Art & Organism—Resonance notes


My New Agey friend showed me her new Tibetan singing bowl. It made a beautiful sound when she rubbed the edge with a stick at just the right speed and angle.  But there is significant physics behind this: glance at Resonance Frequency Variations Of Metallic Tibetan Singing Bowl With Temperature” By R. Wijesiriwardana  (some simple notes on sound at a singing bowl sales site

I pluck a string over here and another begins to vibrate over there.

I create a sound and a glass shatters. ( http://demoweb.physics.ucla.edu/node/58 )

“It is inconceivable, that inanimate brute matter should, without the mediation of something else, which is not material, operate upon and affect other matter without mutual contact…That gravity should be innate, inherent, and essential to matter, so that one body may act upon another at a distance, through a vacuum, without the mediation of anything else, by and through which their action and force may be conveyed from one to another, is to me so great an absurdity, that I believe no man who has in philosophical matters a competent faculty of thinking, can ever fall into it.” (Newton speaking of gravity, 1693)[i]

On November 7, 1940, the third longest suspension bridge collapsed: it was the Tacoma_Narrows_Bridge, across a narrow part of Puget Sound in Washington State.  (Check out the UCLA Physics Lab on Harmonic Motion, Waves and Sound there is a video of the collapse there)


“A particle excited at exactly the right frequency changes its quantum state — this is called “resonance spectroscopy.” Up until now, this method has only been used employing electromagnetic radiation. Researchers at TU Vienna have now developed a resonance method, which for the first time does not use electromagnetism, but the force of gravity.”  How this is utilized to explore gravity noted in 2011 


Resonance in physics and music

·        “An acoustically resonant object usually has more than one resonance frequency, especially at harmonics[ii] of the strongest resonance. It will easily vibrate at those frequencies, and vibrate less strongly at other frequencies. It will “pick out” its resonance frequency from a complex excitation, such as an impulse or a wideband noise excitation. In effect, it is filtering out all frequencies other than its resonance.

o   Acoustic resonance is an important consideration for instrument builders, as most acoustic instruments use resonators, such as the strings and body of a violin, the length of tube in a flute, and the shape of a drum membrane.

o   Why Stradivari was lord of the strings | New Scientist   Nov 29, 2006  Joseph Nagyvary, a chemist at Texas A&M University in College Station, analysed shavings from a Stradivarius and a Guarnerius using infrared and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. He found that a chemical wood preservative used in timber yards around Cremona in Lombardy, where both …

·        Radio: When you tune a radio knob to 96.5MHz, the internal oscillator is adjusted to produce a 96.5MHz signal. This is a reference signal that allows the receiver to recognize any radio waves coming from the antenna at the 96.5Mhz frequency. 

·        Human hearing

o   Acoustic resonance is also important for hearing. For example, resonance of a stiff structural element, called the basilar membrane within the cochlea of the inner ear allows hair cells on the membrane to detect sound. (For mammals the membrane has tapering resonances across its length so that high frequencies are concentrated on one end and low frequencies on the other.) (also https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/basilar-membrane)

o   Like mechanical resonance, acoustic resonance can result in catastrophic failure of the vibrator. The classic example of this is breaking a wine glass with sound at the precise resonant frequency of the glass; although this is difficult in practice.[2][3]

·        Sympathetic strings or resonance strings are auxiliary strings found on many Indian musical instruments, as well as some Western Baroque instruments and a variety of folk instruments. They are typically not played directly by the performer (except occasionally as an effect), only indirectly through the tones that are played on the main strings, based on the principle of sympathetic resonance.  

o   Morphic Resonance

o   In 1988, Rupert Sheldrake publsihed a “dazzling Theory of Everything, the goal of which was nothing less than to replace the physics- based worldview of modern biology with an organismic model that made life and mind more “basic” than matter and mathematics. He called the theory the theory of “morphic resonance”.

o   More recently, New Scientist seems to be backing away from their “benefit of the doubt” review of a re-issue of Rupert Sheldrake’s 1988 book, The Presence of the Past. CultureLab: Sheldrake book: Did we really say that?     A detailed critique is at http://skepdic.com/morphicres.html. Still, there are intuitively attractive ideas here: read an interview with Sheldrake



·        Pythagoras is discussed in Music of the Spheres[iii] which makes the instantiating point that “Pythagoras showed that the notes are not random or arbitrary and that they could be understood on a deeper level.

o   The notes were chosen simply because they were pleasing to the ear. But, as it turns out, the scales also follow basic mathematical constructs. So the question is, what does this say about our likes and emotions? Is there a mathematical/physical basis to them, as well?”

o   “There are many things that Pythagoras did not explain. Why is the frequency inversely proportional to the length? Why use the length at all for his studies? Why do we like these intervals? However, Pythagoras did make a great start.”


