The word spell can be defined as; to name or write in order the letters constituting a word or part of a word, a word or formula believed to have magic power, a compelling attraction; charm or fascination. For example an undefined period of your life without intercourse could be described as a dry spell. Spellbound in English is defined as; entranced by or as if by a spell, in Finnish this word could be translated as haltioissaan which originates from shamanistic believes of pre-Christian Finnish and means the state where one is in the control of an elf (haltija). People have associated words, written or spoken, with magical powers and words have even been connected to creation of the universe. In the biblical creation myth Genesis, which borrowed heavily from Enûma Eliš the Babylonian creation myth that predates Genesis by hundreds of years, god created the world by saying aloud names of the elements e.g. “Let there be light”. In the ancient Near East the act of naming was bound up with the act of creating: thus in Egyptian literature the creator god pronounced the names of everything, and the Enûma Eliš begins at the point where nothing has yet been named. These are typical examples of cosmogonical (theory or model of the origin and evolution of the universe) creation myths where people impose order, by words, to Cosmos which is in a state of chaos or amorphousness.
What was the first word? My money is on “GRAAH!” or other type of scream which would have indicated an impending danger such as a lion or crocodile. Natural selection did the rest, those who understood the meaning and were able to warn others survived and reproduced. When was it uttered? There are many theories for evolution of language, two main ones are continuity and discontinuity theories. Noam Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistic and philosophy in MIT and stands quite alone with his view of discontinuity theory where he states that a single mutation in one individual around 100 000 years ago changed the brain of that person so that it was possible to form words. It is true that other mammals have the anatomical ability produce similar sounds as humans but they lack the cognitive capacity. Chomsky things that this mutation unleashed the ability to form recursive structures in the mind, in other words it was the emergence of sentience.
Most scholars are on the side of continuity theory which claims that ability to speak developed gradually, either from innate resources or from steadily increasing cognitive abilities, there are also those who see language as socially learned tool of communication which started from body gestures. Many scholars imagine that language evolved from early human´s capability to create music and songs. Robert Logan sees the origin of language in the need to conceptualize things that were necessary for survival and says that the first humans were those who spoke. He also divided development of language to six parts; speech, writing, math, science, computing and internet. Every time a way of communication reached its limits, when there was an information overload, another way of communication has evolved to create order into a chaotic system.
There are no fossils or other archeological evidence to prove when man started babbling and most likely to gossip what the people in neighboring huts were doing. Some scientist have connected the archeological evidence of bone carvings, cave paintings and other art which started to explode around 50 000 years ago, to ability to comprehend symbols and that would suggest a potential for a language. This theory seems logical since creating art and understanding its meaning requires significant cognitive abilities and one could speculate language would emerge at the same time. According to studies done by Robin Dunbar where he observed (or stalked) people who were having a casual conversation in bars, restaurant, trains etc. he noticed that people talked about social relationships, basically gossiped, 2/3 of all the conversation time. This quite sad fact reminded me of a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people.” Now we have information on what and when we first spoke, it is time to move on the power of spoken word.
Language is something most of us take for granted, we speak to others daily without thinking about the way we convey information. It´s is amazing that such a simple act as vibrating air with vocal cords (demonstrated here) can implant ideas to other minds. The ability to speak evolved only once in human history where writing has evolved independently around the world. This biochemical tool of communication enabled people to exchange survival tactics, trade goods with others, learn from others and teach new ideas to people, cooperate on another level and hastened human migration to all corners of the world.
By the age of three about 90% of us could speak grammatically correct and we learned this language just by listening to others. There is a window of opportunity (thanks to plasticity of the brain) where learning a second language is relatively easy, this drops drastically around the age of seven and slows down as the child approaches puberty. When the child enters puberty, he/she stores new languages in separate area of the brain and requires translation and explicit grammar in training to learn. With the ability to speak comes responsibility to use that skill wisely. “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.” This rhyme has been told to disobedient children at least for 150 years and it has always been a big load of bullshit. Words have the power to crush the will of individual and worse.
“All great movements are popular movements. They are the volcanic eruptions of human passions and emotions, stirred into activity by the ruthless Goddess of Distress or by the torch of the spoken word cast into the midst of the people.” -Adolf Hitler-
Spoken words enable telepathy and mind control, before you start wearing a tinfoil hat it is imperative to know how. On a one-to-one level people can be rational and interesting individuals who think before they speak or do something. Ideas can be easily transmitted and critically analyzed. People can use their verbal skills to help others to understand the world better or in everyday live just by giving positive feedback. Words can also be used to destroy someone mentally by bombarding them with verbal abuses. What you say to others might literally be a matter of life and death. This just the individual level, some are more submissive to suggestions and hypnotizing but when people gather in groups they become imbecilic and easy to control. Joseph Goebbels said: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
This was true 70 years ago and is still today. With the help of modern technology it easier to reach more people and media is assaulting your mind everywhere but most of us should possess the shield against the information flood, it is called critical thinking. Dejectedly people seem to lose this ability in groups and go with the group behavior. People tend to respect authority, sometimes even blindly, and commit atrocities if they think someone else is in charge and claim that they were just following orders. This fact is obvious when one looks at history; torture, rape, capital punishment, war, ethnic cleansing, genocide, all these acts were done by ordinary individuals who were just following orders. How convenient. This is the reason I don´t blame the leaders as much as I do the people who have the opportunity to throw down the arms and say: “This is bullshit! Fuck you and fuck your war! I am not killing anyone!”
Written word also has the ability to shape minds but with it you can travel in time. Writing was not invented by poets or artists, it was created by bureaucrats and emerged from the need to mark who had paid taxes and what was to be ordered to the gods. First written language was Sumerian (cuneiform) in Mesopotamia around 4900 years ago, it was followed by Egyptian hieroglyphs about 200 years later and Akkadian circa 2400 BC. These languages arose when people moved into first urban areas and first cities were in Mesopotamia, these were called Eridu, Uruk and Ur. The human psyche has not changed much in the last 5000 years, thus, you can see the world as the people saw it thousands of years ago by reading their stories.
It is marvelous to be able to read and write, such a skill has been the privilege of few for nearly the whole time since the invention of writing. By reading I am able to transport myself to another time, place and mind, imagine what the future will bring and create new ideas from the thoughts of people who have long been dead. I am able to write down my ideas and implant them to your head, even though I might have never met you and you are living on the other side of this planet. I also try to avoid euphemistic language.
With recent the uprisings in Middle East that were partly powered by social media, it will be fascinating to see how internet will shape our world in the future. Internet is another revolution in the spreading of information compared to the invention of the printing press that resulted to rise of Protestantism and many wars with Catholicism, including the Thirty Years´ War. It also contributed to exchange of other ideas and helped to increase of scientific findings. It seems that we, now, are living in historical times which can change the human progress for centuries to come. What direction it will take is quite impossible to say since we are living in the change. There is an overwhelming amount of information available to many people in the world, what you and I do now does matter. I think and write these to thinks for my own pleasure but also to make others think. The spell of the word is stronger than ever in erudite world of light speed communication.
In 1910 a French artist called Villmard pictured that they year 2000 would look like this:
What will the world look like in 2102?
Good documentaries regarding this subject: