Word in Language (16): AIO (1)

In the previous article, we looked at the progression of human life – which is also the progression of the Greek alphabet – from A to I to O. A represents the letter of Creation, when AM created AN, a countable noun, a separate being, one that can have free will – that is to say, A MAN – whose name was ADAM. I is the letter of the Fall, of the era we live in, in which we are subject to our selfish impulses and seem to view one another as a source of profit instead of someone we should serve. I am reminded of two monks who tried to have an argument. One said, ‘Let’s quarrel.’ The other replied, ‘OK then.’ The first took hold of an object and declared, ‘This object is mine. I am going to take it.’ The other rejoined, ‘Please do,’ and that was the end of the argument. When we cede our will to another’s, there is no cause for a quarrel. O is the letter of repentance – we count down from the ego, I, to God, O, or to put it another way we open our spiritual eyes (our spiritual Is) and see that we ourselves are limited, the world is not going to fill us (or it is only going to do so temporarily) and the source of true life is God. This change of vision can be the result of a spiritual experience. In my case, it was, but this was after I had got down on my knees and called to God (if he truly existed) for assistance. I had realized my limits, but God did not invade my privacy, he waited for me to call him. I do think we have to take the first step. This happened when I was thirty-three and, without my knowing, it was Maundy Thursday when I called, and Easter Sunday when God answered.


All the examples I gave in the previous article of the progression AIO were between words: for example, AM-I’M-OM (NO ONE) or AMEN-MINE-NEMO/OMEN. I would like now to look at examples of this progression inside words, but I would like first to sound a note of warning. In all my study of word connections, which has occupied the last sixteen years, this is where my knowledge is most limited. I only see ‘through a glass, darkly’. I perceive that this progression exists inside words in the English language, but it is much wider than I am able to comprehend, and I think there is more to it. I shall try simply to make my case, and the reader will come to their own conclusions.


First of all, we must consider the alternatives. Inside words, the I of AIO may be written in the form of the corresponding semi-vowels j and y, or as lower-case l (which to all intents and purposes is identical to capital I):


I: j, y, l


Secondly, we have already seen the close resemblance between the capital letters O, D and G (the word GOD can thus be said to comprise three circles). We have also replaced the O of AIO with the corresponding Greek letter W (which is how lower-case omega is written in Greek), so we could expect to find the letter O written using these other letters:


O: d, g, w


Starting with AIO, then, we see the progression AIO in words like AID and DAY. The former reminds me of Orthodox prayers to the Virgin Mary, in which we ask her to ‘come to our aid’. The latter reminds me of the creation of the Day in the first chapter of Genesis, when God said, ‘Let there be light’ (Gen 1:3-5). It was as if he laid down the progression AIO right at the very beginning.


But there is a very curious example, which is IAO, an early Greek form of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton, YHWH. This early Greek form of the name Yahweh clearly contains the progression AIO.


If we repeat one of the letters, we find it in GLAD. This reminds me of the first verse of Psalm 122, ‘I was glad when they said unto me’, set so wonderfully to music by Sir Hubert Parry. Again if we repeat a letter, we will find the progression in LADY and, with the Greek way of writing omega, in MAID, two common appellations for the Virgin Mary.


It is in OAK, that most majestic of trees, if we take a step in the alphabet (k-l), and might also be found in trees like ELM and WILLOW (in the first, the Greek letter W  has been rotated to produce E and M; all three letters closely resemble the number 3) without the presence of A.


We can find it in the name of key figures in the Old Testament such as King DAVID (addition of v), who wrote the psalms, and in the name of contemporary saints such as PAISIOS (addition of p and s), perhaps the most beloved contemporary Greek saint, who has been compared to St Anthony of Egypt (it is in ANTHONY as well, but we will get to that in a moment).


If I replace O with W (AIW), then the most obvious example is the name of God in Exodus 3:14, I AM. This name contains the progression from A to I to O (W), and so do the key words that are connected to it: LAW and WAY, the law being that of the Old Testament and ‘way’ referring to Christ, the law in person, who said, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life’ (Jn 14:6).


