Entheos: Musings on the Meaning Behind a Word
Enthusiasm is a word that has its origin in the Greek word, entheos, meaning ‘having the god within’. The present day dictionary definition of enthusiasm is: 1. Great excitement for or interest in a subject or cause. 2. A source or cause of great excitement or interest (The Free Dictionary online). Today the word is used for just about anything that excites our interest whether or not that interest is inspired by the divine.
Reflecting on the state of enthusiasm, how it feels, its source and its trajectory, I cannot ignore the etymology of the word itself. A simple word that means nothing until we lend it meaning and context and yet, simultaneously, a state exists that requires this word for its manifestation in the world of language and communication. If this state desires form it seeks linguistic expression and takes the risk of misapprehension and misinterpretation.
Those who are enthused know themselves and each other but when the heart speaks to the mind of the soul’s state and desires to transmit its energy through the body and into the world of forms, it requires manifestation. It begins with the experience of a sent energy and becomes an image that speaks silently to the soul. It then demands to be shared and this is initially evident in the physical effects it has on the person experiencing the energy.
The energy that has penetrated the individual then seeks a bridge; an image arises in the soul of the recipient and offers itself as a conversant. “Speak with me”, it bids, “I invite you to discover the meaning, the trajectory of this energy. This is a gift.” Here we are on the edge of the world we know and longing to walk into a world we do not know but for which we are ready and yearning. This is a pre-lingual, pre-conceptual, pre-awareness moment. In order for the image that has arisen in the soul’s personal configuration of the energy by which it has been penetrated, in order for this energy to enter language and form, and thereby to initiate creative action, it requires a bridge, a liminal space that unites the two.
The image itself is the first bridge between the experienced energy and its presentation to the heart but now a second bridge is necessary for that image to speak and become manifest in the life of the individual. This second bridge is built by conversation between the image and the one in whom it has arisen. This dialogue can take place through painting, writing, speaking with a trusted guide, anything that comes from the heart and opens the heart to the meaning that is seeking creative form. The energy has crossed the bridge to the heart by manifesting as an image; the image has crossed another bridge by speaking with the heart. The final bridge is taking what has been imparted and putting it into action in one’s life.
The Most Exalted Pen writes the meanings and the destinies. The mythos contains the logos and the logos likewise contains the mythos. The meaning becomes manifest and the form contains its originating meaning. This meaningful content is the wisdom of logos, the Sophia, Shekinah, Sakina, the indwelling silence of Presence. When Ibn ‘Ata’illah says, “Actions are lifeless forms, but the presence of an inner reality of sincerity (sirr al-ikhlas) within them is what endows them with life-giving Spirit” then I am reminded also of words and their meanings and so return to the beginning of these musings and the word ‘entheos’. It is a word created by humans and therefore the history of its usage carries the history of human achievements and failings, the occasional wisdom and the plethora of ignorance that denote an awareness of origin or the forgetfulness of such respectively. For me, entheos, is about the One, the Real, speaking to and guiding the loving heart.
The mythos that became logos reveals its content. It unveils; it strips off the form to reveal its pure creative energy as an Attribute of the One, as the energy of a Name that writes on the blank page of surrender.