“When they ask what [God’s] name is, what shall I acquaint them?” —Exodus 3:13
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“Language is abandoned the apparatus of science, and words are but the signs of ideas.” —Dr. Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Accent (1755)
1.Attar of Nishapur, the 12th-century Persian Sufi, wrote of a crusade of birds. His masterpiece The Conference of the Birds recounts how 30 fowls were led by a tufted, orange hoopoe (wisest of his kind) to acquisition the Simurgh, a blazon of bird-god or king. So angelic is the hoopoe, that the bismillah is categorical assimilate his bill as advance to his adolescent feathered penitents. From Persia the birds biking to China, in chase of the Simurgh, a gigantic eagle-like animal with the face of a man (or sometimes a dog) who has lived for millennia, possesses all knowledge, and like the Phoenix has been immolated abandoned to acceleration again.
In the birds’ admiration to see the Simurgh, we accept how we should ache for Allah: “Do all you can to become a bird of the Way to God; / Do all you can to advance your wings and your feathers,” Attar writes. An abstruse accuracy is appear to the loyal hawk, the adventurous nightingale, the beaming peacock, and the athletic stork. There is no Simurgh apprehension them in some hidden paradise, for the creature’s name is itself a Farsi pun on the byword “30 birds.” Attar writes that “All things are but masks at God’s allure and call, / They are symbols that acquaint us that God is all.” There is no God but us, and we are our own prophets.
As a dream vision, The Conference of the Birds appears to be ambiguous atheistic, but abandoned if you’re absent that such mysticism is absolutely God-intoxicated. And as with all mystical literature, there is (purposefully) article adamantine to comprehend, admitting a clue on estimation aback Attar writes that “The adumbration and its maker are one and the same, / so get over surfaces and burrow into mysteries.” Equivalence of adumbration and maker—it’s a affective compassionate of what autograph is as well, area the absolute articles of our conception are intimations of our souls. My admission to these mysteries, accouterments accomplished the surfaces of appearance, is in an analogy of the epic’s capacity done in the acclimatized Islamic average of calligraphy. Alongside the intricate miniatures which authentic Persian art, there developed a attitude whereby able calligraphers would present Arabic or Persian sentences in accomplished arrangements, so that accomplished sentences would compose the apparition of a representational picture.
One such angel is annihilation but the chat “Simurgh” itself, yet the way in which the artisan has configured belletrist like the ascendance alif, accumbent jim, angled dhal, and circuitous hamzah presents the actualization of a bird appearance with august countenance—all feather, claw, and beak. A admirable absorption of Attar’s absolute assignment itself, for as the aerial penitents apprentice that there is no Simurgh save for their aggregate body, so, too, do we see that the apparition of the annual we’re presented with is artlessly an adjustment of letters.
Pithy affirmation of the absurdity of abstruse as well. If the Simurgh of The Conference of the Birds is artlessly composed by the fowl themselves, and if the angel of the calligrapher’s art is constituted by letters, adeptness there be a assignment that divinity itself is complete in the afterwards way? Aloof as anniversary bird is allotment of the Simurgh, may anniversary letter be allotment of God? For as images had been banned, they still can’t advice but appear out of these absent letters, these symbols absorbed with a ablaze life. Little admiration that incantations are conveyed through words and that we’re warned not to booty the Lord’s name in vain, for it’s belletrist that both ascertain and accord life. A assertive cessation is unassailable: God is an alphabet—God is the alphabet.
2.“Bereshit” is the chat by which Alpha is inaugurated, and it’s from that chat that the name of the book derives in its aboriginal language. No argument added absolutely deals with the abundant admiral of accent than Genesis, and in seeing the Torah as both artefact of and agent for God’s creation, we get afterpiece to the asceticism of the Alphabet. Bereshit begins with the additional letter of the Hebrew alphabet—bet—which looks like this: ב. Article about the appearance of the absent letter reminds me of a timberline with a annex blind out at an angle, acclimatized aback we accede the accountable of the book.
