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Cymatics - The Power of Sound Vibration

Updated: Jan 3

Sound is one of the most powerful and vastly underestimated forms of healing available in the world today and one which I found to be phenomenally beneficial in the course of my own personal recovery from stress-related illness. I was first introduced to the curative power of sound by Fife wellbeing coach Caroline Miller back in 2012 when she was kind enough to let me loose amongst her fabulous collection of Tibetan singing bowls. I took to them like a duck to water, despite not having a musical bone in my body, and the subject of sound therapy has fascinated me ever since. Through Caroline I went on to meet Edinburgh-based holistic therapist Helen Harris who provides remarkable "soundbath" treatments using a combination of drums, bowls, gongs, tuning forks and mantras to help restore natural frequencies within the human body. Sound is one of the principle tools in the therapeutic arsenal we deploy at Phoenix as well as being a key component of the experimental work I do with various international organisations devoted to exploring the untapped potential of the human mind. Playing around with singing bowls and gongs may sound a bit woo-woo to some but it's actually firmly rooted in cymatics - the science of vibration.

All forms of sound therapy are based upon the principle that vibration is fundamental to matter. The atoms within the human body are all vibrating at a specific speed. Ill-health occurs when these energy vibrations become disjointed, but sound can be used to realign the vibrations, restoring harmony to the entire body in the process. British osteopath and sound therapy pioneer Peter Guy Manners used the analogy of an orchestra to describe how stress affects the body. If the first and second violins are out of tune then the disharmony will rapidly spread, first to the rest of the string section and then to the entire orchestra. It's the same for our bodies when stress or injury pulls cells out of their coherent structure, leading to symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia and physical and emotional pain. The term cymatics, used to denote vibrational phenomena, is derived from the Greek word for "wave" and was more recently coined by Swiss medical doctor Dr Hans Jenny (1904-1972), who in his spare time investigated the power of sound to create form. The creation myths of most cultures share the common belief that the universe was vibrated into existence by the power of sound. Eastern religions refer to this primal event as the cosmic hum known as "Aum" or "Om" (the root of the Hebrew Amen), while the New Testament of the Bible famously states that "In the beginning was the Word" (John 1:1). Our ancestors were clearly aware of the creative and healing power of sound and there is considerable evidence that they used cymatics as an advanced means of taking perfect measurements and building sacred structures.

Throughout history temples were constructed on magnetic vortices and designed and built in such a way as to specifically harness sound and light waves. People would travel to these locations not just to worship but also to receive healing and to recalibrate mind, body and spirit. From megalithic stone circles to the Egyptian pyramids, Greek temples and Gothic cathedrals, we can see consistent evidence of sacred architecture having been built to maximise acoustic resonance and with an extraordinary degree of geometric precision. Many of these sacred structures were built to conform to the "divine frequency" of 432 Hz and its corresponding wavelength of 78.7cm. Pythagoras considered 432 Hz to be the tone of the universe and many ancient instruments, including those of Orpheus, were tuned to this frequency. It is said to be the frequency of the earth and a gateway to contacting the divine. The mysterious Church of Mary Magdalene in Rennes-le-Chateau, France, conforms to these acoustic measurements, as does Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh in Scotland (see Holy Grail - The Mysterious Treasure of Rennes-le-Chateau). One of the main architects of Rosslyn Chapel was known to have visited India where he learned a cymatic method, believed to be of ancient Chinese origin, whereby sound could be used to take measurements. The ancient belief that all creation is formed by sound is further corroborated by the correlation between vibration and shape. If fine sand is placed on a metal plate and set in a swinging motion on a 78.7cm string to vibrate at the divine frequency of 432 Hz, the shape formed by the sand is a perfect eight-pointed star. This knowledge of the connection between sound, geometry and sacred architecture has for centuries been one of the most closely-guarded secrets of the upper echelons of Freemasonry.

Modern scientific discoveries have confirmed that we effectively exist within a sea of sound. Geneticists have decoded the musical expression of DNA; NASA has captured the sounds of all the planets and even the sound of black holes; and in November 2014 the European Space Agency's Rosetta probe recorded the sound of a comet. It's little wonder humans are so responsive to sound, particularly when you consider that the human body is 70% water and that sound travels four times faster through water than it does through air. These discoveries, and the ancient creation myths, take on considerable significance when viewed alongside the work of Dr Jenny, who spent many hours observing the effects of sound upon matter. Back in high school you may have seen an experiment performed where a science teacher scattered sand on a steel plate and then vibrated the plate with a violin bow. The sand would begin to move and take on symmetrical shapes - geometric and organic looking. These experiments were based upon the work of l8th century German physicist Ernst Chladni, known as the "father of acoustics", who used to cover plates with thin layers of sand, set them vibrating and observe the patterns that were made in response to different sound stimuli. Dr Jenny’s cymatic experiments developed this work further by showing the effects of sound waves upon many different types of material, including water, pastes, liquids and plastics. Dr Jenny placed these substances on a steel plate, vibrated the plate with a crystal oscillator, which produces an exact frequency, and then photographed the effects. He took literally hundreds of photographs demonstrating how these liquids, pastes, dust and plastics took on organic looking shapes such as starfish, human cells and organs, and underwater and microscopic life. Dr Jenny’s work demonstrates positive proof of the amazing power of sound to create form. While the structures and objects created by the sound are not living creatures, many of them certainly look as though they are.

