Complementary and alternative medicine Friday Woo Medicine Skepticism/critical thinking

Your Friday Dose of Woo: The hills are alive with the sound of woo

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After posting about the Donnie Davies, an alleged “youth minister” in Houston who has garnered a lot of attention throughout the blogosphere for his website in which he provides a hilariously off-base list of “gay bands” to avoid and “safe” bands, I was perusing my Folder of Woo, looking for this week’s target, but it was hard. After all, whether Donnie is a big hoax or not, whether his atrocious video saying that “homosexuality is a choice” and that “God hates a fag” is meant to be satire or not, he was going to be hard to top. In fact, I don’t think I’ll even try. However, Donnie did help me in one way. He made it easier to pick exactly which, of the many woo possibilities, I’d tackle this week.

Music/tone/sound woo, of course!

And this one’s a doozy. Come with me, as I take you on a journey to where the hills are alive with the sound of woo. (Apologies to Julie Andrews, and, by the way, when did Samuel L. Jackson grow a goatee and take up banging on cymbals?) Yes, come with me to check out Healing Sounds, as Chant Master Jonathan Goldman welcomes you to his world:

When I first began working with sound and music for healing, I understood that everything was based upon frequency. As the Hermetic Principles tell us, the universe is nothing, more or less, than an endless number of vibrations and rhythms. Yet, as I began to pursue and study this work more, I began to notice another interesting phenomenon. Sometimes different people apparently used different frequencies or different sounds to heal the same problem. ‘How could this be?’ I wondered, unless there was something else besides the frequency. There must have been something equally important in sound that I had been ignoring.

It was my friend and fellow colleague Steven Halpern, PhD, who first brought my attention to the missing area in question. ‘Sound is a carrier wave of consciousness,’ Steven said. This means that depending upon where an individual’s awareness is placed when he creates a certain sound, the sound will carry information on that state to the person receiving it. If, for example, you are angry and you create a sound, even though it may be a pleasant sound, you will be sending anger that is incorporated into that sound. This will be perceived on some subtle level by those receiving the sound.

I like to think of this as the intent or purpose behind the sound. With this word ‘intent’, we are really talking about the consciousness of the sound being created. This encompasses the overall state of the person making the sound and involves the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of that person. The initial understanding of intention involves our conscious mind. Is the conscious intent of the sound to heal or to hurt, or is there no specific intent or purpose there at all?

A more advanced understanding of intent involves what may be understood as alignment with the purpose of our higher selves, or the ‘Divine Will’. It is that aspect of consciousness that is able to align with the sacred energy of sound. It is ‘Thy will’, not ‘my will’. When we have reached this level, our intent is to become a vehicle for sacred sound and we are able to by-pass the lesser aspects of self which may be out of balance. For many people, the initial understanding of intent is a major stepping stone in using sound as a transformative and therapeutic tool, for most of us have never created sound with conscious awareness and purpose.

“Intent”? Wow, shades of Dr. Emoto and his projection of “intent” onto water crystals as they freeze by speaking to them with “intent”! (Not coincidentally, Dr. Emoto’s book is offered for sale on this site.) And, in fact, it’s even more than that. There’s even a Sound Healers’ Association dedicated to the propagation of this woo, and they’re setting up a cyberspace presence, a temple if you will, just for you to experience the healing power of intentionalized sound:

The Temple of Sacred Sound will be a place in cyberspace where people throughout the world can gather and tone for Global Harmony.

There will be at least 3 separate chambers where different seed sounds (“Om”, “Ah” and “Hu”) will be sounded 24/7. You’ll be able to go into one of these chambers and project intentionalized sound for Planetary Peace while being able to hear yourself and other sthroughout the world. Through the magic of the internet, we will truly be able to resonate together in a manner unlike any other..

