Sensual Speech

What does this phrase make you think about? Speech punctuated with sensation? Speech that evokes a certain level of sensations in the audience? Speech that is concerned with physical, and particularly sexual sensation? Speech that is sensuous in and of itself?

Jakob Bӧhme, a German philosopher and Christian mystic (also referred to as shoemaker and rabid enthusiast by his detractors) claimed that Adam spoke “sensual speech”, which is markedly different from all known languages. It is the language employed by all animals, except that sick animal, the human.

Humanity did not emerge being able to speak, not in the manner that we do today. According to Yuval Noah Harrari, in “Sapiens”, which is a book I recommend for everyone, language developed over the course of history. There are numerous theories about the origin of language, although the one I recall is the gossip theory of language. In this theory, language developed out of a need to form larger communities. As we can see from the wild, animals can only form so large a community (or tribe), until it fractures and splinter groups emerge. With the increasing need for human cooperation and community into the hundreds, gossip was a necessary tool to help us get there.

Gossip, in this case, is not a negative aspect as it enables humans who have never met or interacted to know bits about each other prior to their initial interaction. This aspect enables the creation of larger communities than are typically possible, as in the case of the animal kingdom.

The use of gossip also involved the use of abstract language that does not necessarily appeal to any of the senses. Traditionally, all human communication (and all present animal communication) was grounded in sensuality: the particular concept in communication had to appeal to the sense of smell, or sight, or hearing, or taste, or touch. I’ll limit my description to these five basic senses, although I’m aware that modern science claims numerous more senses including proprioception (the sense of space), equilibrioception (perception of balance), nociception (perception of pain), thermoception (perception of heat), among others.

Therefore, communication and language was grounded in these senses. Our modern speech though, is flooded with numerous concepts and elements that are abstract, and do not necessarily trigger any of your senses. Okay, there is a huge contradiction here: spoken language is obviously perceived audibly (sense of hearing) while written language is perceived visually (sense of sight). However, if someone tells you’re a story that features birds chirping at some point, your sense of hearing is engaged since you can imagine how the chirping of birds sounds, whether or not you have heard such a sound. On the other hand, if the same story mentions the concept of irony at some point, which sense does that engage? The sense of thinking? Hehe.

Anyway, sensual speech. Interesting concept.

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