John Algeo and Senzar - Part one

John Algeo – USA

Theosophy JA and SZ 121 b John Algeo 1

John Algeo 

Original title: Senzar-The Mystery of the Mystery Language

[Note from the editor: this is a slightly revised version to suit Theosophy Forward’s  template and to make the paper better readable]

Among the curious lore of H. P. Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine  are her references to a language called Senzar. Senzar is a mystery. According to Blavatsky, it is the original language of the stanzas of Dzyan, which are the core of her great book, and of certain commentaries and glosses upon the Book of Dzyan, others being in Chinese, Tibetan, and Sanskrit.

The version of the Stanzas that she presents in The Secret Doctrine is an abridgment of the originals and blends together the text of the stanzas with various glosses (I, 23). 

References to volume and page number only are to The Secret Doctrine (the original pagination); other references are identified by abbreviations. –  Some texts of the stanzas themselves are in other languages; for example, Stanza 6 is said to be translated from a Chinese text (I, 36n).

The impression we get, then, is that the wording of the stanzas in the SD is not simply a translation of some set text in a language called Senzar but is rather a restatement for modern students of such parts of the stanzas as Blavatsky herself understood, drawing upon such sources as she had available to make the ideas more comprehensible. That is, the stanzas of Dzyan, as we have them, are not a fixed sacred text, but an approximation. The version we have is less a translation than a paraphrase. That difference is important for our understanding of what kind of language Senzar is.

Blavatsky calls Senzar "a tongue absent from the nomenclature of languages and dialects with which philology is acquainted" (I, xxxvii), and so it is. The name of Senzar appears in none of the lists of the world's languages that linguists have compiled, nor is it ever likely to. We know about Senzar only what HPB has told us, although in fact she has told us a good deal.


Much of what Blavatsky says about Senzar makes it seem to be an ordinary language like other languages, especially if we read her comments uncritically or with an excessively literal interpretation. Indeed, the question of what Senzar is, is significant precisely because it is a typical case of the temptation to interpret Blavatsky (and other theosophical authorities) in a literal, materialistic way, when what they are talking about is often something more symbolic and abstract.

The temptation to literalize is ever present and is fostered by Blavatsky herself. For example, she describes a dream in which she was studying Senzar in the Master K.H.'s house at the same time that she was improving her English with his aid (ML 471). We might leap to the conclusion that Senzar and English are similar things. This was, however, a dream only, and even so, her description does not tell us what sort of thing Senzar is.

In The Secret Doctrine, Blavatsky quotes a "Senzar Catechism" (I, 9), which is elsewhere referred to as the "Esoteric [or Occult] Catechism." This catechism is not necessarily written in Senzar; it may instead be about Senzar, as its alternative titles suggest that it is about esoteric or occult subjects.

The straightforward definition of Senzar in The Theosophical Glossary (295) makes it sound like an ordinary language put to extraordinary uses:

SENZAR. The mystic name for the secret sacerdotal language or the "Mystery-speech" of the initiated Adepts, all over the world.

Because of statements like this, we can also assume that when Blavatsky uses expressions like "secret sacerdotal language" or "mystery speech," she is probably referring to Senzar.

Yet Blavatsky sometimes uses terms in broad and overlapping senses. Consequently we cannot be sure that all her statements about a "primordial," "sacred," "secret," "sacerdotal," or "mystery" language refer to Senzar, though it seems likely that many of them do. Some apparent contradictions, however, may be due to her using such terms of both Senzar and other languages. We cannot be sure. Even her use of the terms LANGUAGE and SPEECH is by no means so conclusive as it might appear in identifying what Senzar is -- a matter considered in detail below.

Blavatsky does explicitly compare Senzar and other ordinary languages. For example, she speaks of the "Senzar and Sanskrit alphabets" (CW XII, 642), as though they were parallel things. She contrasts Sanskrit as an ancient vernacular language with the sacred or Mystery-language, that which, even in our own age, is used by the Hindu fakirs and initiated Brahmans in their magical evocations" (ISIS, II, 46). She calls the "sacerdotal language or "mystery-tongue" the "direct progenitor" or "root" of Sanskrit (II, 200, CW V, 298) and identifies Senzar as being "ancient Sanskrit" (ISIS, I, 440).

Blavatsky also seems to relate Senzar to Avestan, the language of the most ancient Persian scriptures, but her comments in that regard are susceptible of more than one interpretation.

