Most of the ancient teachings of the world's religions provide clues to understanding this powerful source by identifying sound and vibration as inherent in all that exists. Without vibration (or the "big bang," as scientists call it) our world would not have come into existence. In the Bible, the Gospel of John reads: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). The word is sound which is produced by vibration. The Book of Genesis begins: "And God said, Let there be light; and there was light" implying that word, i.e., sound or vibration, existed first in order for God to give this command (Genesis 1:3). The whole system of Hindu religion and philosophy is based on the science of vibration, and is called Nada Brahma, meaning "all the world is sound," or "God is sound." Lao-tzu spoke of the Great Tone, "the tone that goes beyond all usual imagination" (Berendt 171). Ancient Indian wisdom reads: "First song; then Vedas or wisdom" (Khan 17). In the Qur'an, we are told "Our word for a thing when We intend it, is only that We say to it, Be, and it is" (Koran 16:40). A centuries old Eastern legend relates that when God made man out of clay and asked the soul to enter, the soul refused to enter this "prison-house" until God commanded the angels to sing. As the angels sang, the soul entered, drawn by the music.
In Cosmogenesis of Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine, stanza 3 begins, "THE LAST VIBRATION OF THE SEVENTH ETERNITY THRILLS THROUGH INFINITUDE. THE MOTHER SWELLS, EXPANDING FROM WITHIN WITHOUT, LIKE THE BUD OF THE LOTUS," and stanza 3 continues, THE VIBRATION SWEEPS ALONG, TOUCHING WITH ITS SWIFT WING (simultaneously), THE WHOLE UNIVERSE AND THE GERM THAT DWELLETH IN DARKNESS: THE DARKNESS THAT BREATHES (moves) OVER THE SLUMBERING WATERS OF LIFE.
There is an I Ching hexagram, "The Well," and it "represents the deep, inexhaustible divinely centered source of nourishment and meaning" (Wingbook 48). The Living Well is another representation of this same source.
The teachings of Hermes Trismegistus were central to the spiritual work of Hermetic societies in late antique Alexandria. They are still considered important inspirational writings, and have greatly affected modern day theologies. The teachings of Hermes Trismegistus aim to awaken gnosis, the direct realization of unity between the individual and the Supreme.
Hermetic philosophy is based on seven principles, one of which is that, "all is in vibration" (Goldman 28-31). This is the first premise toward understanding the power of sound. "All" includes objects that we normally think of as inanimate or non-vibrating such as rocks, water, thoughts, colors, light, words, and actions. Since everything has a vibration, it is important to know that one vibrational field, if it is stronger, can pull another vibration into it. For example, if one holds two tuning forks and strikes one of them, the vibrating fork will pull the other into an equal vibrational level. Since we are all vibrating bodies, just as tuning forks are, the different rhythms and frequencies of our bodies may be changed through entrainment.
Entrainment is the ability of one object's powerful rhythmic vibrations to change the less powerful vibration of another object, causing the object with the less powerful rhythms to synchronize with it. If we believe that all is a part of an interdependent whole, then we know that our tonal level not only affects those who are in our immediate surroundings, but also all that exists. Any thought, word, or action affecting our vibrational level reaches out to the vibrational level of others. Vibrations are both sent and received. A beautiful statement about this interdependence is attributed to Chief Seattle in famous speech of 1854: "Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself."
Negative vibrations pull to the negative, but positive vibrations can deflect them by pulling to the positive. Sometimes it may be necessary to move away from the field of a destructive, negative force. News heard on television or the radio over and over again can often pull the listener into a negative field. This is not being informed. It is more like being sucked into a black hole. On the other hand, if we find ourselves uplifted by certain music, poetry, scenery, or just the presence of another, the vibrational field resonates with us, is a positive and healthy force, and can be used for our own well-being.
Music is a great source to help us to tap into this positive vibrational field. Plants that receive a daily dose of classical music to grow stronger, students who increase their test scores by listening to Mozart, cows that give more milk when serenaded, and cowboys who sing their gentle songs at round-up time to keep the herds calm, are all using music as a resource for tapping into this great power. In 1892, when Oliver Wendall Holmes wrote Over the Teacups, he advised: "Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons, and you will find it is to the soul what the water bath is to the body" (Holmes 47).
Modern physics and the ancient wisdom teachings are moving closer together to unveil the secrets of how the universe was formed (and continues to change) by exploring the power of sound and vibration. String theory, for example, explains that the basic ingredients of the universe are not point-like particles, but tiny strings vibrating in ten (or more) dimensional space.
