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RichG

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"SOUND AS A MODULATOR OF CONSCIOUSNESS"
by Tom Kenyon

The ancient Vedic Rishis of India coined a term that conveys their experience of the world as vibratory in nature. The term, "Nada Brahmin" means literally the world is sound. And modern Quantum Physics would agree with this basic tenet.

The science of mantra which has evolved for thousands of years seeks to directly affect consciousness itself and, in some cases matter, through the use of specific vibratory keys. These vibratory keys or bijas (seed sounds) can profoundly affect awareness.

In my own work with groups and individuals I found that the use of mantras or chants can seemingly transport one to other dimensions of consciousness. I have also found that these vibratory keys work even if they are not inherent in the culture of the participants. I use, for instance, mantras and chants from numerous traditions including Buddhist, Christian, Hebrew, Hindu, Moslem as well as Indigenous cultures. All of these have the ability to affect people profoundly.

Empirical research from a number of sources has clearly documented that mantras or chants have a direct affect upon brain processing and physiology. Certain classes of "meditative mantras" have been shown to have very positive physical as well as mental/emotional benefits. Some of these benefits include a reduction in stress hormones such as adrenaline, the lowering of respiration and heart rate, slower EEG activity (with increases in alpha and theta activity) and, in some cases, a slowing of the aging process.

Research by Dr. Herbert Benson (Harvard) has demonstrated that almost any "neutral" word repeated silently to oneself generates some of the benefits documented with meditative mantras. It may actually be the repetitive nature of mantras that is partially responsible for slowing down EEG in the first place. Repetitive sensory patterns affect the RAS (Reticular Activating System,) a network of nerve fibers n the brain that searches for novel stimuli. When a sensory pattern is repeated long enough, the RAS slows down neocortical activity an when a new sensory pattern is introducted, the RAS stimulates the neocortex into heightened activity.

However, meditative mantras may have more subtle effects on human physiology than those created by the repetition of sound. New technologies for monitoring the actual energy fields of the body hold promise in this area. I personally suspect that the vibratory nature of certain languages, such as Sanskrit (the language of ancient India) will be documented to have numerous subtle effects as distinct from Benson's "neutral" words.

For the last decade or so I have focused on the use of sound to produce alerted states of consciousness. It is in these states (characterized by heightened alpha and theta activity) that we have access to the more creative aspects of awareness. With the normal day to day censors suspended, non-ordinary experiences can occur. Such experiences often have physically healing or emotionally transformative, even spiritual, effects.

In much of my previous work I focused on the use of electronically generated tonal patterns (as with tone generators) to affect both brain processing and awareness. Laboratory studies clearly showed that this method of working measurably affected brain state. In other words we could create a window of brain activity by directing specific pulsating sounds to the auditory system of the brain. If I, for instance, pulsed a 7HZ signal to a subject, his or her brain activity would tend to move towards mid-theta.

Subsequent research has shown that "entrainment" moves a subject's brain wave activity towards the HZ of the "entrainment" frequency, but there is not necessarily an exact match. IT was in the course of this technical work that I stumbled upon a study that showed that shamanic drumming produced strong theta activity in the brain. This intrigued me and I began to explore indigenous methods and instruments for altering consciousness.

I have found the use of shamanic sound to be a most interesting and complex system whereby consciousness, itself, can be directly affected. While shamanic drumming is an effective tool to alter brain wave patterns, I have found that this is greatly enhanced by using the human voice. Noted researcher Barbara Hero (MIT) has stated that the two purest forms of sound come from a pure tone generator and the human voice.

What I have found most intriguing is the ability of modulated sound, as in overtone chanting, to affect a subject's physiological processes while he or she is in an altered state of consciousness (trance.) I had a dramatic experience in this regard while teaching a class in Atlanta, Georgia a few years ago. There was a woman who had been suffering from a compound fracture of the femur for several months. She reported that she was in constant pain and could not put pressure on her leg. During the course of the training, I instructed almost 50 people in how to use sound for physical healing and this woman received healing sounds from the group. She called me excited the next morning to report that she was without pain for the first time in months, that she could put weight upon her leg and that she was now walking without her cast!

In her book Mutant Message, Marlo Morgan reports how the aborigines healed with sound, but I thought that one would have to have the same cultural presuppositions as the aborigines for the method to work, but I have found that this is not true. I have experienced the ability of sound to modulate consciousness and the body in many other situations since then, and I am convinced that sound is a direct pathway to the substrata of reality that we call consciousness and/or matter.

It has been documented by some trained observers that mantras or chants can affect external events, especially weather. Tibetan yogis have been noted to produce hail storms, and fair or inclement weather just using specific mantras. In America some indigenous tribes have been observed to affect rain through communal dancing and chanting even into this century.

