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Sound Healing, East to West - Part II
Swiss scientist Hans Jenny was a pioneer in the field of cymatics — the study of vibrational effects and wave phenomena. In his experiments, dating from the 1930’s, he subjects a variety of substances to a vibration. The substances used in the experiments range from liquids such as benzene, to solids such as a ball of plaster. Liquids are observed using the Schlieren method, which involves transmitting light through the liquid from below, thereby rendering its structures visible. The vibration itself can be as simple as a single tone sustaining the same pitch or volume. The process is then filmed and photographed. The phenomena that are created in the substances are many. In one experiment, iron filings appeared to hover and fly around in the magnetic space while under the influence of the vibration. Other experiments show the substance forming geometrical arrangements, symmetrical patterns and cycles. The continually changing formations are dominated by patterns of curves and arcs, rotations and vortices, such as those seen in natural forms like seashells. And as Jenny says, “the processes have a pronounced tendency to repeat themselves.”
Jenny also experimented with pendulums attached to a light source, and electron beams shown on an oscillograph, a device that shows vibrational patterns on a screen. As a scientist, Jenny is careful to note that “these phenomena are subject to definite laws and are repeatable at any time.” Jenny’s work was preceded by that of German physicist Ernst Chladni, in the eighteenth century. Chladni found that playing a violin bow on the edge of a sand-covered disk caused the sand to form geometric shapes.
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Patterns generated with Jenny’s cymatics experiments
The perception of the Ancient Greeks right down the line to Kepler’s Harmonices Mundi, all the way to Tesla, was that the Universe is based upon number and proportion, these being reflected in a series of “harmonics” (musical intervals superimposed on a fundamental tone) which occur in nature. Their view was that these harmonic relationships were also measures of the movements of planetary spheres and of the cosmos. Even though the respective schemes of the solar system formulated by Pythagoras and Kepler were subsequently thought to be incorrect, their contributions in this regard must be looked at in the light of their own eras, and with an appreciation of the underlying concept.
I have not seen Kepler's Harmonices Mundi in person, but someone who has says there are handwritten musical notations in the margins of the manuscript housed at the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh, annotations presumably made by the author. I don’t know what-all kind of clefs these are, but it looks like he’s referring to core musical relationships like triads, perfect 4ths, 5ths and octaves.
Hans Jenny stresses that the phenomena observed in his experiments are harmonic in all their aspects: number, proportion, form, and symmetry, and also in their dynamics, pulsations, transformations and polarities. In any given experiment, if the amplitude, or volume, of the vibratory stimulus is increased, producing a crescendo, another harmonic figure of the same type appears with no intervening stage. This is precisely what happens in the overtone series to which we referred earlier: the series jumps from harmonic to harmonic, according to an immutable sequence.
Jenny’s research not only affirms these basic beliefs of the ancient Greek tradition, but also corroborates the beliefs of the ancient Eastern masters and seers. Jenny says, “the more one studies these things, the more one realizes that sound is the creative principle. It must be regarded as primordial. . . We cannot say, in the beginning was number, or in the beginning was symmetry. . .they are not themselves the creative power. This power is inherent in tone, in sound.” Thus we have come full circle in expressing through science two major beliefs of antiquity: the power of the primordial sound, and the belief that the universe has a Divine order to it.
The ability of music to either calm or arouse the emotions is well-documented. It is used extensively in product advertising, film scoring, and environment enhancement, such as the audio broadcasted in a supermarket or an elevator in a high rise. Politicians regularly take advantage of the power of the spoken word to sway an audience. As historian and German scholar J. P. Stern points out in his analysis of the Nuremberg rally, Adolph Hitler was able to influence his audience by using a hypnotic rhetoric, patterning his phrases on familiar Bible quotations, and using devices such as repetition to establish an incantation-like mood to his speech. This is a technique replicated by speakers through the ages, especially those country preachers we’ve seen in the movies if not in real life.
It’s common sense that not only the feelings of humans but also those of our pets are influenced by sounds. The tones of a sharp rebuke or a gentle whisper contain just as much meaning as the words themselves. In an article titled “Current Theory and Research in the Effects of Music on Human Behavior”, authors Taylor and Paperte state that “music, because of its abstract nature, detours the ego and intellectual controls, and contacting the lower centers directly, stirs up latent conflicts and emotions. . .”
Neurologist Oliver Sacks documented a number of clinical situations where patients were helped by music when other therapies didn't work.
The Western health system has traditionally operated on the principle of the separation of mind and body. This attitude has met with much criticism in the past two decades, and indeed is slowly being revised, even from within the standard medical community. In point of fact, the physiological effects of music and sound on the body are well-established. These effects include changes in the amplitude and frequency of brain waves, electrical resistance of the skin, dilation of the pupil of the eye, respiratory rate, blood pressure and heart rate.
The idea that sound can be used to heal emotional or even mental disorders is easily grasped by many people. The idea that sound can be used to heal disorders in the physical body, however, is for some people more farfetched. Yet a number of researchers have attempted to establish just that. These scientists say that all organisms emit an exclusive and individual frequency. They say within the human body, individual organs also emit a certain frequency when healthy, which alters when the organ is under stress. William Tiller of Stanford University subscribes to this theory. So does Peter Guy Manners, a British osteopath. He was inspired by Hans Jenny’s work to create a “cymatics therapy”, in which the “correct” sound of a healthy organ or part of the body is applied to its diseased counterpart. Heulger Clarke identified the “fingerprint” frequency emissions of a wide variety of parasites, bacteria, viruses and fungii that attack the human body, and designed a machine to kill them while they are inside the human body, without harm to the body. In 1934 Royal Rife first demonstrated his Rife Ray, now called a Rife Machine. This machine likewise utilizes frequency emissions that target specific diseased areas of the body. Rife’s premise was that a virus or any other microbe is susceptible to a specific frequency that causes its immediate death. This frequency is called the MOR, or Mortal Oscillatory Rate. Other applications of the device are aimed at stimulating tissues, encouraging healing by this direct stimulation and by strengthening the immune system.
