Notes From Babel

Man’s Access to the Divine Through Language

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[There is an] ancient belief that a divine element is present in language.  The feeling that to have power of language is to have control over things is deeply imbedded in the human mind.  We see this in the way men gifted in speech are feared or admired; we see it in the potency ascribed to incantations, interdictions, and curses.  We see it in the legal force given to oath or word.  A man can bind himself in the face of contingencies by saying Yea or Nay, which can only mean that words in common human practice express something transcending the moment.  Speech is, moreover, the vehicle of order, and those who command it are regarded as having superior insight, which must be into the necessary relationship of things. . . .

. . . .

So when wisdom came to man in Christ . . . “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.”  The allegory need give no difficulty; knowledge of the prime reality comes to man through the word; the word is a sort of deliverance from the shifting world of appearances.  The central teaching of the New Testament is that those who accept the word acquire wisdom and at the same time some identification with the eternal, usually figured as everlasting life.

Richard M. Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences 148-49 (Univ. Chicago Press 1948).

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Written by Tim Kowal

February 21, 2010 at 9:56 am

Posted in Language, Quotes

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