THEOSOPHY, Vol. 20, No. 3, January, 1932
(Pages 116-121; Size: 18K)
(Number 35 of a 103-part series)



We say and maintain that SOUND, for one thing, is a tremendous Occult power; that it is a stupendous force, of which the electricity generated by a million of Niagaras could never counteract the smallest potentiality when directed with occult knowledge. Sound may be produced of such a nature that the pyramid of Cheops would be raised in the air, or that a dying man, nay, one at his last breath, would be revived and filled with new energy and vigour. (Secret Doctrine, 1888, I, 555).
FURTHERMORE H.P.B. spoke of herself as "one thrice saved from death" by that means.

Modern learning has larded with sneers the traditions of "spells and charms" by sound which are so universal in folk-lore; but without concerning itself very much about any reality that might have been in them. Yet the present time introduces us to a lusty beginning of Mantra-Yoga in a Westernized form.

Mantrams, or sound charms, are divided into two classes. The method almost exclusively known to the Western world, and extensively practiced in Medieval times, had no dependence upon the intrinsic virtue of the sound itself. It worked by the arousal of associated ideas in the mind -- conscious or "subconscious" -- of the operator; which associations produced certain forms of concentration. The "magical" aspect, when effective, at one extreme amounted to pure mediumism, the operator being thrown into the passive condition by his faith in the charm and the power of the associations called up, thus rendering himself the open channel for influences -- generally maleficent. At the other extreme, the same factors produced an intensification of will in some direction amounting to Kriyashakti(1) -- the production of visible external effects by an intense concentration. Little of it had health in it -- either way.

The Oriental Mantra-Yoga was and is a different matter. It relies upon the sound itself --usually in the vowels -- and upon the skill and power of the operator in using it. Its fundamental principle is the fact that the universe is built of vibrations. And this is just another word for -- SOUND. For the vibrations which appear to us as light while in the state of physical consciousness, will impress us as sound if the perceptive center of gravity is shifted just a little into the next and subtler state of matter. This is the true explanation of the phenomenon of "color-hearing" which is now puzzling psychological science. And what is sound on a higher plane can also appear as form on a lower. An instance of this is the famous Chladni plate, where that which is sound in air appears as geometric pattern in metal.

This explains why, in the evolution of the Root Races, the sense of sound came first, to which were added successively touch, color, taste, and smell. In other words the primitive man -- who was not physical at all -- lived in a world which was to him pure vibration or sound. When a new phase of matter was developed, his consciousness was transferred thereto, his sound reception was coarsened to attune with it, and that which had previously been sound to him now appeared as other sensations. We are now becoming conscious of the ether -- or rather, one of the ethers -- through the development of the radio; and in course of time, since our races are now on the upward cycle, will hear direct in the ether. This will not be for millenniums, one suspects; yet mayhap the many radio effects now so simply produced, were not discovered before for the reason that the medium in which they inhere had not evolved to its present relation with the consciousness of man.

Now, since the universe is built of vibration and since a range of vibrations must have a sort of octavial or inductive effect with regard to other ranges on other planes, it is obvious that a man with a complete knowledge of the correlations of sound would have practically unlimited power over the whole material universe, checked only by the wills of others similarly equipped. He could either dissolve or construct matter; one can almost prove the fact by rigid scientific phenomena and reason.

Inaudible sound rays have been known for some time to have a fatal effect on living beings, particularly after the experiments of Alfred L. Loomis.(2) Now, Professors Williams and Gaines(3) have accomplished the same effect with audible sound produced electromagnetically. Vibrations of a certain rate killed bacterial cultures in a most definite manner. What was even more significant and sinister, they also destroyed the red corpuscles of blood. In other words, anemia unto death could be produced in a living body by this means. Is anyone dull enough to deny that if sound can have such a physiological effect in one direction, it cannot have in the opposite, and so still hold the capacities of sound above quoted to be mere wild tales or superstition? In any case, it will not be long before a practical test is made of the matter.

For some years past a Los Angeles physician has engaged, taking his cue from the Secret Doctrine, in the development of monochromatic, or pure, light rays for the treatment of disease. The results have attracted international attention. What has been done with light -- astral sound -- is sometime to be attempted with physical sound developed along monophonic lines similarly. An instrument has been built by another inventor, producing pure sound, free from instrumental peculiarities and overtones, by electromagnetic means. It is shortly to be manufactured by a well-known piano firm. Those who have had the fortune to hear music on it will hardly deny the reality of Mantra-Yoga.

That effects both divine and diabolic can be produced with either of these means, and with ease, affords practical illustration of the reason why these forms of "magic" have been so sedulously concealed from an unready humanity through the ages. Evidently the karmic time for concealment is drawing to a close in these particular matters, for good or for ill. Such wisdom, misapplied, destroyed Atlantis. It remains to be seen what the effect will be on us. It will not be a good one -- unless Theosophists bring it about that the ethics of Theosophy are adopted by science along with the occult technique.

It has been found that the quality of human pronunciation, especially of the vowels, has a distinct relation to the presence of mental disorders, brain tumors, and the like.(4) Must not the converse be true -- must not sounds have a powerful effect upon mental states? Certainly the numerous committees now struggling with the pathological effects of city and industrial noises will hardly deny it. Then -- what of the sonic barbarity called "jazz"? At least, some physicians have been perceptive enough to claim that it breaks down the brain-cells. That it breaks down self-control and mental balance is evident enough.

