The Candle of Vision, by AE (George William Russell), , at sacred-texts.com
THAT sense of a divinity ever present in act or thought my words do not communicate. The ecstatic, half-articulate, with broken words. can make us feel the kingdom of heaven is within him. I choose words with reverence but speak from recollection, and one day does not utter to another its own wisdom. Our highest moments in life are often those of which we hold thereafter the vaguest memories. We may have a momentary illumination yet retain almost as little of its reality as ocean keeps the track of a great vessel which went over its waters. I remember incidents rather than moods, vision more than ecstasy. How can I now, passed away from myself and long at other labours, speak of what I felt in those years when thought was turned to the spirit, and no duty had as yet constrained me to equal outward effort? I came to feel akin to
those ancestors of the Aryan in remote spiritual dawns when Earth first extended its consciousness into humanity. In that primal ecstasy and golden age was born that grand spiritual tradition which still remains embodied in Veda and Upanishad, in Persian and Egyptian myth, and which trails glimmering with colour and romance over our own Celtic legends. I had but a faint glow of that which to the ancestors was full light. I could not enter that Radiance they entered yet Earth seemed to me bathed in an æther of Deity. I felt at times as one raised from the dead, made virginal and pure, who renews exquisite intimacies with the divine companions, with Earth, Water, Air and Fire. To breathe was to inhale magical elixirs. To touch Earth was to feel the influx of power as with one who had touched the mantle of the Lord. Thought, from whatever it set out, for ever led to the heavenly city. But these feelings are incommunicable. We have no words to express a thousand distinctions clear to the spiritual sense. If I tell of my exaltation to another, who has not felt this himself, it is explicable to that person as the joy in perfect health, and he translates into
lower terms what is the speech of the gods to men.
I began writing desirous to picture things definitely to the intellect and to speak only of that over which there could be reason and argument, but I have often been indefinite as when I said in an earlier chapter that earth seemed an utterance of gods, "Every flower was a thought. The trees were speech. The grass was speech. The winds were speech. The waters were speech." But what does that convey? Many feel ecstasy at the sight of beautiful natural objects, and it might be said it does not interpret emotion precisely to make a facile reference to a divine world. I believe of nature that it is a manifestation of Deity, and that, because we are partakers in the divine nature, all we see has affinity with us; and though now we are as children who look upon letters before they have learned to read, to the illuminated spirit its own being is clearly manifested in the universe even as I recognise my thought in the words I write. Everything in nature has intellectual significance, and relation as utterance to the Thought out of which the universe was born, and we, whose minds were made in its image, who are the microcosm of the macrocosm, have in
ourselves the key to unlock the meaning of that utterance. Because of these affinities the spirit swiftly by intuition can interpret nature to itself even as our humanity instinctively comprehends the character betrayed by the curve of lips or the mood which lurks within haunting eyes. We react in numberless ways to that myriad nature about us and within us. but we retain for ourselves the secret of our response, and for lack of words speak to others of these things only in generalities. I desire to be precise, and having searched memory for some instance of that divine speech made intelligible to myself which I could translate into words which might make it intelligible to others, I recollected something which may at least be understood if not accepted. It was the alphabet of the language of the gods.
This was a definite exercise of intuition undertaken in order to evolve intellectual order out of a chaos of impressions and to discover the innate affinities of sound with idea, element, force, colour and form. I found as the inner being developed it used a symbolism of its own. Sounds, forms and colours, which had an established significance in the complicated artifice of our external
intercourse with each other, took on new meanings in the spirit as if it spoke a language of its own and wished to impart it to the infant Psyche. If these new meanings did not gradually reveal an intellectual character, to pursue this meditation, to encourage the association of new ideas with old symbols would be to encourage madness. Indeed the partial uprising of such ideas, the fact that a person associates a vowel with a certain colour or a colour with a definite emotion is regarded by some as indicating incomplete sanity. I tried to light the candle on my forehead to peer into every darkness in the belief that the external universe of nature had no more exquisite architecture than the internal universe of being, and that the light could only reveal some lordlier chambers of the soul, and whatever speech the inhabitant used must be fitting for its own sphere, so I became a pupil of the spirit and tried as a child to learn the alphabet at the knees of the gods.
I was led first to brood upon the elements of human speech by that whisper of the word "Aeon" out of the darkness, for among the many thoughts I had at the time came the thought that speech may originally have been
intuitive. I discarded the idea with regard to that word, but the general speculation remained with me, and I recurred to it again and again, and began brooding upon the significance of separate letters, and had related many letters to abstractions or elements, when once again, seemingly by chance, I took down a book from a shelf It was a volume of the Upanishads, and it opened at a page where my eye caught this: "From that Self came the air, from air fire, from fire water, from water earth." I quote from a distant memory but the words are, I think, close enough. What excited me was that I had already discovered what I thought were the sound equivalents for the self, motion, fire, water and earth; and the order of the cosmic evolution of the elements suggested in the passage quoted led me to consider whether there was any intellectual sequence in the human sound equivalents of elements and ideas. I then began to rearrange the roots of speech in their natural order from throat sounds, through dental to labials, from A which begins to be recognisable in the throat to M in the utterance of which the lips are closed. An intellectual sequence of ideas became apparent. This encouraged me to
try and complete the correspondences arrived at intuitively. I was never able to do this. Several sounds failed, however I brooded upon them, to suggest their intellectual affinities, and I can only detail my partial discoveries and indicate where harmonies may be found between my own intuitions about language and the roots of speech and in what primitive literature are intuitions akin to my own.
In trying to arrive at the affinities of sound with thought I took letter after letter, brooding upon them, murmuring them again and again, and watching intensely every sensation in consciousness, every colour, form or idea which seemed evoked by the utterance. No doubt the sanity of the boy who walked about the roads at night more than thirty years ago murmuring letters to himself with the reverence of a mystic murmuring the Ineffable Name might have been questioned by any one who knew that he was trying to put himself in the place of his Aryan ancestors, and to find as they might have found the original names for earth, air, water, fire, the forces and elements of the nature which was all about them. Even as in the myth in Genesis beings were named by the earliest man, so I invited
the Heavenly Man to renew for me that first speech, and to name the elements as they were by those who looked up at the sky, and cried out the name of the fire in the sky from a God-given intuition.