Through language, humans bring out the full potentiality hidden in matter, advance the building of bird nests and beaver dams to architecture and engineering, the gathering of nuts to farming, squawks and barks to music, and limited animal perception to the intellectual jewels of modern Western culture…

In the history of science, the only event remotely akin to the philosophical concept of a person living in a state of nature, untainted by civilization was the discovery, in 1801, of the feral boy of Aveyron, an eleven-year-old found running naked and wild in a forest.[1] Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard, a French surgeon, thought the wild boy of Aveyron was the Rosetta stone for deciphering human nature. He spent five years trying to train and educate the boy, before concluding that the boy’s prolonged isolation from humanity rendered him incapable of language and consequently incapable of living a genuine human life. Itard’s answer to “What makes us human?” is language.

Animals have the shadow of language. Ants communicate through smell, bees through dance, and chimpanzees through sound and gesture, but animal communication is not a diminished version of human language. The numerous attempts to teach chimpanzees American Sign Language ended in failure; the signing of the chimps lacked syntax and their lengthy strings of signs were redundant and did not convey more meaning. Robert Sapolsky, a primatologist and neuroscientist, gives the reason why nonhuman primates cannot learn any language. Only the brain of Homo sapiens has Broca and Wernicke areas, the regions needed for language production and comprehension, respectively. The brains of the other primates, including chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, orangutans, and rhesus monkeys, have only the beginning of these structures, a mere cortical thickening.[2]

Through language, humans bring out the full potentiality hidden in matter, advance the building of bird nests and beaver dams to architecture and engineering, the gathering of nuts to farming, squawks and barks to music, sexual reproduction to love and compassion, and limited animal perception to the intellectual jewels of modern Western culture, Newtonian physics, Maxwell’s electrodynamics, special and general relativity, quantum physics, and the biology of the physical basis of life, including the genetic code.

Helen Keller: Without Language a Dense Fog

Language is so much a part of our lives that we find it impossible to recall our early childhood when we could not communicate through words. Helen Keller gives us a glimpse of how the world is experienced in the absence of language. When she was 19 months old, an acute disease, possibly scarlet fever or meningitis, left her blind and deaf. She soon “felt the need of some communication with others and began to make crude signs. A shake of the head meant ‘No’ and a nod, ‘Yes,’ a pull meant ‘Come’ and a push ‘Go.’ Was it bread [she] wanted? Then [she] would imitate the acts of cutting the slices and buttering them.”[3]

The few signs Helen used became less and less adequate to express herself, and her failures to make herself understood were invariably followed by outbursts of anger. She had observed that her friends and her mother did not use signs as she did. She remembers that “sometimes I stood between two persons who were conversing and touched their lips. I could not understand and was vexed. I moved my lips and gesticulated frantically without result. This made me so angry at times that I kicked and screamed until I was exhausted.”

Four months before she was seven years old, Anne Mansfield Sullivan arrived from the Perkins Institution for the Blind, in Watertown, Massachusetts, to teach manual sign language to Helen, who later described her interior state then as a “dense fog.”

Miss Sullivan brought a doll from the blind children of the Perkins Institution. After Helen played with the doll for a short time, Miss Sullivan slowly spelled into her hand the word “d-o-l-l.” Helen was interested in this “finger-play . . . [and] finally succeeded in making the letters correctly,” although she was “simply making [her] fingers go in monkey-like fashion.”

One day, angered by Miss Sullivan’s repeated attempts to teach her that a signing was a word that stood for an object, Helen threw her new doll on the floor, breaking it into pieces. She recollects that “I was keenly delighted when I felt the fragments of the broken doll at my feet. Neither sorrow nor regret followed my passionate outburst. I had not loved the doll. In the still, dark world in which I lived there was no strong sentiment or tenderness.”

Later that day, Miss Sullivan and Helen walked to the well-house. Some one was drawing water, and Miss Sullivan held Helen’s hand under the spout. Helen reports that “as the cool stream gushed over one hand, she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers.” Suddenly, “the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that ‘w-a-t-e-r’ meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free!” Helen made the leap from sensation to language, a leap that every human experiences, but no one can explain.

Helen left the well-house eager to learn. “Everything had a name, and each name gave birth to a new thought.” Miss Sullivan and she returned to the house, and every object Helen “touched seemed to quiver with life.” She picked up the pieces of the broken doll and remembers, “I tried vainly to put them together. Then my eyes filled with tears; for I realized what I had done, and for the first time I felt repentance and sorrow.”

