A COMMENTARY ON CYMATICS
by John Beaulieu, N.D. Ph.D.
The purpose of this commentary is to inspire you to take the time to actually read this book - to devote the necessary attention to develop an understanding and respect for Dr. Jenny's profound scientific perspective. This takes some deliberate and focused concentration, but in even flipping through these pages you will quickly see that the experiments portrayed herein, as well as Dr. Jenny's depth and breadth of understanding, more than merit the effort!
I also wish to acknowledge the enormous contribution which Dr. Jenny has made to the emerging fields of "Sound Healing" and "Energy Medicine." Although he was a medical doctor, it was never his intention that this work be applied therapeutically. Rather, he wished to demonstrate the primacy of vibration and its ever-present effects throughout the entirety of nature. Through his painstaking experimentation and acute observation, he was able to articulate a conceptual basis which may very well prove fundamental throughout the broad reach of scientific endeavor.
I first became aware of Dr. Jenny's work in 1974 when I was working at Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital in New York City as Supervisor of Music Therapy. A fellow therapist placed a copy of Cymatics, Vol. I on my desk. I remember the joy of looking at the cymatic sound patterns, and the wonderful sense of "Yes!" that rippled through my being. Each picture was worth at least a thousand words and I felt as though I were reading volumes in just a few minutes.
As I read the Cymatics book, I realized that Dr. Jenny was a dedicated systems researcher and I found his writing just as exciting as the cymatic images! My graduate studies and work at Bellevue Hospital were based on applied systems theory. I also studied mathematical music composition with Innas Xenakis and a systems approach to therapeutic program planning. I will say more about Dr. Jenny's systems approach later.
Having shared and taught Cymatics for over twenty five years I know that many who are attracted to Dr. Jenny's work are artistic and "right brain" by nature. They are immediately inspired by the beauty of his cymatic pictures and can sense instantly what they mean. Using their imaginative capacities, they are able to extrapolate broad implications to his research.
Yet Dr. Jenny's writings are pure "left brain" science. He sets forth a thorough phenomenological study of vibration befitting an accomplished physicist and systems researcher. From a scientific perspective Dr. Jenny's written words form a beautiful mosaic which is just as profound as his cymatic pictures. His cymatic writings are embedded in rigor and clarity and supported by exacting methodology and procedure. He is constantly seeking to observe the integrity of the whole, and to document its behavior through phenomenological categories.
I remember when I first showed Dr. Jenny's work to a group of New York composers and musicians. I started by explaining how the pictures were made, in about two minutes, which was their right brain theory time limit before they became restless. Next, we viewed slides of cymatic photographs. Everyone said words like "wow", "far out", "yeah", "ummm". After the presentation I asked for questions. Everyone just sat there in what I took to be an appreciative silence. No one had any questions, and then they went home.
This was my first "Music and Sound in the Healing Arts" class and I didn't know what to think, so I just went along with the energy. To my surprise I came home to an answering machine filled with questions. I continued to get questions for the rest of the week, and to this day I occasionally get questions about Dr. Jenny's work from students of that very class! Sooner or later the other side of our brain says "what about me?" and wants to know. So twenty-five years of hearing "wows" followed by "hows" has inspired me to write this commentary.
It is my intention to attempt to communicate the essence of Dr. Jenny's work based on years of "right brain" students' questions. I am not seeking scientific precision. If you are scientific by nature and want science, I suggest that you dive right into Dr. Jenny's research. My goal is to help artists and creative people not versed in science and systems theory to come to a better understanding of this material. Through this understanding, it is my hope that they will have an even greater and more balanced appreciation of what Dr. Jenny has given us.
Dr. Jenny's Cymatic Experiments
Dr. Jenny performed many of his experiments by putting substances such as sand, fluids, and powders on a metal plate. The plate was attached to an oscillator and the oscillator was controlled by a frequency generator capable of producing a broad range of vibrations. Through turning a dial on the frequency generator Dr. Jenny would cause the plate to vibrate at different frequencies. (See photo of Dr. Jenny at work, on page 6.) Let me explain. Oscillators are devices which produce vibrations. They are often called "vibrators" in the popular market place. A massage device is a simple oscillator. Imagine any popular electric massage device or go to most any department store and ask to see their massagers. Turn it on and it will vibrate or oscillate. Next place the massager on a bone. Feel how the vibrations are amplified over your body. Touching the massager to your bone is like Dr. Jenny attaching his oscillator to a metal plate. The plate, like your bones, amplifies the vibrations of the oscillator.
A simple massage device creates only one vibration which can be heard as a hum. The hum you hear with your ears and vibration you feel from the massager are the same. In contrast to a massage device which is capable of only one vibration/sound, Dr. Jenny's oscillator hooked to a frequency generator was capable of thousands of different vibrations/sounds.
Dr. Jenny could turn a dial and instantly change the vibrations moving through the plate. He could observe the effect of different vibrations on different substances. When Dr. Jenny watched the sand or other substances on the metal plate organize into different patterns, he could also hear the sound produced by the oscillator. If he were to lightly touch the plate he would feel the vibration in his fingertips.
Dr. Jenny observed three fundamental principles at work in the vibratory field on the plate. He wrote, "Since the various aspects of these phenomena are due to vibration, we are confronted with a spectrum which reveals a patterned, figurative formation at one pole and kinetic-dynamic processes at the other, the whole being generated and sustained by its essential periodicity."
What Dr. Jenny is saying is that one can hear the sound as a wave; he calls this the pole of kinetic-dynamic process. One can see the pattern the sound creates in the plate; he calls this the pole of "patterned-figurative formation". And if Dr. Jenny were to touch the plate and feel it's vibration, he would call this the generating pole of "essential periodicity".