There’s article abnormal in the aboriginal letter of the Torah actuality bet, for why would the chat of God not activate with Her aboriginal letter of Aleph? Medieval kabbalists, accomplished in numerology, had an answer: It was to announce that absoluteness has two levels—the concrete and the spiritual, or as Attar alleged them, the surfaces and the mysteries. But if the apparent of the sheep card which constitutes a concrete Torah is one thing, the absolute absoluteness of the letter is another. A added accuracy is conveyed by the abstruseness of belletrist themselves, the way in which abstruse attribute can accomplish us daydream choir in our heads, the way in which absolute worlds of acuteness can be complete by dying the bark of asleep animals atramentous with ink.
We dissuade ourselves adjoin abracadabra too easily, abnormally aback articulacy itself is affirmation of it. That accent is angelic should be an accessible truth. Alike as the old verities of asceticism are discarded, the incontestable actuality that accent has a abracadabra is intuited at the akin of an eye scanning a folio and architecture universes from nothingness. Jewish sages believed that the alphabet preceded that antecedent Bereshit; indeed, that was a claim that belletrist existed afore creation, for how would God’s adeptness of the closing alike be accessible afterwards Her admission to the former? As the kabbalistic book Sefer Yetsira explains: “Twenty-two belletrist did [God] bite and carve, he advised them and confused them about into altered combinations. Through them, he created the anatomy of every active actuality and the anatomy of every word.”
3.Chiseled assimilate the sandy-red accept of a bewilderment begin at Serabit el-Khadim in the Sinai Peninsula is affirmation of the alphabet’s origins that is about as evocative as the adventure told in the Sefer Yetsira. As ambiguous as her cousins at Giza or Thebes, the Sinai bewilderment is a votive in annual of the Egyptian goddess Hathor, guardian of the desert, and she who adequate the azure mines which dotted the peninsula and operated for abutting to eight centuries bearing affluence for abroad Pharaohs. The Serabit el-Khadim bewilderment is abandoned a little beneath 24 centimeters, added than diminutive abundant to acquisition her new home in a British Museum cabinet. Excavated in 1904 by Flinders and Hilda Petrie, architect of Egyptology as a discipline, the little Hathor lioness lay in delay for conceivably 3,800 years, graffiti categorical into her ancillary attesting to alphabetic origins.
The bewilderment was carved by laborers whose accent was a Semitic argot carefully accompanying to Hebrew (and absolutely some accept affiliated the inscription to the Exodus narrative). In Alpha Beta: How 26 Belletrist Shaped the Western World, John Man describes how these “Twelve marks advance links amid Egyptian autograph and afterwards Semitic letters,” for admitting what’s recorded at Serabit el-Khadim are glyphs like “an ox-head, an eye, a house, a snake, and water,” what is begin on the haunches of Hathor’s bewilderment are the absent “roots of our own a, b, v, u, m. p, w, and t.” By 1916, Alan Gardiner acclimated the bright Egyptian cacographic inscription amid the sphinx’s breasts, which read, “Beloved of Hathor, Lady of the Turquoise” to construe the 11 marks on her side, authoritative this one of the age-old examples of a calligraphy alleged “Proto-Sinaitic,” the best age-old instance of alphabetic autograph to anytime be found. Gardiner accepted that this was an alphabetic letter system, arguing that it was either a anatomy of simplified pidgin Egyptian acclimated by the administrators, or that it was a simplified adjustment invented by the workers. By simplifying the action of communication, the alphabet’s purpose was pragmatic, but its implications rank it amid the best paradigm-shifting of history.
From In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language, Joel M. Hoffman explains that if it’s “easier to apprentice the tens of hundreds of symbols appropriate for syllabic adjustment than it is to apprentice the bags appropriate for a absolutely logographic system,” than to apprentice easier still consonantal systems (as both proto-Sinaitic and Hebrew are), as these adjustment “generally crave beneath than 30 symbols.” Vowels may be the souls of words, but consonants are their bodies. The aloft accessible both the Greek alphabet and the diacritical marks of Masoretic Hebrew, but the skeletons of our alphabet were already recorded in admiration to the goddess Hathor.
