The Science and Alchemy of Sound John Beaulieu, N.D.,PH.D

This paper is based on a hypothesis that explores the ancient archetype of the Perfect Fifth, a sonic interval, and its potential importance in the applications of sound healing in modern stress science. Go directly to the paper for more info and references. 

An interval in sound is a precise space between two tones. The Perfect Fifth is a precise tonal relationship defined by a 2/3 ratio that was believed in ancient cultures to have profound healing qualities. The Perfect Fifth is also an archetype that repeats itself over and over to create a vibrational field that gives rise to everything we know. Its healing qualities, well known in the ancient times, will be presented in case histories and in a review of research in modern biochemistry and neuroscience that makes the case for the healing power of sound, strongly suggesting the need for more research.

The purpose of this paper is to learn from and be inspired by the great teachers of the past and to better understand their way of conceptualizing the universe and healing in the light of modern science. The paper is divided into three parts. The first part presents an understanding of interval of a Perfect Fifth and ancient sound healing principles. The second part presents “the Alchemy of The Perfect Fifth.” Part three presents “The Perfect Fifth and Sound Healing” and introduces case histories and scientific insights on the mechanisms by which these ancient sound healing practices work.


One must keep in mind that the great teachings and practices of the past are often expressed in metaphors and stories that have been passed down over hundreds and even thousands of years and that are very different from our modem scientific language. Often one cannot be sure who the authors are, their exact time of publication, or even if their stories have been changed during the course of history. This paper does not pretend to know “the truth” of the past. Instead, it examines literature from the past and asks how it might be understood in the light of modern evidence-based healing practices.

For example, Manly P. Hall relates a Pythagorean story in his book, The Therapeutic Value of Music.

“Ancient Story”

“A demented youth forced his way into the dwelling of a prominent judge who had recently sentenced the boy’s father to death for a criminal offense. The frenzied lad, bearing a naked sword, approached the jurist, who was dining with friends, and threatened his life. Among the guests was a Pythagorean student. Reaching over quietly, he plucked a fifth upon a lyre which had been laid aside by a musician who had been entertaining the gathering. At the sound of the fifth, the crazed young man stopped in his tracks and could not move. He was led away as though in a trance.”2

This same story could have been told again in a new modern context. In the Manly P. Hall story the person uses a lyre tuned to Pythagorean intervals. In my own story I use tuning forks tuned to Pythagorean intervals.

This story suggests that sound based on Pythagorean tuning can be used as part of a healing process. In order to better understand sound healing in the context of modern science and evidence based clinical practice, additional research is needed. It is also necessary to honor the traditions and practices of those healers who came before us.

“The Perfect Fith”

The mathematical discovery of the Perfect Fifth as an archetype based on mathematics is credited to Pythagoras, the ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician.


He used an instrument called monochord to demonstrate the relationship between sound and numbers.





   In yoga, the Perfect Fifth is the divine dance between Shiva and Shakti





In Greek astrology, the Perfect Fifth is the light of the Sun that illuminates the whole cosmos.




The Chinese philosophers, Lao Tzu referred to the Perfect Fifth as the sound of universal harmony between the forces of king and yang represented by the image of the Tao.




The Mundane Monochord by Robert Fludd, often referred to as the World Monochord, is a graphic summary of Pythagorean Universal Sound principles based on a Perfect Fifth, principles that are important to this day. The World Monochord illustrates Pythagorean harmonic principles mapped to elements, planets, angelic kingdoms, and the hand of God.



Scientific Discussion today about Sound and Vibration

Research suggests that when individuals listen to music and/or sounds that are safe and enjoyable, they will experience peripheral vasodilation, warming of the skin, a decrease in heart rate and an overwhelming sense of well-being.38 In 2003 John Beaulieu and colleagues published a peer-reviewed paper in Medical Science Monitor suggesting the physiological pathways through which sound and music work.  Specifically, it discussed how sound and music had the ability to bypass the limbic system and amygdala and go directly to the core brain resulting in the release of anandamide, an endogenous endocannabinoid, which causes the release of cNO in immune cells, neural tissues, and human vascular endothelial cells.


Representative connections among the limbic-hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis, demonstrate that these centers are linked to vascular tone regulation. This pathway suggests how nitric oxide spiking may exert a level of top-down control of vasomotor activity and circulatory tone. The positive reaction to a nitric oxide wave is reduced blood pressure, lower heart rate, greater pain tolerance, overall lowering of metabolism, and a greater sense of well-being and ability to adapt to stressors. Sound also plays a role in the management of stress and anxiety also through its ability to increase or decrease both cortisol and norepinephrine and by its related ability to decrease arousal due to stress. It affects the immune system by stimulating the production of IgA and NK cells.

When this happens, patients will report an experience of inner warmth and a deep sense of well- being. Psychologically, they will be more positive and better able to cope with their environments, resulting in the continued neutralization of the stressors that were inhibiting natural cNO production in immune, nerve, and endothelial cells. The patients will experience less distracting physical and emotional pain due to the release of endocannabinoids and will be more able to focus and talk about what is most important to them.

In technical terms, Nitric Oxide is a “gaseous diffusible modulator” that moves through the entire body and central nervous system in waves of gas. The release of Nitric Oxide counteracts the negative effects of the stress hormone norepinephrine. The presence of norepinephrine results in a racing heart, high blood pressure, anger, anxiety, and greater vulnerability to pain. The positive reaction to the nitric oxide wave is increased neural plasticity, reduced blood pressure, lower heart rate, greater pain tolerance, and overall lowering of metabolism. Psychologically, this leads to less anger, a strong sense of purpose, and a greater sense of well-being, leading to an increased ability to adapt to stressors.

In general, when the frequencies are used with healing intention  (Acoustic Restoration Therapy™), their effect is quick and can be integrated with and will enhance every therapy.  Relaxing on our Acoustic Water Beds, just for a moment, will stimulate the above physiological and psychological processes. It is a way of shifting gears with a patient and then moving on to the next patient, knowing that the sound will serve to enhance whatever therapies the patient is receiving.

Relaxation Room at IHCNM

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