Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Name of God

“Sound is an evocative and thus a creative experience. Many
cultures credit the gods with the power to make sounds, either
through natural agencies, such as wind, water, and animals, or
through musical instruments. In myth, sound can be bewitching
(the voices of the sirens), or destructive (the shout with which
Joshua and the Israelites felled the walls of Jericho). Many
creation myths talk of sound disturbing the pre-existent
stillness, thereby bringing the world into being.” David Fontana,
The Secret Language of Symbols, (San Francisco, CA: Chronicle
Books, 1994), p. 64.

Velikovsky suggested that all humanity had once heard what they perceived to be a celestial voice, which spoke the name of God.

That name, according to the good doctor, can be found in the ancient traditions of many cultures today, good evidence that the voice was heard worldwide in antiquity. Perhaps the best instance of its preservation is in the sacred Hebrew name, YAHWEH. For reasons that will become clear by the end of this monograph, the ineffable word was mere onomatopoeia.

The source of this voice, according to Dr. Velikovsky, was the electromagnetic oscillations produced by the interplay between Earth and a proximate body. The Earth, acting as a great transducer or speaker, effectively converted those electromagnetic waves into audible sounds. A clue to the nature and form of this ancient voice may be found in the behavior of modern radio receivers because they convert electromagnetic signals into audio - in effect, doing the same thing that the Earth did anciently.

Early radio receivers often produced an annoying ‘whistling’ sound that can only be called an electronic glissando. This sound began at a very high tone, slid down to a very low tone, then slid back up to the high tone. In fact, the receiver was reproducing a long wavelength carrier frequency on which the program audio was superimposed or modulated. The carrier wave is normally suppressed by circuitry within the radio so that only the desirable program material - music or voice - was reproduced. The technology to suppress the carrier signal was crude in early receivers, hence the ‘whistle’ was often heard when attempting to tune the set.

This ‘whistle’ holds the key to understanding the sacred name, YAHWEH.

To understand the relationship, we must alter that crude ‘whistle.’ Perhaps the most useful device for its reproduction is a modern analog music synthesizer, which can be manipulated - using tone or waveform generators, envelope generators and a variety of filters - to produce “electronic” sounds of epic proportions. In fact, the ‘whistle’ effect can be enhanced and refined to reproduce what must certainly be a close approximation of the sound the ancients heard.

First, we begin with ‘pink noise’ - a hissing, rumbling noise that contains all audible frequencies sounding at the same time, with extra emphasis on the lower frequencies. This is the simple ‘shhhh’ sound we make with our mouths when we wish to quiet a noisy child. This represents the omnipresent background noise in the universe, generated by all the electromagnetic activity around us. We push that noise through a comb filter, which is driven by an extremely low frequency sine wave - a pure fundamental tone that is the equivalent of the electronic oscillations set up by intersecting planets in antiquity. The sine wave causes the filter to emphasize only those parts of the pink noise that correspond to its amplitude - the ‘peak’ of the wave emphasizes only the highest frequencies, the ‘valley’ of the wave emphasizes only the lowest frequencies. This produces a ‘swishing’ sound, much like that which you can make with your mouth by rapidly opening and closing your lips while making the “shhhh” sound. It sounds like the onomatopoeic word ‘swish’ repeated over and over.

The sound heard by the ancients was undoubtedly far more complex due to its nature as a random or chaotic electromagnetic event. By adding several other minor tones to our sound, we arrive at an even more dynamic sound that, I believe, is more representative of the sound heard in antiquity. Finally, by increasing the amplitude of our fundamental sine wave - beginning with an extremely high-pitched, noisy tone that gradually shifts to an extremely low, rumbling frequency - we approach the dynamics of the ancient sound. The ‘swish’ now moves at a snail’s pace and it varies from extremely high to extremely low frequencies. What we hear now is probably what the ancients heard.

If you do not have access to an analog synthesizer, you can use your mouth and your voice to simulate an onomatopoeic expression of it. Using only the vowel sounds, begin by making the ‘eeee’ sound heard in the word ‘me,’ with your jaw closed. At the same time use your vocal cords to intone the highest tone possible. Proceed from vowel to vowel - eeee, aaaa, oooo - letting your jaw open gradually as you purse your lips, all the while dropping the frequency of the tone you are singing until you are at the lowest tone possible and your mouth forms a perfect ‘o.’ Then, without stopping, reverse the sequence of sounds and events until you end where you began, with the ‘eeee’ sound.

You have just spoken the sacred name of God, YAHWEH, as the ancients heard it and subsequently articulated it in countless sacred ceremonies and holy proceedings in antiquity.

It seems likely that this sound was heard repeatedly and in various forms. At times it would have been at a very low volume - almost a whisper. It would have seemed to the listener that the pianissimo voice was whispering right in one’s ear. On other occasions it would have been a mind-numbing, ear-splitting cacophony that would have been felt as much as heard, seemingly penetrating the very fiber of one’s being. Such descriptions of the voice of deity are replete in ancient records.

Of course, this was not the only sound heard anciently as the result of electromagnetic waves turned audible. As others have suggested, trumpet-like sounds, drum-like sounds and ringing, bell-like sounds were heard. Thus, these instruments found their way into the liturgy of all cultures in an attempt to replicate (re-member, as Talbott put it) the sacred sounds. So, too, the chants and mantras of all religions, including the chorale renditions of modern Christianity, hearken back to those audible sounds produced when the planets stood in proximity to one another.

One wonders if composers, like their artistic counterparts who draw on universal symbology for their inspiration, do not subconsciously draw on those ancient sounds to reproduce them in modern musical expressions. This would explain the power of some orchestral and choral compositions to affect emotional responses. Indeed, the more true a musical expression is to the ancient originals, the more power it would seem to have for its listeners. This would explain why these sounds are so important to sacred rites and rituals. They not only replicate the sounds, they duplicate the human response to them.

These sounds, then, were literally the ‘music of the spheres’ and the ‘voice of God’.

© Anthony E. Larson, 2000


Anonymous said...

All of this is amazing!!!!

Medievaldigger said...

So much fun! Now that makes sense to me.

Gaius_Maximus said...

Religion and sound are truly synonymous, but why this is so has never been clear. In the west, we sing hymns. Most liturgies in the world are still sung, the only oral presentation to receive such a treatment. In the east, Chinese raised the making and ringing of bells to a high art. The sacred Om or Aum of India even made it west into a once famous (and still beloved by me) Moody Blues tune. And, in Cambodia (I think it is), monks feel compelled to hone their chanting skills to the point they can sustain two notes at once.

Now you come along and make this madness all make sense.

Thanks again for your excellent work, Tony!