Anthony Holland is a current researcher working with frequencies to combat cancer.
We must note, however, that pathogen frequencies identified in past decades may have changed. This could be due to the increasing amount of outside EMFs (electromagnetic frequencies) invading the body. In Rife's time, for example, people weren't surrounded by as many electric towers and ever more powerful cell phone and internet broadcast technology, nor did they have microwave ovens in their kitchen, or laptops or wifi routers. All these things affect the human bioelectric field.
The human nervous system and the ions in our cellular structure form part of the human electromagnetic field. The field extends to outside the body as well. TCM, qigong, and the “internal” martial arts of Taijiquan, Xing-Yi and Bagua Zhang all deal with manipulating this electromagnetic field, which is referred to as “qi.” Sound is one of the ways qi can be stimulated, subdued, or guided.
Both symphony orchestras and cars need regular tune ups. “Tuning up” means aligning everything that’s vibrating so the vibrations complement each other instead of rubbing each other the wrong way. In modern times we’ve begun to refer to the human mind/body/spirit as needing regular tune ups as well. This just means aligning the energy to create harmony in the system. Sound therapies are an important component in all the different types of energy healing available today.
Here is a partial list of popular sound-based therapies:
There are some companies using frequency analysis of the body to identify weak areas and assign specific frequencies to restore the balance. My friend Shannon McGough has a company called Transformational Body Scans. (Shan is the real deal, and she also happens to be the wife of pianist/novelist Alki Steriopoulos who has been featured in this Substack on previous occasions.) The scan is done by analyzing the frequencies present in the voice, then the client matches the assigned tones with their voice in order to realign their system.
Six Healing Sounds
Thousands of years ago, the Taoist masters discovered in their meditations the six sounds which produced the correct vibrations to maintain the health of the organs, and restore health to organs damaged by illness. They vividly experienced that each internal organ possessed its own consciousness and spirit, explains Master Sat Hon, founder of the Dan Tao School. Thus the Six Healing Sounds were developed, each of which corresponds to an organ in the body: liver, heart, spleen, lung, kidney, triple burner. Master Hon teaches that the Six Healing Sounds have a vital function in today’s world because the high stress environment in which we live creates tremendous heat in our internal organs. He says: “The causes for overheating are numerous. They include pollution, radiation, overeating, anxiety, loneliness and postural misalignment. Overly vigorous exercise also harms the heart and depletes the kidneys of their essence. These factors start to cause the organs to contract and harden, thus impairing their ability to function. And so begins the downward spiral towards many chronic sicknesses of degeneration.” As with chanting a mantra or a prayer, the sounds need not be uttered aloud, because their effectiveness lies in the intent behind the sound.
As I explained to TOA member Herr Forkenspoon in a previous comment, TCM operates according to the 2300-year-old Five Element Theory. This is the epoch of the Yellow Emperor which had a working health system that's still in use today. Because Chinese medicine works with identifying patterns, it treats symptoms not according to the symptom itself but rather according to the patterns of energy detected through tongue and pulse diagnosis. The patterns correlate not only with the ‘elements’ (wood, fire, earth, metal, water) but also with colors, tastes, emotions, seasons of the year, cosmic cycles and more.
Each organ in the TCM system has its own 'sound.' The tongue and pulse diagnosis enables the healer to know whether there is a deficiency or an excess in the organ. This in turn indicates whether the organ should be addressed by its predecessor in the generative cycle, or the control cycle. The Six Healing Sounds are usually taught as a set, and can be used in this way as a daily practice.
The type of scientific research done by Hans Jenny proves that sound does have a strong physical effect upon matter. However, the effect of a mantra or the Six Healing Sounds does not necessarily lie in an assigned frequency. As Tibetan scholar Lama Anagarika Govinda points out, the effects of spiritual vibrations should not be confused with the effects of physical sound waves. He states in his book Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism: “The power and the effect of a mantra depend on the spiritual attitude, the knowledge and the responsiveness of the individual. The sound of the mantra is not a physical sound (though it may be accompanied by one) but a spiritual sound. It cannot be heard by the ears but only by the heart, and it cannot be uttered by the mouth but only by the mind. Just as a chemical formula gives power only to those who are acquainted with the symbols of which it consists and with the laws of their application, in the same way a mantra gives power only to those who are 1.Conscious of its inner meaning, 2. Acquainted with its methods of operation 3. And who know that it is a means to call up the dormant forces within us, through which we are capable of directing our destiny and of influencing our surroundings.”
Jamaladeen Rumi, the revered Sufi poet from 13th century Persia, puts it another way: “Prayer is not only this external form. The formal prayer has a beginning and an end, and anything that has a beginning and an end is a body. . .all that is expressed with letters and sounds and has a beginning and an end is a form and a body. But the soul of the prayer is unconditional and infinite; it has no beginning nor end.”
At the end of the day, "different strokes for different folks" is the name of the game. I go by what I'm naturally attracted to, what seems to call to me. Otherwise you spend all evening looking at the menu without deciding on your order. And I get too hungry for dinner at 8!
This has been Part II of Sound Healing East to West. Part III is coming your way soon. Stay tuned!
Temple of Artists is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.