I have always felt that the basic matter of religion is ‘wordless’. That is to say, it is unique of all things because it involves things that cannot be spoken about or described that well with words. The basic ‘kernel’, the essence of religion, involves things that which is ‘beyond us’, beyond our comprehension and understanding. But, yet, we must use words, and the product of words (beliefs, concepts, principles, etc.). Without words we often cannot express the ‘wordlessness’ of religion. We also find that we cannot understand religion without words. But if we get too much into words we get lost in the logic and labyrinth of words and lose sight of the ‘wordlessness’. As a result of this there develops a dichotomy in religion, between the wordlessness of it and the need to use words. As a result, religion develops a great spectrum, going from one extreme to the other:
These extremes are contradictory too. Wordlessness contradicts the words and words contradict the wordlessness. It creates a weird condition: wordlessness cannot be stated with words but words are needed to understand it. Because of this, the dichotomy actually complements each other. Yes, in the human world both extremes are needed, despite the conflict they create with one another. Both extremes, in actuality, make up the subject of ‘religion’. Both are needed to make it whole. Without both, religion lies incomplete.
Most religion, nowadays, is ‘organized’. That is to say, it is based on an ‘accepted’ pattern of belief, customs, and traditions. These patterns are usually based on centuries of experience. These patterns are stated, and maintained, through words. They must be to remain solid and firm. As a result, organized religion tends to emphasize, often heavily, on words and the product of words. This means that many ‘organized’ religion has lost some hold of the ‘wordlessness’ of religion, which is its source. It becomes bound up with belief systems, customs, traditions, etc. and that’s it.
Not only that, they are usually based in holy books or writings of some sort, which they usually take as the ‘example’. But I have always felt that the use of holy books has created problems for religion. This is because, with the written word, everything is now ‘solid’, as if cast in concrete, and must be followed to the letter as shown in the book. There is little avenue for variation, expression, and inspiration. The holy book becomes like a die, something to cast all the believers so they will all be the same shape. I have always felt this tendency of the written word has, in its own way, created a new form of religion. Perhaps it is the written word that has created ‘organized’ religion? For, once the beliefs are written down, it is now ‘definate’, unchanging . . . ‘organized’.
But, more importantly, there is a tendency, with the ‘solidity’ of the written word, to forget the ‘wordlessness’ of religion. In fact, one of the hallmark traits of ‘organized’ religion is its lack of the ‘wordlessness’ of religion. It is usually there, but in the distance. Sometimes it’s not there at all. I’ve found that ,when speaking with someone in ‘organized’ religion, it’s all based on words. In a sense, the words become the ‘new god’. Everything revolves around if the words are correct, stated in the ‘accepted’ way, and with the correct principles. As a result, any conversation or debate becomes a ‘shooting match of words’ and that’s it, of ‘our idea makes more sense’. Wars have been fought over that and people have died because of often slight differences in the use of words or concepts.
But . . . it’s just words.
It seems that, nowadays, with its more intellectual leaning, the ‘wordlessness’ of religion, or even the concept of ‘wordlessness’, is tossed to the side, if accepted at all. For many people now, things must be stated in words or it means nothing. People seem almost frightened of the ‘wordlessness’ of life. I’ve heard many emotions that ‘wordlessness’ causes:
- Its creepy.
- Its weird.
- Its superstitious.
- It doesn’t make sense. As a result, life doesn’t make sense.
- It makes people feel despair.
- It makes life feel ungraspable or unattainable.
- It makes people feel hopeless.
- It makes life seem meaningless, a vacuum.
- It makes life seem like a joke.
- It makes people feel they have no control in life.
A lot of the ‘despair’ and ‘anguish’ of life is caused by the inability to ‘come to terms’ with the ‘wordlessness’ of life. Many people try to come to terms with it using words . . . but words don’t work! As a result, the tendency to use words puts a person on a losing path when it comes to the ‘wordlessness’ of life. They are doomed to fail . . . and usually do.
It’s because of this that, I believe, coming to terms with the ‘wordlessness’ of life is critical in a person’s life. In the ‘wordlessness’ of life is the kernel of life. There it is lived, experienced, and grasped. Words . . . words are like clothing or jewelry. They are things you ‘wear’. They may affect how you look but they are not ‘you’. The ‘me’ is not in what I wear. The ‘me’ is not found in the words I use.
Some of the things I’ve done to learn ‘wordlessness’ include:
- Learn to be aware of the sense of ‘wordlessness’. Often, in these moments, one is speechless or there is a sense of “I don’t know” . . . just let yourself be aware of it.
- Don’t try to know things. Let the ‘mystery’ of things just be.
- Don’t analyze things and try to figure them out. Learn to be ‘dumb’.
- Practice not saying or using words for long periods of time.
- Don’t be frightened or apprehensive of ‘wordlessness’ and ‘mystery’ in life. Many people are frightened by it.
- Learn to accept and embrace the ‘wordlessness’ and ‘mystery’ in life. Learn to see the beauty in it for, in many ways, the beauty in life lies in its ‘wordlessness’. Remember that the great moments of life are generally ‘wordless’. We only use words to describe it on reflection.
The experience of ‘wordlessness’ seems to create some reactions:
- It makes one feel humble and small in life, which can be a difficult emotion to feel.
