The Speech of the Gods
The Theosophist, December, 1887
The Theosophical doctrine, while endorsing many of the views of the Darwinian system of evolution, has so supplemented that doctrine with another—that of man’s spiritual descent or downward evolution from the planetary spirits—as to alter entirely the view to be taken of man’s character, constitution and dignity in the universe. Of man’s various powers, perceptions and potencies, some belong to the arc ascending from the monera, some to the arc descending from the divine and spiritual ancestors.
That the Aryan tongue, the language of the intuitional Fifth Race, belongs to the latter category and is man’s inheritance from the planetary spirits, we hope to be able to show.
Philological research has demonstrated that the Indo-European or Aryan languages are reducible to a few hundred primitive roots, from which all subsequent stages and variations of language are by various modes of combination derived. In these days of enlightenment, when man is brought into unpleasant proximity with several very disagreeable poor relations, it is interesting to all mankind, and especially to the Aryan nations, to trace exactly the source from which our ancestor—the Aryan, not the ape—derived his few hundred primitive roots, for in their source and character we have a measure of his mind, a finger-post pointing either heavenwards to man’s divine progenitors, or ape-wards to the prognathous and hairy chimpanzee.
On the one hand we shall expect to discover a spiritual relation between sounds and the various powers, forms and colours and the universe, the value of which was intuitionally perceived by the earliest Aryans; on the other, we shall look to find the echoes of the grunts and squeals of our poor relation perched on a tree-branch mumbling his acorns.
Roots, say the theorists, were at first either a matter of convention, or were formed by imitating the sounds of nature, and by exclamations and interjections. The chief objection to the first theory (which indeed was never very seriously defended) is that contrary to hypothesis the Aryan roots, as a whole, do not express the wants and notions of such a primitive people as we were led to postulate. We find for example comparatively few words, such as bow, arrow, and, tent, while there are a great many expressing abstract or reflective ideas, like to shine, to fly, to know, to burn. The second also is all very well as a theory, but at the first rude contact with fact it collapses. We find very few words which could possibly be formed according to its principles, and this for the simple reason that there are no distinctive sounds in nature accompanying the majority of the ideas expressed in these Aryan roots.
The theory which we put forward, on the other hand, is that sounds have by nature a spiritual or innate relation with various colours, forms or qualities, and that the Aryan roots were formed with a clear intuitional perception of this fact. It is probable that the process of their formation was instinctive and unconscious, rather than intentional and deliberate.
To make the theory more clear, we may say that it appears to us that the entities on each plane have a spiritual relation to the entities on the other planes. A particular sound, for instance, corresponds to some one colour, to some one taste, to some one odour, and to some one simple figure or form. In order to connect the Aryan roots, or, to speak more correctly, the sounds of the Aryan roots with their values on the other planes,—thus showing their origin to be spiritual and intuitional—it will be necessary to analyze the chief sounds used in this branch of human speech, and to assign to them their spiritual values; and having discovered these values to apply them to the Aryan roots or to the words of any early language akin to the Aryan. It will be seen that besides the values to be assigned to them intuitionally, a parallel series of values will be discovered arising from physiological reasons, such as the position of the organs of speech while pronouncing them; but it must in all cases be borne in mind that the intuitive is the primary meaning, though reasons for it cannot, from its very nature, be stated argumentatively; in most cases, therefore, physiological reason alone will be given. For the convenience of those unacquainted with Sanskrit phonetics, we shall adhere as far as possible to the English alphabet.
To begin with B and M (pronounced bă and ăm), if we analyse their character and difference from other sounds and from each other, we find that with the exception P (pă) a slight variant of B, they are the only sounds which require the complete closure of the mouth for their formation. Whether it be preceded or followed by a vowel, B cannot be correctly pronounced without first closing the lips and then opening them. It is evident therefore that as Bă is the only sound which is made by the bursting forth of the breath from closed lips, it is more suited than any other to express “the beginning of life,” or “life.” M differs from B in this, that it is made not by the breath coming from the just opened lips, but by closing them and stopping the breath completely for a time, then the breath finds an outlet by its upper channel, the nose. Taking these facts into consideration, we perceive that it should mean something extreme, like “end,” “height” or “death,” or, more fully, the stoppage of the life energy and its transfer to a different channel. (We may here remark that this value agrees with the characteristics of Siva, in the mystic syllable Om, or Aum, representing Brahman the Creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Siva the destroyer and regenerator). It is a similar sound to M, but differs from it in this, that the stoppage of the breath, before its transfer to the upper outlet, is incomplete. It means “continuance” or change without any real end. P is a variation of the sound for life, its significance is less though similar, it means “formation of a part,” “division,” or “smallness.”. The principal characteristic of V is its indefiniteness, it means “vagueness.” F, its companion sound, means “airiness” or “lightness,” it would refer to floating or flying objects. The harshest of the primary sounds is J (Jă), its meaning therefore to accord with this peculiarity must be “matter,” “heaviness,” or “earth” (as one of the five objective elements). The hard sharp sound of K (Kă), at once defines its meaning—“hardness,” “sharpness,” or “brilliancy.” The analogous sound of G (gă) means “smoothness” or “reflection.” The Brahmanical doctrine of emanations teaches, as is. well known, that absolute spirit, or Parabrahm (the great underlying reality of the universe), by its expansive activity created the First and Eternal emanation of the Logos, or Spirit; from this was produced the second emanation of ether, the astral light of the Kabbalists, corresponding to akâsa; from the ether was produced the element of light or fire; from fire was produced air; from air was produced water; from water was produced earth; from earth was produced the vegetable kingdom; from the vegetabla kingdom were produced animals, from animals man.