Man writes that three appearance mark the alphabet as acute in the history of communication: “its uniqueness, its artlessness and its adaptability.” Conceivably alike added importantly, area pictograms are complicated, they’re additionally indelibly wed to the argot which aboriginal authentic them, admitting alphabets can “with some blame and shoving, be acclimatized to all languages.” The alphabet, a Semitic apparatus built-in from Egyptian abstracts for applied ends, “proved berserk successful,” as Hoffman writes, with proto-Sinaitic developing into the Phoenician alphabet and afresh the Hebrew, which was “used as the base for the Greek and Latin alphabets, which, in turn, alternating with Hebrew itself, were destined to anatomy the base for about all the world’s alphabets.” Birthed from parsimony, proto-Sinaitic would become the agent through which absorption could be spread. Still, the blurred edges of our belletrist affirm their agent in pictures—the abject abject admiration prayerfully in an “E;” in an “S,” the slithering of the snake who acquired the fall.
4.Every audible aloft alphabetic system, save for Korean Hangul developed in the 15th century, can trace its origins aback to this abrading on a sphinx. The Phoenicians, a bodies who batten a Semitic language, developed one of the aboriginal able alphabets. Michael Rosen, in Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story, explains that the Phoenicians “used abstruse versions of altar to announce letters: a angled (horned?) assurance was an ‘ox’ (in their accent ‘aleph’), and on bottomward through the words for ‘house,’ ‘stick,’ ‘door’ and ‘shout’ up to ‘tooth’ and ‘mark.’” The alphabet is universal, applicative in any cultural setting, and yet the actual ambience of its conception is of sailors and azure miners active in the Bronze Age.
An epiphany aback some azure miner absent the intricate pictures of Egyptian hieroglyphics, but acclimated them not for ideas, but rather units of sound. The sea-faring Phoenicians, clad in their Tyrian amethyst bolt absolute from the fungus of clams, would advertise the alphabet about Mediterranean ports. It’s the agent of affected Hebrew, which God acclimated aback he addled belletrist of blaze into the tablets at Sinai; the alpha of Arabic’s aqueous belletrist by which Allah dictated the Qur’an. The Greeks acclimatized the Phoenicians’ apparatus (as they acknowledge) into which the articulate balladry of Homer could assuredly be recorded; the death-obsessed Etruscans whose argot we still can’t apprehend appointed the symbols of Punic sailors, as did the Romans who would brand those belletrist on boastful monuments throughout Europe and Africa in so constant a way that you’re still annual them now. Languid Ge’ez in Ethiopian gospels, blocky Aramaic accounting in the argot of Christ, Brahmic scripts which preserved Dharmic prayers, the abstruse Ogham of Irish druids, the bird-scratch runes of the Norseman, the blunt Cyrillic of the Czars, all acquire from that antecedent alphabet. Alike Sequoyah’s 19th-century Cherokee, admitting a syllabary and not technically an alphabet, draws several of its symbols from a Latin that can be ultimately traced aback to the mines of Serabit el-Khadim.
Matthew Battles, in Palimpsest: A History of the Accounting Word, writes how this “great alternation of alphabetical change collapses in a delight of characters, glyphs, and symbols, assortment in friendly, familial and alike amative enthusiasms of abreast meaning.” We faculty acquaintance above this ancestors timberline of alphabetical systems, how in an English “A” we see the Greek α, or how Hebrew ח evokes the Greek η. But as the French clergyman Marc-Allain Ouknin explains in The Mysteries of the Alphabet, all of our belletrist were ultimately acclimatized by the age-old Canaanites from Egyptian pictures, for afore there was an “A” there was the arch of an ox, afore there was “H” there was an enclosure. Ouknin writes that the “history of acceptation is the history of apathy the image, the history of a abolishment of the visible.” In the alpha there was not the word, but rather the image.
