Senzar The Mystery of the Mystery Language, Part 1

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Senzar The Mystery of the Mystery Language, Part 1

By John Algeo

An American Indian Pictograph

[based on Henry R. Schoolcraft, Information Respecting the History, Condition, and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States (1853), reprinted from John Algeo, Problems in the Origins and Development of the English Language, 3rd ed. (New York: Harcourt, 1982), 54-55.] ..................................................................

Symbols can be pictures, like the Amerindian pictograph, or more abstract drawings, like the yantras of some forms of Hinduism. They can be other objects, either natural ones like the Himalayas or artifactual ones like Stonehenge. They can be words, either spoken or written. Words are especially likely to be symbolic when they are used figuratively, in parables or allegories. Moreover the same idea can be expressed symbolically through a variety of alternative forms, in which case the alternative forms are equivalents (as H.P.B. says, a "symbol is thus a recorded parable, and a parable a spoken symbol"). So Skinner, as quoted by H.P.B. (I, 308), remarks about the ancient mystery language:

The peculiarity of this language was that it could be contained in another, concealed and not to be perceived, save through the help of special instruction; letters and syllabic signs possessing at the same time the powers or meanings of numbers, of geometrical shapes, pictures, or ideographs and symbols, the designed scope of which would be determinatively helped out by parables in the shape of narratives or parts of narratives; while also it could be set forth separately, independently, and variously, by pictures, in stone work, or in earth constructions.

Skinner says the mystery language that he has hypothesized and that H.P.B. elsewhere calls Senzar can be expressed in a concealed fashion in ordinary language through the symbolism of the letter shapes or correspondences, but can also be expressed through parabolic stories and visually in constructions of many kinds. That mystery language is thus not a single form of expression, but is rather a symbolic use of many different forms.

The word language can be used to refer to many different things: to human speech or written representations of it, to symbolic drawings and the symbolic use of objects of all types. All of those are varieties of communication systems. Cutting across the many senses of the word language as a communication system are two main modes of meaning: literal and symbolic.

Literal meaning is that by which things are themselves (as a spade is a spade) or represent other things simply and straightforwardly (as the word book represents printed sheets of paper bound together). Symbolic meaning is that by which things — words, stories, events, objects — represent other things in a complex and allusive way, by analogies and correspondences (as a cross represents matter, suffering, the world, and so on). Senzar does not seem to be a language in the sense of a simple communication system. Instead it looks more like a mode of meaning — the symbolic mode — applied to any sort of language system.



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