Here we find that earth is, as it were, the turning point to which downward. evolution reaches, and from which upward evolution begins. It is a remarkable and significant fact, but none the less a fact, that, if we take the liquid semi-vowel or ethereal series of sounds, and classify them in the order they come in the throat and mouth, their intuitional or spiritual values in this order will correspond accurately to the order of the elements in this Kabbalistic doctrine of emanations.
The first of these ethereal sounds A (pronounced like the â in atma,) Is the first sound of the human voice formed farthest within the throat, and the breath necessary to form all other sounds must pass from the A, the value of A therefore is “God” the “first cause” or the “self.” The next sound of this series is R (âr, as in for), from its peculiar fulness and undefinable sound its meaning is “wind,” “breath,” “movement” or “spirit;” it is the spirit which, in the words of Genesis, “Brooded upon the face of the waters,” and is the first emanation of the A or God; after R comes the sound of H (hay) the sound for “heat,” the five elements in one aspect. Next comes L (el) the spiritual value of which is “light.” The other aspect of the fire emanation Y (yea) the sound succeeding L, means “compression” or “the drawing together of things;” the next sound of this peculiar class is W (way) the sound for “water”; marking the two limits of the circular space enclosed by the pronunciation of this sound are the two sounds of Jă and Kă representing the quality of material solidity of the next emanation; the earth, which thus issues from the centre of the water element.
“Let the waters be gathered together
And let the dry land appear,”
says the cosmogony in Genesis. The ethereal or semi-vowel carry us down the earth element, which is, as we have seen, the turning point of evolution. These ethereal sounds represent the objective and supersensual planes, whose peculiar types of being have been called the fire, air and water elementals. When we reach the earth and the objective kingdoms, we come again to hard sounds. Proceeding outwards from the earth we get the sound of Ith which means “growth,” or “expansion”: with this sound came the emanation or evolution of vegetable life—to use the words of Genesis.
“The earth brought forth herbs.”
After Ith comes the sound of F and B, representing the kingdom of birds, fishes and animals and the crowning evolution of man.
Close on the heels of life, follows death, represented by the sound of M.
Let us compare this with the Upanishad.
“From that self (Brahmam) sprang ether, (or spirit.)
From ether sprang air; (expansion and heat.)
From air sprang fire; (light or colour.)
From fire water; from water, earth;
From earth, herbs; from herbs, food; from food, man.”
Here we have exactly the order we have arrived at by taking the spiritual values of the sounds, as they occur in the human throat and mouth, A,—god; R,—spirit; H,—heat; L,—light; W,—water; K,—hardness; J,—earth; Ith,—growth; B,—life; M,—death.
A few more sounds may be added. S, formed by a rapid series of sibilations, means “number.” D means “descent” or “falling;” T “ascent.”
We will now try how far we may be enabled with the key obtained to comprehend the intellectual and spiritual life of our ancestors. Nothing remains in writing which tells of their Wisdom; but no historian could have taken the measure of it so exactly as it is recorded in the bare roots which have come down to us. The traditions about these men might be untrustworthy and enlarged upon by the imagination of those who related them; but their words contain a history which cannot be otherwise than true, because they were intuitive.
It will be found that the examples given are of word of the very simplest class, referring to actions, thoughts and things, the most likely to be first expressed in this newly developed faculty of intuitive speech. We think that almost all the roots which do not seem to be intuitive were formed by a conventional agreement to regard one of these early words as applicable to several different things, for example, K, hardness or sharpness, was used in forming the intuitive word “Ak,” “to pierce into,” “Ak,” “to see,” was evidently a result of this primary meaning.