5.During the 17th century, the German Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kirchner was bedeviled by the catechism of how angel and chat adjourned over ascendancy in the Kingdom of Meaning. Kirchner is an archetype of the Renaissance; built-in not absolutely in time for the Enlightenment, he was chatty in acceptance rather than proof, esoterica rather than science, admiration rather than reason. His was the epistemology not of the laboratory, but of the Wunderkammer. In The Alphabetic Labyrinth: The Alphabet in History and Imagination, art historian Johanna Drucker writes that Kirchner’s studies included that of the “structure of the cavern apple of underground rivers, agitable bedrock breeze and caves, an all-embracing argument on all actual accessories for bearing light,” and best chiefly “compendia of advice on China, [and] Egypt.”
Kirchner is both the aboriginal Egyptologist and aboriginal Sinologist, alike as his abstracts about both capacity would be authentic absolutely inaccurate in about all of their details. His 1655 Oedipus Aegyptiacus was both an attack to analyze the ambiguous symbols on papyri and monuments, as able-bodied as a “restoration of the cacographic doctrine,” the abstruse Hermetic adeptness which the priest associated with the ancients. He concurred with the age-old Neo-Platonist Plotinus, who in his Enneads claimed that the Egyptians did not use belletrist “which represent sounds and words; instead they use designs of images, anniversary of which stands for a audible affair … Every incised assurance is thus, at once, knowledge, wisdom, a absolute article captured in one stroke.” Kirchner appropriately “translated” an inscription on a 2-millennia-old brace which sat in the Villa Celimontana in Rome, acknowledgment that the hieroglyphs should apprehend as “His abbot and affectionate attendant, the polymorphous Spirit, shows the affluence and affluence of all all-important things.” Not a audible chat is accurate.
For Kirchner, what fabricated both autography and Chinese writings so evocative was that they got as abutting to unmediated absoluteness as possible, that they were not bald depiction, but essence. In The Chase for the Absolute Language, Umberto Eco explains that Kirchner’s enthusiasms were mistaken, because his “assumption that every cipher was an ideogram … was an acceptance which bedevilled his action at the outset,” for adverse to his presupposition, neither Mandarin nor age-old Egyptian operated like some array of bizarre rebus.
Still, Kirchner’s was a altercation that “hieroglyphs all showed article about the accustomed world,” as Eco writes. Pictograms were as a window unto the world; collapsed belletrist were artlessly scratches in the sand. Area Kirchner and others faltered was in absolution absorption abstruse the actuality of the alphabet. If you cast an “A” upside down, do you not see the horns of the ox which that letter originally signified? If you about-face a “B” on its side, do you not see the apartment of a house? Or in the curvature of a “C” that of the camel’s hump?
6.Iconoclasm explains abundant of our absent-mindedness about the iconic origins of our letters, but it’s additionally that which gives the alphabet abundant of its power. Adumbration has been the basis of animal announcement aback the aboriginal Cro-Magnon woman blew red amber from her engorged cheeks assimilate the cavern bank at Lascaux so as to trace the outline of her hand. But the about-face from pictographic autograph to alphabetic inaugurated the administration of absorption whereby the allegorical forebearers of our belletrist had to be forgotten. Marc-Alain Ouaknin explains that “Behind anniversary of the belletrist with which we are so accustomed lies a history, changes, mutations based on one or added aboriginal forms.”
Since Gardiner’s adaptation of Serabit el-Khadim, there accept been a few dozen agnate abecedariums begin at sites mostly in the Sinai. From those dispersed examples, advisers trace the analysis of belletrist aback to their original, aback they brewed from that basal soup of imagery, their aboriginal meanings now obscured. From our Latin belletrist we move aback to the awkward Etruscan, from those arctic Italians we trace to the Greeks, and afresh the purple-clad Phoenicians, assuredly accession at the age-old Semites who crafted the alphabet, award that the our belletrist are not a, b, and c, nor alpha, beta, and gamma, or alike Aleph, Bet, and Gimmel, but rather their aboriginal pictures—an ox, a house, and a camel.
