Gnostic Vowel Chant, and, Practicing the Presence Through the Prayer of the Name

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Gnostic Vowel Chant, by James Bean

In India, many have verbalized the Sound of the universe as “AAAAAUUUUUMMMMM,” the OM chant. In Tibet, Buddhist monks created an otherworldly form of chant — their attempt to reproduce audibly something of the inner sounds they heard during their meditations. The various Christian, Sethian (Jewish), Hermetic, and other Gnostic schools of Egypt also devised forms of chant that they perceived as verbally mimicking/expressing the Real Name of God that otherwise is hidden in the silence of the soul. In a Sethian Jewish Gnostic text called the Gospel of the Egyptians is an example of the vowel chant of Gnosticism, a kind of Western equivalent of the OM/AUM, in the land of Egypt, that with it’s monastic culture, once was a kind of “Tibet of the West”. Gnostics chanted various combinations of vowels and have included them in their prayers:

“I praise You. I call your Name that is hidden within me:


I’ve always been intrigued by the Gnostic vowel chant. First noticed it in the Gospel of the Egyptians and then other Nag Hammadi texts. The long vowel chant in the Gospel of the Egyptians spells “IEOU”, a sacred name of God according to some.

There are more examples of vowel chant in the Bruce Codex, also Hermetic texts. Sometimes these seem to make up short words or non-words, perhaps glossolalia (speaking in tongues).

Other examples are random combinations of vowels chanted like the AUM/OM.

One can verbally chant vowels as well mentally chant them in your mind, “with the tongue of thought”. Both of those techniques have effective mantric consciousness-altering effects.

I eventually learned how to do harmonic overtone chant, which is similar, only there is another layer of overtones generated. One is singing two or more notes at the same time.

Hard to know from what remains of the texts if the Sethian Gnostics were into overtone chant. I assume probably not. But the overtone version is quite wonderful.

There are a few choirs that do both plain chant and overtone chant. If there were such a thing as Gnostic choirs doing the vowel chant — and most likely there were, maybe it sounded SOMETHING LIKE THIS!

It’s such an amazing ethereal album of sacred chant, “Harmonic Meetings”. I’m glad someone finally uploaded the whole thing at Youtube.

Another example of Gnostic vowel chant, the IAO:

Practicing the Presence Through the Prayer of the Name, by James Bean

“After many births the wise seek refuge in me, seeing me everywhere and in everything.” -Bhagavad Gita

“Repeat the Name of your Beloved, day and night, again and again. With care in thought, word and deed, you will cross to the other shore.” -Sant Dadu Sahib

If one reads or sings the bhajans of the Sants, one will be reminded every day to repeat God’s name. Most every school of mystics in the past, both East and West, has practiced some form of The Prayer of the Name, including: Essenes, Kabbalah, Gnostics, Mount Athos or Eastern Orthodoxy, Sufism, and the Sants of India. Simran is the art of repeating a name or names of God for the purpose of Remembering the Divine — Practicing the Presence of God. It is a way to remain spiritually awake in a world of slumber, a way to remain centered instead of being thrown off-center by the influence of maya — illusion. In the Path of the Saints and Mystics this spiritual exercise of repeating or chanting Names of God is done not only in meditation practice, but as often as possible throughout the day as a way to spiritualize all aspects of life, inner and outer.

This is a spiritual exercise — simran — mantra — zikhr — that is practiced on the ‘inner,’ when we go within during meditation practice. Sant Namdev and other Masters have taught how important it is to develop the spiritual practice of repeating God’s Name. This can be done during meditation as a way to: relax, get centered, still the thoughts of the mind, and Above All, to invoke the Positive Power to transform one’s meditation through Divine Grace into the experience of God. In order to still one’s thoughts, it is often necessary to retain a sacred word to focus upon. The author of a manuel of Christian mysticism known as, “The Cloud of Unknowing”, suggests the use of a mantra: “If you want to gather all your desire into one simple word that the mind can easily retain, choose a short word rather than a long one. A one-syllable word such as ‘God’ or ‘Love’…” It says in, “The Cloud of Unknowing, “Why does this little prayer of one syllable such as ‘God” or ‘Love’ pierce the heavens? Surely because it is offered with a full spirit, in the height and the depth, in the length and the breadth of the spirit of him who prays.” The answer to the prayer of God’s Name is God Himself-Herself-Itself.

“When doing spiritual practices, you should sit in one unflinching posture and do mental Simran only, with your inner gaze fixed. Think of nothing else except Simran. Sit in a position most comfortable to you, one in which you can sit the longest without moving; that while sitting in this position, you are to remain wide awake with your attention directed at the seat of the soul behind and between the two eyebrows; that you are to look sweetly and serenely into the middle of the darkness in front of you, repeating the Simran of five charged names slowly and at intervals. At the time of hearing the Sound Current, listen to the Sound only and do not do Simran while hearing the Sound.” -Sant Kirpal Singh

Who repeats the Lord’s Name with each
Though replete, gains the merit of a fast.
Glory be to him, the center of all
pilgrimage and holy deeds!
Who repeats the Lord’s Name while
engaged in worldly duties,
Remains ever in a blissful state of divine
Who remembers the Lord while treading
life’s path,
Obtains at each step the fruit of holy
While indulging in pleasures or spurning
Who repeats the Name of the Lord
Is not stained by actions thus performed.
Know then, one absorbed in the Lord’s
Name, 0 Tuka,
Has truly attained liberation while living.
-Sant Tukarama, Gatha 1096

If the mind stays with the Name of the
Supreme Lord even for a moment,
O Dadu,
All its karmas will be destroyed then and
there, within the twinkling of an eye.
-Sant Dadu Sahib

You should also carry out God’s Simran
in such a way as to merge in Him and to
become Him.

One who by merging in the Light of the Lord
has become that Light,
no longer remains a mere human being.
Whomsoever we contemplate, Him we become.
-Sant Kabir

Examples of Names of God

The Five Charged Names — Panch Naam in Shabd Meditation, revealed at the time of initiation

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