Theosophy JA and SZ 121 c Senzar

Esoteric and mystic symbols

The book containing the ancient Persian hymns is often called the Zend-Avesta; hence the name ZEND was formerly used for the language in which the book was written. However, the word ZEND means a 'commentary,' ZEND-AVESTA denoting something like 'Interpreted Avesta' or 'Avesta with  Comments.' Blavatsky is well aware of the proper meaning of ZEND when she makes a punning identification of it with Senzar, in the kind of "occult etymology" that she was fond of, but that no philologist would accept as having historical validity. We might call such wordplay "synchronic etymology."

[By contrast with the usual sort of diachronic (or historical) etymology that philologists practice and with allusion to C.G. Jung's principle of synchronicity, or meaningful coincidence.]

There is no historical, causal connection between the words in question, but their similarity of sound is a meaningful coincidence.

What HPB says about Zend and Senzar bears careful examination:

... the word "Zend" does not apply to any language, whether dead or living, and never belonged to any of the languages or dialects of ancient Persia ... It means, as in one sense correctly stated, "a commentary or explanation," but it also means that which the Orientalists do not seem to have any idea about, viz., the "rendering of the esoteric into exoteric sentences," the veil used to conceal the correct meaning of the ZEN-(D)-ZAR texts, the sacerdotal language in use among the initiates of archaic India. Found now in several undecipherable inscriptions, it is still used and studied unto this day in the secret communities of the Eastern adepts and called by them -- according to the locality -- ZEND-ZAR and BRAHMA or DEVA-BHASHYA. (CW IV, 517-18n)

BHASHYA is Sanskrit for 'speaking, talking'; thus BRAHMA-BHASHYA or DEVA-BHASHYA means 'divine language.' Elsewhere, HPB cites a letter in which the "secret sacerdotal language" is called SENZAR BRAHMA-BHASHYA (CW V, 62). HPB's remarks on Zend cited above are echoed in the GLOSSARY (386):

ZEND means "a commentary or explanation" ... As the translator of the VENDIDAD remarks ...: "what it is customary to call 'the Zend language', ought to be named 'the Avesta language', the Zend being no language at all ... Why should not the Zend be of the same family, if not identical with the ZEN-SAR, meaning also the speech EXPLAINING THE ABSTRACT SYMBOL, or the "mystery language," used by Initiates?

However, if Zend and Senzar are "of the same family, if not identical," and if Zend is "no language at all," what shall we conclude about the nature of Senzar? Apparently that it too is no language at all. Moreover, in both the above passages, HPB indicates that Senzar (under the punning names ZEND-ZAR and ZEN-SAR) has something to do with interpreting esoteric communications into exoteric forms and with explaining abstract symbols. This connection with abstract symbols is significant, as we shall see.

Despite these comparisons of Senzar with ordinary language, and other such comparisons noted below, Senzar is no ordinary form of speech. It is secret. It is distributed over the whole globe. It is used by initiated adepts. It involves the explanation (ZEND) of abstract symbols. And it has other peculiarities that set it off from ordinary language.


Another of HPB's language comparisons creates a puzzle for interpretation, if we assume that by Senzar she is talking about an ordinary language:

The Neter Khari (hieratic alphabet) and secret (sacerdotal) speech of the Egyptians is closely related to the oldest "Secret Doctrine Speech." It is a Devanagari with mystical combinations and additions, into which the Senzar largely enters. (CW, XIV, 97)

Hieratic is a cursive form of Egyptian hieroglyphic writing. Its comparison to Devanagari probably refers only to the sacred use of both scripts; they are quite different in appearance and principles. If "the oldest 'Secret Doctrine Speech'" is Senzar, as seems likely, HPB twice states a relationship between Senzar and hieroglyphics -- a difficult statement to understand in view of her earlier linkage of Senzar and Sanskrit, since it and Egyptian have no known affinity.

[Some Russian linguists have proposed a linkage between Hamito-Semitic (which includes Egyptian) and Indo-European (which includes Sanskrit) in a hypothetical Nostratic language family; however, this theory is generally regarded as speculative. In any case, Blavatsky seems to be talking more about writing systems than about language proper in the passage cited above. Her conflation of writing and speech is discussed below.]

