Language and beliefs are directly connected because idea pioneers must have been able to communicate their beliefs in order to enforce them in new territories. The migration of languages out of Africa, throughout Asia, and into Europe tells us a lot about how beliefs migrated throughout society. Stark differences in beliefs indicate a break in the flow due to conflicting interpretations or outright disagreements, but languages, if they vary, vary much more gradually.
Individual words are less loaded than belief systems, but they do have their own histories and implications. The concepts that exist as we know them in Western society are adaptations of ancient words used to fulfill western ideals. Western ideals are patriarchal, monarchical (consisting of a hierarchy with a monarch at the top and various degrees of societal positions underneath), largely binary, centered on industry and commerce, and rigid. Deviations from binary thinking (e.g., good/bad, male/female, rich/poor, them/us) pose a threat to many who adhere to the Western system; a system that began around the 5th century B.C., when a tribe of Germanic people called “Angles” migrated to what we now call England.
All of Western philosophy places Europe at the center of the universe. Eurocentrism is obviously a fallacy, but it is important to note that Europe is considered the “West” because as far as Europeans were concerned, Europe was the westernmost edge of the earth until the 1400s (Vikings were not factored into history when cardinal labels were assigned). Until then, European traders traveled eastward to Asia and southward to Africa.*
* It is rumored that the Roman empire fell because all of Rome’s gold went to retrieving spices from India. To this day, India is full of Roman architecture and Italian food is well seasoned. Many would argue that western European food is seasoned well enough, but let’s be real: there are Italian restaurants all over the world. Have you ever been to an “English restaurant”? How about a “German restaurant”? Have you had "Spanish" food? You’ve had Mexican food. The Spanish are not Mexican. Yet, they speak the same language and largely adhere to the same existential beliefs due to colonial migration patterns.
Many English words derive from Latin, which originated from Sanskrit, the liturgical language of Hinduism, one of the 22 official Indian languages. When Hinduism (2300 BCE - 1500 BCE) reached China, Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism emerged (600-500 BCE). When it turned out that people were going to be people no matter what, Mohism (470-391 BCE) and Legalism (475–221 BCE) came through to regulate further. Conflicts transpired, but many of these systems still exist and are widely practiced throughout Asia and the world.
To the south of Europe are the Afroasiatic nations. This area includes much of the northern half of Africa, extending from the west coast to as far east as modern day Iran and as far south as parts of Kenya. Out of Proto Afroasiatic languages derived what is now known as Arabic, the language of Islam.
A primary difference between Eastern philosophies and Western (Abrahamic) philosophies/religions is the presence of angels, in particular, the angel Gabriel. In the Hebrew tradition, it was Gabriel who interpreted Daniel’s visions. It was Gabriel who was to protect the people of Israel from the angels of other nations. In Christianity, it was Gabriel who visited Mary to tell her she was to have a son who would be called “Son of the Most High God.” In Islam, it was Gabriel who visited Muhammad and told him to read the Qur'an. And according to these Abrahamic faiths, it will be Gabriel who will signal the apocalypse.
Conflicts among Western traditions involve disagreements about who are the true prophets and who are the rightful descendants of the one who was visited by Gabriel (known as the divine messenger). The word prophet originates from the Greek prophētēs: pro (before) / phēnai (to speak).
In contrast, Eastern societies do not involve literal angels, so conflicts are based on who the philosophers and scholars think have the best written idea of how to govern a society, which, incidentally, goes to the idea backed by the biggest army at the time.
The language of religion conjures reflection on the past and prophecy of the future while tolerating the present in hopes that paradise will be rewarded to those who remain faithful. Philosophy-based traditions generally involve written instructions to leaders regarding societal structures. All religion and philosophical traditions, by their nature, are regulated by a society that cannot possibly be in alignment with everyone. Outsiders who fight are persecuted and outsiders who adhere are repressed.
Being is not regulated by society. It is natural. If you can breathe, you can be. Giving thanks for the breath makes breathing easier. When breath comes easy, ease is deeper. Deep ease is brilliance. Brilliance is strength. Strength is power. With power, there is no need to talk much.
©Dr. Cho Dyubeh, 2020, 2021. BEist, Human Behavioralist, and Contributor to Kahnma.com.