The Intuition Network, A Thinking Allowed Television Underwriter, presents the following transcript from the series Thinking Allowed, Conversations On the Leading Edge of Knowledge and Discovery, with Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove.

SOUND AND HEALING with JILL PURCE

JEFFREY MISHLOVE, Ph.D.: Hello and welcome. Our topic today is sound and the healing process, and my guest, Jill Purce, is the author of The Mystic Spiral, and the general editor of the Arts and Imagination series published by Thames & Hudson, and is an individual who has been conducting workshops on sound and transformation throughout the world, having studied extensively the Tibetan tradition of chanting and many other cultural traditions that use sound. Welcome, Jill.

JILL PURCE: Thank you.

MISHLOVE: It's a pleasure to have you here. In your work in sound and transformation, there's a sense in which the body itself can be harmonized, aligned, integrated, through the process of vocal resonance.

PURCE: Yes.

MISHLOVE: Can you talk a little bit about how that works?

PURCE: Yes. Everything that we know of in this world is made of vibrations. This is one of the ancient insights into the nature of things, which is being proved more and more correct every day that physics goes through its discoveries and mathematics through its discoveries. We live in a vibratory universe. Everything comes about through the periodicities and the regularities of the movement and the energy, and this applies to us also, and the way that we as human beings are able to tune into that vibratory universe is through the circuit of our hearing and our voice. This is our perceptual way of participating in the vibratory universe, getting in tune with it ourselves, and tuning it and conducting what I call a sort of right vibratoryhood. And since every part of us is vibrational -- we oscillate our legs one in front of the other to move from place to place; we breathe rhythmically; our heart rhythms and our brain rhythms and our pulsations of our cells and our molecules and the proteins and the atomic structures, every part of it --

MISHLOVE: Every level vibrates.

PURCE: Every level is vibratory. That's what we are; we are the regularities of these vibrations. And all of these vibrations have to do it together. They have to know how to sing together, how to vibrate together. And this is one of the things that you can do. When we use that part of us which is the vibratory element in us -- which is the voice, the way that we have of making the sound and listening -- then we are able quite consciously to tune the human being. The human being, we're a wind instrument; we're a tube with holes in us through which we blow air. Usually most of us spend most of our time never doing this, ever, except occasionally in the bath, or if we join a choir maybe.

MISHLOVE: Singing in the shower or something. But you're really making reference to the chanting traditions of most spiritual traditions, Eastern and Western, and saying that these are not just sort of religious mumbo-jumbo; they form a purpose of aligning the body-mind-spirit.

PURCE: Yes, as personified by the Tibetans, who actually talk of body, voice, and mind. The voice is that which tunes the body with the mind, and that's not just personal body with personal mind, but that's cosmic body with cosmic mind. And so the voice is the means that we have. When you use the voice, you're also using the breath. The breath is attached to the subtle breath, and is attached to the thoughts. And so whenever you use the voice, you are using, or you are modulating, all of those together. One of the main causes of our sickness, apart from all of these vibrations being out of tune, is because in the Western world in particular we're very, very good at naming things. From birth, first of all there is no differentiation, and then we say "Mama" or "Mommy," and then we say "Daddy," and "teddy bear," and "panda" and "giraffe," and so on. We gradually differentiate the world out into its numerous forms, all of which are different from us and from each other. And then we get very good at this, and we get good grades at school, and we get good positions in university, and then we go to the moon. So this ability to technologize through naming and differentiation is something that in the West we excel in. It's very useful; it makes us feel safe, because we have a name for something and it reminds us of something we did yesterday, and we knew we didn't die, we weren't poisoned yesterday, and so it's OK today. What happens, though, because we're so good at this, is that when we perceive something -- whether we smell, touch, taste, see, hear -- we immediately name it, that's our reaction. So we say, "camera," we say "Jeffrey," we say "mountain."

MISHLOVE: Our power of domination of things is by naming them.

PURCE: Absolutely, and control, yes. But what happens is that we say "mountain," and then we're reminded that we had to meet somebody yesterday on the top of this hill and we missed our appointment.

MISHLOVE: In other words, we get into verbal free associations.

PURCE: Uh huh. We get locked into regrets about what we forgot to do, and anxieties about what we have to do therefore -- in other words, into the constructs of the mind about past and future. And these constructs of the mind are constructs of the mind; there's no reality in that, and that means that because we're so preoccupied with past and future, that we are not present, and we mostly live and die, rarely being present. And that is the main cause of our sickness, because these cycles of anxious, negative thought patterns become increasingly regular, and the more regular they become, the more they affect our energy; the more energetic they become, the more they finally become physiological, pathological, and we get sick.

MISHLOVE: What you're suggesting is that an illness often results from our worrying about things that are unreal -- the future, which doesn't exist yet, and the past, which is not real in the present.

