Spirit Moves – The True Purpose Of Vibration

Spirit Moves

The true purpose of vibration

Have you noticed how thinking about a process can stop its progress? I’ve thought far too much about frequency and vibration, trying to make sense of why specific numbers of Hertz hold such significance for so many people. Wrestling with this has stopped my search for a deeper understanding of these aspects of sound.

I’d like you to join me on this thought journey so that you’ll understand where I’ve been and where I’m going next. It begins with the simplest of all sounds: a single note.

Mono-Frequencies: Fact or Fiction?

Entraining to a particular note – pitch, vibration, frequency, Hertz (Hz); I will use “note” for this article – fascinates many of us, particularly those immersed in the Solfeggio “notes,” more commonly (and inaccurately) called “frequencies.” I refer to these single-note-based modalities as “mono-frequency” practices. Mono-frequencies extend to all the audible sounds humans can hear, which includes the notes found in all kinds of music as well as the absence of overlapping notes that can result in an experience of rhythmic silence at an inaudible frequency, such as with binaural beats.

Why entrain to a single note or beat? The popular mono-frequency notion that different notes and rhythms have a physiological effect on the human systems guides this practice. For example, the note C vibrates at or near 528Hz, which is said to be the Solfeggio “love frequency” that, when heard, “opens us to being more loving.” Similarly, introducing a sustained inaudible note created by a binaural beat within the range of the measurable electrical frequencies of the human brain is said to be able to change the vibration of the brain – to entrain the brain to the beat – thus offering the potential for changing the electrical frequency of the brain on demand.

Because the descriptive terms for mono-frequency practices often sound ineffable or numinous, there have been many associations made between them and practices that open one to the spiritual. For example, some have associated the Solfeggio notes with the energy centers of the body, using the various chakras as a guide.

On a more physical level, research into the limbic system done at HeartMath Institute has brought some hard science to the current understanding of mono-frequencies’ effects on the human system, with honest caveats where a scientific inquiry cannot be made. The same holds true for the various ultra-high-frequency endeavors (mostly related to intervention with cancer) and low-frequency studies with evidence to support how the note E that vibrates at 40Hz may intervene with the onset of memory disorders.

Although it is beyond the scope of this article to discuss the correlation between chakras and hard science, the point to understand here is that, for many reasons, much is still to be proven before the current understanding offered by research and the current understanding of those exploring both the physical and extra-physical aspects of mono-frequency practices can agree.

What does seem clear from the mono-frequency practices is that their physical effects require more study, while their non-physical effects accrue most readily to “believers,” which highlights another topic for another day about the power of intention to bring about the desired results.

Mono-Frequencies In Real Life

One noteworthy aspect of the mono-frequency practices is their invitation to the spiritual. Practitioners of “sound healing” therapies, from singing bowls, bells, chimes, cymbals, and gongs to those who tone, chant, or even breathe ujjayi-style, agree that something more than physical takes place in the practice. Physical effects usually include down-regulation: relaxation, settling of the physical body, mental calmness, clarity, and opening to “higher consciousness,” similar to what one might experience after a strenuous physical workout, a psychedelic journey, or an hour or so of practicing yoga, which is itself a paired precursor practice to meditation.

While mono-frequencies anticipate or invite the spiritual, as we will show, the practices themselves are not spiritual practices. Instead, they are quite useful as physical ways to stop, sit, or stand still, and this kind of quietude – a threshold experience – prepares us for the movement of spirit that comes next. All the major wisdom literature known to civilization shares a common thread of becoming still before spirit moves.

Whether we use a single note or a beat, the purposeful entrainment of the practice is about coming into alignment, sometimes physically, often mentally and emotionally, with a point of stillness. We put our holistic selves at ease in order to receive the spiritual; being at ease in this way is the practice of preparation to receive the download or insight or consciousness boost we want.

Most mono-frequency practitioners would not enjoy the success they do if they restricted their work to a single note. Imagine yourself for a moment listening to a single note – let’s say C at 528Hz – by itself for an extended period of time! Or, to use beats, let us imagine experiencing an inaudible “note” of 10Hz for the same period of time. In either case, notice that an isolated note is the only thing we hear. Practice like this, one might assume, would produce precision results!

Unfortunately, the experience of a single note in isolation is quite unsatisfying to the human organism, regardless of its purported benefits, which is why additional and complementary music is often provided to swirl around the “magic” note in a way that we experience as much more satisfying. If you have experienced a sound bath, you’ll appreciate the way the performer uses instruments of differing and complementary notes to hold your interest. The most satisfying practitioners are able to create a kind of musical journey that aligns with our very human need to travel through a story told by the music, even though the end result – as it often is with music – is stillness.

