Kathleen Karlsen – Transformation Through the Arts

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The Deep Connection Between Color & Music

Boost Your Health and Emotions Through the Arts

Kathleen Karlsen
May – June 2023 • Vol 4, No 4

One day in my early twenties, I saw an ad on a bulletin board for a health treatment that involved a combination of sound, crystals, music, and film. I was living in the small town of Los Alamos, New Mexico, high in the mountains. Intrigued by the unusual description, I decided to call and make an appointment. When I arrived, I was ushered into a room where there was a structure made of crystals in a large lattice, forming a pyramid.

I was instructed to lay on the floor under the pyramid and left in the quiet room for about 20 minutes. When the practitioner returned, he led me into another room with a large, comfortable chair. The windows were covered with blackout curtains. The room was completely dark. I could not even see my hand in front of my face! A film began to play on the wall in front of me. A series of large, colorful crystals spun and turned in space while soothing music played.

Although the film was beautiful to watch, I didn’t feel any immediate changes. However, I enjoyed the experience enough to encourage a friend to try the treatment herself. For her, watching the film released a torrent of emotions. Something was definitely going on! Little did I know that many years later I would focus my master’s degree on the history and therapeutic uses of combinations of color and sound.

From the Greeks to Modern Science

The power of art to inspire, comfort, and motivate is widely recognized. The more mysterious impacts of art reveal that there may be more to art than meets the eye. Modern research is proving this idea. In our world of ubiquitous, multimedia stimulation, the power of art and multimedia both to heal and to harm is a fertile field for ongoing research and increasingly practical applications.

From the days of the ancient Greeks through the Middle Ages, and into the Renaissance, both color and music were widely considered to possess inherent moral powers to influence their viewers and listeners for better or for worse. Even in contemporary times, many mystics and followers of occult traditions have insisted that particular colors and types of music, especially synchronized combinations of the two art forms, possess the ability to induce trances, hypnotic states and healing.

The Divine Disease: Synesthesia

The word “synesthesia” is derived from the Greek words “syn,” which means “together,” and “aisthesis,” which means “perception.” Synesthesia refers to individuals who experience involuntary, cross-sensory associations. The most common form of synesthesia is “colored hearing,” or seeing colors when a sound is heard. Interestingly, Pythagoras considered synesthesia to be the greatest philosophical gift and spiritual achievement, a type of divine disease.

Synesthesia has been studied repeatedly over the course of the last hundred years. Synesthesia is involuntary, stable over the individual’s lifetime, contains an emotional component, and is marked by discreet perceptions. Although synesthetes may be no more divine than the rest of us, a December 1999 article in Discover magazine reported that “cognitive scientists contend that these un-usual people are precious windows into the ultimate mystery of human consciousness.”

Scientific Explanations of Synesthesia

Current scientific explanations of synesthesia are built on the hypothesis that “early in infancy, probably up to about four months of age, all human babies experience sensory input in an undifferentiated way” (Andrew David Lyons, Evaluating New Tools and Techniques for Intermedia Composition and Production, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, July 2000).

Adult synesthesia may be a lack of modularization between the senses that normally develops. An intriguing aspect of synesthesia is the fact that the phenomenon is highly individual. Although there appears to be a genetic link in the occurrence of synesthesia, even synesthetes in the same family associate different colors with different sounds.

For example, one synesthete studied saw the color white in connection with hearing the vowel sound ‘A,’ whereas one of his daughters saw blue linked to ‘A,’ and another daughter saw the color black (Faber Birren, Color Psychology and Color Therapy).

Multimedia Applications in Health & Psychology

Moving patterns of color and form have been used in a British hospital to reduce the pain medication needed by women during childbirth. In addition, combinations of nature films and music are gaining widespread acceptance in hospitals as a soothing alternative to traditional TV programming for patients.

Combinations of color and music have also been used by psychologists as a type of moving Rorshach test. Another significant use of early forms of multimedia therapy took place with post-WWII veterans suffering from depression and post-traumatic shock. The patients were shown color-music movies, known as Auroratone films.

The color-music films consisted of changing abstract forms in pastel colors set to organ music, sometimes accompanied by the singing of Bing Crosby. Many patients viewing the Auroratone films were so moved emotionally that they became more accessible for traditional group and individual therapeutic methods.