One of the most fascinating discoveries made by Dr Jenny was that the vowel sounds of Hebrew and Sanskrit, when toned into his media, formed the actual patterns of the letters themselves! Modern languages, however, did not have the same effect, all of which lends credence to the historic concept of there being a "sacred language". Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism attach great importance to the power of mantra - a spoken word or phrase believed to have psychological or spiritual power, particularly when repeated. One of the reasons mantras are so effective is that ancient languages such as Sanskrit, Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, Gaelic and Latin actually vibrate on a different frequency to modern languages and therefore have the ability to induce altered states of consciousness and also to manipulate matter. This is why listening to Gregorian Chant tends to induce a state of hypnotic bliss and wellbeing and why ancient languages are still used for ritual and ceremonial purposes in many churches and liturgies throughout the world to this day. These languages literally have a "magical" power to alter state and form and are therefore considered bridges to the divine. Furthermore, experiments have shown that Sanskrit and Hebrew, when spoken, create a vibratory frequency that moves matter into sacred geometrical patterns. In his book “The Science of Mantra”, Indian guru Swami Murugesu states that the intensity and colour of a candle flame can be changed by chanting a specific word in Sanskrit due to the frequency that the word emits. This same science has been shown to lower and raise blood pressure. This rediscovered knowledge shows that sound is something more than mere vibratory signals. Not only does sound interact with life but it sustains and develops it. Doctor Lenon Orwell stated in his work on DNA, "One third of the sensory-motor-cortex of the brain is devoted to the tongue, oral cavity, the lips, and speech. In other words, oral frequency emissions spoken, or sung, exert powerful control over life, vibrating genes that influence total well-being and even evolution of the species."

Australian Aborigines were the first known culture in the world to use sound as a healing tool. For at least 40,000 years their didgeridoo has been used to heal broken bones, muscle tears and illnesses of every kind. Ancient Egyptian and Babylonian cultures used drums and rattles. The low frequency sounds from drums and the ultra-sound created by rattles are both now known to accelerate healing. The Egyptians were also known to use vowel sounds in their healing rituals - occult knowledge which survives to this day via the western mystery school tradition. Although the Egyptians were certainly aware of the healing properties of sound long before the Greeks, the first person to be officially credited with using music as medicine was Pythagoras around 500 BC. He and his followers were known to use the flute, the lyre and the monochord - a single-stringed instrument in which the string tension was established by a fixed weight. The Greeks and Romans both made use of healing temples in which therapeutic music was played to induce a trance state, utilising the acoustics and reverberant spaces of the temples to enhance the soporific effects of the music. Technological sound healing devices first appeared in 1928 when German scientist Erwin Schliephake created a device called the Novasonic. Another German, Raimar Pohlman, demonstrated the therapeutic properties of ultrasound in 1938 and it remains widely used in medicine to this day as a remedy for tense muscles as well as diagnosing diseases and allowing pregnant women to see their babies prior to birth.

Gong baths are an increasingly popular form of sound therapy in which the client is bathed in healing vibrations as the instruments are sounded around them.

One of the oldest musical instruments to be used for therapeutic purposes is the gong, which dates back to the Bronze Age and around 3500 BC. The main gong producing areas were believed to be Burma, China, Java and Annam. For centuries a gong was viewed as a symbol of status and success among Asian families and the secrets of gong making were closely guarded. Gongs are made of a bronze alloy which consists of approximately 75% copper, 20% tin and 5% nickel. They are prayerfully hand-hammered and refined by the artisans. A gong bath, such as those I've personally undergone with Helen Harris, is becoming an increasingly popular form of therapy. Contrary to what you may think from the word "bath", it involves neither nudity nor water. It is a state of being bathed in sound. Clients lie down, wrapped in blankets, while gongs are sounded all around them to restore their natural energy. The deep sound and vibration of the gong is able to penetrate all areas of the body. As Helen Harris explains, "Everything in the universe is energy vibrating at different frequencies. Every aspect of nature pulsates in an endless interplay of delicate and complex vibrations. Human beings are part of this pattern. When there’s illness or constant stress there may be disharmony in our own natural vibrations. Sound is vibrational energy. Ancient cultures have long used it as part of their healing rituals. Now there is a growing body of scientific and clinical research into the therapeutic effects of sound healing tools/instruments. These instruments are used by Sound Therapists with the intention of helping to restore natural frequencies within the body, supporting our innate healing powers to bring us back into balance, health and well-being". I can attest to the effectiveness of these sessions and they are a fantastic remedy for depression, anxiety and negative thinking patterns. It's well worth checking online to find any gong baths near you or at least to source a recording. You won't be disappointed.

