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Language Speaks

From a Passageway to a Pathway

By Christina Donnell, PhD

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Life is a pilgrimage through unforeseen places that enlarge and enrich the soul. On the journey time often unveils its eternal unfolding. Suddenly, the direction of life switches and a new path opens for us ahead. From a passageway to a pathway: it is an easy fall, with shocks and surprises, full of obstacles to begin with but easier and easier for anyone to follow. As soon as the first travelers clear the way, before we know it, yesterday’s impossibilities will be tomorrow’s laziness. 

     My own passageway to a pathway indeed involved giant shocks and surprises. It was occasioned by language, leading to a radical new relationship to the spoken and written word with complete shifts in the quality and structure of my awareness. 

     Over the last decade, in the presence of the spoken and written word some interior trap door has insistently sprung open inside me. A word goes deeper into my being and does not stop where it used to. The habit of my mind to sweep along drawing conclusions is thwarted and my attention instead, carried inward. Sensation and visual acuity heighten. Here, I am amazed to notice a shadow pattern of the forces emanating from the words, their roots inside me, absorbing sensation for their sustenance. I feel space losing its structural coherence, the field of consciousness expands far beyond its normal limits resulting in a connection to the oneness that underlies all of life. Past and future are no longer experienced as absent and separate from the present but as an integral part of it. Language is embodied, as thinking gives way to direct perception. Experienced in this way, words became virtual cups of light, patterns of information, that open the dimensional capabilities of awareness to experience other states, other things, and other places. I console myself with the knowledge that it is not impossible to see everything differently, and yet to live.

     Clearly, a passageway to a pathway is a descent, not unlike going down a set of nature-made stairs of stones, while blind. Yet almost always there are souls holding the lantern ahead. I remember Rainer Rilke, the great German poet, writing about language going deeper into him and that his sensory awareness was undergoing a transformation.  

     The Hindu sage, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was a lantern holder too. He once said in an audio, “What is to be unfolded to knowledge and experience through the word is that which lies beyond the obvious. That which lies beyond the obvious must be experienced to be known. Experience ends in opening the awareness to the unboundedness. Unless that unboundedness is experienced language has lost its true value. Something will be gained, but not the totality which is contained in every word. At the deeper levels there will be more connectedness, more connectedness until it reaches the ultimate connectedness. Inert, now it is lively.” (*Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, “Vedic Grammar,” audio talk from a private collection, 1972.)

     Maharishi’s words and my own repeated experiences occasioned by language, make me ponder our habit of seeing language as a mere representation of our world. Have we failed language? This is to say, have we not been able to receive what language is able to give, and therefore it withholds the key to its unbounded power.

     What does it mean to undergo an experience with language? To undergo an experience  – be it a thing, a person, or a god – means that this something befalls us, strikes us, comes over us, overwhelms and transforms us. An experience we undergo will touch the deepest places of our being. 

     There is a time for certain ideas to arrive, and they find a way to express themselves through us. Time has unveiled the eternal unfolding of the word. Language speaks. It has more to offer than we imagine. What may begin as a passageway through an experience with the word can open interior trap doors and become a pathway. It can fashion a lamp to guide us through the tumults of our era. 

     My experiences with language point to an expansive web of relations into which language has woven us. The discovery of them can touch the innermost nexus of our existence and lead to an understanding that all is one. Those who access this secret place where primordial power nurtures all of existence inevitably add more spirit to the perceived world and aid in awakening humanity to its connection to the whole. May we humans come to comprehend the deeper function of language: its unbounded power and role in our evolving consciousness and collective earthly survival.  What may begin as a passageway, can become a pathway.


Christina Donnell, PhD

Author of the award-winning book, Encounters with Living Language: Surrendering to the Power of Words, and multiple award-winning book, Transcendent Dreaming: Stepping Into Our Human Potential.

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