PURCE: Exactly. This is the source of most of our illness. Even modern Western hospitals are beginning to acknowledge this -- stress reduction programs, anxiety. This is how they see it.

MISHLOVE: Yes, well, psychosomatic factors seem to account for -- now I think it's taken for granted -- eighty-five percent of illness is of this sort.

PURCE: Yes. And this is something that the Eastern traditions really have to offer the West, because they, through their vigilance of the mind, through their studies of the way the mind works, have realized the way that we've developed, the way that we've become such masters of naming and judgment, that they know how we can not do it when it's not appropriate. This is the basis of all their techniques. So by knowing how the mind works you trick the mind at its own game, and you splinter the attention into enough bits, give each of those bits something to do, so that they're not thinking about the shopping you forgot to do or the letter you have to write. They're all occupied busily visualizing or listening or doing -- scratching the tummy and rubbing the head, or whatever it is.

MISHLOVE: Through these various disciplines.

PURCE: Exactly.

MISHLOVE: But I think it's fair to say that certainly in our culture, while we can do disciplines, while people can learn how to really focus in on the here and now -- if nothing else, say, watching a program like this on television -- it's for brief periods of time. I don't think we can totally avoid, or most people don't seem to totally avoid, say, using words, naming, labeling. It's inevitable that we'll have this process of being distracted by our concerns of the past and future.

PURCE: Yes. So we need to know how not to do it, and how to sustain that absence of thought, because what you can do by this is to enter into the cracks between the thoughts. Thought and time are the same. If you have a thought, you're in time. But if you can manage one way or the other to come in the cracks of thoughts, then you can get into a timeless, spaceless world where you enter the nature of the mind itself, which is beyond the chattering mind, the anxious mind, the internal dialogue, and you can enter a state of emptiness and clarity.

MISHLOVE: And this is healing.

PURCE: And this is healing. This is the only real healing. If you remove a symptom -- if you have backache, you remove the backache, then you find you have eczema the next day. If the energies of the body are disturbed, if the energies of the person are disturbed, then that disturbance will manifest in any way that it can, and if you take away one way it'll come out in another way. You have to change the cause of the disturbance itself.

MISHLOVE: I think many people have been exposed, for example, to chanting Om, a common yogic chant. People often do it together in groups, and so on. Would you regard this as an effective use of sound?

PURCE: Yes. I mean, it's something very simple which people have discovered about, and certainly that's a very good thing to do. Om is one of the most ancient mantras, and when you use a sound which has been used for sacred purposes by thousands of years of sages chanting this mantra, then in addition to everything else that it does to you, you then tune into the attainment of all those who have ever chanted it, and the attainment of all these great yogis and saints then becomes available to you too. This is the principle also of ritual and all of mantra.

MISHLOVE: Now, what you're saying may sound very far-out and magical -- tuning into the attainment of other people who have practiced these sounds. I suppose it's fair to bring in at this point, Jill, that you are the spouse of Rupert Sheldrake, the British biologist who's developed the theory of morphogenetic fields. These fields are now being used by various theorists to try and establish in a scientific way how one can actually do that -- tune into the attainment of people who have gone before us.

PURCE: Yes. In other words, everything that's learned becomes present in the morphogenetic field, and therefore the more people that have learned something, the easier it is for everyone to learn it. And the more something has been associated with something, the more then that association is available to anyone who tunes in by doing something similar to that thing. That's why sound is so important also in ritual. The point about the language of mantra, the language of ritual, is that it's highly conservative, which means that the precise movement of the ritual, or the precise sounds of the mantra, ideally should never change. If they don't change, then you are doing it in exactly the same way that has always been done. Then the circumstances, the situation, is as similar as it could be. The whole point of morphogenetic fields is that the more similar the situation is, the more the resonance is activated, because resonance comes about through the activation of similar systems.

MISHLOVE: I think it's also fair to mention to our viewers that you are a former research fellow in the Department of Biophysics at King's College, University of London, where you worked with Maurice Wilkins, the Nobel laureate who discovered the DNA molecule. You probably encountered in your work there a sense of cellular processes, and how the vibrations, perhaps sound itself even, affects cells.

PURCE: Yes. This is something which is becoming of more and more interest in all aspects of science now, and we're just beginning to understand the vibratory nature of things.

MISHLOVE: I want to bring these points out because a person who might tune in late to this program and hear you talking about these things would say, "Gee, this is another California hippie." And you're not.

PURCE: No, I live in London.

MISHLOVE: How does one -- let's say someone who is suffering from an illness -- how does one in that position engage in the use of sound for self-healing?

