How Language Shapes the World

By Lila Lieberman on Thursday March 11th, 2021

Image: Tien Vu Ngoc

The Magic of Language

Each language holds a code. The deep rhythm of a place emerges through the land and sings through its people. Native sounds hold inherent knowledge of the place in which they are birthed. They echo the rocks, streams, animals, and their role, symbology and function. Place shapes language, and each place has a code that the language unlocks.

Language holds the DNA of a culture. It is how we carry over our understanding of the world and how to best engage with it. It is how we encode our reality and make meaning of what unfolds. Babies only hours old are able to differentiate between sounds from their native language and a foreign language, scientists have discovered. This shows that babies begin absorbing language while still in the womb. We pass on this perceptual inheritance through the tonal frequency of our lineage, like a sonic portal of ancestry. 1

Every language is a multi-generational expression. The knowledge, beauty and rhythm held in these languages is a reflection of our vast human potential. The spectrum across which we can perceive reality, craft our understanding, frame our interpretation, tells of the paradigm we are operating from. The clues to this are held in our lexicon, our linguistics. How we speak coveys a whole body of belief, an entire cosmology. The language we use shapes the boundaries of what we are capable of understanding, and therefore enacting.

As anthropologist Wade Davis says,

A language is not just a vocabulary or set of grammatical rules. A language is a flash of the human spirit. It’s a vehicle through which the soul of each particular culture comes into the material world. Every language is an old-growth forest of the mind. A watershed of thought. An ecosystem of spiritual possibilities. 2

In learning a language, we are not simply learning a new way of talking but inadvertently a new way of thinking. Our language literally shapes our perception. It shapes our neural pathways and the patterns they make. How we describe something is what we make of it. Indigenous languages, those of ancient cultures that have grown alongside a land and place over time, embody this with intention and sanctity. Here the name of a thing holds a key to unlocking its potential. Language not only describes but creates the energy of a thing.

Language colonises the visual cortex and shapes how we see. It shapes what we are looking for and the patterns we are able to perceive. We see the world according to the framework our language bequeaths us. Our mind acts like a focal lens and how we apply it will reveal a cascade of knowledge and information.

“View is not the same as our thoughts; it is more like the seedbed of our thinking”, says Eliot Cowan in his book Plant Spirit Medicine. 3

Alt text hereLanguage is a vehicle through which the soul of each particular culture comes into the material world. Image: Ryutaro Tsukata

As indigenous languages die out we are losing the knowledge that they hold. We are losing the sonic codes that initiate our awakened relationship to the environment, knowing of its alive, animate nature, and therefore knowledge of how to care for it. Conservation and conversation are inherently linked. As we do away with unique ancient threads of language that communicate different aspects of the perceivable, we create a monoculture of mind and what is available to us as knowable shrinks.

When we lose a tongue a portal closes. A way of weaving creation into this world is lost. The specific vibration that only it can weave dissolves.

As above, so below, and losing cultures of old on a human level is parallel to losing cultures on a microscopic level. Microbial cultures, empires of purpose and intention, build the greater bodies of plants, animals, and humans. They are full symbiotic colonies creating all that brings balance to a living system. Here they hold the fort, create, digest, dispose. They have certain tastes, certain rhythms, certain currencies that make their world flow. An overriding wisdom cultivates them, and a governing inclusive ‘culture’ brings itself into being. As we create a monoculture of crops, it results in a monoculture of microbial species that live on them, and this, in turn, creates a monoculture of mind, as the diversity of living entities in the gut determine what is available to us in perception, mood and intelligence.

Not only do we lose ancient cultures, both microbial and human, but we lose ways of understanding, ways of coming to know. When something is outside of the language it is outside of the memory. A modern culture may know of the unseen wisdom of the spirit world, and that there are natural systems of vast impeccable intelligence at work, yet if it is not in our daily language it is not alive within us.

