The Theosophical Forum – October 1948

SOUNDLESS SOUND — Marion O. French

H. P. Blavatsky predicted that the greatest scientific advance in the foreseeable future would take place in acoustic physics. This prophecy has been fulfilled, in part, by the radio and by closely connected developments in radar, television and supersonics. One result is a general familiarity with the basic principles governing the radiation of electronic and vibratory impulses. This enables the average reader to interpret many implications in transcripts from the Sanskrit sources of ancient wisdom more clearly than was possible prior to such progress. In particular, this applies to the phenomena of sound transmission with respect to propulsive wave lengths and their frequencies. Those in common usage are long enough and slow enough to obey terrestrial attraction and follow the curvature of the earth in their course. They are, however, of a much higher frequency than the tabulation of von Helmholtz covering direct reception by the human ear of music from instrumental sources. This extends from 16 cycles per second to 16,000. To traverse the distances that radio waves travel, they must be propagated with the energic power of electricity. Also, they are inaudible to the unaided ear and require a receiving apparatus to amplify them. Microwaves of higher frequencies, such as are used in television, do not follow the earth's curvature. They must be relayed from stations that are connected by straight lines, or by lines that seem so to us because we cannot detect curves that conform to the elongation of astronomical orbits. For their reception, they require adequate amplifying tubes and a responsive diaphragm or similar device.

Physiologically, at present, eleven octaves of sound are audible to the human ear and only one octave of color is visible to the eye. However, in the course of time, evolution may extend sensory apperceptions to include the etheric vibrations of radio waves. To these may be added those psychic faculties now known as clairaudience and clairvoyance. This will permit the sensing of vibratory impressions beyond the scope of today's scientific instrumentation. Then, humanity will stand upon the threshold of the noumena of sound, of Nada, the Soundless Sound known to all theosophists as the "Voice of the Silence." To form a concept of the nature of spiritual sound, we may consider the fact that three things are necessary for the sensation of sound. They are an energic source, an agency of transmission, and a receptive apparatus. If this trio of essential factors be in existence, the requirements for sound as such will prevail, irrespective of whether it be audible or not.

The triune requisite is met by the conditions governing human thought on the physical plane. The mind, or brain, is the energic source and its muscular motor impulses can be recorded by an ammeter attached to a needle in the muscle. By means of an invention of his, J.W.Keely, who is mentioned in The Secret Doctrine, asserted that the energy of a thought could be ascertained. Between all minds is the same ether that transmits radio waves, which fulfills the requirements in that respect. As a receiving apparatus, the brain and nervous system have not been analyzed exhaustively by current physiological and psychological studies. According to Hindu authorities, there are five ethers that act as agents of transmission for the five senses. Thus, the possibilities for perceptions are far more extensive than is imagined. Telepathy and the rapid spread of waves of thought generated by men en masse have been considered in a cursory manner, but the conclusions that are accepted by science fail to account for the facts. Emotion indicates the degree of energy with which a thought is broadcast, but different races, languages and customs render interpretation by the recipients very uncertain as to its meaning.

This synopsis of some of the salient aspects of sound may serve as a basis for a more complete comprehension of the first statement in H. P. Blavatsky's The Voice of the Silence. The statement is: "He who would hear the voice of Nada, the "Soundless Sound" and comprehend it, he has to learn the nature of Dharana." By definition, Dharana is the "intense and perfect concentration of the mind upon some one interior object, accompanied by complete abstraction from everything pertaining to the external Universe, or the world of the senses." Thus, it is necessary to exclude all sensory distractions and to attain a state of meditative receptivity. Since Akasa, the sonoriferous ether, is the first and all-pervading one, sound that is audible to the ear is the most distracting influence. The other ethers — Vayu, Tejas, Apas and Prithivi, pertaining to touch, sight, taste and smell and to air, fire, water and earth — emanate from Akasa in turn. It lies between them and acts as the mediating interpreter of sensations transmitted by them. You say, or think, that you feel, see, taste or smell in words or in terms of sound. Its pervasiveness becomes apparent when you place a hollow shell against the ear and the resonance of its cavity exaggerates the faint sounds that fill the atmosphere into the roar of the ocean. The action of Akasa in interpreting sensations may be compared to the piezoelectric effect of a quartz crystal or of carbon granules in transmuting the pressure of your voice to electric energy in the speaking tube of a telephone and back to voice again in the distant receiver.

Now, we may conceive that the Divine Ideation, or cosmic consciousness in modern parlance, of the Paramatman of the Hierarchy infills our Universe. It is the noumenal essence of thought and of its first formative expression in phenomenal sound; for "In the Beginning was the Word." The initial manifestation in the transmissive medium of the Aether that precedes the ethers may be regarded as an intonation of the open vowel sounds. It continues to echo and to reverberate down the corridors of Time as Aum. Within the Solar System it is the "Music of the Spheres." Finally, in the dense atmosphere of our Globe it becomes the sound of Nature and the voices of men. If we would ascend in the harmonic scale to hearken to the overtones, we must obey the behests of the Sages who have trod the pathway before us.

Consecutively, they have set forth the successive steps in that ascent to attunement with the Universe. Initially, philosophical curiosity will serve to launch the mind on research. If undertaken without motives of ambition, this may lead to direct tuition from the textbooks that contain the scriptural wisdom of mankind. All such verbal instruction is designed to incite the intuitive faculties. When this is the case, the student may receive unrecognized inspiration from the current of universal intelligence. It runs, as Emerson expressed it, along the wire of thought. "In the presence of the higher, the lower plane always appears to be at rest." Also, as John Tyndall stated, what we call silence expresses only the absence of motion. Theosophically, this may be conceived of as an apparent immobility, or as motion that is imperceptible to our sensory organs. Such is the case in the motion of the "Great Breath," or in the soundless sound of Tat as that which subsists in immutability. Precise analogies may be found in the resonant responsiveness of organ pipes and of stringed instruments, when their free vibrations respond as an accessory to the pulsatory motion of harmonics in a primary tone from another source. (1)

When the intuition has become awakened thus, meditation will become increasingly enlightening. With further intuitive development, ultrameditative methods may be resorted to and intuition will replace the mental concepts of tuition with direct cognition. Where mind saw form in many diverse patterns, intuition will see one reality. White light will dawn in lieu of the colors seen through the prism of the mind. A knowledge of causes will be substituted for the study of effects. The restless rhythms of space, time, and emotion will give way to the ineffable peace of motionless duration. The mental restrictions of matter will fall like fetters from the freed intuition of the Man Ensouled.

"Hark! . . . from the deep unfathomable vortex of that golden light in which the Victor bathes, All Nature's wordless voice in thousand tones arises to proclaim:

"Joy unto ye, O men of Myalba, a Pilgrim hath returned back "from the other shore." A new Arhan is born. . . .

''Peace to all beings."


1. "Were the blast (of the siren) sufficiently powerful and the siren sufficiently free from friction, it might be urged to higher and higher notes, until finally its sound would become inaudible to human ears. This, however, would not prove the absence of vibratory motion in the air; but would rather show that our auditory apparatus is incompetent to take up and translate into sound vibrations whose rapidity exceeds a certain limit. The ear, as we shall immediately learn, is in this respect similar to the eye." — Sound, Tyndall

Recent research has developed a supersonic siren that can create a lethal rate of vibration. Among other effects, it will hold small objects suspended in the air, set up frictional heat sufficient for ignition of inflammable material, and perform many useful industrial functions. (return to text)

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