Updated: May 20, 2020
TO UNDERSTAND the power of the spoken word, it is necessary to compare our own capacity to utter words with the creative power of the Divine to manifest the universe. The opening verse of St. John’s gospel sums up this Divine power:
In the beginning was the Word;
the word was with God,
and the word was God.
The first phrase states the obvious: that the origin of the universe was a great word, a great thought in the Divine mind. Secondly, this massive quantity of energy was “with God.” One interpretation is that this word was inside God, just waiting to exhale. It can also mean that the Word was pregnant with purpose and potential. Finally, there is the powerful conclusion that the word “was God.”
Here we understand the Word as the supreme expression of the Divine, as the thought of God, synonymous with the Divine Presence and therefore being God. We see an amazing consortium of vibratory power present in the Word — a great potentiality and creative power that is synonymous with Divine presence. For the Christian, this is the mystery of the Holy Trinity. It also sums up the goal of the sound yogi, for whom the Word is used to merge with the Sonic Absolute — Shabda Brahman — in such a manner that the mind of the yogi, the process of yoga, and the object of yoga — samadhi consciousness — become unified as one indivisible whole.
The mysticism of the word is especially apt. On the human level, we know that breath is required in order to produce words. Thus, all of creation is produced and sustained by the breath of God. St. Thomas Aquinas drew from this vision when he wrote:
“All creatures are words of God, and all of creation is a book about God.”
In the chapter of Genesis, the ancient Hebrew word ruah was used to describe the “breath” of God that hovered over the primal waters of creation. It was with this breath that the first creative Divine intentions were spoken. Each spoken intention manifested as reality: “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.
Our intentions, too, can manifest into reality, provided that they come from that deep place where we are absolutely one with the Divine — with Truth — and provided that what we desire is for the good of the universe. The light shines upon all without discrimination; the earth allows all to walk upon her without distinction; and water cleanses all without prejudice. So to be like the Divine is to want good for the world, and to want it without distinction. Yet even when we fall short of this level of altruism, the power of speech to manifest reality is so great that even evil intent, which can be described as misdirected good, is also capable of manifesting into reality.
From the story of Genesis, we are also told that the Divine transfers its vitality and essence into the clay by “breathing into it.” Such mythological images further attest to the tremendous creative power that can be associated with breath and with sacred utterance. Add the fact that many native cultures have the same linguistic roots for “dance” as they do for “breath,” and we begin to see the world as dancing words, as poetry and music.