[Editor's Note: Although the example given here involves three of our senses, Dr. Jenny stated that his objective was to make these effects visible, since our sense of sight is the most discriminating. He was emphatic that this "triadic nature" of vibration referenced above, comprised three essential aspects, or three ways of viewing, a unitary phenomenon.]
Dr. Jenny's Scientific Approach
Systems Theory unites science and art in a quest for holistic vision. It is a discipline where objectivity and intuition meet, for one can not see the whole without this kind of vision. Dr. Jenny always sought to observe the whole and to understand the behavior of parts in relationship to the whole. He says, "What is the status of the parts, the details, the single pieces, the fragments? In the vibrational field it can be shown that every part is, in the true sense, implicated in the whole."
A basic systems law is that the whole is greater then the sum total of its parts. A common metaphor used to illustrate this systems law is that of a team of scientists studying an elephant. The problem is that the scientists have no idea they are working on an elephant. One scientist is measuring the behavior of the foot, another scientist is measuring the velocity in which the tail wags, and another is observing the chemical composition of one toenail, etc. These views are fragmented. Each is one publishing separate papers in prestigious scientific journals in different disciplines, yet they have no idea that their work is remotely related.
One day a scientist comes along and accidentally "sees" the whole. She calls the whole an "elephant". She sees the relationship of the parts to the whole and how they move together. Everyone thinks she is crazy and the specialists begin to fight over her idea of an "elephant". More and more people begin to see "the elephant" until one day "there is an elephant" and many isolated areas of research are explained in a larger context.
Throughout his writings Dr. Jenny is always requesting that we focus on the whole and not get distracted by the behavior of the parts. "The three fields, the periodic as the fundamental field with the two poles of figure and dynamic, invariably appear as one. They are inconceivable without each other. It is quite out of the question to take away the one or the other; nothing can be abstracted without the whole ceasing to exist. We cannot therefore number them one, two, three, but can only say they are threefold in appearance and yet unitary; that they appear as one and yet are threefold."
Cymatics and "Vibrational Medicine"
Cymatics research is a "sound" example of the principles underlying vibrational medicine. If you were to be present during a cymatics experiment you would hear a sound and simultaneously see a pattern forming in a substance which had been placed on a vibrating membrane or perhaps a steel plate. What started out as an inert "blob" of sand or water, without movement, form, or pulse, would instantly transform into an animated, pulsating form as soon as the plate or membrane was excited by vibration. All this would be generated by the vibrational field created by the oscillator.
Now let us assume that for some reason you could only "see" the static aspect of the form and therefore understood it to be solid. The idea of the form being generated by a vibrational field and making a sound would seem preposterous. Now let's imagine that someone unknowingly brushes the sand on the plate and the shape is disturbed, but then in a matter of a few seconds it returns to its original shape. How would you explain it?
The above example illustrates the basic differences between conventional, materialistic medicine and energetic healing. Let me explain. "Energy medicine" seeks to understand people as unified energy fields or in Dr. Jenny's words, "as wholes". Metaphorically, our physical body, emotions, and thought processes are like cymatic forms which are organized by underlying vibrational fields, the densest (the physical), being animated by the subtler vibrations (emotions and thoughts).
In energy medicine, the underlying vibrational field is called an energy field. The health practitioner seeks to perceive, evaluate, and support the energy field rather than focus on a specific symptom. The practitioner's goal is to use therapeutic modalities such as music, sound, touch, homeopathics, acupuncture, tuning forks, voice, and color, to effect and change the energy field. As the person shifts into resonance with a more coherent field, their array of symptoms may disappear as a more harmonious pattern emerges.
The idea of energy fields is both new and ancient. Physicists have sought to explain the strange behavior of quantum particles through the existence of a unified field. "We may therefore regard matter as being constituted by the regions of Space in which the field is extremely intense....There is no place in this new kind of physics both for the field and matter, for the field is the only reality." (Albert Einstein)
Dr. Jenny used phenomenology and systems theory as research vehicles to observe the effects of whole vibrational fields. He wanted students of Cymatics to understand that the phenomena witnessed on the vibrating surface were always the product of a larger field, and that any change in the frequency of the vibrational field would immediately alter the phenomena being observed.
In the latter chapters of Cymatics, Vol. II, Dr. Jenny sought to illustrate a connection between cymatic vibrational fields and the behaviors of biological, weather, and social systems. I believe that Dr. Jenny was not saying that Cymatics was the cause rather he was saying "look at the whole and you will come to new understandings. Let these cymatic experiments inspire your imagination to deeper insights into the universal principles of Nature."
The current environment within the healing arts is one of specialization and compartmentalization. In contrast, energy medicine takes a more generalized approach to healing, based on the understanding of energy fields. When the energy medicine practitioner evaluates the energy field, he/she can recommend "vibrational therapies" such as music, sounds, movements, colors, etc., to support a shift in the field. The result will be a new energetic field in which the old symptoms can no longer exist.
This is a "transformation" as opposed to "fixing a part." The old energy field will still be available, yet we will now have developed the ability to shift into a new field. Ultimately we learn that we have the freedom to create and choose different fields. Ideally we would find ourselves on a continuum of fields, always observing and entering into a greater whole, a greater experience of wholeness!
As I mentioned before, a fundamental tenet of systems theory is that "the whole is greater then the sum total of its parts." Observation of the "whole picture" is a discipline to which Dr. Jenny dedicated himself, as documented in Cymatics, Vols. I and II. We can learn from his dedication. We can be inspired to see ourselves as "wholes" with the capability to shift into different vibrational fields at any time. Cymatics, from its widest purview, ultimately teaches us that we are limitless beings with immense creative and healing powers. Dr. Jenny exhibited this in his own life - may you be so moved to experience this yourself, as you explore the vast implications of his work.