Transcendentalism and the Word:..:
"Wherefore lies the origin of the written word?"
No doubt "a picture paints a thousand words", but one "well placed" word cuts through a mountain of irrelevance to the essence of a thing.
"The Origins of Writing."
Writing began with pictures that were used to tell stories. And then Pictograms, stylised pictures, were used to represent objects just like in early Hieroglyphics.
And so we know from the study of ancient Hieroglyphics that over time, as it's writing was also used to document everyday life, it became more cursive. And thus more flowing and distant from it's origins.
But the most incredible jump in all technology, ever, came when those symbols began to be used to represent sounds or syllables. And then their further abstraction formed sounding letters and a complete circumscribed alphabet.
It boggles me as to WHAT could ever have caused the Homo Sapiens genus to abandon the use of simple pictograms, representing objects, and then adopt abstract alphabets?
Certainly there were countless benefits, but these of themselves cannot explain that momentous leap.
Can you imagine having to remember a unique identifier-symbol specific to every word that you knew? Only a few gifted people would have been literate!
As social organisations grew in complexity; as kings annexed more land and grew in authority; the needs to administer their people effectively would have been most pressing.
But in order to evaluate the ease of conversion from one form of writing to the other it is not sufficient to look with hindsight on the World of our forbears. Rather when we put ourselves in their shoes, only then can we fully realise the momentousness of that change and the vast implications it would have had for the thought processes of Mankind.
Abstract Concepts & Ideas.
For with abstract alphabets came the possibility, and the concurrent ease, with which we might express abstract (and invisible) ideas and concepts.
Before that, what concrete symbols could people have used to transmit knowledge of Truth and Justice, Good and Bad?
That is not to say that they couldn't conceive of those principles, nor speak of them. But they wouldn't have been able to lay their thoughts down in black and white, and thence systemise or think deeply about them. And they wouldn't have been able to transmit this knowledge to people they had never met.
The Historical Analysis of this question should be no different from any other form of rational analysis. All of rationality works in one direction only, being a movement from what is known to what is unknown. The known informs us with regard to the unknown and not vice versa.
What we know is who and what we are this day. And so to theorise about the origins of our abstract alphabets, and literacy, it is enough of a starting point to examine literacy in our day and time.
1 in 4 people throughout the World are Muslim, and even though not all of them understand their Arabic Qur'an, most of them read it. For some of them it may not make them literate, but even for those literacy is a thing to be sought, and books are a thing to honour in whichever language they are written.
Possibly for a Millennium a like phenomenon was found in Christendom where their most widely read book was the Bible.
In Judaism, the first of the three (Abrahamic Faiths), the scribes who write the scripture are honoured as one of the religious classes.
The Word and The Pen.
"In the beginning there was the Word and the Word was with GOD" is the beginning of Genesis, the beginning of beginnings.
In Islam the first thing that Allah t'ala created was the pen, and HE commanded it to write and it wrote all that would be.
What Muslims KNOW.
Muslims honour, and call true, all of the Messengers and Prophet sent from GOD to Mankind. These start with Adam (as), the father off all men, and include Noah, Idris, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Solomon, John (the Baptist), Jesus and finally Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be upon them all).
Of these Muslims call five the greatest of Prophets sent to Mankind, these being Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (pbut). However Muslims recognise a difference between a Messenger from GOD and a Prophet of GOD. For all Messengers of GOD are necessarily Prophets of GOD, but not all Prophets of GOD are Messengers. The defining difference between the two is that a Messenger receives a revealed Book and a Law. All of the five except Noah received a Book.
That Noah (as) is amongst the five greatest and yet did not receive a Book, and hence is known to be a Prophet but not a Messenger, suggests that in his age there were no books and no writing.
He preached amongst his people a marathon 950 years, and then made his famous supplication that brought upon them the deluge: "They will never believe!"
Even if we believe that the lifespan of his people numbered into the thousands, 950 years of calling people to the same singular truth, of there being an Originator, a Sustainer and a Caller to Account of all things, is incomprehensible by any standards.
Until, that is, we consider the differing potentials between the absence of writing (or even the sole use of concrete symbols for writing purposes) and "abstract alphabets".
The lack of an abstract alphabet, given by the absence of a book, meant that Noah's (as) people found it difficult to perceive the hidden / objective World that surrounds us all. It's absence further compounded their lack of sensitivity, so that they could not perceive just arguments nor truth.
And it is this absence that must have necessitated 950years of intense work, because GOD is not unjust. And GOD will not punish a people (in this World) without first giving them the opportunity of believing.
The Heavenly Books.
Muslims believe that GOD literally sent down from Heaven the Books that were given to the Messengers.
From Abraham's and Zathrustra's Scriptures to Moses Tablets and David's Psalms to the countless Books lost to antiquity. It is these Books that must have shown the way, by example, to what could be achieved by the adoption of abstract alphabets.
And this is possibly what ALLAH t'ala referred to in the first revelation that came to Muhammad (saw) from the Qur'an (a recital of the last such Heavenly Book to descend which never reached our Earth):
"Read in the name of your LORD who Created.
Created mankind from a lifeless bit of congealed blood.
Read (a command),
and your LORD (O Mankind) is most bounteous (giving/generous).
HE it is who TAUGHT (Mankind) by the PEN.
TAUGHT (Mankind) that which he knew naught."
S Alaq, Al-Qur'an.
A Sobering Thought.
We live in a Modern World in which progress is denial of all that came before. However the basis of our Law and Ethics are rooted firmly in the revealed religions.
More than that.
And the very words that we talk, the very concepts that we hold true, are a direct result of the Heavenly Books that ALLAH t'ala (GOD, most High) sent down to Mankind.
The last of which was the Holy Qur'an.
Paradoxically it is a verbal Message sent down upon an unlettered Messenger. Muhammad (saw) who rewrote all that it means to be a Man, a Leader and a Conqueror.
May ALLAH t'ala reward him (saw) abundantly, without measure, forever and ever. Ameen.
I will post more detailed commentary later.