In certain Tibetan temples the same chant has been continued without interruption for hundreds of years. These chants are for the compassionate enlightenment of all sentient beings. Soon, those of us with computers and access to cyberspace will have a similar capability to use sound as a coherent group to enhance consciousness via the Temple of Sacred Sound.

Wow! Cyber-sound woo! They hope to have this temple completed for the next World Sound Healing Day, but more on that later.

What, you may wonder, can Sound Healing do for you? Oh ye of little faith! It can do lots and lots. After all, it’s called Sound Healing, not sound relaxation or sound enjoyment (which is how I usually react to music or tones like the ones Mr. Goldman uses). But first let’s look at how this sound of woo is said to heal. What exactly is the principle behind this woo? Mr. Goldman is only too happy to explain:

First, let me point out that modern science is now in agreement with what the ancient mystics have told us–that everything is in a state of vibration, from the electrons moving around the nucleus of an atom, to planets and distant galaxies moving around stars. As they’re creating movement, they are creating vibration, and this vibration can be perceived of as sound. So everything is creating a sound, including the sofa that we’re sitting on, or this table, or our bodies. Every organ, every bone, every tissue, every system of the body is creating a sound. When we are in a state of health, we’re like an extraordinary orchestra that’s playing a wonderful symphony of the self. But what happens if the second violin player loses her sheet music? She begins to play out of tune, and pretty soon the entire string section sounds bad. Pretty soon, in fact, the entire orchestra is off. This is a metaphor for disease.

I have the greatest respect for traditional allopathic medicine. But with regard to our string player who’s playing the wrong music, allopathic medicine currently has the approach of either giving this player enough drugs so she simply passes out, or cutting her head off with a broad sword–analogous to surgery.

Hey, wait a minute! He sure doesn’t sound as though he has the “greatest respect” for “traditional allopathic medicine”! Is this guy going to claim that if someone has appendicitis chanting will take care of the problem? Or a woman with breast cancer could have it disappear with the use of the right combination of tones? I don’t think so! In these cases and many like them, nothing heals like surgical steel! But, then, what do I know? I’m just one of those unenlightened “allopathic” doctors. (Hint: Whenever you hear someone referring to “allopathic” medicine–usually with a sneer, hidden or not–you know you’re likely to hear some serious woo soon.) If you want to believe this guy and use tones to treat a life-threatening disease, I hope your affairs are in good order and the payments on your life insurance policy up to date. As for “scientists agreeing” that that “everything is in a state of vibration,” well, that’s a triviality that from which it by no means follows that Goldman’s brand of sound woo works. But, what the hey? Let’s see what Goldman’s alternative to us primitive “allopaths” is:

I ask the question, “What if we could somehow give the string player back her sheet music?” What if we could somehow project the correct resonant frequency to that part of the body that is vibrating out of harmony, and cause it to vibrate back into its normal, healthy rhythm, restoring it to a condition of health? That’s the basic principle of using sound as a healing modality.

Wow, man. Why didn’t I think of that? Maybe I should use the harmonic scalpel more. Yes, there really is such a thing as the harmonic scalpel. Maybe we surgeons aren’t as un-hip to this whole sound healing thing as Goldman thinks. But I guess using ultrasound waves that are too high for human ears to hear to coagulate bleeding isn’t what Goldman had in mind. But let’s see how he explains how tuning forks could be used to deal with headaches:

I think the tuning forks affect the cerebral spinal fluid, which is said to be the carrier of kundalini energy. I’ve seen vertebrae pop into alignment and all sorts of other wonderous things happen, just from using the tuning forks. Then there’s another way of using different types of tuning forks, where you put them on the acupuncture meridians. I sort of stumbled upon using tuning forks, as I stumble upon a lot of things, but now somebody’s created a whole series of tuning forks and a training program, and they call it “acu-tronics” or “acu-tonics,” something like that.

In addition to the frequency of the tuning forks, I’m also working with other aspects of sound healing, especially intent. I believe that part of the experience you had was the result of my intent, the energy behind the sound. So, in other words, when I was working on you, I was also putting my energy into the tuning forks to have a perceived effect of balancing and making you feel good.

Wow. Acupuncture and tone healing! Double the woo at the same session! Lest you think that this isn’t science, man, let Mr. Goldman disabuse you of this idea right now. Let him assure you that Sound Healing meets the highest standards of evidence-based medicine:

Actually, there has been a pretty good amount of research regarding intention. In one experiment, a friend of mine who’s a doctor had three different Petrie dishes with yeast or bacteria or something in them, and he held his hand over one dish and thought, “Stay the same.” He held his hand over the other, and he thought, “Grow.” And he held his hand over the third and he thought, “Cease.” And that’s exactly what happened in each dish. He was simply working with energy. What could be seen as vibration adhered to his thoughts, but it affected the media in the petrie dishes.

“Yeast or bacteria or….something“? Nice, tight, experimental protocol, wouldn’t you say? Sorry, I’ll let Mr. Goldman continue:

There are, however, people who are doing studies on sound and healing. A friend of mine named Fabian Maman has done some fabulous research showing the effects of sound on hemoglobin cells. He would hit the note “C” and then he would do what is called a kirlian photograph of the hemoglobin cell. Then he would wait about a minute and hit the note “C#” and then he would photograph the cell again. You can actually see major changes and shifts in the hemoglobin cell. And he also did the same thing with cancer cells.

Kirlian photographs? Now that’s some serious aura/energy woo! I did PubMed searches to try to find these two lines of research, but, sadly, I failed to find articles describing the effects noted. Of course, I didn’t have hours to do searches on endless variations of any possible words that could appear in these journals. I guess it’s just evidence of my “allopathic” close-mindedness. Oh, well. In any case, I’m sure the manuscripts must be in press, although I do worry about Goldman’s statement that, “anecdotally, I have heard of every type of condition being healed with sound.” I suspect that he really means “testimonials,” not “anecdotes.” There, that’s better.

Now don’t get me wrong. Although the evidence is a bit sketchy, I have little doubt that the right kind of music can be helpful in illness by inducing relaxation and feelings of well-being and that the wrong kind of music can promote agitation and negative feelings. (Certainly music like ABBA would cause me to become agitated.) There’s also little doubt that certain tones or music will induce different types of brain activity. At the very least, listening to music or certain sounds will make a person happy, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, there’s no evidence that I’m aware of supporting Godlman’s grandiose claims. Of course, these aren’t even the most grandiose claims on this website. That’s because Goldman doesn’t just want to heal individuals. Oh, no, that’s too small a goal. He wants to heal the planet through World Sound Healing Day coming up on February 14:

Some time ago in deep meditation, I was instructed on the importance of co-creating events in which people would create sacred sound together in order to heal the planet. World Sound Healing Day is such an event. I was told that gatherings where people sounded sacred tones filled with the intention of Love were THE single most effective tool for manifesting change on the planet at this most precarious time in our existence.


What will happen on World Sound Healing Day? Perhaps we will manifest a new dawn of humankind and peace will forever permeate our planet! There will certainly be more balance instilled on the Earth–more harmony and peace. Higher grids of consciousness will be anchored, encoded and activated. We will have created more compassion and love onto the planet. In so doing, we will have initiated extraordinary beneficial change. We will have manifested positive shifts generating Light & Love through Sound. What a blessing!

Shades of Global Orgasm Day! Actually, Global Orgasm Day sounded like a lot more fun than just making the “Ah” sound, as Goldman advocates. On the other hand, no doubt during Global Orgasm (GO) Day, there were many people making the “Ah!” sound, among others. It probably just wasn’t in the calm “intent”-filled manner that Sound Healing requires. In any case, GO day was no more likely to change the world than Goldman’s woo, but at least it would–shall we say?–provide an “outlet” for pent up frustrations. But that’s just my opinion.

