I remember the admonition from decades ago, though I’ve forgotten who wrote it:
Admire and beware language, for it frames the mind and blockades the spirit…
Bold words; and possibly overstated, until you come to certain stage of your own inner journey and realise how true they are.
In general terms, our western languages are predicated on the style of the following sentence: ‘I hold my wife’s hand’.
I ( the subject of the sentence – the do-er)
hold (the doing-word, the verb)
my wife’s (a relationship between the subject and object/recipient)
hand – the object; the recipient)
The subject-object relationship is at the heart of our sentence… and at the heart of our world.
This constantly repeated identification acts like a mantra at the heart of language – and therefore at the heart of our thinking.
In the intellectual west, this is at the core of who we are.
Most modern languages are structured this way, but some ancient ones were not. Sanskrit, the western world’s oldest language, had an optional alternative – often used in the most sacred of the texts, such as the Rig Veda: “There is holding of my wife’s hand.”
At first glance, this may seem less specific, as though we had stepped back and generalised the ‘holding of my wife’s hand’, but used within the sacred texts, such as the oldest – the Rig Veda – its meaning is something entirely different… to which we will return, later in this post.
Language is one of the foremost powers of the mind; along with logic, memory and the power of visualisation – the forming of an image (or something corresponding to an image, like music) to be held in the consciousness in order to bring it into existence – as a great sculptor like Michaelangelo would have done.
We can mirror this, now, by imagining that we are Michelangelo; standing in front of a block of pristine marble for days, walking around it… assembling millions of possibilities until, with an intake of breath, you settle on where the hammer and chisel will begin their work. It’s interesting to consider that the sculpture of David, above, was already in the stone… The sculptor simply chipped away what wasn’t it.
This duo of subject and object is at the heart of one of the most powerful finds within meditation, where the practitioner comes face to face with the idea that the mind may only exist because it is dancing between ‘out there’ objects at such a rate that it appears to have continuity.
That should make us all think, and possibly rush to have a go… Imagine the edge of reality being so close!
What lies beyond? Sages have spoken for millennia about the new land of pure consciousness that lies across that threshold of a quieted mind. That last sentence may contain a surprise if we think that consciousness is on the same level of the ‘self’ as the brain and its mind-mechanisms. It’s not. It’s higher…
The mind is actually a ‘filled arena’ of consciousness, and the brain keeps it that way because of the essential need to protect the egoic self – the only centre it knows.
But this self – though essential for the wold of ‘doing’ – is only a shadow of a deeper and far more personal inner Self whose outward facing aspect gives rise to the mind, which gives rise to language in order that it may continue its existence, in the form of continual chatter about what it sees.
See the pattern?
One of the time-honoured exercises for getting that all-important first glimpse of the world of the higher Self, is to take away the ‘subject’ of the sentences. “I see the house” becomes “The house is seen”. This immediately shifts the ‘lower me’ out of the equation. Suddenly, we are in a space where the joy of seeing is something that is part of consciousness and not predicated on the existence of an ‘I’.
There are many more… and deeper techniques for this, but it’s important to feel comfortable with the intention before working deeper back toward the Self (also called, but less precisely, the Soul).
It may just be that those ancient writers of the Vedic ‘poems’ were communicating a new landscape; one in which the ‘gods’ of their prayers were the forces and faces of Being that they found in the land of the inner Self; the place of ‘love beyond words…’
©Stephen Tanham 2022
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.