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Susan Elizabeth Hale MA is the author of Sacred Space, Sacred Sound The Acoustic Mysteries of Holy Places and Song and Silence: Voicing the Soul.  Susan is creator of Earth Day-Sing for the Trees, an annual global celebration on April 22.  She now lives in England where she communes with ancient trees and holy wells.


The Sacred Voice

By Susan Elizabeth Hale

Within each of us is a sacred architecture and music that many ignore: your singing voice. This voice contains our deepest feelings, our spiritual longings, our hopes, fears and personal truths. Singing is the most personalized form of musical expression. It involves the diaphragm, chest, heart, lungs, throat, tongue, face—the exposed frontal part of our bodies where our deepest emotions are stored. When we sing we become a resonator, an instrument vibrating with the beauty of tone. We feel song vibrate through our entire system, linking body, mind, emotion, soul and spirit. We are the only species that can change from spoken language into song.

I have sung in some of the world’s most magnificent acoustic spaces, from the prehistoric cave of Lascaux, Chartres Cathedral and the Great Pyramid of Giza. This journey has taken me deep inside the mysteries of the voice, to the understanding of the voice as a holy instrument. Our voices, available to us at every moment, are the only instruments that can change shape. Through the malleability of the physical architecture through which the voice sounds, resonant chambers are created that resemble caves, cathedral naves, and arches. Perhaps our own inherent physical structures provided the inspiration for sacred architecture. For instance the interior of the Red Pyramid of Dashur in Egypt is the shape of the nasal cavity. In Luxor, in the Holy of Holies at the Temple of Man also corresponds to the nasal cavity. Its Egyptian name “shtyt” is also the same word which means both “sacred” and “hidden” and is “...connected to the sympathetic and vagus nerves.”1 When resonated through the repeated stimulation of the nasal cavity through chanting, particularly the letters M, N and mantras such as Om, altered states of consciousness are possible. Behind the nose and between the eyes, the magnetite mineral magnetite is deposited close to the pineal and pituitary glands of the spongy bone in the center of the head.

“M’ is a primordial sound from which other sounds are generated. In creation myths throughout the world song or sound brings life. For the Keres people, a pueblo culture living along the Rio Grande in New Mexico the world began when Spider Woman shaped the world through humming and singing. “This was how the directions came to be, how the seasons came to be.” This myth points to an important biological fact. Humming is one of our first sounds. It is the sound of nourishment, of bonding with the mother. This sound is universal to humans and animals alike. In the beginning Spider Woman hummed life into being. Through her song she shaped the world. Mountains, rivers, elm trees and oaks came into form. Human development shares the same metaphor as this Laguna Pueblo myth. Humming is a universal sound, one of the first sounds we make while breast feeding.

“M” is a sound associated with the Mother realm. Consider the many different words for mother around the world: Mama, Amma, Madre, Mutter, Mater, Ma. “Mmm,” is a sound of bonding that transcends species. Cows and sheep bellow or bleat a deep low “Mmm” after giving birth to signal that it is time to nurse. “M’ is the automatic sound of satisfaction, of a body saying that a chocolate covered strawberry is delicious. “M” is a connecting sound. A good therapist knows this instinctively and has a variety of ways to say “Um Hmmm” to let their clients know that they are understood.

“M” is the only letter in the English alphabet that is internal. “M’ is a nourishing sound made with the lips closed which keeps tones circulating inside the mouth and into the body cavity, feeding the brain and quieting the nervous system. Place your hand on the top of your head while you hum and you will feel it immediately begin to vibrate. Humming helps clean the brain by bringing the skull into vibration which helps waste particles move through the blood/brain barrier.

Humming while changing the position of the tongue inside the mouth generates harmonics which many sound healers believe to be necessary for healing. As we have seen from the example in Egypt at the Temple of Man “M” also vibrates the nasal cavity. Author Hans Hickman observed that incantations are often associated with double hieroglyphs for H and N which would produce a nasal sound when chanted.

