Esoteric Tuesday – The Alchemy of Words

It has been a wonderful, crazy few days here at Red Wheel Weiser Conari. The Book of Awakening, by Mark Nepo – published 10 years ago – is enjoying late, spectacular, and well-deserved success thanks to everyone’s favorite daytime talk show host. So you will have to forgive us if we seem a little distracted. This kind of good fortune smiles rarely, and we are all dizzy from its brilliance.

Words, my friends,  have power.

The immediate success or failure of a book depends on many factors – timing and circumstance not least among them. But ultimately, an individual book lives or dies by the power of its content – words, ideas, the beauty of language. What makes the sudden fame and flourish of Mark Nepo’s book so sweet is its longevity. It was well received from the beginning, but never a bestseller – still it lasted, and quietly held its course until it landed in the hands of the one person who could bring it the attention it deserves.

What does this have to do with “Esoteric Tuesday?”  Well may you ask. Browsing through the books on my desk this afternoon I came across this quote, from The Key of the Mysteries by Eliphas Levi:

To speak well is to live well.

How true. The context is a passage on The Mysteries of Nature, specifically Alchemy and Qabalah:

To say a word is to evoke a thought and make it present.

To name God is to manifest God.

The Word acts upon souls, and souls react upon bodies; consequently one can frighten, console, cause to fall ill, cure, even kill, and raise the dead by means of words.

To utter a name is to create or evoke a being.

In the name is contained the verbal or spiritual doctrine of being itself.

When the soul evokes a thought, the sign of that thought is written automatically in the light. To invoke is to adjure, that is to say, to swear by a name; it is to perform an act of faith in that name, and to communicate in the virtue which it represents.

Words in themselves are, then, good or evil, poisonous or wholesome.

The most dangerous words are vain and lightly uttered words, because they are the voluntary abortions of thought.

A useless word is a crime against the spirit of intelligence; it is an intellectual infanticide.

Things are for every one what he makes of them by naming them. The word of every one is an impression or an habitual prayer.

To speak well is to live well.

from The Key of the Mysteries, by Eliphas Levi (translated by Aleister Crowley)

Now, to be fair, Levi takes issue with some of these assertions, but for us, today, the message is apt and timely. The power of words is not to be underestimated.

Weiser published another book a few years ago – Magic Words; a Dictionary, by Craig Conley. My favorite entry?


“Just say the magic word: Oprah” – Vince Vittore, America’s Network (Jan. 1, 1995)


  • Dust
  • Fawn
  • “She who turns her back” – Adrian Room, Cassel’s Dictionary of First Names (2002)

Origins: This is the given name of the successful talk-show host and media mogul Oprah Winfrey. The word is of Hebrew origin.

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