Biography of Jill Purce

Jill walking drumming

Jill Purce is a British voice teacher, Family Constellations therapist, and author. In the 1970s Purce developed a new way of working with the voice, introducing the teaching of group overtone chanting, producing a single note whilst amplifying the vocal harmonics. She is a former fellow of King's College London, Biophysics Department and has produced over 30 books as General Editor of the Thames and Hudson Art and Imagination series. Between 1971 and 1974 she lived and worked in Germany with the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. Since the early 1970s she has taught internationally-diverse forms of contemplative chant, particularly overtone chanting. For over twenty years she has been leading Family Constellations combined with chant.

She is the author of The Mystic Spiral: Journey of the Soul a book about the spiral in sacred traditions, art and psychology, as well as numerous articles.

Background

Purce has described how, as a very young person, she developed a deep interest in spirituality and the power of nature. In particular at Oxford, she spent many hours contemplating the patterns in water at Mesopotamia, a watery place between the rivers Cherwell and Isis. Fascinated by the mystery of the emergence of form, she noticed that when flow encounters resistance, first it rotates, then these rotary patterns become individual eddies which separate out as independent forms. This observation of the form creating principal of flow, resistance, and rotation, became the basis of her pioneering work with the spiral.

Her mother, a student of Alfred Cortot, was a concert pianist and musician who pioneered the music department at Keele University and her father was a surgeon, turned GP. She became fascinated by the transformative power of voice after a life changing experience as a child travelling in a small boat with her family and three old women to an island off the West coast of Ireland. During the journey a violent storm blew up and they were all terrified they were going to drown. At that moment, the three women at the back of the boat started wailing a strange unearthly chant. Instantly their extreme fear transformed into a sense of bliss and the wind subsided and the storm abated.


Jill teaching in Japan


Jill chanting with Rosie,
John Lilly's dolphin, May 1984

Purce was educated at Headington School, Oxford, and graduated with a BA Hons in Fine Art from Reading University (1970), and a Masters from Chelsea College of Art, London (1970-71), and Kings' College, London. From 1968-74 she researched the form of the spiral and the theme of the labyrinth in nature, science, art, psychology and spiritual traditions.

She was awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship at King's College Biophysics Department, University of London, to explore the spiral as a universal structure. Here she initiated a dialogue between science and mysticism with Maurice Wilkins (Nobel prize with Watson and Crick for the discovery of DNA), and lectured to the BSSRS (British Society for Social Responsibility in Science). In 1974-6 she lectured at the Architectural Association School of Architecture and Chelsea College of Art and Design and was a visiting lecturer at numerous universities and art schools, on art, form, music and mysticism, as well as on the spiral as a ubiquitous form in both nature and the development of consciousness, and on sound and the voice as a spiritual practice and creative force in the universe.

In 1974 she was the subject of a BBC documentary "More Ways than One: The Mystic Spiral" made by Bill Young.

In 1977 she worked with the Swedish film director Mai Zetterling and acted in her film 'The Moon is a Green Cheese' (Manen är en Grön Ost, 1977).

From 1984, for twelve consecutive years, she was a visiting lecturer at CIIS - the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco and again in 2005, where she introduced the subject of sound as a healing modality. In 1985, she was a Visiting Professor at John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, California. From 1984 to the present, she spends 2 months of the year teaching mainly on the West Coast of North America teaching regularly at the Esalen Institute, Big Sur, California, Ojai Foundation, Institute of Noetic Sciences and Hollyhock in BC Canada as well the East Coast, teaching at the New York Open Centre, Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, Interface in Boston, Rowe Camp Massachusetts, and many other North American Institutions.

Jill and Norbu Monte Faito
Jill with Chögyal Namkhai Norbu
Monte Faito, 1980

From 1968 onwards Purce worked with many spiritual teachers, as well as Native Americans and Shamans from different traditions. In 1978, she began to study with the Tibetan Lama, Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, and has been following the philosophy and practice of Dzogchen ever since.

She teaches and lectures throughout the world, at universities, colleges, schools, hospitals, Christian and other monastic communities, international conferences and centres, as well as in the corporate sector, all over the world, and has appeared on numerous TV and radio programmes in the UK and the USA. Her work with the voice was the main impetus behind widespread research into the healing effects of sound from the 1970s onwards.


