There is perhaps no better example of the difficulty of chasing one’s own tail than the effort to become more aware of one’s embeddedness in language. Open your mouth to speak about the nature of language and you find yourself using it. Think silently, pondering the nature of language, and your mind strings together concepts and words of a particular language. How do you succeed in catching your tail?
There is no getting around it. Words create the framework on which we build our self-awareness and knowledge of virtually everything. Not only are many of the activities of our daily life impossible to perform without language, we cannot even retire into solitude without words creeping into our consciousness as essential to the substance of thought, rumination, daydreaming, and even some forms of meditation.
There is no culture without language, and there never has been. Every religion uses language to define the terms of existence and reality, and many religions distinguish themselves by giving names to gods, demigods, angels, devils, and demons. Even contemplative traditions such as Zen must teach their practices and beliefs through oral transmissions and written texts.
Philosophers have debated the meaning of life and everything for thousands of years and particularly in the 20th century they have begun to give their attention a “linguistic turn.” The most influential philosopher of the last century, Ludwig Wittgenstein, puzzled deeply over language’s riddles, convinced that many of the problems of philosophy have been caused by misunderstanding language.
Today leading ego-developmental researcher Susanne Cook-Greuter, building on developmental theorists such as Jane Loevinger, has discovered that Comprehensive Language Awareness is one of the furthest frontiers of consciousness, a rare developmental achievement found in only one or two percent of the population…and growing.
Who can be a self-aware person today without giving language its due? Is it possible to understand the conflicts and wars in our world without isolating the way in which language shapes them? Might there be greater opportunities for personal growth and collective healing by changing our relationship to words? These are some of the questions which we will explore in this blog.
Welcome to Language Mystic
My name is Joe Perez, and I’m not a professional linguist. I’m a writing professional, mystic, and language lover. I’m the author of two books, including a groundbreaking spiritual autobiography, Soulfully Gay, published by Shambhala in 2007. I currently write regularly for two additional blogs, one in integral spirituality called Awake, Aware & Alive, and another on spirituality for a gay/LGBT audience. Together these blogs keep me connected to my fans, find new ones, and share some of the latest ideas to catch my attention. Two of my current projects are called Phonosemantic Meditations and Lingua-U, but I’ll talk more about them on another day.
Language Mystic is a new blog with a single agenda: to explore language as a universal dimension of human existence, reflect on the manifold ways it conditions our awareness of self and world, and contemplate the benefits of freeing the hold that it has over us. The more we recognize the power of language to restrict our grasp on reality, the freer we can be to live more fully and freely all that we can be.
The mystics have long understood the ineffable quality of existence, and yet our ability to reflect on the opportunities afforded by language awareness have never been more heightened than they are today. Never before in history has there been so much knowledge about 7,000 different languages past and contemporary. But almost nobody has brought together what we know about language from a scientific perspective with what the mystics have said about language for thousands of years: that the emanations of speech are divine emanations, the energy of life itself, the essence of subtle energies.
Sometimes Kabbalah (a.k.a Quaballah) proponents tell us of the magical qualities of Hebrew letters and how their manipulation at different levels of interpretation reveals a sublime map of consciousness still relevant for spiritual development today. And I have no doubt that the divine emanates in a unique and beauitful way through Hebrew. But did God only make one language holy? Are the mystical properties of language only accessible to the few who can read the ancient tongue? I think it is more likely that every world language emanates holy properties, and we can investigate “True Word” and other sacred speech traditions in East and West for important insights.
That’s why we so urgently need integral perspectives capable of bringing together linguistic and scientific perspectives with philosophical and mystical insights. I want you, this blog’s readers. to gain practical and immediate insight that can help you to not only understand language better, but understand yourself better. I want you to not only use language better, but have more richly rewarding and empowered lives. By exploring the words we use in depth to describe ourselves and our beliefs, we can bring more subtlety to our thinking and more harmony to our actions.
Welcome aboard the sometimes dizzying, tail-chasing, paradoxical, illuminating, strange quest to the outer limits of knowledge and consciousness. I’m looking forward to going on this adventure with you!