Sacred Alphabets

By Lars Rosager | Language

Aug 16

Picture Textual Chordophonics

Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages in the world. Its script, called devanagari, is still in use today, being the basis for many South Asian writing systems. The meaning of the word devanagari is particularly significant in light of a historiography of language that places the word, particularly the written word, at the center of a spiritual outlook on the world and on humankind.

Some have dissected the meaning of devanagari to arrive at a signification relating to the divine (deva, god) and the urbane (nagari, neighborhood, village, town, city) associations of written language. This reflects the crucial written aspects of religious traditions and these traditions being situated within developed cities, powerful centers in civilization. Partially related but importantly distinct from this interpretation is a reading of the term that translates into the understanding that the script itself is in fact the residence of the divine. This second interpretation would make sense in that today, neighborhoods or districts in India at times bear the title nagar after an initial descriptor (e.g., Pradhan Nagar neighborhood in Siliguri or Malviya Nagar in South Delhi).

The notion that the alphabet is the abode of the gods, while perhaps new to those unacquainted with the more esoteric side of language, is not altogether outlandish. Egyptian writing systems have been shown to bear strong relationships to spiritual thought. Outgrowths of ancient links between writing and religious worldviews may be traced through Medieval Europe, a period in which literacy was inextricably linked to Catholic institutions. In The Moment of Astrology: Origins in Divination (1994), the author, Geoffrey Cornelius, cites a poignant quote from philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889–1976): “Language is the house of Being.”

Conceiving of linguistic systems to be representations of the nature of the soul, however a given cosmology may happen to define Being or the divine or the place of humankind in the universe, recurs steadily over an immense period of time. To consider these ideas in a modern context, one might look to who controls the texts of the world. Perhaps this forces us to reconsider the meaning of power. After all, it is no secret that governments function as giant repositories of texted information. Does this mean the intention is control divine spirit? Is authority on this earth a matter of hoarding texts? What sort of texts are accumulated and who do these massive archives affect?

It would be a great pleasure to hear your ideas on how this might relate to music, particularly the guitar and its instrumental relatives. For one, the close connection between music and divine ritual might come into play. Also, some contrast between written language and music could be of aid. After all, the written musical record developed later than an established collection and canonization of what one might call non-musical compositions. Additionally, one might argue that the musical act is essentially impermanent, a fleeting sonic expression as opposed to the attempt toward longevity represented by the preservation of thought through the process of writing.

No recording today due to my taking a short break from vocal work and guitar in order to rest my body and recuperate after a period of illness. Thank you for reading.

#TextualChordophonics #CasaMontalvoGuitars #ThomastikInfeldStrings


1 Comment

Lars Rosager

8/18/2016 07:00:36 am

And just to add another little tid bit, consider the fact that both the ABCs and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” are sung to the same tune!