Crop circle 2009 What is the meaning of this? Is it language, a blueprint for a device? Copyright Steve Alexander www.temporarytemples.co.uk, by permission.
Abracadabra and Meaning
Once in a while I roam on A Skeptic’s Dictionary (www.skepdic.com). The site is about exposing ‘strange beliefs, amusing deceptions and dangerous delusions’. It has some base in materialistic science. But overall it contains information on many of the human beliefs in not proven phenomena. Some idiosyncrasy is palpable, because counter arguments are not named, or taken into account most of the time. So the information is biased in a way, but is very insightful and also funny to read.
The question at hand is: Has life a meaning, and if so or not, what makes us think so? The question can be stated in a broader sense: Where comes meaning from?
In general there are two possibilities. The first is that something, whatever, has meaning of its own. This would be the case if of a phenomenon every human person, asked for his opinion, would say the same. The second is that meaning only exists as an attributed quality.
It may be obvious that the first possiblity does not exist in reality. Nevertheless lots of people use it, in a way, for instance in the argumentation that feelings of awe for the vastness of space, and the beauty of the heavens is an indication, or even proof of the existence of god. The quite exact fine-tuned laws of nature for coming life into existence is also used to this end. This is however a form of ‘Credo quia absurdum’, ‘I belief because it is absurd’, which is absurd in itself.
So meaning must only exist as an attributed quality? Let’s see. Here Abracadabra comes in. In the Clarification to the Garuda I introduced Iain McGilchrist, who argues that the right hemisphere of the brain has a nauseatic capacity of ingenuity for imagining the possible and the impossible. It is this trait in which Abracadabra gives word and mouth to this capacity. The kabbalist Areyh Kaplan* writes on the beginning words of the Bible book of Genesis, Bereshit BaRa Elohim the following: “In many ways this expression is reminiscent of the word abracadabra (ABRA K’ADaBRa) which literally means, “I will create as I speak”. In the footnote it is stated: “It is significant that, when written this way, Abracadabra contains the word BRA (Bara), meaning to create, while the remaining letters add up to 26, the numerical value of the Tetragrammaton. (…).”
But then, so was asked on Sceptic’s, does this not exemplify the very human trait of finding meaning where none was intended? My answer was as follows: (…) but is that not the quest for human understanding, finding meaning where there was none before? Finding understanding is necessary and is a constructionist enterprise. You only can find meaning when you have a tool to find meaning with. This is, in my opinion, exactly what is at stake here. The beginning of the Bible says that G’d, here named Elohim, one of the names of G’d, SAID something, and it came into being. The Gospel of John, also the beginning, is an allusion to that. Thus, by saying something it comes into being. Not only G’d can do this, also the human race is capable of it. Abracadabra in a way states this. When you take away BARA the rests sums up to 26, which is in the gematria the number of JHVH. So what abracadabra ultimately means is that by saying abracadabra man has the same position and potency as G’d with respect to creating.
Abracadrabra exemplifies our human capacity of imagining our world into being, which is done through speaking out loud. And for creating meaning it is exactly the same. The ingenuity of the human mind is a sure garantee that the most special, for some, absurd meanings are formulated, and so brought into being. The mentioned maxim ‘Credo quia absurdum’ is about het Christian faith, which taken on its own account is quite strange indeed. But nevertheless the adherents hold the sincere conviction that what they believe is real and truthful. And thus it has meaning.
So, meaning is indeed created, just by saying it. The initial absurdity of it may or may not attract others, and once established as fact, even the most absurd is created as real meaning.
Abracadabra: You will create as you speak. So be careful!
** The Tetragrammaton is the name of God that cannot be spoken out loud: JHVH Numerical value is the system of gematria in which a word has a value, based on the value of the letters. In gematria corresponding values are deemed to have meaning.
* Aryeh Kaplan, Sefer Yetzirah, The Book of Creation, revised edition, Weiser Books Boston MA, York Beach ME, 1997, page xxi, and footnote 106 on page 348.