Could the invention of writing be a bad thing?

It is possible that writing and “abstract thought”  has been bad for humanity.

Before the invention of writing people treated knowledge in a concrete way, they viewed the world through their senses, and conveyed that knowledge in the language of the senses.  Ancient Hebrew is an example of concrete thinking, so that when spoken the hearer would know the action, function, sensory meaning, and relationship to self of the thing spoken of.

Ancient Hebrew was an example of the common way all language was used before writing was invented.  Writing uses different centers of the brain, thus the opportunity to deal with knowledge in a different way arose, which gave rise to abstracted thought. Abstract thought uses the mind rather than the senses; it deals with appearance of an object rather than its function; the thing is addressed rather than its action; and it deals with the object in relation to itself than how it relates to the person themselves.

Plato recognised the short comings of written language when he wrote about it in the Phaedrus.

The Greeks invented their form of writing, as did Egypt and Rome, all these cultures rapidly became abstract in their thinking, in how they related with their “gods” and each other.  Meaning could be easily separated from the object, then replaced with a different meaning, thus the relationship with those things rapidly changed.  One example is women, who had always held the leading position in society, but were now demoted to low status objects under the rule of men.

The philosopher class of the Celts, the Druids, recognised the challenges writing brought with it and resisted it in favour of the oral tradition, and concrete thinking.  It is unlikely that the Celts had their own written language, but noting the practical benefit of writing for mundane activities like financial record keeping they used the writing of the Greeks or other cultures.  Always the practical wisdom of the Celts was never recorded in writing, but passed on through the oral tradition.

The Gauls had a script, but it was a primitive innovation for routine non-essential tasks.  No evidence of Gaulish writing ever found its way to Britain.  When the Druids were forced underground after the Roman massacre of them in Wales, they generated a secret script called Ogham to communicate with each other.  It was only in the 400’s CE that Christian scribes made known the Ogham script, and it became used for routine purposes of boundary marking and memorial inscriptions for six hundred years in the British Isles and Ireland.

The Celtic languages of old remained concrete like Ancient Hebrew, but over time as English and writing became established so the Celtic languages also became abstracted.

Abstract thought and writing is a product of civilisation, and is one cause of problems facing humanity.  In the old “tongue” there was no disputes about meanings of words, and objects retained their meanings.  For the gift of writing and abstracted thought mankind in a certain manner sold its soul, and humanity is the worse for it.

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2 responses to “Could the invention of writing be a bad thing?

  1. Hi Alex, Here’s a long shot, do you know anything about Zosimus of Panoplies? He was apparently one of the first Alchemists. More specifically do you know anything about the principles in his book, “On the letter Omega”.

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