Gnosis Knows No Babel – Part 2

About the power and powerlessness of language.

Gnosis Knows No Babel – Part 2

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Writing is engraving something in the memory of eternity

We are always looking for a better, perfect language in which all knowledge and all language skills come into their own and that never is the language we write and speak ourselves,

Umberto Eco states in his book Europe and The Search for the Perfect Language [1], referring to an overarching language, connecting all citizens of the world.
At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the classical Rosicrucians were the first to point out the need for such a new language in which ‘all the scholars of Europe’ could express and exchange their knowledge in order to achieve an overall world reform. If one were to stick to the ancient language, they reasoned, the Babylonian confusion of speech would continue, because any form of a liberating pioneering and idealism would remain chained to ‘ancient Latin’. Church and religion were and are, after all, heavily entrenched in the power of this ancient language. Moreover, these Rosicrucians felt called to teach Christianity, inspired by the world soul, what the inner birth of Christ really meant. Impossible to do that in ancient, scuffed Latin!

J. van Rijckenborgh gives this vision of the classical Rosicrucians a contemporary (present-day) meaning:

The mystery school has gone public because even the seeker on the esoteric path, even the most serious, continues to express itself to a greater or lesser extent in ‘ancient Latin’, still clinging to this world with its sanctioned falsehood. Therefore, first a new language of magic must rend the heavens. That is why the world must be shaken to its foundations. Because the law of love demands it, with her “all or nothing.” Then one will hear and understand the language of Adam – the language of the course of humanity – and Enoch – the language on the path of initiation– and then the mystery school will be able to carry out its task in full. [2]


The Czech philosopher and visionary Jan Amos Comenius (1592-1670), influenced by Johann Valentin Andreae, has also advocated such a language, all and everything. He saw in his panglossia[3], as he called that language, an attempt to articulate his all-encompassing philosophy, the ‘pansofia’, unambiguously and accessible. It was also a means of gaining greater understanding among people, so that lasting peace would be achieved. After all, with the emergence of so many languages, there was a lot of unnecessary incomprehension between people, Comenius noted. At the end of the nineteenth century, the Lithuanian ophthalmologist and philologist Lejzer Zamenhof (1859-1917) designed Esperanto (meaning: ‘hopeful’) as an artificial, connecting world language. Esperanto wanted to break the dominance of the great world languages and give all world citizens linguistic equal opportunities. It still exists but is outflanked by English. According to statistics, there are about two million Esperanto speakers in the world. Famous esperantists were the former Dutch Prime Minister Drees and the Russian author and philosopher Tolstoy.
Unlike Umberto Eco, the author Gustav Meyrink [4] (1868-1932) rather searches for the perfect language in the native language and soberly points out the magical duality of the most important language skills:

SPEAK in spiritual meaning is as much as: creation

It’s a magical call for letting emerge

TO WRITE here on earth is putting down the transience of a thought

Writing in a spiritual sense is: engraving something in the memory of eternity.

READ here means: understanding the meaning of something that is written.
Reading on the other side is: recognizing the great unchanging laws and acting for the sake of harmony!


Listening is missing from the list and that is why we are going into it in more detail. The ability to listen has been neglected in the tradition of parenting over the centuries. This is remarkable, because listening and hearing are elementary in the application of a primal Christian truth of faith:

Faith comes through hearing and hearing is from God. [5]

Moreover, there is a wonderful, ancient Christ legend, which we also find among the Bogomils and the Cathars: Mary received Jesus through her (right) ear. Why through the ear? Because it’s our purest, sheerest sense. This fact introduces us to the unique function of the hearing organ.

The ear is also called ‘female’, it is the receiving part of the head. The auditory organ is our primal organ; it is the first sense that becomes active in the fetus, and when the hour of dying is there, hearing is the last sense that leaves us. We can never turn our ears off. With the ear we observe sounds, we record ether flows that come to us. These are classified by the ear and then used for the life balance.

True listening is a process in which we become the other and let the other become a part of ourselves. [6] The ‘true listening’ is done in self-oblivion and without self-expression. In a dialogue of equal partners, the one who listens is in the position of humbly receiving. As the word reverberates, the interlocutor lends the ear to the other. For that brief moment, we give up our own identity, set aside ourselves and make room to understand what we have actually heard.

Our ears seem to be degraded to an auxiliary organ. Millions of people are unintentionally letting this noble organ languish. They hardly ever listen again. The function of the ears is generally activated only if the information offered by the eyes is inadequate. If the medium is the message – as McLuhan claimed – then the message of the radio has always been: listen! There is an entire generation – which is rapidly declining in number – that discovered the world by listening to the radio, which has known the sensation of catching strange shreds of an odd language amidst a lot of noise. The excitement that was evoked, was called ‘drunkenness’ by the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig. From this piece of the past we can see how our sensitivity to listening has deteriorated since then.

Amazingly, it has almost never been pointed out that one of the most important spiritual books, the Tibetan Book of the Dead [7], contains the word hear in the title. Bardo Thoedol, that means: liberation by hearing in the ‘intermediate’ state, the state immediately following death. Almost every advice to the dead in the book begins with

Listen, ye of noble birth!

So according to this book, listening is an ability that goes beyond death. To a Rosicrucian, this is an additional form of listening. For him or her, only one thing applies:

Hear what the spirit tells us from the new field of life.

The dedicated listener should always remember the words of Gustav Meyrink, which he said to his interlocutor:

Speaking is a magical call for letting emerge. 

Or else the words of Lao Zi:

The wise is scant with his words, the wordy is ignorant.

That’s why J. van Rijckenborgh and Catharose de Petri advise the listeners:

Beware of the talker, beware of drivellers and chatterboxes (…). Beware of the many who, approaching you, while hanging over you, touching you with their exhaled air, pouring out their stream of words on you, disclosing their concerns, pouring out their thoughts, spitting their criticism, infecting you with their astral state of being. [8]


Look, look,
to the one who looks
and even looks at it better, and even better,
who looks most closely,
to the one who knows
how blind we have been,
how ordinary it should have been
to read – if necessary reluctantly –
the wordlessness between the lines

Wall poem in Naarden The Netherlands

by the Dutch poet Leo Vroman (1915-2014)

(To be continued in part 3 and 4)


[1] Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language (The Making of Europe), Wiley-Blackwell 1997

[2] J. van Rijckenborgh, De belijdenis der Rozenkruisers Broederschap  (The Confession of the Brotherhood of Rosycross), second revised edition, p. 40, Rozekruis Pers, Haarlem 1984

[3] Jan Amos Comenius, Via Lucis, Amsterdam 1992

[4] Gustav Meyrink, tekst- en beeldfragmenten (Gustav Meyrink, text and image fragments) composition Gerard Olsthoorn, Haarlem 2008

[5] Bible, Romans 10:17

[6] Highly readable books about listening:

Victor Pierau, Leiderschap in Luisteren (Leadership in Listening) (Hilversum/Makkum 2019)

A.A. Tomatis, Het bewuste oor – Luisteren als voorwaarde voor goede communicatie (The conscious ear – Listening as a condition for good communication) (Katwijk 2000)

[7] W.Y. Evans Wentz, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Or the After-Death Experiences on the Bardo Plane, according to Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup’s English Rendering, Oxford University Press, 2000

[8] J. van Rijckenborgh and Catharose de Petri, De Chinese Gnosis (The Chinese Gnosis),  p. 244, Rozekruis Pers, Haarlem 2002

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Date: January 22, 2021
Author: Dick van Niekerk (Netherlands)
Photo: Simone Hutsch via Unsplash CCO

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