It is easy to see what God meant to the old Assyrians, El, the light; Bel, their sun-god, seems to mean “he who lives in light,” life and light are joined to express this idea. Aer, God of the atmosphere, was another Assyrian god, he was also called Vul, which is equivalent to Jupiter Tonans. Vul probably means “lght of the sky,” here being used to represent the indefinite air. Ahiah, “I am that I am,” the name which was uttered from the burning bush, is intuitive, being formed by a double pronunciation of the word for the self or God. Pal, the Assyrian word for “time” or “year,” would mean division of light; Pu, month, should mean a division. Mul, star, means “high light,” M being ed here to express something extreme. To the Aryan race death had the meaning, the “end of movement” or of the “breath.” Mar, containing the sounds for end and movement. Ur, sky, would mean “wide air,” as “Oo” means “width” and R, air. The root An, endless, is intuitive, also Pu, threshed or purified, P being used here to express division. Ku, to sharpen, is a word of the same class as Ak, to pierce. In Kar, to make, there are combined the sounds for hardness and movement; in Taks, to hew, the sounds for, to raise, hardness and number, the S, referring to what is hewn away or divided. In Mak, to pound, to macerate, there is the suggestion of ending with something hard. The united sounds of hardness and falling are in Kad, to fall; and of division and hardness in Pak, to come, and Pik, to cut. The letters which form Skap, to chop, mean to cut and divide things. Other words of the same class are Sak and Skar. In Sa, to sow, the prevailing idea seems to have been number. Swid, to sweat, has the sounds for number, water and rolling down. Possibly the idea of Swa, to toss, was taken from seeing things tossed about upon the waves as Fath, to spread out, may have been from observation of the aerial growth of tree branches. Swal, to boil up, is clearly intuitive, as well as Wam, to spit out. Other intuitive words are Yu, to bind, and Yas, to gird. Wa, meant to bind, either because it was observed that water acted as a girdle to all things or through some confusion of meaning between it and Y. It may be observed here that sometimes there is an interchange of meanings between a sound and the one preceding or following it; sometimes L has the meaning of R, or H of L, or Y of W, or G of K.
S and W are joined into one word in Siw, to bind, the idea expressed being the binding together of things. It has been used with the intuitive value attached to it in Flu, to fly, swim, or float. The Sanskrit Rasu, origin intuitively considered, would mean the movement of things, and the Assyrian, Ris, beginning, seems to have the same idea embodied in it. The root Al, to burn, is intuitive, but the light seems to have suggested the word rather than the heat. Knowledge is the reflection in the mind of what is passing in the world, Gnu, to know, is a combination of the sounds for reflection and combination. Than, thinness, would seem to be the result of long continued growth. Gol, a very common word for ate, means “reflection of light,” and the glistening appearance of ice probably suggested a word, to freeze, Gal; a word of the same class is Gea, to glow. Tar, to pass over, has sounds of which the intuitive value seems to be “ascent through air.” Thu, to swell, to be strong, and Fath, to fly, are examples of the use of Ith.
As it would only be tedious to go on giving examples, after the theory and the method of applying it for the purpose of elucidating the meaning and origin of the roots has been made sufficiently clear we will ad a few more only; they are; Su, to generate, to produce Cuk, to shine, Mu, to shut up, to enclose; Mi, to go; Bu, to be, to grow; Bars to carry; Kant, to cut; An, to breathe; Spark, to scatter; Da, to distribute; and Greek, Ge, the earth. A little thought will show at once what idea was intended to be embodied in these words.
Reflecting on the extreme sensibility to sound which his intuitive race possessed, a sensibility which enabled them to find words exactly suited to express the spreading of tree branches and the boiling of water, we cannot help wondering, were they similarly affected by sounds external to themselves, and whether the call of birds or the hoarser cries of animals conveyed any meaning to their ear. The words which they employed to express colour, though, naturally enough, lesser evidence remains of this, show that, for every hue they could find a note of corresponding value on the plane of sound, R and M answering respectively to red and violet, and each letter between to some shade of colour ranging from one to the other of the two mentioned. A study of the forms used in the primeval alphabets, and as symbols, would show that they recognized something more in nature than mere matter, that the tracing of flower and leaf, and the starry arch of heaven, and all beautiful things, were full to them of deep spiritual significance, which the more intellectual scientists of our time cannot see, though they weigh and analyse and examine ever so much. If this essay could persuade even one of them to develope the most god-like faculty man possesses—intuition,—its purpose would be fulfilled.
C. JOHNSTON, F.T.S.