Author's Note: Part Four of a series on Finding Voice. This is an essential part of the contribution of Hebrew Mysticism, often referred to as Kabbalah, to the great symphony of World Spirituality. Read Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.
The Third Stage: From Sound to Word
In the third stage of the evolution of consciousness, voice gives birth to word. Now we are able to tell our story, to speak authentically with each other, to articulate clearly both our needs and our visions of a better world. A rebel newspaper is no longer sufficient. Only in the writing of a Constitution or a Declaration of Independence is the next stage of freedom achieved. Or in the case of the '60s, a spiritual movement needed to be born that attempted, however imperfectly, to write the books of a New Age.
Three biblical myth word symbols capture this third stage in mystical consciousness.
The first word symbol is called in Hebrew the haggadah—literally, "the story telling." This is the very name of the myth text we read from at Pe-Sach, when we reclaim our story. By assuming authorship of our stories, we assert spiritual authority over our lives. We are no longer subject to the will and directive of the taskmaster, priest, or rabbi. By becoming authors of our own haggadah, we progress past the protest and actually become free.
The master Kalonymous Kalman explains that the demarcating characteristic of messianic times is that every person will be his or her own spiritual master. This is his radical reading of the biblical myth vision expressed by prophet Jeremiah (31:34): "And no man will anymore learn from his fellow to know God, for everyone will know Me from the wise to the simple." Every person will find voice and articulate speech and those words will be his or her spiritual guide.
In the end, we will discover that we are the sacred book and the sacred book is us. In fact, there is a tradition in Jewish prayer to take the Torah scrolls adorned with crowns of silver and fine cloth and carry them around the prayer room, allowing everyone to touch and kiss them. Where I pray, we started a tradition of also kissing the person chosen to carry the scrolls, recognizing that she too is a sacred scroll.
Ten Words to Live By
The second biblical myth word symbol of freedom is actually mistranslated into English as the Ten Commandments. The people, so the story goes, having fled Egypt, gather at the foot of Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. Of course, nowhere in the biblical myth is there any mention of Ten Commandments. Here is where the old witty maxim, "Reading the Bible in translation is like kissing a woman through a veil," becomes not altogether untrue. In the original Hebrew, the people receive at Sinai not Ten Commandments but "Ten Words." Here Voice becomes Word, the articulation of speech. It is the beginning of the vision that follows revolution.
The third word symbol is no less than the word Messiah. "Messiah" in the original Hebrew is understood by the Kabbalists, quite astoundingly, to mean "conversation." Master Nachum of Chernobyl, mystic and philosopher, points out that the Hebrew word for messiah, Mashiach, can be understood as the Hebrew word Ma-siach—meaning "from dialogue" or "of conversation." His assertion radically implies that the Messiah is potentially present in every human conversation, every mutual act of voice-giving.
All authentic conversation is sacred conversation. The ability to have an honest face-to-face talk in which both sides are true to themselves, vulnerable and powerful at the same time, is Messianic.
Simply put, sacred conversation is the vessel that receives the light of Messiah. For what is life but a series of conversations? In evolving the love and goodness in every conversation we form the vessel that holds the light of higher consciousness. It is not anyplace else. It is in every conversation you will have today. This is meditation of speech, different from the meditation of silence. Even as the sacred conversation emerges from the silence, speak words that emerge from the silence. Avoid words that seek to cover over the silence. But more on this next week.
Sounds of Silence
The Unique Self of the emancipated storyteller is not entirely realized with the move from mute silence to sacred speech. It goes one rung higher, for soul print journeys are not only linear but circular, taking us spiraling upward and beyond. The path takes us from silence to speech and then back—to a higher silence that will birth a higher speech.