Tuesday, December 6, 2011

In the Beginning Was the Word: The Power of Written Thought

     We often think that words are only so much hot air, lacking any real power:  "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."  If we do acknowledge that words have power, we tend to focus on how they influence other people's beliefs and actions.  However, it is rare that we contemplate the possibility that words might actually be able to alter the reality of our actual environment. 
     We know that thoughts and words are inseparably tied together; thoughts are only vague concepts until they are put into words.  And those words lack force while they remain in the shadowy recesses of the mind.  It is not until they are spoken or written that they truly give form, weight, and significance to our thoughts.  
     We are all familiar with the story of the Creation found in Genesis, but how often do we think about the actual mechanics of that creation?  What did God do to bring form to the universe as we know it?  The myth relates that he spoke, and that it was by the power of his word that all things were made.  We know that His words did not spring out of nothingness, but rather that first He made a plan.  The evidence for this is that after each step of the creative process, God judged what had been done and called it "good".  This process of judging the result means that He was comparing the final product to something; to the Plan that He had in mind - His idea of Creation.  As the Grand Architect, he planed the whole of creation.  But that plan was void and without form until He spoke. 
     In fact, John speaks of Jesus and Jesus' role in the Creation as "the Word":  "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was the life, and the life was the light of men."  The Word here is more than intelligible sound; it is words imbued with power. 
     The essence of this aspect of the creation stories is that thought is powerful and that words are the vehicle for that power.  One of the leading contemporary fiction writers, David Eddings, conceived of magic as "the Will and the Word."  What he means is that his characters who are able to work magic are the ones who are able to channel the energy of a thought through a word, which creates a tangible effect.  Taking that idea out of fantasy into the real world is not such a huge leap.  We tend to call powerful thought "faith,"  and faith is given form through prayer.  "Kabbalists ascribe a higher meaning to the purpose of prayer, which is no less than affecting the very fabric of reality itself, restructuring and repairing the universe in a real fashion. In this view, every word of every prayer, and indeed, even every letter of every word, has a precise meaning and a precise effect. Prayers thus literally affect the mystical forces of the universe, and repair the fabric of creation." (J. Immanuel Schochet)
     As science progresses, we learn that humans truly do have an effect on the way the universe operates. Experiments in quantum mechanics show that our mere perception alters the way matter and even time behave.  If only looking can change reality, imagine how much more powerful a concerted act of thought and speech can be.  It is not strange or difficult to believe that a man who constantly speaks good instead of ill will find himself happier and more prosperous.  He has changed himself and his surroundings so that they are in harmony.  "He is drawn by his goal, for he does not allow anything to enter his mind which opposes his goal. That is what Siddhartha learned from the Samanas. It is what fools call magic and what they think is caused by demons...there are no demons...everyone can reach his goal if he can think, wait, and fast." (Herman Hess)
      One of the great Masonic myths is the story of the loss and subsequent search for the Lost Word.  It is not coincidence that the concept of Truth so powerful that it can change the world was embodied as a Word.  Nor should it be strange that we are to spend our lives searching for that Word.  The more we grow in acquisition of truth and light, the more powerful our words become, and the more duty-bound we are to speak only truth and good, for our words will surely change our reality for good or ill. 

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