The Sound Current:
“THE UNIVERSE IS SOUND”
Have you had encounters with the Sound Current?
“The Great Tone has an inaudible sound.”
— Lao Tzo, Tao Te Ching
“If you blot out sense and sound, what do you hear?”
“First of all, you must use your ears to take some of the burden from your eyes. We have been using our eyes to judge the world since the time we were born.
We talk to others and ourselves mainly about what we see. A warrior always listens to the sounds of the world.”
— Carlos Castaneda, Journey to Ixtlan
“Once the life-stream becomes audible, one is never lonely; for he hears its reverberations at home and abroad.
The Voice of God keeps reminding him of the true home of his Father. The practice of Sound Principle rids one of all troubles and afflictions…”
— Kirpal Singh
“In the beginning was OM …”
“The knower of the mystery of sound knows the mystery of the whole universe.”
“For in the beginning of the times so did we all share in the Holy Stream of Sound
that gave birth to all creation.”
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
“The Tao is the source of all things … existed before heaven and earth … eternal … pervades everywhere.”
“The sound is the source of all manifestation …
The knower of the mystery of sound knows the mystery of the whole universe.”
Native American: “Song of the creator”
Vedas: ANAHATA NADAM: “unlimited tone” or “no instrument.”
Sufi: SAUTE SURMAD: “The tone that fills the cosmos.”
Bible: THE WORD/The voice of many waters
Plato: the Cosmos is constructed according to musical intervals and proportions
Pythagoras: called it the “Music of the spheres”
Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher: called it LOGOS (divine word or sound)
Hindu: Anahad Shabd (unlimited tone or unstruck melody) and Akash Bani (Voice of the Heavens)
Lao Tzu: called it “unimpeded harmony”– and referred to “The Great Tone” as the source of all things
Sikhs: refer to the “Cosmic tone”– this was the foundation of their teachings
Sanskrit: NADA BRAHMA: “The sound of God.” Nada= sound or word Brahma = the all-Creator.
AUM: called the sound of God. This mantra is considered as the closest to the true nature of the sound current.
Virtually every civilization in the world has had some type of creation myth that involved sound, usually sound that was equated with consciousness and that this celestial sound was the first creation, so that everything else created came from such ‘otherworldly’ sound in the ether. A number of spiritual, mystical and religious texts have spoken of this metaphysical equation of sound as an element of their most honored traditions.
Plato wrote that the cosmos was constructed according to musical intervals and proportions. Pythagoras called it ‘Music of the Spheres’ and believed that it fills our inner ears and we are constantly in contact with it from the moment of our birth. Another Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, called it ‘Logos’ (divine word or sound). Some Native American traditions call it ‘Song of the Creator,’ while the Bible calls it ‘The Word’ and ‘Voice of Many Waters’. Hindus refer to it as ‘Anahad Shabd’ (unlimited tone or unstruck melody) and ‘Akash Bani’ (voice from the heavens), while the Sufis say it is ‘Saute Surmad’ (tone that fills the cosmos). Lao Tzu described the Tao as ‘unimpeded harmony’ and referred to the ‘Great Tone’ as the source of all things. Guru Nanak built Sikhism on the foundations of this ‘cosmic tone’. Some believe the knowledge of this ‘mystery tone’ goes back even farther, beyond the origins of Hinduism, and to the ancient Egyptians of several thousand B.C. Others believe that Jesus taught it to his inner circle, his disciples, and also that Mohammed was aware of it when he was enlightened in the cave at Gare-Hira. Several spiritual Masters teach that this sound of God is in everyone and that we explore this inner space through meditation. A number of ancient Gnostics mystical texts refer to hearing the sound of God while in deep meditation states. Today, these traditions are a part of the Radhasoami Sant Mat movement, as well as several others around the world. In addition, a number of other cultures, such as the Aborigines, Aztecs, Eskimos, Malayans and Persians all believed that the universe originated in sound. In fact, the very word universe actually means ‘one song or sound’, uni meaning one and verse meaning song.
The details of these esoteric theories are as follows. This one sound is divided into unlimited frequencies or tones that generate a geometric wave pattern containing the information of its order and structure in nature. Sound is in this way a storage and transfer system for information or the intelligence of the universe bio-system. Much of our life is spent under the influence of disorganized, chaotic, frantic sound. However, the more time one spends within the influence of highly organized and repeating fractal tone patterns, the more solution orientated is the information attracted and maintained in one’s energy field. This can help allow stress to be replaced with ease by relaxation, which is why the sacred geometry of sound is a foundation for sound healing. In addition, symbols are the language of the unconscious and higher conscious mental bodies, and they provide the keys to one’s journey into the sensations of tone. The physical body, the subtle bodies and their points of confluence, vibrate at different frequencies. These are modified or literally attuned by the resonation of the inner sound current, sacred algorithms or mantras, which can then harmonize and realign the dense and subtle components of the energetic body.
Although most religions do not actually acknowledge any type of mystical inner sound in their traditional doctrines, most do refer to it within their more secret, esoteric writings meant for the practitioners within their ‘inner circles’. In addition, almost all religions throughout history have been at odds from within their own religion concerning some of these very issues, resulting in some leaving their native religion and starting offshoots or cults based on these more esoteric, non-traditional doctrines. Some of these same people were persecuted by their former religion and went underground, and some actually disappeared altogether. Who knows how much of that information could be lost for good, or has been hidden away secretly for centuries.
