29 March 2009

Thirty Days to a More Avataric Vocabulary

Time to recycle some older material. I used to post an occasional feature called "Kendra's Believe It or Don't" on the Meher Baba-Talk Listserv. (That's a take-off on the old "Ripley's Believe It or Not," originally a comic strip.)


“What Can It All Mean?”

Thirty Days to a More Avataric Vocabulary

The Discourses of Meher Baba are well known among discerning spiritual aspirants for the profound depths of wisdom, inspiration, and guidance that they offer. In the mad pursuit of Truth and Realization, however, few stop to observe that this masterwork of the Avatar of the Age is also a source of many unusual, interesting, or impressive words that we might study in order to expand our vocabulary to Avataric proportions. Let us consider a few examples.

1. Surrenderance. Example: “The last surrender is the only complete surrenderance” (p. 257). This unusual word is noted in the editors’ foreword to the revised 1987 edition of the Discourses: “The word surrenderance is used throughout the text as a variant of surrender, but it does not appear in any major dictionary. The question of course arose whether it should be retained or not, as it did not ‘officially’ exist. An inquiry to Merriam-Webster Inc. produced a delightful reply: Although there was lack of evidence that surrenderance had ever been used anywhere else, it need not be regarded as a nonword and should be judged on its own merits. Since Meher Baba had actually spelled out this word on His alphabet board, it was felt that surrenderance certainly merited retention.”

2. Vitiated, vitiation. Example: “Falsehoods that arise due to irregular thinking are less harmful than those that arise from vitiated thinking” (p. 380). Did you have to look this one up? “Vitiate” means “to make faulty or defective, often by the addition of something that impairs; to debase in moral or aesthetic status; to make ineffective or weak.” (In the case of vitiated thinking or the “vitiation of the intellect,” it is desires and attachments that debase the intellectual activity, according to Baba.) I like the way it feels to say this word—it’s almost as tasty as “vichyssoise.” Baba speaks several times of “vitiation of the intellect.”

3. Vicissitudes, as in “the incapacity to adjust oneself to the ever-changing and multitudinous vicissitudes of life” (p. 80) Another nice V-word. Vicissitudes are difficulties or hardships beyond one’s control; the word also implies the state of changeability. This word trips nicely off the tongue and goes especially well with “multitudinous” here, don’t you think? For extra impact, try the adjective form, “vicissitudinous,” on your friends.

4. Unrelieved. This isn’t a word you’d need to look up, but it is notable for its frequent appearance in the Discourses. A few examples: “unrelieved despair” (p. 8), “unrelieved self-forgetfulness” (139), “unrelieved struggle” (142), “unrelieved monotony” (203), “unrelieved ignorance” (241), “unrelieved uniformity” (258), “unrelieved hatred” (298). The adjective “unrelieved” should be used with a noun that connotes something negative.

5. Last but not least: abecedarian. In India people seem to really relish strange words (e.g., zetetic, as in Prof. Hazra’s Memoirs of a Zetetic), and this one is a prime candidate. It appears only once: “The attitude of unqualified contempt for occult experiences is of course most pronounced in those who are not even abecedarians in direct knowledge of the occult” (p. 180). An abecedarian is someone who is just learning the rudiments or ABC’s of a subject; the first three syllables are pronounced just like the letters: A B C – darian.

Some of these delightful words might even become part of a kind of code language whereby BLs could secretly identify themselves to one another by casually dropping certain key words and phrases into their conversation--words that are not often used by others. “Drop soul.” “Backbiting.” “More and more and still yet more.” “Hopeless and helpless.”. . . “Unrelieved.”

6. Another of my favorites, though I don't know if it was ever used by Baba himself is Quietude (from signs at the Barn and Baba’s House at Meher Center in Myrtle Beach).


Tom Hickey said...


Example: “Falsehoods that arise due to irregular thinking are less harmful than those that arise from vitiated thinking” (p. 380).


Roger Bacon: ‘‘More truth arises through error than

Max Reif said...

I was hopin' you'd get "quietude" in there. Very cute title amd examples. I guess most of the other words would be ones from other languages, mainly Arabic or Persian

All quotes of Meher Baba © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust unless otherwise indicated. Writings by Kendra are © Kendra Crossen Burroughs unless otherwise noted.