A video on YouTube titled “~ 8 Hour ~ 432 Hz Pure Tone” has over two million views and two thousand comments. The video is just one continuous tone oscillating at 432 vibrations per second for eight hours straight.
The comments below the video are revealing. @Northeasternguy1010 writes: “First time listening. Gave it 10 mins and tried to empty my mind. I thought I was fine until I stopped it. From there my body felt like someone pulled the chair out from under me and I was floating. Moved over to a 528hz tune and I nearly fell off the planet, grabbed the edge of the world and pulled myself back up just so I could leave this comment.”
The video and comments are far from unique. On YouTube and Spotify, countless playlists are popping up with titles like “432 Hertz miracle tone,” “741Hz Spiritual & Emotional Detox,” and “963 Hz The God Frequency.”
People are tuning into pure tone frequencies for different reasons. Tech sector workers who chase bio-optimization through microdosing and mindfulness meditation think they can boost their productivity. 5G and QAnon conspiracy theorists believe they have protective powers. And people interested in crystals and astrology are using them to cleanse their auras, chakras, and promote healing.
Everyone has different frequencies that they listen to, but arguably the most popular of all is 432 hertz: the “God frequency,” “The frequency of the universe,” “The frequency of Om.”
The allure of these frequencies is that people believe they possess special powers—over the body, mind, and spirit. Some even go as far as thinking that they can shape human history and the universe itself.
What explains these beliefs? And does any credible science inform them?
I started listening to pure tone frequencies because of the Stanford neuroscientist and podcast host Andrew Huberman, who has attracted millions of listeners for his science-based explorations into popular health and fitness trends, like red light therapy, intermittent fasting, and mindfulness. In 2022, Huberman produced a widely shared video titled “Do Binaural Beats Increase Focus & Attention?” that looked at the purported cognitive benefits of so-called binaural beats—a kind of audio illusion produced by listening to two slightly different frequencies at the same time.
Whereas others refer to “chakras” and “energy” when talking about the impact of specific frequencies on the body, Huberman speaks in the language of neurochemistry. In the clip, he explains: “This 40 hertz binaural beats pattern seems to have an effect on what's called striatal dopamine. Dopamine is a neuromodulator … It’s closely related to motivation and focus and 40 hertz binaural beats appears to increase striatal dopamine release.”
Motivation and focus are both prized in our competitive knowledge economy. A non-pharmaceutical, non-invasive, and entirely free way to boost productivity amid soaring distractions will inevitably entice some to give it a shot. But increased focus isn’t the only thing people are hoping these frequencies can deliver. For example, a teenage Reddit user by the name of @brainfriedrice2020 asks, “I’m a high school student with very little confidence and very few friends. Will binaural beats help me make friends?”
While no one replied to @brainfriedrice2020 with a definitive answer, I’m sure that there’s a playlist out there recommending friendship frequencies. After all, there are frequencies for Full Body Detox (741 Hz), Study and Focus (40 Hz), Love (639 Hz), Anxiety Relief (528 Hz), Deep Sleep (432 Hz), Pain and Stress Relief (174 Hz), and Sinus Infection (146 Hz). According to some internet users, every ailment and concern has a corresponding palliative frequency. Under pure tone YouTube videos, people leave breathless comments saying that they’ve been healed from various illnesses, even though there is no scientific evidence to back those claims: “I can't believe this. Literally 5 seconds in my sinuses cleared,” wrote @Theguy4uify about 146 Hz. Ten people replied, with some version of “Wow, same here.”
While the findings Huberman cited on his podcast tying dopamine to certain frequencies are credible, most health claims made about them are unsubstantiated. Among these is the growing belief that cancer cells can be destroyed using resonant frequencies, which occur when an object is hit by the same frequency at which it naturally vibrates. If resonant frequencies can cause a glass to shatter when an opera singer hits the right note, the reasoning goes, why can’t cancer cells be shattered by sound, too?