It has also been said that the vibrations of this sound are too fine to be audible, making it difficult to be aware of these very fine, ethereal vibrations. However, as this sound is supposedly always resounding in the soul and when one attains a certain level of stillness and concentration, the sound can become audible. It is supposedly the ringing tone one can hear when all other sounds are silent. Depending upon the person, a variety of sounds may be heard, similar to the following physical representations; rushing waters, thunder, ringing bells, conch sounds, gong echoes, steam engine, crickets chirping, bees or hummingbirds flying, or even instruments like harps, horns, flutes or lutes being played. Ascetics blow a horn, a shell or a flute to awaken this inner tone in them. The bells and gongs in churches and temples are meant to suggest this same inner sound and thus lead one to take up the clarion call towards the inner life.
In the even deeper esoteric world of mystics, there is a spiritual practice (meditation) called Surat Shabd(a) Yoga, (yoga of the celestial sound current), which is followed by a number of ancient spiritual traditions. Surat means “soul,” shabd means “word” and yoga means “union.” Word means the “Sound Current,” the “Audible Life Stream” or the “Essence of the Absolute Supreme Being.” That is, the dynamic force of creative energy that was sent out, as sound vibration, from the Supreme Being/Force into the abyss of space at the dawn of the universe’s manifestation, and that is being sent forth, through the ages, framing all things that constitute and inhabit the universe. It is also implied that through this practice of meditation, one can learn to access the workings of this inner sound and actually travel spiritually into other levels or dimensions within the inner cosmos. If one follows the theory on down to biological human beings, it says this inner sound is the spiritual energy that actually drives our consciousness and provides the energy to hold our genetic structure in balance. And that this energy is supplied through an umbilical cord arrangement, and this ringing or buzzing sound we all can actually hear is the current flow in that power line. And thus, that one’s hair swirl is physical evidence of its path, as it enters at that point in a vortex pattern.
In addition to these mystical theories and practices, today there is a popular, still developing theory among physicists called String Theory, which attempts to provide a complete, unified and consistent description of the fundamental structure of our universe. Very basically, it explains the smallest possible component of reality as a vibrating string, or a bundle of them intertwined, and that how matter is created depends on the way these strings vibrate. And of course when something vibrates, it creates a tone or harmonic of tones. String theory tries to bridge and tie together the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics into the currently accepted “Big Bang” theory of the universe’s creation. And as previously mentioned, universe meaning one song, is creation then merely a song being sung or played? A cosmic symphony of sorts? And each one of us exists as a unique harmonic signature within this overall celestial symphony?
And finally, we must mention the medical condition of tinnitus, which may or may not relate to these postulates. Webster’s dictionary defines tinnitus as, “any ringing or buzzing in the ear not resulting from an external stimulus.” The medical community reports that at least 20%, if not more, of the people in the USA suffer from it on a regular basis. Things mentioned that bring it on are allergies, head injuries, loud noises, medications, infections, tumors and diseases. Several treatments are offered to treat symptoms, but they truly do not even know what causes it. And even though it is recognized as a medical condition, it is one that doesn’t seem to do much harm, other than being a nuisance for those affected. In fact, most patients report that their doctors usually tell them to just learn to deal with it, since there is no long-lasting cure except ways to temporarily relieve the annoyance. And polls reveal that 60-90% of the time these treatments don’t work. So learning to live with it is basically the solution most people accept, because it’s also noted that at one time or another almost everyone gets it to some degree.
Do the metaphysical premises presented here before us truly point to an inner sonic key that is unique to each and every one of us? One that can define where our future divine heritage really does take us? Possibly the final answer is revealed whenever we take up the clarion call of the spiritual explorer that resides deep inside each of us.
Om, or Aum, a sacred syllable of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, is considered to be the first resonating vibrational sound within an individual being. It also denotes the non-dualistic universe as a whole. In Buddhism, Om corresponds to the crown chakra and white light.
Esoterically, Shabd is the “Sound Current vibrating in all creation. It can be heard by the inner ears.”
The raison d’être for the human form is to meditate on the Sound Current, and in so doing merge with it until one’s own divinity is ultimately realized.
What is the Sound Current?
The Sound Current is the basis of all life. It is the audible stream of energy that comes from the center of creation. It is the spiritual energy on which a person returns to the heart of creator. The Sound Current is mentioned or studied in many religions. In the Christian Bible, it is referred to as “the Word.” There is a yoga tradition that focuses on the Sound Current called Shabda Yoga. In MSIA, the sacred tones chanted in spiritual exercises are in harmony with the Sound Current of God.
The Sound Current is the true self. When you are in the Sound Current, you may feel a vibration, a rhythm, a hum, a tone. If you are with the Beloved, you don’t need anything else because you’re riding right in the center of the Sound Current, and like the center of the storm, it is quiet and calm. What we do in spiritual exercises is to work towards the center, towards the Sound, the true self, the Beloved.
Throughout the immense span of human history references to the ‘inner sound current’, ‘audible life stream’ or other similar such descriptions to this mystical, sonic life force have not always been crystal clear. Many cultures have made spiritual notations to this overall concept, but oftentimes it has been obscured because of translation, hidden agendas, or incomplete records. However, such references are more common than most previously believed. They can be traced from way back to some of the most ancient civilizations on most continents and forward to all the forms in our present day world. Yet, the odd part about its history is that most people in our modern world have never heard of any of this. It does seem it is finally about time. The pages in this section refer to some of history out there, whether it springs from religion, science, occultism, spiritual discipline or a combination of such, and whether it be the larger movements of Sant Mat, Radhasoami, Sikhism and their modern offshoots, or more obscure references in ancient Greece, ancient Egypt, Druids, Gnostics, Native Americans, Aztecs, Mayans and several others.