We are built in the proportions of the golden mean, a ratio found within every natural form. We create relationships through our voices to others and to the space itself. Through the intoning of vowels harmonics are created that add more magic and mystery when we hear them reverberate through our bodies and join with a sacred space, be it a chamber grave or a cathedral. The golden mean ratio was used in many of the compositions of German mystic and composer Hildegard of Bingen. Composer and mathematician, Pozzi Escot charted the notes of one of Hildegard’s pieces in a three-dimensional form and found that it resembled a Gothic cathedral, illustrating that the “...shape of the building in which the chant was sung was the same shape as the chant itself.”2 Initially Gregorian chant was monophonic and then began to move above the melody line in parallel fifths. The perfect fifth, with its characteristic open sound, is the first harmonic in the overtone series. This earliest form of western musical harmony occurred, believes the late composer and author Kay Gardner, when“...the singers, chanting in highly resonant stone cathedrals and monasteries, were hearing the fifth naturally occurring as a harmonic above a single melody line... soon they began singing what they heard.”3

Voice is a portable instrument that can create vowels, the emotional and sacred content of speech which is also the earliest speech both in babies and in early humans. Singing vowels in sacred sites creates magical experiences. Vowels are the only parts of the alphabet that are created by breath, the spiritual animating principle of life. In the sacred languages of Hebrew and Egyptian vowels were not written but intoned, making them come alive through harmonics. For example in mystical Jewish writings, Abraham, the Patriarch of the Jews, was said to have “...bound the letters of the Torah to his tongue...he drew them in water, kindled them with fire, agitated them with breath.”4 A Jewish meditative text, The Sefer Yetzirah: The Book of Creation, says there are about “...sextillion possible permutations of all 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This is very close to the number of stars in the observable universe”5 Hebrew letters equate to numbers, sounds and notes of the scale. The Sefer Yetzirah instructs the reader to engrave them with the voice, carve them on the breath and set the letters the mouth in five places for the five dimensions, the five vowels, and the five phonetic families. The first word of the Torah is Bereshit, which means “In the beginning.” It ushers in all of Creation. Bereshit contains five types of sounds: labial, labial-dental, palatal, silibant, and guttural.

Each of the Hebrew alphabets twenty-two letters has a distinctive sound. “Mmm” for example,is the sound for the labial letter Mem. As we have shown this mothering sound hums and relaxes. Different states of consciousness are associated with each sound, from the ten Sefirot of the Kabalistic Tree of Life. Mem is like water; it calms the mind and puts one in touch with the watery world of Wisdom called Hokhmah. Every possible vowel combination is intoned in the process. For example: sha ma, sha me, sha mi, sha mo, sho ma.

While our earliest sound as an infant may be the sound M associated with the mother, vowels are also our earliest sounds conveying both pleasure, surprise and pain. Vowels form sacred geometry as can be shown through the science of cymatics, a process of seeing the shapes of sound. Vowels are the primordial seeds of speech, gateways through which both emotion and spiritual experience are conveyed. Instinctively we express ourselves through vowels. For example we express awe, reverence and compassion through an AH, the sound seed that resonates the heart. Allelujah, Amen, Allah all come from this wonder of the AH. This sound of awe is mirrored architecturally in the ogive, a shape that made gothic architecture possible.

The entire human language is born into us. Every possible musical combination exists in the mouth, jaw, palate and tongue. What we hear becomes what we speak as the same neural pathways are used over and over. “The very word language derives from the Latin lingua meaning ‘tongue.’ ” 6 Because we practice and select the sounds of our Mother tongue, eventually we lose our ability to make vocal sounds from other languages easily. Infinite variations of sound and pitch exist within us through the soundboards of our vocal structure.

