From prehistoric Shamans to the ancient civilisations of Summeria, Egypt, Greece, China, Tibet and India, sound has been revered as a primary way of linking humans with cosmos and mythology and for its ability to heal, transform and elevate, body mind and spirit. "The use of sound in such cultures was a highly developed sacred science." (Goldman 2012)
The Pythagorean schools of ancient Greece developed various kinds of sacred sound healing temples and practices from knowledge that they received in Egypt. Fundamental to such practices was a concept known as The Harmony of The Spheres, or Musica Universalis which determined that the ratios of heavenly bodies could be represented by the relationship between musical tones. While this development is widely acknowledged as one of the major roots of western science, it is important to note that Pythagoras, one of the renowned fathers of Western materialism formulated his calculations through processes which included the mystical arts of astrology and divination.
Pythagoras of Samos (c.582 - c.507 B.C.),
While Pythagorus is lauded as the founding figure of harmonics in the Western scientific tradition, there is also evidence to support claims that the Sumerian culture had developed an even more sophisticated system of tonal mathematical calculation, more than one thousand years before the Greeks. Mc Clain (1994)
For Pythagoras, musical tones were considered to be “the simplest and most profound expression of the relationship between spirit and matter in individuals.” (Plant, 2012) More specifically, the quality of life on Earth was believed to reflect “the tenor of celestial sounds which are physically imperceptible to the human ear.” (Houlding, 2008) According to Myer, Neff and Obrien (2003), the practical application of such concepts in human healing, made use of music specifically designed to “calm and balance bio-chemistry.
Esoteric Christian philosophers such as Boethius further explored such concepts in his Book Da Music, which comprised of three sections.
Musica Mundana (A.K.A musica universalis)
Musica Humana (the internal music of the human body)
Musica quae in quibusdam constituta est instrumentis (sounds made by singers and instrumentalists)
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (480 - 524 AD)
Plato,Pliny,Cicero and Ptolemy are amongst the some of the more well-known ancient philosophers, who explored ideas of The Harmony of The Spheres. Eventually the philosophy made its way to medieval Europe, where it found expression within the grand architecture of a number of abbeys and Cathedrals, “consciously designed to conform to the proportions of [sacred] geometric harmony.” (Plant, 2012)
German mathematician, astronomer and astrologer Johannes Kepler, (1571 - 1630) best known for his brilliant contributions to the Laws of Planetary Motion developed the Harmony of The Spheres even further. Like Pythagoras, he firmly believed that “planetary laws represented much more than just the description of a physical mechanism.” (Plant, 2012) Even as Keppler was inevitably claimed by the Age of Reason and industrial civilization,” as another of the enduring legends of Western material science, he steadfastly refused to dispense with the mystical astrological divination, which he believed so fundamental to his findings. Despite enduring a heavy personal toll, he continued to defend and further develop the use of astrology within the field of astronomy to aid him in the expression of his radical concepts of physics. In both astrology and astronomy, he expressed scientific analogies which some Keppler scholars have claimed to be suprisingly accurate, even by today’s standards.
Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)
Sacred Sound Science in the East
For the ancient Chinese, sound was believed to be a manifestation of the, “Universal Essence” and to sustain universal harmony. Tibetan Buddhists typically describe the deliberate use of sound in terms of a link to “primordial nature,” “divine essence” or “primary nature.” Tibetans also have longstanding traditions stretching back to their native Bon shamanic roots that make use of sound for psychic practices. (Perry, 2012)
From the Indian Vedic Period arose practices known as Nada Yoga, (The Science of Sound) as a branch of Mantra Yoga (the practice of chanting) as a “path for exploring consciousness through sacred music.” (Ferguson, 2011) For the Indian Vedic culture, Nada was considered to be the controlling force of the universe and consisted of stuck (material) sounds, or that of objects striking other objects in material reality, and unstuck sound, Anahata Nada (non-material or divine sound) which “suffuses the universe and charges it with power.” (Perry, 2012) This is very similar to the Pythagorean belief, that sound and sound ratios, were the primary forces that held physical reality together.” (Myer, Neff and O'brien, 2003) Notably these assertions are consistent with the theories of contemporary physicists who work in the field of quantum physics.
Much like the Pythagorean system, the Vedic Science of Sound Yoga was believed to consist of vibrations inaudible to the physical ear and activated through a process of inner-resonance. Similarly the Tibetan culture considers the “psychic content of sound as more important than actual sounds themselves, for altering our inner-nature.” (Perry, 2012)
Artists impression of the subtle energetic centres (Chakras) in resonance with sound waves.
