Tag Archives: words

Mysterious Words

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I create letters, blends, sounds, spaces, waves… I’ve watched the play from childhood. I remember how the play came, dreamlike, automatic… watched now from a distance I see the faint stirring of purpose in it. There was a hidden singing not mentioned in the grammar books. The unfolding syntax still looks magical as if by angelic help. But now we come to divinity manifest in consciousness, and the meaning of it.

Before words, worlds, kingdoms, I am amazed. Words spring spontaneously into sound, each as mysterious as my forgotten first word. I cannot find the full depth of their silent origin anymore than I can find the full depth of space. I know the subatomic structures of the brain do not yield the secret of words; their shapes and sounds are more spacious and multidimensional. I follow the sounds, and am alive in the creation and in the origin. I create with words and am created by them. I feel their musical patterns move from spherical to complex geometries, becoming vital spinning stars, life forms, the shapes of thoughts in space. I try to mirror the world of original patterns; it is impossible art, but full of joy.

Stop Words

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In thought and communication we have a tendency to use what may be called “stop words.” For example, we may say, “God is Love,” or “Life is about awakening to truth,” or “Life is initiation into X.” The last word in such sentences is often, as we typically use it, a stop word.

Words and thoughts are intimately intertwined, often becoming for us as if one thing. The sentences, the set formulas we arrive at, often have a kind of finality to them. We make our formula with a neat ending point, a point that may easily stand as headstone marking the death of our free and open thought. We do a mental word-magic that gives us the sense that we understanding something, and perhaps sometimes we do. Yet the vast realities of life are far beyond our simple formulas and we may fail to appreciate the limited experiences of life that have given birth to our thoughts and words.

Today, I overheard someone say, “I know God is Love, but what does that mean?” This simple question is an achievement of considerable magnitude. Often, we fail to question meaning, and so in our busy verbal plentitude, fail to fathom the great distances between words and experiences.

The proselytizer on the street corner asks, “Have you been saved?” “Have you accepted Christ as your savior?” Is it not astounding that people can launch such questions at each other?

In my formula “Words express thoughts,” the last word is or can be another “stop” word. I suggested that we use words to express thoughts, but of course words also express emotion and sense experience, as well as a world of things transcendent to these.

Perhaps the wise use of words is akin to crossing a bridge. We don’t want to stop on the bridge; rather we want to crossover and ever beyond. Our use of words should be as fluid and free as the wind and the ever-widening depth of our experience. The bridge of words is no place for a permanent dwelling. Our life is in the infinite, so let our play with words like “infinite” be a truly free and open way.

A Dream of Long Ago

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If “Busy filleth empty,” then the stillness of sunrise affords a proper contrast. But how will I see sunrise with so much memory? If the crush of words fevers the brain, then for that day there is no bridge to light. If I fall asleep or am noisy with the turbulence of crowds, then the wonder of life fades as a forgotten dream of long ago.

“We let ourselves become encased in a sort of dull hard shell of everydayness through which it is hard for the gift of wonder to penetrate.”

Leaves from a Secret Journal, Jane Steger

Where the Semantic Sidewalk Ends

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People notice thoughts and emotions within themselves. Is this simple division an adequate description of what transpires in consciousness? Often not, but this binary tends to guide and define the inner life and common discourse about it. We may speak of thoughts or feelings for which we do not yet have appropriate words, but are “feelings” and “thoughts” adequate terms for the full kaleidoscope of inner experience? And who was it that first defined or limited consciousness to the somewhat trivial sounding binary of thought and emotion?

Clear water flashes silver in the sun. So lifted are all feelings in the soul’s light.

What Religion are You?

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What religion are you, he asks? How can I tell the truth when all the words have been debased. I am everything—I would be some of the best in everything. And I am nothing—I am none of the labels and none of the memories. If you’re free with words, I would admit of a firm label and the words will not really matter. Then, the symbols will not betray the meaning. Together then, we could look behind them.

“I am not a little exclusive I, but the great inclusive, allied I. It is the play of stellar electricity in my soul.”