A day or two later, Miss Sullivan directed Helen to string beads of different sizes in symmetrical groups. Helen made obvious errors and recalls that “Miss Sullivan touched my forehead and spelled with decided emphasis, ‘Think.’ In a flash I knew that the word was the name of the process that was going on in my head. This was my first conscious perception of an abstract idea.”

Without language, Helen’s interior life had been limited to sense perception, motor skills, tactual memory, and associations. She had neither will nor intellect and had been “carried along to objects and acts by a certain blind natural impetus.” She had felt anger, desire, and satisfaction; however, she had never “loved or cared for anything.” She describes her inner life then as “a blank without past, present, or future, without hope or anticipation, without wonder or joy.”[4]

She remembers, through tactual memory, that she did have a power of association. She recalls that “I felt tactual jars like the stamp of a foot, the opening of a window or its closing, the slam of a door. After repeatedly smelling rain and feeling the discomfort of wetness, I acted like those about me: I ran to shut the window. But that was not thought in any sense. It was the same kind of association that makes animals take shelter from the rain.”

Through the instinct of aping others, she established motor habits: “I folded the clothes that came from the laundry, and put mine away, fed the turkeys, sewed bead-eyes on my doll’s face, and did many other things of which I have the tactual remembrance.”

Ms. Keller concludes that “it was not the sense of touch that brought me knowledge. . . . Thought made me conscious of love, joy, and all the emotions. I was eager to know, then to understand, afterward to reflect on what I knew and understood, and the blind impetus, which had before driven me hither and thither at the dictates of my sensations, vanished forever.” She no longer lived an animal life; language freed her to be human.

Language Acquisition

Like Helen Keller, we began life without language. When our desires were not immediately met, we, too, grew angry, cried, and kicked our feet. Unlike Helen, most of us are not deaf and learned language by listening to siblings, caregivers, and parents.

Children learn language at different rates, but they all go through the same stages. At twelve months, we most likely said one word, at twenty months spoke two-word sentences like “Doggy bark,” and at twenty-six months uttered telegraphic sentences, such as “Baby doll ride truck.” We participated in social speech, when we begged, threatened, and asked questions.

From two to seven years of age, children engage in private speech, spoken aloud to oneself and not intended for or directed to others. They give a running discourse on what they are doing. A girl may say, “Now, I am going into the house,” referring to her playhouse, or she may tell her doll, “Mommy wants us to play nice,” or while drawing, she may say out loud to herself, “I need a blue pencil.” Such private speech regulates her conduct and raises her action to purposeful behavior.

The term “private speech” is somewhat misleading. Lev Vygotsky, a psychologist and the recognized genius who greatly advanced the scientific study of how language and mental powers develop, observed that private speech of a child occurs only in the presence of adults or in the presence of other children engaged in the same activity, not when the child is alone. He and his colleagues thought of a clever experiment. They placed a child either with deaf-mute children or with children speaking a foreign language and discovered the child’s private speech ceased in most cases. Vygotsky concluded that private speech “is different from social speech but again not entirely, because it functions only within social situations.”[5]

When the child is around seven-years-old, private speech “goes underground” and becomes inner speech.[6] As adults, we talk to ourselves to solve problems, decide what we will do in a future situation, and set immediate and distant goals. Here are two trivial, common examples. Yesterday, while driving my car, I mentally determined the quickest route from Trader Joe’s to Office Depot. Midcourse, I encountered road construction; through inner speech, I determined and chose a new route. I once lost my driver’s license, and before hassling with the clerk at the Department of Motor Vehicles, I mentally rehearsed my story about why my license went missing.

Inner speech can be dysfunctional. Many of us have learned to see ourselves through the eyes of ever-critical onlookers, whether they are there or not. Before we act or speak, we first have to judge our actions or speech as we think others will. Some of us rehearse everything we say, for our words have to be perfect; under such circumstances, we cannot act naturally or spontaneously. All of us have in our inner speech been ever-critical onlookers, smugly demoting others in our scale of values, usually received from culture without reflection. At one time, most of us have engaged in ruminative inner speech, where we go over and over in our minds the fear of an upcoming test or a meeting with the boss. Such ruminative speech distorts the past, creates a dreadful imaginary future, and amplifies anxiety, guilt, and shame.

