The Candle of Vision

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The Candle of Vision

By by AE (George William Russell)

Ancient Intuitions

EVEN where I had a certitude that my attribution of element, form or colour to a root was right I have never thought this exhausted the range of its affinities in our manifold being. I went but a little way within myself, but felt that greater powers awaited discovery within us, powers whose shadowy skirts flicker on the surface of consciousness but with motion so impalpable that we leave them nameless. The root I relate to light may have correspondence also with another power which is to the dark divinity of being what light is to the visible world. I have never thought that the languages spoken by men had all their origin in one intuitional speech. There may have been many beginnings in that undiscoverable antiquity. But I believe that one, or perhaps several, among the early races, more spiritual than the rest, was prompted by intuition, while others may have developed speech in any of the ways suggested by biologists and scholars. The genius of some races leads them to seek for light within as the genius of others leads them to go outward. I imagine a group of the ancestors lit up from within, endowed with the primal blessings of youth and ecstasy, the strings of their being not frayed as ours are, nor their God-endowed faculties abused, still exquisitely sensitive, feeling those kinships and affinities with the elements which are revealed in the sacred literature of the Aryan, and naming these affinities from an impulse springing up within. I can imagine the spirit struggling outwards making of element, colour, form or sound a mirror, on which, outside itself, it would find symbols of all that was pent within itself, and so gradually becoming self-conscious in the material nature in which it was embodied, but which was still effigy or shadow of a divine original. I can imagine them looking up at the fire in the sky, and calling out "El" if it was the light they adored, or breath, they would say "Mor." Or if the fire acting on the water made it boil, they would instinctively combine the sound equivalents of water and fire, and "Wal" would be the symbol. If the fire of life was kindled in the body to generate its kind, the sound symbol would be "Lub." When the axe was used to cut, its hardness would prompt the use of the hard or metallic affinity in sound, and "Ak" would be to cut or pierce. One extension of meaning after another would rapidly increase the wealth of significance, and recombinations of roots the power of expression. The root "M" with its sense of finality would suggest "Mi" to diminish, and as to measure a thing is to go to its ends, "Ma" would also mean to measure, and as to think a thing is to measure it, "Ma" would also come to be associated with thinking. I had nearly all my correspondences vividly in mind before I inquired of friends more learned than myself what were the reputed origins of human speech, and in what books I could find whatever knowledge there was, and then I came upon the Aryan roots; and there I thought and still think are to be found many evidences in corroboration of my intuitions. There are pitfalls for one who has no pretensions to scholarship in tracking words to their origins, and it is a labour for the future in conjunction with one more learned than myself to elucidate these intuitions in regard to the roots, and to go more fully into the psychology which led to rapid extension of meanings until words were created, which at first sight seem to have no relation to the root values. I still believe I can see in the Aryan roots an intelligence struggling outward from itself to recognise its own affinities in sound. But I wish here only to give indications and directions of approach to that Divine Mind whose signature is upon us in everything, and whose whole majesty is present in the least thing in nature. I have written enough to enable those who are curious to exercise their intuitions or analytic faculty in conjunction with their scholarship, to test the worth of my intuitions. Intuition must be used in these correspondences, for the art of using them is not altogether discoverable by the intellect. I hope also that my partial illumination will be completed, corrected or verified by others.

A second line of investigation I suggest is the study of some harmony of primitive alphabets, such as that compiled by Forster, and, after arranging the letters in their natural order from throat sounds to labials, to see if there is not much to lead us to suppose that there was an original alphabet, where the form equivalents of sound proceeded in an orderly way from the circle through the line, the triangle and the other forms I have indicated. Perhaps the true correspondences were retained as an esoteric secret by the wisest, because there may have been in them the key to mysteries only to be entrusted to those many times tested before the secret of the use of power was disclosed. And again I would suggest a study of that science of divine correspondences which is embodied in mystical Indian literature. The correspondences of form, colour or force with letters given there are not always in agreement with my own. Sometimes as in the Bagavadgita, where Krishna, the Self of the Manifested Universe, says, "I am the A among letters," I find agreement. In other works like the Shivagama there is partial agreement as where it says, "Meditate upon the fire force with R as its symbol, as being triangular And red." The colour and the letter are here in harmony with my own intuitions, but the form is not, and I am more inclined to believe my own intuition to be true because I find in so many of the primitive alphabets the form symbol of R is the line coming out of a circle. The water force is given in the same book a semilunar form as correspondence, but its sound symbol is given as V and not W. The earth force is given as quadrangular in form as I imagine it, but the colour is yellow. I have not investigated the consonants in their attribution to the nervous system given in such books. I have no doubt that in a remoter antiquity the roots of language were regarded as sacred, and when chanted every letter was supposed to stir into motion or evoke some subtle force in the body. Tone and word combined we know will thrill the nervous system, and this is specially so with lovers of music and persons whose virgin sensitiveness of feeling has never been blunted by excess. A word chanted or sung will start the wild fires leaping in the body, like hounds which hear their master calling them by name, and to those whose aspiration heavenward has purified their being there comes at last a moment when at the calling of the Ineffable Name the Holy Breath rises as a flame and the shadow man goes forth to become one with the ancestral self.

What is obvious in that ancient literature is the belief in a complete circle of correspondences between every root sound in the human voice and elements. forms and colours, and that the alphabet was sacred in character. Intuitions which modern psychologists regard as evidence of decadence are found present in the literature of antiquity. The attributions sometimes are the same as mine; sometimes they differ, but they suggest the same theory of a harmony of microcosm with macrocosm, and it is carried out so that every centre in the body is named by the name of a divine power. It is only by a spiritual science we can recover identity, renew and make conscious these affinities. Life had other labours for me from which I could not escape, and I had not for long the leisure in which to reknit the ties between myself and the ancestral being. But while I still had leisure I experienced those meltings of the external into intelligible meanings. The form of a flower long brooded upon would translate itself into energies, and these would resolve themselves finally into states of consciousness, intelligible to me while I experienced them, but too remote from the normal for words to tell their story. I may have strayed for a moment into that Garden of the Divine Mind where, as it is said in Genesis, "He made every flower before it was in the field and every herb before it grew." My failure to find words to express what I experienced made me concentrate more intensely upon the relation of form and colour to consciousness in the hope that analysis might make intellectual exposition possible. I do not wish to linger too long on the analysis I made. The message of nature is more important than the symbols used to convey it, and, in detailing these correspondences, I feel rather as one who reading Shelley's "Hymn of Pan" ignored all that ecstasy and spoke merely of spelling or verse structure. But why do I say that? The works of the Magician of the Beautiful are not like ours and in the least fragment His artistry is no less present than in the stars. We may enter the infinite through the minute no less than through contemplation of the vast. I thought in that early ecstasy of mine when I found how near to us was the King in His Beauty that I could learn to read that marvellous writing on the screen of Nature and teach it to others; and, as a child first learns its letters with difficulty, but after a time leaps to the understanding of their combination, and later, without care for letters or words, follows out the thought alone; so I thought the letters of the divine utterance might be taught and the spirit in man would leap by intuition to the thought of the Spirit making that utterance. For all that vast ambition I have not even a complete alphabet to show, much less one single illustration of how to read the letters of nature in their myriad intricacies of form, colour and sound in the world we live in. But I believe that vision has been attained by the seers, and we shall all at some time attain it, and, as is said in the Divine Shepherd of Hermes, it shall meet us everywhere, plain and easy, walking or resting, waking or sleeping, "for there is nothing which is not the image of God."



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