Cymatics has also shown that sound is spherical and that each vowel and tone has its own inherent sacred geometry. When we sing we shape the air. Though we can’t see this with the naked eye, the sonic energy we create through our voices infuses the air with our animated breath and is sent out into the world. Sound matters. For Mayan people “the belief was that the seasons didn’t bring the birds, but rather the birds’ language of magical sounds brought about seasonal changes in temperature and moisture.”7 This coincides with Rudolf Steiner’s teaching that bird song in spring was necessary to bring plants into bloom. John Michell has proposed that in ancient Britain a tradition of perpetual choirs existed with the purpose of enchanting the land. 24 hours a day sonic energy generated from this choir of twelve monks brought nourishment to the land. We are the ultimate instrument. As we explore the sacred spaces within us and open to our own internal sound pathways, I believe we can harmonize with spirit and the world around us. We live in a time when we are out of tune with nature and with our biological needs. Our nervous system, and indeed the nervous system of the planet, is over stimulated by artificial sounds that create stress. Electricity, cell phones, computers, wireless technology, traffic, fluorescent lights, sirens, all emit frequencies that are damaging to our physical, emotional and spiritual health. Many species of animals, birds, frogs, that help to tune our world are endangered. Surely it is time again to reclaim our natural heritage as singers. Like Spider Woman we can begin the day by humming and singing, renewing our world and opening up to new possibilities of expanded consciousness and deeper connection with the world around and within us.


1 John Anthony West, The Serpent in the Sky: Wisdom of Ancient Egypt, Thames and Hudson, New York, 2000, p. 89.

2 Kay Gardner, Sounding the Inner Landscape: Music as Medicine, Caduceus Publications, Stonington, ME, 1990, p. 109.

3 Ibid, p. 222.

4 Aryeh Kaplan, The Sefer Yetzirah: The Book of Creation, Weiser, York Beach, ME., 1997, p. 90.

5 Ibid, p. 193.

6 James D’Angelo, article “Voice Power, Atlantis Rising, Issue Number 55, Jan.-Feb., 2006.

7 Martin Prectel, Secrets of the Talking Jaguar: A Mayan Shaman’s Journey into the Heart of the Indigenous Soul, New York, Tarcher, 1998.


Harmonic Hum

Close your eyes.

Close your lips and hum into the whole body by dropping the jaw and feeling the resonance move downwards.

Hum on ‘M’ sound. Listen and feel where and how you feel the vibration.

Add ‘O’ internally and play with the two sounds.

Keeping the lips closed experiment with moving the tongue inside the mouth while also changing the shape of the mouth and hear harmonics begin to emerge. Explore. Where do you feel these sounds vibrating? Notice how they resonate.

Move the tongue up and down the palate and notice how this automatically changes the sound and the harmonics.

Continue to explore the harmonic hum for at eight minutes.

At the end of the practice gather the saliva in your mouth and swish it and then swallow in three portions with the intention that the saliva has collected the sonic blossoms and healing properties of the sounds and drink it as if you were taking in a nourishing healing liquid. Imagine sending it throughout your body, focusing on those areas in need of healing.

Susan Elizabeth Hale M. A., is an internationally renowned music therapist, sound healer and author. Her latest book is Sacred Space, Sacred Sound: The Acoustic Mysteries of Holy Places. She is a seminar leader, teacher and guide, helping people to explore their sacred paths and find and free the natural voice.

For information on Susan’s CD
Circle the Earth with Song
and upcoming events including
free tele-seminars go to:

www.songkeeper.net 


Advance Praise for
Sacred Space, Sacred Sound
The Acoustic Mysteries of Holy Places
Susan Elizabeth Hale
Foreword by Don Campbell

July 2007 ▪ ISBN 0-8356-0856-5 ▪ 6x9 ▪ 286 pp

Together we stood in awe in the Gallery of Bulls in the prehistoric cave of Lascaux. No more words. No more questions. Only five trembling humans, strangers from different countries, forever linked to this place…Sounds rose from within. The cave was telling me how to sing…I heard an echo, my voice reflected back by the bison, no longer just my voice, but the bison’s voice, the voice of the cave itself.

There is a fundamental human need to create sacred spaces where sound reverberates to commune with the ancestors and give praise to the Divine. Ancient people recognized the importance of sound and sought out resonant caves to perform rituals. Modern-day temples and cathedrals were built to enhance sound and music. We build sacred places to house music, to hear ourselves and Spirit more clearly, and to create relationship between the seen and the unseen worlds within and around us.

“The voice itself is a cathedral,” says Susan Elizabeth Hale, author of Sacred Space, Sacred Sound. “We are sound chambers resonating with the One Song.” The first of its kind to approach sacred architecture from a perspective of sound and consciousness, this book explores the acoustics of sacred space as an avenue for understanding. It is about music powerful enough to transform us into a greater reality. Based on Susan’s life-long experience as a singer, 27 years as a music therapist, and 10 years of journeys across the globe researching sacred sites, this work discusses the desecration and disharmony of our current world while demonstrating how people are building new sacred sites with resonant qualities.