Aristotle … imputed this symphony of the heavens … this music of the spheres to Pythagoras. … But Pythagoras alone of mortals is said to have heard this harmony … If our hearts were as pure, as chaste, and as snowy as Pythagoras’ was, our ears would resound and be filled with that supremely lovely music of the wheeling stars.
“We shall therefore borrow all our Rules for the Finishing our Proportions, from the Musicians, who are the greatest Masters of this Sort of Numbers, and from those Things wherein Nature shows herself most excellent and compleat.”
~Leon Battista Alberti (1407-1472)
The expression “music of the spheres” refers to the entwined relationship connecting the structures of music and those of the physical world, and a conscious awareness of mystical or spiritual qualities being transmitted through composed sound. It is said that the great philosopher Pythagoras learned and developed this concept after studying in Egypt in a priesthood school. After being captured in Egypt, he became a prisoner in Babylon; from where he finish the delineated lines of what became his Theorem. Apparently the Chaldeans were the first civilization to conceive of the heavenly bodies joining in a cosmic hymn as they moved in stately mode across the heavens.
Many other Greek initiates also acknowledged a fundamental connection between the individual heavens or spheres of the seven planets, and the seven sacred vowels. In the Old Testament on the Bible, Job describes a time “when the stars of the morning sang together”, and William Shakespeare in his play, “The Merchant of Venice”, writes: “There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’st but in his motion like an angel sings.”
Nowadays, however, to understand the Pythagorean system of celestial music, it is only possible to approximate his actual theory using our contemplative mind. He could perceived through his unique abilities, a straight correlation between every single creature and object existing in this world and believed that their energetic signatures could be translated by numbers, fractions, or even through geometrical structures. Pythagoras also believed that God does not create, He geometrized the Universe.
The concept that everything is nothing but a note in the harmony of the worlds can be observed through the study of the Greek Mystery schools included in their doctrines a magnificent concept of the relationship existing between music and form. The elements of architecture on their temples, their geometric disposition and formats for example, were considered as comparable to musical modes and notes, or as having a musical counterpart.
“There is geometry in the humming of the strings. There is music in the spacing of the spheres.”
The music of the spheres is an ancient philosophical concept that regards the proportions in the movements of celestial bodies – the Sun, Moon, and planets – as a form of “musica”, the Medieval Latin name for music. Pythagoras and his followers believed that a universal philosophy could be founded in numbers.
“Number is the within of all things.”
They differentiated three types of music: the music of instruments, the music of the human body and soul, and the music of the spheres, which was the music of the cosmos. Geometric shapes and even orbiting motions could be linked to this philosophy. Indeed, Pythagoras could questionably be the first advocate of “string theory” as a instrument to perceive the universe, and the important symbol of the tetractys This concept is similar to the Tetragrammaton of the Kabbalah and contains the numbers of the perfect musical intervals of an octave, a fifth and a fourth. This “music” is not usually thought to be literally audible, but a harmonic and/or mathematical and/or of a spiritual way to perceive it. This concept was developed further by Johannes Kepler that employed it as an auxiliary to develop his Laws of Planetary Motions.
To go deeper into this concept and relationship between the Macrocosmic Universe and the Microcosmic Universe, we have to realize that every element in Nature has its individual keynote. If these elements are combined in a composite structure the result is a chord that, if sounded, will disintegrate the compound into its integral parts. Likewise each individual has a keynote that, if sounded, will destroy him. The allegory of the walls of Jericho falling when the trumpets of Israel were sounded is undoubtedly intended to set forth the arcane significance of individual keynote or vibration, as announce to us the knowledge and of those “celestial codes” by the Hebrew army.
Source: From the work:”The Pythagorean Theory of Music and Color”
 The early priests frequently demonstrated their superior knowledge of the principles underlying the phenomena known as vibration. A considerable part of the Mystery rituals consisted of invocations and intonements, for which purpose special sound chambers were constructed.
 The tetractys is a symbol composed of ten dots in an upward-pointing triangular formation. It was a sacred pattern for the school of philosophers who followed the teachings of the Greek sage Pythagoras (lived 6th century BC). They used the tetractys to swear their oaths upon, in much the same way that modern Christians swear oaths upon the Bible. The Pythagorean oath, as quoted by the Renaissance magician Cornelius Agrippa, is as follows:
“I with pure mind by the number four do swear;
That’s holy, and the fountain of nature
Eternal, parent of the mind…”
Some authorities claim that the oath was sworn to the “one who bestowed the tetractys to the coming generations,” which might be interpreted to mean the Monad, or the teacher Pythagoras. Probably all three – God, Pythagoras, and the tetrad – were in the mind of the individual taking the oath. Modern perception was that the oath was primarily focused upon the tetractys itself, as the symbolic blueprint of creation.
By Hazrat Inayat Khan
Abstract sound is called sawt-e-sarmad by the Sufis; all space is filled with it. The vibrations of this sound are too fine to be either audible or visible to the material ears or eyes, since it is even difficult for the eyes to see the form and color of the ethereal vibrations on the external plane.
