"SOUND AS A MODULATOR OF CONSCIOUSNESS"
by Tom Kenyon
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.
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.
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,
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.
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
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
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.
more info on Tom, his work and his many recordings please visit:
www.tomkenyon.com and also soundhealingfoundation.org
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a primary knowledge that we all carry, directly connected with
the two-million-year-old person at the
root of our brain. And we do our best to suppress it..... (which
makes us ill)." ~