Purce, Jill (1947-)

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Purce, Jill (1947-)

British biophysicist, author, editor, and lecturer on mystical aspects of sound vibration and the human voice. Purce was born October 10, 1947, in Newcastle, Staffordshire. She attended Headington School, Oxford, Reading University (B.A. Hons., 1970), the Chelsea College of Art, London (1970-71), and Kings College, London (1971-72). Her special interest in the mystical aspects of life began when she studied the fine arts at Reading University and became fascinated with relationships between form and pattern in nature, and patterns in the development of human consciousness. She was awarded a research fellowship in the biophysics departments at Kings College and studied the spiral form in science, religion, and art. This became the basis for her book The Mystic Spiral: Journey of the Soul (1974), concerned with the evolution of consciousness in spiritual traditions and in psychology.

She also investigated the effect of sound vibrations on particles and on water, a subject that had been much neglected since the early experiments of E. F. F. Chladni in 1785 and Margaret Watts Hughes between 1885-1904.

Purce first introduction to the effect of sound in matter came from seeing photographs concerning the work of Hans Jenny, a Swiss engineer and doctor who had been influenced by the teachings of Rudolph Steiner. Jenny used liquids, pastes, and fine powders to demonstrate that formless matter could be organized into exquisite and precise patterns through sound vibration. In 1885, Hughes had studied the patterns formed by lycopodium seeds, sand, and also semi-liquid pastes when vibrated by the human voice. To assist her research, she invented the eidophone, an instrument to facilitate control of and the direction of the voice vibrations on any given medium.

Purce spent a period studying music with the eminent composer Karlheinz Stockhausen in Germany. It was at this time that Stockhausen composed his Alphabet for Lieges, illustrating relationships between sound vibration and matter. Afterwards she extended her studies with special reference to vibrations of the human voice. She studied Mongolian and Tibetan overtone chanting (producing chords of simultaneous notes octaves apart, with harmonics) in the Indian Himalayas, her teacher being the chantmaster of the Gyutö Tibetan Monastery and Tantric College. She subsequently developed her studies with American Indians and shamans from various traditions.

Purce has offered her research for the light it might shed on the mystic power of sound vibrations as they have operated in ancient traditions and practices. She has also tried to show that the human voice can act as a creative link between body and mind. In her lectures and workshops in various countries, Purce demonstrates to students the manner in which understanding and liberation of the voice can transform the personality, in both a psychotherapeutic and a spiritual way. She has also used her voice techniques as a tool of positive value for women in childbirth. She has conducted workshops on the healing and meditative effects of sound and voice across Europe and North America.

In addition to this specialized work, Purce is also general editor of the Thames & Hudson series of books on sacred traditions, art, and imagination. She is married to the biologist Rupert Sheldrake who has offered some new theoretical approaches to biologists about the origin and growth of form in nature.

(See also Mantra ; Nada ; Alfred Wolfsohn )