The Musical Story

This is precisely where mono-frequency practitioners fail to disclose what is actually happening in their practice. While they are correct that the human system responds profoundly to tension and release, this tension and release extends far beyond the vibration of a single note or beat. In fact, the assembly of many notes into melodies or harmonies is a far more interesting way to create tension and offer release than a monotonous “pedal tone” or drone, both of which have been used in worship and other “spiritual” music almost from the Day 1 when music was first made.

For example, the mono-frequency singing bowl practitioner, if sufficiently advanced, is able to use both the pedal tone and melodic characteristics of their tools to invite physical tension and release. That is, instead of a single specific note, they use a cascade of notes and harmonies that bring up the tension and drop it back down in ways that listeners experience as much more satisfying than a solo pedal tone. Even knowing the power of a particular note, our human systems prefer a more interesting ride to a solo drone.

To be honest, mono-frequency practitioners ought to disclose the true nature of their craft: multiple layers of tension and release within each specific note, multiple layers of notes that create harmonies, the motion of melodies and congruent harmonies, and the function of silence. This is the creation of much more than a 528Hz C, isn’t it? In fact, this describes the creation of music itself.

Imagine being forced to tell an entire musical story with a single note. Could it be done? Obviously, changing the duration of the note, its volume, its timbre or color, and the rhythm with which is it played could have some purpose within this single-note story. Skillful sound healers are aware of these options, too, and use them to help develop the tension and release shapes of their offered story. This skill, however, is an advance over simply reproducing specific notes and is about musicianship in its essence.

All the musical aspects of a performance, whether of sound healing or any other kind of music, are what an audience experiences most profoundly. It is the combination of musical attributes that jump our emotions, satisfy our minds, hit us in the gut, and open us to the numinous. To be very plain: a single note, however skillfully played, pales in comparison, even though that single note may at some future date lay claim to being more powerful or having more healing energy than our current understanding can grasp today.

The point of the musical story is that it offers so much that a single note cannot. Clearly, the many notes that often aggregate in melodically satisfying ways can also affect harmony. When notes are out of alignment, they produce discord, and the composer or musician can use that tension to add color and shape to their story, enliven the music’s eventual release, or even ask questions in a physiological way.

All of these aspects of music are present even in nascent mono-frequency practices. So why are practitioners unwilling or unable to acknowledge them?

When is Music Spiritual?

We are now at a point in the journey where we can ask a big question about spirituality.

Mozart is supposed to have said that “music is the preparation for silence.” That’s aligned with yoga as the preparation for meditation and, one would assume, is a profound invitation to audiences and yogis: stillness is essential. Whether that stillness comes within the story told by a symphony or a sound bath, or at the end of either one, it is only within the still moment that one can touch the face of what has happened within the music – to begin to understand it mentally, emotionally, or even as a reference to the spiritual.

To make things easier, let’s sweep all the non-measurable effects of music – lots of notes and rhythms offered with some skill and purpose – into a basket and just call that “spiritual.” In that basket would be constructs such as “consciousness,” “inspiration,” “non-linear thinking,” and “healing” (the “brain-body connection”). One might draw on stuff in the basket to “manifest,” or “support one’s intentions.” Do you get the idea?

The stillness Mozart and many others have observed in music is a chance to inhale from the well of the spirit. While music aligns us, prepares us, and picks us up after the stillness, we are meant to move through the stillness, not to come to a final rest in it. Now, please don’t misunderstand my meaning here! Stillness in our current environment is a treasure that I value as much as you do.

The difference is that preparing to be in the stillness within or after the music is much different than searching for calm in the storm. It’s more than just down-regulating everything physically, mentally, and emotionally. The stillness in music is more similar to the active awareness of a tennis player about to receive a serve or a centered dancer just before the music begins. It’s not the yogic “corpse pose!” It’s anticipatory, not zoned out. It’s present, not passive. If you enjoy church you might notice that, after all the singing stops, there’s very little room left for the kind of stillness we are discussing here.

While we can play or sing or drum (or even psychedelic!) our way into the kind of preparation we need before we are ready to receive spirit, it’s noteworthy that athletes, scientists, parents, artists of all kinds, writers (probably especially poets), just to name a few examples, are all practitioners of a craft that prepares them to receive the contents of that basket of spirituality. The best music – the most effortless marathon, the most elegant equation, the most beautiful accomplishment of one’s child, or our sudden emotional response to a paradoxical poem – all bring us right to the threshold of spirit. In such profound moments, we often name the transportation as “spiritual,” but is it?