The ethno biologist and researcher, Terrence McKenna, reports how sound can seemingly alter DNA activity during trance states produced by plant hallucinogens. I personally have no doubt that this is possible though I don't think that hallucinogenic substances are a requirement. What is required is that consciousness be more fluid in the individual. Our day to day patterns of perception and action tend to be rigid and with that, individual consciousness becomes limited. Methods for freeing up our attention or perception exist that do not rely upon hallucinogens, and this has become a research interest for me.

It is a natural next step to study the effects of shamanic sound in the laboratory and this is what I am presently undertaking. It is an observable fact, based on hard data and clinical observation, that shamanic sound can profoundly alter brain wave activity and awareness. What is most compelling for me is the possible scientific documentation of shamanic sound and its effects on actual physical and micro processes (such as genetic and neurotransmitter alterations.) The essential question here is- "Can the purported changes in physical and neurological structure, as a result of shamanic sound, be measured or are these changes more in the order of a mythology?" I think this question will become answerable from a scientific measurement perspective over the next ten years.

Even as I continue to conduct and co-ordinate research into the effects of shamanic sound, I often use it clinically or in group training sessions for I have found it unsurpassed as a doorway to altered states and other dimensions of consciousness. I often witness profound emotional and physical healings occurring when people enter these non-ordinary dimensions of awareness. Touching the depth of one's nature through sound seems to have a universally transformative effect. As a researcher I continue to be intrigued by the neurological effects of sound, and as a practitioner I am continually awed by the power of sound to touch, to inspire and to heal.

 
Copyright 2006 - Tom Kenyon. All rights reserved.

For more info on Tom, his work and his many recordings please visit: 
http://www.tomkenyon.com 

Reprinted by permission.


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RichG

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Reply with quote  #2 
(I'd just like to note that I've studied with Tom and have his direct permission to reprint some of his articles here. Tom Kenyon is both a scientist and a mystic. When it came to experiential application, pretty much all of the work was with our voices. The same goes for my studies with Saruah Benson, though with Saruah, for many years we collaborated and in doing so also used many instruments in addition to our voices. It's not possible to study directly with Saruah anymore but with Tom it is and I highly recommend it if you can make the opportunity. There is also the recent documentary film about him called Song of the New Earth, which I highly recommend as well. He is a very gifted master of the energy medicine of Sound. - RG)
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Throatsinger

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Reply with quote  #3 
I find this article to be quite problematic, typically so in a number of regards.  I realize that it is but an article, and that perhaps citations, documentations, etc. may be presented elsewhere, but we can only assess this in the current context.



The piece opens with the argument that "quantum physics" agrees that the world is sound. Not as I understand it, and I am no quantum physicist. But perhaps something more like vibration or energy might be closer to accurate as a gross generalization, but vibration and energy are not necessarily sound. I generally find that when sound healers and others "light workers," etc., talk about quantum physics, they don't know what they're talking about and are merely parroting what's "in" when such attempts at theoretical scientific justifications for what follows is unpersuasive at best, and often embarrassing. Like Rick Perry donning specs to look smart.

“I have found the use of shamanic sound to be a most interesting and complex system whereby consciousness, itself, can be directly affected. While shamanic drumming is an effective tool to alter brain wave patterns, I have found that this is greatly enhanced by using the human voice. Noted researcher Barbara Hero (MIT) has stated that the two purest forms of sound come from a pure tone generator and the human voice.”

Hmmm… how are we to define shamanic sound? I would say those are sounds used by actual shamans, in their shamanic practice. It’s the SHAMAN that makes his or her sounds shamanic, not the fact that there’s a rattle, or a flute, or a one-sided frame drum, or whatever might seems “shamanic” via some association, real or imagined. The same goes for “shamanic drumming.” It does little good in furthering our understanding or practice to use such incorrect, tired and overused examples, and perpetuates unfortunate stereotypes and practices.

As for the quote attributed to Hero, I don’t know if she said that. But noted researcher or not, what does it mean? By usual definition used in acoustics, music theory, etc., sonic purity is usually meant to mean a sine wave. A absolutely pure sine wave signal may be produced electronically, and speakers can approximate such a signal. The human voice bears no resemblance to a sine wave, or pure sound.

Everybody has stories about someone who has been “healed” by sound. I suppose that it is somehow obligatory to include such a story, but what does it have to do with modulating consciousness? Unless consciousness is at the root, perhaps, of illness and healing, but that doesn’t seem to be the point here.

The mention of Marlo Morgan is especially surprising, as her book Mutant Message Down Under is widely disparaged as fraudulent, racist, fantasy. Even her publisher, Harper Collins, now markets it as fiction. Kenyon’s mention of it here is disturbing on multiple levels. And strangely, Kenyon is concerned with the cultural presuppositions of made-up aboriginals, but is comfortable with some vague concept of an “shamanic” sound.

