The purpose of language is to convey meaning. We cannot convey meaning directly because it exists in an invisible mental realm unique to the individual. We all live in slightly different worlds, based on our own experience. As a tribe, society or country, we each agree to subscribe to the inherent values present in that shared group.
We use language to pass meaning to others – such as our children, which is why the child’s brain is hard-wired to rapidly absorb language in infancy; an ability that is reduced as we grow older.
If we can teach our children to understand our meanings, then we have a hope of passing onto them our values – sets of meanings that assemble into patterns of behaviour; differences between selfish and selfless, the latter for the good of the ‘tribe’: a quality that seems to be abandoned, cyclically, in our common history.
Language changes. It can be likened to the sand patterns left on a beach. The water comes in and re-maps the sand (language) emphasising certain popular meanings but partly or wholly erasing the original, deeper meaning. The time-tides will always be there, but their effects on the beach will not always be positive, from any given perspective. It is up to us as a society to protect the deepest meanings if we value what they are. These are often considered to be spiritual; meaning representative of a higher order of consideration than those we are concerned with in our daily work.
Classical teaching protected the language, allowing the deeper, historical meanings to survive. But it may move too slowly to prosper in an ‘internet age’ of rapid changes. Modern society is both fickle and casual in its populist allowing of ‘meaning-slip’, allowing deeper meanings to be devalued or lost altogether. One look at the Internet shows the alarming erosion of what were considered essential meanings not long ago.
For ordinary meanings, this is frustrating, but the ‘next generation’ have always had the freedom to create their own idioms. For deeper meanings, we sometimes need reminding that they are there, and a review of their possibly timeless value.
One such word is ‘realisation’. It’s a word at the heart of true spirituality. Why is the act of realisation so important?
It is rare that a single word contains two states: one, the ‘before’; the other the ‘after’ – mirroring a quite definite process of growth within the human mind and heart.
That growth is in the understanding of something, and that something is nothing less than the nature of reality. To make this post into a journey of deeper understanding, we need to step back and define our terms…
An example of the common use of ‘realisation’, might be this:
‘Suddenly, James Strange realised the key to Mariella’s guilt was the colour of her hair!’
It could be a line from a detective story, which is not a bad way to describe the human ascent that moves from ‘world’ to ‘self’ as the mystic strives to comprehend their place in that world. In the above line of fiction, the word realisation means the dawning of a new level of understanding. It’s that moment when the inner comprehension goes ‘click’ and something more than the sum of the parts comes into existence.
The word has an ancient origin. We can approach the literal meaning of it by dividing it into ‘real’ and ‘ise’ (or ‘ize’), both of the latter implying to ‘be’.
We encounter the living act of realisation when we try to learn a new language as an adult. This may be in support of a longed-for trip, for example. Initially, we may struggle, but when, at the end of the term, our teacher invites us all out to a (say) French restaurant where we will be expected to speak a little of the language we have been learning, we have our chance to use this new way to convey meaning.
Initially fearful, we might find ourselves at a moment where – through living it – we come to a feeling of what can only be described as ‘belonging’. Suddenly, French is ours, and we will work so much harder to build on that foundation of inner growth.
We’ve all had such moments. They may be found in the acquisition of any new skill that requires work. In our trivial ‘detective’ example, the hero – by having that light-bulb moment – is able to connect everything he knows about his suspect.
A realisation has that power. It’s far more than the assembly of facts; rather it is a deeply personal involvement in the transformation of what we know into a new type of knowing. The ancients even had a word for it: they called it Gnosis – an increase of understanding that changes the person experiencing the ‘inner expansion’.
The mystical journey may be undertaken by anyone. Schools such as the Silent Eye are founded upon the development of a ‘path’ comprising stages of understanding marked by specific gateways. These gateways are often called initiations – a word that implies a beginning, or more accurately, a new beginning. In that new beginning, we understand the hidden meaning of realisation: to make real…
In that new beginning, a new world is born…
©Stephen Tanham 2022
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.