Senzar: The Mystery of the Mystery Language
"Senzar is no ordinary form of speech. It is secret. It is distributed over the whole globe. It is used by initiated adepts.
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, H.P.B. 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).
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.
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 H.P.B. 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, H.P.B. cites a letter in which the "secret sacerdotal language" is called Senzar Brahma-Bhashya (CW V, 62). H.P.B.'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 asbtract 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, H.P.B. 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.
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." (SD II, 198)
Whatever Senzar was, H.P.B. 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 numerical value of words, known as Isopsephia, 1 is a branch of the ancient sacerdotal language.
Words or phrases that share the same numerical value also share the same spiritual significance. Isopsephia was taught in the Lesser Mysteries but the language itself was reserved for high initiates alone.
All the allegories — Jewish as well as Pagan — contain truths that can only be understood by him who knows the mystic language of antiquity. Let us see what is said on this subject by one of our most distinguished Theosophists, a fervent Platonist and a Hebraist, who knows his Greek and Latin like his mother tongue, Professor Alexander Wilder of New York:2
The root-idea of the Neo-Platonists was the existence of the One and Supreme Essence. This was the Diu or “Lord of the Heavens” of the Āryan nations, identical with the Ιαω (Iaō) of the Chaldeans and Hebrews, the Iabe of the Samaritans, the Tiu or Tuisto of the Norwegians, the Duw of the ancient tribes of Britain, the Zeus of those of Thrace, and the Jupiter of the Romans. It was the Being — (non-Being), the Facit, one and supreme. It is from it that all other beings proceeded by emanation. Perchance someday a wiser man will combine these systems in a single one. The names of these different divinities seem often to have been invented with little or no regard to their etymological meaning, but chiefly on account of this or another mystical significance attached to the numerical value of the letters in their orthography.
This numerical value is one of the branches of the “mystery-language” or the ancient sacerdotal language. It was taught in the “Lesser Mysteries,” but the language itself was reserved for the high initiates alone. The candidate must have come out victorious from the terrible trials of the Greater Mysteries before receiving instruction in it. That is why Ammonius Saccas, like Pythagoras, made his disciples take an oath never to divulge the higher doctrines to any but those to whom the preliminary tenets had already been imparted, and who, therefore, were ready for initiation. Another sage, who preceded him by three centuries, did the same by his disciples, in saying to them that he spoke “in similes” (or parables), “because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given . . . because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.” 3
Gen 11:6 And
the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language;
and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them,
which they have imagined to do.