Words are a big part of my life. This is probably truer of me than for most people simply because I write for pay and so I am constantly looking at words and new ways to use them but we all use words, without them we lose some of our magick power over our world. Without thinking about it we constantly choose words that have the power, we hope, to cause the changes that are the truest expressions of our will. Instructing a waitress to bring you a cappuccino employs the magick power of words just as surely as the words of an incantation call the djinn to attend the rites of a magician.
I had intended to write an article on the esoteric power of words, of how classical magick words and names have been constructed in order to express very specific ideas. Some words, like Abracadabra have drifted into the colloquial language and hidden themselves in fairy stories that we tell to our children never suspecting the real power of the age old incantation- Hocus Pocus! Once these words were the esoteric treasures of the few that were well educated enough to be able to read and the Words of Power of our new age have changed to keep pace with our cultural evolution.
What, I thought; could I say about the fundamental power of words that hasn’t already been said more eloquently already? For anyone that wants to specifically study the hermetic and qaballistic properties of words, Caroline Tully has written an excellent article on the subject called Letters, Words, and Sounds in Magick which I doubt that I could add very much to of any value. But there is an even more essential quality to words that extends beyond the conjuring of a magick circle and that has more power than just that required to order lunch. The words that we use tell us about ourselves, who we really are.
The investigation of the meaning of words is the beginning of education. – Antisthenes
The only real learning that any of us can do is to learn about ourselves. Even the apparent apprehension of a physical fact is merely a moment of epiphany when we realize the very same principal within ourselves, that the facts before us have a consonance within our essential composition that allows us to perceive it. Magick words don’t change the physical world one jot, they change the magician and his perception of it. This being so it would seem that learning the meanings of the words that we use to express ourselves is perhaps the most essential tool available on the path to self realization.
Even so it would seem that as powerful a tool as they are, words are impotent to express anything but a facsimile of our true will. The further away from the illusory world of matter that we go the less adequate words are to express our experiences.
Words are but symbols for the relations of things to one another and to us; nowhere do they touch upon absolute truth.-Friedrich Nietzsche
But there are words and there is chatter and it is often difficult to sort out what is important and what is not. What quality differentiates some words from others, even on this mundane plane? What is the energy in words that make ‘pass the salt’ such a certain conjuration? What makes other words empty and impotent no matter how well they sound?
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.- William Shakespeare
So if words need to be driven by thought and a true will to achieve their end to be effective why are some words, well thought out though they might be, forgotten while others are enshrined in history as pivotal orations? This seems, to the writer in me at least, to be a far more interesting prospect than learning all of the ancient lore of the mystic powers of magick words- how to choose the words that express the zeitgeist of the moment, that have an enduring message that will be remembered. What is the quality of those enduring words that others lack? In a word- substance.
Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace. – Buddha
This elusive quality, substance, is difficult to pin down. Often the substance of words can only be apprehended when they have long since been spoken. The surest measure of whether words are substantial, or not, is the influence that they wield. There are always those people who will be easily led by words of little merit but how do we determine which world have genuinely lasting power?
It has seemed to be more necessary to have regard to the weight of words rather than to their number. – Cicero
Meaningful words have weight. The word that brings peace has influence because of the weight that it conveys. This implies that every word must have some substance, a certain weight, that gives them power regardless of whether they are just chatter or the wise words of a master. That our words have power that we often don’t perceive or intend them to have and the trick to giving your words substance is to weigh them well.
Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill. -Buddha
If this is true of the effect that our words have on others how much more is it with ourselves. The Half Past Human project that examines the internet language being used hints that we talk ourselves into a future of our own choosing, that our destiny is driven, in part at least, by the words that we use to operate our lives. If that is so on a global level how much more does it become intensified in the individual, how many people talk themselves into a life of their own devising?
False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil. -Socrates
Of course if old Socrates was right (and I have no reason to doubt him) then it follows that words that are True are righteous in themselves and will likewise infect the soul with righteousness. This hints at the genuine esoteric power of words that has been part of their nature since mankind’s first grunts became language. Speaking the Truth leads to benevolence.
Thanks to words, we have been able to rise above the brutes; and thanks to words, we have often sunk to the level of the demons. – Aldous Huxley
As I said at the start I was going to write about the hermetic conceptions of the Word when I began but my muse led me here, which is where I think that I was going all along. The real magick power of words is in choosing the right ones. It isn’t always the words that we think it will be, nor the speaker that we imagine uttering them that have the greatest weight and so engender the greatest longevity for their erudite surmisal of a situation.
It is the stillest words that bring on the storm. Thoughts that come on doves’ feet guide the world.- Friedrich Nietzsche
Nietzsche’s warning is perhaps more contemporary with the modern zeitgeist and so perhaps it is worth heeding it all the more now. He is telling us to listen to that inner voice that conjures our words from the depths of our consciousness to tell us just what it wants, and he is also telling us to listen to the words that our voice whispers to us because they are the ones with the greatest weight, the ones that should be spoken if we really want to change the world.
In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. -Martin Luther King Jr.