Jill and Stockhausen
observing cymatic formations

Jill and Stockhausen 1971
Purce with Stockhausen
St Johns Smith Square, 1971

Cymatics

Purce discovered the effect of sound on matter in the late 1960's after seeing a film showing the work of Hans Jenny, a Swiss engineer and doctor who had been influenced by the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. Jenny used liquids, pastes, and fine powders to demonstrate how formless matter is organised into exquisite and precise patterns through sound vibration (cymatics). In 1885, Hughes had studied the patterns formed by lycopodium powder, sand, and also semi-liquid pastes when vibrated by the human voice. In the late 1960's Purce also investigated the effect of sound vibrations on fine particles and on water, a subject that had been much neglected since the early experiments of Ernst Chladni in 1785 and Margaret Watts Hughes between 1885-1904.

Purce and Stockhausen

In June 1971 she moved to Kürten in Germany to live and work with the German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. During her time there, and because of her long-time fascination with the power of the voice, she inspired and helped him create Alphabet für Liège, a piece demonstrating the effect of sound and the voice on matter (1972). She took part in performances of Stockhausen's music at various music festivals (Liège, Rencontres Internationales d'Art Contemporaine in La Rochelle and Sainte-Baume - 1972, 1973, 1974). Stockhausen had just introduced a simple form of overtone chanting using vowels to the West for the first time with the premiere of Stimmung in December 1968. During the autumn of 1971 Purce toured with Stockhausen and the performances of Stimmung all over the Eastern United States and Canada. At this time she published articles on music, time and form, and worked with the spiritual dimension of music and overtone chanting.

Jill in Bhutan
Jill in Bhutan

Working With the Voice

Researching the beneficial properties of the voice since 1968, and having spent time with the Gyutö monks before going to Germany in 1971, she later continued her studies in the Himalayas with the chantmaster of the Gyutö Tibetan Monastery, Tenpa Gyaltsen, and with the Mongolian Khöömii master, Yavgaan in order to explore the Tibetan and Mongolian methods of overtone chanting.

Purce's researches, and her lectures and workshops throughout the world, demonstrate how the human voice can be used to bring about positive psychological, emotional, and physical changes by acting as a link between body and mind, as described in Buddhist and other Eastern traditions. Purce has also been invited by several hospitals and schools to explore the positive effect of these voice techniques for women in childbirth; at the Maudsley Hospital in London, with people suffering from Alzheimer's; at the Royal Free Hospital, London, with people suffering from mental disabilities; at Hawthorn School, with children suffering from physical disabilities; and with people suffering from ME.

In June 1993 Purce gave a lecture and seminar for ENO (English National Opera) The Healing Power of Opera as part of the Covent Garden Music Festival, London. She later led the audience in a chanting meditation before the first performance of Jonathan Harvey's opera: Inquest of Love for ENO.

In 2003, Purce was invited to work with nuns and monks in a number of enclosed Christian Monastic Communities who sing Gregorian chant, particularly Burnham Abbey and Fairacres, Oxford, to teach overtone chanting and other methods to explore ways to re-invigorate and rediscover the contemplative aspects of chant in Christian traditions.

Family Constellations

Rupert Sheldrake
Rupert Sheldrake

In 1999, as part of the international conference on Family Constellations and the work of family therapist Bert Hellinger in Wiesloch, Germany, she was invited by Hellinger to give an extended workshop to demonstrate her work to his students and conference delegates. Influenced by her time in Japan in the early 1980s where there is a strong tradition of honouring the ancestors, Purce developed a process for doing this in her own work, using ceremony and chant to acknowledge excluded family members, both living and dead.

Personal Life

Jill Purce is married to the author and biologist Rupert Sheldrake. They have two sons, the biologist Merlin Sheldrake and the musician Cosmo Sheldrake.

Chronology

1968 selected for and exhibited paintings at the Northern Young Contemporaries exhibition.

1968-74 Researched the form of the spiral in nature, science, art, psychology and spiritual traditions.

1968-74 Researched the theme of the Labyrinth, a condensed section on this was published in The Mystic Spiral, 1974.

Post graduate at Chelsea College of Art, London.

Awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship in King's College Biophysics Department, University of London, where she initiated a dialogue between science and mysticism with Maurice Wilkins (Nobel prize for DNA).

