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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

Roots of Maya

While we are on the subject of the poetic basis of consciousness, language springs from this as well, and thus belongs in this way to the Divine. Language has numinous power, Avens (1980) informs us, and “does not belong to us, it's rather the case that we belong to the angels and gods who address us though language” (p. 89). Hillman (1992), who recognizes the soul of words, has called for an “angelology of words,” bringing into focus their message- bearing function (p. 9). With that in mind, let us look at the message behind maya. Although the derivation of the word is somewhat uncertain, maya seems to come from one of two different Indo-European roots, ma, or man. Ma means to measure, to limit, give form or dimension to:

“mark off, mete out, apportion, arrange, show, display” and thus to a number of verbs referring to the making, building fashioning, shaping or constructing of some thing by conceiving its dimensions within the mind and then—in the process of “measuring” what has thus been imagined—projecting or converting those plans into three dimensional space. (Mahony, 1998, p. 32)

Alternatively, the word maya may come from the root man- to think. If so, the allusions to the role of the imagination of the gods in forming the world are apparent. Either way, Mahony (1998) suggests the word maya in early Vedic thought shows “the wondrous and mysterious power to turn an idea into a physical reality; the power of maya is the power to realize one’s conceptions, specifically through the formative power of the imagination” (pp. 32-33). Jung (1988) in the Zarathustra seminar also discusses maya’s positive meaning:

Maya means building material; so the illusion is building power. If you have an illusion you have built something which exists which is different from yourself or different from the creator. Illusion is not negative, therefore; it is the positive appearance of the world, or really the positive existence. (p. 326)


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