The Physics of Sound Healing
Without wading too heavily into the reams of specialist technical information, it can be said that sound energy healing works on the basic principal that all matter at the quantum (subatomic) level is made up of the action of energy waves. Waves are known to produce fields such as electromagnetism and gravity. According to the International Society for the Study of Subtle Energy and energy medicine, “these fields often have a profound effect on both human biology and psychology.” The particles within these fields develop patterns of vibration according to the nature of their interactions with one another. Consequently every object on Earth, “every bone, muscle, organ, vitamin, mineral, enzyme and microbe, has its own unique quality of vibration, expressed in terms of a resonant frequency.” (Myer, Neff and Obrien, 2003) When one object vibrates at the same natural frequency as another and causes it to vibrate in synchronicity with another, the process is known as “sympathetic resonance.” Objects can therefore exert varying degrees of vibratory influence on one another according to the nature of their individual resonant frequency.
As as anyone who has gone on a long road trip in a car with faulty wheel bearings will tell you, exposure to certain kinds of vibrations can cause human health and happiness to deteriorate. Conversely, the intentional application of vibration at carefully calculated frequencies, has a powerful ability to “positively affect another frequency and so bring it into balance,” thus significantly increasing wellbeing. The use of resonance as it relates to sound energy healing might therefore be more broadly summarized as, “the restoration of health by means of vibrational medicine.” (Dale, 2009)
Although derived from practices established and used consistently for thousands of years, sound healing is recognized as a relatively new modality in allopathic and complimentary medicine(Goldman, 2012) The groundbreaking work of sound healers, using various acoustic methods, although not yet fully accepted by mainstream medicine, are gaining credibility.
Even at the level of classical atomic physics, there has been scientific validation for the principals of sound healing for a number of decades. Experiments in Cymatic therapy developed by Doctor Peter Guy Manners showed as far back as the 1960’s, that “sound has the ability to directly alter molecular structure.” (Goldman, 2012) Scientists and researchers such as Hermann Helmholtz, John Keely, Royal Rife, Albert Abrams, Hulda C lark, Robert Monroe, Robert Sewak and Barbara Hero have also made significant contributions to the understanding of sound healing over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. (Myer, Neff and Obrien, 2003)
The primary purpose of vibrational medicine, applied through various technologies such as tuning forks, singing bowls, the human voice or computer generated tones, is to acoustically correct the discordant frequencies of various bodily tissues and functions, and return them to a state of vibration consistent with their healthy functioning. Its important to note that sound itself does not do the actual healing, but by locating and harmonizng vibrations, it can act as a means to re-establish “the rhythm or flow of energy in the body, so that its natural processes can heal.” (Myer, Neff and Obrien, 2003) Exactly how it does this is not fully understood, but research indicates that specific vibrational interactions have the ability to re-calibrate the electromagnetic signalling by which various cellular functions in the human body communicate with one another.
Sound can effectively penetrate all solids liquids and gases because it contains particles which vibrate in varying intensities and directions and interact with matter by transferring energy. (Dale, 2009) Sound healing can be thought of as holisitc due to the fact that revitalizes vibrational harmony between not just the affected tissue, but its surrounding tissues, processes and the rest of the body overall.
One way to understand how such harmonic ratios work together is to see various bodily organs as instruments within an orchestra. Each organ, like a finely crafted instrument needs to be kept in a delicate state of attunement in order to create the sublime multi-dimensional symphony of body, mind and spirit that is our health and wellbeing. Alternatively attunement may also be known as entrainment, with the term coherency used to describe a state of positive entrainment and dissonance, for when vibratory disturbances produce ill health. (Dale, 2009)
Vibratory Medicine: The Shake of Things to Come
The sheer range of sound healing options has become huge, owed both to an ever-growing interest in alternative and holistic sound based therapies and the incorporation of modern technological developments for sound recording and production. According to (Goldman, 2012), the current field of sound healing is enormous in its scope. “Sound encompasses virtually all aspects of the auditory phenomenon -- from music to nature sounds to electronic sounds to vocal sounds.”
Sound healing has also shown great promise as not only as just a compliment to allopathic therapies, but as a recognized form of allopathic therapy in its own right. Myer, Neff and Obrien (2003), note that vibratory medicine is already being used in the form of EMF resonance technology for bone healing and is also becoming recognized among neurologists as a means for “restoring, revitalizing and enhancing neurological connectivity and functioning in the brain and central nervous system.” (Thompson, 2007) Additionally ultrasound machines that utilize high or low frequency sound waves to promote healing, decrease inflammation, and loosen tight muscles are being used by physical therapists.
Dale. C 2009, The Subtle Body: An Encyclopedia of Your Energetic Anatomy, Sounds true, Boulder Colorado