“O trumpeter, me thinks I am myself the instrument thou playest, Thou melt’st my heart, my brain—thou movest, drawest, changest them at will…” —Walt Whitman, “The Mystic Trumpeter”
Less than 100 years ago, the concept of laying in a tube-like structure and having a camera take a picture of your inner organs or brain was thought to be the stuff of pure science fiction. Could you imagine describing this technology to someone of that time period? It would be like trying to show a cavewoman how to use an iPod.
But for the thousands of patients who have gone for a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (
MRI’s do not use ionizing radiation, or x-rays. The typical cylindrical shaped unit is comprised of a tube surrounded by a powerful circular magnet. While the patient lies in the magnetic tube, radio waves redirect the axes of spinning protons within a powerful magnetic field, created by the passing of an electrical current through embedded wire coils in the walls. A second electromagnetic field using radio waves is then activated, allowing the protons to absorb the energy. Other coils send and receive radio wave signals (which accounts for the clicking sounds heard during the exam) that are then processed on a computer, resulting in the final images that are given to a doctor or specialist. The doctor looks for diseased tissue or organs, which are detectable due to the protons in different tissues returning to their equilibrium state at different rates, allowing contrasts between types of body tissues.
MRI uses a static magnetic field. The energy difference between the nuclear spin states corresponds to a photon at radio frequency (rf) wavelengths. Resonant absorption of energy by the protons due to an external oscillating magnetic field occurs at what is called the Larmor frequency for the particular nucleus. The Larmor frequency is what happens when a magnetic moment is placed in a magnetic field. Its natural tendency is to align with the field. A magnetic moment is like a current loop and the influence toward alignment can be called the torque on the current loop exerted by the magnetic field. It is all very technical, but the end result is an imaging machine that can detect a variety of diseases and save lives.
Man’s use of resonance and sound to heal the body is probably one of the oldest treatment modalities in existence. The idea that the body responds to different sound and light frequencies is not new, and serves as the underlying foundation of many ancient healing traditions. From the drumming of shamans, to chanting, music, humming, and pulsating light, many techniques involving sound have been used throughout the ages by healers and religious leaders. Even in today’s modern, technology-centric world, scientists are reevaluating the use of sound and light in aligning the body’s own vibratory frequencies with those of a body vibrating at optimal health.
Archaeologists have recently discovered small, clay skull-shaped whistles buried with human remains in unearthed Aztec temple cities. These “whistles of death,” which can also take shapes other than skulls, were at first dismissed as ancient noisemakers and toys by archeologists, but new research by a mechanical engineer named Roberto Velazquez points to a much different use.
Velazquez, who has produced hundreds of replicas of these whistles and other flute and wind-type instruments found in Mexican ruins, suggests that among other purposes, they were used during mourning to help assist the dead in their journey to the other side. He is working with musicians, archeologists, and historians to take a new look at these ancient artifacts, and what they were capable of. In a June 2008 story for LiveScience.com by Julie Watson, Velazquez says “We’ve been looking at our ancient culture as if they were deaf and mute, but I think all of this is tied closely to what they did, how they thought.”
An example of Ehekachichtli or Death Whistle, ancient noise generators believed to have been used in Aztec and pre-Columbian tribes to entrain the human brain into altered states of consciousness, as well as for treating illness. These belong to Larry Flaxman’s personal collection of archeological artifacts.” Images courtesy of Larry Flaxman.
Watson reports that many pre-Columbian tribes had utilized similar whistles, including noisemakers made of turkey feathers, sugar cane, and frog skins for a variety of purposes including religious rituals, to fend off enemies, and even to heal. Though the primary use was thought to be helping the deceased make the journey to the underworld, a clearly Shamanic influenced practice, the whistles are also thought to have been used to treat certain illnesses among tribe members. The sounds produced by some of the whistles fall within the maximum upper range of human hearing. It is certainly possible that the users may have known exactly which whistles could produce sounds that altered the brain, changed the state of consciousness, or even affected the rhythm of a person’s heart rate.
