I probably don’t need to explain what ‘Speaking in tongues’ is, because in this day and age most people – inside and outside Christianity – have heard of it. (But in case you don’t know what it is, there’s a short explanation at the end of this article*). Personally, I dislike the term ‘tongues’; I prefer to call it the ‘Spirit language’, which I know sounds just as weird, but at least it doesn’t conjure up in my mind the images of naughty children pulling faces.
Trying to find a meme for the header for this article, I noticed so many different perspectives, from those who believe that people who speak in tongues are ‘demon-possessed’, to those who use the gift privately, to those who make a right old exhibition of themselves. And then, on the ‘outside’, people thinking it’s all a little bit insane. And I get that. But I would say that there are fully rational people, cynical even, people like me, who use this gift without batting an eyelid. In fact, once you have read the article presented below, take a look at some of the replies to the original post and you will see what I mean. Ordinary people using an extraordinary gift.
Anyway, in this piece which I am sharing today, Irish writer Dylan Morrison presents a gentle, balanced and enquiring view on the practice, and which is refreshing to read. I’ve prattled on long enough. Here’s Dylan:
Nothing divides the religious world as much as the slightly spooky practice of speaking in tongues. Most Jesus followers of the Reformed tradition believe it to be totally obsolete for those on the spiritual path. If you’ve got the Bible that’s all one needs, apart that is from a trained pastor-teacher to feed you its gems! Meanwhile, Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians are only too willing to burst into tongues at the drop of an ecstatic hat, before trying to sell you their beatific experience! No wonder the non-Christian world shies away from such opposing camps, dismissively declaring ‘Thanks, but no thanks!’
Now, many books have been written for and against the modern psycho-spiritual phenomenon known as tongues speaking, or to give it its more respectable Greek name glossolalia. In this little article I’ve no intention of arguing my way through the theological minefield of trying to prove either the validity or spurious nature of this religious utterance, for like a well-loved security blanket, the proponents of either side of the argument are highly unlikely to change their minds. Instead, I wish to briefly examine the psycho-spiritual practice from a slightly different perspective.
First, let me come clean! I am still a tongues speaker even after all my painful experiences within the somewhat whacky world of Charismatic Christianity. My disillusionment with the vision and often dysfunctional, hierarchical practices of faith groups within that particular religious stream have surprisingly not shifted this most unusual of verbal curiosities. Many of my fellow ex-Charismatics dumped their tongue many moons ago, as they ran back into the security of conservative Christianity or into the freeing wilderness of non-belief.
Let’s face it – speaking in tongues doesn’t have a particularly good press. Wide-eyed fanatics dancing wildly in little wooden churches while belting out their glossolalic gushings to all and sundry, do tend to make the casual onlooker more than a little nervous. Send for the ‘Ghostbusters’ or the men in white coats is one’s instinctive reaction! Yet, the experience of being in a crowd of well-behaved tongues singers is a most uplifting spiritual high; one similar to tuning into the most sublime Gregorian chants. There is definitely something to this strange but comforting occurence, but what?
Let me come at this question from the angle of mimetic desire and the freedom of the Queendom/Kingdom of God. In our day-to-day consciousness, ego or fragmented psyche is never far away. When pressure situations unexpectedly confront us our little ego warrior is always there ready to protect us, albeit by demonizing the other, the one blamed for our fast-approaching catastrophe. The pre-wired fight or flight tendency within the neural programming of our magnificent central nervous system, is all too willing to work hand in hand with our edgy ego advocate. Sadly, it looks like we’re stuck with such an automatic reflex response to perceived, if often illusory, dangers. Or are we?
Saul of Taurus, aka St. Paul, who claimed to be the most prolific of tongues speakers within the early Yeshua movement, has a somewhat interesting take on things. He claims that glossolalia is a verbal expression of the human spirit; a psycho-spiritual link joining our inner Divine Spark to the transcendent Divine Fire without. In previous articles I’ve suggested that experiential salvation has less to do with escaping a fearful fiery hell and more to do with our release from our internal psychic prison, viz. our skewed desire center and its ego ally.
So may I respectfully suggest that tongues speaking is a psychic switch of sorts, a tool to unhook us, albeit temporarily, from the dominance of our conscious mind and its default desire settings. In other words, the voluntary act of speaking in an unlearned language is a form of desire detachment, a realignment with our spirit I AM, and subsequently, an experiential connection with the energising flow of Divine Presence. The tongue in question is somehow tuning our inner receiver into the Divine channel, while defusing our psychological tendency for desire conflict.
Without having to enter into an uncontrollable, frenzied state of nihilistic abandonment, the tongues speaker has consciously moved into an altered state of consciousness, one where they retain full control but have a therapeutic, detached space in which to breathe – a mini ‘holy of holies’ if you like, one free from the constant chatter of their restless, love-starved sub-personalities.
So where does that leave us? Well, for me, the gift of tongues is an authentic psycho-spiritual ability for the purpose of disengagement and connection. To disengage from the swirling desire Matrix in which we all swim – to connect to our core Self and its Mother Ship, Divine Love. Though best done in private I reckon, far from the showbiz settings of white-suited TV evangelists and their somewhat hypnotised followers.
Excellent, thanks Dylan 🙂
To read the original article, click the graphic below. I would also recommend reading the comments from other readers of Dylan’s blog; they are most interesting.
*But for those who do not know what ‘speaking in tongues’ is, I would suggest you read in the Bible the passage in Acts chapter 2, verses 1-1, and 1 Corinthians chapters 12 and 14 for a general (and probably still confusing) overview of what ‘spiritual gifts’ are, and ‘tongues’ – one of the gifts – is mentioned in there a fair bit. Again, another term there: ‘spiritual gifts’. These gifts are what many believe are given (well, they are ‘gifts’, after all) to Christians by God the Holy Spirit; supernatural abilities that are used to encourage and build people up in their faith. So, things like healing, miracles, words of wisdom and knowledge (things that the person would not have known for themselves but are given by God), and one of those gifts is the ability to speak in languages unknown to the speaker – that’s what’s known as ‘tongues’. Whether these are earthly languages or not depends on the circumstances. If you don’t have a Bible you can always look those passages up on the Internet easily enough.