Now that you’ve heard about this woo, I’m guessing you probably want in. So what does it take to become a Sound Healer, just like Mr. Goldman? Fortunately for you, Mr. Goldman’s got your back. He offers just what you need: an intensive course in sound healing, where in a mere nine weeks you can learn things like vowels as mantra, music improvisation (what are these guys, jazz musicians?), the Spinal Bija Mantras, Avalokitesvara Initiation, Personal Grid Activation, Sonic Yoga of Listening (is this anything like Death Cab for Cutie?), Pythagorean Tuning Forks, Toning the Physical Body, Breath and the Merkabah, Sonic Shamanism (now we’re talking!), Overtoning Healing Technique, Vocal Harmonics, Star Thoughtforms, and much, much more. It all begins with the critical “Day of Toning“:

The Day of Toning begins as we descend into the Cave of the Earth Mother, which houses the Temple of Sacred Sound. Each participant is cleared and purified through sage and other tools before being anointed by special oils. They then drink of water vibrating to specific essences.

Then, they are ready to enter the Temple of Sacred Sound. Once inside, they silently seat themselves in a circle. They will observe that on the floor at the center of the Temple is a geometric form created two intersecting circles. This form, created from sacred corn, is called the “Vesica Pisces”. The purpose and use of this geometric form will be explained in a session prior to our Day of Toning.

In addition to the sacred geometry of the Vesica Pisces, there will be actual 3 dimensional geometric forms that one can sit in and experience their energy. These geometric forms, supplied by Jim Albani for the Day of toning, have different attributes and energies, which will also be explained to us. These forms are a special compliment to our Day of Toning–a wonderful addition that assists our activation and energy.

But how much will this set you back? Oh, come now. Do doctors ask how much medical school will cost? OK, bad example. They do, given that a private school can be $30,000 or more per year just for tuition alone. But, then, compared to going six figures into debt and spending many years of medical school and residency in order to become one of those clueless “allopathic” physicians, it’s way cheaper to become a Sound Healer, and, when put in those terms, seems like a total bargain. (No cracks about “you get what you pay for”!) In fact, it only costs a mere $1,395. Well, not exactly $1,395. That figure doesn’t count travel to Colorado, room, and board for the course, and, of course, the nifty tools that you’ll need, tools like the Crystal Resonator (only $22.95) or a set of Holy Harmony Tuning Forks ($189.95). And, hey, even if you’re too short on scratch to afford the course, Mr. Goldman’s still got your back then, too, offering a correspondence course for a mere $350. (And it brings “immunologic enhancement” and “brain hemispheric balancing,” to boot!) You do, however, miss the opportunity to do a little pyramid action, as shown below.


Hmmm. Let’s see. At $1,395 a pop for each participant in one of these workshops, plus $395 a pop for each correspondence course student, plus all the tuning forks, crystals, CDs, books, and stuff, that’s some pretty righteous bucks for Mr. Goldman.

One thing bothers me, though. Goldman emphasizes again and again that the sound alone is useless. He emphasizes again and again that the “intent” of the healer is the critical element necessary for healing. If that’s the case, then why go through all the rigamarole with the tuning forks and the chanting? Why doesn’t the healer just use his or her “intent” to heal the sick? What’s the science behind that? Oh, wait, there is no science, all of course because of this:

But what I’d like to suggest is that sound healing as a modality is very ancient. People have been using mantras and other sounds for various types of healing and consciousness shifts for thousands of years in different traditions. But the research still needs to be done, and it’s very hard to get research done on sound healing, because most of it needs to be privately funded. It won’t be funded by the drug companies, because you can’t patent a tone.

Great. Just what we need. Adding tones and sound with “intent” to the list of “natural cures ‘they’ don’t want you to know about.” Paging Kevin Trudeau! But, hey, what do I know? I’m apparently well on the way to becoming one big pharma shill, anyway, as implied by some of my critics over the DCA thing.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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