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WORDS OF POWER: THE MAGICAL USE OF SOUND

Mostof us have memories of the many stories told us in our childhood wherein were certain words and phrases which were held to have magical power and significance. The "Open Sesame" of Ali Baba's treasure cave, the "Abracadabra" of the magician, and many more such magical phrases, all focussed our attention upon the possibilities latent within certain words and names. But we were not unique in this. In all ages, and in all parts of the world, the idea that names and words had magical power has been held.

More particularly in the East this subject has been made the object of deep study and research, though our own Western Scriptures show that the same idea was held by the people from whom much of our Christian teaching was primarily derived. It was an ancient Mystery teaching that "God spake, and the worlds became," and this idea underlines both the teaching of the Alexandrian Jew, Philo, and that of the author of the magnificent prologue to the Gospel of St. John.

In the Old Testament we read of the Creator giving a name to the first man, and then that first man giving a name to the first woman. We read also that the animals were brought before Adam and by whatsoever name he called them, that was their name. (The present writer, as a child, regarded this naming feat of Adam as something in the nature of a major miracle! To invent names for all living animals seemed to call forsupernatural imagination.)

Later we read of Abram, whose name was changed to Abraham, and we learn, too, of the wrestling of Jacob with the Angel at the ford, "Except thou tell me thy Name, I will not let thee go," and we are told that because he had so wrestled with the Angel of the Presence, his name was changed to Israel ("Striver with God").

Later comes the account of the Theophany in the Burning Bush, when Moses was given the Name of his God. This Name which is translated in the Authorised Version as I Am That I Am, is, in the Hebrew, Ehieh Asher Ehieh, which Moffat translates as I Will Be What I Will Be, and this seems a far better rendering of the Hebrew; I have been told by a Hebrew scholar that it could be even more truly translated as I Am The Ever-Becoming.

But the sacred Name par excellence amongst the Hebrews was the Tetragrammaton, or Four Lettered Name. So sacred was it held to be, that a substitute Name, Adonai (My Lord) was used. In Christian usage, the Tetragrammaton has been turned into the name Jehovah, but, in point of fact, this particular form seems to have been either invented or copied from some unknown source by Tyndale, in whose translation of the Bible it appears for the first time.

Some may here protest that the books of the Old Testament are simply the record of the ethical and philosophical progress of a wandering Bedouin tribe, as it enlarged its concepts from the god who walked in the garden in the cool of the day, as any other eastern chief might do, to the magnificent conception of the post-exilic prophet "Thus saith the High and Holy One Who inhabiteth Eternity, Whose Name is Holy." A progress, moreover, which brought it as a nation to a monotheism not apparent in any contemporary nation. This, of course, is true, but there are other angles of approach, the normal Christian view that the Hebrews were being guided by the Eternal into larger concepts is one such angle, and there is another which is of greater relevance to the subject of Words of Power. The ancient Rabbis said that the Torah: the Law, was the Body, but the Qabalah was the spirit of their religion. So the record of the history of the Hebrews, interwoven as it is with the folklore of the race and the racial memories of Abraham's descendants, is but the outer appearance. Within this outer appearance was, and is, concealed that towering metaphysical system which we know of as the Qabalah. As the word implies, the teaching of the Qabalah was transmitted "from mouth to ear" until about the 12th century, when certain of its teachings were published in book form.

These Qabalistic books formed the basis of the great systems of magic which sprang up in the West in the Middle Ages, and in these magical systems Names and Words of Power played a very great part As we shall see at a later point, the Names of Power of the Qabalah form a very interesting group of magical sound-forms.

In the folklore of many nations and races, the use of Words of Power, of "charms" and "spells" is to be found, but in the East there has been built up a massive system of philosophy, based upon and constantly checked by a mass of experimental data.

This system is usually referred to as "Mantra Yoga," and its fullest exposition is to be found in the Tantric work known as The Garland of Letters.

The Christian Church in its pilgrimage through the ages has accumulated much which has reference to our subject. By the term "Christian Church" is meant not only the more orthodox and "respectable" streams of its being, the great Catholic Churches of the Eastern and Western Obediences together with the various Reformed and Nonconforming Churches, but also some of the many heretical sects which have "hived off" from the main stream of Christian tradition. The Gnostics of the early Church formed a group of such sects, and their teachings have for many centuries been regarded as heretical and evil. In some of its aspects the Gnostic teaching certainly justifies such condemnation though modern scholarship has done much to rehabilitate some of the most prominent teachers of the Gnosis.

But quite apart from their specific theological views, the Gnostics placed very great stress upon the efficacy of names and sounds. By the name, declared some of them, Jesus worked His miracles, a name which He had stolen from the Holy of Holies of the temple. By the mystery of the name, declared another writer, was man's regeneration and deification effected, and in his knowledge of his own true name, lay his true peace.

Coming down to more recent times we find a floating tradition of a language "spoken in Paradise" the sound of which gave mastery over nature. Some curious communications received by the Elizabethan occultist and astrologer, Dr. John Dee gave fragments of what was called "The Enochian Tongue," and as Casaubon has shown, it was no mere gibberish, but possessed grammatical form and syntax.

In the latter part of the eighteenth century there arose in Poland a curious Qabalistic sect known as the "Chassidim." Some of its members were known as "the wonder-working rabbis," and these wonder-workers made great use of the Sacred Names. The leader of the Chassidim was Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, "The Master of the Divine Name." In some of the circles of the Chassidim the language of Paradise was heard, and by its use the rabbis worked wonders and showed signs.

The revival of the Western occult tradition through the Order of the Golden Dawn and its offshoot Stella Matutina made use of both the Enochian language and the Qabalistic Words of Power, and, indeed, for the construction and use of the Telesmatic Images such words are essential.

Today, in countless ways the glamour of the Words of Power and the Magical Names still persists for many millions of people, and in the new political groupings which are emerging upon the world-stage we are witnessing the actual birth of such words and names which will in the years to come be charged with magical power over the minds and hearts of men.

Before we commence to study what we may term the more "occult" aspects of sound, it is as well to spend some time in considering the subject from the purely physical point of view. We may define it as a series of vibrations set up in matter. These vibrations are not all audible to the human ear, which can only receive within certain fairly definite limits. An empiric test of the range of human audition may be made by trying to hear the high-pitched cry of the bat, at one end of the scale, and the deep note of the diapason pipe of a large organ. It will be found that to many people, the bat's cry is inaudible, and many more will confess that they do not hear, but rather they feel the vibration of the diapason pipe. There is another proof of the limited range of human hearing in the curious "supersonic whistle" sometimes used as a dog-whistle. The sound given out by this whistle is far beyond the range of human perception, but immediately attracts the attention of all dogs within its radius.

Sound does not only travel through air, but also is transmitted through water, earth, and all material substances, and the contours of the ocean floor and the depths of mineral lodes in the earth have both been investigated by the reflection of sound waves. It is important to remember that although we hear sound by means of specialised sense-organs, we are actually bathed in a sea of sound all our lives. The intensity of sound is measured in terms of a standard unit, the "decibell," and it has been found that there is what may be described as a danger-point in the amount of sound to which human beings may safely be subjected. In actual practice it is found that the conditions of some of our large industrial cities come very near this danger line as do also some factory conditions. In studying the occult effects of sound, this must always be remembered. We are apt to limit its effects upon us solely to our auditory consciousness, but a little thought will make us aware that of course the sound which strikes upon our eardrums is only a small part of the actual sound vibration, and it is this greater part which is striking both upon one's body and upon the surrounding surfaces. This is, of course, well recognised when we are dealing with "acoustics" in connection with the sound-reflecting properties of public halls, churches, etc., but is liable to be overlooked when dealing with sound from the purely "occult" point of view.

In the latter part of last century, Mrs. Watts-Dunton Hughes invented a curious little instrument known as the "Eidophone." It was really an adaptation of what are known as "Chladni's Figures," an experiment in which a violin bow was drawn gently along the edge of a plate of glass covered with fine sand. The vibrations set up by the bow caused the sand to take up definite patterns. The Eidophone consisted of a cylinder over the open end of which was stretched a rubber diaphragm. Into the side of the cylinder was built a metal trumpet which served as a concentrator of sound. Upon the rubber diaphragm was sprinkled the fine spore-dust of the common "puff-ball" (Lycopodium). When anyone spoke or sang into the instrument, the lycopodium powder formed itself into intricate patterns, and these patterns were constant for any given sound or note. By lowering a prepared paper onto the surface of the diaphragm, a permanent record of the sound-form could be obtained, but of course, it is obvious that the actual sound vibration is three-dimensional. In recent times one American Rosicrucian organisation has perfected an instrument by means of which such three-dimensional sound forms may be viewed.

Some of the sound-form patterns are wonderfully intricate and they show how the sound vibrations affect surrounding matter. The long-continued sounding of one particular note tends to set up a sympathetic vibration or resonance in all the surrounding matter, and this sympathetic vibration may have queer effects. It is recorded that on one occasion, when a military band was playing beneath the walls of an old ruin, they played a piece which was apparently based upon the dominant "note" of the wall, which collapsed upon them! For this reason, soldiers, when marching over a light bridge are ordered to "break step," i.e. to walk out-of-step and unrhythmically, in order to avoid setting up a vibrational "swing" in the bridge structure. In the light of these things, the story of the fall of Jericho as recorded in the Bible may be profitably studied.

The converse side of this is to be seen in the stimulating effect upon wearied men of a stirring military march tune, and this brings us to another point. We have so far been studying the effects of sympathetic vibration upon material structures, but its power extends much further. It has tremendous effect upon the mind and the emotion, and not all of this effect is produced in the surface consciousness.





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