Like microbial cultures in the gut that thrive only in highly diverse environments, it is essential we have many diverse cultures on the Earth for the health of the whole system. It is essential in order to have an expansive way of perceiving, and thereby approaching challenges. This is what makes for a robust immune system, this diverse, challenging, adaptive movement through a species. Immune systems exist at all levels, and a healthy spiritual and psychological immune system gives rise to resilience on more manifest levels of our lives.

“If we lose the oral traditions of the world’s indigenous cultures we are wiping humanity’s collective long-term memory of what it means to live in a regenerative way as nature. The preservation of indigenous languages is closely linked to the preservation of traditional knowledge. There are approximately 6,000 languages still spoken on Earth (most of them indigenous languages spoken by relatively small populations). “Each indigenous nation, tribe, band, community and clan will have different processes of ‘coming to know’ ourselves, each other, and the world. These metaphysical and epistemological processes of learning, knowing and being are not just abstract concepts but are embodied and animated in daily practices of survival and living.” – Daniel Christian Wahl in his book Designing Regenerative Cultures. 4

To feel grief about this loss would be an appropriate response. Better yet, to allow this grief to grant us access to a certain quality of experience would make medicine of it. When we allow ourselves to trust the direction of grief it acts as a vehicle. We grieve not simply to feel the emotion itself, but because it allows us passage into a realm that is only offered at that time of its presence. It lets us travel to the bones of our ancestors, to the bones of all we have lost, and drink up the unspoken wisdom there.

It is said energy can never be created or destroyed, and neither can knowledge. It is simply stored elsewhere until we are ripe to rediscover it.

Alt text hereIf we lose the oral traditions of the world’s indigenous cultures we are wiping humanity’s collective long-term memory of what it means to live in a regenerative way as nature. Image: Mark Rasmuson

Information is stored at all densities of reality, from gross to subtle, molecular to cosmic, matter to ether. Land stores knowledge in root systems as they gather up information and hold it together in a vast operating system, like a macrochip of cosmic intelligence.

Nature stores information in fractal components and as we access it, whether it be by a dream, ritual of entheogenic nature, trance-inducing behaviour as breathwork, dance, repetitive rhythm, nature immersion, retreat, or spontaneous encounter in a receptive state of mind, it unfolds itself into a much wider application for us. The concentrated knowledge there then begins to unfurl and teach us from then on. The ‘fractal wisdom’ works in that this is a holographic universe, and the laws and governing principles that apply above, apply below. We can know vast things by observing the details in front of us. In one thing are all things.

One name for the etheric field that runs through all things and holds timeless intelligence in place is the ‘Akash’, the ether. The “Akashic recordsare described as a compendium of all universal events. Everything is stored at an energy level. As we cultivate a quality of clarity within ourselves, we do not need to ‘carry’ knowledge. It is simply all there.

When our personal frequency is in resonance with the frequency of information being stored, we can easily access knowledge that we are ripe to receive, like a process of psychic osmosis between two harmonic substances.

Cultures engaged in techniques of shifting perception as a medicinal practice through the use of dance, trance, medicinal plants, fasting, vision quests and many other rites, have the seat of attention becoming nimbler through these methods. An attachment to a particular self-identity is softened. When we begin to dissolve the rigidity around an idea of what we are, and in this way become accessible to information, ideas and connection form things beyond our usual perception. Direct inspiration from the Akash is available all the time and can reach us when we are willing to listen for it.

One expression of this is what in Tibetan is called a terma, meaning “hidden treasure”. Terma is a hidden piece of wisdom that arrives in the discoverer’s awareness when their perception is ready. In the 8th century, foreseeing a dark time in the future of Tibet, Padmasambhava, otherwise known as Guru Rinpoche, chose to hide teachings that could be found in the future for the benefit of all beings. A system of transmission lineages developed to accommodate for these times of forgetting and displacement of knowledge. Teachers of great vision were able to coagulate hidden texts and knowledge and store them in particular spaces in consciousness. We may even call it a “time capsule” of knowledge placed in the etheric realm, the Akash, for future reclamation by a ripe and receptive mind. These would dwell in “primal time”, which is a Tibetan concept similar to the Australian Dreamtime.

