The Fifth Voice

There is a fascinating auditory phenomenon written about in medieval times describing a mysterious angelic voice that would join in with church choir singers.  If there were four singers singing four separate notes in perfect harmony together, a seemingly independent fifth voice would arise out of the music.  It was thought that angels would join with those who sang the most beautifully for God.

With modern scientifically-derived knowledge,  the fifth voice can be explained by the concept of overtone frequencies.  Whenever any note is played, sung or struck, it is measured by Herz (hz) which is a measure of frequency or vibrations per second.   For example, the note “A” would be 440 hz, “B” would be 493.88 hz and so on.  The 440 hz is not the only frequency that is heard when a note is sounded however, it is just what is called the fundamental pitch, the “main” pitch that is perceived by a listener.  Overtones are a series of frequencies that accompany each fundamental pitch and allow for a sound to be distinct in its character.  The difference between an “A” played on a piano, guitar, trumpet or voice is the specific series of overtones that accompany the fundamental pitch of 440hz. So when a singer sings “A”, 440hz is heard in addition to 880hz at about half the volume of 440hz, along with 1318.51hz at a lower volume, 2093hz at an even lower volume and so on. 

If two singers are singing two different fundamental pitches, the third loudest overtone of one pitch might be the same as the fourth loudest overtone of another pitch and they will stack up on each other’s volumes, or resonate.  This is the same concept at work when there are four distinct harmonies going on at once, the angel’s voice simply being a stacked up overtone that has become as loud as the other fundamental pitches.

At the time when the fifth voice was discovered, there was not enough scientifically-derived knowledge of the mechanisms of audio to explain this phenomenon in materialistic terms so it was explained in spiritual terms and given status as an entity in and of itself as opposed to by-products or side-effects of the original voices. 

There is a concept in the psychology of perception called Gestalt, from the German word for “form”, which states that whole is other than the sum of the parts.  It is sometimes stated as the sum being greater than the parts but the idea of it is that a collection of parts is perceived not simply as all the different parts added up, but that when those parts are arranged in a particular way, the totality of what is being perceived is an entirely new entity on its own. 

This idea may actually seem quite obvious as, for example, a human is not perceived by another human as a bunch of bones, organs, cells or atoms in a group, but rather as a human, a being, an individual.  As it is with the singing angel, that extra voice is not perceived as stacked up overtones made up as a by-product from the the original four voices, but as an independent voice itself.  It actually becomes its own entity as far as a perceiving human is concerned. 

It may be technically inaccurate to call the collection of cells, tissues and organs packaged neatly in a bag of skin, a human, as if it is one thing, when it is really many things,  but for the sake of functionality, thinking about that collection as one entity and treating it as such is a much more useful and practical way of interacting with the world.  As it is with humans or any collection of molecules that constitute a physical object, the angelic fifth voice is also deserving of being regarded as an entity. 

On one level, the fifth voice is similar to any other physical object because it is perceived as something other than the sum of its parts; those overtone frequencies making up a unique fundamental pitch.  However, the difference between physical entities and entities like the fifth voice is that physical entities are comprised of particles that are solely part of that system while the fifth voice doesn’t “own” its particles, but sort of hijacks other particles to be able to manifest itself in the physical world. 

For example, a wave in the ocean is perceived as a unique entity, meaning it exists, yet the saltwater particles that makes up the wave are no different than the particles in front of and behind that wave, those latter particles being regarded as non-wave ocean.  A wave is a thing, even though it is not comprised of atoms and molecules unique to it like a human or any other physical object would be.  It is a force of Nature that temporarily passes through those particles to make up an entity that is other than the sum of those saltwater particles. In the same way, the fifth voice is not its own physical entity, but it is an entity nonetheless, a wave of energy that is given birth by human perception, a being that arises out of thin air.

Now to take this idea of entities arising out of physical components that are something other than the components themselves, the idea of Spirit can be understood. A person can be said to be in good spirits, or be possessed by evil spirits and so on.  If the collection of particles comprising the brain, as well as the entire body, is looked at like a massive complex choir of singers all emitting their own frequencies, or changes in energy, then those frequencies surely interact and out of that interaction arises entities.  A single Thought would be an example of millions of neurons emitting and receiving electrical signals in a very particular “harmonious” way for that Thought to arise.

Thoughts can be understood as Spirits because they are non-physical entities that either arise out of a being, or influence a being.  The illustration of neurons harmonizing to create a thought is an example of how Spirit can arise from a being, and the way Spirit enters a being is through the concept of resonance.  A Thought arises in one human, then it is transmitted into sound waves via spoken word, the wave travels through the air by quick changes in pressure and is picked up by another human’s ear drums, is transmitted back into neural electric energy and “re-sounds” or resonates.

A wave in the ocean is not one group of atoms acting in a particular way, but rather, the wave is like a Spirit that causes one collection of atoms to resonate with the set of atoms further along in its path, constantly changing what the atoms that comprise the Wave are doing.  One set of atoms making up the Wave in one moment of time then resonates with the atoms in front of it, going on to possess the next set and so on until the Wave Spirit loses energy and dissipates.

So it is that a Spirit or Thought can jump from possessing one person, to possessing the next at different levels of intensity depending on how well it can resonate.  A powerful idea that resonates well with others is like a Wave that harmonizes with the particles in front of it, i.e. water particles.  When an idea doesn’t resonate, it can be like a Wave hitting a rock, the energy is transferred, but the rock doesn’t resonate as well as it would with other water molecules. 

The phenomenon of Consciousness is like the Wave or the Spirit that arises out of the harmony of a living human body.  It is not necessarily physical but is only associated with physical components like neurons just like a Wave is not particles of water, but merely associated with those water particles.  Consciousness is the fifth voice arising out of the quartet of singers, something other than the harmonies which brought it to life. 

The reason it is important to breakdown the concept of Consciousness, Spirits and Thoughts in this way is because it can affect the way these entities are interacted with.  When these phenomena are dismissed as being non-scientific, because they cannot be quantified and measured, much is lost.  Regarding Ideas as Spirits who can possess humans is more useful than regarding them as ideas that a Human possesses because that is a more accurate way of observing how that phenomenon actually manifests in what humans perceive as real life.

If Spirits are given entity status in whatever form they may manifest, whether it is in the form of a Wave, Thought or Feeling, as opposed to being discarded as non-scientific it can change the way one interacts with the world in a profound way.  It is more efficient to regard Humans as beings rather than bags of bones and organs, and it will make social interaction more rich.  In the same way, diminishing Spirit to a series of firing synapses will also cause that efficiency and richness to be reduced.

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