An internationally acknowledged master teacher, Jonathan Goldman has studied with masters of sound from both the scientific and spiritual traditions, including the Dalai Lama’s Chanting Gyuto and Gyume Monks. In this interview he gives an overview of some of the research that has been done to document the science behind the healing and transformative power of chanting.
Integral Yoga Magazine (IYM): What is the science of mantra?
Jonathan Goldman (JG): There are a number of different sciences behind mantras. Some of are the “hard” sciences—physics, psychoacoustics, etc. Some are spiritual sciences like the different yogic practices that work with sound. One can see that chanting mantras, as observed years ago by Dr. Herbert Benson, helps induce the “relaxation response,” causing reduction of heartbeat, brain waves and respiration. On another level, as Dr. David Shananoff-Khalsa believes, recitation of mantras enables the tongue to stimulate the acupuncture meridians inside the mouth, particularly on the roof. Dr. Ranjie Singe found that chanting specific mantras caused the release of melatonin and that, because of this, there are many benefits, including shrinkage of tumors and enhanced sleep. It’s also been found that self-created sounds such as chanting will cause the left and right hemispheres of the brain to synchronize. Even just listening to certain chants has beneficial effects.
IYM: Is this what is referred to as “vibrational medicine?”
JG: Yes, vibrational medicine is the basis of many healing modalities, including homeopathy, acupuncture polarity therapy and Reiki. The basic principle is that the entire universe, including all the parts of our bodies, is simply made of vibration. This concept is supported by the new superstring theory of physics. When we are in a natural, resonant vibration, we are in a state of health, but if some part of the body begins to vibrate at a counter frequency, the energy becomes stuck and disease sets in. Vibrational medicine says that it is possible to use sound to project the correct resonant frequency back into that part of the body, causing it to return to a state of health. This can be done through electronic instrumentation or through using the human voice. Since sound can potentially rearrange molecular structure, the possible healing applications of sound are limitless.
IYM: In the film, What the Bleep Do We Know there was a Japanese scientist who demonstrated the effect of sound on water.
JG: Yes, Masuru Emoto demonstrated that water molecules are actually affected by sound and our intention. Intention involves our thoughts and feelings—it is the energy behind the sounds that we create. Emoto found that a molecule of clean water looked like a snowflake—very geometric. He had photographs of polluted water molecules, which at first looked like mud. After a priest chanted over the polluted water, it was photographed again and the water looked like a snowflake—the sound and intentionality had restored it to its pristine shape.
Fabian Maman, a French acupuncturist and sound healer took Kirlian photographs of hemoglobin blood cells that were exposed to different sounds. He took photos of blood cells exposed to an ascending chromatic scale—C, C#, D, etc. created on a xylophone. Each note affected the cell differently, creating a different shape and different Kirlian color. This demonstrated clearly that cellular structure and energy are affected by sound.
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I had recently read an article discussing how sound affects water molecules. It mentioned the “snowflake” like designs when soft music was played versus the “jagged-edge” patterns that arose when heavy metal music was played. The article went on to discuss how (since we are made of water and blood) the sounds we hear, or the sounds a child in a womb hears, can be affected. Interesting thoughts.