with Divine Will and higher consciousness. If the world began with the creator God or Goddess making Sound, then the ultimate aim of sacred sound is for the sounder to attempt to unite with this Sound. It becomes “Thy Will” not “My Will.”
Sacred sounds from different traditions can vary extremely in their use of frequencies. These traditions will often use very different tonal scales and rhythms than we are accustomed to here in the West and we may find these sounds extremely bizarre, out of tune, and quite disharmonious. That is, until we truly open our ears and our hearts to what is really going on. Remember that when Westerners first visited Africa, they reported that the Africans loved to sing and dance, but unfortunately the Africans were totally unmusical with no sense of rhythm. Nowadays, we may hear Hindu Ragas, Tibetan Chanting, or Balinese Gamelon music for the first time and feel very similar reactions perceiving these sounds as totally unmusical. However, once we get past this initial response, we may find that these sacred sounds have extremely transformational effects.
Dr. Alfred Tomatis, a French doctor, has spent many years researching the sacred sounds of the world. In particular, he has examined much sacred chanting, including Gregorian and Tibetan. Dr. Tomatis has found that many of the sacred sounds on the planet are rich in high frequency sounds, called harmonics or overtones. He believes that these sounds charge the cortex of the brain and stimulate health and wellness.
Harmonics, or overtones, are geometrically related sounds that occur whenever a natural sound is created. Harmonics are the sounds within all sounds, responsible for the tone color or “timbre” of an instrument and our voices. The mathematics of harmonics display universal principles corresponding to an underlying framework found in chemistry, astronomy, physics, botany, and the study of other sciences. Knowledge and understanding of these sounds seems to be quite ancient, dating back to at least Pythagoras if not before.
The use of harmonics as sacred sounds may be found in many Shamanic and mystical traditions, particularly Tibetan Buddhism and Mongolian Shamanism. Here the sacred sound practitioner developed the ability of creating multiple overtones or “Vocal Harmonics” and singing two or more notes simultaneously. These sounds were used by chanters as a means of invoking different deities and energy forces and for balancing the etheric centers called “chakras.”
Listening to recordings of Tibetan Monks chanting in this “One Voice Chord” can itself be a transformational experience. The monks utilize a fundamental frequency that is so deep, it seems to be almost inhuman, like the growl of some wild animal. Coupled with this tone is a much higher voice which sounds like the voice of an angel singing in harmony. These two sounds come from the same being, a Tibetan Monk, and they are the result of sacred sound practices.
The creation of harmonics is based upon vowel sounds. The singing and elongation of these vowel sounds is found in most of the major chanting in the world, from Hindu and Tibetan mantras, To Sufi and Kaballistic practices. For example we have “Oooooommm” and “Aaaaameen,” Aaaaallaaah,” and “Yaaaah Waaaay.” Through this form of “toning,” extraordinary resonance of the physical body and the brain occurs. When the reciter of these sounds focuses an intention of becoming one with the sacred sound, the results are extraordinary.
In the Australian Aboriginal traditions, the sacred sounds are produced by an instrument called the Didgeridoo, a hollowed out tree limb. When it is blown, using a technique called “circular breathing” (which allows for the creation of a continuous stream of air and therefore a non-stop sound), the result is a single tone, very deep and extremely rich with harmonics. Those of you who have heard this sound may have found it very similar to the “Tibetan Deep Voice,” which is also very deep with distinct overtones.
It is most interesting that these two very similar sounds were created by two very distinct civilizations, separated by many thousands of miles. Could it have been, as their legends indicate, that the initial human creators of these sounds first heard these sounds in the dream state and then tried to create them in the physical body, one using the voice while the other using an instrument?
The chanting of a sacred sound coupled with the intention of invoking specific beings or energy forms may create what British scientist Rupert Sheldrake called “morphic” fields. These are energy fields that cause shape and form to occur. In many of the sacred sounding traditions, the recitation of the name of an entity will eventually bring forth that entity and allow one to unite with it. Many times the recitation of these sacred names are called “mantras” (a Sanskrit word). However, this practice is found the world over and is based upon an ancient understanding of sacred sound. In many of the creation myths, the Creator God or Goddess would think of an object and then sound its name. The Being would first visualize the object to create, placing intention upon this. Then the Being would vocalize the sound of the object, creating its frequency and bringing it into being.