There are other puzzles in HPB's statements about Senzar. One comes during a discussion of the identity of Amida Buddha, in which she states, "'Amida' is the Senzar form of 'Adi'" (CW XIV, 425). AMIDA is in fact the Japanese form of the Sanskrit word AMITABHA, the name of one of the five (or seven) Dhyani Buddhas that symbolize the creative power of the Adi or Primordial Buddha. If we take HPB's statement as an etymology, she is wrong on two counts. AMIDA is Japanese, not Senzar (unless Senzar is also Japanese, as well as Sanskrit and Egyptian); and AMIDA does not mean the same as ADI.

Moreover, HPB must have known those simple facts. It is difficult to imagine that she did not, and therefore she must have meant something other than a simple etymology by her statement. In fact, HPB was not much interested in or concerned about the philologist's form of etymology; she was far more interested in a symbolic connection between things. This peculiar statement must be a symbolic one, a possibility to which we shall return.

As a final instance of the puzzles surrounding Senzar, we can note the legend of the marvelous Kumbum tree. It is a tree that is supposed to grow only in Tibet and to have sprung originally from one of the hairs of the Lama Tsong-Kha-pa, an avatar of the Buddha. Blavatsky quotes an account by the Abbe Huc, who says that the leaves and bark of this tree have impressed upon them letters and characters and that, if the bark is peeled off, different characters appear on the inner layers.

The tale is a familiar sort of traveler's marvelous narrative, but to it HPB adds several details. She says that the writing on the Kumbum tree is

in the Sansar (or language of the Sun) characters (ancient Sanskrit); and that the sacred tree, in its various parts, contains IN EXTENSO the whole history of the creation, and in substance the sacred books of Buddhism. In this respect, it bears the same relation to Buddhism as the pictures in the Temple of Dendera, in Egypt, due to the ancient faith of the Pharaohs. (ISIS, I, 440)

The association of Senzar with Sanskrit has already been noted, and the comparison of Senzar with pictures will be noted below. Blavatsky adds that the Egyptian pictures allegorically represent a cosmogony (ISIS, I, 441), a significant point since Senzar is also used in the Stanzas of Dzyan to express a cosmogony.

Elsewhere, she repeats the main points about the Kumbum tree and insists that

The letter-tree of Tibet is a fact; and moreover, the inscriptions in its leaf-cells and fibers are in the SENZAR, or sacred language used by the Adepts, and in their totality comprise the whole Dharma of Buddhism and the history of the world. (CW IV, 350-5)

The Kumbum tree is as much a mystery as the Senzar writing that appears upon it.

Some of what Blavatsky says about Senzar raises it from the realm of the ordinary to that of the extraordinary -- indeed, of the fantastic, if her comments are taken literally. She links Senzar with such different writing systems as hieroglyphics and devanagari. She identifies a Japanese word as a Senzar form of Sanskrit. She says that the legendary Kumbum tree's leaves and bark are impressed with Senzar symbols spelling out the whole of Buddhist teaching and world history. What kind of language can be and do all those things?


When Blavatsky talks about Senzar itself, she provides a very ancient genealogy for the language. She says that "there was a time when the whole world was 'of one lip and of one knowledge,'" (I, 229), which is to say that "there was, during the youth of mankind, one language, one knowledge, one universal religion" (I, 341). In this idea, HPB is echoing Ralston Skinner, who in a passage quoted in The Secret Doctrine postulates "an ancient language which modernly and up to this time appears to have been lost, the vestiges of which, however, abundantly exist" (I, 308).

She frequently repeats this idea, mentioning "the one sacerdotal universal tongue" (CW, XIV, 96), "one universal esoteric, or 'Mystery'-Language ... the language of the Hierophants, which has seven 'dialects,' so to speak, each referring, and being specially appropriate, to one of the seven mysteries of Nature" (I, 310), and she says that this "secret language, common to all schools of occult science[,] once prevailed throughout the world" (CW V, 306).

This "secret sacerdotal tongue" is Senzar, the language in which was written "an old book," the original work from which the books of Kiu-ti were compiled. The "old book" was taken down in Senzar "from the words of the Divine Beings, who dictated it to the sons of Light, in Central Asia, at the very beginning of the 5th (our) Race." But Senzar itself is much older than that,

for there was a time when its language (the SEN-ZAR) was known to the Initiates of every nation, when the forefathers of the Toltec understood it as easily as the inhabitants of the lost Atlantis, who inherited it, in their turn, from the sages of the 3rd Race, the MANUSHIS, who learnt it direct from the DEVAS of the 2nd and 1st Races. (I, xliii)