The cosmic acoustic theory of Dr. Wayne Hu and Dr. Martin White offers evidence supporting the idea that,
inflation, in the first moments after the big bang, triggered sound waves that alternately compressed and rarefied regions of the primordial plasma. After the universe had cooled enough to allow the formation of neutral atoms, the pattern of density variations, caused by sound waves, was frozen into the cosmic microwave background radiation. The sound spectrum of the early universe had overtones much like a musical instrument. If one blows into a pipe, the sound corresponds to a wave with maximum compression at the mouthpiece and maximum rarefaction at the end piece. But the sound also has a series of overtones with shorter wavelengths that are integer fractions of the fundamental wavelength. The wavelengths of the first, second and third overtones are one half, one third, and one fourth as long (Hu and White 44-53).
Interestingly enough, their study with its concentration on overtones that affect the formation of the universe is similar to Pythagorean teaching. What is an overtone? Every musical tone you hear is not just one tone, but is made up of several tones. These are in mathematical proportions, and are very easy to hear on a piano if you strike a very low note, immediately release it, and then listen to the sounds above it in the moments that follow. Some musicians who play certain musical instruments have to learn how to produce the sounds of the overtones.
Pythagoras developed a whole mathematical system governed by overtones. He also taught about the Music of the Spheres (Campbell 98). Pythagoras proposed that just as all the planets and everything in space relate to sound vibration, so do we, each with our tonal or natural vibrational level. When we are not in that healthy, natural tonal level, illness occurs. Pythagoras also thought that one could be cured by using certain tones to bring one's vibrational level back into balance. Today, medical researchers are studying the possibility that vibration may be used to heal diseased parts of the body—i.e., changing unhealthy vibrations to those of a healthy one. This notion does not seem so far fetched when we consider that ultrasound is commonly used for diagnosis or treatment. We often use the word sound to indicate health and wholeness. The word "health" comes from the Old English, hal, a root word signifying "whole, healing, hale, and inhaling." Health in Middle English means "to make sound."
Resonance is the increasing intensity of sounds by sympathetic vibration. Through resonance, one vibrating body can reach out and set another body into motion—just like tuning forks. It is because of resonance that a singer with a powerful voice is able to shatter a glass. When the singer's voice matches the resonant frequency of the glass, it causes the glass to vibrate. Too much sound energy causes the glass to break. The Biblical story of Joshua tells us that he marched his troops around the wall of the enemy seven times, then they gave a powerful shout, causing the walls to come tumbling down. This story relates how Joshua knew about the power of sound and vibration. The physical phenomena of resonance forms an integral part of our lives, but we rarely pay attention to it.
When searching for a specific program on the radio, we hear static until the broadcast waves meet the waves of the radio transmitter and resonate with them. F.P. Journe, a watchmaker, applied the phenomenon of resonance in his invention of a unique wristwatch chronometer which uses two entirely independent movements interoperating in harmony with each other. If one is set for one time, and the other is set for another, they eventually come together and show the same time. Napoleon once forbade his troops to march over a bridge, fearing it would collapse from the effects of resonance. The highly precise pressure regulators of the Bureau International de l'Heaure, at the Observatory of Paris, as well as the radio broadcast time signal sent from the Eiffel Tower, were fitted less than forty years ago in separate rooms of catacombs, at a depth of twenty-six meters, in order to eliminate fluctuations in temperature and atmospheric pressure from resonance interference.
Resonance and its effects are all around us, affecting our daily lives on a routine basis. In our own bodies, every organ, bone, and tissue has its own separate frequency, just as the instruments of an orchestra have their own frequencies. Together they resonate, making up a composite frequency, a harmonic that is each person's own personal vibratory rate. This is similar to the total sound that an orchestra makes when all of the individual instruments are played together. If all of the instruments are in tune, and playing "in harmony", the result is a pleasing sound. If not, it is discordant. In our physical bodies, we call this disease or say we feel unwell.
Our surrounding vibrations can help us reach a state of harmony or discord. So what is harmony? It is agreement, accord, right proportion, and right rhythm—a pleasing arrangement of the parts, and it is beauty and order. The use of music is the easiest and most direct route to bring us to a level of beauty and harmony. Once we bring ourselves into harmony, we also come into a state of healing. There are many stories of those who have healed themselves of disease through the use of music, and of those who have made great strides by listening to music before or after surgery. There is data to suggest that those with learning problems can be helped by listening to music, and that babies who listen to Mozart (specifically) are not only calmed, particularly if the music has been played inutero, but also that their developing brains are helped. Listening to music, especially classical music, helps one to come into a sense of harmony. however, one must be careful about music choices. For example, listening to overly romantic music, day after day, may create a feeling of sadness or longing. And you certainly would not choose a requiem to help you get energized for a day of housecleaning!
