In these days of countless panaceas for the ills of body, soul, and spirit, it is interesting to note how the ancients dealt with the problem of healing the diseases of the soul. Iamblichus, in his Life of Pythagoras, tells us that Pythagoras considered such conditions as sorrow, rage, fear, pride, and kindred passions, as diseases of the soul, and employed sound to heal the latter, playing certain combinations of melodies upon the lyre or even using the voice alone for the purpose. Pythagoras also employed music when his disciples were retiring, using another series of melodies to liberate them from the cares and distractions of the day and bring about peaceful sleep and pleasing and prophetic dreams. Upon arising, still another combination of sound and songs was used by him to free the disciples from the torpor and heaviness of sleep and prepare them for the day ahead. Plutarch, in his essay, On Isis and Osiris, also makes mention of this fact about the Pythagoreans and adds that the Egyptians followed a like practice but used instead certain types of incense to obtain similar results night and morning.
As for himself, however, Pythagoras did not use the lyre or the voice to produce a harmonious condition within himself, but listened instead to the music of the spheres through his inner spiritual hearing, and it was these harmonies of the spheres thus heard by him which he later transferred to the voice and lyre and presented to his disciples for their benefit. We are told further that he also employed select verses from Homer and Hesiod for the purpose of correcting the soul. Says Iamblichus: "After this manner, therefore, Pythagoras through music produced the most beneficial correction of human manners and lives."
It would seem from this, therefore, that, as herbs and simples, and various medicines are used to heal the physical body of its ills, the soul, being of a more tenuous substance than is the body, requires, therefore, a more tenuous healing agent, such as sound and music as used by Pythagoras.
In this connexion, another thought occurs in regard to the relation between a Teacher and his disciples. The soul of a Master or of a true Teacher, being so much more highly evolved than that of his disciples, produces, consequently, a much more glorious symphony of sound than do the souls of his pupils, so that the very presence of a Teacher, without even a word being spoken, evokes or strikes similar, but heretofore latent, vibrations within the souls of his disciples, much as the striking of a gong or bell evokes an instant response from all objects of a sympathetic pitch in the vicinity.
Thus, even in the silence, the soul grows and is benefited in the presence of a genuine Teacher, which brings to mind that Shakespeare uttered a great truth indeed when he wrote:
There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-ey'd cherubims
Such harmony is in immortal souls,
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it
— The Merchant of Venice
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night
And his affections dark as Erebus
Let no such man be trusted — Op at.