It’s just fucking words!

Posted: February 11, 2015 in Spiritual Journey

Magic and occultism is the kind of thing where it’s easy to get seduced by the notion of something being right because it’s old. A sort of logical fallacy that if something has persisted then it must be fundamentally better. This is abused in many instances, classic examples being the freemasons claiming to date all the way back to the middle ages (a nonsense, but a romantic nonsense) and more recently the ‘controversy’ surrounding Gardnerian witchcraft and his claims that it was a continuance of something ancient that he was just spreading (or more likely made up).

I went to a workshop tonight on the Middle Pillar Ritual that’s kind of spurred on some of my thinking about this. You see this is a Qabalistic ritual and has a lot of focus on visualisation and chanting… in Hebrew.

Now I suppose in some ways this makes sense if you look at the older = better principle. What’s older than English? Latin, Gaelic, Hebrew, Egyptian, Sumerian etc. So if you can trace something back to an older language it makes sense to do it in that one right?

I have two issues with this. First up this harks back to the ‘concealed’ knowledge idea. i.e. I find it theologically unacceptable to engage in a spiritual system that will ignore you if you haven’t been taught the right things. secondly is simply this. The entire old good, new bad idea falls apart as soon as you consider how stupendously old the world is. Traceable languages even by the most optimistic measure reach back a few thousand years. As opposed to the millions of years of life on the planet and billions of years of its overall age. In short any language is still at least three if not six zeroes short of really being old.

I do a martial art and there’s a part in regular practice where we recite a few lines, a sort of pledge (all very nice stuff that basically boils down to ‘don’t be a dick’). I’ve heard of some groups reciting it in the original Japanese, which always struck me as daft because the words have infinitely more meaning when i say them in English. More importantly when I say them in front of my fellow students, in English.

So why chant in Hebrew? What benefit does it have, unless I ascribe to the theological idea that there is a Judeo-Christian God and he likes being referred to in this particular way that’s only been about for a blink of an eye in the grand age of the universe? It’s nonsense right?

Except, it kind of works.

I am still processing my experience from this evening but I’ll just add what I experienced and my thoughts as they stand right now. The first is that this ritual (along with another I attended recently and will blog about separately) was greatly enhanced by the addition of the words. Something about the sound, the emphasis on drawing it out and the sheer bloody power of standing in a room with a dozen other people really did something. Maybe it’s just the effect of chanting anything with a group of others. Maybe the sounds the words made were more important physiologically than their literal interpretation.

Or maybe it was something else.

Maybe, just maybe, the words do have a meaning that’s more than just the age of the language or the ‘truthfulness’ of the tradition. Could it be that the words are effective because it was explained to me that they had meaning, that I believed they meant something, if not to me then to someone?

I’m kind of at the point of thinking that there is a certain amount to be said for the placebo effects of ritual and ceremony, casting a circle, locking a door, countless other symbolic gestures can be very effective even if they do nothing more than help clear your mind and make a better atmosphere. Perhaps Hebrew is just better for chanting because my cultural background is Jedeo-Christian in origin? Or maybe it just sounds better, the same way swearing in Russian is just more satisfying?

Or maybe they’re just fucking words?

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