Philologists and classicists accept articular all of the images from which the 26 belletrist derive. In proto-Sinaitic, “D” was originally a door. If you cast an “E” on its ancillary you see the accoutrements ample aloft the arch of a man in prayer. “I” was originally a hand; the bouncing band of “M” still looks like the beachcomber of baptize which it originally was. “R” still has at its top the arch aloft a anatomy which it originally signified; “U” still looks like that which an oar was placed aloft in a boat. Kirchner anticipation that autography were absolute pictures of the absolute world, but hidden aural our own alphabet absconded from the courts of Egypt are the apparitional after-images of the originals.
7.The alphabet advance article added than bald convenience—it advance monotheism. Man argues that the “evolution of the acceptance in a audible god was abased on an adeptness to almanac that acceptance and accomplish it accessible; and that both recording and accessibility were abased on the apparatus of the alphabet.” God fabricated the alphabet possible, and it would assume that the alphabet alternate the favor. What aboriginal had to be forgotten, however, were the acceptation of the letters’ aboriginal shapes, for in pictograms there lay the accident of idolatry, of abracadabra those old gods who birthed them.
At Mt. Sinai, the Lord allegedly acclimated blaze to adorn Moses’ tablets with his commandments, the additional of which demands that none shall accomplish any “likeness that is in heaven above, or that is in the apple beneath, or that is in the baptize beneath the earth.” Aback autograph those belletrist God absolute able-bodied couldn’t use ones that happened to attending like a man, or an ox, or a camel’s hump. Ouaknin conjectures that “iconoclasm appropriate the Jews to abolition proto-Sinaitic of images,” for the “birth of the avant-garde alphabet created from abstruse characters is affiliated to the adumbration and the accepting of the law.” The clergyman argues that it was “Under the access of monotheistic announcement [that] autography began to afford some of its images, consistent in the aboriginal attack of an alphabet.” Accessible abstractions of the alphabets were not a accidental coincidence, but rather a appeal of the Mosaic covenant, aback the anew monotheistic Jews couldn’t adoration God if the belletrist of their autograph adjustment evoked falcon-headed Horus, the jackal Anubis, or baboon-faced Thoth with stylus in hand. Man writes that “both new god and new calligraphy formed calm to coin a new nation and advertise an absorption that would change the world.”
A agnostic may beam that the alphabet hardly acquired an actual adventurous of conversions to monotheism in Greece, Rome, or the arctic country, as Zeus, Jupiter, and Tyr still reigned amidst their corresponding peoples. Yet alphabetic writing’s actualization occurred appropriate afore a aeon which the Austrian philosopher Karl Jaspers alleged “the Axial Age.” Jaspers empiric that in the aboriginal millennium afore the Accepted Era, there was a hasty synchronicity amid radically disparate cultures which nonetheless produced new agency of compassionate absoluteness which still had some accumulation similarities amid anniversary other.
Monotheism in the Levant, Greek philosophy, Persian Zoroastrianism, and the Indian Upanishads can all be traced to the Axial Age. For Jaspers, a archetype about-face in alertness resulted in abstraction. What all of these altered methods, approaches, and faiths aggregate was altar the accepted over the particular, the absoluteness which is concealed over the caliginosity on the cavern wall. In The Agent and Goal of History, Jaspers describes the Axial Age as “an breach … a abeyance for liberty, a abysmal animation bringing the best apprehensible consciousness.”
Jaspers acclaimed the accompanying actualization of these faiths, but proffered not a abounding antecedent as to why. I admiration if the abstractions of the alphabet were not that which incubated the Axial Age? In Moses and Monotheism, Sigmund Freud claimed that this “compulsion to adoration a God whom one cannot see … meant that as a acoustic acumen was accustomed additional abode to what may be alleged an abstruse idea—a celebration of bookishness over sensuality.” This celebration of absorption included not aloof the prophets Isaiah and Elijah, but the philosophers Parmenides and Heraclitus, and the sages Siddhartha and Zarathustra, all of whose words were fabricated abiding in the alphabet.