In Healing Sounds, I developed another formula which describes this. It is: Vocalization + Visualization = Manifestation
An example of this would be “Om Mani Padme Hum,” an invocation to the Avalokitesvara, the Buddha of Divine Compassion. When coupled with the intention and visualization of invoking this being, the vocalization of this chant will have the result of producing a field of compassion. The Tibetans have a highly developed (and extremely powerful!) practice of this in which they utilize extraordinarily specific visualizations of entities in what are termed “mandalas.” Whether it is in the Sufi, Christian, Hebrew, or any of the countless other traditions, including the non-tradition of shamanism, this sounding of the sacred names of the Divine is utilized as a deeply spiritual practice to invoke the Divine.
IN the creation of Gateways: Men’s Drumming and Chanting, the 20 male chanters who worked with me were taught and became aware of this phenomenon of sacred sound. We utilized the various chants from Tibetan, Native American, Hindu, and other traditions with visualization to intentionally call forth spiritual energies for the benefit of those who would later listen to this recording.
When we listen to recording of this type of sound, if we are open enough to by-pass any strangeness of language, tone, or frequency, we are often in the frequency of the person making these sounds. And if they are done with the correct intention, we may be able to experience very transformative results.
Usually, this sounding is very slow and repetitive, creating a phenomenon known as sonic “entrainment” in which the brain waves of the listener lock in resonance with the brain waves of the chanter. This is one way of creating altered states – by slowing down our brain waves. Much sacred sound puts us in resonance with frequencies that are within the alpha or theta brain wave range, 7 to 12 Hz, and 4 to 7 Hz, respectively. Many of the environmental sounds seem to resonate to this spectrum of sound and particularly to a frequency called the Schumann resonance, 7.83 Hz, which may be the resonant frequency of the planet. Environmental sounds may be among the most sacred on the planet, for they are the sound of the earth, rejoicing in itself. Whether it is the sound of the ocean, birds chirping, or whales calling, these sounds relax us for two reasons. First, for the soothing visualization they evoke for us. Second for the entrainment they create within us. We breath with the sounds. Our hearts beat with these sounds. Our brains sing with these sounds.
In creating Dolphin Dreams, a sonic environment designed for the birth experience and for deep relaxation, I was able to mix together many of these naturally occurring sounds: The ocean, human heart pulsed at 48 beats per minute, and dolphin sounds. Also added were a rolling Om, phased at 7.83 Hz and choral voices singing a wordless melody of the Ur song, A harmonic melodic minor sound that is found in children’s songs throughout the planet. The result is an extremely powerful morphic field for transformation.
Many of the sacred rhythms of certain cultures, particularly Native American, employ at their center a heart beat which we entrain and match when listening to. Our heart beat, respiration, and brain waves will slow down due to the repetitive rhythms created. However, another method of creating altered and transformational states is to overdrive the brain and put us into a trance state. This is true of many of the polyrhythmic sounds of the sacred music of Africa, Bali, and other cultures. The over-driving of the psyche which occurs can energize us to the point of what seems to be the loss of control. This same frequency response can sometimes be experienced walking down a crowded and noisy city street, but the effect due to the intention may be very, very different. One experience may be a heavenly, blissful state due to the sacredness of the sounds while the other may cause us to feel like we’re in Dante’s inferno.
The difference between the two effects of the sounds described above (the sacred rhythms versus the city street noises) conveys the difference between the sacred and the mundane. While it is possible that any sound can be made sacred due to our intention, most sounds are not. This understanding is particularly important for those of us creating music. Through understanding sacred sound as a vehicle for merging and becoming one with the Divine, we can truly create transformational energies that will benefit the planet. While this knowledge has not yet reached mainstream consciousness, many are becoming aware of the power of sound. When this knowledge is restored, music will be created and utilized for entrainment, not entertainment, and sacred sounds will resonate throughout the planet.