One way then to retrieve the quality of knowledge that has been lost in the recent centuries of global displacement may not only be to seek to preserve and nurture the structures that carry this knowledge, but prepare and ripen our consciousness to receive the birthright of coming into knowing and wisdom by natural order. We can prepare the vessel of our being to expand to the degree of what we wish to receive, and refine our awareness to more subtle realms of perception.

Perhaps hope is not lost, simply memory is.


How do you treasure your language, your heritage, your voice, your memory? How does it inform your self-enquiry, your identity – your sense of belonging? Where is your soul’s purpose in your sense of self as a light being in a mortal body? 

We remember you. 

All our love

How do you feel about this article? Join the conversation.

Lila Lieberman

Sangoma traditional healer, Integral Life Coach & Writer



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1/ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/debbie-hampton/how-your-thoughts-change-your-brain-cells-and- genes_b_9516176.html

2/ https://www.ted.com/talks/wade_davis_dreams_from_endangered_cultures?fbclid=IwAR05t_aU 12xlKwk_iH0wp0IupCxRn94aCeTNfwSqddfIUV6ohQnKkbSpFqY

3/ https://www.google.com.au/books/edition/Plant_Spirit_Medicine/MVPPBAAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv =1&printsec=frontcover

4/ https://www.triarchypress.net/drc.html


12 Responses to How Language Shapes the World

  1. We frame and reframe our reality in language. Our neurological wiring densifies as we weave words in different ways, and challenge our ears to attune and retune. This attunement to ourselves and to others contributes to the quality of human collective consciousness.

    • What a magnificent thought Renia! Indeed, we are all connected so it is no surprise when you think of it that way. Thanks for reading and sharing 🙂

      Team UPLIFT

  2. Language has always intruiged me. There are languages I just love the sound of, like Hindi, Sanskrit and Spanish, and there are others I cringe when I hear them, like Afrikaans, German, Swiss. The latter is the one I grew up with, but I gravitated towards English and it has become my main language where I can express myself best. Then there is also the overemphasis on language. Consider that words make up only around 10% of our communication, the far greater part is body language and feeling and intention.

    • Indeed! Language and the various ways we communicate is fascinating. Thanks for reading and sharing 🙂

      Team UPLIFT

  3. Wow. This is so reverential towards language, as if it is all spiritually induced, imbibed…
    I am not sure… about that at all: I can get very (very) excited over the toddler with his/her pure aliveness naming things him/herself with their OWN Language: it is more than cute…
    I also played with this, thinking someone wise must have uttered these sounds for this item, idea or experience, when I was a lot younger. But I am not sure now! Knowing Sanskrit is supposed to be the ONLY language that does this -whose word was inspired by sage-like understanding of the essence of what the word refers…

    Moreover, I am not sure that all knowledge, the most important and sacred awarenesses we have are word-based and word-bound at all: Spiritual experience -as J Krishnamurti and others depict, seems to occur when the brain-mind is Silent: when we are not at all in/near Words…
    Indeed, the examples this writer uses – ‘dream, ritual of entheogenic nature, trance-inducing behaviour as breathwork, dance, repetitive rhythm, nature immersion, retreat, or spontaneous encounter in a receptive state of mind’ are all getting away from word-language and much more into the language-of-being!

    Nevertheless, I like or love the soul and the sensibility and the faith of this writer, and do not want to let my common-sense-rationality (if that’s what it is) put-out the wonderful aliveness, faith & intuitivity of the essential points here!

    I also wish for native and ancient languages to survive and be kept alive for the sake of their cultures and cultural-memory! And I do/would feel that loss! 🙁

    • Very true and interesting Julian, thank you so much for sharing… definitely food for thought! 🙂 Thanks for reading 💜

      Team UPLIFT

  4. Beautifully said! So honoring to language that we must be conscious of this loss and the importance of keeping our cultural languages intact. Thank you.

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