Velazquez has traveled extensively across Mexico to examine newly unearthed instruments. Oftentimes, he has to spend significant amounts of time trying to figure out just how to blow into them in order to recreate the specific sounds for which they were made. Some of the noisemakers had to be put inside his mouth in order to produce the right sound, and one, a frog-shaped whistle, took nearly a year for Velazquez to figure out how to operate. The end result for many of the objects is a combination of good and bad. According to Arnd Adje Oth, a pre-Hispanic music expert, some of the instruments emit a positive tone, others sound clearly negative. “Surely, sounds were used in all kinds of cults, such as sacrificial ones, but also in healing ceremonies.”
Today’s New Age mentality has certainly put a new spin on the use of sound and light to heal, however, the basic theory remains the same. There are good vibes—those that make you feel good, and bad vibes—those that make you feel awful. Sick. Diseased. Perhaps the Beach Boys in their Grammy winning song “Good Vibrations” were alluding to the effect of positive vibrations upon the human mind?
The use of sound and resonance in holistic healing has led to a multi-million dollar business of products, techniques, and machines that use varying frequencies of radio waves, dubbed Sound Wave Frequencies, supposedly to help the body re-attune itself to optimal health. Those involved in the field suggest that they can heal physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual “diseases” using sound waves to restore the body’s natural harmonious balance.
One of the pioneers of this concept is Nicole La Voie, a French-Canadian mother who used her own experience to launch a healing technology company. After being exposed to numerous x-rays during her employment as an x-ray technician, La Voie’s son was born with many health problems, including glandular system failure as a child. La Voie went on to study everything from homeopathy to sacred geometry and even became a Reiki Master. Her intense interest in helping her child led to her developing a sound therapy system based upon a specific system of vibrational frequencies, called Sound Wave Energy, which she claims healed her son and many others.
The idea behind La Voie’s program is that the body is like a symphony, with each cell taking part in the orchestration of harmony. “When a musician (organ or system) produces a sour note, we bring them back into harmony by helping them to retune their instrument, or refocus their attention.” This may sound very “New-Agey” and metaphysical, but we have to remember that the body is an electrical system of sorts. The frequency ranges used in the Sound Wave Energy system are between 15 and 33 Hz, and “sound like a cat’s purr or an engine’s hum,” with the purpose of achieving balance and peace of mind.
Dr. Hans Jenny, author of Cymatics: Volume Two, writes that sound is “the creative principle. It must be regarded as primordial…” The Old Testament begins with “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In Sanskrit, “Nada Brahma” states the world is sound. Jenny’s research involved the use of this creative power found in tone and sound to create three-dimensional shapes that corresponded with the sound frequency. Much of Jenny’s work involved transforming powders, pastes, and liquids into patterns that were mirrored in nature, art, and architecture (a la sacred geometry!). These patterns were created by the use of specific vibrational frequencies of sine waves, the majority of which lay within the audible range. The waves act to excite the inanimate powders, pastes, or liquids into lifelike forms. Light is projected up through the lens to provide a glimpse of the amazing standing wave patterns that suddenly emerge from the proper pitch or tone, and amplitude, of sound directed at the inert object. Jenny’s methodology suggests that sound provides a foundational and fundamental basis for all matter; a sort of a vibrational matrix, which, in future chapters, we will compare to the concept of the Zero Point Grid. Perhaps the Grid itself…is composed of sound.
In an article for Kindred Spirit magazine’s Autumn 2002 issue, Cymatics expert Jeff Volk writes about the power of sound to change and shape matter. “Imagine hearing a tone, and watching as sound waves involute an inert blob of kaolin paste, ‘animating’ it through various phases in a nearly perfect replica of cellular division.” Volk claims these types of experiments “vividly reveal certain universal principles which lend credence to the proliferation of sound therapies that are rapidly emerging at the forefront of the holistic health movement.” In a video titled Of Sound Mind and Body: Music and Vibrational Healing, Rupert Sheldrake is quoted as stating that human bodies are “nested hierarchies of vibrational frequencies” that are part of an even larger, more complex system of vibrational structures. Again, this speaks to the concept of a grid of layered vibrational realities that are both macrocosmic, as well as microcosmic in nature.