More extreme examples for the phenomenon of the power of color and sound are the flashing lights in modern discos and bars. At the height of the disco era, dancers were known to pass out due to sensory overload. Psychologists also believe that the sensory overload caused by the combination of loud, rhythmic music and strobe lights reduces interpersonal inhibitions. Recent studies of epilepsy concur that some types of seizures can be triggered by the color and sound patterns of video games and animated cartoons.

Going Forward in a Multimedia World

In a world filled with multi-media, an examination of the possible association between color and music has become increasingly significant. An awareness of the power of multimedia experiences to trigger emotions and affect our psychology as well as physical health has become essential.

Learn more about the power of sound and symbolism at kathleenkarlsen.com. Find more music-related articles at: Kathleenkarlsen.com/music-related-articles.

2023-04-30T17:17:18-06:00Fitness & Nutrition, The Metaphysical|

From Science to Passion with Chanting

I Describe It as Falling Deeply in Love with All Life!

Kathleen Karlsen
March – April 2023 • Vol 4, No 3

I was taking a swing dance class with my husband a few years ago. He was very enthusiastic about having me there as he was an avid ballroom dancer at the time. I was less keen on attending, but I had agreed to go in the spirit of a shared activity. There were twenty or thirty people in the class. The men were lined up in a circle around the edge of the room and the women were on an inner circle, facing the men.

We would dance with the man directly in front of us for just a moment or two, practicing a variety of spinning moves, and then move on to the next man and repeat the same steps and spins. We were nearing the end of the hour. Since we were repeating the same spins over and over, all of the women were actually whirling around much more than we normally would have in an actual dance scenario.

Suddenly, I felt a rushing sense like a campfire ignited at the base of my spine, instantaneously filling my pelvis and beginning to move upwards. I had never experienced that kind of thing before, but had read and studied enough to recognize what was happening. I knew it had something to do with the kundalini energy at the base of the spine. However, I had no clue what would happen next. I was panicked about being in a public place.

Maybe I was going to have some kind of seizure. Maybe I fall to the floor twitching and writhing and humiliate myself.  Maybe I would lose consciousness. Maybe they would have to call an ambulance for me. “No!” I thought instantaneously, “Not here! Not now!” Suddenly, the experience was over. I walked to the foyer, changed my shoes and headed for the car. To my husband’s great disappointment, I never went back to the dance classes.

Afterward I did some research into the whirling dervish dances of the Sufis, which seemed the closest thing to what I had experienced. The whirling dervishes and even Tibetan prayer wheels are based on the principle that rotational force can result in energy rising upward. It’s also interesting that children often play a game of spinning around until they are too dizzy to stand up. As adults, we are generally moving only forwards or backwards!

What I experienced seems to have been a form of spontaneous kundalini movement. The Sanskrit word kundalini means “coiled like a snake.” The snake is a common symbol of the kundalini, curled at the base of the spine, often related to sexual energy, since it begins in the lowest chakras or energy centers and moves upward.

Many mystics and yogis have written and taught about the rising of the kundalini. Bringing the energy to the crown of the head is the physical counterpart to achieving enlightenment. There are many approaches to awakening and raising the kundalini. A French physician and scientist, Dr. Francis Lefebure, even designed a device called a Gyrascope that would “awaken” the kundalini when used for about an hour a day.

As it moves upward, the energy flows through seven major energy centers called chakras. Some systems include eight chakras (adding the secret chamber of the heart), and other systems include twelve (adding five secret-ray chakras in the hands and feet). Other systems break this down further into 144 chakras or more!

There are a number of ways to understand and work with the chakras. My favorite practice is chanting. I practice a mantra for each one and use the associated seed syllables—lam, vam, ram, yam, ham, om and ah. I also chant mantras dedicated to the deities associated with each chakra. For example, Nataraja is a form of Shiva as the cosmic dancer and is associated with the crown chakra. Listen to mantras, songs, albums, playlists for free here SoundCloud.com/kathleen-marie-karlsen.

More recently I have begun to explore, using yantras for focus and visualization during chanting. Yantras are mandalas (circular, symbolic illustrations) that reflect the core characteristics of each chakra. There are traditional yantras associated with each chakra that have been used for thousands of years.

Experiments have shown that the frequencies of certain sounds will produce patterns in sand or water on metal plates. Those patterns are remarkably like the forms depicted in yantras. Here is the traditional yantra (see above) for the sound OM and the corresponding pattern it creates.