When we engage in talk-for-oneself, we “think words” instead of pronouncing them; however, inner speech generally is not an interior copy of external speech without sounds.[7] Often we omit “the subject of a sentence and all words connected with it, while preserving the predicate.”[8] Unlike a listener of our social speech, we know the subject and all its characteristics. In the example of driving my car, I did not ask myself “What is the quickest route from Trader Joe’s to Office Depot?” Probably, I did not even tell myself “quickest route;” most likely, I said, “quickest,” a mere predicate. Such speech if heard by an external listener would be incomplete and incoherent.

Sometimes our inner speech takes the form of a dialogue, usually between speaker and listener, with full-blown complete sentences. We may rehash an argument with a colleague or construct a scenario with the boss to ask her for a raise. More often our inner speech is unfocused, disconnected, and seldom arrives anywhere. Like a monkey swinging from one tree to the next in a tropical forest, our minds leap insanely from one topic to another. Although such inner monologue is pointless, its fragmentary content reveals whether we are chronically angry, complaining, self-pitying, righteous, or argumentative.

Our inner speech can have multiple voices, especially when torn between two courses of action or when we attempt to solve an intellectual problem. Say I am not firmly committed to my goal of losing ten pounds in the new year. Suppose I am at a dinner party and the host serves my favorite dessert, chocolate mousse. One of my inner voices says, “Politely refuse the mousse; give some lame, made-up excuse, you’re diabetic.” Another inner voice disagrees, “Another 300 calories makes no difference; besides you’ll make it up tomorrow.” When trying to solve a complex problem in mathematics, voice one tries A; voice 2 soon argues against that strategy; voice 2 attempts B, only to abandon it; finally, if lucky, I realize out of the blue that course Z is the correct path.

“With syntax and sound reduced to a minimum, meaning is more than ever in the forefront” in inner speech.[9] Following the lead of philosopher Frédéric Paulhan, Vygotsky drew a distinction between the sense of a word and its meaning. Dictionaries give the meaning of a word, which is stable for relatively long periods of time. The sense of a word is “the sum of all the psychological events aroused in our consciousness by the word, [and thus is] a dynamic, fluid, complex whole.”[10] Virtually every sentence we speak to ourselves or to others has a subtext, a thought hidden behind it.

Vygotsky pointed out that sometimes the title of a literary masterpiece contains the entire sense of the work. The mere sound of Don Quixote, Hamlet, or Anna Karenina evokes the trials, actions, and moral failings of a person we know better than ourselves. In inner speech, we seldom use our proper name, which is meant for social speech; “I,” “me,” and “mine” are a nexus of psychological and social events in our lives; “I” is the story of who we are.

Without inner speech, we have no self, a surprising fact Helen Keller discovered on her own. She said, “Before my teacher came to me, I did not know that I am.”[11] After Helen learned manual sign language, she became determined to communicate with others as normally as possible and learned to speak. (See Helen Keller speaking with the help of Anne Sullivan.) As a child, her inner speech was spelling to herself on her fingers, but when she learned to speak, her inner speech did not differ that much from yours or mine.

The Construction of Self

Around nineteen months, a child begins to use the words “my,” “mine,” and “me” and her name with a verb—“Annie eats.”[12] By twenty-seven months, self-reference is common, although the child is not telling her parents who she is; that requires a narrative. Between three to five years of age, autobiographical memory emerges and the development of a unique personal history begins.[13]

When a Harvard undergraduate was asked to think of her earliest memory, she reported, “I have a memory of being at my great aunt and uncle’s house. It was some kind of party; I remember I was wearing my purple-flowered party dress. There was a sort of crib on the floor . . . I don’t know if it was meant for me or for one of my younger cousins, but I crawled into it and lay there on my back. My feet stuck out, but I fit pretty well. I was trying to get the attention of people passing by. I was having fun and feeling slightly mischievous. When I picture the memory, I am lying down in the crib, looking at my party-shoed feet sticking out of the end of the crib.” (Memory dated at 3 years 6 months.)[14]

A female Chinese college student from Beijing University described her earliest memory: “I was 5 years old. Dad taught me ancient poems. It was always when he was washing vegetables that he explained a poem to me. It was very moving. I will never forget the poems such as ‘Pi-Ba-Xing,’ one of the poems I learned then.”[15]

