Nothing divides the religious world as much as the slightly spooky practice of speaking in tongues. Those of the Reformed tradition believe it to be 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 burst into tongues at the drop of an ecstatic hat, before trying to sell you the experience! No wonder the non-Christian world shies away from such opposing camps, declaring ‘Thanks, but no thanks!’
Many books have been written for an against the modern psycho-spiritual phenomenon known as tongues speaking or to give it its more respectable Greek name glossolalia. In this little post I’ve no intention in arguing my way through the theological minefield of trying to prove the validity or spurious nature of such a religious practice. For like a well-loved security blanket, the proponents of either side of the argument are highly unlikely to change their minds. Rather I wish to briefly examine the psycho-spiritual practice from a slightly different perspective.
First, let me come clean!
I am a tongues speaker even after all my painful experiences within the somewhat wacky 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 psycho-spiritual phenomenon. 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 good press. Wide eyed fanatics dancing wildly in little wooden churches while belting out their glossolalic utterances to all and sundry, do tend to make the casual onlooker extremely nervous. Send for Ghostbusters is one’s instinctive reaction! Yet, the experience of being in a crowd of well-behaved tongues singers is a most uplifting and somewhat spiritual high; one similar to tuning into the most beatific of Gregorian chants. There is definitely something to this phenomenon, but what?
Let me come at this question from the angle of mimetic desire and the freedom of the Queendom 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 to protect us, albeit by demonizing the other, the one blamed for our fast approaching catastrophe. The fight or flight connection within the neural programming of our magnificent brains works hand in hand with our ego advocate. It looks like we’re stuck with such a reflex response to perceived if often illusory danger. Or are we?
St. Paul, the most prolific tongues speaker in the early Yeshua movement has an interesting take on things. He claims that glossolalia is a verbal expression of the human spirit; a psycho-spiritual link joining the Divine Spark within to the Divine Fire without. In my previous posts I have suggested that experiential salvation has less to do with escaping a fearful firy hell and more to do with our release from an internal psychic prison, viz. our skewed desire center and its ego ally.
May I suggest that tongues speaking is a psychic switch, a tool to unhook us, if 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, a contact with the flow of Divine Presence. The tongue is somehow tuning into the Divine channel, whilst leaving behind the internal wiring of desire conflict. Without being in a frenzied state of abandonment, the tongues speaker has consciously switched into an altered state of consciousness, one where they retain control but have a psychic space in which to breathe, free from the chatter of our competing sub-personalities.
So where does that leave us?
Well, for me, the gift of tongues is a psycho-spiritual ability to detach and connect. To detach from the swirling desire Matrix in which we swim. To connect to our core Self and its Mother Ship, Divine Love. Best done in private methinks and well away from the show biz setting of the TV evangelist and their somewhat hypnotised followers.
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