1. (Music) The particular way a piece of music moves at a deep level. The key to making music of high Life Energy is for the performer to be at one with the pulse of the music he is performing: the term for this is being on the pulse. He does this by putting aside his ego involvement and surrendering to the pulse of the music. As a result the pulse is transmitted to the audience whose Life Energy is also raised.
The concept came out of Diamond’s researches into the Life Energy in music and dates back to the 1970s. The term pulse brings together three associations of the word that reflect this research: the natural rhythm or flow of a piece of music; the medical sense, connected with the heartbeat; and the maternal origins of music, of which he notes “The first sounds the baby hears are those of his mother … He is in a sea of pulsation, all generated by the mother.” (The Life Energy in Music, I, 94.). In music, the term is also the deep underlying movement of the music of a composer generally, and Diamond writes, for example, of Beethoven’s pulse. Although the pulse of the composer is not identical in all his works (Beethoven’s, for example, generally increases in size throughout his career), it will have a characteristic form termed the pulse gesture.
2. (General) By extension, any work of creativity, for instance a poem, has a pulse, and by finding it the reader will raise his Life Energy. Similarly a poet’s work has a more general pulse, just as Beethoven’s music generally does. For instance, Diamond refers to “the swelling power” of William Blake’s pulse (The Healing Power of Blake, Introduction). More broadly, all people have their own characteristic underlying pulse that is expressed in everything they ever do, as do all living things and all natural phenomena of any type. At the largest scale the Pulse is loosely aligned with oriental spiritual concepts such as The Way and The Tao. In this regard Diamond quotes Lao-Tzu: The Tao, having given birth to all things, “continues in some way to be present in each individual thing as an energy or power, a power that is not static but constantly on the move, inwardly pushing each thing to develop and grow in a certain way that is in accord with its true nature.” (Te-Tao Ching, quoted, The Way of the Pulse, 7).
The beat: The opposite of the Pulse is the beat, typified in music by the mechanical, mathematically exact rhythm of a metronome. Music played on the beat is non-therapeutic and has low Life Energy. Again this harkens back to the maternal relationship: “Within each of us there are two mothers, the one we know who loves us and the one we fear, the one we must obey.” The one who loves us is the Pulse, the fearful one the beat. Musicians “have a choice to be coldly accurate, like a machine, or to be human. To submit to the domination of the beat, or to flow with the Pulse of love and life.” (The Way of the Pulse, 21-22).
An image Diamond frequently returns to in his descriptions of the Pulse and the beat are of a surfer riding a wave towards the beach: “If you are right up on the wave you will be easily carried forward. All the power is in the wave. You do not need to exert your own. But if you are not quite on the wave…you will have to keep paddling furiously to stay with it. As long as you stay with the pulse [of the music] you will glide all the way to the end, inevitably swept along by the enormous power of the Pulse of life which is expressed through the pulse of the music. On the other hand, if you are not on the pulse, there is no ease. All is labor and stress.” (The Way of the Pulse; see also video “The Pulse”)
Commentary: The concept of the Pulse is central to Diamond’s work. He has described it as “the summation and the culmination of all my years in medicine, in psychiatry, in complementary medicine, in holistic healing – and in music.” (The Way of the Pulse). In its broader aspects it is closely related to the Eastern spiritual concepts such as the Tao and the Way, and he has also equated the Pulse vs. beat duality with Tariki* (Other Power) and jiriki* (self power), for example in this video.
Timeline: Late 1970s on.
- The Way of the Pulse: Drumming with Spirit (book)
- The Life Energy in Music (book series, four volumes)
- “The Leader and the Pulse,” The Life Energy in Music, I, 39-41
- “Transmitting the Pulse,” The Life Energy in Music, I, 45-47
- “Beat Versus Pulse” (Paper from The Way of the Pulse)
- Video: “The Pulse”
- Audio: “The Pulse of Life”