Knowable and Unspeakable
“Everything must have a natural cause.”
“Everything must have a supernatural cause.”
Let these two asses be set to grind corn.
– Malaclypse the Elder, The Honest Book of Truth
Krishnamurti, in the tradition of the Eastern mystics, taught that language functioned as a mediation of the real. It’s not surprising, actually. Wittgenstein said that philosophy existed only because language is imperfect. But language is not a static thing, its powers are not complete; the world we describe today – on the edge of an Eschaton – is not the same world we spoke of ten millennia ago. Except in one very important way…which I will come to presently.
Perception and consciousness can not effectively be separated from our innate linguistic capabilities; what the mystics teach is abandonment of the practice of language. What arrives, in the silence, is still spoken, but is perhaps the voice of the world, rather than the voice-in-your-head. The Zen Abbot takes the students to a place beyond words so that they can listen to the reality of the moment. It is not the abandonment of language that is sought after, it is the abandonment of our own language.
Why? Because words do make up the world. Everything that we know – and everything that we can know – must be linguistically mediated; even the revelatory states of mind – which are necessarily indescribable – have their own internal language; we can not speak of these experiences because we do not have the words for them. But these words do exist.
Our project, in part, is to uncover these words, bring them out into manfest being, and let them work out their memetic infections of mind to produce a new understanding in all who encounter them.
This project, in fact, happens to be isomorphic with the Great Work of Western magic, a tradition at least as old as John Dee (and, quite probably, goes back to Pythagoras, who got it from the Medes, who may have scooped the Egyptians, etc.). The angelic encounters described by Dee in “A True Relation” gave us an entirely new language – Enochian – which, to all appearances, has a comprehensible syntax, regular & irregular in all of the ways a human language ought to be. The angels Dee contacted sought to instruct him in a new language, with new words; this would necessarily lead to a new opening of possibilites for the Elizabethian mystic, and gave him curious new powers which eventually got him into a bit of trouble.
Enochian has, in the four hundred years following “Relation”, been studied extensively by such Western mystics as Eliphas Levi, Macgregor Mathers, Aliester Crowley, etc. It’s considered one of the principle touchstones of the tradition of Magick as taught in the principal Western schools.
The trick of the game, or so it seems to me, is to go from human language into hyperlanguage, where every object is itself and simultaneously conflated with the universal, a place where words do not divide, but rather, implicitly reflect consciousness back toward an underlying unity of being. It may be that Enochian has this capability; I know that poets reach toward this Eschaton in their own use of their confined words, and – occasionally – strike their mark.
A few of the words from this century have had a particularly magical effect, words like “Noosphere” and “Gaia” and “Global Village” in actuality announced and pronounced something into being. Each may have existed before these words had been articulated, but none could be seen, even though they might be completely self-evident. Language shapes perception completely.
Words do make the world. This is the basic teaching of all the magical traditions I’ve encountered; each takes a different approach to broadening the lexicon of the postulant. The koan uses words to tie knots in reason and frees the being for a greater revelation than common sense will allow; the mage meditates on the names of his allies, and invokes them into form; the kabbalist contemplates the Tetragrammaton and sees the godhead as the vowels behind the prison walls of the consonants YHVH. The Eschatologist searches for the word which sums everything and integrates the cosmos into a singularity.
That we can even contemplate such a thing means it likely does exist. So we wait, mouths open, babbling a nonsense stream of glossalia, listening for angels’ tongues.
1 Ix (18 January 1999)