Selected Research Publications


Dept. of East-West Psychology, California Institute of Integral Studies, Fall 2018


ABSTRACT: Entrainment is the phenomenon whereby 2 or more independent rhythmic systems synchronize and become bound together. Entrainment can happen with a variety of vibrations, such as sound, light, temperature, atoms, molecules, cells, and moving bodies. It acts as a calibration mechanism that influences perception, attention, and learning. It may relate to the lived sense of interconnectedness and belonging. As a means of knowing rooted in participatory relationship, rhythm entrainment has social, cultural, environmental, behavioral, cognitive, developmental, and transpersonal implications related to consciousness transformation and eco-social sustainability. Many disciplines have researched entrainment, yet investigation reveals little efforts at developing an integrative theory bringing these fields into a transdisciplinary whole. This dissertation articulates rhythm entrainment as a relational means of knowing that includes physical, psychological, and spiritual dimensions. From an integral perspective, rhythm entrainment serves as a fundamental force in nature, an archetypal organizing principle of the psyche, and an absorptive state of experiential flow. It encompasses the theory of harmonic evolution within the natural sciences, the attunement dynamics of intersubjective communication, and the human capability of spiritual union within the realm of mystical experience. A transdisciplinary, integrative theoretical approach is used. To this end, this study: (a) develops an integrative theory of entrainment as the foundation for a transdisciplinary field of applied rhythm studies; (b) challenges the assumption that entrainment is limited to psychophysical processes and observable, spatiotemporal perceptions; and (c) explores rhythm as an entry point toward the design of an embodied, participatory model of consciousness transformation in everyday life.


KEYWORDS: absorption, attunement, entrainment, flow, rhythm, synchronization


Noetic Post, Institute of Noetic Sciences, Fall/Winter 2011


Close your eyes. Listen deeply. What do you hear? Where do you feel the sounds in your body? How are these sensations affecting your consciousness? Too often, we listen with only our ears. But sound is more than just auditory; it's somatic. It permeates and resonates in our cells. Our bodies receive and are affected by the vibrations in which we are embedded, and everything vibrates. Considering that we are mostly water, it's easy to imagine the effect sound has on us. Set a glass of water next to a stereo speaker, and the sound waves will become visible. With each vibration we encounter, our own vibration changes. Different vibrations resonate in different parts of our bodies. Lower frequencies tend to move us from our lower chakras, while higher frequencies tend to stimulate our upper chakras. Certain frequencies cause agitation, while others promote relaxation. The impact of a leaf blower is very different from a bird chirping. So too is the impact of a negative thought versus a positive one, for even our thoughts have vibrations. Tuning in to the quality of sound in our environments – both externally and internally – we can begin to understand the power of sound on our consciousness and everyday health. We can begin to envisage the future of vibrational medicine.


[This article was also translated into German for the Polarity Zentrum Inner Ecology Education Center in Switzerland.]


Noetic Now, Institute of Noetic Sciences, July 2011


This connection between sound and consciousness is no mystery. In contemporary life, the transformative effects of sound are being recognized in research and applied in therapeutic healing practices around the globe. But for thousands of years, sound has also been at the root of various spiritual traditions. Both Vedic and Orisha traditions are examples of two cultures that have integrated sound and spirituality, specifically through practices such as chanting and drumming. Each tradition originated approximately 4,000 years ago--the Vedic tradition in India and the Orisha tradition with the Yoruba people of West Africa. Though these two traditions have very different "containing" myths and ways of living in association with their practices, comparing them through sound may help us further understand something about the human experience as it relates to sound--or, rather, how sound relates to the human experience.


[This article was adapted from an unpublished 9,000 word comparative analysis study called "Mantras and Drums" that Dr. Norris conducted at CIIS.]


Dept. of Consciousness Studies, John F. Kennedy University, Spring 2005


"So, what are you researching?"
"Consciousness Studies."
"Is that, uhmm, the study of trying to stay awake?"​


Shared from an experience of a colleague in the field, the above is my favorite response to the science of studying consciousness. Semantics is tricky, and awareness is key. In that sense, "trying to stay awake" is not too far off from the truth. Psychologically speaking, consciousness can certainly be considered a state of awareness, contrasting degrees of conscious (perceived) and unconscious/subconscious (not fully perceived) experiences. In other words, are the lights on or off—or dimmed?


Philosophically, it gets a bit more complicated. From Latin, translated, "to know with," consciousness acts as a tool, or medium, through which direct and immediate knowledge is attained. Consciousness implies a capacity for self-reflection and volition—the ability to ask and answer, "how do we know what we know, and why do we choose what we choose?" The way in which we look determines how and what we see. Because we are using consciousness to study consciousness, our particular worldview will dramatically color the findings. We are using the very "thing" we are trying to study to study it! Of course, referring to consciousness as a "thing" or "it" might not be accurate, depending on our perspective of the world.​


There are typically 4 worldviews used to philosophically approach consciousness:


  1. Materialism, which explains that physical matter is the only ultimate reality (suggesting that consciousness is an emergent property of matter's complexity);
  2. Idealism, which explains that consciousness is the only ultimate reality (suggesting that matter is only an illusion that we perceive);
  3. Dualism, which explains that both matter and consciousness are real but separate realities (one can exist without the other);
  4. Panpsychism, which explains that both matter and consciousness are real and inseparable (where there is one, there is the other)​.


Each of these worldviews is a way of bridging the relationship between consciousness and matter (or mind-body). This is the #1 topic of philosophical debate in consciousness studies and relates to the first of 3 main unresolved concerns:​


  1. "The hard problem" - how are mind and matter interrelated? (Is one produced by the other? Can they exist independently? How are they different? How are they the same?);
  2. "The other minds problem" - how does one know if anything outside of oneself is actually conscious or just appearing to be so? (Are other humans conscious? What about cats and dogs? Fish? Worms? Rocks? Trees? Computers?);
  3. "Free will" - how does one make a choice dependent upon nothing else but the choice itself in the moment of choosing? (Is it possible to choose without preference, which is predetermined, while still maintaining volition?).


Each of these concerns is addressed differently depending on our particular worldview. How we define consciousness dramatically affects our experience of ourselves, each other, the world, what it means to live, and what it means to die.


Science speaks of systems theory; quantum mechanics speaks of potentiality and entanglement; mythology speaks of the collective unconscious; neuropsychology speaks of brain wave patterns; mysticism speaks of oneness; anthropology speaks of sociocultural influences; somatics speaks of embodiment; feminism speaks of relationship dynamics; shamanism speaks of altered states; ecology speaks of global awareness and sustainability; and the list goes on.​


Consciousness is about our awareness, choice, and experience. Who are we in relation to self and other? When we change our perspective, we are profoundly changing ourselves and the world!


J. K. Norris

Co-Editor, The Voice

2002 - 2004