The name ‘I am’ is found in ‘lamb’ (John the Baptist famously called Christ the Lamb of God, and this is confirmed by language), but it is also found in words like ‘lame’ (what we are without God), ‘male’ (the creation of Adam) and ‘mammal’ (the creation of animals). The LAMB took upon himself the BLAME for our sins and acted like a BALM. He opened his PALM (phonetic pair b-p) in an act of self-giving, and I think this is why the crowds outside Jerusalem laid palms on the road when he came riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. PALM is in PSALM (addition of s), during the reciting of which we place ourselves in God’s hands.


Do you begin to see how AIO (AIW) is present everywhere? It is in another Sanskrit word, MAYA (derived from the Sanskrit word MA, meaning ‘create’), which is defined in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary as ‘the power by which the universe becomes manifest’. It is in words that relate to other religions: DALAI LAMA, the Tibetan spiritual leader, or how about the Easter Island statues, which are known as MOAI and are erected on platforms called AHU (here we must take a step in the alphabet, h-i, and swap one back vowel for another, o-u)? It is also in Greek mythology – for example, the god APOLLO (addition of p) – and in Eastern practices such as YOGA and AIKIDO. What I have found is that it is much more prevalent than we might think, but I cannot say exactly why this is.


Let us now draw a line through the I and make a cross: †. The cross is best represented in the alphabet by the letter ‘t’ (also by ‘f’, ‘r’ and ‘x’):


†: t, f, r, x


If we delete the ego in the progression AIO, which is what we are called to do when we turn to God in repentance – Sophrony’s ‘love to the point of self-hatred’ – we now have A†O. This progression is clearly found in the word TAO, ‘the absolute being or principle underlying the universe; ultimate reality’ according to the SOED. It is also found in PLATO (addition of p), the most famous ancient philosopher, and also, I might say, in ARISTOTLE. These two thinkers are well known for their philosophical systems, and most modern philosophy is based on what they wrote. So again it seems to me that certain key names or words contain this progression.


Let us now keep the cross and substitute O with W: A†W. Now it becomes really interesting because these three symbols are clearly present in ATOM, once thought to be the ultimate particle of matter (oh, and MATTER clearly contains the same progression). ATOM is connected to ATONE (again the same progression, here we have applied the phonetic pair m-n with the addition of final e), so the atonement brought about by Christ’s voluntary sacrifice on the Cross was obviously meant to affect our very being. It is language that confirms this.


We find the same progression with the cross, A†W, in WAIT, which is connected to FAITH by the phonetic pair f-v/w, addition of h. There is a lesson here, and it seems to me to be saying we must wait and have faith, even when we are suffering, even when the odds appear to be stacked against us, even when we can scarcely breathe or cannot see the wood for the trees. Wait, have faith.


We have one more step to make. Having introduced the cross in place of the letter I, we must now complete the paradox and replace the cross with a plus-sign: A+O (the meaning of Christ’s injunction to lose our life for his sake in order to find it). A plus-sign is best represented in the alphabet by the letter ‘n’ (think of rock ’n’ roll) and we have seen that this letter is closely associated with ‘h’:


+: n, h


A+O represents the three ways of escaping the ego and spells Alpha and Omega. Indeed it is contained in the middle conjunction – AND (A ’N’ O) – the reverse of which is DNA, so as with ATOM this progression seems to form part of our make-up. Replacing O with W, we find it in AMINO ACID, the building block of protein. Just as these compounds were discovered by placing samples under microscopes, so we can place language under the microscope and unveil its make-up, its message to us.


I will give just a few more examples. How about the Hebrew name of God ADONAI? Or the only righteous man found on earth before the Flood, NOAH? They contain the same progression, A+O. It is also in HALO, an indication that someone has followed this blessed path of repentance (isn’t it also in PATH?). It is in SAINT – without the O, but with the plus-sign and the cross following the I in quick succession, as if the word SAINT was mapping out the path for us to follow.