·        Good comment in Absolute Music: The History of an Idea  By Mark Evan Bonds  p.40

·        Elaborate speculative theory at http://www.thakanon.org/pythagorean-music-theory.html


·       Resonance in the CNS

o   Multilevel role of resonance in the brain(MacLean 1997)[iv]

o   Cited at length By Charles Don Keyes in Brain Mystery Light and Dark: The Rhythm and Harmony of Consciousness

o   Limbic Resonance[v]


[i] Sir Isaac Newton (Third letter to Bentley, 25 Feb 1693. Quoted in The Works of Richard Bentley, D. D. (1838), Vol. 3, 212-3.)

[ii] https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/2f/Moodswingerscale.svg/250px-Moodswingerscale.svg.pngThe nodes of a vibrating string are harmonics.

[iii] http://www.phys.uconn.edu/~gibson/Notes/Section3_7/Sec3_7.htm : 3.7 Music of the Spheres and the Lessons of Pythagoras


At this point, we have covered a number of topics and some history of physics, so it is important to step back and understand where we are before going on.

·        Using simple mathematics, Pythagoras was able to describe the basis of almost all musical scales, including the pentatonic, the Western, the chromatic and the Arabic scales. This shows the power and excitement of science. For the first time, Pythagoras could answer the question, WHY? Why are these notes and scales special? The answer is that they are formed in a simple, systematic, and mathematical manner. Most importantly, Pythagoras showed that the notes are not random or arbitrary and that they could be understood on a deeper level.

·        Pythagoras’s discoveries bring up a deeper ‘psychology’ question: scales were first developed by ear: we – and the Neanderthals – choose these particular notes before there was any understanding of mathematics or physics. The notes were chosen simply because they were pleasing to the ear. But, as it turns out, the scales also follow basic mathematical constructs. So the question is, what does this say about our likes and emotions? Is there a mathematical/physical basis to them, as well?

·      The power of spectroscopy. What Pythagoras did was look a physical system (the musical scale), found characteristic frequencies (pitches/notes) and found simple mathematical relationships between the frequencies (ratios of 3/2, for example). This process actually became a fundamental part of physics, and modern physics, in particular.


Modern physics started in the early 1900’s with the concepts of quantum mechanics and relativity. However, the concept of quantum mechanics came about through a process much like Pythagoras’s. The physicist, Neils Bohr, considered a physical system (the hydrogen atom), examined the frequencies characteristic of hydrogen (i.e. the colors of light that a hydrogen lamp produced), and found simple relationships between the frequencies (such as ratios of 32/42).


[iv] The Brain and Subjective Experience: Question of Multilevel Role of Resonance.  P.D. MacLean 1997.  J Mind & Behavior 18(2-3):247[145]-268[166]

[v] Limbic resonance From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia  9 December, 2017: 

Limbic resonance is the idea that the capacity for sharing deep emotional states arises from the limbic system of the brain.[1] These states include the dopamine circuit-promoted feelings of empathic harmony, and the norepinephrinecircuit-originated emotional states of fear, anxiety and anger.[2]

The concept was advanced in the book A General Theory of Love (2000), and is one of three interrelated concepts central to the book’s premise: that our brain chemistry and nervous systems are measurably affected by those closest to us (limbic resonance); that our systems synchronize with one another in a way that has profound implications for personality and lifelong emotional health (limbic regulation); and that these set patterns can be modified through therapeutic practice (limbic revision).[3]:170

