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Ninety Six Words for Love

--by Robert Johnson (Sep 15, 2014)
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The first difficulty we meet in discussing anything concerning our feelings is that we have no adequate vocabulary to use. Where there is no terminology, there is no consciousness. A poverty-stricken vocabulary is an immediate admission that the subject is inferior or depreciated in that society.

Sanskrit has ninety-six words for love; ancient Persian has eighty, Greek three, and English only one. This is indicative of the poverty of awareness or emphasis that we give to that tremendously important realm of feeling. Eskimos have thirty words for snow, because it is a life-and death matter to them to have exact information about the element they live with so intimately. If we had a vocabulary of thirty words for love ... we would immediately be richer and more intelligent in this human element so close to our heart. An Eskimo probably would die of clumsiness if he had only one word for snow; we are close to dying of loneliness because we have only one word for love. Of all the Western languages, English may be the most lacking when it comes to feeling.

Imagine what richness would be expressed if one had a specific vocabulary for the love of one's father, another word for the love of one's mother, yet another for one's camel (the Persians have this luxury), still another for another's spouse, and another exclusively for the sunset! Our world would expand and gain clarity immeasurably if we had such tools.

It is always the inferior function, whether in an individual or a culture, that suffers this poverty. One's greatest treasures are won by the superior function but always at the cost of the inferior function. One's greatest triumphs are always accompanied by one's greatest weaknesses. Because thinking is our superior function in the English-speaking world, it follows automatically that feeling is our inferior function. These two faculties tend to exist at the expense of each other. If one is strong in feeling, one is likely to be inferior in thinking -- and vice versa. Our superior function has given us science and the higher standard of living -- but at the cost of impoverishing the feeling function.

This is vividly demonstrated by our meager vocabulary of feeling words. If we had the expanded and exact vocabulary for feeling that we have for science and technology, we would be well on our way to warmth of relatedness and generosity of feeling.

Robert Johnson, in The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden. ‚ÄčIn 1945, he went to Ojai, California, as a student of Jiddu Krishnamurti, an Indian spiritual teacher. In 1947 he began his own therapy with Fritz Künkel. He later studied at the C. G. Jung Institute in Zürich, Switzerland, where Emma Jung, the wife of Carl, was his principal analyst. He completed his analytical training with Künkel and Tony Sussman. He established an analytical practice in Los Angeles in the early 1950s with Helen Luke. In the early 1960s he closed his practice and became a member of St. Gregory's Abbey, Three Rivers, in Michigan, a Benedictine monastery of the Episcopal Church.

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On Sep 16, 2014 Sandra wrote:

 A number of people expressed it well, in numerous ways!!!  We have many words and many means of expressing love.  First question for me was whether there's more love being expressed, felt, evidenced in those cultures with so many words (boxes someone said).  Labels, tags I call them.  Yes we need language to communicate, but more we need intent, motive, desire to love, be loving, and receive love.  With that, I suspect the Universe, God, whatever term we want to use, will help us express it.  (Here again, so many words for the Origin, Creator of all things and some of us take issue with one or the other!!!)  In my own experience, study am learning the more I realize the love is already within me, the more I'll see it, express it, experience it.



2 replies: Syd, Sandra | Post Your Reply
On Sep 16, 2014 Syd wrote:

Love is a movement and is a dynamic force that melts down barriers and boundaries.  Love dissolves separateness.  Love is more or less my degree of being present and more or less my contact with the Other.  At times I have clarity and a transparent Presence.   Then there are times of reactivity and mechanical thinking.  There are other times I have deep self-alienation, suffering and even my own self-destructiveness.  Love is this movement is between my inner essence and my ego personality.  Love is a yardstick of my consciousness and is everything in between.  Love to me, therefore, is expressed in many different words and these words are only a signpost.  The whole flow of love is our words and is one enormous creative dance.  I feel to put words on love could make it static, when actually love is dynamic force that melts down barriers and boundaries.  The difficulty is I can imagine myself to be very different from how I a  See full.

Love is a movement and is a dynamic force that melts down barriers and boundaries.  Love dissolves separateness.  Love is more or less my degree of being present and more or less my contact with the Other.  At times I have clarity and a transparent Presence.   Then there are times of reactivity and mechanical thinking.  There are other times I have deep self-alienation, suffering and even my own self-destructiveness.  Love is this movement is between my inner essence and my ego personality.  Love is a yardstick of my consciousness and is everything in between.  Love to me, therefore, is expressed in many different words and these words are only a signpost.  The whole flow of love is our words and is one enormous creative dance.  I feel to put words on love could make it static, when actually love is dynamic force that melts down barriers and boundaries.  The difficulty is I can imagine myself to be very different from how I actually am and putting words on this is the unfolding of this dynamic dance.  Love she creates and sustains, saying we are all in this dance and is the significance of your presence.        
  

