The Body's Symphony of Sound and Vibration
What really makes us tick? How do we know?
And what are the implications for our health?
From molecular science to string theory, modern researchers are proving what ancient sages have taught for millennia—that our body responds to vibration and that the trillions of cells inside of us form one grand symphony of sound...
One of the most intriguing roads that leads us into the world of vibration—and there are many—emerges from the leading edge of physics, where scientists are still debating what the world is really made of at the most fundamental level. Greek philosophers over two thousand years ago proposed that the basic, indivisible unit of matter was the atom (a word derived from atomon, meaning “that which cannot be divided”). The idea was revived in the eighteenth century. By the 1930s, physicists had discovered that the “atom” could be broken down into smaller components—a nucleus, which is made up of protons and neutrons, orbited by electrons.
In the 1960s, physicists uncovered still smaller units—dubbed “quarks” and “leptons”—that make up all particles of matter. But in the last several decades, some physicists have claimed that there is yet another layer of the onion to peel off, and that under it, at the very core, lie the real building blocks of matter—strings of energy.
The Wild West of Physics Gets to the Heart of Matter:
Vibrating Strings of Energy
Before the birth of atoms, before protons, neutrons and electrons, there is…the vibrating string of energy. This theory, popularly known as string theory or superstring theory, is one of the newest upstarts in science. It was first introduced in the late 1960s and is now a popular field of study. Called by some the Wild West of physics, string theory claims that everything in our universe, from the planets swirling through space to the tiniest subatomic particle, is at its most basic level made up of microscopic strands of energy. This conclusion has important implications for our understanding of why energy, sound and vibration are at the frontier of progress in many fields, including the healing arts.
What do scientists mean by “strings” of energy and what do they look like? Through complex mathematical formulas, physicists theorize that these fundamental strings are incredibly tiny, thin and elastic, like a rubber band. To give you an idea of the size of a string, it is estimated to be about 1033 centimeters, which is about a millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a centimeter. These strings can take the form of a loop with a closed end or a strand with open ends. They can twist and wiggle. They can merge with each other and they can break apart.
If everything is made up of these basic strings, what is it that makes one particle of matter or one object different from another? It’s all in the way the string vibrates, say physicists.
Think of it like this: the basic “stuff” from which everything else is made is like a guitar string. Depending on how we pluck a guitar string, we will hear different notes, or frequencies. According to string theory, the vibrating strings that form the fabric of all matter also produce a number of different notes. But in the microscopic world, these “notes” are various subatomic particles. Which notes (or kinds of particles) we get depends on how the string moves and how much energy accompanies the vibration.
For example, a string that vibrates one way is what we call an electron with its specific properties of mass and charge. Another string vibrates in a way that is characteristic of a photon, the particle that makes up light. In addition, the four forces of nature (gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces) can also be explained by the particular pattern of a string’s vibration.
In other words, if we go to the deepest and most indivisible level of matter, we find patterns of vibration, and the vibrational pattern is what gives a particle its specific properties. As physicist Brian Greene explains, all the different properties of the particles that make up matter are “the manifestation of one and the same physical feature: the resonant patterns of vibration—the music, so to speak—of fundamental loops of string.1
The amazingly versatility and flexibility of the string—that is, its ability to give birth to all the variegated phenomena in the universe—is what makes string theory such a good candidate for what physicists call the Theory of Everything (or T.O.E.).
Simplifying the Laws of the Universe:
Is Vibration the Key?
Scientists have always had a deep yearning to find the theory that will tie together everything we know about the universe. This is one of the reasons why Isaac Newton’s discovery in the 1600s of the universal principle of gravitation generated such excitement. With one stroke, Newton unified heaven and earth by explaining that the same force (gravity) that makes an apple drop also holds the planets in orbit around the sun.
Two centuries later, in the 1860s, James Clerk Maxwell developed four simple mathematical equations that united the concepts of electricity and magnetism by showing their inseparable relationship. He also united our ideas of light and the electromagnetic force by proposing that light was just one part of a larger spectrum of electromagnetic radiation. We now know that light—including infrared (not visible to humans), visible and ultraviolet light—as well as other waves, such as radio waves and gamma waves, are all created by the same phenomena, the interplay of electricity and magnetism. Maxwell’s breakthroughs formed the basis not only of modern electronics but the revolution in physics known as quantum mechanics.
Albert Einstein also had an intense yearning to unify and simplify. He spent the last three decades of his life searching for the missing element that would tie together our understanding of electromagnetism and the forces of gravity. For a time, Einstein seemed to be alone in his quest. As he focused his attention on the big picture, others were captivated by the increasingly smaller realm inside the atom.
Einstein never fulfilled that dream, and as the years passed, the need for unification only became greater as a growing conflict lurked in the background of science—a conundrum that still leaves physicists scratching their heads. As Brian Greene describes in The Elegant Universe, at the root of this dilemma is a discrepancy between Einstein’s theory of relativity (which revised our understanding of gravity and which works well to describe what happens in the world of the large) and quantum theory (which works well in the subatomic world of the very small). But when you put the two together, they just don’t jibe. In other words, if both the theory of relativity and quantum theory are valid “laws” that govern the universe, they both need to work all the time—and they need to work together. Without delving into the complex mathematical and conceptual ideas behind this, it’s as if there are two alternate versions of how our universe operates. Or we haven’t yet discovered the link in the chain that connects both theories.
Today some are heralding string theory as a possible solution to the dilemma, the answer Einstein was looking for. “String theory,” says Greene, “has the potential to show that all of the wondrous happenings in the universe—from the frantic dance of subatomic quarks to the stately waltz of orbiting binary stars, from the primordial fireball of the big bang to the majestic swirl of heavenly galaxies—are reflections of one grand physical principle, one master equation."2
Scientists refer to this master equation as a “unified theory.” When physicists invoke the word unified, what they are really talking about is the drive to simplify and to harmonize. Both philosophers and scientists will agree that the most important laws of life are, in the final analysis, the most simple. The greatest theory of all would be the one that reduces all that we know about nature and the universe into less (and more simple) principles, perhaps even one principle that would neatly tie everything together. Is string theory—with its oscillating strings of energy as the common denominator—the Theory of Everything? Not everyone agrees it is. Yet there is intense interest in the field, and it is one of the most active areas of theoretical physics, with many well-respected physicists (and billion-dollar particle accelerators) devoted to proving its validity.
String Theory, Pythagoras and Vibrational Medicine:
Sharing Principles of Vibration and Energy Flow
Beyond the intricate meanderings of physicists, why should we care about string theory or vibration? Does the idea of vibrating energy have anything to do with our everyday life? More and more researchers, health care practitioners and futurists and are answering with a resounding yes.
If it’s true that all matter is composed of vibrating strands of energy, so are we. In this scenario, the body itself is literally a symphony of strings. Our cells, organs and tissues vibrate. Billions upon billions of frequencies interact with each other and resonate within us. Just as importantly, those vibrations constantly interact with what's happening in our environment.
In short, in a world where vibration reigns supreme, the sounds and vibrations that fill the world outside of us can influence and change the vibrations inside of us, affecting our health and well being for better or for worse. The converse would also be true—the vibrations emanating from inside of us affect and change what takes place in the environment outside of us.
Of course, string theory is by no means the origin of such ideas. It is only a very recent adjunct to powerful and long-held principles that have been around for millennia. The principles of vibration and energy flow—and the idea that sound can influence our health—were espoused long ago by ancient sages of many cultures, East and West. To name just a few, Hermetic philosophers taught that one of the seven major principles we should live by is the principle of vibration: everything is in motion and everything vibrates. Chinese healers (and modern acupuncturists) seek to restore the flow of energy (or chi) through the body’s meridians. In the Chinese system, particular healing sounds are associated with one of the five organ systems of the body and can help balance the body and emotions. Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish sages taught that sound, in the form of specific mantras, divine names and prayers, can bring about a host of powerful effects, both external and internal.
Pythagoras is said to have used music to heal the body and the emotions. Through his study of vibrating strings, Pythagoras discovered the relationship between tone and the ratio of the strings. He believed that the essence and relationship of all things could be expressed through numbers. The great philosopher also taught about the “music of the spheres.” Pythagoras said that the movement, rhythm and vibration of every atom as well as every celestial body produce a particular sound.
The concepts of vibrating energy that are behind modern string theory and ancient traditions also underlie what is known today as energy medicine or vibrational medicine. Dr. Richard Gerber in his landmark book Vibrational Medicine defines vibrational medicine as “medicine that is directed toward an understanding of energy and vibration, and how they interact with molecular structure and organismic balance.3
Copyright © 2004. Patricia R. Spadaro. All Rights Reserved.
1. Brian Greene, The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory ( New York: Vintage Books, 2003), pp.15-16.
2. Brian Greene, The Elegant Universe, p. 5.
3. Richard Gerber, Vibrational Medicine, 3d ed. ( Rochester, Vermont: Bear & Company, 2001), p. 65.
Copyright © Patricia R. Spadaro.
Sound, Words and Your Health
Part 2 of "The Body's Symphony of Sound and Vibration"
by Patricia Spadaro
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.
Pictures of Sound:
Making Invisible Vibrations Visible
Another pioneer in this arena was Dr. Hans Jenny. A Swiss medical doctor and a 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 (see photographs below). 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.
The photographs below are taken from Dr. Jenny's work in cymatics. Used with permission from the two-volume edition of Cymatics: A Study of Wave Phenomena, © 2001 MACROmedia, 219 Grant Road, Newmarket, NH 03857. www.cymaticsource.com.