Volk refers to the work of Dr. Peter Guy Manners, a British naturopath who, in the 1950s, applied the principle of entrainment, where weaker pulsations fall under the influence of stronger ones, to his theory that every form, unique in size, shape, and density, has its own range of vibrational frequencies. “Manners correlated the resonant frequencies of healthy tissues and organs,” Volk continues. “He devised a way to project these vibrations via sound waves, directly into distressed areas.” The process is called “sympathetic resonance,” and the distressed areas are literally brought back to their original, healthy vibrational levels. The continued research and development of the EEG and EKG increased the possibilities of using audible sound waves on the brain, and the work of Robert Monroe in the 1960s solidified the use of specific sound frequencies to modulate brain waves, research that was again continued by the Monroe Institute in Virginia devoting years to the study of using specific frequencies to entrain brainwaves.
These concepts were not outlandish to those of a spiritual bent. As mentioned in an earlier chapter, the use of Tibetan singing bowls are used to calm the brain with tone, as does meditation, chanting, and shamanic drumming, all of which can induce an altered state of consciousness and take the brain from a normal Beta state (14–20 Hz) into the deeper Theta and Delta states (8 Hz to 0.5 Hz). One new healing modality, called Unified Field Healing System, correlates the Earth’s the Schumann Frequency with that of the “light of consciousness” to create an integration of resonance and light. Even the ancient Egyptians were aware of this connection between the vibration of the planet, and that of the body, as discussed in an earlier chapter.
To review a little, the Schumann Frequency occurs because the space between the surface of the Earth and the conductive ionosphere acts as a waveguide. The limited dimensions of the Earth cause this waveguide to act as a resonant cavity for electromagnetic waves in the ELF band. This cavity is naturally excited by energy from lightning strikes. Schumann resonance modes are observed in the power spectra of the natural electromagnetic background noise, as separate peaks at extremely low frequencies (ELF) around 7.8, 14.3, 20.8, 27.3, and 33.8 Hz.
The fundamental mode of the Schumann Resonance is a standing wave in the Earth-ionosphere cavity with a wavelength equal to the circumference of the Earth. This lowest-frequency (and highest-intensity) mode of the Schumann Resonance occurs at a frequency of approximately 7.8 Hz. Further resonance modes appear at approximately 6.5 Hz intervals, a characteristic attributed to the atmosphere’s spherical geometry.”
In another article for Kindred Spirit magazine’s July 2002 issue, Volk also discussed the use of cymatics to tone up the body and tune up the mind. He states that “cymatherapy” uses “specific overlays of frequencies all within the audible range” to provide everything from a “sonic facelift” that tones and tightens the skin while removing toxins, to using the sound wave therapy to heal bone chips and ligament tears in a football player’s ankle. He points also to the more well-known use of this therapy on a racehorse named Rarely Found, who used the technique to heal a torn flexor tendon and achieve full recovery, something other therapies failed at. Volk’s work has led to a plethora of modern-day devices that use both sound and light to heal.
Jenny studied the earlier works of Rudolf Steiner and of Ernst Chladni, “the father of acoustics,” and contributed his own knowledge to a body of work that is growing each year. Volk points to the progress of technology in engineering and electronics behind the more recent “Cyma Glyphs” of contemporary researchers Alexander Lauterwasser and John Reid, who have created “sound figures” in water and sand. Reid, an acoustic engineer, did research in the sarcophagus of the King’s Chamber in the Great Pyramid, transforming it into a giant resonator. He applied electronic frequencies to a membrane stretched over the opening to create a resonant vibration and explored the various acoustic properties of the chamber and surrounding passageways.
In his book Vibrational Medicine, Dr. Richard Gerber posits the difference between physical matter and etheric matter as simply a difference of frequency. He posits that MRIs are utilizing the same principle of applying resonance to reveal and image physical distress within the human body. He also believes that energy imbalance in the subtle or etheric body always leads to disease in the physical body. The idea is that, from an energetic standpoint, when the human body is weak or off balance, it oscillates at a less harmonious frequency than when healthy. “This abnormal frequency reflects a general state of cellular energetic imbalance within the physical body.” By further applying certain vibrational frequencies, Gerber maintains that the body can restore itself to the balance of health and rid itself of the “toxicities of illness.”