It was the sawt-e-sarmad, the sound of the abstract plane, which Muhammed heard in the cave of Ghar-e-Hira when he became lost in his divine ideal. The Qur’an refers to this sound in the words: ‘Be! and all became’.
Moses heard this sound on Mount Sinai when in communion with God, and the same word was audible to Christ when absorbed in his heavenly Father in the wilderness. Shiva heard the same anahad nada during his samadhi in the cave of the Himalayas. The flute of Krishna is symbolic of the same sound. This sound is the source of all revelation to the Masters to whom it is revealed from within. It is because of this that they know and teach one and the same truth.
The Sufi knows of the past, present and future, and about all things in life, by being able to know the direction of sound. Every aspect of one’s being in which sound manifests has a peculiar effect upon life, for the activity of vibrations has a special effect in every direction. The knower of the mystery of sound knows the mystery of the whole universe. Whoever has followed the strains of this sound has forgotten all earthly distinctions and differences, and has reached that goal of truth in which all the blessed ones of God unite.
Space is within the body as well as around it; in other words, the body is in the space and the space is in the body. This being the case, the sound of the abstract is always going on within, around and about man. Man does not hear it as a rule, because his consciousness is entirely centered in his material existence. Man becomes so absorbed in his experiences in the external world through the medium of the physical body that space, with all its wonders of light and sound, appears to him blank.
This can be easily understood by studying the nature of color. There are many colors that are quite distinct by themselves; yet, when mixed with others of still brighter hue, they become altogether eclipsed. Even bright colors, when embroidered with gold, silver, diamonds or pearls, serve merely as a background to the dazzling embroidery. So it is with the abstract sound compared with the sounds of the external world. The limited volume of earthly sounds is so concrete that it dims the effect of the sound of the abstract to the sense of hearing, although in comparison to it the sounds of the earth are like that of a whistle to a drum. When the abstract sound is audible, all other sounds become indistinct to the mystic.
The sound of the abstract is called anahad in the Veda, meaning unlimited sound. The Sufis name it sarmad, which suggests the idea of intoxication. The word intoxication is here used to signify upliftment, the freedom of the soul from its earthly bondage. Those who are able to hear the sawt-e-sarmad and meditate on it are relieved from all worries, anxieties, sorrows, fears and diseases, and the soul is freed from captivity in the senses and in the physical body. The soul of the listener becomes the all-pervading consciousness, and his spirit becomes the battery which keeps the whole universe in motion.
Some train themselves to hear the sawt-e-sarmad in the solitude, on the sea shore, on the river bank and in the hills and dales; others attain it while sitting in the caves of the mountains, or when wandering constantly through forests and deserts, keeping themselves in the wilderness apart from the haunts of men. Yogis and ascetics blow sing – a horn, or shanka – a shell, which awakens in them this inner tone. Dervishes play nai or alghoza – a double flute – for the same purpose. The bells and gongs in the churches and temples are meant to suggest to the thinker the same sacred sound, and thus lead him towards the inner life.
This sound develops through ten different aspects because of its manifestation through ten different tubes of the body. It sounds like thunder, the roaring of the sea, the jingling of bells, running water, the buzzing of bees, the twittering of sparrows, the vina, the whistle, the sound of shanka – until it finally becomes Hu, the most sacred of all sounds.
This sound Hu is the beginning and end of all sounds, be they from man, bird, beast, or thing. A minute study will prove this fact, which can be realized by listening to the sound of the steam engine or of a mill, while the echo of bells or gongs gives a typical illustration of the sound Hu.
The Supreme Being has been called by various names in different languages, but the mystics have known him as Hu, the natural name, not man-made, the only name of the nameless which all nature constantly proclaims.
The sound Hu is most sacred; the mystics of all ages called it Ismi-Azam, the name of the most High, for it is the origin and end of every sound as well as the background of each word. The word Hu is the spirit of all sounds and of all words, and is hidden under them all, as the spirit in the body. It does not belong to any language, but no language can help belonging to it.
This alone is the true name of God, a name that no people and no religion can claim as their own. This word is not only uttered by human beings, but is repeated by animals and birds. All things and beings exclaim this name of the Lord, for every activity of life expresses distinctly or indistinctly this very sound. This is the word mentioned in the Bible as existing before the light came into being: ‘In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God’.
The mystery of Hu is revealed to the Sufi who journeys through the path of initiation.7 The more a Sufi listens to sawt-e-sarmad, the sound of the abstract, the more his consciousness becomes free from all the limitations of life. The soul floats above the physical and mental plane without any special effort on man’s part, which shows its calm and peaceful state; a dreamy look comes into his eyes and his countenance becomes radiant; he experiences the unearthly joy and rapture of wajad or ecstasy. When ecstasy overwhelms him he is neither conscious of the physical existence nor of the mental. This is the heavenly wine to which all Sufi poets refer, which is totally unlike the momentary intoxications of this mortal plane.
A heavenly bliss then springs in the heart of a Sufi, his mind is purified from sin, his body from all impurities, and a pathway is opened for him towards the world unseen. He begins to receive inspirations, intuitions, impressions and revelations without the least effort on his part. He is no longer dependent upon a book or a teacher, for divine wisdom – the light of his soul, the Holy Spirit – begins to shine upon him.
