Colorful Vibrations

Kabbalah is a study of unseen reality and unseen potential.

If we limit ourselves to experiencing the senses of the physical body we perceive only a fraction of the world that we can connect with, feel and know. Science has been an incredible tool to uncover what is beyond our normal senses.

When early humans weren’t aware of the unseen they often succumbed to a lurking predator whether animal, viral or bacterial. We have slowly been able to put under the microscope or view through the telescope (and newer technology) unseen realities that were unfathomable just a few years ago.  By doing so we have opened our perception; broader, wider and deeper.

There is a tradition to sound a ram’s horn (Shofar) each morning for the month preceding Rosh Hashanah and on the New Year Day itself, there is a more extensive ritual of sounding the Shofar.

My father had a prized possession: an elegantly shaped and almost translucent ram’s horn, pleasing to the eye but requiring great skill to elicit its sound. As for any musical instrument, there is a relationship between the player and the instrument. In my father’s hands, the blasts of that Shofar sent vibrations into my chest. I was hearing the sounds auditorily but I was feeling the sounds viscerally.

Before last week I had never heard of cymatics—a field of science in which sounds are visualized in patterns. Put simply, you visualize patterns produced by the vibrations of sound.

For a quick intro watch Evan Grant’s and in four minutes you will have the basics.

Googling “cymatics” and “shofar” yielded only one incomprehensible link of someone demonstrating the vibrations created by shofar sounds. The experiment still needs to be done.

This Rosh Hashanah we will explore what we see (feel) as we listen to the sounds of the shofar. There is a puzzling statement made by the first-century mystic Rabbi Akiva commenting on a verse in the Torah that says that the people at Sinai heard the sounds (of the shofar) “they saw what is (normally) heard, and heard what is (normally) seen.” This joining or connecting of the senses is called synesthesia—a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to experiences in a second sensory pathway.

Apparently, it was known some two thousand years ago to describe an experience of seeing sounds.

The most common seeing of sounds, whether music or words, is seeing them in color. While there are many competing ideas about the origin of its name, perhaps the music genre “blues” was so called because the rhythms of those African spirituals translated for those who had synesthesia into the color blue.

Sound as color may sound a bit strange but we now have solid neuroscience backing up this human capacity—people see red not just when they are angry, they see all kinds of colors associated with sensory input.

Many visual artists’ creativity is inspired by sound and music as a thirteen-year-old Wassily Kandinsky had saved enough money to buy himself oil paints and as he mixed the colors he could hear their distinctive sounds.   On his art, he wrote: “The artist’s hand touches one key after another to cause vibrations in the soul.”

Wishing you all colorful sounds and patterns of beauty from the vibrations you send and receive.


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