— Frank Crane

Mantra Defined

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Each word or word combination, beyond its formal meaning, has also a sound value. We might think of this as its qualitative or musical value. In music we recognize how sound communicates directly. The finest music and the finest speech resonate to the soul of things and give direct access to a world of meaning. Though we may not always be aware of it, the sound value of words speaks to us on a nonverbal level, and this meaning suffuses the formal meaning we apprehend by memory and association.

We might think of the sound or musical value of words as cymatic, where the geometry and forms of sound that we see in Cymatics have also their psychological correspondences. Under the impress of sounds, patterns arise in consciousnesses that are revelatory. And it is not simply objective sounds, as when we read or speak aloud—it is also the subtle sounds of inner life, the quiet patterns that form in the depths of thought and feelings as we listen, read, or think.

We sense patterns in consciousness, derive meaning, and these take shape in words, pictures, and sound. Our speech gives a body to consciousness, and gives others access to our inner life. We can also say that the sound/consciousness relation works in both directions where sound arises from consciousness and consciousness arises from sound.

In the Eastern concept of “mantra” the usual idea is that there are special words or formulas that, when repeated, give a desired result. As is often the case, a subtler meaning is contained in the root of a word. The word “mantra” is from the Sanskrit word “man” meaning “to think” with the suffix “tra” referring to a tool or instrument. In essence, mantra means “instrument of thought.” We may say that—among other things–mantra evokes thought or consciousness and that right thought or consciousness produces spiritually meaningfully expression or “mantra.”

 

Image from:  Cymatics, A Study of Wave Phenomena by: Hans Jenny

Pervasive Quotations

Beach full of quotations gold

All quotation is, in a sense, quoting one’s self. You tell me your religion, and you tell me who you are. The selection of book or leader is in the eye of the beholder, or it is the rock upon which we find ourselves after the latest storm. Our eye omits the inconsistencies and our ears are deaf to subtler tones beyond our kin. So we define ourselves precisely.

We can completely throw off the training wheels of book quotations, but we will read ourselves elsewhere anyway, and quote that. When the thoughts are ours at last, then our text may not be so peppered with quotation marks, unless out of respect or modesty—yet the communal obligation remains. We could try to quote pure Space but to do so we will borrow some words. Is it exaggeration to say that anything short of the absolute is quotation? We try to shrink the footnotes toward the number one. But the thoughts in space and in print are dense as stars, and we will be hard pressed to avoid quotation. It would be ideal to quote ourselves in spirit, but the best thoughts floating there are fully communal. We may fail to number our references explicitly, yet the communal ghost of our pasts, the legions who have occupied us down the ages, these still circulate freely in us.

Citing ones’ own thought is no guarantee of improvement over book quotes. A careless demonstration from book or brain is equally flat. A source without light is a source without light, weather concocted from pieces of stuff presumably “original” to one’s own cranium or drawn from ink laid down by other humans. And a prejudice housed in book or brain, and passed along has the same lack of merit.

We have a whole beach full of quotations. In the morning light I can’t see the minute bits mirroring the sun, a shinning path. When we leave Earth behind, these grains will be a memory, and we will trade them for stars. Meanwhile, we may submit thesis and antithesis about the relative dullness or luminosity of this or that point. It is good exercise for future astronauts.

Meditative Translating—Verbal and Conceptual Adaptation

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We do not know to what extent we agree or disagree with another until we understand each other’s thoughts, and to do that we must get behind each other’s words. Intellectually, it would seem that we all know this obvious truth, yet emotionally we often demonstrate we do not. So, if a person’s words are foreign to us, we may assume the thoughts behind them are foreign as well though this may not be true. Frequently, we will argue, so to speak, with the words of another and never connect with the ideas, never realize that we failed to understand what was is in the other’s mind and heart.

It’s useful to understand the special language used by another, especially when that language contrasts with our preferred usage. It helps to be able to put on different verbal hats. Indeed, the externalization of thoughts is so intimately bound up with language that often we must be able to put on a different verbal hat in order to think toward something new. Adopting another’s terms and meditatively translating them into our own language can often advance understanding of the new.