‘I, by the light of soul, realize that the beauty of the heavens and the grandeur of the earth are the echo of Thy magic flute’. (Shefir)
Many cultures around the globe embrace sound in their exoteric and esoteric traditions. This essay reviews the role sound plays in the religions, creation myths, and sacred technologies of various peoples. This review connects creativity with healing which is considered an act of regeneration thus creating health in the body. Several varieties of healing through sound are discussed including music, toning, chant, instruments, and prayer. The essay proposes that techniques of healing through sound currently rely on the intuitive ability of individual practitioners. Acknowledging the need for effective healing modalities, it calls for research that can qualify the elemental effects of existing sounds, tones and prayers. Such categorization may help construct an applied holistic healing technology.
A crowd of people made their way through the narrow street and up the steps into the small Templo Guaracy. Inside they gathered around the perimeter of a low railing that surrounded an open wooden floor. At the far end of the room stood several statues with an assortment of flowers placed around them. Three drums ranging from 4 to 6 feet tall stood on one side of this altar. Three men dressed in white entered and took their positions behind each drum and, after a brief welcome by the Father of the Saints, the leader of the temple, they began to play.
In a few moments about a dozen individuals assembled on the wooden floor and begin to dance to the rhythm of the drums. The resounding Candomble cadence filled the room. Each dancer embodied the pulse and became more distinctive as the ritual progressed, their movements more idiosyncratic until a transformation occurred. Eventually, each individual fell into a trance-like state and personified a spirit evoked through their journey on the sound of the drums.
The ritual described above invoked healing spirits in an Umbanda ceremony that I attended outside Såo Paulo, Brazil. I had the chance to experience the ritual’s potency for myself later in the evening. The Father of the Saints invited me and others to enter the area before the altar and dance as the rhythm moved us. Within a short time I felt an inexplicable strong wave of force move outward from the altar as I spun around seemingly from its effect. The woman dancing directly behind me also succumbed to the presence and fell to the floor. We had watched, listened to, and felt the power of sound and its capacity to affect our consciousness.
Sound has for millennia been a locus of the search for enlightenment. From the quiescent lilt of a mountain brook, to the rhythm of a human heart, sound provides a pathway to the deep reaches of our psyche. Sound gives us access to reverie states wherein we find insight, healing, growth, and our highest creativity. Sound — vibration — grants us such passage because it accesses the core of our being. This essay will review sound and the way it is described in creation stories, the exploration of consciousness, and healing. The scientific community, until recently, has given little attention to the effects of sound on our consciousness. The medical applications of sound are acknowledged but tend to focus on diagnostic and discrete treatment procedures. This essay deals with consciousness and thus the information reviewed is mostly from psycho-spiritual and esoteric writings.
SOUND AS CREATOR
Physicists, attempting to determine the precise nature of…matter, have probed deeper into the realms of atomic and subatomic behavior, only to find that there is…no ‘thing’ there in the sense in which we normally think of matter. They describe the tiniest subatomic particles as ‘interference patterns of various sound frequencies.’ They call them ‘nodes of resonance.’ (Carey, 1992, p. xi)
Before the advances in modern physics, many myths in some way implicated sound as causal in creation. Sound in many of them, as Carey suggests above, precedes manifestation of all forms and energy. The creation stories that begin the western traditions of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity imply an “a priori” movement. The Babylonianís religion spoke of a third aspect of creation that existed between heaven and earth: “a third element they called lil — a word which the nearest meaning would be wind, air, breath, or spirit; its essential characteristics seem to have been…movement and expansion” (Doresse, 1986, p. 268)
His image is the word, a form more brilliant than fire; — the Logos is the vehicle by which God acts on the universe, and may compare to the speech of man. (Philo, trans. 1914, Pike)
The philosopher Philo spans the years when Christianity diverged from Judaism. His translation (text unknown) of “the word” implies vibration — movement — sound as the root of creation. Neil Douglas-Klotz (1990) points out that the Hebrew, Arabic, and Aramaic languages all express many layers of meaning with one word. The same word may be translated as name, light, sound, or experience. Thus “His image” is movement.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life ; and the life was the light of men. (John 1: 1-4, King James Version)
Logos [Greek] as interpreted in the Wisdom or Sophia tradition has a receptive female implication. This translation from the Greek Judeo-Christian texts suggests first, that a willfully directed energy, brought some-thing out of no-thing; and second, that the receptive, empty quality, was with it at the beginning. This union again suggests movement in the oscillation between the two poles of the projective creative father and receptive mother of form. Thus, both the translations of the Word as sound and the oscillation between the projective and receptive in creation delineate vibration.
The rich mystical tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church also reflects this view. The creator God works through the auspices of the Logos in the writings of St. Maximos the Confessor’s Four Hundred Texts on Love as follows. “God is the Creator from all eternity, and he creates when He wills, in His infinite goodness, through His coessential Logos and Spirit.” (The Philokalia 2, Palmer, Sherrard, & Ware, Trans. 1981, p. 100)
The Jewish tradition also describes the second translation that I associate with oscillation in the Book of Proverbs. The passage links wisdom and the creative spirit. Wisdom, is translated from the Aramaic word Hokmah. It represents a feminine, receptive principle.
