As part of my missionary career in Kenya, I was the headmaster of Kipchimchim Harambee Secondary School for a number of years. I also taught math, physics and religion. One day during a lecture on the evolution of the Bible from an oral tradition to a written form, and the difficulties attendant upon translating an ancient Hebrew text, written without vowel signs, into Kenyan languages, I decided to do an experiment. I asked three students to step outside the classroom and then I wrote a simple paragraph in English on the blackboard. Then I brought in one of the three students and asked him to write a Swahili translation of it immediately underneath. Then I covered the English version, brought in the second of the students and asked her to translate the Swahili version into Kipsigis. I then covered the Swahili version and brought in the third student. His job was to translate the Kipsigis version into English. Finally, I uncovered the original English version and watched as the class compared the two English versions. As you might suspect, the two versions bore little resemblance to each other!
A. Oral Language
Before we can understand the vagaries of oral language, we have to understand sound. Remember the old chestnut, “if a tree falls in the forest and there’s nobody present to hear it, does it still make a sound?” And the correct scientific answer is, “no it doesn’t!” When a tree falls in the forest, it simply sets up air vibrations, and if the frequency is within a certain range (20 – 20,000 hertz), the human ear will interpret it as sound. Any frequencies outside that range, simply go in one ear and out the other! “Ha”, you say, “but what if an animal is present!?” The same principle holds true. Each animal species has its own range of frequencies which it will interpret as sound. Otherwise, silence – and a slight breeze – is all that happens.
Ferdinand de Saussure, possibly the preeminent linguist of the 20th century, posited three components to oral language. First, the “referent” – the object in the real world. Secondly, the “signified” – the internalized image (part visual, part auditory, part tactile, part olfactory, part gustatory.) And thirdly, the “signifiers” – the verbal symbols you use to communicate your internal “signified” to another person. This last piece changes from language to language; for example, a tusked pachyderm will be called “elephant”, “ndovu” and “belyot” in English, Swahili and Kipsigis respectively.
Now, there obviously are prelinguistic languages that can use one or more of the senses to send and receive messages. Here are some examples. Trees will send out pheromones -olfactory signals – toward nearby trees to warn of approaching herbivores. The acacia trees of Kenya do this to alert the neighbors of the presence of giraffes. The acacia trees then produce a noxious oder that soon dampens the giraffes’ interest. Since it takes about 15 minutes for the tree to marshal this defense, the “whistleblower” sacrifices a bunch of its foliage before the giraffe moves on only to meet the other trees in full battle armor.
Also, many animals use pheromones to attract mates with a signal that says, “I’m in heat, let’s talk.” Other animals, especially birds and octopi, use color displays to impress possible mates. And flowers do it, even using ultraviolet colors to attract pollinators. Humans get in on that act as well. We also use visual cues like waving at, beckoning and dismissing somebody.
Obviously, touch, also, can be significant, as in hugging and shaking hands. And let’s not forget Braille. And then there’s the whole language of prelinguistic sounds found all over the animal kingdom, from frogs croaking to dogs barking, birds singing and whales whistling. Animals, obviously, are using nonlinguistic vocalizations to communicate; as do young children.
In order to have a telepathic exchange with somebody, do you need to speak the same language? Or is the telepathic download pre-linguistic, trans-linguistic or post-linguistic? In other words, is there a whole bunch of information that’s not attached to any language system and therefore is clean and not biased in any way by terminology or the misuse of or misunderstanding of terminology?
Language consists of information bytes, information consists of energy quanta, and energy is the movement of Cosmic Mind. So, from which level does telepathy operate? It may operate directly from mind to mind without using language or even information, however when the recipient begins to “unpack” the download, language comes into play and often it’s frustrating because language can’t really express the treasure trove of mind. Language is like trying to eat tomato soup with a fork. Mystics and people who have Near Death Experiences all report the same frustration. Saint Paul said famously, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it even entered the human heart, what things God has prepared for those who love Him.”
C. The First Pentecost
Once upon a time, the world was changed radically; and it wasn’t done by the politicians, or the military or even the priests. It was done by a carpenter, a bunch of bumbling fishermen and a group of dedicated housewives. It is known as the “Jesus movement” and it ushered in era of Christ consciousness. But first, it was driven underground by persecution and then later it was seduced by power and the need to be “respectable.” The mind transcending message of a tradesman/mystic was eventually – but only temporarily – hijacked by a new brand of leaders who resorted to crusades against the nonbelievers and inquisitions against the unorthodox believers, until it finally produced a leader who claimed infallibility. This same trajectory has been the story of both secular and religious organizations. But now it is time to harvest the seeds sown by the carpenter from Nazareth.
In the story of Pentecost, Babel is undone. The miracle was both in the speakers and in the listeners. Each one heard in their own tongue, not because Peter was multi-lingual but because Spirit is trans-lingual. They thought they were hearing it in their ears and understanding it in their minds; but they weren’t. They were hearing it in their hearts and understanding it their souls. This is true Spirit-tinged telepathy.
D. Closing the Evolutionary Loop
So how do we translate ultimate reality into every-day experience? There are three stages or translations to this process – just as I did the translation experiment with my class in Kipchimchim many years ago. The first stage is the realization that ultimate reality is the Holy Spirit. The second stage is a translation of Spirit and it is mathematical in nature: this ultimate reality is expressed in Boolean algebra or Binary numbers. The third stage is a translation from mathematics into quantum mechanics. QM tells us that it is the observer who collapses the wave of all possibility into the discrete particle or specific outcome. We are not really creating an outcome, we are simply – by observation – selecting a single outcome from all the pre-existing possibilities. Imagine a radio station sending out electromagnetic signals; they spread not just in expanding concentric circles but in expanding concentric spheres. But as soon as you stick up an antenna, you can pluck the signal and reduce it to your own particular radio. The radio ‘traps’ and translates the signal into words or music, etc. The fourth stage is where the sensorium translates the quantum world into physical objects in what we foolishly call, ‘the real world.’
That is the devolutionary trajectory: from Spirit to mathematics, to quantum mechanics, to the sensorium, to reality. It’s difficult to retrace the steps, so in evolution we simply close the circle. The complete circle looks like this: Spirit to math, to quantum mechanics, to senses and back to Spirit via spiritual practices like altered states of consciousness, dreams, visions, fasting, fevers etc.
So now I want to revisit a statement I frequently make: life is a dream which the ego is having; the ego is a dream which the soul is having; the soul is a dream that Spirit is having; and Spirit is a dream that Source is having. I want to now give a second version of that progress and say the following: life is a dream that the senses are having; the senses are a dream the quantum mechanics is having; quantum mechanics is a dream that mathematics is having; mathematics is a dream that creative Spirit is having; and creative Spirit is a dream that Source is having.