Gerber’s believes this new paradigm of healing views the human body as more than just a machine with parts. Instead, the body and its various systems act more as energy fields within which the life force moves. This more harmonious and holistic view of the body and its systems is shared by many doctors and researchers, including Deepak Chopra, Andrew Weil, and Bernie Siegel. In Cynthia Logan’s Healing Vibes, her essay in “Forbidden Science: From Ancient Technologies to Free Energy,” Gerber is quoted as stating his intention to create a “kind of Mayo clinic of healing research.” He firmly believes that “Western technology has now evolved to the point that we are beginning to get confirmation that subtle energy systems to exist and that they influence the physiologic behavior of cellular systems.” Though vibrational medicine is still not considered a scientifically accepted area of research, Gerber and his colleagues continue to put forth the idea that because the body is a vibrating field of energy, the way we look at healing must acknowledge that new view of what it means to be human.
Modern sound healing modalities have even embraced the use of sound in conjunction with acupressure, as in the Alphatouch treatment method. Alphatouch claims that through the use of a proprietary AlphaSonic sound wave machine, acupressure points along the body are activated helping to alleviate pain and inflammation. Acupressure has long been considered a viable alternative health modality, so it seems like a natural progression to introduce the element of sound into the mix. Sound waves can amplify the effects upon the acupressure points to relax muscles, increase circulation, and even reduce inflammation just by holding a transducer a few inches from the body and moving it slowly across the body’s meridian, where acupressure points are located.
A more New Age concept involves finding the resonant frequencies of the body’s chakras, or seven energy points, and aligning them back to wholeness. Supposedly, if even one of the chakras is not vibrating at the proper frequency, the person can experience a variety of disease and distress, both mental and physical. Thus, if the body is nothing but vibrating energy, and sound is nothing but vibrating energy, to achieve the synching of both would lead to perfect “soundness” of body and spirit. But what are the chakras exactly? Other than hearing about your favorite movie star espousing her latest “feel good” chakra treatment, do you know “what” or “where” they are?
Chakras are the body’s energy centers through which life energy or life force flows into and out of our aura. They serve to create a harmony of energy throughout the body, mind, and spirit, and when one chakra is blocked, it can cause disease or distress to the entire physiological and psychological system. Okay, that sounds reasonable enough, but what does a chakra look like? Chakras have been alternatively described as a wheel-like vortex, or similarly shaped to a lotus flower. Various colors are assigned to the chakras, as are associations with particular organ, gland, and body system they are connected to. The heart chakra, for example, governs the thymus gland and is in charge of the functioning of the heart organ, lungs, bronchia system, lymph glands, secondary circulatory system, immune system, and arms and hands. The heart chakra resonates to the color green.
The seven main chakra centers are aligned along the spinal column. If there are disturbances on any level, this shows in the chakra’s vitality level. Also, each of the seven main chakras is their own intelligence center. This means that each chakra is not only associated with our physical health, but also controls aspects connected to our emotional, mental, and belief system.
The body itself is incredibly sensitive to sound, from the slightest whisper to a shocking scream. Our ears are able to discern sound vibrating between 20 and 20,000 cycles per second. Our bones and skin can even perceive sound through a process called conduction—in fact, do you remember the “Bone Fone” from the 1980s? This device would “resonate through your bones—all the way to the sensitive bones of your inner ear.”
Native cultures recognized the therapeutic nature of sound, using gongs, bowls, didgeridoos, rattles, and other objects to align the body and correct disturbances in the physical vibratory mode. Those objects have now morphed into sound discs, resonator plates, sound tables, frequency modulators, and other high-tech machines that produce frequency ranges that correspond with the human body’s own transducing waves. According to the Center for Neuroacoustic Research and the California Institute for Human Science, scientific studies have shown that the sound vibrations of dolphins, Tibetan bowls and even musical choirs can have a healing effect. They have even discovered that the sounds made by the rings of the planet Uranus are virtually identical to those produced by the Tibetan bowls! NASA recordings of “outer space noise” sound almost just like the sounds made by the ebb and flow of ocean tides. Perhaps sound patterns are far more prevalent than we ever imagined, creating a virtual symphony that links outer space with inner space.
