Glossolalia and Glossographia

  • Sarah L. Higley
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Assumptions about Hildegard’s glossolalic tendencies were an early reaction to the discovery of the Lingua, but they are curiously tenacious. In his 1931 article, Paul Alphandéry attempts to put Hildegard’s Lingua in the category of the glossolalic, but notes that it poses some problems. 1 He begins with a discussion of the Montanists of the second century, a group of mystics known for their cultivation of ecstatic and trance states, who were eventually looked upon with suspicion by the early Church.


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  1. 1.
    Paul Alphandéry, “La Glossolalie dans le prophétisme médiéval latin,” Revue de l’histoire des religions 104 (1931): 417—436.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ibid., p. 418.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ibid., p. 421.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ibid., 422: “Comment alors concilier avec cette inspiration contrôlée les phénomènes de glossolalie ou d’apparence glossolalique que l’on croit rencontrer chez Hüdegarde?”Google Scholar
  5. 5.
  6. 6.
    Hildegard of Bingen, Epistolarium, ed. Lieven van Acker, CCCM vol. 91A, Letter 103r (Tumhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1991), p. 262.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Ibid., p. 261: “Ista autein nee corporels auribus audio nee cogitationibus cordis mei, nee uUa coUatione sensuum meorum quinqué percipio, sed tantum in anima mea, apertis exterioribus oculis, ita ut numquam in eis defectum éxtasis patiar; sed uigUanter die ac nocte iUa uideo.”Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Elisabeth of Schonau, Libri Visionem, 111.8, trans. Ann L. Clark, Elisabeth of Schonau: The Complete Works (New York: Paulist Press, 2000), p. 127.Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    Barbara J. Newman, Introduction, Hildegard of Bingen, Savias, trans. Mother Columba Hart and Jane Bishop (New York: Paulist Press, 1990), p. 17.Google Scholar
  10. 14.
    Bertha Widmer, Heilsordnung una Zeitgeschehen in âer Mystik Hilãegarãs von Bingen (Basel und Stuttgart: Verlag von Helbing & Lichtenhahn, 1955), p. 18: “Wenn nun aber diese geheimnisvoUe Sprache in dilettantisch und wiUkür-lich veranderten deutschen und lateinischen Wortem bestehen soU, so ist das eine so groteske Verflachung der ursprünglichen Idee, daB man sie einer wirklich mystisch Begabten nicht zumuten kann, vor aUem nicht, wenn sich diese sonst durch ihre rationale Nüchtemheit und Freiheit von auffàl-liger ekstatischer Erscheinung und Glossolalie auszeichnet.” By “original idea” [ursprünglichen Idee], Widmer here means the sophisticated knowledge of mystical or deific language that Hildegard may have referred to metaphorically in her letter to Pope Anastasius. However, like so many other commentators, she seems not to have actually consulted the Ignota Lingua—due, perhaps, to lack of interest—for she replicates the literary myth of its being nine hundred words.Google Scholar
  11. 15.
    Marina Yaguello, Les Fous du langage: des langues imaginaires et de leurs inventeurs (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1984), p. 44: “Le glossolale type est une femme noire, économiquement faible.”Google Scholar
  12. 16.
    Alessandro Bausani, Le Lingue Inventate: Linguaggi artificiale, linguaggi segreti, linguaggi universali (Rome: Ubaldini Editore, 1974), p. 83.Google Scholar
  13. 17.
    Umberto Eco, The Search fior the Peifiect Language, trans. James Fentriss (Oxford, UK and Cambridge, MA: BlackweU, 1997), p. 3.Google Scholar
  14. 22.
    John P. Kildahl, The Psychology of Speaking in Tongues (New York: Harper and Row, 1972), pp. 31, 36. Kildahl’s pronouncement that “glossolalia is not completely under the conscious control” of the glossolalist because his performance “cannot be duplicated by non-tongue speakers, even with strenuous conscious effort,” strikes me as false. It is not under the conscious control of the glossolalist because of a powerful spiritual experience, and not because it is impossible for the comedian or the game-player or anyone who can suspend inhibition to mimic it. See the accounts of hoaxters Psalmanazar and Princess Caraboo in chapter four of this book.Google Scholar
  15. 24.
    William J. Samarin, Tongues of Men and Angels (New York and London: Collier-MacMillan, 1970), p. 122.Google Scholar
  16. 25.
    Ibid., p. 124.Google Scholar
  17. 26.
    William J. Samarin, “Glossolalia as Regressive Speech,” in Language and Speech 16.1 (1973): 79 [77–89].Google Scholar
  18. 29.
    Bertil Malmberg, Structural Linguistics and Human Communication (Berlin and New York: Springer Verlag, 1967), p. 129, qtd by Samarin, “Glossolalia,” p. 82.Google Scholar
  19. 30.
    Jeffrey T. Schnapp, “Virgin Words: Hildegard of Bingen’s Lingua Ignota and the Development of Imaginary Languages Ancient to Modern,” Exemplaria 3.2 (1991): 267–298.Google Scholar
  20. 31.
    Ibid., p. 290.Google Scholar
  21. 32.
    In La charpente phonique du langage (Paris: Minuet, 1980), p. 262, Jakobson praises the collaboration of psychologists and linguists, such as Floumoy and Ferdinand de Saussure, which he hopes will inspire new research into the phenomenon of delirium and glossolalia (qtd. by Jean-Jacques Courtine, introduction: “Pour Introduire aux glossolalies: Un hommage à Michel de Certeau,” Les Glossolalies, éd. Courtine, in Langages 91 [1988]: 5 [5—6]). This issue is a good source for a number of essays that put Smith’s “Martian” language in a category with “glossolalia.”Google Scholar
