Facets of a Diamond - Blog

“The Pulse, the Mother, Music and Water”

My soul is an enchanted boat.
Which, like a sleeping swan, doth float
Upon the silver waves of thy sweet singing.

– Shelley

The pulse, the mother, music and water. Let’s see if we can draw all these together.

Photograph of water, wave crashing on rock

Photograph by John Diamond, M.D.

When we think of the word pulse, words invoking fluidity come to us like blood, flow, and waves. One of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) definitions of pulse is “the rhythmical recurrence of… undulations.” It gives this illustrative quotation: “like the pulse of the flowing sea.”

And the American Heritage Dictionary (AHD) definition of pulsate is “to expand and contract rhythmically.” It goes on: “recurrent rhythmical movements like those involved in the periodic expansion and contraction of the heart.” So we have undulations, flow, sea, rhythm, and heart.

And what of undulate,”To cause to move in a smooth wavelike motion” (AHD)? It is derived from the Indo-European root wed – water, wet. From which have arisen such words as water, wet, washwinter, hydro, dropsy, undulate, redundant, whisky, and vodka.

And what of wave? “A movement in the sea or other collection of water, by which a portion of the water rises above the normal level and then subsides, at the same time traveling a greater or smaller distance over the surface; a moving … swell of water.”[1]

Now let’s examine a number of words, all starting with fl.

Fluid: “flowing or moving readily.”

Flux: “the flowing of the tide.” “The sea undergoes a flux and reflux.” Another definition: “a continuous succession of changes of condition.” And this wonderful quote from Butler (1736): “the bodies of all animals are in a constant flux.”

And fluctuate: “To rise and fall in or as in waves.” “To undulate.” And again the allusion to water in this quotation from Pecke (1659): “I can’t call him Rich, or Poor; whose estates upon deluding waters, fluctuate.”

So pulse and undulate and wave and fluid and flux all basically have to do with movement and water, and its ever-changing nature.

Photograph of calm, silver water ripples and shadow

Photograph by John Diamond, M.D.

Let us turn now to that most wondrous collection of knowledge, The Origins of European Thought by R. B. Onians.[2] I will give just a few points, briefly stated.

In ancient times, the Muses were water nymphs, and poets drank of their springs. A poem was water, honey or nectar of the Muses. And Pindar wrote that water is the best of all things. Water was the life-substance. In the Koran we read that God created every beast from water.

And now this quote from Onians: “That water is life is nowhere more strikingly illustrated than the actual experience of frogs in Mediterranean and similar climes. There is a hymn in the Rig Veda about their reawakening after the dry season: When the waters from the sky fall upon them as they lie like a dried skin in the (dried up) pond, the voice of the frogs rises in concert.”[3]

So, the Water of Life. Life is liquid. Hence there was river-worship. “God of liquid, the life-giving stream.”[4]

The head of the body was the source, the fountainhead of liquid. “The brain with its fluid was the stuff… of generation.”[5]

So we have all these threads:

Water is the life-substance. Running water, river-worship. Running water in flux. Pulsations, waves, and undulations. The head, the fountainhead. The Muses as water nymphs (and the word muse comes from the Indo-European root men – to think). And a poem (and a song) is water. And the mother is water, and blood, and milk.

Source, flow, wave, and pulsation. Water and Muse, water and mother. Water and song, and song comes from the mother.

Each song springs from the Muse’s watery fountainhead. Imbued with the Life Element it flows down the river of life, propelled along in a series of utterly unique, undulating, fluctuating waves which are the particular pulse forms for each phrase of that song, and for every moment of our lives.

“The Mother is water. The Great Goddess is the flowing unity of subterranean and celestial primordial water, the sea of heaven … the circular life-generating ocean above and below the earth. To her belong all waters, streams, fountains, ponds and springs, as well as the rain. She is the ocean of life with its life-and-death-bringing seasons, and life is her child.”[6]

And the Great Goddess, The Mother, is the Perfection which is everyone’s mother.


Excerpt from The Way of the Pulse: Drumming with Spirit

[1] All following definitions are from The Oxford English Dictionary.

[2] Cambridge University Press, 1951.

[3] Ibid., p. 291.

[4] Ibid., p. 229.

[5] Ibid., p. 227.

[6] Erich Neumann, The Great Mother (Princeton University Press, 1963), p. 222.


Mothers & Mothering, Music,