The Lord created me at the beginning of His course, as the first of his works of old. In the distant past I [wisdom] was fashioned, at the beginning, at the origin of earth. There was still no deep when I was brought forth, No rich spring water. (Proverbs, 8: 22-24; Jewish Publication Society)
I was with Him as a confidant, a source of delight every day, Rejoicing before Him at all times, Rejoicing in His inhabited world, Finding delight with mankind. (Proverbs 8: 30-31)
The Jewish mystical tradition — as revealed in the Kabballa — further extends the role of sound in creation. I have included that material in the section of this essay on esoteric traditions.
The Sufi sect of Islam attaches considerable significance to sound, starting with the abstract sound called saut-e sarmad. According to Sufi Master Hazrat Inayat Khan (1983) this is the sound referred to in the Qurían with the words “Be! and all became” (Al- Qurían, 2: 117). Kahn also suggests that this is the sound heard by many spiritual figures in moments of revelation. Mohammed heard it in the cave of Ghar-e Hira when lost in the divine ideal; Moses on Mount Sinai communing with God; Christ during prayer and fasting in the wilderness; and Shiva who heard the anahad nada during samadhi in the Himalayas.
Man is not only formed of vibrations, but he lives and moves in them; they surround him as the fish is surrounded by water, and he contains them within him as the tank contains the water. His different moods, inclinations, affairs, successes and failures, and all conditions of life depend upon a certain activity of vibration, whether these be thoughts, emotions, or feelings. (Khan, 1983, p. 5)
The Sufis say the abstract sound is the source of knowledge for all masters and the ground of being from which all form manifests. However, beyond this abstract sound is the creative sound hu that is held most sacred. Muslims call it ism-e Azam, or the name of the Most High. They consider it the origin and the end of every sound and the background of each word. They say every animal, bell, and gong utter hu; thus all creation continually cries out the name of the Most High.
Om! –This syllable is this whole world.
Its further explanation is: –
The past, the present, the future — everything is just the word Om.
And whatever else that transcends threefold time — that, too, is just the word Om. (Mandukya Upanisad)
Nada Brahma — sound, the creator God. India is rich with creation myths from its long spiritual and philosophical history. India has spawned many religions and sects: most consider “Om” the generative creative sound that encompasses all. It is Om-nipresent. “Sound or vibration works through the various levels of density from Brahma to audible sound and becomes the basis of matter” (Judith, 1987, p. 270). The Chandogya Upanishad, cited below, chronicles this manifestation process.
The essence of things here is the earth. The essence of the earth is water. The essence of water is plants. The essence of plants is a person (purusa). The essence of a person is speech. The essence of speech is the Rg (hymn). The essence of the Rg is the Saman (chant). The essence of the Saman is the Udgitha (loud singing)…..
The Rg is speech. The Saman is breath. The Udgitha is the syllable “Om.” (Chandogya Upanishad)
Eastern traditions also espouse a relationship between creation and vibration. The story of Purusa in the Rg Veda correlates to the creation of heaven and earth. The Vedas say the God Purusa divided into a thousand parts, and embraced all (Radhakrishnan & Moore, 1957). By logical extension, in a universe formed from sound, Purusa divided must exist as millions of frequencies in eternal resonance.
Sound permeates the creation stories or cosmologies of many other traditions, more than can be espoused in this writing. Thus, I will only briefly mention a few more. This is a pragmatic choice rather than intended deference to those included. The Native American Tsalagi (Cherokee) legend says, “The primary tone, the foundation of all worlds, is sung by the quartz crystal.” (Ywahoo, 1987, p. 33) Chinese Taoist stories speak of Kung, the Great Tone of Nature (Keyes, p.14). Pythagoras taught that sound was a creative force and the Mystery Schools following his teachings held music as a therapeutic tool (Keyes, p. 15; Gardner, p.132).
Esoteric traditions also traverse the domain of spirit. There are many. I discuss only three traditions here, separate from the above religious cosmologies, that make clear reference to sound. These are “proactive” spiritual technologies that, even though some of the traditions mentioned encompass them, differ from their more passive, exoteric counterparts.
When God was about to create the world by his word, the twenty-two letters of the alphabet descended from the terrible and august crown of God whereon they were engraved with a pen of flaming fire. They stood round about God, and one after another spoke and entreated, “Create the world through me.” (Haggadah, 1909/1984)
The Haggadah is an early Kabballist story. Like the Sufi tradition, the Kabballa makes extensive reference to sound. Haggadah means legend and it was passed along orally for centuries. Kabballa itself means oral tradition. The passage above shows the connection the early Kabballists make with sound and especially the formation of sound in the Hebrew alphabet and words. The Kabballa still extols the power of sound as a key influence on the human psyche.
The goal of Kabballa is to clear and align the total human being. The process of healing and repairing is not an individual goal. The mastery of Kabballa allows one to better serve humankind and the planet. The primary aim of Kabballa is tikkum olam — to repair the world. Kabballa comprises the constitution of humans with four bodies; Atzilut, the spiritual body; Beriyah, the mental body; Yetzirah, the emotional body; and Assiyah, the physical body. Each of these bodies contains the “Tree of Life” on which are 10 energy centers called Sefirot. These 40 Sefirot are a vibrant system through which the divine comes into manifestation. The individual works to empty these centers of negative influence and thus bring more Divine Light into the world. Sound is an effective means of clearing and vivifying these centers since they are themselves vibration and thus express sound.