Even at this young age, the self-narrative pattern that emerges depends upon culture. Qi Wang and her colleague Jens Brockmeier discovered, after extensive interviews of American and Chinese undergraduates, that the first memories of the Americans were earlier and more focused on self than those of the Chinese: “The American memory has the individual highlighted as the leading character of the story. In contrast, the Chinese memory shows a heightened sensitivity to information about significant others or about the self in relation to others.” [16]

Wang and Brockmeier studied conversations between mothers and daughters and concluded that “American parents often focus on the child’s personal attributes, preferences, and judgments, making the child the central character of the co-constructed story. In contrast, consonant with Confucian ethics that place a high value on social hierarchy and moral rectitude, Asian parents often take a leading role during the conversation with their children and frequently refer to moral rules and behavioral expectations.” To their amazement, they found that American children as young as three often comment on “their personal roles, choices, and opinions, [while] their Asian peers make references to rules, standards, and requirements.”[17]

In our inner speech, the personal narrative we tell ourselves integrates the events of everyday life into a coherent whole, in which we are both narrator and the main character. We repeatedly tell our personal story, adding layer upon layer of meaning, incorporating new experiences into our narratives, and perhaps embellishing past events to such a degree that they become fictitious. Just like young children, we develop intense attachments to certain personal events, revisiting them again and again, for weeks, months, and even years. In this way, our self both solidifies and changes.

The “I” we think we are is no more than a nexus of acquired habits of thinking and feeling instilled by the accidents of upbringing and culture plus a personal narrative. The persistence of such habits and the repeated telling of a personal narrative gives the illusion of a permanent self. As children, through language learning, a self emerges with values instilled in that self: in America, independence, assertiveness, and self-expression; in China, interdependence, social obligation, and humility.

The Loss of Self

All of us have had rare occasions where our inner speech is turned off for a moment. A friend of mine told me about her vivid memory of playing third base in the seventh grade forty years ago. She heard the crack of the bat, and a line drive headed toward her traveling at least sixty miles an hour. To her, however, the ball moved so slowly that she watched the gradual rotation of the seams with fascination, and, of course, her gloved hand effortlessly caught the ball.

Another woman told me that she thought it impossible for any person to turn off inner speech. Then, one afternoon while walking in the woods with her husband, suddenly she was not preoccupied with the usual problems that cluttered up her mind. For a moment, she experienced the landscape, the wind, and the rhythm of walking. “It’s wonderful!” she exclaimed to her husband, and the inner silence ended.

Several summers ago, I did some extensive mountain running in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I remember running down the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, gliding from rock to rock at breakneck speed. One misstep and I could have broken an ankle or a leg. That thought never entered my mind; I was without fear and totally confident. Entirely focused on what I was doing, the rocks stood out in bold relief. The varied shapes amazed me, and I marveled at the sea-foam green and bright yellow lichens on the rocks as they flew by me. I was so immersed in what I was doing that I was not a detached spectator, chattering away inside of my usual imaginary bubble. I was a person “lost” in union and in harmony with the rocks. On those rare occasions when inner speech gives way to silence and the loss of self, we become fully alive and life needs no justification, for to be alive is joyful.

My experience of mountain running, of being totally absorbed in an activity, is called “in the zone” by athletes and “flow” by psychologists. Flow is the experience of performing an activity at an optimal level, characterized by effortlessness and intense focus on the present; the self disappears, and the person becomes the performance. Rock climbers, surgeons, dancers, musicians, writers, chess players, mathematicians, indeed, actors in any field can lose the self, become the activity, and thereby experience flow.

Musician Barry Green observes that soloists, orchestral players, young students, and seasoned sessions players, alike, have experienced that “unique suspended moment when you actually become the emotional or sensory quality of the music—the colors, the water, the love.”[18] An expert rock climber describes the same experience: “You are so involved in what you are doing [that] you aren’t thinking of yourself as separate from the immediate activity. . . . You don’t see yourself as separate from what you are doing.”[19] A dancer says at times she becomes the dance: “Your concentration is very complete. Your mind isn’t wandering, you are not thinking of something else; you are totally involved in what you are doing.”[20]

Flow is not confined to specialized activities that require years to master. Any person can become lost in an everyday activity. A mother recounts the flow that takes place when she and her young daughter take turns reading to each other. “She reads to me, and I read to her, and that’s a time when I sort of lose touch with the rest of the world, I’m totally absorbed in what I’m doing.”[21] Many fiction readers enter into an imaginary world so completely that they become the characters and the world around them recedes. Or even more simply, my friend, mentioned earlier, while walking in the woods with her husband experienced flow; she became one with the wind, rocks, and the trees when her inner speech ceased momentarily.