Anthony Holland, a composer and music professor at Skidmore College, has spent the past decade researching this question. In a TedX video about his findings (which, since its release, has had a warning label attached to it on YouTube), Holland describes his process: “The hunt begins through a microscope for a frequency which will shatter a living microorganism … We're searching for the magic frequency.” After trying hundreds of frequencies, one by one, Holland claims to have found the answer. “You have two input frequencies—one low, one high—and the higher frequency must be eleven times the lower. It's what we, musicians, would call the eleventh harmonic. When we add the eleventh harmonic, we begin to shatter microorganisms like a crystal glass.”
Holland’s TedX presentation features before and after footage of pancreatic and leukemia cancer cells, which were exposed to frequencies between 100,000 and 300,000 Hz. In the images taken after the exposure, the cells appear visibly changed. “This,” Holland claims, “is the beginning of a process of destruction for cancer cells.”
For medical researchers and doctors, Holland’s findings don’t pass muster. News organizations such as Reuters have labeled posts about his research misleading. And because of the influence he has, major organizations devoted to cancer research have issued warnings about his claims.
Even so, this lack of scientific validation, and the fact-check label beside the video of his TedX talk, haven’t prevented most people from commenting to voice awe at his work. “The union of art and science—with that alone he's broken the mould,” writes @Jerebuck. “This is amazingly beautiful,” says @giakhalsa7971, in a response echoed by many. “Of course this therapy has not been accepted. It makes perfect sense, it’s genius, so why would the pharmaceutical industry accept it?” writes @jamesmazzara6051.
This embrace of frequencies is part of a larger trend of people flocking to alternative modes of healing. Across the world today, faith in scientists and Big Pharma is abysmally low and healthcare costs are the number one source of bankruptcy in America. Why wouldn’t people be tempted to explore alternative, free treatments?
Alternative medicine and medical disinformation reached new heights during the pandemic. Amid the countless conspiracy theories competing for dominance, it is noteworthy that one tied to radio frequencies grew prominent. Unfounded claims about 5G frequencies were blamed for COVID spread around the world despite being debunked by every major health authority, including the World Health Organization.
Interestingly, the idea that a single frequency or band of frequencies could cause global havoc didn’t start with the anti-5G movement. Paranoia about radio waves is as old as radios. And the conspiracies swirling around 5G bear a striking resemblance to the wild claims that have long been made about the much-maligned 440 Hz frequency. Like 5G, 440 Hz has been blamed for many of the world’s ills by New Age-influenced conspiracy theorists. They think the frequency is so diabolical that it was unleashed onto the world by none other than the Nazis.
The story goes like this: In 1939, with Germany poised to invade Poland and set off the deadliest conflict in human history, technocrats from across Europe met in London to determine a standard tuning for the musical note A. The setting was an obscure convention hosted by the International Standardization Organization. Prior to the 1930s, the note had no internationally agreed-upon tuning, and world powers decided this needed to be fixed.
The Nazis sent a delegation from Radio Berlin, which was then under direct control of the Third Reich’s chief propagandist, Joseph Goebbels. The Nazis, like many other attendees, favored the 440 Hz tuning. By the end of the congress, it was decided that the new international standard for A would be 440 Hz. Up to this point, the history is uncontested—but everything that follows is considered a conspiracy.
According to Laurent Rosenfeld, an author whose writings are widely cited among devotees of 432 Hz, it was the Nazis who had pushed for 440 Hz to be adopted: “The Acoustic Committee of Radio Berlin requested the British Standard Association to organize a congress in London in order to adopt internationally the German tuning of 440 vibrations per second.”
“The Nazis stole our healing music” is how one conspiratorial article online summarized the decision. “It’s blatantly obvious to me,” writes the author, Brendan B. Murphy, “that humankind is the (largely unwitting) victim of a frequency war on our consciousness.” “The goal has clearly been to keep us as sheep-like, gullible, and subservient as possible—through multifarious means…”
The means was 440 Hz.