In other words, it refers to the capacity for empathy and non-verbal connection that is present in mammals, and that forms the basis of our social connections as well as the foundation for various modes of therapy and healing. According to the authors (Thomas Lewis, M.D, Fari Amini, M.D. and Richard Lannon, M.D.), our nervous systems are not self-contained, but rather demonstrably attuned to those around us with whom we share a close connection. “Within the effulgence of their new brain, mammals developed a capacity we call ‘limbic resonance’ — a symphony of mutual exchange and internal adaptation whereby two mammals become attuned to each other’s inner states.”[3]

This notion of limbic resonance builds on previous formulations and similar ideas. For example, the authors retell at length the notorious experiments of Harry Harlow establishing the importance of physical contact and affection in social and cognitive development of rhesus monkeys.[4] They also make extensive use of subsequent research by Tiffany Fieldin mother/infant contact,[5][6] Paul D. MacLean on the triune brain (reptilian, limbic, and neocortex),[7] and the work of G.W. Kraemer.[8]

Importance and history[edit]

Lewis, Amini and Lannon first make their case by examining a story from the dawn of scientific experimentation in human development—albeit heinously misguided—when in the thirteenth century Frederick II raised a group of infants to be completely cut off from human interaction, other than the most basic care and feeding, so as to discover what language would spontaneously arise in the absence of any communication prompts. The result of this notorious experiment was that the infants, deprived of any human discourse or affection, all died.[3]:68,69

The authors find the hegemony of Freudian theory in the early days of psychology and psychiatry to be almost as harmful as the ideas of Frederick the Great. They condemn the focus on cerebral insight, and the ideal of a cold, emotionless analyst, as negating the very benefit that psychotherapy can confer by virtue of the empathetic bond and neurological reconditioning that can occur in the course of sustained therapeutic sessions. “Freud’s enviable advantage is that he never seriously undertook to follow his own advice. Many promising young therapists have their responsiveness expunged, as they are taught to be dutifully neutral observers, avoiding emotional contact….But since therapy is limbic relatedness, emotional neutrality drains life out of the process…”[3]:184

A General Theory of Love is scarcely more sympathetic to Dr. Benjamin Spock and his “monumentally influential volume” Baby and Child Care, especially given Spock’s role in promoting the movement against co-sleeping, or allowing infants to sleep in the same bed as their parents. Lewis, Amini and Lannon cite the research of sleep scientist James McKenna, which seems to suggest that the limbic regulation between sleeping parents and infants is essential to the neurological development of the latter and a major factor in preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). “The temporal unfolding of particular sleep stages and awake periods of the mother and infant become entwined….on a minute to minute basis, throughout the night, much sensory communication is occurring between them.”[3]:195

Subsequent use of the term[edit]

Since the first publication of A General Theory of Love in 2000, the term limbic resonance has gained popularity with subsequent writers and researchers.[9] The term brings a higher degree of specificity to the ongoing discourse in psychological literature concerning the importance of empathy and relatedness. In “A handbook of Psychology” (2003) a clear path is traced from Winnicott 1965 identifying the concept of mother and child as a relational organism or dyad[10][11]:92[12] and goes on to examine the interrelation of social and emotional responding with neurological development and the role of the limbic system in regulating response to stress.[11]:117

Limbic resonance is also referred to as “empathic resonance”, as in the book Empathy in Mental Illness (2007), which establishes the centrality of empathy or lack thereof in a range of individual and social pathologies. The authors Farrow and Woodruff cite the work of Maclean, 1985, as establishing that “Empathy is perhaps the heart of mammalian development, limbic regulation and social organization”,[13]:50 as well as research by Carr et al., 2003, who used fMRI to map brain activity during the observation and imitation of emotional facial expressions, concluding that “we understand the feelings of others via a mechanism of action representation that shapes emotional content and that our empathic resonance is grounded in the experience of our bodies in action and the emotions associated with specific bodily movements”.[13]:179 Other studies cited examine the link between mirror neurons (activated during such mimicking activity) and the limbic system, such as Chartrand & Bargh, 1999: “Mirror neurone areas seem to monitor this interdependence, this intimacy, this sense of collective agency that comes out of social interactions and that is tightly linked to the ability to form empathic resonance.”[13]:317

