Cymatics & Mantra: Tapping into Matter with Sound Vibrations


The ancients of India believed that all existence arises from sound vibrations. There is a lot of fascinating literature on this, and the bija mantra (seed sound) of AUM is a well-known one. It may seem like some esoteric tidbit, but there is science underlying this ages-old tenet.

A relatively new field in modern science, cymatics (from kyma, Greek for wave) is a term used to describe the study of modal phenomena, visible sound and vibration, which seems to have roots in a very old realization. Cymatics asks: is there a connection between sound, vibrations and physical reality? Do sound and vibrations have the potential to influence matter, or even create it? This is a fascinating question, with profound implications for transforming our way of relating with the world — that the world is not made of separate entities, but in fact consists of a flow of interdependent, interwoven, rippling modularities. It is an engrossing thing to watch complexity increase, as the frequency goes higher and higher:

Beyond YouTube, cymatics has a long history. Its proponents assert that there is a connection between sound and physical reality. From Wikipedia:

In 1787, Ernst Chladni repeated the work of Robert Hooke and published “Entdeckungen über die Theorie des Klanges” (“Discoveries in the Theory of Sound”). In this book, Chladni describes the patterns seen by placing sand on metal plates which are made to vibrate by stroking the edge of the plate with a bow.

Throughout the 1960s, up until his death in 1972, Swiss medical doctor and Anthroposophist, Hans Jenny took a methodological and exhaustive approach to documenting Cymatic phenomena. He coined the term “Cymatics” in his 1967 book, Kymatik (translated Cymatics). Inspired by systems theory and the work of Ernst Chladni, Jenny delved deeply into the many types of periodic phenomena but especially thevisual display of sound. He pioneered the use of laboratory grown piezoelectric crystals, which were quite costly at that time. Hooking them up to amplifiers and frequency generators, the crystals functioned as transducers, converting the frequencies into vibrations that were strong enough to set the steel plates into resonance. He made the resultant nodal fields visible by spreading a fine powder lycopodium spores of a club moss, as well as many other methods and materials.

From his experiments, Jenny theorized that there is a threefold play of forces at work: periodicity, figure and dynamic movement, says Dr. John Beaulieu:

Dr. Jenny observed three fundamental principles at work in the vibratory field on the plate. He wrote, “Since the various aspects of these phenomena are due to vibration, we are confronted with a spectrum which reveals a patterned, figurative formation at one pole and kinetic-dynamic processes at the other, the whole being generated and sustained by its essential periodicity.”

What Dr. Jenny is saying is that one can hear the sound as a wave; he calls this the pole of kinetic-dynamic process. One can see the pattern the sound creates in the plate; he calls this the pole of “patterned-figurative formation”. And if Dr. Jenny were to touch the plate and feel it’s vibration, he would call this the generating pole of ”essential periodicicity”.

Making the jump in connecting sound with matter may seem too much, but Jenny was unequivocal that sound vibration is inextricable from the rest:

Since the various aspects of these phenomena are due to vibration, we are confronted with a spectrum which reveals patterned, figurate formation sat one pole and kinetic-dynamic processes at the other, the whole being generated and sustained by its essential periodicity. These aspects however, are not separate entities but are derived from the vibrational phenomenon in which they appear in their “unitariness”. Even though one or the other may predominate in this or that phenomenon, we invariably find these three elements present.

In other words, the series we have formulated is in reality confluent in homogeneous activity. It is not that we have configuration here and organized pattern there, but that every effect of vibration bears the signature of configuration, movement and a play of forces. We can, so to speak, melt down our spectrum and observe the action of its various categories as a continuous play in one and the same entity.

If we wish to describe this single entity, we can say this: there are always figurate and patterned elements in a vibrational process and a vibrational effect, but there are also kinetic and dynamic elements; the whole is of a periodic nature and it is this periodicity which generates and sustains everything. The three fields — the periodic as the fundamental field with the two poles of figure and dynamics — invariably appear as one. They are inconceivable without each other. It is quite out of the question to take away the one or the other; nothing can be abstracted without the whole ceasing to exist.

It would be interesting to discover the intersection between the modern cymatics and the ancient teachings of the Rig Veda about sound, in particular mantra (the root “man-” means “to think” or “mind,” and “-tra” meaning “instrument of thought”).

It’s been said that mantras, which are traditionally sounded in the ancient language of Sanskrit, are designed to create sounds that literally vibrate in the body. According to Dr. David Frawley, author of “Wisdom of the Ancient Seers,” mantra is not like our ordinary, artificial and rigid language, but is an organic “language in which sound and meaning correspond”:

[Mantric language] is a science of sound wherin the meaning and force of all sounds is known and developed toward mergence in the Divine Word. [..]

[Words in mantric language] are not names in our ordinary sense at all. They are the essential sound-idea behind the object that evokes its being, which becomes the tool whereby its essence is grasped. They are the mantric names of objects which arise within the mind in meditative perception, as the mark of entry of the being of the object into the fabric of the mind. [..] They are the vibration of the mind uniting with the being of the object in the unity of seeing. [..] In the mantric sense, therefore, to name is to know the nature of the thing, to touch its essence.

