All that can fall within the compass of human understanding, being either, first, the nature of things, as they are in themselves, their relations, and their manner of operation: or, secondly, that which man himself ought to do, as a rational and voluntary agent, for the attainment of any end, especially happiness: or, thirdly, the ways and means whereby the knowledge of both the one and the other of these is attained and communicated; I think science may be divided properly into these three sorts.
[John Locke: An Essay Concerning Human Understanding]
If life were a labyrinth, man would have to start with birth all over again finding his way through the same maze of questions and answers forgotten by our forefathers.
Sociology understands language as the first and single most important factor for an individual’s identification with a group, whether it is a tribe, a society or nation.
Language and culture provide us with a set of answers (and questions) which we unconsciously take for granted. These answers are platforms, which enable us to enter the labyrinth not at the very beginning but somewhere in the middle. They remove us from the yoke of going through all the hardship borne by hundreds of generations before us.
If we have forgotten the questions asked or answers given by our forefathers, language and culture turn into a dead end, which inhibits personal and collective growth. It’s then our personal choice to either stay within the confinements of language and culture or turn around and go back to where we have come from.
This process is called individuation. The conscious step back from one’s cultural programing and the confrontation with the fundamental truth within each one of us.
一门语言 | 0ne Door of Language
Languages are doors of perception or doors to different dimensions of perception like e.g. described by Aldous Huxley. They enable us to look at reality from one or another perspective. The same is true for cultures on a more complex level of communication, which involves not only the spoken or written word, but rituals, observances and many other cultural forms of behavior.
The wise creators of the Chinese script knew more than two millennia ago that different languages are separate sources of wisdom; they attached the measure word ‘door’ to language, i.e. if we are only proficient in one language or live in one culture only, we can open only one door of perceptual reality.
But even though more and more modern men are polyglot and cosmopolite, we almost certainly have forgotten many answers our forefathers have left us with. Classic Greek, Chinese, and Sanskrit to just name the obvious examples, were languages which formed complex schools of thought. Most of these answers as well as the related questions have nevertheless been forgotten by its modern offspring cultures: the Christian-Judean West, the Confucian-Taoist East and the Hindu-Muslim Indian subcontinent.
The Language Instinct
The time range for the evolution of language and/or its anatomical prerequisites extends, at least in principle, from the phylogenetic divergence of Homo (2.3 to 2.4 million years ago) from Pan (5 to 6 million years ago) to the emergence of full behavioral modernity some 150,000 – 50,000 years ago.
In an increasingly globalized world, humanity faces challenges which require nations, societies and even civilizations to collaborate. In assuming with Harvard Psychologist Stephen Pinker that the human mind is not a general-purpose computer, but a collection of instincts adapted to solving evolutionarily significant problems, it seems as if the time is ripe to create design which is understood by all of mankind and to reverse the Biblical myth of Babel.
Universal archetypes are an interesting point to start. This is why Carl G. Jung and Man and his Symbols is a good point to end this concept. In Jung's psychological framework, archetypes are innate, universal prototypes for ideas and may be used to interpret observations. Jung treated the archetypes as psychological organs, analogous to physical ones in that both are morphological constructs that arose through evolution. At the same time, it has also been observed that evolution can itself be considered an archetypal construct.
My views about the 'archaic remnants', which I call 'archetypes' or 'primordial images,' have been constantly criticized by people who lack a sufficient knowledge of the psychology of dreams and of mythology. The term 'archetype' is often misunderstood as meaning certain definite mythological images or motifs, but these are nothing more than conscious representations. Such variable representations cannot be inherited. The archetype is a tendency to form such representations of a motif; representations that can vary a great deal in detail without losing their basic pattern.
[C.G. Jung, Man and his Symbols]