Dravidian Cryptography

thompson at jlc.net thompson at jlc.net
Sun Sep 7 02:02:46 UTC 1997

Since Mr Kumar has shown himself in his numerous postings to be a
comparatist, it occurred to me that he might find the following references
useful. There is in fact a long history, both fruitful and fruitless, of
what he calls cryptography in Europan history, going back of course to
Plato [Europeans like to say that it *all* goes back to Plato; we
Indologists know better]. For the convenience of the reader I will make
reference only to Englsh language books [other references can be forwarded
off-list, on request].

Of course there have been countless cryptographies based on the collection
of writings conveniently known now as the Bible. The most recent one in
English in fact is currently on the best-seller lists. It is called,
appropriately enough, _The Bible Code_. It uses computers. Impressive.

Just by coincidence [I imagine], I have here on my desk a book called _The
Wolf Man's Magic Word: A Cryptonymy_, by Nicolas Abraham & Maria Torok
[foreward by Jacques Derrida], Minneapolis, 1986. For those interested in
Freudian and neo-Freudian crytography. Five stars.

_The Violence of Language_, by Jean-Jacques Lecercle, London, 1990. This
book presents the author's revolutionary "theory of the remainder" whereby
speakers overcome the violent constraints imposed on them by their native
languages. The remainder is what your grammar book leaves out. It is the
"odd, untidy, awkward, creative part" of language. It is the "essence of
poetry and of metaphor". Etc. A weird and fascinating book. It is supposed
by some to have original insights into the origins of language. Highly
recommended for those interested in origins.

_The Power of Babel: A Study of Logophilia_, by Michel Pierssens, London,
1980. This is a brief history of five "logophiles" who were engaged in
research rather like Mr. Kumar's, except in various European languages.
Unfortunately some of them were schizophrenics, while others were a poet, a
novelist, or a linguist. Top notch reading. Unfortunately it lacks a
chapter on the remarkable German poet Hölderlin.

_On Puns: _The Foundations of Letters_, a collection of essays by
distinguished scholars on 'the call of the phoneme' [which was the name of
the conference at which these papers were first presented]. [edited by
Jonathan Culler, Oxford 1988]. For those on the list who are fans of
deconstruction. Very punny. A+.

Of special interest to Indologists: _From India to the Planet Mars: A Study
of a Case of Somnambulism with Glossolalia_, by Theodore Flournoy
[introduction by C.T.K. Chari], New York 1963 [originally in French 1900].
This has been recently reprinted by an American publisher, I believe.
Flournoy, eminent pre-Freudian psychologist, calls upon Ferdinand de
Saussure, whose contributions to modern linguistics I'm sure we're all
aware of, to decode the transmissions received by a certain Helene Smith,
famous clairvoyante, both in a Martian language and in Sanskrit. It turns
out, to make a long story very short, that Martian is closer to French than
to Sanskrit [at least in phonology]. My personal favorite, as one might

The same Saussure left behind unpublished [one wonders why!] 134 notebooks
on anagrams hidden throughout classical literature [including 26 notebooks
on Vedic meter]. These were discovered in 8 boxes in the Univ. Library of
Geneva by the well-known Saussure scholar Robert Godel and published by
Jean Starobinski: _Words Upon Words: The Anagrams of Ferdinand de
Saussure_, New Haven 1979 [Eng, translation]. S. finds, for example, the
name of Aphrodite encrypted into Lucretius's famous poem _De rerum natura_
[this is weird because a Greek name is hidden within a Latin poem: why?].

This is too complex to get into,of course, but Saussure's anagram theory
has had an enormous impact on contemporary poetics and literary criticism,
as well as on the study of Indo-Europen poetics [and in fact on my own work
on Vedic poetics]. Yet he never published these notebooks himself for fear
of having no proof that the phenomena which was describing *was actually in
the texts*. A word to the wise.

I call this last book in particular to Mr Kumar's attention because I think
that he faces the same dilemma in his researches that Saussure had to face
in his: how to demonstrate that one's findings are meaningful? how to
demonstrate that these meanings exist in one's texts and not merely in
one's own head? how to convince other scholars that this is not simply
'over-semiotic madness', i.e., that one is not simply 'reading too much
into the text'???. It appears to me that your dilemma, Mr. Kumar, is rather
like my own. You have my sympathies.

Of course, who has time to read all these  books and worry about such
things? Such long postings about dubious uses and abuses of language?
Perhaps such long-winded postings like this one should be sent *off-list*
specifically to those who want them? I certainly wouldn't blame anyone for
using the delete-button in response to such long and scarcely Indological

with many apologies and promises to get better soon [you see, I'm sick too,
Mr Kumar],

George Thompson

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