1971 Lectured at King's College to the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science (BSSRS). At this time Jill was lecturing and teaching on art, music and mysticism, as well as on the spiral as a ubiquitous form in both nature and the development of consciousness, and on sound and the voice as a spiritual practice and creative force in the universe.

In June Jill moved to Kürten in Germany to work with the German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. During her time there, and because of her long-time fascination with the power of the voice, she helped him create Alphabet für Liège, a piece demonstrating the effect of sound and the voice on matter (1972). She took part in concerts of his music at various music Festivals (Liège, La Rochelle and Sainte Baume -1972,1973,1974), published articles on music and form, and worked with the spiritual dimension of music and overtone chanting (producing chords or simultaneous notes octaves apart). Stockhausen had just introduced overtone chanting to the West for the first time, two years before, with the first peformance of his piece Stimmung in December 1968.

During the Autumn of 1971, Jill toured with Stockhausen and the performances of Stimmung all over the Eastern United States and Canada.

1973-1982 As General Editor of Art & Imagination series, originated over thirty illustrated books on the spiritual traditions of different cultures published by Thames & Hudson.

1973 Co-organized an exhibition and co-authored the catalogue : The Printed Scores of Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage.

1974 Her book The Mystic Spiral , Journey of the Soul, published by Thames & Hudson.

1974 Worked in Paris with Carlo Suarès, Fred Allan Wolfe, Jack Sarfatti on Bob Toben's the book "Space Time and Beyond" (E.P.Dutton 1974). Collaborated with Carlo Suarès on the French translation of "The Mystic Spiral".

1974 Was the subject of an hour long BBC documentary More Ways than One made by Bill Young. Broadcast 29th December.

1974 Lecturered at Chelsea College of Art, giving a series of lectures she called "The Breathing Cosmos". These included The Music of the Spheres (the creativity of sound and voice), "Sensitive Chaos"; - (patterns of form in nature), "The Metaphysics of Form", "The Labyrinth and other Ritual Structures" and many others.

1974-1975 Lecturer at The Architectural Association in London, where she gave a series of open lectures she called "Time and the Music of Form" The first of these lectures, "The Music of the Spheres", discussed "Music, vibration, form, overtone chanting and creation through sound and voice.

1975 Lectured At the ICA - The Institute of Contemporary Arts in London : "Cosmic Order and The Mystic Spiral."

1977 Worked with the Swedish film director Mai Zetterling and acted in her film 'The Moon is a Green Cheese' (Manen är en Grön Ost, 1977).

1978 she began to study with the Tibetan Lama, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, and has been following the philosophy and practice of Dzogchen ever since.

1978-82 Organised a number of retreats for Chögyal Namkhai Norbu.

1980 She gave one of the Schumacher Lectures, along with Shirley Williams and Johan Galtung, entitled "Creative Tension".

1981 Guest Speaker International Conference on Education, Ballina, Ireland.

1981 to the present spending part of each year teaching in various countries throughout Europe only a few of which are noted here.

1982 Lecture to the International Transpersonal Association Conference Bombay, India.

1982-84 Travelled and studied in India and the Himalayas.

From 1982 onwards she was a regular speaker at the International Transpersonal Association (ITA) conferences, organized by Stanislav Grof.

1983 February- March travelled through Japan and teaching in Tokyo

1983 Lecture College of Psychic Studies

1983 Teaching in Munich, Germany

1983 January Teaching at Father Bede's Ashram, Shantivanam, India

1984 Invited by Marina Abramovic and Ulay to take part in the art festival Forum en Scène in Middleburg, Holland. She participated and exhibited along with them, Lawrence Weiner and others. Made an art film with overtone chanting: Just One More Breath

1984-2014 For many years Jill gave extended workshops and was a visiting lecturer at CIIS - the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco and again in 2005.

From 1984 to the present, Jill spends 2 months of the year teaching mainly on the West Coast of North America, regularly at Hollyhock in BC Canada as well the East Coast, teaching at the New York Open Centre, Omega Institute, Interface in Boston, Rowe Camp Massachusetts, and many other North American Institutions.

1984 to Present Jill spends the rest of the year giving workhops and lectures in the UK and Europe.