Limbic resonance and limbic regulation are also referred to as “mood contagion” or “emotional contagion” as in the work of Sigal Barsade and colleagues at the Yale School of Management.[14] In The Wise Heart, Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield echoes the musical metaphor of the original definition of “limbic resonance” offered by authors Lewis, Amini and Lannon of A General Theory of Love, and correlates these findings of Western psychology with the tenets of Buddhism: “Each time we meet another human being and honor their dignity, we help those around us. Their hearts resonate with ours in exactly the same way the strings of an unplucked violin vibrate with the sounds of a violin played nearby. Western psychology has documented this phenomenon of ‘mood contagion’ or limbic resonance. If a person filled with panic or hatred walks into a room, we feel it immediately, and unless we are very mindful, that person’s negative state will begin to overtake our own. When a joyfully expressive person walks into a room, we can feel that state as well.”[15]

In March 2010, citing A General Theory of Love, Kevin Slavin referred to limbic resonance in considering the dynamics of Social television. Slavin suggests that the laugh track evolved to provide the audience—alone at home—with a sense that others around them were laughing, and that limbic resonance explains the need for that laughing audience.

Limbic regulation[edit]

Limbic regulation, mood contagion or emotional contagion is the effect of contact with other people upon the development and stability of personality and mood.

Subsequent use and definitions of the term[edit]

In Living a connected life (2003), Dr. Kathleen Brehony looks at recent brain research which shows the importance of proximity of others in our development. “Especially in infancy, but throughout our lives, our physical bodies are influencing and being influenced by others with whom we feel a connection. Scientists call this limbic regulation.[16]

Brehony goes on to describe the parallels between the “protest/despair” cycles of an abandoned puppy and human development. Mammals have developed a tendency to experience distraction, anxiety and measurable levels of stress in response to separation from their care-givers and companions, precisely because such separation has historically constituted a threat to their survival. As anyone who has owned a puppy can attest, when left alone it will cry, bark, howl, and seek to rejoin its human or canine companions. If these efforts are unsuccessful and the isolation is prolonged, it will sink into a state of dejection and despair. The marginal effectiveness of placing a ticking clock in the puppy’s bed is based on a universal need in mammals to synchronize to the rhythms of their fellow creatures.

Limbic resonance and limbic regulation are also referred to as “mood contagion” or “emotional contagion” as in the work of Sigal Barsade. Barsade and colleagues at the Yale School of Management build on research in social cognition, and find that some emotions, especially positive ones, are spread more easily than others through such “interpersonal limbic regulation”.[14]

Author Daniel Goleman has explored similar terrain across several works: in Emotional Intelligence (1995), an international best seller, The Joy Of Living, coauthored with Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, and the Harvard Business Review on Breakthrough Leadership. In the latter book, Goleman considers the “open loop nature of the brain’s limbic system” which depends on external sources to manage itself, and examines the implications of interpersonal limbic regulation and the science of moods on leadership.[17]

In Mindfully Green: A Personal and Spiritual Guide to Whole Earth Thinking (2003) author Staphine Kaza defines the term as follows: “Limbic regulation is a mutual simultaneous exchange of body signals that unfolds between people who are deeply involved with each other, especially parents and children.” She goes on to correlate love with limbic engagement and asserts that children raised with love learn and remember better than those who are abused. Kaza then proposes to “take this work a step further from a systems perspective, and imagine that a child learns through some sort of limbic regulation with nature”.[18]

Limbic revision[edit]

Limbic revision is the therapeutic alteration of personality residing in the human limbic system of the brain.[19]

Relation to affect regulation and limbic resonance[edit]

Dr. Allan Schore, of the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, has explored related ideas beginning with his book Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self published in 1994. Dr. Shore looks at the contribution of the limbic system to the preservation of the species, its role in forming social bonds with other members of the species and intimate relations leading to reproduction. “It is said that natural selection favors characteristics that maximize an individual’s contribution of the gene pool of succeeding generations. In humans this may entail not so much competitive and aggressive traits as an ability to enter into a positive affective relationship with a member of the opposite sex.”[20] In his subsequent book Affect regulation & the repair of the self,[21] Schor correlates the “interactive transfer of affect” between mother and infant, on the one hand, and in a therapeutic context on the other, and describes it as “intersubjectivity”. He then goes on to explore what developmental neuropsychology can reveal about both types of interrelatedness.