Why would the Nazis want to force 440 Hz onto the world? Maria Renold, a music scholar heavily influenced by the Austrian pedagogist Rudolph Steiner, claims that 440 Hz “disassociates the connection of consciousness to the body and creates anti-social conditions in humanity.”
She echoes the work of Steiner, who wrote that music tuned to 432 Hz “will support humanity on its way towards spiritual freedom.” 440 Hz, on the other hand, leads to spiritual oppression. Hence the Nazi interest in it.
The proof that 432 Hz is superior to 440 Hz is often provided by a simple but powerful image of two water ripples. The one caused by a 432 Hz tone looks like a blazing sun with beams radiating outwards. The other ripple, caused by a 440 Hz sound wave, resembles more of a blurry blob. One is beautiful. The other is not.
Supporters of 432 Hz will attribute its superiority to its alignment with the Fibonacci sequence and the golden ratio, both of which hold special significance for those interested in sacred geometry. Each describes the natural proportions found in seashells, spiral galaxies, the arrangement of flower petals, and more.
Today there is a disparate collection of people online who oppose the fateful 440 Hz decision of 1939. There are websites where you can convert your entire music library from a 440 Hz tuning to 432 Hz tuning. An organization called the Schiller Institute, founded by the wife of far-right political figure Lyndon LaRouche (who later ended up in jail for fraud), launched a campaign in 1989 to push the Italian parliament to reverse the 440 Hz decision, and rallied many of the opera world’s biggest stars to the cause.
Artists such as Pavarotti, Prince, and XXXTentacion have all spoken out in favor of abandoning the tuning of A to 440 Hz. The movement's spread, as well as its assertions about the Nazis, prompted the news agency Reuters to issue a lengthy article devoted to rebutting these claims. “There is no empirical research suggesting that the universe has a preferred acoustic frequency,” the story quoted one frustrated professor as saying.
The idea that certain bad frequencies could lead to literal bad vibes—potentially on a global scale—is far-fetched and easy to dismiss. But we do have evidence that some frequencies have a negative effect on the body.
Researchers at NASA have found that extremely low frequencies—which create “infrasonic sound” just below the range of human hearing—can cause “discomfort, dizziness, blurred vision, hyperventilation, and fear, possibly leading to panic attacks.” Such findings have shaped a longstanding interest, from militaries around the world, in developing “sonic weapons.”
In recent years, the US State Department has suggested that a mystery illness afflicting US diplomats in Cuba, China, and other countries, dubbed the ‘‘Havana Syndrome,” might have been caused by such a weapon. As of yet, the cause of the Havana Syndrome—the symptoms of which include hearing loss, memory loss, nausea, headaches, and ringing ears—remains unknown. But other once-mysterious ailments and experiences have been tied to exposure to certain frequencies.
The engineer Vic Tandy, who has contributed much research to this field, had one such experience. As reported in The Guardian, “One evening he was working on his own in the lab when he began to feel distinctly uncomfortable, breaking into a cold sweat as the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. He was convinced that he was being watched. Then, out of the corner of his eye, Tandy noticed an ominous gray shape drifting slowly into view, but when he turned around to face it, it was gone. Terrified, he went straight home.”
In Tandy's telling, it turned out that a frequency was to blame. He discovered that an extractor fan had been emitting a frequency of 19 Hz, which is very close to the resonant frequency of the human eye, or the frequency at which the eye itself vibrates. This resonant frequency was causing distortions in Tandy’s visual field by vibrating his eyeballs.
Whatever science eventually tells us about precisely how sonic frequencies can impact humans, the fanatical hardcore believers of the 432 Hz movement don’t limit the power of frequencies to our bodies. They think sound vibrations can have an effect on a planetary—and even a cosmic—level.
This idea has gained traction for a number of reasons. It certainly helps that the CIA once investigated the possibility that humble sound frequencies could allow people to transcend space-time. The agency started exploring the potential uses of binaural beats in “parapsychological” intelligence gathering in a 1978 program called Project Stargate.