1984 January Teaching at Father Bede's Ashram, Shantivanam, India


Jill in India, March 2015

1984 Teaching at Dartington College of Art

1984 Teaching tour of Holland

1984 Teaching in Munich, Germany

1985 Teaching in Holland

1985 Teaching in Switzerland

1985 Teaching in Paris

1985 Visiting Professor at J.F.K University in Orinda, California.

1985 Lecture and workshop, Exeter University, Summer School for Teachers of the Arts

1986 Plenary Lecture for Wrekin Trust, Mystics and Scientists Conference

1986 Teaching in Paris

1987 Teaching in Holland

1987 Teaching in Norway

1987 Lecture to the 2nd International Festival of Story Telling

1987 Lecture to the College of Psychic Studies

1987 Lecture to the Guild of Pastoral Psychology

1987 Teaching in Sweden

1987 Teaching in Paris

1988 Plenary Lecture to the International Transpersonal Association Conference Santa Rosa CA, USA

1988 Lecture for RILKO - Research into Lost Knowledge Organization

1988 Teaching in Greece

1988 Lecture to the Guild of Pastoral Psychology

1988 Teaching in Belgium

1988 Teaching in Interlaken Switzerland

1988 Teaching in Santa Fe

1989 Teaching in Sweden

1990 Lecture to the SAP - Society for Analytical Psychology

1990 Teaching in Italy

1990 Lecture to the Priory Hospital, Roehampton

1990 Teaching the English Shakespeare Company

1991 Teaching in Helsinki, Finland, Munich Germany and Italy

1991 Teaching in Italy

1992 Plenary Lecture to the International Transpersonal Association Conference, Prague Czechoslovakia

1993 Teaching at Middlesex University

1993 Teaching in Denmark

June 1993 Gave a lecture and seminar for ENO (English National Opera) "The Healing Power of Opera" as part of the Covent Garden Music Festival, London. She later led the audience in a chanting meditation before the first performance of Jonathan Harvey's Opera: "Inquest of Love" for ENO.

1994 Plenary Lecture to the International Transpersonal Association Conference Santa Clara CA, USA

1994 Teaching in Norway

1994 Teaching in Zurich, Switzerland

1994, in Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, USA, created and participated in the event "Ritual, Resonance and the Return of the Angels", with Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake.

1995 Plenary Lecture to the International Transpersonal Association Conference, Killarney, Ireland

1995 Presented and participated in the round table discussion The Global Crisis of Spirit and the Search for Meaning with Mikhail Gorbachev, Sam Kean and others at the first State of the World Forum in San Francisco. Spoke on a small panel with Mikhail Gorbachev.

1997 July - Gave the opening lecture for the 4th International Congress of Voice Teachers (ICVT) at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre in London.

1997 Circumambulated the Black Sea by boat, with his All Holiness The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, taking part in Symposium II : "Science and Religion and Environment, The Black Sea in Crisis", sponsored by the European Commission, Romano Prodi and the Orthodox Church.

Rupert Sheldrake
Symposium on Temple Music in the 12th century Knights Templar round Church, Inner Temple, London

1998 Plenary Lecture to Scientific and Medical Network Conference - Mystics and Scientists, Winchester UK

1998 Teaching in Black Forest, Todtmoos Germany

1998 Teaching in Northampton Massachusetts USA

1999 Teaching in Northampton Massachusetts USA

1999 Sailed down the Danube to the Black Sea, with his All Holiness The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, taking part in Symposium III : "Science and Religion and Environment - A River of Life : Down the Danube to the Black Sea", sponsored by the European Commission, Romano Prodi and the Orthodox Church.

1999 As part of the international conference devoted to family constellations and the work of family therapist Bert Hellinger in Wiesloch, Germany, she was invited by Bert Hellinger to give an extended workshop to his students on her work "Healing Family Patterns and Ancestral Lines".

2000 Talk and workshop fpr MMA, (Music Masters and Mistresses Association) Annual Conference (principal body of UK School Music teaching professionals), hosted by Ralph Allwood at Eton College.

2000 Teaching in Northamptons Massachusetts USA

2001 Teaching in Black Forest, Todtmoos Germany

2002 Sailed around the Adriatic Sea with his All Holiness The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, taking part in Symposium IV "Science, Religion and the Environment- The Adriatic sea, a Sea at Risk, a Unity of purpose": sponsored by the European Commission, Romano Prodi and the Orthodox Church.