In Integrative Medicine: Principles for Practice, authors Kligler and Lee state “The empathic therapist offers a form of affect regulation. The roots of empathy — Limbic resonance — are found in the early caregiver experiences, which shape the ways the child learns to experience, share, and communicate affects.”[22]


1.  Jump up^ Scioli, Anthony; Biller, Henry (2009), Hope in the Age of Anxiety, Oxford University Press, p. 154, ISBN 978-0-19-538035-4

2.  Jump up^ Lakoff, George (2008), The Political Mind : Why You Can’t Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain, ISBN 978-0-670-01927-4

3.  Jump up to:a b c d e Richard Lannon; Fari Amini; Thomas Lewis (2000). A general theory of love. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-375-50389-7.

4.  Jump up^ Harlow, H.F. (1958), “The Nature of Love”, American Psychologist, 13 (12): 673-685, doi:10.1037/h0047884

5.  Jump up^ Field, Tiffany (1985), Reite, M, ed., “Attachment as psychobiological attunement; being on the same wavelength”, The Psychobiology of Attachment and Separation, Academic Press, New York

6.  Jump up^ Field, Tiffany (1995), Touch in Early Development, Lawrence Erlbaum, ISBN 0-8058-1890-1

7.  Jump up^ MacLean, Paul D. (1990), The triune brain in evolution: role in paleocerebral functions, New York: Plenum Press, ISBN 0-306-43168-8OCLC 20295730

8.  Jump up^ Kraemer, GW (1992), “A psychobiological theory of attachment”, Behavior and Brain Sciences, 5: 493–541

9.  Jump up^ Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche; Eric Swanson (2008), The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness, Three Rivers Press, ISBN 0-307-34731-1

10.    Jump up^ (“there is no such thing as an infant”)

11.    Jump up to:a b Weiner, Irving B.; Freedheim, Donald K.; Schinka, John A.; Velicer, Wayne F.; Irving B. Weiner; Donald K. Freedheim; Richard M. Lerner; John A. Schinka; M. Ann Easterbrooks; Wayne F. Velicer; Jayanthi Mistry (2003), Handbook of psychology, New York: Wiley, ISBN 0-471-38405-4

12.    Jump up^ Tobach & Schneirla 1968 (“The young of the human species cannot thrive outside of a relational context”)

13.    Jump up to:a b c F. D. Farrow, Tom; W. R. Woodruff, Peter (2007), Empathy in Mental Illness, Cambridge University Press, pp. 51, 313–314., ISBN 0-521-84734-6

14.    Jump up to:a b Barsade, Sigal (December 2002). “The Ripple Effect: Emotional Contagion and Its Influence on Group Behavior”. Administrative Science Quarterly. Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University. 47: 644–675. doi:10.2307/3094912JSTOR 3094912.

15.    Jump up^ Jack Kornfield (2008), The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology, Random House, Inc., p. 17, ISBN 0-553-80347-6

16.    Jump up^ Brehony, Kathleen A. (2003). Living a connected life: creating and maintaining relationships that last. New York: Henry Holt & Co. p. 26. ISBN 0-8050-7023-0.

17.    Jump up^ Goleman, Dan; Peace, William J.; Pagonis, William G.; Peters, Tom F.; Jones, Gareth Stedman; Collingwood, Harris. Harvard Business Review on Breakthrough Leadership. Harvard Business School Press. p. 31. ISBN 1-57851-805-9.

18.    Jump up^ Kaza, Stephanie (2008). Mindfully Green: A Personal and Spiritual Guide to Whole Earth Thinking. Shambhala. pp. 45, 46. ISBN 1-59030-583-3.

19.    Jump up^ Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche; Yongey Mingyur; Eric Swanson; Daniel Goleman (2008), The Joy Of Living, p. 227

20.    Jump up^ Allan N. Schore (1994), Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self: The Neurobiology of Emotional Development, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, p. 255, ISBN 0-8058-3459-1

21.    Jump up^ Allan N. Schore (2003), Affect regulation & the repair of the self, W. W. Norton & Company, p. 48, ISBN 0-393-70407-6

22.    Jump up^ Benjamin Kligler; Roberta A. Lee (2004), Integrative Medicine: Principles for Practice, McGraw-Hill Professional, p. 56, ISBN 0-07-140239-X