January 9th, 2006

ozarque figure

And that reminds me of something....

Recent comments got me thinking about Native Tongue III, which the publishers named Earthsong, which was presented as a "channeled" book, which made me think about the channeling phenomenon, which reminded me of something....

A long time ago, I was visited by a woman who later became a very successful occult writer, and who had a private practice offering "hypnotic regressions" -- that is, she would hypnotize you and take you back through time to explore your previous lives. She was very good at hynotic regressions, always fully booked and always with a waiting list.

The reason she came to see me was to ask me to listen to a tape she'd made for one of her regression clients. On that tape, the client sang a batch of long ballads, and the hypnotist hoped that I could tell her what language the ballads were in.

I agreed to try, and I spent about a month working on the question. That meant doing a phonetic transcription of several verses of some of the ballads, constructing an inventory of phonemes for the language -- if it was a language -- and then comparing it to as many different phoneme inventories for human languages as I could. That was a lot of languages, since I'd been a linguistics prof. I had a dozen volumes of phonology problems, I had years of volumes of linguistics journals, I had grammars galore ... it took a while. But in the end I had to tell the hypnotist that I not only couldn't identify the language, I wasn't able even to identify the language family it came from. [Today, of course, I could have posted a verse or two to Linguist List -- http://linguistlist.org -- and if there really was such a language one of the more than 20,000 linguists who belong to that list would have identified it for me in about fifteen minutes flat. But this was pre-Internet, at least for me.]

I also told her that if in fact the ballads were just nonsense syllables and not a language at all, I was impressed. For a hypnotized young woman, not very well educated and speaking only English, to be able to create and sing a collection of lengthy "nonsense" ballads that rhymed and scanned, never repeating herself .... that was, in my opinion, an impressive performance.

The hypnotist wanted to pay me for my work, but I wouldn't let her; I told her that it had been interesting enough work that I considered myself already paid. She wasn't happy with that, so she made me another offer -- in exchange for my work she would do a hypnotic regression for me -- and I agreed. And what happened surprised us both.

I didn't find any Egyptian princesses or medieval knights or [vamp till ready] during that regression. I didn't go through a series of "past lives" one after another, the way it's supposed to work. Not at all.

I went straight into hypnosis, no problem, and I found myself standing in a hallway next to a partly-open door. Behind the door there was a long line of women, stretching off into the distance as far as I could see. And they were quarreling. The dialogue went like this, with everybody talking at once [all in English]:

"I want to talk to her!"
"No, let me talk to her!"
"No! You have to let me talk to her first!"
"But that's not fair! I want to talk to her first!"
[And so on, ad infinitum.]

It was absolutely hilarious. I didn't say a word, I just sat down on the floor beside the door and started laughing, and I couldn't stop. That went on until the hypnotist woke me up because she was starting to get worried.

Ah, the life of a linguist.....