- May 8, 2014
How Music Affects Consciousness
The Spiritual Origins of Sound and Music
(A Position Paper by Steve Robertson)
“People say that the soul, on hearing the song of creation, entered the body, but in reality the soul itself was the song.”
– 14th Century Sufi poet Hafiz
Research has shown that music has the power to change emotional states, change perceptions and physiology, and elevate spiritual awareness. Certain types of music, devotional and sacred in nature, also have the power to transform individual and collective consciousness into the heightened states of love, forgiveness, compassion, and physical healing. Such heightened states of loving awareness tend to be what empowers human consciousness to more empathetically identify with disharmonious societal, geopolitical, and environmental issues, and at the same time, envision, co-create and implement solutions for them. This paper, which I wrote over a ten year period of time, explores the possibility of how a globally-broadcast concert of spiritually inspired music can potentially shift collective consciousness so that each person authentically experiences their own innate divinity as a reference point of recognizing this same divinity in others, the sacredness in all of our planet’s wildlife, its natural resources and our custodial responsibility and honor for the earth. In this way and from this more illuminated state awareness, we can choose to evolve and honor the spiritual, cultural, and ethnic diversity that is the watershed of God’s loving creative expression.
“I believe that from the earth emerges a musical poetry which is by the nature of its sources tonal. I believe that these sources cause to exist a phonology of music, which evolves from the universal known as the harmonic series. And that there is an equally universal musical syntax, which can be codified and structured in terms of symmetry and repetition.” – Leonard Bernstein
The earth and universe, according to all major religious texts, were created and brought into form through sound. The Hindu Bhagavad-Gita, which predates the Bible by some three thousand years, literally translated means “Celestial Song.” Its’ text states: “In the beginning was Brahman, with whom was the Word, and the Word was Brahman and Brahman said this world shall be and the world came into being.”
“And God said ’Let there be light.” – Genesis
Similarly, in the Bible’s Gospel of John it states: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” According to John the Evangelist in the first century A.D., the Biblical translations of the ‘Word’ means ‘Primary Harmony.’
Egyptian religious texts state that the Singing Sun created the world with its cry of light. He sang: “This world shall be,” and the world came into being. Thereligious texts of the Aztecs also referred to God as the ‘Creator’ and state that “He sang the world into existence.”
Hindu teachings describe the ‘Word’ in terms of the sound ‘OM,’ which is the vibratory essence of God and the creative energy used to bring the universe into existence. Buddhists refer to this energy as the ‘Primal Vibration,’ teaching that it was divided into 12 tonal derivations, each of which gave rise to and corresponded with the 12 signs of the Zodiac, the 12 months of the year, the 12 hours of the day (yang), the 12 hours of night (Yin), as well as the 12 notes of the chromatic scale.
“All things are aggregations of atoms that dance and by their movement produce sound.
When the rhythm of the dance changes, the sound it produces also changes . . .
Each atom perpetually sings its song, and the sound at every moment creates dense subtle forms.”
– Alexandra David-Neel
Music and all audible sound, according to these spiritual texts, represented the audible manifestation of the “Word,” ‘OM,’ or ‘Primal Vibration.’ In fact, the great Sufi master, Hazrat Inayat Khan, went so far as to say: “What makes us feel drawn to music is that our whole being is music; our mind and body, the nature in which we live, the nature which has made us, all that is beneath and around us, it is all music.”
“And the WORD was made flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14
In physics, Einstein’s statement, “Energy and mass (matter) are different forms of the same thing mass/energy,” creates the foundation for understanding the energetic/vibratory nature of all matter. As energy increases, matter begins to take form. In the 19th Century, physicist Ernst Chlandi discovered that when he sprinkled sand onto a flat surface affixed to a pedestal base, and then drew a violin bow perpendicularly across the edge of the surface, round, mandala-like shapes were formed as the grains of sand were moved by the soundwaves generated. This work was followed by Dr. Hans Jenny in a field he named ‘Cymatics’ or the study of waves. Jenny was able to capture on a device called a “Tonescope,” the patterns of a circle when “OM,” the sound associated with God, was chanted into this device. He also discovered that concentric diamond shapes also formed within the circle during the process.
