Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Untranslatable Gnosis

One of the difficulties I have when talking about gnosis is trying to translate the experiences I have into some form of Communication.  English is wonderful at getting across certain concepts, but sometimes you just need to use another language.

Dépaysement
French – The feeling that comes from not being in one’s home country.

This word, to me, explains my base state of existence.  As a gnostic, I am not in my home country.  I am lost, confused, I don't understand the customs, the familiar things I use as touchstones are all strange here.  I'm never quite comfortable.  Enjoyable as things may be, they're never quite right.  I have this feeling of dépaysement, of not being in my home country.
Saudade
Portuguese – One of the most beautiful of all words, translatable or not, this word “refers to the feeling of longing for something or someone that you love and which is lost.”

The liturgy of the Ecclesia Gnostica Mysteriorum contains the line "When I am not even sure there is a Thou", and that line expresses the sentiment of saudade very well.  Often, gnostics lose their surety, their connection.  It is these moments we fall back on faith, on trust in the existence and compassion of the divine.  Our souls ring out with the longing for what we love, and what was lost.  What we hope to regain.

Duende
Spanish – While originally used to describe a mythical, spritelike entity that possesses humans and creates the feeling of awe of one’s surroundings in nature, its meaning has transitioned into referring to “the mysterious power that a work of art has to deeply move a person.”
Emily uses this word all the time, and I think that all religious people experience it:  In the beauty of a hymn, the awe of a cathedral arch, the timelessness of a mural or painting, the phrases of scripture.  We are moved off our axes and into the realm of the Divine.

Maybe these words can help you out, when trying to describe those indescribable feelings and experiences which occur among us.

6 comments:

Br. Jay said...

These words are beautiful and do capture a lot of what I think many of us on this journey feel!

Father Tim Mansfield said...

Wow. Terrific idea, Fr. I love untranslatable words and that little set really seizes the pith for me.

pete said...

Thanks! These are great words to add to our vocabulary. You should do an entire book on words from other languages to help out our otherwise large-ish English vocabulary. Some of these could become a new gnostic lexicon. A great help for us! One set of words I keep asking my greek scholar friends for is a set of words on the 4 different types of visionary experiences. But no one every gets around to it . . . .

Angel said...

A few sections of a gnostic book written by Jane Roberts came to mind when reading your post. I'm still dissecting the book as it is quite heavy.

The book is called "The Nature of the Psyche: Its Human Expression."

Page 110
When you ask: "Who am I?" you are trying to read yourself as if you were a simple sentence already written. Instead, you write yourself as you go along. The sentence that you recognize is the only one of many probable variations. You and no other choose which experiences you want to actualize. You do this as spontaneously as you speak words. You take it for granted that a sentence begun will be finished. You are in the midst of speaking yourself. The speaking, which is your life, seems to happen by itself, since you are not aware of keeping yourself alive. Your heart beats whether or not you understand anatomy.

You read yourself in too-narrow terms. Much of the pain connected with serious illness and death results because you have no faith in your own continuing reality. You fight pain because you have not learned to transcend it, or rather to use it. You do not trust the natural consciousness of the body, so that when its end nears- and such an end is inevitable- you do not trust the signals that the body gives, that are meant to free you.

Certain kinds of pain automatically eject consciousness from the body. Such pain cannot be verbalized, for it is a mixture of pain and pleasure, a tearing free, and it automatically brings about an almost exhilarating release of consciousness. Such pain is also very brief. Under your present system, however, drugs are usually administered, in which case pain is somewhat minimized but prolonged- not triggering the natural release mechanisms.

If you read your selves adjacently, you would build up confidence in the body, and in those cooperative consciousnesses that form it. You would have an intimate awareness of the body's healing processes also. You would not fear death as annihilation, and would feel your own consciousness gently disentangle itself from those others that so graciously couched it.

Angel said...

page 117 begins to talk about how we, as a race of intelligent beings, are so befuddled by our limitations which are inherently found in spoken language.

Anne, or "SETH" says:

The very fact that you question: "Is there a God, or a Source?" shows that you misunderstand the issues.

In the same manner, when you ask: "Is there a master language?" it is apparent that you do not understand what language itself is. Otherwise you would know that language is dependent upon other implied ones; and that the two, or all of them are themselves and yet inseparable, so closely connected that it is impossible to separate them even though your focus may be upon one language alone.

So the psyche and its source, or the individual and the God, are so inseparable and interconnected that an attempt to find one apart from the other automatically confuses the issue.

....To deny the validity or importance of the individual is, therefore, also to deny the importance or validity of God, for the two exist one within the other, and you cannot separate them.

From one end of reality you shout: "Where is God?" and from the other end the answer comes: "I am Me." From the other end of reality, God goes shouting: "Who am I?" and finds himself in you. You are therefore a part of the source, and so is everything else manifest. Because God is, you are. Because you are, God is.

On a conscious level certainly you are not all that God is, for that is the unstated, unmanifest portion of yourself. Your being rides upon that unstated reality, as a letter of the alphabet rides upon the inner organizations that are implied by its existence. In those terms your unstated portions "reach backwards to a Source called God," as various languages can be traced back to their source. Master languages can be compared to the historic gods. Each person alive is part of the living God, supported in life by the magnificent power of nature, which is God translated into the elements of the earth and the universe."

Angel said...

Page 105 talks about those wandering haze like information "seminars" we often retreat to as gnostics. We feel enlightened but at a loss for words.

SETH says:

"Let him rest(speaking of "author" who is in a trance.) He has become aware of distances in his own consciousness, in a fashion difficult to describe.

Neurologically he became familiar to some extent with the stuff beneath language, the inner rhythms unexpressed, and felt the odd connections that exist between words and your sense of time. This confuses him, for this was material directly felt but verbally inexpressible. He will readjust "in no time."

Author's translator's notes: "I just feel funny," Jane said, "as if I've been where it was too smooth for my consciousness to get a grip on anything."

The next morning Jane reported dream experiences that had been brilliantly clear at the time; in them she'd been "perceiving images or objects as language."