One of my favourite forms of sound healing is the use of Tibetan singing bowls and I now have my own collection which I use with clients as well as on myself. When I was first introduced to singing bowls by Caroline Miller eight years ago, I was blown away by the profound sense of serenity which I felt permeating my being both during and after a session of working with them. At times it felt as though my consciousness was literally dissolving into the vibrations emitted by the bowls. The reason singing bowls induce a state of such deep bliss and wellbeing is that their pulsating tones trigger the theta brainwave state of 7-8 (Hertz) cycles per second - the state at which our deeper intelligence, creativity and self-healing mechanisms are activated. It's the high-performance state commonly referred to as being "in the zone" where the phenomenal powers of the subconscious mind can be accessed and harnessed. This is the same altered brainwave state induced by hypnosis, meditation and by many of the games in the New Code system of NLP. While in the theta state, phenomenal feats of self-healing and personal transformation are possible. Use of singing bowls has been found to be one of the most effective ways to stimulate theta brainwaves. Health benefits include boosting mental energy, greater clarity of thought, increased energy and concentration, stress relief, stilling the mind, quietening anxious thoughts and relieving emotional stress.

Crystal bowls such as this one are a popular variation on traditional metallic singing bowls.

Singing bowls are believed to date back 5000 years and have been found and used in China, Japan, Korea and the Himalayas. Most are made in Nepal. They can be either rung as a bell with a specially designed mallet, or played around the rim with the same tool to emphasise the harmonic overtones. It's the same as when you dip your finger in wine and move it around the rim of the glass to produce a whining sound. The bowls can be used therapeutically in a variety of different ways and can be played either in the vicinity of the person needing healed or placed directly on specific areas of their body. Each bowl has its own unique sound and character, based on factors such as size and metallic composition, and it's important to find the bowl which resonates best with you. Most modern bowls tend to be created from bronze and tin, but traditional antique bowls are shaped from high quality bronzes and may include a mixture of precious metals such as gold or silver. A modern variation on the singing bowl concept are crystal bowls, which operate on the same principle and are becoming increasingly popular with sound therapists.

Another popular form of sound therapy is drumming, which is scientifically proven to have immense health benefits including boosting the immune system, reducing stress, managing pain and overcoming trauma. Research has shown that the physical transmission of rhythmic energy to the brain synchronises the two cerebral hemispheres. When the logical left hemisphere and the intuitive right hemisphere begin to pulsate in harmony, the inner guidance of intuitive knowing can then flow unimpeded into conscious awareness. Drumming also synchronises the frontal and lower areas of the brain and generates dynamic neural connections. According to Michael Thaut, director of Colorado State University's Center for Biomedical Research in Music, "Rhythmic cues can help retrain the brain after a stroke or other neurological impairment, as well as with Parkinson's patients." Many ancient cultures used shamanic drumming as a means of accessing trance states for the purpose of bringing about healing and accessing higher states of consciousness - further proof that our ancestors possessed knowledge of the healing and mind-altering properties of sound.

We all use sound to unconsciously alter our state on a daily basis. Something as simple as the type of music we listen to can have a profound effect on our mood and state of mind. A joyous pop song is likely to make us feel happy and uplifted, while a mournful piano sonata can induce feelings of deep solemnity and reflection. Many studies have shown that music can aid good mental health by triggering the release of dopamine into the brain of the listener. Music can be responsible for triggering memories and also the deep emotional responses associated with them. A particular song has the ability to transport us back in time to the place where we first heard it - it could be a memorable romance, a holiday, a school disco or a funeral. It can trigger happy memories but also sad ones too. Music therapy is a recognised role within the NHS and uses a wide range of instruments as well as the human voice to help people express their emotional and physical condition. Since founding Phoenix, I've enjoyed significant success working with young musicians and helping them to use their music as a positive outlet for pent-up emotions. By channeling their feelings into their songwriting and compositions, they've been able to produce art from even the darkest and most tortured thought processes, transmuting negativity into something positive in the process.

One happy client, a 23-year-old musician, wrote of his experiences with Phoenix: "For many years growing up I struggled to understand my state of mind. Being diagnosed with ADHD and later on bipolar disorder I struggled to manage my emotions to the point where they would frequently take over. Andrew managed to make sense of all of my troubles and helped me understand why I felt the way I did. He set up a confidence anchor to help me manage my anxiety before gigs and showed me how to channel my emotions into my music in a way which turned negativity into art. This also provided a way for me to keep track of these emotions and helped me find common ground among my peers, improving my relationships."

Sound forms a significant part of our therapeutic work at Phoenix where we use use music, singing bowls and harmonic frequencies to help clients access the high-performance theta brainwave state in which their deeper resources and internal healing mechanisms are activated. Keen to know more? Visit or drop us an email at

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