The foregoing passage is of considerable interest, since, in providing such antiquity for the history of Senzar, it has effectively indicated that Senzar is not properly a language at all. In commenting on sloka 36 of Stanza 9, "The Fourth Race developed Speech," Blavatsky says:

The Commentaries explain that the first Race -- the etherial or astral Sons of Yoga, also called "Self-born" -- was, in our sense, speechless, as it was devoid of mind on our plane ... The Third Race developed in the beginning a kind of language which was only a slight improvement on the various sounds in Nature, on the cry of gigantic insects and of the first animals ... The whole human race was at that time of "one language and of one lip." ( II, 198)

Obviously, it could not have been much of a language or of a lip. Indeed, this primeval sort of communication is not what we would call language at all. Since language, in our ordinary sense of the term, was not developed until the Fourth Race period, that which was learnt from the Devas of the First and Second Races and inherited from the sages of the Third must be something other than ordinary language.

Whatever Senzar was, HPB tells how it came to be a secret, sacerdotal "language" (CW, XIV, 180-81). After reiterating the claim that "there was in antiquity one knowledge and one language," she says that the knowledge together with the language in which it is expressed became esoteric after the submersion of Atlantis, "and, from being universal, it became limited to the few." The memory of the esotericizing of "the 'one-lip' -- or the Mystery-language -- " knowledge of which was "gradually denied to subsequent generations," was preserved in the Biblical myth of the Tower of Babel, concerning a time when human beings were prevented from understanding each other's speech because of their sin of presumption.

As a result of the esotericizing of Senzar, two languages came into use in every nation: "(a) the profane or popular language of the masses; (b) the sacerdotal or secret language of the Initiates of the temples and mysteries -- the LATTER BEING ONE AND UNIVERSAL" (CW V, 297). This divided state of affairs is not, however, to continue indefinitely. When Blavatsky remarks "that the entire cycle of the universal mystery-language will not be mastered for whole centuries to come" (I, 318), she implies that the once generally known and now esoteric language will again one day be fully mastered by humanity.

The existence of sacred languages is well-known throughout the world. Latin was, and to a limited extent still is, such a sacred language for Western Christendom. Hebrew is such a language for Judaism. Sanskrit is for Hinduism, and Pali for Southern Buddhism. Sacred languages are used in scriptures, for rituals, and often for scholarly writings on religious subjects. Such sacred languages may be intended by The Theosophical Glossary’s entry for MYSTERY LANGUAGE (220):

The sacerdotal secret jargon employed by the initiated priests and used only when discussing sacred things. Every nation had its own "mystery" tongue, unknown save to those admitted to the Mysteries.

HPB puts such great emphasis on the unity of the one mystery language of Senzar that, if we are to understand literally the statement here that every nation had its own (by implication, distinct) language, then what is intended must be something like the sacred languages of various religions rather than the primordial mystery language called Senzar. Generally when HPB talks about the one universal mystery language, she means something considerably more basic and mysterious than run-of-the-mill sacred languages. HPB does sometimes use one term for several referents, so we should probably distinguish between the one primordial mystery language of all humanity, which is Senzar, and the various mystery languages of individual cultures, which are sacred languages like Latin, Hebrew, and Sanskrit.

Blavatsky's history of Senzar traces it back to the primordial times of our world cycle, before humanity had a physical tongue to speak with or a mind to think with. It was the common possession of nascent humanity before language proper had developed at all. Then a point came in the evolution of our species when a great disruption occurred, symbolized by such myths as the Tower of Babel, the Flood, and the destruction of Atlantis. Primitive communion was broken, a disjunction separated what is consciously known from what is subconsciously remembered, and a portion of the human mind sank into the waters of the unconscious as another portion become consciously active.

The myths of Babel, the Flood, and Atlantis seem to speak of such a separation within the human soul by which the conscious and unconscious aspects of our mind came into being as separate modes, replacing the undivided and undifferentiated mind of proto-humanity. Senzar was the common language of humanity before that division. After the differentiation of conscious from unconscious mind, Senzar become the "esoteric" language, that is, the language of the unconscious, which the initiated adept translates into the public exoteric languages of the conscious mind.


To make sense out of the mysteries surrounding Senzar, we need to consider the meanings of the word LANGUAGE. Like most other words, it has more than one use. If we understand a word in one of its meanings, while it was intended by its producer in a different meaning, the result is confusion and misinterpretation.

WEBSTER'S THIRD NEW INTERNATIONAL DICTIONARY has six main, including fourteen subsidiary, meanings for the word LANGUAGE, two of which are of especial relevance here. The first meaning is the words, their pronunciation, and the methods of combining them used and understood by a considerable community and established by long usage.