From the Aegean to the Indus River, the accepted cilia of the Axial Age was alphabetic writing, with the one aloft barring actuality China. In The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Amid Chat and Image, Leonard Shlain empiric that the acceleration of phonetic belletrist coincided with the dematerialization of idol adoration in the Levant, autograph that the “abstract alphabet encouraged abstruse thinking,” a breed built-in from the ambit and band of the Word. Yet old gods can consistently be built-in again, their choir almost heard, yet still present in angelic phoneme, their faces peaking out in the spaces amid our letters.
8.In the Babylonian desert, excavators frequently acquisition baby bowls, belted with Aramaic and advised to abduction demons. Molded by magi, the demon bowls are a trap, a harnessing of the bewitched adeptness of the alphabet. These talismans accumulated chat and angel to acclimatized the cancerous bottom gods who still stalked the earth, alike afterwards God’s declared victory.
Appropriate that God’s alphabet is that which is able to constrain in adobe the chicane of amative Lilith and beastly Asmodeus. One such bowl, which depicts the daydream Lilith at its centermost as an adorable woman with continued beard almost abashing breasts and genitalia, incants that “60 men who will abduction you with chestnut ropes on your anxiety and chestnut shackles on your easily and degree collars of chestnut aloft your temples.” Israeli academic Naama Vilozny is an able on the images of demons corrective on these bowls by contrarily agnostic Jews. In Haaretz, Vilozny says that you “draw the amount you appetite to get rid of and afresh you bind it in a delineation and bind it in words.” There is ascendancy in the alphabet, not aloof in accoutrement demons, but in the adeptness to abduction a concept’s essence. Writing’s theurgic adeptness of writing, area blame adjoin hell are as able as broiled clay.
Magic and monotheism charge not be carefully separated; a faculty of paganism haunts our acceptance as able-bodied as our letters. The analyst Julian Jaynes, in his The Origins of Alertness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, posited a arguable antecedent that animal beings were abandoned “conscious” almost recently, aback anon afore the Axial Age. The alphabet conceivably played a role in this development, apparently eliminating the others gods in favor of the one articulation of God, the abandoned articulation in your head. But Jaynes explains that the “mind is still apparitional by its old benumbed ways; it broods on absent authorities.” Absolutely accurate aback a abashed Babylonian places a basin in the apple to abduction those chthonic spirts which abuse us alike admitting their ascendancy has been abolished.
The alphabet facilitated a new magic. Accede that the fourth commandment, which reads “Thou shalt not booty the name of the Lord thy God in vain,” is not an admonition adjoin abuse in the avant-garde sense, for absolutely the almighty can accept obscenity, but that in actual ambience it accurately meant that you shouldn’t use God’s name to accomplish magic. To apperceive the belletrist of someone’s name is to accept the adeptness to ascendancy them; there’s a acumen that the “angel” whom Jacob wrestles with refuses to be named. The four Hebrew belletrist which aggregate the able name of God—יהוה—are frequently referred to as the Tetragrammaton, there actuality no bright faculty of what absolutely the chat would accept absolutely been arresting as.
These belletrist accept a answerable power, no bald ink-stain on sheep-skin, for the actual accentuation was attentive as an abstruse secret. Hoffman writes that the belletrist were “chosen not because of the sounds they represent, but because of their allegorical admiral in that they were the Hebrew’s abracadabra beat belletrist that no added ability had.” The yod, hay, vov, hay of the Tetragrammaton approved both the achievement of monotheism, but additionally the electric adeptness of the alphabet itself. God encoded into the absolute name, which in about-face was the adapt for our reality. A alarming thing, these letters, for aloof as demons could be controlled with their names corrective assimilate the asperous apparent of a bowl, so, too, could the best accomplished of mages bulldoze the Creator to their bidding.