Not only does chanting and visualization focus the mind in an active meditation, but it also creates a physical vibration that helps to clear and accelerate the spinning of the chakras. Personally, I feel chants as a vibration in my heart that grows to a “full-body buzz.” It’s like being plugged into an electrical outlet!

Chanting creates a connection to a much greater source and energy—a connection to God. Sometimes, that only happens for a moment or two in the course of an hour or more of chanting. At other times, I feel the inner vibration so strongly and for such an extended period that I think that I must be shaking visibly, but actually, I’m not.

When chanting in a group (kirtan), there is an additional sense of unity and community that I haven’t experienced with other practices. The combined sense of being filled with incredible energy and the connection to others is a powerful, magical sensation. Chanting can be understood as chakras and science, but that’s only one level. If you pour your heart and soul, and your passion into the practice, it becomes an experience that I can only describe as falling deeply in love with all of life.

Kathleen Karlsen loves to share how to use music and symbolic art to create a happy heart, a clear mind and a rejuvenated body. To accelerate your path through the science of mantras and sacred art, visit her website: KathleenKarlsen.com.

2023-02-27T10:20:15-07:00The Metaphysical|

The Sri Yantra Meaning Revealed

The Energy of Live Flows to Your Point of Focus

Kathleen Karlsen
January – February 2023 • Vol 4, No 2

The Sri Yantra is an incredible, 12,000-year-old symbol known as “the holy wheel,” and is, by far, the most popular personal talisman in the East. Drawings of this symbol have been found on ancient stones in India.

The Sri Yantra is a symbol of wealth, harmony and protection. The word Sri means abundance, wealth or splendor. Yantra means “instrument” or “machine.” The meaning of yantra is usually translated as “a tool for the mind.” Yantras are an important visual aid for meditation. In addition, the form itself is a conductor of positive energy.

The Sri Yantra design can be placed outside or inside a home for spiritual protection. This intricate design can also be incorporated in jewelry and personal accessories.


Yantras are the Hindu version of the more well-known Buddhist mandalas. The terms are sometimes used interchangeably; however, there are several key differences.

Mandalas tend to be more complex, sometimes depicting interactions between divine beings, human activities, and the heavenly world. Yantras are generally composed of simple geometric forms, Sanskrit characters and organic forms such as lotus petals.


They are sometimes used in Vastu (the Hindu form of Feng Shui). For example, a powerful image or sculpture of the Sri Yantra may be used to correct negative configurations or influences in the environment. Historically, yantras were considered to be sacred, and so were guarded by Hindu priests to prevent unauthorized access to them.

Yantras can also be used for specific purposes:

  • Mitigation of astrological influences
  • Relief for particular health conditions
  • Creation of a spiritual forcefield
  • Protection from the ill will of others
  • A focus for meditation and mantras


Yantras are directly associated with particular sounds or sequences of sounds in mantras, and it is believed that yantras actually depict the patterns of these sounds in matter. This can be demonstrated in the images recorded by modern cymascopes, which are scientific instruments that show the geometry of sounds revealed in sand, water, or other substances, providing visual depictions of these sounds—thus connecting the unseen, auditory world with the physical dimension.

Using a cymascope, the sound OM creates a series of interlocking triangles remarkably identical to the central forms in the Sri Yantra. OM is the quintessential hum of the universe, a single syllable at the beginning of many mantras or used alone for sacred toning.


The most basic interpretation of the Sri Yantra is the union of the divine masculine and feminine. This is symbolized by the nine interlaced triangles. There are four upward triangles that meet five downward triangles in a kind of star tetrahedron.

Each triangle contains within itself three points. These represent the three basic forces in the universe: creation (sattva), preservation (rajas), and dissolution (tamas). These points and processes relate to the Hindu Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

An upward triangle represents masculine energy and the element of fire. This shape can be seen like a campfire. In the Hindu tradition, an upward triangle is specifically associated with Shiva.

Downward triangles are connected to the water element and, in addition, are related to the emotions. The easiest way to remember this is to think of a waterfall. This symbol is connected to the goddess Shakti in her many forms.


As mentioned above, yantras are associated with mantras. There are also yantras directly connected to many of the Hindu gods and goddesses. They can be invested with energy and activated by the use of mantras. Since yantras are