In flow, our usual scattered attention disappears and the mind becomes intensely focused, totally aware of the present. Such a concentration of attention Buddhists call “one-pointedness,” meaning an interior state where all mental faculties are unified and directed toward one action, say sweeping the pebbles from a shrine, releasing an arrow from a bow, or sitting in meditation. For a tennis player, only the ball and the opponent exist; for a chess player, everything is excluded by the strategy of the game. When a person is completely in the present, not reflecting upon the past or worrying about the future, the senses are heightened: Vision is amazingly vivid, and hearing registers the subtlest changes in pitch and intensity. A violinist feels the tiniest movements of her fingers that produce palpable sounds. The music, her hands and fingers, her mind, all move of their own accord in complete harmony. For rock climber Doug Robinson, “To climb with intense concentration is to shut out the world, which, when it reappears, will be as a fresh experience, strange and wonderful in its newness.”[22] The great rock climber Yvon Chouinard describes how on ascent up El Capitan’s Muir Wall he saw as if for the first time: “Each individual crystal in the granite stood out in bold relief. The varied shapes of the clouds never ceased to attract our attention. For the first time, we noticed tiny bugs that were all over the walls, so tiny that they were barely noticeable. While belaying, I stared at one for fifteen minutes, watching him move and admiring his brilliant red color.”[23] Unlike our habitual looking without seeing, looking with real vision reveals the overwhelming beauty of mundane objects—clouds, snow, and granite.

For virtually every performer, flow is a desirable state to be in. Personal problems vanish, the fear of failure disappears, mental clarity results, effortless performance happens, and joy ensues. The activity, then, becomes an end in itself. The desire for fame, public adulation, and even victory—in effect, all distractions from the marketplace and social life—disappear. The basketball great Bill Russell confesses that for him superb play took precedence over the desire for victory. Those perfect moments in basketball “were sweet when they came, and the hope that one would come was one of my strongest motivations for walking out there. Sometimes the feeling would last all the way to the end of the game, and when that happened, I never cared who won. . . . On the five or ten occasions when the game ended at that special level, I literally did not care who had won. If we lost, I’d still be as free and high as a sky hawk.”[24]

Into the Great Silence

Whether we recognize it or not, flow confirms our spiritual nature. When we become an object or an activity, comparative-religion scholar Toshihiko Izutsu avows, “Zen may be said to be already realized, whether one calls it Zen or not. Zen, however, requires that one should be in exactly the same state with regard to everything . . . One should become a bamboo. One should become a mountain. One should become the sound of a bell. That is what Zen means by the expression: ‘seeing into the nature of things.’”[25] A Zen practitioner in the stillness and silence of meditation may glimpse the deep transcendent nature of his or her mind that was hidden by the busyness of daily living and the distraction of inner speech.

What music conductor Markand Thakar says of “the most exalted, aesthetic experience” of music is also true of the deepest Zen experience. “The distinction between subject and object is not there. I absorb the sounds, they overcome me, I become the sounds. Within my focused consciousness there is no them, and because there is no them different from me, there is also no me. And without a distinction between me and the external world that is not me, I come to experience my own being in the fullest way. Thus: I am here because I am not here.”[26]

Eknath Easwaran, a disciple of Gandhi and the critically acclaimed translator of the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, and the Dhammapada, concludes after years of meditation and study that “the goal of all spiritual seeking is to live in a state of self-forgetfulness permanently.”[27]

Silence and self-forgetfulness are at the heart of Christian mysticism, too. Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite reports, apparently from his own experience, that the higher we soar in contemplation “the more our words are confined to the ideas we are capable of forming; so that now as we plunge into that darkness which is beyond the intellect, we shall find ourselves not simply running short of words but actually speechless and unknowing.”[28] God transcends all human language and concepts.

Thomas Aquinas, the most rational and articulate of theologians, shortly before his death, had a mystical experience when celebrating the Mass, and as a result, he left his masterpiece, the Summa Theologica, unfinished. When urged by Reginald of Peperino to explain the radical change in his religious perspective, Thomas simply said, “Everything I have written seems like straw by comparison to what I have seen and now what has been revealed to me.”[29]

To enter the mystical presence of God demands silencing interior chatter, the endless commentary spun by the thinking mind. Beyond our thoughts, our daydreams, and our imagination, lies a vast, open, limitless silence.

Human life has a strange trajectory. All of us start off speechless with a world no larger than our mother’s arms and breasts. As toddlers, we lived an animal life; when our desires were not immediately met, we grew angry and cried. Like the blind-and-deaf child Helen Keller, we had no “I,” no past or future. We learned a language, engaged in private speech that eventually went underground to become inner speech that regulated our behavior and actions. Through language, we acquired an “I” instilled with cultural values. Our inner speech is usually an unceasing commentary on the choices and actions of others and ourselves. A few of us, not necessarily saints, stilled our inner speech and egoless in silence experienced the presence of God; those happy few followed a trajectory that began speechless and with an extremely narrow animal life and ended speechless with a vast spiritual life that touches God.

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1 See Harlan Lane, The Wild Boy of Aveyron (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979) and François Truffaut, director, Wild Child, Les Artistes Associés, film.

2 For a witty, short history of the efforts to teach American Sign Language to nonhuman primates, listen to the last twenty-five minutes of Robert Sapolsky, Human Behavioral Biology, Lecture 23 On Language. Human speech also requires the correct anatomy, see Philip Lieberman, “Why Human Speech Is Special,” TheScientist (July 1, 2018).

3 Unless otherwise noted, all quotes from Hellen Keller are from her book The Story of My Life (Mineola, New York: Dover, 1996 [1903]).

4 All quotations in this paragraph and the following two are from Helen Keller, The World I Live In (New York: The Century Co., 1904,1908).

5 Lev Vygotsky, Language and Thought, rev. and ed. Alex Kozulin (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1986), pp. 232-235.

6 Ibid., p. 33.

7 Ibid., p. 230.

8 Ibid., p. 236.

9 Ibid., p. 244.

10 Ibid., pp. 244-245.

11 Keller, The World I Live In.

12 Jerome Kagan, Unstable Ideas: Temperament, Cognition, and Self (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989), p. 233.

13 Qi Wang and Jens Brockmeier, “Autobiographical Remembering as Cultural Practice: Understanding the Interplay between Memory, Self and Culture,” Culture Psychology (2002) 8:52.

14 Ibid., pp. 47-48.

15 Ibid., p. 48.

16 Ibid., p. 49.

17 Ibid., pp. 56, 57.

18 Barry Green, The Inner Game of Music (New York: Doubleday, 1986), p. 14.

19 Quoted by Mihaly Csilszentmihalyi, Beyond Boredom and Anxiety (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1975), p. 39.

20 Ibid.

21 Quoted by Mihaly Csilszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (New York: Harper & Row, 1990), p. 53.

22 Doug Robinson, “The Climber as Visionary,” Ascent 9, (1969): 8.

23 Yvon Chouinard, quoted by Doug Robinson, “The Climber as Visionary,” Ascent 9, (1969): 6.

24 Bill Russell and Taylor Branch, Second Wind: The Memoirs of an Opinionated Man (New York: Random House, 1979), p. 157. Italics in original.

25 Toshihiko Izutsu, Toward a Philosophy of Zen Buddhism (Boston: Shambhala, 2001), p. 207.

26 Markand Thakar, “Tribute to a Teacher,” ( November 10, 1999). Italics in original.

27 Eknath Easwaran, Original Goodness: Eknath Easwaran on the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount (Tomales, CA: Nilgiri Press, 2014), p. 74.

28 Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, Mystical Theology, in Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works, trans. Colm Luibheid (New York: Paulist Press, 1987), 1033B.

29 Aquinas, quoted by Bernhard Lang, Sacred Games: A History of Christian Worship (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997), p. 323.

Editor’s Note: The featured image is one of seven paintings, each intended to depict one of the seven liberal arts, by Pieter Isaacsz (1569-1625) for Rosenburg Castle; this particular painting depicts the art of Rhetoric. The image is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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