What’s in a name?
“If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things.” Analects of Confucius
Did you know that there are two Matthew Fellows in Glastonbury? An unremarkable fact but one that has caused a fair bit of confusion over the years, particularly as we randomly lived next door to each other for a while. We are actually third cousins once removed, or something like that but this too is unremarkable, as being a true local I’m probably related to half of Street and Glastonbury anyway. Aside from the odd confusion where I get asked how my pantomime is going, or he gets requests for some acupuncture, this rarely causes any great problems but it has got me thinking about names in general.
Funnily enough none of my friends or family call me Matthew anyway and I am usually known as ‘Squirrel’. When I was younger I had bright red hair and the nick-name ‘Red Squirrel’ was bestowed upon me by school mates. Unfortunately, however, these days I am fast becoming a grey one like the rest of the squirrel population. The name Squirrel stuck though for some reason and to such an extent that I don’t think my kids even know my real name.
Or maybe Squirrel is my real name. Unless your parents are in a state of heightened awareness when they named you, how can they possibly know what sort of word would be a fit to your inner being? There are many people particularly here in Glastonbury who no longer go by the name that they were born with (Yes Meleeshka I’m talking about you!). Sometimes new names are given by spiritual teachers, other times discovered by journeying inwards through meditation or shamanism. Maybe the aspect of our being that traverses the lifetimes has a name of its own and the names that were given to us can be changed or discarded like clothes. After all, names are words and words have vibrations. Maybe you need a name that resonates more in line with who you are. There are many cultures around the World, like the Native Americans for example, where you are only given a name when you have earned it or when your particular character traits arise. ‘Man who runs with Squirrels’ would be much cooler!
The Daoist sage Lao Tzu also spoke of names in the Dao De Jing….
“The Dao that can be spoken is not the eternal Dao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of myriad things.”
In this I feel that he is saying (amongst other things), that the very act of naming something brings it out of the unfathomable realm of potential and in to the real world. Interestingly this notion was also expressed in the Bible. In Genesis we hear that “God said ‘Let there be Light’ and there was light.” God named the thing before he created it, the naming being a necessary first step toward creation. It goes on to say that
God gave Man the right to name all the animals and, at the same time, the right of dominion over them. Here again the act of naming carries with it a sense of power.
This idea of the power of names and words can be most readily felt in Sanskrit, one of the oldest languages still existent. It is said that the soft seed syllables of ancient Sanskrit carry within them the actual vibration of matter. When intoned perfectly these sounds resonate with the deepest forces of creation. It is here where the power of Mantra resides as the voiced vibrations give us a glimpse into their true vibrational reality. None more so than the famous ‘Om’ or ‘Aum’ sound, where the three syllables of Ahh, Ooo, and Mmm, represent the birth, fruition and destruction of the physical Universe. Interestingly this sound is also replicated in the Christian version of ‘Ahmen’.
So it could be said that there is often more to names and sounds than meets the ear and it is a fact that the human auditory field comprises only a small percentage of the total amount of acoustic vibrations that exist. Vibrations, words and therefore names do seemingly have an inherent quality or energy to them. So if you want to call me, please just make sure you call the right Matthew Fellows!
Matt ‘Squirrel’ Fellows