At last, a true adventurer in music healing addresses how sacred spaces hold the power of sound to give us a sense of the ineffable.

----Don Campbell, author of The Mozart Effect.

The ancient wisdom of all great civilizations was very much aware of the profound relationship between mind, sound and environment, and the according impact upon emotional and physical health. Spiritual elders would regularly take their people to sacred spaces for meditation, chanting, and prayer. We call this activity “pilgrimage.” Whether Tibet or India, Greece or the Americas, the idea of the beneficial effects of sacred activity in sacred spaces was ubiquitous.

Somehow this wisdom got lost in the 20th century, with its seemingly endless wars, and the utilitarian vision of the earth as being merely an object of human plunder.

Susan Hale’s book is an auspicious omen, a peacock in a lotus garden, signifying that perhaps in the 21st century humanity will come to its senses and once more appreciate the transformative power of sacred sites, the healing energies of power places, and how body, speech and mind become one in the sacred trinity of sacred space, healing sound and uncontrived spirit.

Glenn H. Mullin, author of over 20 books and co-producer of five audio recordings of  Tibetan sacred music, including Blavatsky's Tibet: Sacred Power Places and their Spiritual Mysteries

Susan Hale takes us on a spiritual autobiographical sound journey and re-enchants the world around us. She profoundly heightens our awareness of the natural processes and the creation of living forms through sound while easily supplying a wealth of knowledge of the sound phenomena and the history of the sacred sites. She personally introduces us to significant figures in the field of sound research and music who offer their insights and wisdom.

This is a deeply heartfelt sonic travelogue that presents us with familiar landscapes and great architectural spaces and transforms them into magical, enthralling temples of harmony. Like an intuitive acoustic archaeologist, Hale writes so totally from deep personal experience that we are brought into the living presence of the sacred spaces from around the world. Sacred Space, Sacred Sound lends fresh meaning to the word "sacred" and is a glorious hymn to both the ecstasy and serenity to be found in great architectural spaces and Nature itself.

James D'Angelo, PhD, author, The Healing Power of the Human Voice; editor, Caduceus Magazine

In Sacred Space, Sacred Sound Susan Hale describes her awakening and enlivening experiences of listening to and singing with songs perceptible in places and spaces made holy by hundreds of years of prayer and sacred rite and intention. In this perceptive, beautifully and poetically written account, she also encourages us to listen to and dialogue with the unique vibrations of all of creation immediately surrounding us, thus creating a holy and respect-filled relationship.

Katharine Le Mée, author of Chant: The Origins, Form, Practice, and Healing Power of Gregorian Chant and The Benedictine Gift to Music

Susan Elizabeth Hale's exploration of sound in the context of the world's sacred places leads inexorably to the conclusion that what we commonly think of as consciousness must be more expansive. It is, in fact, the ground state of the universe and through resonance and harmony we can experience a genuine unity. My own experience of meditation and sound in the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid at Giza confirms Hale's revelatory message in this remarkable book.

Richard Geldard, author of The Traveler's Key to Ancient Greece and the forthcoming Parmenides and the Way of Truth

Susan Elizabeth Hale explores the primal role of sonics in ancient cultures, in our communion with the spirits of Nature, and indeed in every dimension of our life on Earth. Through the lens of personal experience, she reveals the sacred science hidden behind the song, music and speech of the various religions of the world. Sacred Space is an impressive study of the transcendental power of sound.

Victoria LePage, author of Shambhala: The Fascinating Truth behind the Myth of Shangri-La

 


Related Links


Books

Sacred Space, Sacred Sound The Acoustic Mysteries of Holy Places
by Susan Elizabeth Hale, foreword by Don Campbell

 

 

 

 

 

 

Product Description

A pioneer in the field of music therapy and an aficionado of musical styles from all over the world, Susan Elizabeth Hale has journeyed across the planet and devoted 10 years of research to deliver this exploration of the sound mysteries at holy places. Hale details the acoustic properties of the numerous sacred sites she has visited, including painted caves, cathedrals, stupas, oracle chambers, shrines, kivas, megalithic monuments, pyramids and other buildings that celebrate and praise the divine.