Equally dismal from the anthropological perspective are the controversial claims regarding yogis producing hail storms via mantras. Similarly, the mention of T. McKenna’s speculations regarding “hallucinogens”/sound/DNA seems gratuitous, in light of Kenyon’s immediate dismissal of the use of such plants.

I’m quite intrigued as to the process by which the author pulses 7Hz sound signals to a human subject, as such frequencies are notoriously difficult to produce via speaker technology in a small space, and below the accepted range of human hearing.


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RichG

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Steve, thanks for your thoughts and critical inquiry.
As I am not Tom Kenyon I can't speak for him, but since I was the one who posted that article here I'll offer a few of my own thoughts in response.

First off, when I read the article I get something of value from it and don't see the flaws to the extent that you did. Just my personal perspective.
Regarding the Quantum Physics thing, I too am no quantum physicist and my understanding may be no understanding at all, however I believe you are right in that the QP's essentially say that all of our observable existence is energy in waves or forms of vibration - vibrating in and out of potentiality and form. Even as we can find mystical traditions saying "the world is sound", I am not sure what QP's would say to that. I think I can accurately say that, in regard to what we commonly consider to be "sound", that all sound is vibrational energy but not all vibrational energy is sound. My percussion and hand drumming teacher at CalArts, the late great John Bergamo, had a nice little work-around for that: he said "everything is rhythm". Somewhat related to all of this is the gross misunderstanding repeated on at least a few sound healer pseudo-mystic pages that sound IS light at lower octaves. However I imagine that most of us here realize they are two very different phenomena - sound being an air pressure wave and light being electromagnetic radiation - neither of which becomes the other simply by raising or lowering their respective frequencies. I like the idea that "all is sound" as a mystical concept, but realize and accept that the current scientific knowledge of what we define as "sound" is not the current scientific understanding of what everything is made of.

Regarding "shamanic sound". Yes, the sound made by shamans! 
However, there's a common "northern hemisphere western white person" perspective that repetitive pulse drumming, with the optional addition of shakers, constitutes "shamanic sound". Of course that is only one manifestation of a shaman's sonic repetoire. If we look at indigenous healers from all over the world we will find a lot more options, including much more rhythmically complex drumming. I also agree with what I think was your implication that simply picking up a "shaman's drum" and/or rattle and beating and shaking them doesn't automatically make one a shaman nor the sound they are making "shamanic". Likewise, getting a gong or a crystal bowl and hitting it doesn't make one a "sound healer". However, I do think that "northern hemisphere western white people" can create "shamanic sound" and can be very effective shamanic practitioners if they have been blessed with and/or have cultivated through discipline, practice, and proper intent the necessary skills and attunement. I personally did not have a problem with the way Tom used that phrase.

Regarding the Barbara Hero statement, I guess I see it as a flawed and yet acceptable statement. Flawed in that, as you say, those two "purest forms" of sound are actually very different, and thus represent very different ideas of "purity". It's acceptable to me in that a tone generator sine wave is the most scientifically pure, while the voice 'purity' is something different, it's purity being it's natural, unmanufactured creation. (But, is the human voice more "pure" in this regard than a bird's voice?) Notice though that she did not say "all human voices and vocal sounds", and likewise not all tones produced by tone generators are pure sine waves. 

Regarding Marlo Morgan, I knew nothing about her and her book so I never had a reaction to her being referenced in this article. And the only reference was a very simple statement of "reports how the aborigines healed with sound", which I am pretty sure is a verifiable statement - the reality that aborigines use sound for healing. And she did apparently go to Australia and spend time with aborigines (basing that on a brief internet search) and may well have observed their medicine people using sound. Again, not knowing her book or the controversy around it, the reference for me is just simply that and no more. But I will ask: if she first published her book as "fact" and it was later deemed to be fiction, when did that change take place and become publically known? Tom Kenyon might have read the book when it was first published and didn't know of what further came to light at a later date when writing this article. I think it might be a stretch to indict him as "concerned with the cultural presuppositions of made-up aboriginals".

One other point I'll comment on:
"...pulsed a 7HZ signal to a subject..."

As much as that technically reads as a 7Hz tone, when I read it I saw it as referring to an unspecified audible tone/'signal' that was pulsed at a rate of 7 times per second. The use of the word "pulsed" I think is what had me reading it that way. Is that what Tom meant? I can't say for sure, but I have studied with him and I know this was talked about in some regard and it's possible my understanding of what he meant came from that before ever reading the article.

Thanks again for your insights and questions!


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