Although best known for his stunning cymatic images, Dr. Jenny was also an artist and musician as well as a philosopher, historian and physical scientist. Perhaps most important, he was a serious student of nature’s ways with keen powers of observation. Whether it was the cycle of the seasons, a bird’s feathers, a rain drop, the formation of weather patterns, mountains or ocean waves—or even poetry, the periodic table, music or social systems—Dr. Jenny saw an underlying, unifying theme: wave patterns, produced by vibration.
“Wherever we look, we can describe what we see in terms of periodicities and rhythmicities,” he wrote. “When nature creates anything it creates in this periodic style.”1 For him, everything reflected inherent patterns of vibration involving number, proportion and symmetry—what he called the “harmonic principle.” Dr. Jenny encouraged continuing research into the wave phenomenon. The purpose of such studies, he explained, was to “hear” the systems of Nature. “What we want to do is, as it were, to learn to ‘hear’ the process that blossoms in flowers, to ‘hear’ embryology in its manifestations and to apprehend the inwardness of the process,” he wrote.2
Our Cells Respond to Sound
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? Since patterns of vibration are ubiquitous in nature, what role do they 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 inspired many whose destiny it was 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 sounds that progressed up the musical scale, the cancer cells eventually exploded.
Japanese scientist Dr. Masaru Emoto has shown the potent effects of sound by photographing water crystals. His work is published in his series of books Messages from Water and was featured in the movie What the Bleep Do We Know!? 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, which Dr. Emoto has published in volume two of his Messages from Water.
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.
TIPS AND TOOLS
Five Proactive Steps to Improve the Sounds That Surround You
First, take a moment and think about the sounds that surround you.
• Which are positive and which do you find abrasive? Do you allow yourself intervals of quiet and silence? Do you reserve time for yourself where you control what’s in your air space?
• Think about the words you hear from others. Are there any that are consistently negative and that make you unhappy or drag you down?
• The sounds of our own discontent can create discontent within others. Think about the words you speak that impact those in your sphere of influence. Where is there room for improvement?
• Imagine your ideal sound environment. What kinds of sounds would you include? What sounds would you exclude?
Although there may be sounds in your life that you cannot change, you always have some control over what you allow into your environment. Here are five tips and tools you can use to make better sound choices in your life.
1. Create a No-Fly Zone
In our busy lives, we all need to create a no-fly zone—air space that is filled with only the sounds we need. For example, if a family member has the volume on the TV cranked up so that you can hear it two floors above, calmly explain your needs to them. At certain times of the day, ask them to lower the volume or to wear headsets. Put on your own music to take control of the sounds in your life.
2. Simplify Your Sound Space
Be conscious about your sound environment. In today’s society, we are addicted to filling our time and our space with activity. Stores, restaurants, even waiting rooms are filled with sounds that may or may not be what we need. We can easily get into the habit of turning on the car radio or the TV without a second thought. All this can create a sonic overload and prevent us from hearing the still small voice of wisdom within. Try leaving the radio and the TV off at times. Pick restaurants that play the kind of music that is conducive to the emotional environment you want to create. Allow yourself to turn off the ringer on your phone and let messages go through to your answering machine. Savor the silence.
3. Say No to Toxic Tones
Having toxic language in your life will affect your physical, mental and emotional health. If the words you hear from someone (at home or at work) are consistently negative, don’t be afraid to be proactive. Those who are speaking those words aren’t always aware that they are affecting you negatively. Take the initiative to tell them. Speak politely, yet frankly and firmly draw your boundaries. For example, “I appreciate that you feel stressed, but I find that too often hearing that kind of language hurts (or worries, upsets, saddens, depresses) me. It’s unhealthy for me, and I need to ask you to refrain from speaking like that around me." If you do not get the response you need, you may have to limit or eliminate the time you spend with that person.
4. Watch and Listen for Valuable Feedback
The words you speak aloud—whether they are about yourself, about the events in your life or about others—impact those who hear them, including your children and partner. Learn to pick up the signals others send you. For instance, how does their expression change or what does their body language convey when what you say (or how you say it) disturbs them? Become aware of the reactions of those around you. They can be your greatest teachers.
5. Surface Your Issues
Our words and the tone of those words reflect underlying emotions. Frustrations we don’t deal with in one area of our life can pop out in another area—in our daily exchanges with those we are close to, for instance. When you hear this happening, don’t judge yourself—listen and learn. Gruffness, anger or excessive complaining are alerting us that something is going on under the surface. It can be something that we aren’t aware of, that we aren’t acknowledging or that we aren’t dealing with.
You owe it to yourself and those around you to confront the core issue. Try to step back and ask yourself: What is really bothering me? Objectively identify the issue by writing it down. If you can’t name what it is, start by writing down how you feel. Identifying on paper your true feelings or the unsettling circumstances in your life will help you get the real issues out into the open so you can take the next steps to resolution.
1. Hans Jenny, Cymatics: A Study of Wave Phenomena and Vibration ( Newmarket, N.H.: MACROmedia, 2001), p. 271
2. Ibid., p. 276
Copyright © 2005 Patricia R. Spadaro. All rights reserved