2003 Sailed around the Baltic Sea with his All Holiness The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, taking part in Symposium V "Science, Religion and the Environment-The Baltic Sea, a Common Heritage." : sponsored by the European Commission, Romano Prodi and the Orthodox Church.

Around this time, invited to work with nuns and monks in a number of enclosed Christian Monastic Communities who sing Gregorian Chant, particularly Burnham Abbey and Fairacres, to teach overtone chanting and other methods to explore ways to re-invigorate and rediscover the meditative power of chant. As a result of this, a number of these communities now use overtone chanting as part of their meditation.

2004 Teaching at Naropa University Boulder Colorado USA

2004 Teaching at Rowe Camp and Boston Massachusetts USA

2005 Travelling practising and researching in India and Himalayas

2005 Teaching in Spain

2005 Teaching at California Institute of Integral Studies - CIIS, San Francisco, USA

2005 Teaching at Rowe Camp and Boston Massachusetts USA

2006 Teaching in Istanbul, Turkey

2006 Travelling practising and researching in Sikkim

2006 Teaching in Spain

2006, September 8-11, Lecture and Workshop to the British Psychological Association, Transpersonal Section, Annual Conference.


Chanting in St Paul's Cathedral, 2009

2006 Plenary speaker for the International Sound Healing Conference, Santa Fe, New Mexico USA

2007 Travelling practising and researching in Bhutan and Nepal

2007 Teaching in Spain

2008 Teaching at the Rubin Museum New York City USA

2008 Plenary speaker for Waldzell Institute, Architects for the Future, Melk Abbey, Austria

2008 Plenary speaker for the International Sound Healing Conference, Santa Fe, New Mexico USA

2009 Travelling practising and researching in India and Himalayas

2009 Plenary speaker for Symposium on Temple Music: Meaning and Influence. Talk called Harmonics, Vowels, God and the Angels On music in the Jerusalem Temple for The Temple Studies Group, organizer Margaret Barker, in the Temple Church, Inner Temple, London

2009 Lecture "Resonance An evening with Rupert Sheldrake and Jill Purce". Unitarian Church Vancouver BC Canada

2009 Jill was invited by St Paul's Cathedral, London to take a group of students there to chant

2010 Teaching at Rowe Camp and Boston Massachusetts USA

2011 Plenary speaker for the 14th International IONS Conference - Institute of Noetics Sciences, San Francisco, California. USA

2011 Lecture for the Theosophical Society, London


Jill, Rupert Sheldrake and Marc Andrus, Bishop of California

2012 Public talk, Trialogue between Jill Purce, Rupert Sheldrake and Marc Andrus, Bishop of California "Resonance, Ritual and Return" at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, USA

1984-2014 teaching at the Esalen Institute, Big Sur California, USA

1988 to 2015 onwards teaching at Hollyhock Education Centre, Cortes Island BC Canada

2012 Teaching at Institute of Noetics Sciences, San Francisco, California. USA

2012 Lecture for Scientific and Medical Network, Godalming, England

2012 Lecture for Tree of Life Birmingham, England

2012 Plenary lecture to Ireland's 1st Winter Solstice Festival "Ireland 2012" Dublin

2013 Plenary Speaker at 2nd International Gathering of Eden Energy Medicine (IGEEM) in Florida

2013 Lecture " Liberating Minds and Voices An evening with Rupert Sheldrake and Jill Purce". Vancouver BC Canada

2014 Lecture to Scientific and Medical Network- London

2014 Lecture " Liberating Minds and Voices An evening with Rupert Sheldrake and Jill Purce". Victoria BC Canada

2014 Teaching at Rowe Camp and Boston Massachusetts USA

2014 keynote speaker, SYNCHRONICITY: Matter & Psyche Symposium, Sept. 12-14, 2014, Joshua Tree CA

2015 Teaching at Rowe Camp and Boston Massachusetts USA

2015 Lecture "Resonance- Liberating Minds and Voices An evening with Rupert Sheldrake and Jill Purce". Vancouver BC Canada

2015 Teaching at Rowe Camp and Boston Massachusetts USA

2015 Public talk, Trialogue between Jill Purce, Rupert Sheldrake and Marc Andrus, Bishop of California at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, USA

2015 IFA Conference

2015College of Psychic Studies

2015 Globe Sound Healing Conference


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