Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Made Of Language

"The world" opined Terence McKenna "is made of language"

Perhaps. For human animals, anyway.

I doubt very much that this is true for non-human animals - which still,despite our best efforts, outnumber us - or for insects, fish, or any of the plant kingdom.

In fact, plants are stunning examples of Beings who can use language, after a fashion, to communicate with human animals, but whose world does not seem to be constructed of language.

Our ancient allies seem to have a survival strategy which includes getting humans to nurture, propagate and protect their species- while they benefit us in numerous ways. Food, aesthetics, medicine and psychedelic states of mind are some of the benefits chlorophyll based life bestows on humanity.

Is this a symbiotic relationship? Do we even acknowledge it?
And I haven't even mentioned the non-chlorophyll-based vegetables, the mushrooms.

Back to humans. It seems to be in the way we have grown culture around us like a shell - or is culture an artifact of language? - as from the first few words we utter we're encouraged to name things, relate those named things with other named things, and ourselves with the named things. Forgetting, I suppose, that we haven't named or related ourselves to our selves at all, yet.

That continuous background chatter which is always with us in normal waking consciousness, and which we strive to still in meditative states, that's construction going on, right there, all the time. Humming away like demented muzac in the elevator.

Hel, i don't know about you, but I certainly even dream in language.
When other Beings want to communicate with me in dreams, they have to use symbols and images, which are both direct products of language. Sometimes they throw up actual words on the screen of the dream for me to read.
It's quite bad, really, this dependence on language for our reality, and it's hard work for non-human Beings.

What would the world look like without being constructed of words?
This is the province of the shaman. And I'm sorry, Terence, but you didn't really go there too well. Apart from the mushrooms talking to you and the Machine Elves, that is.

Part of the Shaman's work involves becoming the Other - and often, that's a non-human Other.

In deep meditation or Shamanic Journeying we get a taste of what the world looks like when the mind is cut free from the bindings of language. Then we're really starting to cook with gas.
The problem is - and it's something I've run into several times on this blog - we can't perform the other part of the Shaman's work -  bringing the tales back to our community - without using some form of language. Snookered again.

The only way I can see around this is to go there - do the journey, do the meditation - establish that it is indeed possible, come back and bring the information that the human mind can be shipped free from its moorings. And say: Now, go you and do likewise.

Pic: Found here


  1. For me, the most difficult part of that going, is when it is necessary for complex reasons to go where the symbols and language used is NOT what one wants to use. It puts up a great deal of resistance, even when you are familiar and understand why it is the language used.

  2. Yes, it's like reading from a wildly alien map, using a non-familiar symbol set, isn't it?
    Perhaps, the more maps we become accustomed to, the more clearly we can see that they are just maps.

    Terri in Joburg