9.Incantation is sometimes alleged prayer, added times poetry, and occasionally the alphabet can acting for both. As acrostic, alphabetic possibilities accept continued admiring poets. In Edward Hirsch’s A Poet’s Glossary, he writes about “Abecedarians,” that is, verses area anniversary band begins with the corresponding letter of the alphabet. As all academic balladry does, the anatomy exploits bogus constraint—in this circumstance, so as to arbitrate aloft the alphabet itself. This is an “ancient anatomy generally active for angelic works”; Hirsch explains how all of the “acrostics in the Hebrew Bible are alphabetical, such as Psalm 119, which consists of twenty-two eight-line stanzas, one for anniversary letter of the Hebrew of the alphabet.” The “completeness of the form,” Hirsch writes, “enacts the absorption of absolute adherence to the law of God.”
St. Augustin, the fourth-century Christian theologian, wrote an abecedarian adjoin the Donatist heretics; about a millennium later, Chaucer approved his duke at the anatomy as well. Centuries later, the English announcer Alaric Watt wrote his annual of the 1789 Hapsburg Siege of Belgrade in alliterative abecedarian: “An Austrian army, clumsily arrayed, / Boldly by array besieged Belgrade. / Cossack commanders cannonading come, / Dealing destruction’s adverse doom.” There are, to the best of my knowledge, no aloft examples of abecedarian prose. Conceivably somebody will address article soon? Because as Hirsch notes, the anatomy has “powerful associations with prayer,” the admiring alliteration of the alphabet stripping acceptation to its bald essence, elimination both anguish and address of ego, in favor of the ecstasies of authentic sound.
Such was the acumen of the Baal Shem Tov, architect of Hasidism, who was aggressive by the ecstasies of Pietists to acknowledgment adoration to its affecting core. He approved to band ritual of abandoned argumentation and to re-endow it with that absent faculty of the aglow sacred. Sometimes adoration charge not alike be in words, the angelic belletrist themselves action able-bodied enough. The Baal Shem Tov’s honorific agency “Master of the Good Name”; he who has brought aural the absolute sinews of his beef and the synapses of his apperception the pulsating adeptness of the Tetragrammaton. So abundant can depend on four letters.
The Baal Shem Tov, or “Besht” as he was generally called, lived in the Pale of Settlement, the cold, blah Galician countryside. Drucker writes that the Besht exhorted the “practicing Jew to accomplish of circadian activity a around-the-clock convenance of devotion,” whereby “each of the belletrist which canyon one’s aperture are antecedent and affiliate with anniversary other, accustomed with them the abounding glory.” The Besht accomplished that belletrist were not incidental; the alphabet itself was all-important for “true affinity with the Divinity.”
According to Hasidic legend, one Yom Kippur, the Besht led his aggregation in their prayers. Towards the aback of the abbey was a addled but pious attend boy. The added worshipers, with fingers acute adoration book open, afresh the words of the Kol Nidre, but the benighted attend could abandoned pretend to aperture along, to chase autograph which he could not read. Emotions became admiring as black-coated men beneath and women in the balustrade aloft began to amplitude and bark out the prayers. Finally, affected with adherence but clumsy to echo afterwards the blow of his adolescent Jews, the attend boy shouted out the abandoned adoration he could: “Aleph. Bet. Gimmel. Daleth …” through the blow of the 18 Hebrew letters.
There was an awkward blackout in the sanctuary. Embarrassed, the adolescent man explained, “God, that is all I can do. You apperceive what your prayers are. Please align them into the actual order.”
From the rafters of the shul, busy with Hebrew belletrist in blocky atramentous ink, came the absolute articulation of God, arch the absolute aggregation in the holiest of prayers, afresh from that of the simple shepherd: “Aleph. Bet. Gimmel. Daleth …” And so, in the cloister of the Baal Shem Tov, in the aboriginal 18th aeon in a abbey aloft the Galician plain, God deigned to advise women and men how to adoration already again, in the holiest adoration that there is. The alphabet, afresh candidly with acceptance in your soul, is the purest anatomy of prayer.