PURCE: If an illness is very far developed, it's very difficult to originate something like that yourself, so it's very good if you can be helped in that. Recently I had a doctor come to one of my workshops in London. She was a doctor in a psychiatric hospital, one of the main psychiatric hospitals in London, and she worked in particular with old people with Alzheimer's disease, with progressed dementia. She said, "I don't know why, but maybe you could come and do something." She had no idea what; this was what her intuition was telling her. So I said, "Well, I've never worked with such people. I have no idea how it would be, but I'm on for the experiment."

MISHLOVE: Progressed dementia -- what do these people appear to be like when you're with them?

PURCE: Well, when I arrived at the hospital, I just looked into the ward where I was going to be working, and that's what I saw, and it was a very depressing sight. It was a very large ward, and there were many people in it, and they were all slumped over in their wheelchairs, in a totally depressed state, and some were groaning and moaning and completely like a whole part of them was dead. It was just beyond gone; it was really very depressing. So when I saw that, I really thought, what can I do? For a moment I really wondered. Then I decided to have a meeting with the doctors and the nurses, many of whom had come to sit in on the experiment, because they know so little about dementia, Alzheimer's disease -- they don't know what causes it, they don't know how to do anything about it, and so anything they're open for. I was surprised by that, but delighted, so I thought that it would be good to discuss with them what one could do. So I said, "Well, you know these people, you've worked with them. One could do this and this and this and this. What do you think would be a good idea?" And they said, "Well, maybe a little bit of that, or maybe this." So together we worked out something that would be appropriate. And so I went into this room. I'd asked for the ones who seemed most open to participating, whatever that meant -- they didn't speak, and I couldn't speak to them -- to come into a kind of circle. So we pulled their wheelchairs into a circle, and I just sat down amongst them, no introductions or nothing, because it would have been pointless. I had a rattle with me, and I just began to rattle, a kind of rhythmical beat, and I just kept it up, not knowing what would happen, but I just kept it up.

MISHLOVE: Trusting your own intuition, I gather.

PURCE: Yes, exactly. I must have done this for maybe twenty minutes -- just nothing but this rhythmical rattle, rhythmical rattle. And then at a certain point I just felt a ripple, nothing more than that, but just something was happening, just a ripple. So that felt good, and I just got something of that ripple in myself, so I then thought, OK, now I'll chant a refrain, nonsense syllables, it doesn't make sense, but just the beginning of a chant. So I began with this, and I continued the same rhythm, and then this one phrase of a chant, and I must have done that for twenty minutes more, just on and on and on and on and on. I was getting quite tired by this time. And then the ripple became almost like bubbles. There was a sense of just bubbles moving around the room, and one of the doctors looked at me and said, "Shall we try and get them up?" I said, "Are you sure?" He said, "Yes." And so the doctors and nurses came between all the people who were in the circle, and we raised them up, and then we just began, to the same rhythm, to the same phrase, to gently move backwards and forwards, move backwards and forwards. Some of them began to join, and some of them -- the atmosphere changed from ripples to bubbles, from bubbles to champagne. It was miraculous. We must have gone on like this for an hour and a half, and the whole atmosphere in the room totally changed. The heads were up and shining, and a sense of brilliance came into the room, and utter joy, which infected me, and then infected them back, and this sort of spire of joy increased until all the people who had seemed not to want to participate, who were sitting around the edge of the room, a head would come up and we'd stop them and say, "How about that one?" So we'd bring them in. Then, "How about that one?" and we'd bring them in. Finally we had the whole room, and everyone was doing it. It was a miracle.

MISHLOVE: And they were chanting with you? Or they were sort of swaying?

PURCE: Yes, swaying and moving and humming.

MISHLOVE: There was sort of a vibration, a vibratory phenomenon, that was being shared mutually amongst them, and it was of a healing nature.

PURCE: Yes, yes. When we finally stopped, we sat down again, it was another place, another time. It was unrecognizable from how we'd started.

MISHLOVE: Really!

PURCE: And the feeling amongst everyone there was that this should be part of their daily life -- that if this could happen every day, then the whole quality of their life would change, because it cuts through all the layers and gets to something very ancient.

MISHLOVE: The vibration of the sound of that ancient chanting quality, it breaks through the layers of deadness that these people are surrounded with.

PURCE: Absolutely, yes. And it's nonverbal, it gets through to deep, deep layers that are untouchable by any kind of rational, verbal conversation, discussion that has do to with the nitty-gritty of the daily life that they have to deal with.

MISHLOVE: This might be an appropriate time for me to ask you, Jill, if you could share with our viewers now some of the kinds of chanting that you do.

PURCE: Yes. One of the kinds of chanting that I do is based on the very ancient shamanic technique of chanting on one note and going into the very heart of that note and revealing, making audible, the innermost parts, the inner structure of the sound itself, so that you hear them as the pure rainbow colors of the sound itself, like a kind of mystical flute, almost. This is one of the things that I help people to do, teach them how to do this. This is something that was done in Mongolia, or still is in certain parts, and also in certain parts of Tibet. Should I show you?

