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)

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