Vibration and Spirituality

So long as we are entrained to a physical stimulus, we are in many ways “holding still.” In fact the biggest objective of sound healing is to get our physiology to “hold still” around particular notes, which we experience as “healing.”This, as we have seen, is also one way to prepare us for spirit. Telling a musical story is yet another, even though we have also seen that silence offers moments of active, resting awareness. Either through sound or silence, we can arrive at this threshold. What do we need to step through it?

In spite of the Buddha’s admonition, when it comes to spirit, we must move.

When we attempt to confine the spiritual – all the stuff in the basket – to physical measurements or observations or even vibrations, when we attempt to think the thought that is of itself spiritual, we lose the potential for spirit. Why? Because spirit is not static, and spirit is by definition not physical and not perceptible to the physical sense. You can test analogy (it wouldn’t be possible to make a physical claim for a spiritual concept, right?) for yourself: which invites you to a more pleasing and fulfilling sense of awareness: a single healing pedal tone, or a simple healing melody? The movement of the melody is more satisfying, is it not, than the drone? Each has its place – often they combine with exponential effects! – but our human systems crave guided purposeful movement. In this way, even though we are certainly in the physical, we mirror the effects of spirit. It’s not about the thought, the feeling, or the physical vibration holding us in place. It’s about the moving experience.

So, in sum, vibration is a holding fast; experience is a soaring up. Which is the best invitation to the ineffable? Like all really good questions, the answer to this one depends on at least one very important thing.

Levels of Consciousness

David Hawkins has advanced a theory that human beings operate at different and distinct levels of consciousness, similar in some ways to the Maslow hierarchy of needs. As with Maslow, the Hawkins Map of Consciousness implies motion from the lower to the higher levels,  with instructive gateways between them that help us understand where our primary motivations might be relative to things such as life experience and outlook. A person in shame or guilt, for example, can work up the Map toward courage by traversing the levels of apathy, grief, fear, desire, anger, and pride.

How does this apply to our question about whether vibration best serves our advancement toward spirit? That’s an easy answer when one’s consciousness craves vibration; not so easy when one’s consciousness has advanced beyond vibration to, say, melody. There are times when we need a holdfast, aren’t there? A solid ground to support us; something firm to lean on. And, there are other times when a soaring melody is appropriate instead of sitting still.

So, we could say that, depending upon one’s current level of consciousness, the desire for vibration is essential. As we have seen above, those could be times when it is essential to stop, come to ground, and breathe. Such times in our era are often accompanied by distress, depression, and anxiety, and when we are in those constrictive modes of being, we may very well be exposed to what Hawkins calls “force.” A more proactive consciousness – the kind that Hawkins identifies as “power” – is not held down by the forceful and more negative ways of being. Instead, it wants to expand and move upward toward love, peace, and joy. Toward spirit.

Choosing a congruent kind of sound with which to invite movement toward a better consciousness is quite different than offering mono-frequency notes to push back the forceful tide of distress, depression, and anxiety, isn’t it?

“What about that love frequency?” I hear you ask. Let us for a moment welcome the question and the implication: that holding fast at the vibration of love is a good thing, as opposed to holding fast at the vibration of pride or even courage. If one is stuck at fear and anger, though, there are many levels to traverse before one can truly entrain to love, even if that simply means being open to another’s loving presence. We can’t put the cart before the horse, according to Hawkins, or we risk loving on a firm foundation. This doesn’t mean that people who are in “force” don’t experience the power of “love” when it hits them! Let’s rephrase that as a question: what happens to people whose level of consciousness doesn’t match the perceived power of the note – or vibration – they experience?

Stepping in and out of Love

It’s perfectly possible to bliss out on a love note (vibration – I feel it’s important to remind you) and not yet be at the level of consciousness that is love. Sound healing has that effect: we can feel loved without having to be it, walk it, embody it. This is a very good effect of the love note, yes? What happens when the note stops sounding? Chiropractors might call it “retracing,” and I suspect that’s a very good concept for the way our consciousness can revert to where it was before the bowls started singing. Up-leveling consciousness is work – hard work, and joyous the higher one gets, I’m told – and there are no shortcuts (sorry psychedelics: integration is a process, not just a ceremony or a sharing circle).

While modalities such as music can invite us right to spirit’s doorway, we can only advance through the door when we’re ready. To someone working with distress, depression, and anxiety, the doorway to spirit might look like desire; for one working up from pride, the doorway might appear as courage. There are musical genres for every step of this work, and there are as many individual ways to apply those genres as there are individuals doing the work. The beauty of notes is that they meet us where we are when we need them and in the form that serves us best. And, because the journey is toward spirit, we can choose the right notes to support our journey from where we are to the threshold of the next doorway along our way.