People who meditate can attest to the vibratory healing of using a simple mantra, such as “om,” which they claim heightens consciousness and brings about a deeper awareness, as do Buddhist and Gregorian chants. The repetitive nature, the rhythm of a word repeated over and over, or a chant sung or spoken, seems to have a profound effect on the body as well as on the mind. One has only to listen to a decent high school marching band banging on the drums to experience how this rhythmic resonance can move the body. Watch people dancing and it becomes clear that music moves the body (although not always in a good way. Think Elaine on Seinfeld.)
In an article for the December 2008 O Magazine, noted neurologist Oliver Sacks, MD, discusses the healing power of singing. He refers to the “profound bond between music and our brains, and how the simple act of singing can be good medicine—especially as we age.” Sacks further explores how every culture uses music and singing in ritual as well as in play. Think of Christmas carols and African drumming rhythms. Music is one of the ways we bond as humans, often through memories associated with it, such as a favorite song from childhood that still has the power to soothe us as an adult.
Music involves the use of many parts of the brain, and Sacks feels this is why it is so important to us in terms of both building memories, and even learning. He has also seen proof of it healing diseases and making profound changes in those stricken with neurological diseases. “I have seen this over and over again in my practice as a neurologist,” he states. “The right sort of music can literally unlock someone frozen by Parkinson’s disease, so that they may be able to dance or sing, even though, in the absence of music, they may be unable to take a step or say a word.”
Music is a fundamental way of expressing what it means to be human. And when music resonates with us, it heals, inspires, and lifts us. Again, we refer to the concept of entrainment, which exists both as a concept of physics, and in the human brain. In physics, entrainment is the tendency for two oscillating objects to lock into phase, or synchronization, so that they have similar vibrational frequencies. They are said to oscillate in harmony, pulsing in synchrony. This principle also appears in chemistry, astronomy, biology, and even psychology, and the brain itself can be trained to certain brainwave frequencies that are in phase with outside vibrational rates.
In music, there can be entrainment of rhythm, vibration, harmony, and tone, and it has a direct effect on the listener by either resonating positively, or sounding like an awful cacophony that does not promote a state of calm or well being. Dutch scientist Christian Huygens, who has a long history with resonance studies, discovered the concept of entrainment in 1665 working with pendulum clocks, which would eventually end up swinging at the same rate when placed near one another. This synching up of the pendulum swing was repeatable, but the swings did not stabilize in synchrony, but in anti-phase instead. Entrainment occurred, however, because the swing rates had the same period, even though they had opposing phases. When two systems achieve entrainment, they assume a stability that gradually reduces the expended amounts of energy. The systems are then said to be in resonance.
Brainwave synchronization is the entrainment of the brain’s wave frequency with that of an outside stimulus, creating a different brain state. For example, the two hemispheres of the brain synchronize to binaural beats, which occur when audio signals to the brain cause a response directly related to the frequency of the introduced signal. Two tones that are close in frequency then generate a beat frequency at the difference of the frequencies, which is generally in the subsonic range. For example, a 500 Hz tone and 510 Hz tone will produce a subsonic 10 Hz tone, roughly in the middle of the alpha range. This new subsonic tone can have effects on the mind of the person experiencing it. Also, the normal “carrier frequency” (for example, the 500 Hz in the previous example), may have the same such effect. The way it works is that the brain experiences the pulse by combining the two tones. Each ear hears only a steady tone. These entrainment frequencies may provide health benefits in treating certain medical conditions, but as of yet, the medical community is reluctant to adopt brainwave synchronization for emotional/mental disorders. Although the effects and efficacy can certainly vary from person to person, there are a variety of helpful brainwave synchronization techniques available that can have beneficial effects on individuals such as classical neurofeedback or learning meditation.