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Monday, March 16, 2009

The Secret of Words – CREDO LXVI

Existence is beyond the power of words
To define:
Terms may be used
But are none of them absolute.
In the beginning of heaven and earth there were no words,
Words came out of the womb of matter;
And whether a man dispassionately
Sees to the core of life
Or passionately
Sees the surface,
The core and the surface
Are essentially the same,
Words making them seem different
Only to express appearance.
If name be needed, wonder names them both:
From wonder to wonder
Existence opens.

   — from the Tao teh Ching of Lao Tzu: The Way of Life, 1, trans. Witter Bynner

In the ’60's, I started a serious study of Jung in English, and the result was a sudden eruption of poems placing gods/goddesses in modern settings. What I didn't realize was that these would prefigure my subsequent life's work sharing the fact that the Sacred is to be found in the commonplace because archetypes are divine processes (verbs!). As Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic philosopher, pointed out, Panta rhea, everything flows. These processes are hidden in both the unmanifest and manifest worlds. The latter separates and concretizes them the minute they are named! And yet the hint is there in the Latin origin of name, nomen = noun, and the Latin word for word, verbum!! (Thus does Mercury, the Trickster, fool us.)

Naming things separates them the way a movie (motion picture) actually separates motion into separate sequential images on the film. According to Genesis in the Torah, the correct evolutionary sequence is established in the first chapter. What I notice especially is that God creates by speaking the words Let there be LIGHT, a unity. Now, science can answer a lot about the whats and the hows of light but not the fundamental question Why? Then God sees by that Light that it is good. I quote from the original Hebrew Torah, which the Jews have always interpreted symbolically, not as my mother’s old Bible dated creation as occurring in 4004 B.C.!

1When God began to create the heaven and the earth—the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water—God said, “let there be light”; and there was light. God saw how good the light was, and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, a first day. God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the water, that it may separate water from water.” God made the expanse, and it separated the water which was below the expanse from the water which was above the expanse. And it was so. God called the expanse Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.
 God said, “Let the water below the sky be gathered into one area, that the dry land may appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering of the waters He called Seas. And God saw how good this was. And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation: seed-bearing plants, fruit trees of every kind on earth bearing fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: seed-bearing plants of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw how good this was. And there was evening and there was morning, a third day.
 God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate day from night; they shall serve as signs for the set times—the days and the years; and they shall serve as lights in the expanse of the sky to shine upon the earth.” And it was so. God made the two great lights, the greater light to dominate the day and the lesser light to dominate the night, and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the sky to shine upon the earth, to dominate the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw how good this was. And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.
 God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and birds that fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” God created the great sea monsters and all the living creatures of every kind that creep, which the waters brought forth in swarms; and all the winged birds of every kind. And God saw how good this was. God blessed them, saying, “Be fertile and increase, fill the waters in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.
 God said, “Let the earth bring forth every kind of living creature: cattle, creeping things, and wild beasts of every kind.” And it was so. God made wild beasts of every kind and cattle of every kind, and all kinds of creeping things of the earth. And God saw how good this was. And God said, “I will make man in My image, after My likeness. They shall rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth, and all the creeping things that creep on earth.” And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them and God said to them, “Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on earth.”
 God said, “See, I give you every seed-bearing plant that is upon all the earth, and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit; they shall be yours for food. And to all the animals on land, to all the birds of the sky, and to everything that creeps on earth, in which there is the breath of life, [I give] all the green plants for food.” And it was so, And God saw all that He had made, and found it very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

2The heaven and the earth were finished, and all their array. And on the seventh day God finished the work which He had been doing, and He ceased on the seventh day from all the work which He had done. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because on it God ceased from all the work of creation which He had done. Such is the story of heaven and earth as they were created.

Note that after the creation of the unity of Light, in the very next step, God divides creation into the duality of opposites and names them Day and Night; Earth and Sea , Sun and Moon , fish and fowl, Man and Woman, and blesses them and gives them basically all the gifts of nature. This is significant because now that there is duality physical creation can continue, which also requires the feminine.

The seventh day, God takes a break and rests and is pleased with it all. This is the first version of creation. It is a happy version.

The second version is far more complicated! It involves the Garden of Eden, the two trees of Knowledge and Life, the temptation of Eve, and the expulsion caused by the duality of consciousness of good and evil, and the beginning of guilt and shame: for Catholic Christians the origin of the so-called Original Sin.

The point I want to stress is the connection between naming and separating, which is also the message of Lao Tzu. Both convey the idea that the duality necessary for manifestation is feminine – Mother Nature indeed! She renders the ego the illusion necessary for our living in the earthly world of opposites. Jung calls the healing the necessary coincidentia oppositorum, the bringing together of opposites by virtue of the Transcendent Function of consciousness. We struggle to unite outer experience with inner meaning between our birth and death.

Think zipper! It makes two out of one going up and the wee tab is the Transcendent Function! Psychologically, this counters the emphasis of orthodox Christianity of favoring Virtue and denying Sin, which wrecks the necessary balance that the Transcendent Function of consciousness offers. The result is that the sins we deny go into our personal unconscious and get conveniently projected out onto others! For instance, if the Roman Catholic Church could accept the human feminine as sacrosanct as the masculine, then priests could marry and there would not have been the scandalous sexual abuse that has proved costly on so many levels. (And here the opposites of Scorpio [sex] and Taurus [money] are yet again revealed.)

So what does this mean for us personally? Probably an honest admission that we all have stuff to work out and become conscious of; that, as Jung points out, to try to appear to be too good is bad for us; that to believe, as do Judaism and Celtic Christianity, that by being natural we can acknowledge that any Good we do comes through us as Light from our Divine Guest, not out of us! This solves the problems of ego inflation as well.

The word kind comes from the Anglo-Saxon kinde as in Dame Kinde = Mother Nature! So to be kind is to act naturally. If you check this with Lao Tzu’s wisdom, he too attributes the opposites expressed in words as coming from “the womb of matter,” and matter comes from Latin mater = mother! Even the Egyptian goddess of Wisdom is called Maat.

I guess I cannot stress enough the value of etymology or the study of the origin of words. As my friend Russell Lockhart, the Jungian analyst, and I wrote, Words are eggs. They hold incredible secrets when hatched in a dictionary!


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