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Brief History of Sound Healing

The History of Sound Healing is a long and multi-faceted exploration, being an ancient practice that spans back thousands of years. Promoting healing and wellness in the body, mind, and spirit - this modality involves various ancient and modern techniques utilizing singing bowls, tuning forks, drums, flutes, voice and more. Throughout history many cultures have incorporated sound into their healing practices. In ancient Egypt, healing incantations inscribed on papyrus texts reflect the importance of sound in their healing rituals.


Similarly, the ancient Greeks demonstrated a keen interest in sound healing, employing instruments like flutes, lyres, and zithers. Aristotle stated in De Anima that the soul is made of harmony. Notably, Pythagoras discovered the healing power of musical intervals, and Hippocrates himself utilized music as a therapeutic tool for his patients. Plato, who is thought to have been influenced by Pythagoras' teachings is known to have said “Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul".



The intertwining of music and medicine was profound in ancient cultures. Apollo, revered as both the God of Music and the God of Medicine in Greek mythology, symbolized the intrinsic connection between sound and healing. This sentiment resonates in the Christian Bible's assertion that "in the beginning was the word," highlighting the primordial significance attributed to sound. Across civilizations sound healing has persisted as a cornerstone of holistic wellness practices, transcending cultural boundaries to nurture the body, mind, and spirit.


Flutes are some of the oldest instruments and date back tens of thousands of years - the oldest flute found dating to approximately 60,000 years ago. In 1999, 32 pelican bone flutes were discovered at the site of Caral-Supe in Peru, one of the oldest civilizations in America dating back to 3500 B.C. Today, many Native American cultures of North and South America still utilize the flute in ceremonial and musical ceremonies. Gongs too have a long and detailed history - first emerging approximately 5000 years ago, their origins are divided between China and Turkmenistan. They are considered sacred instruments believed to have healing properties - the resonant tones are thought to connect individuals with the divine and induce states of relaxation and meditation. They first began making widespread appearances in the United States during the 1960s, with Yogi Bhajan helping promote their popularity. 



Singing Bowls are another ancient instrument that have been around and properly utilized for millennia. Tibetan Bowls first made their appearance in Mesopotamia around 5,000 years ago - and from there spread to Nepal, India, and famously Tibet. Tibetan Bowls were originally crafted by highly skilled artisans and were appreciated as a piece of art. Initially made of pure copper for medicinal purposes - most of today’s bowls are crafted from a blend of materials including silver, iron, and gold. They have been revered by Buddhist Monks and health practitioners alike for their ability to produce resonant and harmonious sounds - inducing states of meditation and promoting healing. It is believed in Tibetan culture that bowls can help balance the chakras, simulate circulation, and promote physical and emotional well being. 


Crystal Bowls have a more modern history when compared to Tibetan bowls. Becoming popular in the 20th century these bowls are crafted from high quality silica and upwards of 99.99% pure quartz. They were originally manufactured for the semi-conductor industry in California - but were soon appreciated for their ability to emanate healing tones. Doctors and contributors to the field such as oncologist Mitchell Gaynor, have spent countless hours documenting the impact Crystal Bowls can have on our cells and curing disease. Crystal Bowls are used in a manner similar to Tibetan Bowls, with practitioners either striking or rubbing the bowl to produce sound vibrations. The tones of certain bowls are said to align with particular energy centers in the body, promoting balance, relaxation, and healing. 


Another more modern modality is that of Tuning Forks. First invented in 1711 by John Shore - who was the lutist and trumpeter for King James II - the purpose has evolved from tuning instruments to being one of the most powerful tools in the Sound Healing toolbox. Tuning forks produce pure tones and vibrations which can induce countless healing benefits. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, scientists like Ernst Chladni and Felix Savart used tuning forks to study acoustics and vibrations, laying the groundwork for their use in medical diagnosis. In the mid-19th century, French physician René Laennec invented the stethoscope, which incorporated the use of tuning forks to help diagnose heart and lung conditions. In more modern research, Biolfield Tuning focuses on the effects instruments such as tuning forks can have on our well-being and everyday life, modern contributors to this field include Eileen Day McKusick and Fabien Maman. In the 70s Maman discovered the healing potential of working with Tuning Forks on acupuncture points.


Voice and the use of mantras are another modality that has been appreciated for thousands of years. Mantra comes from the Sanskrit terms “Man” meaning “mind” and “Trai” meaning “device for liberation”, so quite literally “mind for device of liberation”. The use of voice and mantras spans back for the entirety of humanity - being utilized in different formats by different cultures. Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism have utilized mantras for centuries - often chanted or recited during meditation or prayer, each mantra is associated with a specific deity and purpose. For example “Om” is considered the most sacred sound in Hinduism and represents the Universe. Mongolians and other cultures have utilized voice in the form of “throat singing”. Also known as “overtones” or “harmonics”, this is a traditional technique that involves producing multiple pitches simultaneously. Often used in shamanic rituals and ceremonies, this modality has been becoming popular in the West - the deep, resonant tones are believed to have healing properties and the ability to alter consciousness. Native American use voice in ceremonial and ritual purposes as well. For instance the Navajo have the “Night Chant” which they have incorporated for thousands of years - thought to restore balance and harmony. Similarly, the Sioux also utilize chanting as part of their sacred Sun Dance. 


There have also been countless contributions to the field from numerous individuals touching on the different facets over the years such as Alfred Tomatis and Peter Guy Manners. Tomatis is famous for his "Tomatis Method" which incorporates the sounds of Mozart and Gregorian chanting - said to aid those with learning disabilities and depression. Mannings is notable for his contributions towards cymatics (the study of vibrational waves on physical objects) in the medical field. Heinrich Wilhelm Dove is another important figure - whom in the 1800s discovered and began working with binaural beats.



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