  22. 33.
    de Certeau writes in “Utopies Vocales: Glossolalie,” Traverse 20 (1980): 28 [26—37]: “What utopia is to social space, glossolalia is to oral communication”; qtd. and trans, by Sonu Shamdasani, Introduction to Théodore Flournoy, From India to the Planet Mars: A Case of Multiple Personality with Imaginary Languages, trans. Daniel B. VermUye (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994) p. xxxviii, n. 87.Google Scholar
  23. 34.
    “par une activité subconsciente.” Flournoy, Des Indes à la Planète Mars: Étude sur un cas de somnambulisme avec glossolalie, ed. Marina Yaguello and Mireille Cifali (Paris: Seule, 1983), p. 177.Google Scholar
  24. 35.
    Yaguello, Fous du langage, p. 132 (her emphasis): “Ce qui distingue ainsi le glossolale du sujet parlant une langue maternelle, c’est que ce n’est pas lui qui parle. Il n’y a pas de relation de personne, de je, sujet énonciateur au centre du discours, de je qui prend en charge renonciation et se situe par là même dans une continuité temporelle et spatiale. Hélène Smith parle sous la dictée des esprits ou des extra-terrestres. La glossolale religieux parle les paroles de Dieu ou des anges. Le prophète non plus n’est pas un je.” For those who want an English translation of Les Fous du langage, see that by Catherine Slater, Lunatic Lovers of Language: Imaginary Languages and Their Inventors (London: Athlone Press, 1991).Google Scholar
  25. 38.
    Referred to by Ibid. Emile Benveniste’s criteria for language can be found in “Homme dans la langue,” and “La Communication,” in his Problèmes de linguistique générale, 11 (Paris: Gallimard, 1976), pp. 63—64. Yaguello admits that Smith’s Martian does fulfill both requirements.Google Scholar
  26. 41.
    Mark Atherton, “The Unknown Language,” in Hildegard of Bingen: Selected Writings, ed. Mark Atherton (London and New York: Penguin, 2001), p. 161. This assessment can really only apply to the untranslated antiphon.Google Scholar
  27. 42.
    Frank Kermode, The Genesis of Secrecy: On the Interpretation of Narrative (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979), pp. 20, 1.Google Scholar
  28. 43.
    Whitley Stokes, “The Evemew Tongue,” Eriu: The Journal of the School of Irish Learning. 2 (1905): 96—162.Google Scholar
  29. 44.
    The facsimile version is edited by Robert Alexander Stewart Macalister (Dublin: Stationery Off, 1950). The MS has double pagination because of the haphazard retrieval and care of this manuscript. In the right-hand upper comer, for those examining the facsimile, the text is to be found beginning on folio 88, with a beautifully ornate capital IN Principio, whereas the lower left-hand comer designates the folio number that Stokes refers to.Google Scholar
  30. 47.
    See G.R.S. Mead, “Summary of the Contents of the So-CaUed Pistis Sophia Treatise,” in Fragments of a Faith Forgotten (New York: University Books, 1960), p. 487: “but as for the rest of the lower mysteries, ye have no need thereof, but ye shall find them in the two books of leuo, which Enoch wrote when I spoke with him from the Tree of Knowledge, and from the Tree of Life, which were in the Paradise of Adam.”Google Scholar
  31. 49.
    Agrippa, Henry Cornelius. Three Books of Occult Philosophy, Book III, Chap, xxiii, trans. James Freake (London: Gregory Moule, 1651), pp. 412—414; for the annotated edition, see that by Donald Tyson, ed. (St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2004), p. 530.Google Scholar
  32. 50.
    Emanuelis Swedenborg, De cáelo et ejus mirabilibus et de inferno, ex auâitis et visis, éd. Samuel H. Worcester (New York: American Swedenborg Society, 1880), Para. 241: “inde loquela angelorum caelestium est instar lenis fluvü, moUis et quasi continua, sed loquela angelorum spiritualium est paulum vibratoria et discreta: etiam loquela angelorum caelestium sonat multum ex vocalibus U et O, at loquela angelorum spiritualium ex vocalibus E et 1; vocals enim sunt pro sono, et in sono est affection; … loquela angelorum caelestium est etiam absque consonantibus duris, et raro labitur a consonante in consonantem, nisi per interpositionem vocis quae incipit a vocali.”Google Scholar
  33. 51.
    Una Nic Enri and G. Mac NiocaUl, “The Second Recension of the Evernew Tongue,” Celtica 9 (1971): 1—60.Google Scholar
  34. 52.
    Ibid., p. 9.Google Scholar
  35. 56.
    Part 4 of YagueUo’s book is entitled “Défense et illustration des langues naturelles,” translated by Catherine Slater as “In Defence of Natural Languages” (Lunatic Lovers of Language: Imaginary Languages and Their Inventors [London: Athlone Press, 1990], p. Ill); one contemporary language inventor remarked online that this reminded him of the “Defense of Marriage Act.” Invent a language or let homosexuals marry and both language and marriage come toppling down. Another remarked that both language-invention and homosexuality were conditions society expected one to “grow out of.” The frequent comparison online of language invention and the closet (Tolkien’s “Secret Vice”) is worth further exploration.Google Scholar

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© Sarah L. Higley 2007

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