The Power and Promise of Sound PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Patricia Spadaro   

Mystical traditions of East and West tell us that the key to unlocking the mysteries of the universe is sound. In fact, they say that sound is the very fount from which our universe arises, the primordial First Cause. It is responsible for creating, sustaining, and destroying all life and all matter. Simply put, sound is the organizing and integrating impulse behind everything.

Ancient mystics of the East taught that different sounds form different patterns, creating the endless variety of shapes, sizes, and densities that are manifest all around us. They also regarded sound as a power that could be harnessed to create positive change. Hindu and Buddhist sages repeated sound formulas, mantras, to bring about a host of powerful effects, both external and internal. They taught that by reciting mantras to a specific deity, we can create within our consciousness the same vibration as that deity's. In essence, they saw the sacred words of the mantra as conduits to bring spiritual energies into the world.

The power of the divine sound is also a part of Jewish and Christian traditions. Genesis tells us that creation began when God spoke the words "Let there be light." The Hindu Vedas reveal the original power of sound in these immortal words: "In the beginning was Brahman with whom was Vak, or the Word, and the Word is Brahman."

Likewise, the Kabbalists (the Jewish mystics) taught that the Divine Word, the speech of God, creates and sustains both the heavens and the earth. They believed that the various objects in our universe are different because a specific and unique combination of letters of sacred speech sustained each one. And like their Eastern counterparts, some Kabbalists taught that when a devotee calls upon one of the names of God, the specific influence associated with that name is released.

Ancient masters, then, saw sound as the author of all things, the dynamic cause and effect of all life. They also knew what today's science is just beginning to prove-that when we apply certain sounds to an object or an organism, we can change its condition, for better or for worse. Here, at the convergence of ancient spirituality and modern science, is the next frontier in the evolution of sound.

Pictures of Sound: Making Invisible Vibrations Visible
In our modern culture, where for many seeing is believing, how do we know that what sages and energy practitioners say about the power of sound is true? Is there evidence that vibration and sound can affect matter, interact with our molecules and stimulate healing? And if so, can we measure their effects?

In the eighteenth-century, German scientist and musician Ernst Chladni, known as the father of acoustics, took a step toward answering these questions. He demonstrated, in simple, visual experiments, that sound affects matter. When he drew a violin bow around the edge of a plate covered with fine sand, the sand formed various geometric patterns, as shown below.

Viloin Bow

Another pioneer in this arena was Dr. Hans Jenny. A Swiss medical doctor and scientist, Hans Jenny realized the importance of vibration and sound and set out to study them from a unique angle. His fascinating experiments into the study of wave phenomena (which he called cymatics, from the Greek kyma, meaning “wave”) provide nothing less than pictures of how sound influences matter.

In the 1960s, Dr. Jenny placed sand, fluid, and powders on metal plates, which he vibrated with a special frequency generator and a speaker. His experiments produced beautiful and intricate patterns that were unique to each individual vibration. Moreover, these varying patterns remained intact as long as the sound pulsed through the substance. If the sound stopped, the pattern collapsed. For many, these experiments show that sound can indeed alter form, that different frequencies produce different results, and that sound actually creates and maintains form.

Sound and Our Cells The implications of Dr. Jenny’s work are vast, especially for the field of healing and vibrational medicine. If sound can change substances, can it alter our interior landscape as well? Since patterns of vibration are known to be ubiquitous in nature, what role do these patterns play in creating and sustaining the cells of our own bodies? How do the vibrational patterns of a diseased body differ from the patterns the body emanates when it is healthy? And can we turn the unhealthy vibrations into healthy ones? While Dr. Jenny did not focus on the healing possibilities of sound and vibration, his work has inspired many today whose destiny it is to do just that.

Two other researchers who have created visually compelling evidence of the power of sound are Japanese scientist Masaru Emoto and Fabien Maman. Maman, a French composer, acupuncturist and bioenergetician, and Helene Grimal, a biologist, experimented with both healthy and cancer cells to see how they would respond to the voice and to various instruments. In his book The Role of Music in the Twenty-First Century, Maman reports that among the dramatic effects of sound they captured in their photographs was the progressive destabilization of the structure of cancer cells. Maman says that when he played specific sounds that progressed up the musical scale, the cancer cells eventually exploded.