MISHLOVE: Yes, I presume -- let's, before you start, just mention a little bit more about how a sound like this might have a healing property.

PURCE: Many different reasons for this. One is that it's a very, very profound, sonorous yogic technique. It requires tremendous breath control, and when you control the breath in this kind of way, normally this kind of breath control requires years of yogic practice, just concentrating on the breath.

MISHLOVE: I might mention that you studied ten years with a Tibetan chant master.

PURCE: One of the tricks about working with sound is that you master the breath painlessly, because working with breath is really quite an arduous thing to do. But if you do it by chanting, then somehow the breathing carries on the back of the chanting, and you can transform your breathing much more quickly and without realizing you're doing it. On the other hand, you also have to transform your breathing in order to chant, so they help each other. That's one way that it's very transformative. Then it requires -- well, firstly, one of the main reasons that chanting is used in ancient traditions, and all traditions, to understand the nature of the mind, is because when you're chanting, the point is not just to chant, but while you're chanting to listen to yourself chanting. If you do that you're creating a circuit of attention. You are making the sound -- subject; you are listening to the sound that you're making -- object. So you join up the separated parts of your being and become both subject and object. You become the one, the creator of the sound, the sounding and the sounded. So that's another. Then another aspect is that in order to do this kind of chanting, it requires a very precise and subtle manipulation and a dislocation of the normal sequence of brain and bodily functions, so that you're working with parts of you that you never normally would have to in normal life.

MISHLOVE: In effect, using different parts of your nervous system structure completely.

PURCE: Exactly, yes, and therefore stimulating parts of the brain that normally you would never have need to.

MISHLOVE: And I should think stimulating comparable parts in the brains of those of us who will be listening to you.

PURCE: Yes, yes. Then it seems -- it has many aspects. Then it seems that it works traditionally on the subtle body, because it's almost like that aspect of the sound which is the most subtle part of the sound, which is almost light, and it works on the light aspects of the body, on the purely energetic parts of the body. Then also it seems to be in this ancient shamanic tradition almost a way of contacting the realm of spirit. So just a few reasons.

MISHLOVE: Well, with that introduction, let us proceed.

PURCE: [Chanting]

MISHLOVE: That's quite remarkable. I would have sworn there was an electronic synthesizer in here.

PURCE: Or some angels flying around, yes.

MISHLOVE: Yes, there are many overtones, or subtle resonances, that were coming out of that sound. Was that one tone?

PURCE: Yes, you heard one note, one tone. But by the changing of the resonances, you heard what makes that sound up. What the sound actually consists in became audible.

MISHLOVE: I hope for the sake of our viewers and listeners that that gets translated across the electronic medium, because it's really quite extraordinary, and I felt like -- the phrase, being cleansed somehow -- by that sound.

PURCE: One of the main functions of sound in all of these yogic healing processes is for purification.

MISHLOVE: It was as if it was going up and down a scale -- ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho, almost like that, reaching through different levels -- I don't know if levels is quite right -- levels of my own body, in a way. I have to say, I can testify that there's something there.

PURCE: These are the pure sounds of matter in its natural harmonic structure vibrating. It's the same structure that builds the Gothic cathedrals, the Egyptian temples, the leaves on the trees, the shells in the ocean. It's the same geometry, but heard as pure sound, and a pure sound that's almost light. I like to think of it as a kind of homeopathy of sound.

MISHLOVE: You have discovered or developed ways of using the human organism that have been lost or forgotten in our culture.

PURCE: Yes. And all forms of using sound have been lost in our culture. We have no excuses as part of our everyday to use it anymore. We turn on the shower and we're embarrassed and we close the doors and we hope nobody hears us. Occasionally in a sort of modified form we might sing to our children, if we know that no one else is around; or if we know we can sing, we might join a choir. But there is no real way for us to come together in a sacred manner to tune with our --

MISHLOVE: Even our musical traditions seem to have lost something of what you're working with here.

PURCE: Oh yes. It's become a performance, for someone else to listen to.

MISHLOVE: Whereas I imagine music probably did originate itself as a healing art.

PURCE: Oh yes, yes -- a healing art, and a tuning in to the pace and the time and the divinity. The Chinese and the Greeks said quite explicitly that if we don't sustain this tuning, if we don't make the right sounds, then the world will fall apart.

MISHLOVE: Jill Purce, you're certainly going very, very far to help bring the world together through your sound. Thank you so much for sharing it with me.

PURCE: You're welcome.

MISHLOVE: It's been a pleasure. I feel really touched -- literally touched, by what you have shared. Thank you again, Jill, for being with me.

END 


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