Theosophists are familiar with the doctrine that the "middle F," the Chinese "kung," is the "keynote of nature." But recently it has been scientifically discovered that certain component parts of nature have their own sounds, as described by Dr. White, Director of research and acoustics of the American Steel and Wire Company.(5)

He has investigated the sound-pitch of Chicago, Boston, New York and London. That of New York is a tone of 60 cycles, electrically speaking, which is between A and B flat in the low bass. The ground tone is a heavy basso, with superimposed baritone, tenor, and soprano elements. Chicago speaks in E flat. The sound of London is steadier and lower than any of the others, being lowest C. Boston lies between London and New York.

Now off-hand one would not imagine that the tones of cities would reveal character in the same manner that the human voice does, since many components are mechanical, architectural, tellurial, etc. But when considered, the types of machines, building arrangements, etc., are quite an index of the popular temperament, and it is these things which are expressed in sound. Dr. White notes that the high-pitched "feminine screaming called conversation" is a definite element in the tone of New York, as well as much nervous use of horns and screeching brakes. The fact that all this is most marked in that city lends point to his observation that the matter should receive attention from the "practitioners of the social sciences." The low steady roar of London is most obviously in keeping with social character; and the existence of non-human and non-mechanical elements, such as the composition of rocks and soil, in the basic tones of cities, throws light on the karmic connection between individuals and local environments of nature.

Now comes one of the most astonishing discoveries yet recorded in science, tucked quietly away on a back page.(6) Two years ago Sir Chandrasekhara Venkateshvara Raman, a worthy compatriot of Sir Chunder Bose, earned a Nobel prize in physics by his discovery of the "Raman effect" -- the fact that light changes its color minutely in passing through a substance. This resulted in a series of discoveries on molecular vibrations which led Dr. Donald H. Andrews, of Johns Hopkins, to write down and play on the piano the corresponding musical notes of a number of chemical substances. Now this is strange enough; but what shall we say upon learning that the notes of the individual material have a definite relation to the effect and impression of that substance upon the human constitution?

Alcohol, for instance, "the favorite," has a chord of seven notes, described as "seductive." With one exception, those notes form a "well known harmonic combination." Wood alcohol, the violent poison, has a harsh, sharp sound, although chemically very closely related to alcohol.

Gasoline is a "combination of many unrelated notes," such as would result from "sitting abruptly on the piano." We can think of nothing more appropriate than this as the keynote of all the human activities dependent upon gasoline -- "petrol," or "essence," to our foreign readers. Strangest of all, water is described as "mysterious, pleasant without being sugary, like the murmur of a waterfall in a deep glade." Adrenalin, suggests the Editor, might form the basis of a stirring war song. It appears in the blood in moments of anger. He may be right.

Now had the most respectable of Theosophists set forth such a set of correspondences, could it have been taken for anything but an example of the disintegration befalling otherwise intelligent minds under the lethal influence of that system? Hardly. But -- all this is the serious results of sober scientific research, vouched for by the most respectable of men in the most respectable of weeklies. Verily, it out-churches the Pope.

No doubt more research will be made along this line; one wonders as to the musical notes of some of the metals which have had much to do with human history -- such as lead, gold, silver, iron, and the like. Some other curious correspondences might ensue! And some years ago it was found that a human profile, used as a sound curve, produces a note pleasing or otherwise, according to whether the subject were beautiful or ugly.

But there is much more in this than meets the eye. If the universe is constructed of vibrations, then must not the sound of each substance relate to the vibration which brought it into being? The moment may be just around the corner when science will be able, by bringing together the constituent parts of a substance and applying certain notes -- or their luminous analogues -- thereto, bring into combination the desired compound, thus repeating the original process of creation. And when this is done, will it dawn upon them that the combination was brought about by intelligence and must have so been in the original? A musical note is the expression of an idea or feeling. Must it not be a fact that the various physical forms, all of which have been brought into existence by vibratory combinations, must also have been expressions of feeling or idea? Theosophists verily know that it is so.

There can be dimly glimpsed behind the phenomena of alcohol a strange and tortuous history. That a particularly harmonious set of vibrations should have brought into being a substance which is above all others an insuperable barrier to spiritual knowledge when indulged in, seems a strange anomaly; yet upon consideration quite natural. That undoubtedly accounts for its fatal fascination; and it might be still more true of habit-forming drugs. But is it not true that when once perverted, it is the most beneficent of substances, teachings, natures, which becomes the most deadly? At what time, and how, did human nature get so out of tune with the form of life encased in the alcohol formula, as to bring about the present condition? What was alcohol as originally designed? Its most marked effect is release of inhibitions and exposure of the real inner nature of its victims. Was there a time when that which has since become alcohol had the effect, used wisely, of making the whole nature of man porous to the Ego?

In any case, all these discoveries are steps in an ultimate understanding by science of man's true relation with the pulsating life all about him which he so crudely divides into "organic and inorganic." But science cannot, unguided by the Wisdom-Religion, take these steps with safety to mankind.

COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:


"I establish this whole universe with a single portion of myself and remain separate."

The finite mind cannot understand many things, and being finite and conditioned myself, I cannot explain that which is beyond the power of sages, but if I were endeavoring to form an idea for myself in regard to the above, I would take that of Abstract Space as the basis of that "I" which establishes the universe as a portion of "itself." That portion could not be formed by any other cause or inherency than the Absolute (Space), and yet Space is illimitable, notwithstanding innumerable universes; that space not only being around such universes, but in and throughout every particle of manifested matter. Our bodies are in space, and space is in our bodies, so that while bodies are formed from and in space, yet space remains space and hence separate. These are words only, yet may serve to convey an idea -- grasped but not materialized. 


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(1) S.D. I, 293.
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(2) Science, March 20, 1930.
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(3) Do.
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(4) The Week's Science, Nov. 3, 1930.
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(5) New York Times, Jan. 4, 1931.
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(6) Science, March 6, 1931.
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