From the Inside Flap

Chartres Cathedral Cathedral space is perfectly suited for chanting because the voice too has immense space, great depths and soaring heights. The voice can be a nave waiting to be filled with praise, a passageway for the Divine. The voice can be a reflector of silent interiors, a deep well of knowing, an altar to receive communion. Sound travels up through the body. The voice is the place where spirit and matter merge, where heaven is brought to earth.

The Crypt

Sometimes we need to be witnessed by others for these mysteries to unfold. On my second day at Chartres I toured the crypt with six others. I asked the guide if I could sing, still reverberating with my experience singing the night before. "Oui, Madame." After I sang a brief song, a Belgium couple came up to me. The man said, "It was you Madame! It was you we heard sing in the cathedral last night. Do you know that your voice filled the entire cathedral? We went all around looking for you." He said his name was Franz and introduced me to his wife Beatrice. Since he spoke fluent French I asked if he would mind asking the guide if I could return to the crypt to sing for a longer time. "Yes, will you allow us to accompany you?" I was moved to have companions with me on my song quest.

The three of us returned later that afternoon and had an hour alone together in the crypt. Wordlessly I went to the altar of Our Lady Under the Earth. Franz and Beatrice sat on different sides of the aisle. We were silent, each in our own state of prayer. I closed my eyes breathing in the narrow chapel and heard centuries of pilgrim voices still lingering in the air. I heard the sound of my heart, a song of the moment emerged, first with deep blue "Ouuu's" that changed into rosy "Ahhh's." The "Ah" became Ave Maria. I felt I had sung here before with these two people. I was drawn to walk down the aisle singing. From the back of the crypt I heard the overtones of my Alleluia resonate off the far wall where the Black Madonna sat. I imagined what it would be like if the room were filled with other singers. Suddenly the lights went out and just as suddenly tiny rose colored lights illuminated the aisle. A group of about twenty singers entered the crypt singing Alleluia. They formed a circle around the altar and sang. I moved slowly towards them. Franz joined me and we walked down the aisle together. The group opened to include us and we all sang as one, becoming the rose singing together in praise of the mystery.

After several songs in Latin we processed slowly up and down the aisle singing Alleluia, singing this pilgrim's path. Some sang with their hands over their hearts, others with their hands extended out. Some walked with their eyes closed. Mine were open in ecstasy. Then, without a word or cue, following some other voice, they left singing. We heard their voices linger in another part of the crypt. Then it was quiet.

Beatrice was crying. She looked at me with tears streaming down her face. I sat in front of the Black Madonna and now it was my turn to cry. I felt so small compared with all this glory and beauty. I couldn't comprehend any of it. I heard the Black Madonna speak to my heart, "Yes, you are small, tinier than you can even imagine. Do you know how vast the universe is? You can't begin to understand the powers that move through me. Do you know how big you are? How much you are needed? Do you know how important it is that you sing?" I sat with her words, humble and grateful, moved to trembling.

As we were leaving Beatrice paused for a moment and then went to the altar. She stood silently and then sang a song in Dutch, her voice shook with emotion and praise. We emerged from the crypt, hugged and then parted. Later that day in the cathedral I met the three English ladies who had been with us on the crypt tour. When they asked me about my day I told them the experience I had in the crypt with Franz and Beatrice. While we were talking they appeared. I introduced them to each other and asked Beatrice about the song she had sung. She told me she was scared, that she had never sung alone, but knew it was something she must do. As she translated the song into English the three ladies beamed, "we know that song! It's written by Rudolf Steiner. We must all sing it together in the center of the labyrinth." Franz said "Yes! The cathedral and the human cathedral must meet through the voice!" Together we walked into the petals of the labyrinth, six of us, from Belgium, England and America, one for each petal.

In Search of the Holy Grail Do we wander from land to land...

I left Chartres, that great Lady of Roses, on a bus to southern France. As I climbed aboard I saw an African woman dressed in a long blue satin gown with a blue satin turban on her head. At her breast was a nursing child. The Black Madonna has traveled with me ever since.


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