To tap into the healing powers of the Living Well, it is helpful to fully understand the four concepts discussed:
Another factor to consider is that not only does everything have vibration; it also has harmonic relationship to a musical note. When an inharmonious sound is produced, the disturbing vibrations will upset all of the vibration in the object and the field. The reverse occurs when a harmonious note is produced. The resulting vibration is peaceful, calm, and harmonious. What happens in a symphony orchestra if the various instruments are not tuned to the concertmeister? The resulting sound is discordant—not in harmony.
The Living Well allows us to find our own musical notes or frequencies and be in harmony on all levels. In this way, we stay happy, healthy, creative, and productive. But most importantly, we stay in tune with the grand concertmeister; the one of which we are all a part. We all have the ability to create our own harmony, by surrounding ourselves with harmonious vibrations, and with all that is beautiful and orderly. One can learn to see beauty in all things, but there are definitely certain colors, sounds, smells, and textures that are more pleasing to us than others. Even the snake charmer knows this as he mesmerizes the cobra with his music.
Vibration also creates light, but what we often see is a distorted impression that it makes upon our mind. Our minds are not "ourselves"—not the knower or the self—but rather a material reflection of the self that knows, is conditioned by past thinking, and modified by the present. Since thoughts have their own vibrations, each mind has its own rate and range of vibration. Whenever consciousness vibrates, it changes the mind's vibrational level. In a state of perpetual motion, the pictures are forever changing. Waking or sleeping, we are constantly building our mental bodies. Even a passing thought draws some particles of mind stuff into the mental body and shakes other particles from it. When the mind is attracted to certain thoughts, feelings, or sensations it reproduces in itself the vibrations of the attractive thing, and so becomes like it. When repelled, however, the mind reasserts itself by rejecting the not-self's vibrations and reinforcing its own.
Either way, the mental body is thrown into waves, as is the matter in the field, and therefore affects the consciousness of others. The finesse or coarseness of mental matter stirred into vibration depends on the quality of these vibrations: When a lofty thought causes the mental body to vibrate, then particles of denser matter are shaken out, and particles of finer matter take their place. In this way, vibrations of consciousness are always shaking out one kind of matter and building another. It does not always follow immediately, but works as a seed. For this reason, we need be concerned about the music, television, and films that that we expose ourselves and our children to, as well as the language that we use and hear. The vibrations that they produce have effects. If we want to have a strong, well-vitalized mental body, then we must work at thinking well. We are our own builders, and fashion our minds for ourselves, while simultaneously affecting the vibrations of others.
If we set out to make each day harmonious, each day can be a day of beauty. Beauty is not just the province of artists, it is necessary for all beings. By creating harmony and order in all actions, discordant notes can be eliminated. Even the most mundane tasks can be made beautiful by the way we approach them and think about them. Negative vibrations pull to the negative, positive pull to the positive. Remembering this, we can make better choices, and choose vibrations that will make us well instead of sick. This knowledge is our Living Well; it is always available to nurture us.
Here is some sound advice on how to tap into it:
Choose appropriate music to energize your activities, and to get in touch with your own wellspring. Identify music that speeds up or slows down the pulse rate, music that is better for digestion, music that is better for relaxation, music that charges you up and shifts into a more active gear. For healing or stimulating the mind, classical music or Indian ragas are wise choices
Remember that you are an instrument. Sing vowel sounds on a variety of tones, and with a variety of rhythms, to exercise your internal organs. Notice, as you go from low tones to high tones, where you feel the vibration within your body
Sit quietly in your home while listening for all of the sounds that are around you, and then eliminate the negative ones that invade your space. That includes general noise, chatter, and dissonance.
When asking that age-old question, "Why are we here?" the answer may well be that we are here to bring harmony and unity to ourselves, to others, to the universe, and finally to harmonize ourselves with the infinitely divine. Happiness is being in harmony with the universe.
Sherry Pelton is a former teacher and business owner and today, works as a composer. A member and co-founder of the Phoenix Study Group, she and her husband, Del, divide their time between Scottsdale, Arizona, and Port Orford, Oregon.
Berendt, Joachim-Ernst. Nada Brahma: The World is Sound., Rochester, VT: Destiny Books, 1987.
H.P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. 1 (Quest edition). Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1978.
Campbell, Don. Music Physician for Times to Come. Wheaton, IL: Quest Books, 1991.
Goldman, Jonathan. Healing Sounds: Power of Harmonics. Boston, MA: Element Books, 1992.
Holmes, Oliver Wendall. Over the Teacups. New York: Houghton Mifflin,1891
Hu, Wayne and Martin White. "The Cosmic Symphony," Scientific American (February 2004).
Khan, Hazrat Inayat. The Mysticism of Sound, Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, 1991.
The King James Holy Bible.
The Holy Koran.
Wingbook, R.L. The I Ching Workbook, New York: Double Day, 1979.