Japanese scientist Dr. Masaru Emoto, author of The Hidden Messages in Water, has shown the potent effects of sound by photographing water crystals. In his remarkable experiments, he played classical music and folk songs from Japan and other countries through speakers placed next to water samples. He then froze the water to make crystals and compared the crystalline structure of different samples. With each musical piece, the water sample formed different and beautifully geometric crystals. When he played heavy metal music, the water crystal’s basic hexagonal structure broke into pieces.

Dr. Emoto’s work goes further still. He also measured the impact of words on the crystalline structure of water. The results of Dr. Emoto’s experiments match what psychologists, researchers, and spiritual masters alike have shown—that the words we speak and the thoughts we think impact our well-being at all levels. In one experiment, Dr. Emoto and three hundred others assembled at the shore of a badly polluted lake in Japan and spoke aloud an affirmation of peace and gratitude. The water crystals changed from a cloudy and distorted image before the prayer to beautiful, geometric crystals after the prayer. Smaller groups of people have repeated this experiment at other lakes around the world with similar results.

In another experiment, Dr. Emoto taped various words and phrases to jars of water. Afterward, he photographed the crystals formed when these water samples were frozen. Words or phrases such as “thank you,” “love/appreciation,” and “love thyself” produced a variety of beautiful geometric forms. On the other hand, phrases such as “you make me sick” or “you fool” produced crystals that were disconnected or chaotic.

The implications of these simple experiments are profound. Since our bodies are made up of 70 percent water, imagine how the sounds and vibrations that fill our external environment affect our internal environment, our very cells. Imagine how the words we speak—about ourselves and others—affect not only our own health but also the health and well-being of those in our lives, our communities, and the world.

The Revolution Starts Here
Today, the ingenious application of sound frequencies is creating a revolution in technology, science, and health—everything from sonic toothbrushes to help remove plaque from our teeth to sound waves that break up kidney stones to music therapy for reducing stress, managing pain, and helping premature babies gain weight. In alternative and increasingly popular areas of health care, sound therapy comes in many shapes, sizes, and sensations, such as intoning specific sounds or playing music to enhance well-being, sounding tuning forks and crystal bowls to balance the body, and delivering specific sound frequencies through electronic and computerized devices to stimulate self-healing. The promise of sound at physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels is endless.

In reality, though, the revolution in sound starts with each of us—with the sounds we allow to enter our environment, from within and without. Here are four questions and tips to help you reflect on how to make better “sound choices” in your life to create the change you want to see in your world and the world around you.

• Create a No-Fly Zone
Take a moment to reflect on the sounds that surround you each day. Which are positive? Which do you find abrasive? Do you allow yourself intervals of quiet and silence? In today’s society, we are addicted to filling not only our time but our space with activity. Sonic overload just adds to our stress and can prevent us from hearing the still small voice of guidance and wisdom within. Think about how you can intentionally control what’s in your air space, whether it’s turning off the TV or radio, silencing your phone at certain times, or choosing to go to restaurants where you can actually hold a conversation without shouting.

• Say No to Toxic Tones
Think about the words you hear from others during your day. Are there any that are consistently negative? Negative, critical, or depressing language can affect your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. If you’re the target of toxic language, be proactive. The people speaking those words aren’t always aware that they are dragging you down. Politely but honestly express how you feel and draw necessary boundaries. If you don’t get the response you need, you may have to limit or eliminate the time you spend with that person for your own sonic sanity.

• Become Sensitive to Your Own Sounds
The words you speak—whether about yourself, others, or the events in your life—impact those who hear them. What are your sounds like? The best way to learn is to watch the reaction of others to your speech. How does their expression change or what does their body language convey? By opening to the feedback, you can create a healthier space for yourself and those in your life.

• Envision Your Ideal Sound Space
What kinds of sounds would you include in your ideal sound space? What sounds would you exclude? Now ask yourself how you can use sound to accomplish your goals, whether you to be more energetic and creative, to calm down, or to commune with the power and presence within.

Patricia Spadaro is an expert in practical spirituality and the author of Honor Yourself: The Inner Art of Giving and Receiving, an inspiring guide to moving beyond the myths about giving to more balanced, authentic living with wisdom from around the world. To learn more about Patricia Spadaro and her work, visit

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