10.Alphabets are under-theorized. Because it’s so omnipresent, there is a way in which it’s accessible to balloon the chilling adeptness of 26 symbols. Considering how axiological to basal activity it is, we frequently discount the sheer, absolute breeding of the belletrist which anatomy our world. Disenchantment, however, charge not be our lot, for there is a ability that belletrist don’t aback reality, but rather that they are reality. Ecstatic to comprehend, the way in which stains on asleep timberline are the aqueduct through which all acceptation traverses, abundant like the electrons anecdotic our screens. Fundamentally, what I’m arguing for is not aloof that our alphabet is a agency of abutting the divine—no, not aloof that. God is the alphabet, and the alphabet is God. Heaven is traversed through the alpha and the omega. I altercate that the alphabet betrays its origins, for chat and angel are abutting calm in symbiosis, no amount how occluded.
Just as Kirchner believed autography independent reality, so, too, is the alphabet apparitional by pictures obscure; as Ouaknin enthuses, it’s in “unearthing the traces of the agent of belletrist and compassionate how they evolved” that accommodate abstruse wisdom. Knowing that belletrist about-face aback and forth, so that they can acknowledgment to the images which birthed them, as in the calligraphy which illustrates Attar’s Simurgh, is a affirmation of their aqueous nature. Literal admitting we may blunder Egyptian pictograms to be, their abstruse breed in the anatomy of our 26 belletrist are still apparitional by their origins, and we can bathe them with a faculty of their affirmation now and again.
Moreover, the mysteries of the alphabet subconsciously affect us, so that as Battles claims apropos belletrist aback “whether alphabetic or ideographic, they alpha out as pictures of things,” the bigger to explain “why autograph works for us, and why it has conserved these signs so able-bodied over these three millennia.” Nevertheless, the addictive of antecedent incarnations of letters’ accomplished shapes can’t abandoned explain their aberrant power. Abandoned article all-powerful can absolutely amplify how some marks on Hathor’s adumbrate archive a absolute band to the belletrist you’re annual appropriate now. Conceivably “divine” is a loaded term, what with all of those adverse religious connotations; “transcendent” would be aloof as apt. Questions can absolutely be aloft about my contentions; I do not ambition to be apprehend as airy, but with every letter of my sentences I can’t advice but accept that the kabbalists and Gnostics were right—the alphabet constitutes our being.
Reality, I believe, can be absolutely constituted from all 26 belletrist (give or take). Sift through all of them, and apprehend that the acknowledgment to any catechism lay amid Aleph and Tav, not aloof as metaphor, but those answers are artlessly baldheaded by award the able alignment of those letters. The acknowledgment to any inquiry, the band-aid to any problem, the absolute acumen that frees, can be apparent artlessly by award the actual adjustment of those letters. Underneath the apparent of these shapes are break of their birth, but additionally that fuller absoluteness aloof above our gaze. Vexation charge not chase such an observation, but rather embrace the amaranthine alteration amid angel and chat which is the alphabet. We charge not aces amid letter or picture, there is allowance abundant for both. Xenoglossic is what we should be: chatty in accent alien to our tongues, but rather announced in our souls. You charge abandoned echo the alphabet as if you’re an benighted attend in the accumulation of the Baal Shem Tov. Zealots of the alphabet, with those absolute belletrist carved by blaze into our hearts.
Image: Temple of Hathor charcoal in Serabit el-Khadim by Einsamer Schütze
Ed Simon is the Editor-at-Large for The Marginalia Review of Books, a approach of The Los Angeles Review of Books. A approved contributor at several altered sites, his accumulating America and Added Fictions: On Radical Acceptance and Post-Religion will be appear by Zero Books this year. He can be followed on Facebook, his website, or on Twitter at @WithEdSimon.
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