The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

On Writing


The problem with having a blog is that any random event can spark a reflection in your mind, and then people from many parts of the globe end up reading about it. (That is, if I haven't lost most of my readers yet through my eccentricities.) One such random event happened yesterday when I saw a particularly interesting truck on the street.

It seemed to be a perfectly normal truck shipping vegetables or some other product, but on the side it said in both Spanish and English, "Read the Most Glorious Koran!" First of all, I wish that we Roman Catholics had that much audacity, though some Christians do put exhortations to read the Bible on their commercial vehicles. And then I began to think how in Islam the Koran really should be read in Arabic since the actual message of God in Islam was written in that language. Ataturk in Turkey got into lots of trouble trying to make people read the Koran in Turkish, and Muslims throughout the world, from Paris to Djakarta to Miami, learn classical Arabic in order to read the Koran. So is our truck sign exhorting people to learn Arabic in order to truly read the Koran, or does it want us to read it in Spanish or English?

I have commented before on the pitfalls of phonetic writing. Since Plato, there has been a warning against the use of writing and its abilities to corrupt memory and truth. Jacques Derrida made a whole career out of inverting this dichotomy. But in what sense is writing iconic, and to what extent is that icon transmittable to other languages?

Origen believed that Hebrew was a sacred language, but not Latin or Greek. I have read that even the manner in which a Torah is made for a synagogue has to follow certain guidelines that transcend the mere transmission of information.

From all this it is quite clear that, in the view of our Plato, the divine cannot be discovered by us but is revealed to us from above; that the substance and nature of the divine cannot be understood by the mind or explained in words or writings. These things should therefore be discussed and described with the hope that we may give encouragement through our words and writings and prepare souls for things divine, rather than offer proof.

This is why Plato writes nothing about the definition of the divine substance and the divine nature. He does, however, write a great deal which, through negations and narratives, exhortation and instruction, will one day lead to that state of mind to which the halls of almighty Olympus will open their gates.


-Marsilio Ficino, found in the compilation, The Gardens of Philosophy, pgs. 157-158

Ficino then goes on to say that to write things down is to put the truth in danger of being cast to the dogs and that the real meaning of the text in the Hebrew and Greek traditions is transmitted non-discursively.

In the Information Age, this might make us uncomfortable. But this is the danger of some forms of catechetical and apologetic argument, as I have often said. It is not that most people have to be ignorant. It is rather that it is necessary to realize a very important point:

Information is about usefulness and power.

Truth is about surrender and love.


The role of written discourse in the latter case is to aide in the unfolding of the process by which the soul returns to herself and becomes united to the One, in the image of divine simplicity. Thus, how we write and learn are not just issues of "what", but also issues of "how" and "by whom". Going back into the pre-history of Greek philosophy, we return again to Socrates' crusade against the rhetoricians and the Sophists: real truth is about the surrender and purification of the intellect, in contrast to those who would make discourse another instrument in the arsenal in a struggle for power. If we recast the instruments of the Truth in the image of the aims of the latter, we may just as much be corrupting the truth as any heretic or non-believer.

In this way, we must consider discourse based on phonetic writing as a step to acquire something much higher:

Hermes attributes all else to the sacred silence of the mind; for God, he believes, is known by the mind by His silence rather than by His words.

-ibid, pg. 159

Let us be attentive, then, to these silences.

10 Comments:

At 7:11 AM, Anonymous Lord Ganesh said...

Sanskrit is the original language and the sacred language of the Gods.
It is the most perfect language with the primal sounds that echoe in eternity and bring out the real self while resonating in the universe and vibrating with healing.
One Sanskrit word well known is OM.

Om Numuh Shivaya

Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva

 
At 7:37 AM, Anonymous Zalman said...

Hebrew has 22 letters, 231 gates, and 1540 roots. It is the only completely logically structured language and therefore presents us with the ideal model for organizing information and meaning. Hebrew, the holy language of the Bible, by which G-d created the world is thus the perfect language for all information systems

The Hebrew Alef-Beit (alphabet), despite its apparent simplicity, contains within it the deepest secrets of Creation.

The Kabbalistic classic Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation) teaches that creative consciousness exists in three states (space, time, and soul), which are reflected in the form, name and numerical equivalent of each letter. Rabbi Yisrael Ba'al Shem Tov (founder of the Chassidic movement), taught that each letter also exists in each of the three dimensions of Worlds, Souls, and Divinity.

"Worlds" refers to the physical, material, human, moral, and personal dimension, "Souls" to the Jewish religious/spiritual dimension, and "Divinity" to the Godly dimension. Since each of these dimensions is reflected in each letter's three facets--its shape, its name, and its numerical value--we can distinguish nine separate categories of meaning for each letter

Hebrew was the language that G-d used to create the universe. It was the first language before the plethora of languages after Babel.
It is 36 times greater than the next language of human tongues.

 
At 7:45 AM, Anonymous tu primo said...

Oye Guey,
Spanglish is the best language. Tu sabes that hombre. Everyone knows that meing.
So stop putting down your own raza with your coconut intellectual berkeley cosas.

Tu debes make a Day of the Dead altar with Che, Cezar Chavez and Tupac and stop your coconut college basura.

SPANGLISH IS THE BEST AND THE MOST PERFECT. and I ain't reading no Koran tambien

tu primo

 
At 10:04 AM, Blogger The Scylding said...

No, multiple languages is better - each reflecting a different part of the truth. For instance, consider the German "angst", or "schadenfreude" - literally, damage-joy. Or the Afrikaans "deurmekaar" for mix-up - it literally means through-each-other. Then there is the Zulu kancane (not the right spelling), with the c being a soft click against the upper palatte. It means little or small.

What is so beautiful than the Greek "Logos", or the Hebrew "Elohim"?

No, the sounds and symbols of language is a glorious symphony, and to know only one is to lsiten to only one instrument in the orchestra. Not that I'm great - I know 2 well, with a fair understanding of 2 other, and a smattering of another. That's nothin compared to the 6000+ out there....

 
At 11:24 AM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

"It is rather that it is necessary to realize a very important point:

Information is about usefulness and power.

Truth is about surrender and love."

That's the Catholic intuition in a nutshell. It's not what you know but how you know it, because there are some things that you can only know by surrendering your created limits. Salvation comes only through the Cross.

 
At 10:06 PM, Anonymous Seyyed said...

Some Muslims actually believe the Koran is the "Word" and co-existed before creation and is the literal (word for word) word of God (Allah). Since God gave the Koran in Arabic, the Koran should be read in Arabic not necessarily that Arabic is a superior language only that God chose Arabic as the language of the Koran.
The Koran is the equivalent of Jesus to some as we understand Jesus as Christians in the Gospel of John as the "Logos".
Thus the Koran pre-existed Creation and is indeed created by God but outside time.
The prayers are in Arabic, not because of an inherent superiority of Arabic, but because that was the language of the prayers as instructed by God to the prophet Mohammed.

I think it was Belloc who called Islam the greatest Christian heresy (a form of Arianism)

I actually think Mormonism and Islam are similiar (but that is a topic for a later day)

 
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