It is in the names of two places intimately connected with Orthodoxy: ATHOS in Greece, the spiritual heartland of Orthodoxy, and IONA in Scotland, from where the Irish monk AIDAN set out to evangelize Northumbria under King OSWALD. All these names clearly contain the progression AIO.


And now we come to the last connection. We have taken the progression AIO, replaced the O with the Greek letter W – AIW – deleted the I and formed a cross – A†O (A†W) – and finally turned the cross into a plus-sign: A+O (A+W).


If we replace the plus-sign in this final progression with the corresponding letter in the alphabet, ‘n’ – A ’N’ W – what word do we get? To whom is this message in language addressed? For whom was the world created? Who is it that was made in the image and likeness of God? Who is it that is endowed with reason, so that he might observe the destruction wrought by the Fall, wrought by his own selfish impulses, his wish to accommodate himself? Who is it that is called – by Christ! – to restore his own image by the grace of God and to become a god by adoption (isn’t AIO in that word as well)?


It is MAN, the fruit of this progression, who contains the progression in himself.


Jonathan Dunne, http://www.stonesofithaca.com

Word in Language (5): WHOLE

We saw in the previous article that the letters O WN in icons of Christ Pantocrator refer to the verse Exodus 3:14, in which God meets Moses at the burning bush and reveals his name to him:


God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.”’ (NRSV)


O WN is the Greek Septuagint translation. It literally means ‘the being’, but in English translations of the Bible the name of God is rendered I AM.


I live in Bulgaria. Here, I have seen these Greek letters, O WN, written O WH, possibly because the letter N is written H in Cyrillic. These two letters are closely connected – in effect, the crossbar between the two parallel lines has simply been straightened, H could be a stylized version of N. If we make them lower case, h is simply an extension of n. We find this a lot in word connections – letters that have been extended: h-n, i-l, v-y.


But there is another reason for introducing the letter H, and that is because ‘the being’ in Greek has a rough breathing: ὁ ὢν. Do you see that little c atop the letter o (which is the definite article, ‘the’)? This little cup or cap atop the letter o represents the sound h in Greek (though it is ignored in modern Greek pronunciation, which I think is a shame). So actually the correct transcription would be HO WN.


Let us look at the alternative spelling, O WH. It is remarkable that as O WN spelled OWN, WON and NOW, so these three letters spell WHO and HOW.


The answer to both questions is Christ.


WHO? The answer is I AM (the English translation of the name of God in Exodus 3:14).


HOW? Christ gives us the answer to this question when in John 14:6 he says, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.’ WAY is I AM written with the semi-vowel y (and the m turned upside down).


So the answer to life’s most important question is contained in language. WHO and HOW. In the act of creation (related in the first two chapters of the Book of Genesis), the question word was WHAT: what is this creature, what will you call it? Today we are in the habit of selfishly asking WHY. WHY corresponds to the demands of the ego, that is I. In WHAT to WHY, there has been a progression from the first letter of the alphabet – A – to I.


But it is the wrong question. The right question, the only one that will give us an answer, is WHO. When we ask this question, we get the answer: I AM.


In this way, we make the progression from the letter of creation – A – to the ego – I – to O. We count down. The Greek alphabet makes this progression because the last letter in the Greek alphabet is Omega. The Latin alphabet, which we might equate with a more rationalistic, legalistic way of thinking, does not make this progression. It counts up – from I to Z (or 1 to 2).


If we write the correct progression AIO but replace the final letter o with the Greek way of writing Omega, w, that is AIW, we find we are back to I AM. AIO (AIW) is the progression of human life, but the Latin alphabet makes the fatal mistake of counting up: AIZ. Once you start counting up, there is no end. You will never reach an answer (and all the time the answer was right behind you, but you have to have humility, you have to turn around, you have to count down, from I to O).


