History of the Inner Sound CurrentBy D. H. Reed | Category: Inner Sound
It seems that the inner sound current has been known by quite a few people in several different periods of history, but how many of us in the modern western world have ever heard of it? Not too many it appears. There might be reasons why.
This inner sound current is a rumored to be powerful energy force that can drive you in the direction you are focused. Until you have really mastered control of your focus in life, increasing or using this energy could potentially be a dangerous thing to do. In other words, if you are focused on the disasters or negative things in your life, the sound current will drive you there with more force that you are normally used to. But if you are focused on the positive, brighter things of life and can stay away from, or above, the emotional dramas of life, the sound current can enrich your life. It is because this is a powerful spiritual tool that lies within the grasp of every human being, that many spiritual systems throughout history have kept the knowledge of sound current teachings very secret. Historically, these hidden techniques were only made available to initiates who were willing to accept complete responsibility for their attitudes and actions. That is still true today, but maybe some things have changed. To gain some modern perspective of the sound current, a little history is probably in order here.
Plato wrote that the Creator constructed the cosmos according to musical intervals and proportions. The Sufis believe that God created the world from sound. Virtually every civilization in the world has had some type of creation myth that involved sound, usually sound that was equated with consciousness and that sound was the first creation, so that everything else created came from sound. There are hints the ancient Egyptians and many of the mystery schools knew about the inner sound current, as well as the secret mystic sects of most religions. But even so, it has been kept hidden very well over the centuries.
The Sant Mat (teachings of the saints, or path of the masters) tradition of northern India, which goes back many centuries to the pre-Vedic period in Hindu history and which some think is a close relative of western Gnosticism, is one of the earliest traceable groups to practice Shabd Yoga, a system of meditating on the inner sound. It was the Sant tradition of the living guru who must be followed for one to travel back to God that had been copied by the Theosophists.
Several centuries later in the late 15th, early 16th century, with the founding of Sikhism by Guru Nanak in northern India, we have the beginning of another lineage of gurus teaching the sound current. It seems Nanak was on a mission to unite the Hindus and the Muslims, but wound up fighting them both. So after trying for forty years to do so, and by rejecting their caste system and apparatus of religious ritual and legalism, he basically started a new religion. Taking from the Sant tradition, he wanted to re-establish the integrity of sound current teachings with Sikhism, since he thought all the world religions had strayed from them. There are still Sikh Gurus teaching sound current today, some based on various offshoot lineages, and several teaching in America.
In 1861 Shiv Dayal Singh founded the Radhasoami movement, another embodiment of the Sant Mat tradition. It is not considered an offshoot of Sikhism, but its own separate group of initiated gurus. The Radhasoami (RS) system is unique because of its immense growth, not only worldwide but especially in America over the past 50 years. In fact, it has developed into a significant religious and spiritual movement.
By the turn of the 20th century the movement had splintered into six major camps, each with their own separate lineage. Actually, its growth can probably be attributed to the multiple guru succession lines. The diversity and spread of its factions has seemed to work quite well in the west.
In 1911 Shiv Brat Lal was the first RS guru to visit America. A few years later Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind, an offshoot guru, settled in America and began teaching a mixture of Sant Mat, RS and Sikhism. He wrote several books, but his most well-known is Radiant Road to Reality.
Actually there seems to have been a fair amount of “cross-pollination” between Sikhism and the Radhasoamis over the years. Dr. Thind had actually been initiated by Sawan Singh of RS, but didn’t acknowledge the connection, choosing to use his Sikh background instead. And Sawan Singh, leader of the RS Satsang Beas branch, one of the most popular branches of RS, initiated Kirpal Singh, who splintered off and founded the Ruhani Satsang branch, which grew into another popular branch. Kirpal Singh, along with a few other RS gurus, were born into Sikhism, but taught as RS initiates.
Anyway, it was more than 35 years after Dr. Thind came to the west before another RS guru visited. In 1955 Kirpal Singh visited several cities in America on his world tour, spreading the shabd yoga teachings around the country. It was on this trip that he initiated Paul Twitchell, who formed Eckankar ten years later, based on the RS teachings. It became one of the most successful new religions in America, with sound current as one of its staples. Kirpal Singh made two other trips to America, in 1963 and in 1972, initiating thousands more into sound current teachings.
In 1964 Charan Sing, another initiate of Sawan Singh (and his grandson), became the first RS Satsang Beas guru to visit America. His trip was even more successful than Kirpal Singh’s. In fact, he is considered the most successful RS teacher of them all, supposedly having initiated over one million people.
Then the floodgates opened up. When the Johnson administration in 1965 reversed the strict immigration laws that had been put in place at the beginning of the century, immigrants began poring in, as well as eastern gurus of all sorts. If you add the turbulence of the 1960’s and the disillusionment of the young, it’s not too difficult to see how the growth of eastern spirituality went through the roof. By the ‘70’s, and then into the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, the number of sound current initiates were not only into the thousands, but the tens of thousands. Today it is estimated there are over 4,000,000 sound current initiates of some sort worldwide.
Since Kirpal Singh’s death in 1974, a number of former initiates of his have cut ties with the RS movement and started their own organizations. We have already mentioned Eckankar, but there are a host of others (some actually connected through Eckankar); Gary Olsen and the MasterPath, Jerry Mulvin and the Connection, Guru Maharaji and the Divine Light Mission, John-Roger Hinkins and MSIA, Ching Hai and Quan Yin, and Bruce K. Avenell and The Eureka Society. A number of them have also borrowed from Sikhism, Dr. Julian Johnson’s book (below) and various other occult, metaphysical and new age doctrines. One of the more popular RS gurus today is Thakar Singh.
Another interesting fellow, Henri Bergson, the late 19th century, early 20th century French philosopher, coined the term elan vital, which means, vital spirit, vital force or life force. He referred to it as the vital essence that causes everything in the universe to be, which is what the sound current is. He theorized that this elan vital was directing a spiritual and physical evolutionary process towards creating more complex, conscious beings, “the world’s machine for the making of the gods,” as he put it. For him consciousness was the essence of elan vital, which he deemed the great metaphysical reality of life. Also, he is rumored to have had connections with the Rosicrucians and one of their offshoots, the Golden Dawn.
In 1939 Dr. Julian Johnson wrote the book, The Path of the Masters, the first of its kind aimed exclusively for the western world. It describes in detail the history and practice of Surat Shabd Yoga. Surat means spirit, shabd means sound current and yoga means union. So it means uniting the spirit with the sound current, or the practice of listening to the inner sound current. He spent 1933-1939 in India with his guru Sawan Singh (mentioned above) of the RS system. The book, a result of his study, describes the inner experiences in the higher realms of consciousness by the adepts of this tradition. It is considered a classic in eastern mysticism and instrumental in helping lead people to the RS movement.
Today there are several different groups and organizations that utilize sound current teachings as a part of their programs or system. Some put the estimates of over thirty different groups operating in the U.S. with RS connections. However, there are obvious variances in what they teach and how they operate, which has also entangled some of them in numerous controversies, a topic for another article.