A Harp, Harmony, and Healing

Rich Evans, former Committee on Publication for Arizona

As someone who loves music and has experienced healing, the article, “Healing Sound” ­ in the spring edition of the Arizona University Alumni magazine ­ struck a chord.

Healing sound is when hearing music moves someone in a coma to regain consciousness.

At least, that’s what happened when Carrol McLaughlin, distinguished professor of music at the University, played her harp for just a few minutes at the school’s Medical Center. A comatose patient stirred, pulled off his oxygen mask, and thanked her.

In a more scientifically rigorous experiment, 100 patients were split evenly between a music group and a control group. The latter group just rested quietly. The music group listened to Carrol’s improvisational harp music, that was intended to tie­in with each individual patient’s natural pitch. While the playing did not have a significant impact on the physical measures of the patients’ conditions, it notably reduced the pain experienced for those in the music group by an average of 27%.

But the most interesting outcome was still to follow.

“When the experiment ended and McLaughlin had packed up her harp, a nurse asked her if she would mind performing one time more. A dying man, not in the study, had heard the music. He was to go into hospice later that day and asked if the harpist would play for him. ‘I played’, she says, ‘and I felt great energy from him.’ Afterward, his puzzled doctor found him so improved that he changed the hospice order and sent the man home,” says the Alumni magazine’s report.

This is beautiful, inspiring work. However, the use of a harp, or other forms of music, to achieve better health is not new. The Bible records how Saul, then king of Israel, sought out David to play his harp to relieve him of an “evil spirit”, which today we might see as depression or some other sort of mental illness. [I Samuel 16:23]

Might there be a consistent spiritual dimension here, beyond the music itself? What if there were no harp available to play? Would the harmony that music expresses and the health­ generating results it appears to inspire be lost? Is the harmony we feel from music actually external to us or is it a part of each individual’s essential nature?

The professor says she seeks to key into the natural harmonic in the individual, believing that there is one in each of us. She is expecting the music she is playing to connect in a deeper, health­giving way. And it does. Beethoven, who struggled with deafness, could still “hear” his symphonic compositions mentally­­and we have been the beneficiaries of that fact. But we need not face the challenge of deafness ourselves to feel and value the presence of soundless harmony in our lives. We need only recognize that harmony, at a spiritual level, is an innate part of consciousness coming from a loving God, expressed by each of us individually.

Writing of Beethoven’s deafness and of how Mozart “experienced more than he expressed,” Mary Baker Eddy wrote in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Mental melodies and strains of sweetest music supersede conscious sound. Music is the rhythm of head and heart” [p.213].

So can a harmony which is beyond audible sound also reach the heart and restore a disturbed consciousness?

In this same book the author states: “Harmony in man is as real and immortal as in music” [p.276]. Does this suggest that harmony is actually a condition of our reality, and if we catch sight of that through a better spiritual understanding of ourselves it can quiet discordant thought and bring healing?

In times of discord experienced outwardly, I have indeed found that to be the case. I have felt the peaceful, Soul­filled strains of divine harmony inwardly, and that has brought calm and joy, disarming tension and lifting my thought away from the pain or stress. There is no harp involved but there is a listening to inaudible chords of the spiritual “rhythm of head and heart”.

So whether it is the sensitive melody emanating from Dr. McLaughlin’s harp, or the quieting spiritual psalm of the music of Soul, ­ the divine presence available to all ­ there is help at hand. We can find harmony in our lives and bring health to the fore in sound healing.

*This article was published in the Arizona Silverbelt newspaper on May 20, 2015.

16 thoughts on “A Harp, Harmony, and Healing

  1. That was so beautiful. My mother was a musician so I grew up singing with her and listening to her play and appreciating fine music. I still listen to the classical station when needing to find peace and calm quickly. It works! What it touches within us must be our spirituality which always heals. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thank you for this beautiful article. I totally agree with it and have witnessed and experienced healing from beautiful music and “mental melodies.

  3. This is wonderful! Thank you so much. That student in the Barrett choir felt the healing sound when it lifted her thought above fear and uncertainty while taking a difficult exam and enabled her to continue with confidence. Gini

  4. Thanks, Rich. As a music major, this article really hit home. I forwarded it to a gal who used to be in our church and plays the harp, as well as to our organist. Connie Foss


  5. Thank you for your wonderful article.
    Music stirs invisible mind,which helps for healing
    in many ways.
    I enjoy our church music .
    It’s part of our healing ministry.

  6. Thank you so much for this article! Even children know what’s good for them, if they are given the tools to work with. My youngest granddaughter asks for classical music when we are driving because, she says, “It makes me peaceful.”

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