Through this discipline, we gradually approach the realization that words are not the same as meaning, that essence is not the same as form. It would seem that this is obvious and that we understand this, yet the frequency of arguments based on unexamined definitions shows that our understanding of word/meaning relationships is weak. In the abstract we may know that words are not the same as the things they refer to, and that words mean different things to different people, yet to often in our conversations we betray “the better angels of our nature” and foolishly fail to act from our understanding. Here then is a practical aspect of semantics that can promote essential understanding and avert many arguments. About arguments, fools may rush in, but angels can tread most anywhere without ill effect. And where we prove more the fool than angel, well there’s the lesson also.

Transpersonal Semantics

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Semantics is the study of meaning in language, thought, and communication. Our thoughts are embodied in language and images. We give our thoughts bodies; we create these bodies in the act of forming words and pictures. We incarnate in our thoughts and words and become identified with them. This identification is apt to create an illusion in that we feel we have hold of reality whereas in fact, we often only have hold of the words, some mental pictures and associated intellectual constructions.

The soul of words is the meaning, the experience that our words point to, or should point to. It is this living experience, the consciousness behind the forms that ensouls words. By this understanding of the nature of our verbal and conceptual incarnations we arrive at the possibility of Transpersonal Semantics. The word “transpersonal” points to that which is beyond the personal. “Semantics” refers to the meaning of words.

Let us define Transpersonal Semantics as spiritual-perspective-semantics. It is a way of thinking about body and soul with special reference to the way we humans use language in thinking and communication. So, a certain approach to semantics becomes an art of spiritual interpretation–a way of thinking and talking about spiritual and material problems and their solutions. In this sense, a key to better thinking is found by constant awareness of the difference between form and essence, between word and reality, between thought and the silent reality behind thought.

Ellipsis and Etcetera

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Everything is gateway and symbol. See these dots:

. . .

They’re an “ellipsis,” a form of punctuation indicating an omission. The word “ellipsis” is from Latin and means, “to fall short.” When we speak, write, or think, we always fall short and the ellipsis reminds us of it. Therefore, for honesty, we must add an implicit ellipsis to each thought and expression.

The ellipsis is the most important form of punctuation. It should be burned into our memory like bright dots of fire. These little dots are not dots at all: they are points of light opening into the larger cosmos. The ellipsis has a powerful gateway attribute. It’s one of the most useful symbols in an open-minded person’s equipment. It reminds us that there’s always more to everything than is said or expressed. This means that no book, group, idea, teacher, philosophy, religion or science, ever tells us all we need to know about anything. There is always more beyond what is given…

Also useful for our understanding is the word “etcetera,” from the Latin, “the rest.” It is an antidote to our human tendency of period-and-stop thinking. The word should remind us of the bad habit we sometimes have of picking up a piece of the truth and straying with it. This is simple and obvious yet rarely understood and applied.

Where Meaning Is

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Are words better able to convey mundane experiences than subtle or spiritual ones?  No, because the virtues and limits of words are the same in each case. It’s experience in common that makes all communication via words possible, because the meaning of everything (from the most spiritual to the most material) is not in the words but in the consciousness of the listener or reader.

“The eyesight has another eyesight and the hearing another hearing and the voice another voice.”

—Henry David Thoreau

Dead Words

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People tend to listen and respond as if words have more or less fixed meanings. But words don’t have fixed ordained meanings. They mean what we, the community of word users, agree they mean–and we often disagree and change our minds. Word meanings are in motion like the fluid consciousness that gives them birth, and dictionaries are the fluent history of our collective verbal habits. Dictionaries are not meaning bibles but an ephemeral record of how we have used words. Words are a catalyst for consciousness–there is no meaning in the words themselves. Or we might say words have shadow meanings that follow the actual meaning that exists in the life of consciousness. Words are symbols, forms, obscure mysteries—they are in the world of dead things and only take on meaning in a moment of illumination in the mind and heart of the reader or speaker.