“Architecture is crystallized music.” – Goethe
Music differs from other art forms, such as paintings, sculpture, photography, or literature, in that they express more of a linear or more of a one and two-dimensional form of matter/energy than does music. As such, these art forms are processed by either one or the other brain hemispheres. Music, as a type of matter, remains in a vibratory state and is thus processed holographically, or by both the right (intuitive) and the left (analytical) hemispheres of the brain. The philosopher and poet William Kindler proclaimed that “of all of the arts, music is the perfect art, because it strikes the soul without the aid of the intellect.”
“The Science of the future will be based on sympathetic vibrations.” – Rudolph Steiner
Music affects consciousness because of two Laws of Physics: the first is called the Law of Sympathetic Vibration, and the second is the Law of Entrainment. The Law of Sympathetic Vibration works like this: take two acoustical (string-type) musical instruments, such as a piano, violin, or guitar, and place them near one another. As the string on instrument A is struck, the vibration from that instrument will resonate and carry across the room striking the strings on the untouched instrument B causing it to vibrate. Likewise, this Law of Physics is what facilitates the communication and transference of a song’s emotional message (harmony or melody) from the mind of the composer and its performers to the mind of the listener, thus causing the person to feel and to take on the corresponding emotional essence of a song’s compositional intent (happy or depressed, peaceful or violent, hopeful or hopeless, and so on). Similarly, the Law of Sympathetic Vibration explains why a person gets “goose bumps” when listening to a song.
“The companions of right reason are decency, accord, and cadence; decency in song, accord in harmony, and cadence in rhythm.” – Plato
The Law of Entrainment, or as it is technically called, ‘mutual phase-locking of two oscillators’, was first described by a Danish physicist in 1767. This Law of Physics was discovered one afternoon as the physicist observed the armature motion of two pendulum type clocks that he had placed side-by-side on a fireplace mantel. Initially, the armatures swung in opposition to one another. Then, after a short period of time, they began swinging in unison (entraining). This Law of physics occurs as a result of energy always seeking the path of least resistance or, said another way, finding the most efficient means of expressing itself. In other words, objects (clock armatures) moving in unison (harmony/entrain) expresses a more efficient use of energy than when they move in opposition (disharmony) to one another. Similarly, the Law of Entrainment is what causes the unconscious neurological tendency of a person to move their body or tap their foot in rhythm to music.
“The noble-minded man’s music is mild and delicate, keeps a uniform mood, enlivens and moves. Such a man does not harbor pain nor mourn in his heart; violent and daring movements are foreign to him.” – CONFUCIUS
Ancient Chinese philosophers believed that music was an energy formula that could be used for either the benefit of humankind or misused according to free will. In one of their most revered texts, ‘The Spring and Autumn of Lu Bu Ve,’ it states: “When desires and emotions do not follow false paths, then music can be perfected. Perfected music has its cause. It arises out of justice. Justice arises from the true purpose of the world.” So strong was the Chinese belief in using music to promote peace that every word for music (Yuo) is represented by the same graphic symbol as the word serenity (lo). To the Chinese, music represented the highest form of prayer and the most powerful means of directing consciousness towards spiritual realization. Therefore, it was important that composers and performers understood, integrated, and aligned themselves with the higher order thoughts of love so that their music promoted a harmonious vision for people.
“A Psalm is the tranquility of souls, the arbitrator of peace, restraining the disorder and the turbulence of thoughts, for it softens the passion of the soul and moderates unruliness . . .So that the singing of psalms brings love, the greatest of good things summoning the help of ******.”
– The Christian Church of St. Basil
David Tame, noted author of The Secret Power of Music states: “Surely the lowest common denominator which determines the precise nature of any musical work is the mental and emotional state of the composer and/or performer. It is the essence of this state which enters into us, tending to mold and shape our own consciousness into conformity with itself. The fact is that all types of musicians, good and bad, tend to be quite aware of the communicative power of tonal art. Through this communicative power, the emotional state of one artist can be transferred to a hundred, or even ten