- It, in a way, squashes a person. It can make one feel as if they are losing ones self or dying in some way.
- Going beyond this, it can make one feel a part of the ‘greater whole’. In this way, ‘wordlessness’ makes one feel a part of life.
- This ‘greater whole’ can feel like god.
What we see then, with the experience of ‘wordlessness’, is not just an emotion or a condition. It’s not just a ‘feeling’ one feels. Nor is it just an observation, of “oh, I can’t put that into words”. It goes beyond that. ‘Wordlessness’ causes a gradual change in oneself over time. A transformation of the self takes place. This transformation is like a growth or maturing. It goes in phases, which means that one must progress through it. In its simplest expression it is a dying of a self and a rebirth of a new self. This process of transformation is part of the power of ‘wordlessness’. But this requires more than just ‘noticing’ it. The ‘wordlessness’ requires a “giving up to it”, of a relinquishing of oneself to it. Without this, one is as if halted. This transformation also means that there is pain in dying and in the pain of rebirth. All this must be endured.
But, one doesn’t have to go that deep into it. A person can choose to go deeper into it if they want. In general, you go as far as you are able. Common everyday people, who live in the ‘world’, tend to not go that deep into it. Only certain people go deeper. For some of us, it can become almost a way of life, something that impacts everything we do. It shows that different people experience it differently and on different levels. The important thing is to experience it . . . and only according to your inclinations.
But, with ’embracing the wordlessness’ one finds a deeper element in life. It reveals that there is another ‘way of life’ that is not based in ‘words’, and an understanding of the world that is not based in ‘words’. It’s like a whole other world, a whole other reality . . . which it is. One finds that words aren’t everything, nor is life found in words. Words, really, are a tool, a helpmate that cannot be confused with what they represent, which we so often do. One finds that the essence of religion is not found in words but what inspires the words and causes the words to be said . . . what becomes before the words. It’s for this reason I developed my saying:
“When dealing with religion always look before the words.”
I feel that one should try to not make religion, god, or life a ‘shooting match of words’. When this happens, really, we’ve gone too far into words. The power is in what becomes before the words and inspires the words to be said. Once words are said they are really nothing more than ‘footprints’ or the tracks that are left behind. As such, they are ‘dead’. This makes the battle over words sort of like the battle over bones.
It’s as if there is a progression. Life causes things to be living and, once it’s lived, it dies. It follows a pattern like this:
Now, in ‘wordlessness’ a life is found. But it is life which is ‘there’. Life that is ‘there’ does not benefit us. We need to embrace it, integrate it into our self. This is done by living. It seems to me that living is done by inspiration. By this, I mean that life must ‘just come up’. It means that life must be ‘allowed’ to happen. In other words, life must “move” us. By “moving us” it is accepted into our life and self. It becomes a part of us. In this way, it is ‘integrated’ into us. Inspiration, then, is a way of blending life and our self together.
When inspiration comes we ‘do’ something. In effect, we create something, namely our lives. In this way, our lives are really a form of creation. But, once it’s created, it has lost its use. It becomes ‘dead’, it is replaced by a new inspiration, new life, in an ongoing never-ending process. One version of this is seen with words. Words are a remnant of a life that once was, an inspiration that came and went. As result, it follows this pattern:
But, we must remember that words are often used in inspiration. In fact, they are a critical aspect of inspiration. Much inspiration depends on the use of words to take place. As a result, we can see that words can have different meanings:
It can be an expression of inspiration, of living – “living words”.
- It can be a ‘dead’ remnant of something lived – “dead words”.
The value of the words depend on which form it is. With “living words” the words are alive as they are referring to livingness and are a direct product of it. Not only that, when they are “living” they are more than words, they are like a union of life and words. They do this in several ways:
- As an act of expression.
- When they are invigorated with life and meaning.
When using words we should seek the “living words” – words with life.
With the “dead words” the words are just words, often without life or meaning. There is a tendency to treat them like building blocks, forming them in whatever way one wishes. There is a tendency to treat them like an object, a ‘thing’. As such, they are often manipulated and moulded into various shapes like clay.
Many religious and philosophical squabbles are a result of “dead words”. They’ll argue over small details of principle or logic. Often, when you look beyond the words you will find they are basically saying the same thing, just in different ways. Not only that, the difference in logic or principle is often nothing big. Its like arguing over the difference between the leaf of an oak tree and the leaf of a maple tree. They’re both the same, just shaped a little different. When “dead words” are used, a difference like that can cause fierce arguments and even wars.
Also, the use of a holy book or writings has a tendency to create a lot of “dead words”. This is because they are ‘ink on paper’ – dead. The great struggle there is in trying to breathe life into the pages. This is far more difficult than it may appear.
This same problem happens when things become ‘organized’. It tends to create an endless ‘battle of words’ that has been going on for centuries. Look at all the different forms of Christianity’s. They’re all different and tend to argue . . . but yet they’re the same.
Words, words, words, words. Its nothing but words.
Getting lost in the words, we tend to forget the whole picture. It’s so easy to do. We all do it. Knowing this, I try to look before the words, to the cause of the words, seeking the ‘wordlessness’ of creation.