Mark Malachi (1995) expresses an additional way the Kabballa develops vibration or sound:
Each thought creates something, for energy is not wasted. As we are taught in physics, the first law of thermodynamics states that energy cannot be created or destroyed. Therefore we must conclude that the energy of thought must go somewhere. Indeed it helps create the arrangement of particles in the physical world….Thought is vibration. It manifests itself as a wave….Since it is vibratory in nature, it has sound. (p. 166)
Thus, the Kabballistic equation adds a new vibration, that of thought. One might say metaphorically the Kabballa raises sound to the third power, or “sound(3).” Thus we have: the sound as tone effected by sound as letters effected by sound as thought or kavvanah — the power of focused intention. The degree to which one masters each of these, is the degree to which the Kabballist masters the arts of revelation and creation. Kabballa works to repair the world in co-creation with the “Most High.”
When man is artistically engaged with tone, he puts his ear to the very heart of nature itself; he perceives the will of nature and reproduces it in series of tones. (Steiner, 1983, p. 3)
Rudolf Steiner wrote on a broad range of subjects and throughout them he held a keen awareness of resonance. He developed Bio-Dynamics a method of enhancing plant growth by using substances that would resonate with what he perceived as the frequencies of the plants themselves. Likewise in his approach to education — The Waldorf Schools — he used tone and music as development tools. For example he believes that children should comprehend the interval of fifths in the first few years of schooling and not be introduced to thirds until around nine or ten. Steiner’s beliefs about tone and music pervaded his perspective on the nature of humankind.
Steiner proposed that the fall and evolution of an individual are revealed in their appreciation for certain intervals. Humans existed as spiritual beings in the distant past and experienced all the intervals of a scale freely. It is not entirely clear what his term ìexperienceî means but it implies something beyond the ability to hear and perceive. According to his theory, humankind lost the ability to experience the full scale with the descent into the dense physical body. In the alleged Atlantian era the primary interval was the seventh. The music of that time used this interval dominantly, which completely transported individuals into the spiritual world without awareness of their physical being. The ability to experience the fifth followed, which allowed communion with the spiritual realm but did not remove the physical awareness. Steiner proposes that in our current era the third is the interval of experience and indicates that humankind has become completely aware that their consciousness now dwells in a physical being. Steiner posited that the return path of spiritual development comes as one becomes able to experience the various intervals, foremost of which is the octave. He asserted that experiencing the octave is becoming aware of the spiritual self that is not trapped in physical form.
Steiner wrote that humans return nightly to a world of tones in their sleep. One’s consciousness during the night changes with spiritual development. First, one becomes aware of and remembers their dreams. Second, the dreams become vivid and colorful. This may be what Laberge (1985) calls lucid dreaming. Finally a change occurs in deep non-REM sleep. Steiner suggested that one is able to be conscious during the entire night. The spirits of humans go to a higher spiritual world where tones are the preeminent feature in the normally unconscious period of sleep. The spiritually developed person will remember these experiences. Steiner called this world Devachan. He said that each night human spirits are embraced by these tones whether or not one remembers it. In the process they are realigned, refreshed, healed, and inspired. Thus, in this dream world, humankind ventures near the source where, as Steiner proposed, “a tone lies at the foundation of everything in the physical world” (1983, p.106).
Alice A. Bailey
The SOUND is the sole expression of the Ineffable Name, the secret appellation of the One in Whom we live and move and have our being, and Who is known to the Great White Lodge through this name. (Bailey, 1960, p. 53)
Alice A. Bailey’s expansive writings form a complicated, and at times cryptic, system of thought. It is a cosmology, and a system of magic too vast to cover adequately within this essay. It is based on the notion that there are seven rays that, through their interaction, manifest creation. The qualities of these rays allegedly evince in all energy, matter and the various levels of human existence that she delimits. The rays are vibrant energy and have their counterpart expression in the physical world as the colors of the rainbow. They are not themselves light in the physical sense but are similar at some higher spiritual level. However, the rays themselves ostensibly unfold from sound at a still higher spiritual level. The mental world where, according to Bailey a “magician” works, also resembles this process.
The chief agency by which Nature’s wheel is moved in a phenomenal direction is sound, for the original sound or word sets in vibration the matter of which all forms are made and initiates that activity which characterizes even the atom of substance….
….First the sound and then the first effect of sound, the pouring forth of light, causing the revelation of the thought form. (1951, pp. 142 & 144)
Bailey also details an extensive model of the “constitution of man” and methods of psychological, physical and spiritual healing (1951, 1951, 1953, 1960, 1962). She proposes that Humankind has seven bodies, each of which expresses the qualities of one of the various rays. In healing and creative work, the practitioner produces an interval (two-tone chord) simultaneously. The first tone is associated with his/her soul and is sounded inaudibly on the mental plane. The second tone, to which his/her personality responds, is sounded audibly. (1951, p. 127) This practice, used with meditation and affirmation, constructs the Antahkarana, or Rainbow Bridge, that aligns the seven bodies and connects them with higher spiritual realms. Thus sound is an agent of divine creation and the agent through which the aspirant becomes a conscious co-creator.
Summary of Sound As Creator
“In the original mantric language, the name of a thing is the sound of the thing itself.” (Jill Purce, 1988, p. 23)
This section has traced the role of sound in the creation myths of various exoteric religions and peoples. It also explored sound in several esoteric traditions wherein individuals attempt the task of becoming co-creators with the ongoing work of the Divine. There are as many such myths as there are peoples. Repeatedly the power and mystery of sound — vibration — is implicated as part of creation. Albert Einstein supposedly said that “Matter is condensed energy” (Keyes, 1973, p.15): Vibration condensed in form. David Bohm (1980) described the holomovement as a sea of vibrant energy of all frequencies. Matter unfolds, or condenses from it: it is the white noise that is the ground of being. It is perhaps, the sound of the nameless and the name of the Most High. Thus, the words of Hazrat Inayat Kahn (1983) summarize this section:
All things being derived from and formed of vibration have sound hidden within them, as fire is hidden in flint, and each atom of the universe confesses by its tone, “My sole origin is sound.” (p. 6)
The Sound of the Word is the prime cause of all. It is also the be-all
and the end-all. The three regions and the fourth were made by It.
The Word and the Spirit are of the same origin and both spring from
the essence of the Nameless One. It is both the cause and the effect,
and all were created by It. The Word is the preceptor as well as the disciple
and is resounding in the heart of everyone. The Word is water and
It is the fish also. Kabir speaks only of this Word. Nanak and Tulsi
proclaimed the same Truth. The king and the minister, both are
Word personified. Radha Swami (the Lord of the Spirit) says:
My brave son, listen to It.
— SWAMI SHIVDAYAL SINGH
No doubt, many of you saw the movie Contact, based upon the book with that same title authored by the late Dr. Carl Sagan. The story was about SETI — the search of extraterrestrial intelligence. In this film, scientists intercepted radio signal emanating from another part of the galaxy. These broadcasts were being beamed directly at the earth by an alien civilization trying to get our attention. After many years they finally succeeded. Their message was eventually deciphered; it contained schematics for constructing a transportation device which would allow humans to travel to the distant world where the signals were coming from.
After viewing this philosophical film, I couldn’t help comparing the parallels between this SETI scenario and one of the world’s oldest forms of yoga-meditation: Shabda Yoga, the Yoga of the Sound Current. Shabda is an ancient Sanskrit word for divine or cosmic sound, heavenly music. For thousands of years, human beings around the world have been tuning into a sound which comes from beyond the stars. For the practitioners of the Yoga of Sound, this heavenly music is also a means of transportation. By becoming one with the holy stream of sound, souls during their meditation practice find themselves ascending in spirit toward the place where the sound emanates. This sound connects all souls of the universe to the timeless world of the Great Spirit.
Nāda yoga is an ancient Indian metaphysical system. It is both a philosophical system, a medicine, and- as the name suggests- a form of yoga. The system’s theoretical and practical aspects are based on the premise that the entire cosmos and all that exists in the cosmos, including human beings, consists of sound vibrations, called nāda. This concept holds that it is the sound energy in motion rather than of matter and particles which form the building blocks of the cosmos.
Nāda yoga is also a way to approach with reverence and respond to sound. Sound and music is in this context, something more than just the sensory properties and sources of sensuous pleasure, sound and music is considered also to play the role as a potential medium to achieve a deeper unity with both the outer and the inner cosmos.
Nāda yoga’s use of sound vibrations and resonances are also used to pursue palliative effects on various problematic psychological and spiritual conditions. It is also employed to raise the level of awareness of the energy centers called chakras.
The Nāda yoga system divides music into two categories: internal music, anahata, and external music,ahata. While the external music is conveyed to consciousness via sensory organs in the form of the ears, in which mechanical energy is converted to electrochemical energy and then transformed in the brain to sensations of sound, it is the anahata chakra, which is considered responsible for the reception of the internal music, but not in the way of a normal sensory organ.
The anahata concept refers to one’s own personal sound vibrations, which is thought to be so closely associated with one’s self and the self that a person can not share their anahata with another human being. In other words, this inner sound is sacred and once reached will open the practitioner’s chakras, which ultimately will unite the body to the divine/cosmos.
With continued sounds, a focused mind and controlled breath, the individual can, according to Nāda yoga, “listen in on” their own anahata, their own “inner sound”, which can take up to nine different forms. Such a process of inner awareness and sensitivity leads to increased self-recollectedness and finally to awakening.
To concentrate on this inner sound as a support for meditation is very helpful to tame the mind, and when it has been clearly recognized, used for self-recollectedness in outer life as well. Eventually, it can be experienced as penetrating all matter and indeed vibrates eternally throughout the Creation.
In Nāda yoga, one of the main breathing sounds is ahaṃ, where each part of the word (a ha ṃ) is focused on and spoken individually. The echoes produced by each of these spoken letters is a time where the yogi should immerse himself and rest. Now, because of imbalances within the human body, Nāda yoga begins by removing the ailments and impurities by “awakening the fire in the body (jāṭhara)” (Timalsina 212) with the use of a sound resembling that of a bee. It is important to note that when the yogin is forming sounds, his/her mind should not wander off to other entities.
One group to incorporate yoga, Nāda yoga specifically, and the practice of sound into the spiritual transformation is the Josmanĩ. The Josmanĩ are identified as a Sant tradition, and they are a blend of Śrī Vaiṣṇava Bhakti tradition with the Nāth Yoga tradition. Yoga is used in “personal and social transformation” (Timalsina 202). The Josmani’s spiritual quest interlinks the practice of Kuṇḍali and Nāda Yoga.
In the West, detailed indications and advices have been given by Edward Salim Michael in his book : the Law of attention, Nada Yoga and the way of inner vigilance.Ajahn Sumedho, from the Thai Forest Tradition teaches also the practice of this inner sound.