Essentially for the ancients, sound, vibration and matter were one and the same. Language for them was a way to tap into the cosmic unity of all creation, unlike our use of language(s), which often serves to fracture us into different nations, religions and identifications. It does seem that primal sound — without modern, separatist, linguistic leanings — could be our ultimate salvation. Frawley notes that during the Satya Yuga, or Golden Age of prehistory, it is said that humans spoke only one language and were spiritually more developed and united. He continues on about how this mantric language differs from our languages today:

Such mantric names do not reflect an arbitrary cultural usage. They reflect the archetypal vibrations behind all phenomenal objects, the vibrations of the Divine Word itself. This is not a religious belief, but the vibratory energy of cosmic intelligence that informs all things. [..]

Such language really has only one word, which is the cosmic word of truth and harmony. It has only one message: that all is Divine, all a formation of the Divine Word. It has no practical message… or bias. Its purpose is to break all the barriers of the mind and merge it into the unity of cosmic intelligence — to break all our limiting constructs and dissolve the mind into the direct seeing of unconditioned being.

Is sound a vibrational thought-form, made manifest in physical reality by the periodic modulation of space-time? No wonder the study and practice of mantra is a whole discipline unto itself, with numerous benefits. It appears that sound is a tool, one that can be used intentionally, whether for uniting us all, or keeping ourselves in ignorance. Read more over at Soulwise.

The Architecture of Consciousness


Our built environment is a kind of manifestation of our consciousness, our awareness of our place in the world, and a statement of our relationship with others, the world at large, and our selves. The ancients understood this, hence the mystic forms of the Egyptians, Mayans, Druids, as well as other old civilizations like India, where the practice of vastu shastra (“science of architecture”) prevailed, and still resonates today. Much like Chinese geomancy, the principles of vastu shastra governed the design, layouts, proportions, ground preparation, spatial orientation and siting to balance the beneficial flows of energy between nature and the dwelling’s inhabitants.

Most modern-minded skeptics probably dismiss these geomantic practices as backward superstition. Perhaps younghorn architects today are more drawn to the parametrically designed, computationally generated curiosities of our technological age, rather than the seemingly esoteric architectural texts of yore. Yet, perhaps the ancients knew something more about the very essence of architecture, and its effect on the consciousness, than we do today. They understood that architecture is a microcosm of the greater Universe, and is not exempt from the laws of Nature. Take, for example, the Hindu temple, conceived and built as a model of an infinitely fractal cosmology. Via Data Is Nature:

It’s not just that these temples appear to be algorithmically generated, the ancient Vastu Sustra texts provide procedural rules or recipes for their design, layout and build (including the positions of ornaments). The texts transmit recursive programs, by verbal instruction, to masons so that according to Kirti Trivedi, the Hindu Temple becomes a model of a fractal Universe. A model which represents ‘views of the cosmos to be holonomic and self-similar in nature’. The idea of fractal cosmology is no stranger to western academia. In 1987 the Italian physicist Luciano Pietronero argued, in his paper, that the Universe shows ‘a definite fractal aspect over a fairly wide range of scale’ based on correlations of galaxies and clusters, their spatial distribution and average mass density.

‘According to Hindu philosophy the cosmos can be visualised to be contained in a microscopic capsule, with the help of the concept of subtle element called ‘tammatras’. The whole cosmic principle replicates itself again and again in ever smaller scales’ – Kirti Trivedi


These mind-blowing temples, built by hand before the advent of any computer-aided whatnot, seem to embody something beyond what our modern, Newtonian, mechanistic minds can fathom. But perhaps our technological tools, something that the modern world excels at developing, are helping us get to the forms that the ancients once prescribed. Data Is Nature:

The initial temple plan is based on a grid form known as the Vastu-Purusha Mandala. Tellingly Trivedi remarks in his paper that the Vastu-Purusha Mandala is ‘not a blueprint for a temple, but a ‘forecast’, a marking of the potential within which a wide range of possibilities are implied’. The significance here, should not be underestimated. A ‘potential for possibilities’ within a predefined rule-set predisposes architecture to be governed by a degree of emergence. While emergence in parametric architecture arrived, recently, with computers and algorithms, India has been enacting emergent masonry for thousands of years thanks to the open rules of the Vastus Sustra.

But form must have some kind of context, which informs it and those within. In this fascinating talk linking modern research into vastu shastra and architect Jonathan Lipman, AIA (educated at Cornell) describes how the “superstitions” of geomancy may have a foundation in science. For example, vastu shastra suggests that east one of the better directions for sleeping, recuperating and “brain coherence.” Lipman cites studies that proves these principles may hold scientific water, and convincingly makes a case why a modern science of architecture — like the one that vastu shastra has upheld for centuries — should be developed. Correctly made architecture would be a way to “hack consciousness,” says Lipman, and not only would a house be made like Corbusier’s “machine for living,” it would be a machine that would actually work and be a healthy, nurturing place to dwell.

Image: Vijayanagar, Hampi, by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra