“… Sound is the sign of life; in the temples of gods and goddesses, in Hindu churches, bells ringing show life even in the silence …” ~ Hazrat Inayat Khan
“… Before its incarnation the soul is sound. It is for this reason that we love sound … …”
“… Life is a symphony, and the action of every person in this life is the playing of his particular part in the music …”
“… Sound is breath, the breath that is life …”
These words of Hazrat Inayat Khan offer a hint into his “… Sufi vision on music, sound, language, and the power of words …” that he explores – in depth – in his book The Mysticism of Sound and Music: The Sufi Teaching of Hazrat Inayat Khan …
Our 2-part series is only a glimpse into this vast and fascinating topic … via an excerpt from the section The Mysticism of Sound …
This series offers the entire chapter The Silent life (from the above section) where Hazrat posits: “… Every motion that springs forth from this silent life is a vibration and a creator of vibrations …” which he unpacks in his deep dive.
… In Part 1 Hazrat talks about life as eternal vibrations from which all existence emerges (known as zat among Sufis)… and that the multifaceted attributes of these vibrations shape all life … all forms, sensations, thoughts, and feelings. He also posits that sound – arising from vibrations – affects the human soul … and that every individual has a unique tone corresponding to their birth planet which impacts their response to – or relationship with – different tones
… and in this concluding Part 2, he explores elements and their relationship with sound: how every element – earth, water, fire, air, and ether – possesses a distinct sound, form, color, and effect. Earth stimulates movement … water stimulates emotion … fire incites fear, air enkindles the heart … and ether – self-contained and pervasive – can induce spiritual states like ecstasy and illumination when accessed through certain mystical practices. The combination of different elements also leads to unique sounds and effects.
For additional background and context, we highly recommend you read the full Foreword, Hazrat’s Prologue, and Chapter 1 via the look inside link on the book’s summary page.
All italicized text here is adapted from The Mysticism of Sound and Music The Sufi Teaching of Hazrat Inayat Khan, © 1991 by the International Headquarters of the Sufi Movement, Geneva Foreword © 2022 by Pir Zia Inayat Khan. Reprinted in arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. Shambhala Publications has also generously offered a free downloadable PDF of the Table of Contents (link is at the bottom of the post).
For the foreseeable future some (maybe even all or a majority) of our posts will be shorter than usual.
Sound Of Elements…
“… The sound of water is deep, its form is serpentlike, its color green, and it is best heard in the roaring of the sea …”
Every element has a sound peculiar to itself. In the finer elements the circle of sound expands, and in the grosser elements it narrows. It is therefore distinct in the former and indistinct in the latter.
The earth has various aspects of beauty as well as of variety in its sound. Its pitch is on the surface, its form is crescent-like, and its color is yellow. The sound of the earth is dim and dull, and produces a thrill, activity, and movement in the body. All instruments of wire and gut, as well as the instruments of percussion—such as the drum, cymbals, etc.—represent the sound of earth.
The sound of water is deep, its form is serpentlike, its color green, and it is best heard in the roaring of the sea. The sound of running water, of mountain rills, the drizzling and pattering of rain, the sound of water running from a pitcher into a jar, from a pipe into a tub, from a bottle into a glass—all have a smooth and lively effect, and a tendency to produce imagination, whim, dream, affection, and emotion. The instrument called jalatarang is an arrangement of china bowls or glasses graduated in size and filled with water in proportion to the desired scale: more water lowers the tone, and less raises it. These instruments have a touching effect upon the emotions of the heart.
The sound of fire is high-pitched, its form is curled, and its color red. It is heard in the falling of the thunderbolt and in a volcanic eruption, in the sound of a fire when blazing, in the noise of squibs, crackers, rifles, guns, and cannons. All these have a tendency to produce fear.
The sound of air is wavering, its form zigzag, and its color blue. Its voice is heard in storms, when the wind blows, and in the whisper of the morning breeze. Its effect is breaking, sweeping, and piercing. The sound of air finds expression in all wind instruments made of wood, brass, and bamboo. It has a tendency to kindle the fire of the heart, as Rumi writes in his Masnavi about the flute. Krishna is always portrayed in Indian art with a flute. The air sound overpowers all other sounds, for it is living, and in every aspect its influence produces ecstasy.
The sound of ether is self-contained, and it holds all forms and colors. It is the base of all sounds, and is the undertone that is ever continuous. Its instrument is the human body, because it can be audible through it. Although it is all-pervading, yet it is unheard. It manifests to man as he purifies his body from material properties. The body can become its proper instrument when the space within is opened, when all the tubes and veins in it are free. Then the sound that exists eternally in space becomes manifest inwardly also. Ecstasy, illumination, restfulness, fearlessness, rapture, joy, and revelation are the effects of this sound. To some it manifests of itself, to others when they are in a negative state caused by weakness of the body or mind; to neither of these is it a benefit, but on the other hand it causes them to become abnormal. This sound only elevates those who open themselves to it by the sacred practices known to the mystics.
The sound of earth and water commingled has a tenderness and delicacy. The sound of earth and fire produces harshness. The sound of earth and air has strength and power. The sound of water and fire has a lively and animating effect. The sound of water with ether has a soothing and comforting effect. The sound of fire and air has a terrifying and fearsome effect. The sound of fire with ether has a breaking and freeing effect. The sound of air with ether produces calm and peace.
~ Hazrat Inayat Khan
Stay tuned for more substantive previews of other books (both new and classic) in this ongoing Shambhala Publications series …
All italicized text here is adapted from The Mysticism of Sound and Music The Sufi Teaching of Hazrat Inayat Khan, © 1991 by the International Headquarters of the Sufi Movement, Geneva Foreword © 2022 by Pir Zia Inayat Khan. Reprinted in arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO.
And, may Hazrat Inayat’s wisdom of elemental sounds inform and illuminate … your life … and …
May you remain safe and healthy.