silent life “… God is not in time … He is in the silence …” ~ Hazrat Inayat Khan
The spiritual texts of the ancient Indian tradition – the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras – talk about the sound Om as the source of all sound and creation: “… In Indian scriptures the sacred syllable Om is the primordial sound from which all other sounds and creation emerge …”
Om is comprised of A U M – beginning, middle, and end (and has a 4th underlying nature) …
As Joseph Campbell explains it to Bill Moyers in the Power Of Myth Episode 6: Masks of Eternity: “… AUM is a word that represents to our ears that sound of the energy of the universe of which all things are manifestations … A-U-M. The birth, the coming into being, and the dissolution that cycles back. AUM is called the “four-element syllable.” A-U-M – and what is the fourth element? The silence out of which AUM arises, and back into which it goes, and which underlies it …”
And this is what Hazrat Inayat Khan – the man who brought Sufism to the West – says: “… THE LIFE ABSOLUTE from which has sprung all that is felt, seen and perceived, and into which all again merges in time, is a silent, motionless and eternal life …”
These words are from Hazrat Inayat’s book The Mysticism of Sound and Music: The Sufi Teaching of Hazrat Inayat Khan … where he aptly anchors the chapter The Mysticism of Sound with “… Before its incarnation the soul is sound …” … and goes on to offer an in-depth exploration of the topic stated in the book’s title.
Hazrat’s grandson Pir Zia Inayat Khan – who carries the Sufi lineage of his grandfather – sums up the book in the Foreword to its 2022 edition as offering “… a wide-ranging philosophical examination of a subject of universal relevance: the primacy of vibration as a force in the world, and the power of breath, voice, sound, and music to communicate and transform states of consciousness …”
This topic is too vast in scope to be covered in one post (or even a few) … so we offer a small sampling of Hazrat’s work by focusing on the sound aspect in this 2-part series that’s a preview of his book … and highly recommend the book for those interested in an in-depth exploration of this fascinating topic.
Our sampling has to do with silence – the genesis of “all manifestations” or Om – via the entire chapter The Silent life where Hazrat posits: “… Every motion that springs forth from this silent life is a vibration and a creator of vibrations …” and then makes the case for his claim.
In Part 1 we offer the 1st half of the chapter with the remaining following in the concluding part 2.
Also, you can read the full 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).
THE LIFE ABSOLUTE from which has sprung all that is felt, seen and perceived, and into which all again merges in time, is a silent, motionless and eternal life that among Sufis is called zat. Every motion that springs forth from this silent life is a vibration and a creator of vibrations. Within one vibration are created many vibrations.
As motion causes motion so the silent life becomes active in a certain part, and creates every moment more and more activity, losing thereby the peace of the original silent life. It is the grade of activity of these vibrations that accounts for the various planes of existence. These planes are imagined to differ from one another, but in reality they cannot be entirely detached and made separate from one another. The activity of vibrations makes them grosser, and thus the earth is born of the heavens.
The mineral, vegetable, animal, and human kingdoms are the gradual changes of vibrations, and the vibrations of each plane differ from one another in their weight, breadth, length, color, effect, sound, and rhythm.
Man is not only formed of vibrations, but he lives and moves in them; they surround him as the fish is surrounded by water, and he contains them within him as the tank contains water. His different moods, inclinations, affairs, successes and failures, and all the conditions of life depend upon a certain activity of vibrations, whether these be thoughts, emotions, or feelings. It is the direction of the activity of vibrations that accounts for the variety of things and beings. This vibratory activity is the basis of sensation and the source of all pleasure and pain; its cessation is the opposite of sensation. All sensations are caused by a certain grade of activity of vibration.
There are two aspects of vibrations, fine and gross, both containing varied degrees. Some are perceived by the soul, some by the mind, and some by the eyes. What the soul perceives are the vibrations of the feelings; what the mind conceives are the vibrations of the thoughts; what the eyes see are the vibrations solidified from their ethereal state and turned into atoms that appear in the physical world, constituting the elements ether, air, fire, water, and earth. The finest vibrations are imperceptible even to the soul. The soul itself is formed of these vibrations; it is their activity that makes it conscious.
Creation begins with the activity of consciousness, which may be called vibration, and every vibration starting from its original source is the same, differing only in its tone and rhythm caused by a greater or lesser degree of force behind it. On the plane of sound vibration causes diversity of tone, and in the world of atoms diversity of color. It is by massing together that the vibrations become audible, but at each step toward the surface they multiply and, as they advance, they materialize.
Sound gives to the consciousness an evidence of its existence, although it is in fact the active part of consciousness itself that turns into sound. The knower, so to speak, becomes known to himself; in other words, the consciousness bears witness to its own voice. It is therefore that sound appeals to man. All things being derived from and formed of vibrations have sound hidden within them, as fire is hidden in flint. And each atom of the universe confesses by its tone: “My sole origin is sound.” If any solid or sonorous body is struck it will answer back: “I am sound.”
Sound has its birth, death, sex, form, planet, god, color, child- hood, youth, and age. But that volume of sound that is in the abstract—beyond the sphere of the concrete—is the origin and basis of all sound.
Both sound and color make their effect on the human soul according to the law of harmony: to a fine soul color appeals, and to a still finer soul sound. Tone has either a warm or a cold effect, according to its element, since all elements are made of different degrees of vibrations. Therefore sound can produce an agreeable or a disagreeable effect upon man’s mind and body, and has its healing effect in the absence of herbs and drugs—which also have their origin in vibrations.
Manifestations being formed of vibrations, the planets are the primal manifestations, each planet having its peculiar tone; therefore every note represents one planet. Every individual therefore has a note peculiar to himself that is according to his birth planet. For this reason a certain tone appeals to a particular person according to the grade of his evolution.
~ Hazrat Inayat Khan
Stay tuned for the concluding excerpts from this chapter – The Silent Life – in part 2 … where Hazrat shares his thoughts on the sound associated with the five elements (earth, water, fire, air, and ether): “… Every element has a sound peculiar to itself …” …
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 further inform and illuminate … your life … and …
May you remain safe and healthy.