Answer 10 - speaking in tongues

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I wonder if these paragraphs from a paper I wrote on the subject of "speaking in tongues" would be relevant here:

Language and the Unconscious

...When on Pentecost the "tongues" of fire appeared over the heads of those gathered in the upper room, the result was that they began to speak in unknown "tongues" "as the Spirit gave them utterance." Here the word "tongue" is used in three ways: (1) as the licking shape of fire; (2) as a member of the body which facilitates speech; and (3) as a synonym for diverse languages. To say they spoke "as the spirit gave them utterance" implies that although the mechanism of speech was theirs, the words were not, at least not in the ordinary sense. Metaphorically understood, the description could be taken to mean that their speech was "inspired" or "anointed." In light of individuation symbolism, a possible interpretation could be that the disciples spoke with the voice of the transcendent Self, or from Aurobindo’s "supramental" level of higher consciousness.

But there is also the physiological aspect of the phenomenon to consider. From personal experience I would characterize the aptitude for speaking in an unknown language as attended by a shift in focus from head to heart, or from the conscious to the unconscious mind. Even more specific, the throat, vocal cords and windpipe, in addition to the tongue, are involved in the physical mechanism of speaking. Additionally, both breath and wind are symbolic of the Spirit.

Another clue comes from the Kundalini Yoga chakra system of the East which places the will center or chakra at the base of the throat. This becomes psychologically pertinent when the throat is considered as where emotion is choked back; where the expression of unwelcome feelings is held in check; where unresolved memories and associations are restrained from coming up and overpowering the conscious intent. Sometimes the breath itself is suppressed in the effort. In all of these ways the throat is the physical gateway to the unconscious--to the great unknown depths of the inner world. It seems reasonable to speculate that the phenomenon of speaking in an unknown language occasions an opening into the collective depths of the psyche where languages have their origin.

Paul makes reference to the different ways the "gift" of tongues manifested, both in public worship and private prayer, in first century Christianity. In one place he informs that the Spirit "intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words . . . [and] . . . according to the will of God." In another place he describes his personal prayer life as including both "praying" and "singing" with the spirit and with the mind.

When our fifth child was around three or four, I discovered "singing in the spirit" as a effective way of putting him to sleep at night. One night I became aware that he was singing along with me, and not in his mother tongue either. When I asked him about it he answered that he was singing in his "heavenly language." For some the ability to speak or sing in an unknown language is as simple as allowing sounds--syllables--to move the vocal cords and ride out on the wind of the breath. For others it is more difficult. When my decidedly cerebral husband decided to give it a try he could neither allow or make it happen, until one night I impatiently blurted out "Just do it!" And out came a beautiful language of praise he still is able to access at will.

If this approach appears to demystify what Pentecostals and Charismatics have presented as a purely spiritual experience, it is because in my estimation its psychological value has been largely underestimated. Not only can it be an ecstatic experience, but also one that is cathartic and therefore psychologically releasing, healing, and transforming. It is also a means by which communication with the deeper, transpersonal levels of the psyche can be accessed in an ongoing, at will manner. It as well can be approached as a two-way avenue of communication between ego and Self, between conscious and unconscious levels of awareness, or even human and divine dimensions.