AIZ is an act of hubris, AIO is an act of humility. But what do we teach our children in school? We teach them to count from 1, not 0 – starting with the ego, I, not with God, O.


I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that this then affects our whole way of thinking: we see everything from our own point of view, in terms of ownership, instead of seeing things as God would have us see them, in terms of service. It is a real wrench to change our way of thinking, but this is what we should be teaching our children. To take a step back, not to affirm the ego (don’t worry, as soon as we lose ourselves, Christ has promised us we will find ourselves again, just as in the act of translation, where the text must disappear momentarily before it reappears in another language).


So we make the progression from WHY to WHO. This progression from I to O is found in other word connections. We make the progression from I to O in LIVE to LOVE, for example, instead of turning LIVE around, perverting it, and getting EVIL. That is the choice that is open to us in this life. Another example of the progression from I to O is SIN to SON. We stop sinning, or at least we try to, and become children of God. Even CHRIST made this progression when he submitted to death on the CROSS for our sakes. He counted down (look at the vowels), albeit he is God already, to show us the way. He deleted the I and turned it into a Cross, †, which is also a plus-sign, +. We saw this in the article Alpha and Omega.


But the answer only became available with the Incarnation of Christ, that is with the New Testament. The New Testament fulfils the Old. The Old is not enough – it contains the law and the prophets, that is it looks forward to the coming of Christ in human form. We know this because perhaps the most famous name of God in the Old Testament is the Tetragrammaton, YHWH (which is normally transcribed Yahweh). YHWH corresponds to the question word WHY. It has not made the progression to O WH (WHO).


Another name of God in the Old Testament is EL. We find this name at the end of the names of archangels, such as Michael and Gabriel. And what happens when we combine this name of God in the Old Testament, EL, with the name of Christ, O WH. What word do we get?




Christ makes us whole.


We like to think of ourselves as isolated beings, with parapets around us protecting us from unwanted intrusions, but the fact is we are peppered with holes. They are called pores. Actually they are what permits our skin to breathe, they are necessary.


But on a metaphysical level, we feel we have a hole when we are not fulfilled and we might try all kinds of ways, all kinds of substances, to block up this hole – we might seek comfort in drink, in drugs, in anything that takes our mind off the gaping hole at the centre of our lives.


Only the Holy Trinity will do this, will supply the answer. The Holy Trinity can be linked with the number 3. When we add the number 3 to HOLE (and rotate the number 3 so that it becomes the letter W), we get WHOLE. WHOLE is HOLE with God (3) at the beginning.


And once we have made that change, once we have repented, a miracle takes place. Because what word is contained in WHOLE that is not in HOLE?


Word connections sometimes involve the addition of a letter, most commonly h (the letter that represents breath). The letters v and w are closely connected – they are next to each other in the alphabet, and their pronunciation can be confused (think of Latin and German).


If we make these changes – v-w, addition of h – to WHOLE, what word do we get? LOVE.


WHOLE is a combination of EL and O WH – the New Testament fulfils the Old.


It is a combination of our HOLE and the Holy Trinity, represented by the number 3 (or the letter W).


And it contains LOVE, which is what happens when we take the ego, I, and count down to O.


All of this – all this message – is contained in language, in the words we use every day, but we have no idea. We study language horizontally, in terms of history. We don’t study language spiritually, apart from time. That is why I compare language to the environment. We look on them both two-dimensionally, as put there for our own use, but they reflect their Maker. The environment reflects the Creator, who created it in the first two chapters of Genesis, and gave us the creatures to translate (that is, to name). Language reflects the Word, the Son of God, Jesus Christ. For all we know, the words we use are fragments of him – breadcrumbs.


But to perceive this, we need God at the centre of our lives, not ourselves. We need to open our spiritual Is so that they become Os.


O is simply an I that has been opened. An eye that sees for the first time, a progression we all need to make in this life.


Jonathan Dunne, http://www.stonesofithaca.com