Gnosis Knows No Babel – Part 3

About the power and powerlessness of language.

Gnosis Knows No Babel – Part 3

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What cannot be expressed in words, that is God

“Words fall short,” how often do we say this when we are overwhelmed by emotions? Words also fall short when we experience inwardly that giving up our self-seeking in favor of loving altruism is balm for our deepest core of being and that this core is fed from a totally new and unknown field of life. Then everything changes. Then we see the Bible story of the Tower of Babel as an allegory about man who loses sight of the true source of life and thereby becomes confused. That leaves only one heart of the three hearts of Quintus Ennius. A heart in which the ‘knowledge of hearts’, the gnosis, has become the wordless leading star on our life path. Lao Zi confirms the impotence of language here:

If Tao could be named, it would not be the eternal Tao.

If the name could be mentioned, it would not be the eternal name.

Lao Zi no longer uses words and thus makes Tao into a mystery. He leaves us alone in our wordlessness. Giving a name to Tao is impossible and incorrect, because then Tao is classified among the things of this world and it does not belong there, although it does have its effect there. Therefore Tao is an improper name, a name used as a stopgap.

Hermes is as clear (read: mysterious) as Lao Zi in a conversation with Tat. Hermes:

It is difficult to imagine God, but even if someone is capable of it, he cannot describe him. For it is impossible for the physical to denote the incorporeal, the imperfect is incapable of understanding the perfect, and it is difficult for the ephemeral to go together with the eternal. (…) But what is intangible, invisible and without form and not composed of matter, cannot be noticed by our senses.

Hermes’ pupil Tat replies:

I understand Father, I understand:

what cannot be expressed in words, that is God! [1]

The inadequacy of language cannot be demonstrated better! Here, in wordlessness, we approach the inexpressible.

God speaks beyond the words,

the ancient mystics said.

With the Gospel of John in hand, we may come a little closer:

In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.[2]

And a little further:

And that Word became flesh: [3]

that is, the divine primal force, the logos, God’s mind, descended to the earth through the seven spheres and took the form of matter and man.
Simone Weil (1909-1943), the French mystic and philosopher,[4] puts it very clearly:

The world is God’s language to us. The universe is God who speaks. The Word.

And she continues,

He drinks a glass of water. The water is the “I love you” from God. He stays in the desert for two days without finding a drink. His dry throat is the “I love you” from God. God is like a woman who unseemly clings to her lover and whispers to him for hours, without ceasing, softly in his ear: ‘I love you – I love you – I love you – I love you…’ Those who are just starting to learn this language, do believe that only a few of those words mean “I love you.”

Anyone who recognizes the power of this language knows that there is only one meaning:

God is Love!


To be continued in part 4


[1] Hermetische Geschriften (eds. R van den Broek and G. Quispel) (Amsterdam 2016) uit Stobaeus I, pagina 293

[2] Bible, John 1:1

[3] Bible, John  1:14

[4] Lieven De Maeyer, Simone Weil, Leven op de rand van de Wereld ( Simone Weil, Living on the Edge of the World), Carmelitana, Gent 2019

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

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