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5 replies: Dina, Gail, Syd, Syd, Dina | Post Your Reply
On Sep 16, 2014 Dina Pennington wrote:

 Grok (from Stranger in a strange land)



On Sep 16, 2014 Margo Lalich wrote:

 What are the 90 words for love?



On Sep 16, 2014 Bonnie wrote:

 I was curious about this article, because it seems to me that  English does have more than one word for love - devotion, loving-kindness, affection, appreciation, fondness, adoration.... is it just me?  But then I began to wonder, if Love is the substance and energy of the Ground of All Possible Being, i.e. the universe, then maybe everything has the capacity to be a synonym for love depending on our perspective and intention.   Perhaps today, when I speak with my husband, my students, the clerks at the grocery story, my dogs.. I'll use my fancy words, but I'll know I'm really saying love, love, love, love, and love.  



1 reply: Sandra | Post Your Reply
On Sep 16, 2014 Peggy wrote:

A powerful commentary. As a musician and music therapist who also values transpersonal states of awareness, I want to add that there are forms of consciousness that are "ineffable" and have no terminology, and as a result are expressed through music, dance, and art for just that reason - they are beyond words. Maybe in the future have the terminology, but the consciousness surely exists without the terminology in this case!



On Sep 16, 2014 Dave wrote:

 Wow, what a negative article to start off my day! I did not adore or cherish the criticism of the English language, and by extension, those who speak it. I also don't accept the dualistic views on feeling and thinking. I cannot buy the notion that if one is superior at thinking they will tend to be less superior at feeling. I also believe that you do not have to be fat and dumb to be happy.  In your next article, please bring back that loving feeling, oh, that loving feeling. 



On Sep 16, 2014 Aaron wrote:

I 'love' this piece for the opportunity it gives to consider the impact of something that I haven't fully considered, language/words. I believe our societies should reflect our values and I find it painful that in a western society where 'love' in many forms is clearly present,'love' lacks the recognition, acknowledgement and celebration it warrants. Many would argue that a lack of 'love' could be attributed to the amount of problems we face in our 'modern' world; poverty, in equality, racism, war, rape, murder... And some would argue 'love' will help solve these problems. How many words do we have for sex, money and war in our 'western' societies vocabulary?  So for me, although not the only method, language/words are the most commonly used method to communicate in our 'western' societies and therefore one of the most valuable areas for change. The use of language/words has been and is growing everyday with the amount of different med  See full.

I 'love' this piece for the opportunity it gives to consider the impact of something that I haven't fully considered, language/words. I believe our societies should reflect our values and I find it painful that in a western society where 'love' in many forms is clearly present,'love' lacks the recognition, acknowledgement and celebration it warrants.
Many would argue that a lack of 'love' could be attributed to the amount of problems we face in our 'modern' world; poverty, in equality, racism, war, rape, murder... And some would argue 'love' will help solve these problems. How many words do we have for sex, money and war in our 'western' societies vocabulary? 

So for me, although not the only method, language/words are the most commonly used method to communicate in our 'western' societies and therefore one of the most valuable areas for change. The use of language/words has been and is growing everyday with the amount of different mediums; stories, music, letters, books, newspapers, radio, phones, journals, tv, videos, mobiles, websites, blogs, emails, social media...  If we as a society value 'love' then surely this should be reflected in the language/vocabulary we use. The fact there is only 'one' word may or may not be the issue, but clearly its significance, its different forms, its value, its presence, its ability to change and the context in which we speak of it is. Let's continue to speak of, practice and celebrate love in all it's forms and ask that there be more of it... With love Aaron.

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On Sep 16, 2014 Maya wrote:

We have many names for God, however it did not enlighten most of society to realize God within... Having many words for love does not induce that emotion in generous levels within us. Emotional healing of our unconscious mind wounds created from the past needs to be healed in order for us to receive unconditional love for self and give it to others. We are all a work in progress at this, I believe. 



On Sep 16, 2014 Sumanta wrote:

 Nicely explained,
if we have more words for love it would create any difference i dont think so, it only showed how rich the language is? its only depending on the person who is realising the value of love for whom he has in his heart.  

The post is awesome................ keep writing



On Sep 15, 2014 Jyoti wrote:

Yes, a richer vocabulary for love is desirable and would enrich our world. Everyone says Sanskrit has these words, but why do not share some of these so we can start using them? I am ready. I do not believe that thinking and feeling exist at the expense of each other, for in practice, it is impossible to find a perfectly (ir)rational thinker !



