Language, in its origin and essence, is simply a system of signs or symbols that denote real occurrences or their echo in the human soul.Carl Jung
From the soul, the individual sensuous body filters out reality. Languages come from the individual experience and our need to express our unique view of reality.
The same occurrence will be experienced differently by each individual, and from there, each group of people will experience the same occurrence in a particular way.
Language exists, or rather, we create it, to express our unique view, hence all the different languages in the world. We created them out of the understanding of both, our uniqueness and our sameness. We understood that the core message (reality), is common for all of us. However, the way we experience this reality is unique to each individual, and it will be particular to each group, clan or tribe.
And that’s why we have language, to express this unique view of reality so the other can see what I see, and I can see what they see. And, consecutively, the words we use create the way we see reality.
But at some point, we lost sight of this. We started considering languages as carriers of common truth, as if languages didn’t convey the uniqueness of the individuals and groups, but as if they were neutral and purely objective.
They are not.
Languages are charged with group biases and beliefs and enriched by the particular worldview of each group. And this comes from many factors, from location and how the sun raises and sets, the landscape…, to events that have tainted or “painted” the language with a particular colour. This specific background is what made a particular language look in a certain way, build its sentences in a specific manner and use certain words. But it is then the language, repeating itself, that informs the way a group experiences the world.
So, how languages and learning other languages can lead to spiritual awakening or self-realization?
The difference between a monolingual person and a bilingual or multilingual one is the depth of self-knowledge and understanding of their own culture and language the latter has.
Languages go beyond communication.
Foreign languages, or rather, languages other than our native one, are more than mere tools to get by when we are on holidays. They are far more than tools that allow us to connect with locals. They have a place to fulfil beyond our need for survival and belonging. They allow us to self-actualize.
Different languages allow us to awaken more of who we are.
How do you know who you are if you have never seen yourself through the filter of another language/culture? Who are you in every language/culture?
Learning a new language means that you will discover your plurality in the moment you immerse yourself in the language and allow its mindset and worldview (that is, of the people who “create” it) permeate through you. It happens when you stop trying to translate your “native speaker self” into a “foreign language”. It happens when you allow yourself to become a clean slate in which you can rewrite yourself through the force of the language itself as if the language would be guiding your hands to create a new story of you.
And you can experience yourself through all the languages in the world.
You are who you are in your native language, not only from your own lived experiences but also from that language’s mindset: that culture’s shared history, experiences…, its shared mindset and worldview, that impregnates your way of being.
When you learn a new language, you can’t simply translate yourself into that language. Because there will be concepts and ideas that don’t exist in that new language. And the opposite too, there are concepts and ideas in that new language that you won’t explore when you are only translating from your native’s language worldview.
The potential for the alchemy of languages comes when you understand that you ARE a different person in every language and allow that to come through.
Think about the “untranslatable” words that exist in every language. The concept they convey is one that can be experienced by anyone. However, the fact that some languages do not have a word for it, means that it’s not something that culture needed to express for whatever reason.
Who do you become in every language when you allow that language be lived through you or you live through it?
How would you be like if you lived alone, in isolation, your entire life, with no interactions with any other humans? How much would you understand of yourself if you were never confronted with other points of view, never triggered by others behaviours…? Would you even need to use language at all?
We understand ourselves through self-reflection and questioning, but mostly, through other people who act as mirrors to ourselves.
Languages as doors and mirrors
And when you only speak one language, it is as if you were isolated and in the dark, like the people inside Plato’s cave. As Erasmus said: “What difference is there, do you think, between those in Plato’s cave who can only marvel at the shadows and images of various objects, provided they are content and don’t know what they miss, and the philosopher who has emerged from the cave and sees the real things?”
And this is exactly what happens when we grow up in a monolingual environment and we don’t learn other languages deeply. We live in a cave. Learning another language beyond grammar and vocabulary, is leaving the cave and starting to experience ourselves and reality through a different filter.
If a language is a tool every group of people created and use to express themselves, that language is also the result of their worldview, their mindset, their soul. When we experience other languages is as if we were experiencing other worldviews, mindsets and souls. And here is where things get interesting. If we accept that we are all one and the same (evolved stardust), then we limit our growth by attaching our identity to one language, one worldview.
Only through a taster and experiential understanding of our plurality can we be reunited with our oneness.