A Personal Experience

On my very first psychedelic journey, my guide offered a playlist of music I had never heard. Being musical, I had given a lot of thought to the music that would best support whatever experience I might have, and instead of attempting to steer the ship, I chose to accept the guide’s musical guidance alongside the practical assistance they provided.

The first actively conscious thought after the journey was that I “know” nothing about music. This was after several hours’ experience within music in ways that weren’t available to me without the release of psilocybin in my system; the experience was devoid of the thought I normally bring to listening, which simply didn’t work at the time.

There was no way to be within the swirl of melody and harmony that accompanied my journey while hearing and thinking about the music in any normal way. On the other hand, the emotional experience of this same music was wide open to me and, most poignantly, the continued invitation in every moment of the musical journey was always and only towards spirit. I felt a paradox, too, of not being able to fully walk toward spirit while the music was playing; something about the music itself kept me grounded, and you now know what that was: notes – vibrations – keeping me safely tethered to the physical realm!

What music did I hear? A Spotify playlist was only part of it; at one point – I’ve no idea where – Spotify began doing its “radio” thing and played similar music to where I’d already gone.

This “life raft” experience seems to align with the notion of grounding we’ve explored as pedal tones. Because of the many many invitations that flooded the listening experience, it was also a process of keeping the doorways to spirit as open as they could be. The motion of the melody notes in the music let me soar, while the grounding of pedal tones – common in such music – helped keep me on Earth.

Have I gone back to the journey? Many times. I was able to catch one particular bit of music that was transformative for me, and I use it regularly to prepare for work with spirit. This music swirls. That’s the best word I’ve got for it. If whirling Dervishes had been in the room during this part of my journey, that would have been the music. It’s harmonically and melodically dense, and it is very far from being static in any normal sound healing kind of way, while also simultaneously being such a powerful healing invitation! It seems that the more paradoxical the music is, the closer its essence approaches spirit. As an explorer of paradox, I recognize such things as another kind of spiritual invitation – this one came in music – and that I need to be ready to accept them when they come.

The trick with this – with this music – is to consciously avoid interpreting it or analyzing it with the head brain. Doing so stops the flow. With the emotions, I find more and more that allowing is better than naming: the flow toward spirit stops when they become crystalized and objectified.

This is just me, and just my experience. Yours will undoubtedly vary, and if you approach the use of music with awareness like this, I suspect you will find new ways within the music you love to discover the grounding and the invitations to spirit that you, specifically, need.

That’s a Wrap

Thank you for taking this journey with me. As with most paradoxical experiences, I set off going in one direction and have arrived back at the place where I started with nothing much more than additional experience to show for it. It feels as if my own understanding of mono-frequency modalities has become more accepting, especially in light of the Hawkins Levels of Consciousness, and that my awareness of the invitation in notes that move has improved.

I don’t know what to call notes that invite us toward spirit. Perhaps “spiritual music” is the best we can do at present. It feels important to state once again that a note or notes, regardless of how skillfully assembled and how pleasing to a listener, are not of themselves spiritual, even as I’m convinced that the effects of those notes are very properly pointing us towards the spiritual direction we individually need. I’m also convinced that sound and rhythm are a gateway to the numinous, the ineffable, and the spiritual, and research supports this when it notices that, of all the things we can measure about the human response to music, there’s more.

I hope you will join this quest for spiritual understanding at whatever level is best for you and, for the purposes of this article, that you will use notes (vibrations) in the way that best supports your motion towards synchrony with the motion of spirit itself.


Over the course of more than 40 years of paying attention to how music works on us, Bill Protzmann has rediscovered the fundamental nature and purpose of music and accumulated a vast awareness of anthropology and sociology, as well as the effects of music, the arts, and information technology on human beings. Bill has experimented with what he has learned through performing concerts, giving lectures, facilitating workshops, and teaching classes. He first published on the powerful extensibility of music into the business realm in 2006 (here and abstract here). Ten years later, in 2016, he consolidated his work into the Musimorphic Quest. In this guided, gamified, experiential environment, participants discover and remember their innate connection to this ancient transformative technology. Also, The National Council for Behavioral Healthcare recognized Bill in 2014 with an Inspiring Hope award for Artistic Expression, the industry equivalent of winning an Oscar.

Musimorphic programs support wellness for businesses, NPOs and at-risk populations, and individuals.


Picture of Bill