Examples cited for this meaning are "French language," "Bantu group of languages," and "classical Latin is a dead language." Another meaning, however, is

a systematic means of communicating ideas or feelings by the use of conventionalized signs, sounds, gestures, or marks having understood meanings.

Examples cited for this meaning are "finger language," "language of flowers," "language of painting," and "mathematics is a universally understood language." Restricting our consideration to these two meanings out of fourteen, we can construct a language summary to show some sorts of things that have been called "language".

Language summery

  1. Language -- Human Languages -- Speech -- Literal Language

English, French, Bantu, Tamil, Latin

  1. Language -- Human Languages -- Speech -- Figurative Language

Allegory, Parable, Myth

  1. Language -- Human Languages -- Writing -- Phonograms

Alphabets, Syllabaries, Rebuses

  1. Language -- Human Languages - Writing -- Ideographs

Hieroglyphs, Kanji, &, @, 5, +

  1. Language -- Other Communication -- Pictographs

Drawings by Amerinds and Cave Dwellers

  1. Language -- Other Communication -- Other Artifacts

Traffic Lights, Music

  1. Language -- Other Communication -- Natural Objects

Gesture, Flowers

Language in the first sense, ordinary human languages, can be either speech or writing, the first being language proper and the latter a visual representation of spoken language.

Speech can be either (1) literal, so that by it we mean exactly what we say (and a spade is a spade); or it can be (2) figurative, symbolic, so that by it we mean something other than what we say (and a spade -- as in the suit of cards -- may then stand for a sword, which is a symbol for the intellect). Ordinary literal languages include our ordinary, everyday uses of English, French, Bantu, Tamil, ancient Latin, and a great many others. The figurative uses of language include allegories, like Bunyan's Pilgrim’s Progress; parables, like those in the gospels; and myths, like those about the ancient Greek gods.

Writing consists of either characters that represent the sounds of a language, called (3) phonograms, or characters that represent the words of the language, called (4) ideographs. Each phonogram may stand for an individual sound, as the letters of our own alphabet do, or it may stand for a whole syllable, as the characters in a Japanese form of writing called hiragana do. A rebus is a punning form of writing in which signs representing things are used to stand instead for the sound of the thing's name; for example, a picture of a bee followed by a picture of a leaf might stand for belief (bee-leaf).

An ideograph, on the other hand, stands for a whole word and represents its meaning rather than its sound. Egyptian hieroglyphics used ideographs, as does another form of Japanese writing called kanji, which is derived from the Chinese ideographs. We use a few ideographs in English: "&" and "@", the signs for 'and' and 'at'; numerals like "5"; and the signs of mathematical operations like "+" for 'plus.' Some of these signs are used in all European languages, though pronounced differently in each language; thus "5" is "five" in English, "funf" in German, "cinco" in Spanish, but always means the same thing.

Language in the second sense, a nonlinguistic sort of symbolic system, includes (5) pictographs -- pictures that are intended to convey particular meanings, such as those drawn by the American Indians or the cavemen in Europe. It also includes the symbolic use of things we make -- (6) artifacts such as red and green traffic lights, or music that conveys ideas and feelings. In addition, it includes the symbolic use of (7) natural objects: we can read meanings in facial gestures, or we talk about the language of flowers, in which pansies represent thought; lilies, purity; and forget-me-nots, remembrance.

The fact that so many different things can be called language is not a recent discovery. Ralston Skinner, in a passage quoted by HPB (I, 308), points to this very fact:

To clear up an ambiguity as to the term language: Primarily the word means the expression of ideas by human speech; but, secondarily, it may mean the expression of ideas by any other instrumentality.

It is, however, easy to confuse the many senses of language, and any of us may do so when we talk about ways of conveying meaning. We often confuse speech with writing in a careless manner of talking about one or the other, and so did Blavatsky. Thus she remarks, "The DEVANAGARI -- the Sanskrit characters -- is the 'Speech of the Gods' and Sanskrit the divine language" (CW VII, 264). On the one hand, she correctly distinguishes between devanagari, the characters for writing Sanskrit, and the Sanskrit language or speech itself; but at the same time, she refers to the written characters as "speech," an obvious inconsistency. Blavatsky may have been thinking of the Sanskrit word as meaning 'speech of the gods,' but its etymological sense is rather 'divine city (writing).'

