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Changing Reality with Language—On Suzette Haden Elgin’s “Native Tongue” Trilogy


Morphogenic Language Suzette Haden Elgin Native Tongue trilogy

“Magic, you perceive, is not something mysterious, not something for witches and sorcerers . . . magic is quite ordinary and simple. It is simply language,” (Suzette Haden Elgin, Native Tongue).


As I’ve been working on a series of essays centered around language and the perceptional filters of our heart-mind experience that creates a lexical framework that simultaneously individuates and objectifies consensus reality—in truth, what’s at the center of all esoteric teachings and psycho-mythic thoughtforms—I’m revisiting linguist, Suzette Haden Elgin’s provocative “Native Tongue” world.


Upon first reading Native Tongue, I was reminded of Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale, popularized by the Hulu screen adaptation, although NT was first published a year before in 1984. It’s remarkable to “perceive” that both writers, unbeknownst to themselves, were working on similar themes, stifling, patriarchal environments that objectify and strip down women to the sole function of breeding stock, but unsurprising, when you consider the slow-crawl reformation of civil rights out of the Dark-Age-sepulcher that irritatingly still has to be contended with to this day or take into account the archetypal themes brought to collective awareness via Pluto’s ingress into Scorpio.


Societal and cultural change always takes a frustratingly, often pendulous, long time. A theme beautifully constructed throughout Elgin’s trilogy, climaxing with The Judas Rose and in epilogue with Earthsong. Her work as a linguist set Native Tongue aside from other works of its kind, making it a true “masterwork” of speculative fiction. The landscape of oppression brews the undercurrents of dissent in a way that disintegrates and reconstructs the foundation of a domineering regime from the inside out, creating longstanding change through the most powerful tool available—the evolution and recreation of reality itself by way of language—the common denominator that unifies a cultural system and provides methods of expressing a consensus reality by a shared symbology.


To change the world, you must adapt and create new methods of expressing the world you are trying to conceive. Beyond the esoteric notions of the “power of the word,” the immaterial given birth to the material by transmutation of thought to sound, establishing a consensus for that which has no established consensus requires new words, even a new language, to come into being so that understanding, or gnosis, can flower into consciousness. Our expression of this nebulous, inexpressible terrain is often only achieved through metaphor and analogy, best conveyed through story, poetry, art, and mythic allegory (to which, no matter how seemingly founded upon material matters, scientific and mathematical models are just another path to define the ineffable). The simultaneous precision and morphogenic qualities of language mirror, and continuously redefine, our collective reality that’s supplemented by our unique, individuated experiences needing perpetual renewal the more we evolve, learn, and grow, that is at the heart of all of the arts and the pure magic of our co-creation of the universe. What we perceive is what we create, and our methods of communicating what we perceive are paramount to the world, universe, and reality we wish to exist within.

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