On Sep 14, 2014 david doane wrote:

 What a fascinating article.  I never knew that various cultures had so many words for what's important to them, and English is so impoverished in words about love and feeling, though it makes sense since we are so impoverished in awareness regarding love and feelings and inner experience in general.  I don't think superiority in one function only comes at the expense of the other.  I think we can be superior in both.  I play with the notion that whole thinking and whole feeling grow concurrently, not divergently, and that you can only have as much of one as you have of the other.  Thinking is dominant in this culture, and some would think superior, but so much thinking is unwhole, fragmented, and unwise because it is separated from feeling which is so ignored and also unwhole.  So, both our thinking and feeling are impoverished.  I see the impoverishment of my thinking and feeling when I am awakened to or at least get a glimpse of the lack of c  See full.

 What a fascinating article.  I never knew that various cultures had so many words for what's important to them, and English is so impoverished in words about love and feeling, though it makes sense since we are so impoverished in awareness regarding love and feelings and inner experience in general.  I don't think superiority in one function only comes at the expense of the other.  I think we can be superior in both.  I play with the notion that whole thinking and whole feeling grow concurrently, not divergently, and that you can only have as much of one as you have of the other.  Thinking is dominant in this culture, and some would think superior, but so much thinking is unwhole, fragmented, and unwise because it is separated from feeling which is so ignored and also unwhole.  So, both our thinking and feeling are impoverished.  I see the impoverishment of my thinking and feeling when I am awakened to or at least get a glimpse of the lack of clarity and depth in my thinking and feeling, such as when impoverishment in words about love and feelings is pointed out by this article.  Someone wise said thinking makes a fine servant and a terrible master.  I agree with that.  I think remembering that and looking inside ongoingly helps us balance the thinking and feeling functions so that both will be superior. 

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On Sep 11, 2014 Abhishek Thakore wrote:

 At one level. having multiple words surely allows for greater nuance and precision....but then again, words are merely pointers - in fact they can end up becoming cages, keeping us from the seamless experience of an emotion....

The many words for snow may help the eskimos but maybe a child playing in the snow for the first time ever (without having even a single word for it) experiences snow in a much rawer and direct way than a 30-words-for-snow eskimo ever can....

In fact the moment I know I am going to meet an 'eskimo' I already have made so many assumptions about the person.....the word, in that case actually is a hurdle for me meeting the real person hiding behind the word....

The deepest of our experiences are beyond words - and we are united in our inability to ever articulate or share them and in reveling in their ineffable-ness



2 replies: Nilam, Jyoti | Post Your Reply
On Sep 11, 2014 Jagdish P Dave wrote:

 The contradictory way of perceiving the reality is bothersome to me. The either -or mind set- instead of this and that is closer to perceiving the reality. In Jainism, it is called syadvada-the reality, the existence , is multifaceted like many colors of the rainbow. We hear this contradictory way of  relating to each other by sayings like either you are with me or against me. This polarized way of seeing everything is an indication of our fragmented way relating to ourselves and others. We are familiar with the value we put on the left brain dominance, the head brain, the thinking brain at the cost of the right brain, the heart brain, the feeling brain. Our educational system is designed and developed for the cultivation of the left brain. Think about the damage done to the right brained children in a country in which we believe and claim to be equal and to be treated equally. I was born and raised in India in an extended family with a large number of family  See full.

 The contradictory way of perceiving the reality is bothersome to me. The either -or mind set- instead of this and that is closer to perceiving the reality. In Jainism, it is called syadvada-the reality, the existence , is multifaceted like many colors of the rainbow. We hear this contradictory way of  relating to each other by sayings like either you are with me or against me. This polarized way of seeing everything is an indication of our fragmented way relating to ourselves and others. We are familiar with the value we put on the left brain dominance, the head brain, the thinking brain at the cost of the right brain, the heart brain, the feeling brain. Our educational system is designed and developed for the cultivation of the left brain. Think about the damage done to the right brained children in a country in which we believe and claim to be equal and to be treated equally.

I was born and raised in India in an extended family with a large number of family members. We express our love for parents, brothers, sisters, younger and older and even for Gods and Goddesses  by using different words for love. The different words convey different shades of love, different meanings of love. Words are very powerful. The brain research shows how positive words and negative words  differently affect the brain circuits. There is a great wisdom in the saying, " How you think and how you say and behave have a tremendous impact on us and others."

I am living my life in a balanced way. I value both sides of my brain, head and heart, and relate to me and others mindfully and compassionately. My life has been enriched by embracing and practicing the wise saying that I leaned as a child: Truth is one, perceived and expressed differently by different truth seekers.

I value this weekly thoughtful and thought provoking gift and the comments of all to the weekly reading. Namaste.

Jagdish P Dave




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On Sep 11, 2014 Kristin Pedemonti wrote:

Here's to creating new words for love. I am one who feels deeply and yet much of what I say are "thinking" statements. I tend to rationalize my feelings with thinking. Thank you for pointing out a lack in the English language, perhaps we will be inspired to create new words to describe the countless ways to love. Hugs from my heart to yours!



1 reply: Dave | Post Your Reply