In a since-declassified CIA report about Stargate, the researchers wrote: “The brain and mind are complex, and it appears that they must be coaxed into certain formations by an orchestration of complex audio patterns.” These frequencies were used to pursue “out of body experiences,” “remote viewing,” and the ability to “manipulate time.” The program sought to find out whether “human consciousness can be brought to transcend the limitations of time-space as we know it.” The researchers effectively proposed travel across the universe, through sound waves alone.
Project Stargate was decommissioned in the 1990s, after it failed to demonstrate the existence of paranormal phenomena. Still, the mere existence of the program has encouraged those who believe in the cosmic power of frequencies.
It’s for reasons like this that one figure in the 432 Hz movement, Brian T. Collins, who runs the site Omega432, has even proposed a number of synchronous Earth-wide concerts, strategically located along Ley lines. He aims to change human consciousness on a global level: “By using sound or music tuned to natural grid geometries, we can possibly affect change in the planetary grid fields and collective consciousness for the betterment of Humanity.”
It’s surely only a matter of time before someone advocates for galactic concerts—though perhaps those are already taking place?
The belief that the universe is filled with music is over two thousand years old. There is a name for this theory: “Musica Universalis” or “Music of the spheres,” which refers to planets. Pythagoras, the ancient Greek philosopher who first developed this cosmological theory, said, “There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres.”
Because he observed that moving objects produce sounds, like the vibrating strings of a musical instrument, he figured that the moving planets, the “spheres,” must also produce sound. Calculating the intervals between the planets, he surmised that they are spaced out in octaves. Each planet corresponds to a note, their orbits producing celestial music.
Seventeenth-century astronomer Johannes Kepler picked up on this idea. Based on his calculations, Kepler concluded that “the solar system was composed of two basses (Saturn and Jupiter), a tenor (Mars), two altos (Venus and Earth), and a soprano (Mercury), which had sung in ‘perfect concord’ at the beginning of time, and could potentially arrange themselves to do so again.”
Like disciples of the 432 Hz movement, Kepler believed that God created the exact order and structure of the universe and its harmonious music, filled with beauty. It's a reassuring idea, especially in a moment of history as vexed and turbulent as ours. The greater the challenges and crises humans face, the greater appeal spirituality often has.
It will therefore delight those with a New Age interest in “cosmic vibrations” that some of their beliefs find echoes in contemporary physics—and in the guiding metaphors and images of string theory, our era’s dominant framework for how the universe works.
In his explanation of string theory, Michio Kaku, a professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York, writes, “If you had a super microscope and could peer into these [subatomic] particles, you would not see a dot at all. You would see a vibrating rubber band. And when you twanged this rubber band, it changes from an electron into a quark. And you twang it again; it changes from a quark into a neutrino. You twang it again and it turns from a neutrino into a photon. So why do we have all these subatomic particles? They are nothing but musical notes on tiny little rubber band.”
He continues: “What is string theory? String theory is a theory that explains why we have all these subatomic particles. They are nothing but notes on a string, like A, B-flat, C-sharp. So what is physics? Physics is nothing but the laws of harmony, the chords of these strings. What is chemistry? Chemistry is nothing but the melodies you can play on these strings. What is the universe? The universe is a symphony of strings. And therefore what is the ‘mind of God’? Einstein spent 30 years of his life chasing after the mind of God. For the first time in recorded history we now have a scientifically credible candidate for the mind of God. It is: ‘cosmic music resonating through 11-dimensional hyperspace.’"
This type of language is music to the ears of 432 Hz proponents. It also raises the question: why turn to discredited pseudoscience when real science offers such dazzling descriptions of the cosmos? If there is a perceivable frequency of the universe, it will be physicists who will reveal it. And perhaps they are close to doing so. Last summer, the New York Times reported that “an international consortium of research collaborations revealed compelling evidence for the existence of a low-pitch hum of gravitational waves reverberating across the universe.”
As one physicist, part of the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves, described it, “I like to think of it as a choir, or an orchestra.”
But is the orchestra tuned to 432 Hz?
He didn’t say. ♦
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