It fascinates me that ‘the Word’ has such significance in many of the world’s great faiths.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
Genesis, Chapter 1, Verse 1
John’s Gospel goes further, powerfully linking ‘the Word’ and ‘God’:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The Gospel According to Saint John, Chapter 1, Verse 1
The Rig-Veda has the Word as the source and nourisher of creation:
When, O Lord of the Word, the Wise established
Name-giving, the first principle of language,
That which was excellent in them, that which was pure,
Hidden deep within, through love was brought to light.
Rig-Veda X.71 (translated by Jean Le Mée)
There seems to be a fundamental recognition within these texts of the power of words to shape our world. Without words, there is a sense that we are in darkness, unable to find meaning within our experience, blind to insight.
Yet in Taoism
The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
Perhaps at an even deeper level, words are the ultimate symbol of separation, identifying our lack of wholeness.
There so often seems to be this tension between the balance and ‘oneness’ that are the aim of spiritual practice and our innate humanity.
It seems to me that, whilst the ultimate ‘joy’ might be presumed to exist in this transcendent space . . . Nirvana . . . we have with words a powerful tool to explore our human state. As with most tools, we can use them for good or ill.
Therefore yes, we can and should use words to access and develop our capacity for joy and for all that is best in us.
But there must also be a recognition of a space beyond words . . .
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