Devanagari is a cross between an alphabet and a syllabary. It has some letters that represent vowels (when the vowels form syllables without any consonant) and other letters that represent consonants plus the vowel "A". Diacritic marks (signs like accents) are added above or below a consonant letter to show that it is followed by some vowel other than "a" or that it is followed by no vowel at all. Although an unusual form of writing, devanagari is clearly one in which the characters stand for sounds. Therefore it is puzzling to see HPB remark:

Real Devanagari -- non-phonetic characters -- meant formerly the outward signals, so to say, THE SIGNS USED IN THE INTERCOMMUNICATION BETWEEN GODS AND INITIATED MORTALS. (CW V, 306)

The writing system we know as devanagari has clearly phonetic characters. So either HPB means that originally the characters had some additional, non-phonetic value, or she means that the historical devanagari developed out of or was influenced by or replaced some earlier non-phonetic system of writing. The importance of this remark about devanagari is that it shows one must be careful in interpreting what HPB means. A facile interpretation is likely to be wrong.

It is even possible that the "real devanagari" HPB refers to may not be a writing system at all -- at least, in the strict sense of a system of visible marks that represent the sounds or words of a language. In the Glossary (316), the term SYMBOLISM is defined thus:

The pictorial expression of an idea or a thought. Primordial WRITING had at first no characters, but a symbol generally stood for a whole phrase or sentence. A symbol is thus a recorded parable, and a parable a spoken symbol. The Chinese written language is nothing more than symbolical writing, each of its several thousand letters being a symbol.

Several different things are combined in that statement. Chinese writing is properly speaking ideographic; that is, its characters stand basically for word meanings rather than word sounds. When, however, a pictorial symbol stands for a whole group of ideas or thoughts that might be variously expressed by a sentence or group of sentences, it is a pictograph and is not properly writing at all, but rather a form of communication out of which primordial writing may indeed have developed. An example of a pictograph is an Amerindian drawing that depicts a treaty of friendship between Indian tribes and the American government.

Theosophy JA and SZ 121 d

Shown on picture above is a petition sent by a group of seven tribes, indicated by their totem creature, asking for fishing rights in four lakes. Lines connecting the eyes and hearts of the seven indicate that they "see eye to eye" and are of "one heart" in the request. The line from the leading figure (a crane totem) to the lakes indicates that they are thinking about those bodies of water


Symbols can be pictures, like the Amerindian pictograph, or more abstract drawings, like the yantras of some forms of Hinduism. They can be other objects, either natural ones like the Himalayas or artifactual ones like Stonehenge. They can be words, either spoken or written. Words are especially likely to be symbolic when they are used figuratively, in parables or allegories. Moreover the same idea can be expressed symbolically through a variety of alternative forms, in which case the alternative forms are equivalents (as HPB says, a "symbol is thus a recorded parable, and a parable a spoken symbol"). So Skinner, as quoted by HPB (I, 308), remarks about the ancient mystery language:

The peculiarity of this language was that it could be contained in another, concealed and not to be perceived, save through the help of special instruction; letters and syllabic signs possessing at the same time the powers or meanings of numbers, of geometrical shapes, pictures, or ideographs and symbols, the designed scope of which would be determinatively helped out by parables in the shape of narratives or parts of narratives; while also it could be set forth separately, independently, and variously, by pictures, in stone work, or in earth constructions.

Skinner says the mystery language that he has hypothesized and that HPB elsewhere calls Senzar can be expressed in a concealed fashion in ordinary language through the symbolism of the letter shapes or correspondences, but can also be expressed through parabolic stories and visually in constructions of many kinds. That mystery language is thus not a single form of expression, but is rather a symbolic use of many different forms.

The word LANGUAGE can be used to refer to many different things: to human speech or written representations of it, to symbolic drawings and the symbolic use of objects of all types. All of those are varieties of communication systems. Cutting across the many senses of the word LANGUAGE as a communication system are two main modes of meaning: literal and symbolic.

Literal meaning is that by which things are themselves (as a spade is a spade) or represent other things simply and straightforwardly (as the word BOOK represents printed sheets of paper bound together). Symbolic meaning is that by which things -- words, stories, events, objects -- represent other things in a complex and allusive way, by analogies and correspondences (as a cross represents matter, suffering, the world, and so on). Senzar does not seem to be a language in the sense of a simple communication system. Instead it looks more like a mode of meaning -- the symbolic mode -- applied to any sort of language system.

To be continued


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