A Word

Written by: 
Published:
October 25, 2019

Free from humanity’s crushing need, He had a few early hours to Himself. The sun rubbed the sleep from its eyes and wrapped its warm arms around Jesus as fluffy clouds crept wordlessly across the cerulean skies. Nascent morning smiled as His sandals crunched across the pebbled Galilean shore, pensive, waters gently clapping the beach as the breeze, in a gesture of kindness, ran her cooling fingers through His hair.

Jesus paused, gazing silently at His world. Like an artist after completing a masterpiece, His creation filled Him with unbounded delight. He viewed boats silhouetted against distant shorelines, as Galileans fished the Lake’s bounty. He could smell the wildflowers as they craned their necks from under rocks to peek at their Creator. Variegated butterflies and industrious bees flittered and bounced from bloom to bloom as luxuriant green grasses approached the shoreline in prostrate reverence. Though corrupted and scarred by an intrusion of evil, His creation still reflected the innovative genius of the Master Designer. He felt unspeakable joy in the presence of Love. Birds drew near to offer libations of song while Galilean waters twinkled approvingly at the sun dancing on its surface. Divine calm embraced the Savior reminding Him of the unspeakable joy of that first morning.

A knowing smile gently creased His face. He smelled the morning air as His good works pulsed through His Being like blood through veins, the heartbeat of the universe thumping in His chest. He pondered His earthly life, thrilled He was a part of the humanity He created. He understood at His core what it means to be alive, enjoying absolute oneness with creation’s sanctuary, where behind, beneath, above, and through and through a divine essence bears His DNA.

While reading one of my favorite authors, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, a post-apocalyptic tale of a father and son surviving a perished earth, I came across an ancient word, “salitter.” Below from The Road:

“The black shape of it running from dark to dark. Then a distant low rumble. Not thunder. You could feel it under your feet. A sound without cognate and so without description. Something imponderable shifting out there in the dark. The earth itself contracting with the cold. It did not come again. What time of year? What age the child? … The silence. The salitter drying from the earth. The mud stained shapes of flooded cities burned to the waterline. At a crossroads a ground set with dolmen stones where the spoken bones of oracles lay moldering. No sound but the wind” (p. 220).

“Salitter drying from the earth” tickled my curiosity. I had to know what it meant, particularly the word salitter. Words captivate me. I trail after words and their meanings like a bloodhound sniffing clues. Metaphors are how I engage life, and words are the best ports of entry. Words deliver ideas, insights, and knowledge. They are the matrix of language which build communities, cultures, and empires. Words are the vehicles that drive our life stories. They enlighten perception. They unlock doors of understanding. They are what I use to share life experience, emotions and thoughts, and to navigate the perplexing vicissitudes and bitter conundrums that occasionally hound my existence. Words are the colors I use to paint my survival on earth. Salitter possessed a precise meaning and I was determined to discover it.

At first, I could not find the word in the dictionary. I quickly found out, according to Wordnik.com, that “salitter” has no dictionary definition and no etymology. Undeterred, I persisted and found answers in an online review of Andrew Weeks’ Boehme: An Intellectual Biography of the Seventeenth-Century Philosopher and Mystic.[1] According to Weeks, salitter does have a longwinded history, but it was brought to prominence by the experience of Jakob Boehme, a shoemaker, who suffered tenacious melancholy sensing God inaccessible and remote. Coupled with the observation of good and evil dwelling in living creatures and in nature, Boehme’s gloom deepened. Until, one day on a walk in the woods, he heard no voices, witnessed no visions, had no powers of healing or flashes of light, nevertheless, he had his own mysterium tremendum, an encounter with the Divine. Nature’s shapes, lines, and colors suddenly seemed different; he sensed a new consciousness and an unprecedented nearness of the Supernatural. For the first time, he felt noticed and loved by his Creator and his gnawing melancholy soon melted away. From his new awakening it occurred to him God made everything out of Himself; everything possessed divine essence. He was surrounded and embraced by a presence, a divine substance, creation teemed with God’s essence. Salitter.

Boehme’s own words: “What is in Paradise is made of the celestial Salitter...[it] is clear, resplendent…The forces of the celestial Salitter give rise to celestial fruits, flowers, and vegetation.” [2]

It was this meaning — God’s essence — from which McCarthy graphically borrowed, that was withdrawing from the earth.

Salitter unveils the pulse of creation. Perhaps another way of inferring the Holy Spirit, the word encourages a closer look, with added insight, into existence. With renewed awareness, life is brimming with God’s heart. I gained an enriched sensitivity to God’s presence, His very nearness, realizing His fingerprints are on everything good in my life. I unearthed through this ancient word a revived discernment of God and Being.

I’ve learned tweaking a word, or better, finding a new word, can add insights, new angles, bends in interpretation piquing the mind into a fullness of comprehension heretofore unexplored. A freshening of existence daily. Words. Salitter. The Word.

God’s sovereignty used a mystic to give me something I needed to learn, and coming from Jakob Boehme, the strange word salitter grabs the Creation event, revealing to the imagination what happened to matter and space as novel life bloomed from the Creator’s expansive nature. God’s essence, His salitter, His divine spark turns existence into abundant living and showers everything of beauty and purpose.

The purr of a cat, the laughter of a child, a puppy romping, or the morning serenade of songbirds…essence that is divine…the sun that rises and sets, the rhythm of the season’s, the cycles of life, the embrace of home-coming, the croak of a frog, a musical symphony, the softness of a rose petal, a hug, a “good morning,” are salitter.

More, the morning dew and evening fog, a cool afternoon breeze, the design of a spider web, the scent of lavender, billowy clouds over a verdant valley, the sheen of the sun prancing on the lake’s surface, a shooting star splitting the opaque heavens, a cool rain on a parched earth, the relief of shade, a field of brilliantly hued wildflowers, the warmth of morning sun, and laughter between friends are the result of God’s salitter, evidence His essence favors us daily.

Indulge me to make my point unequivocally ad nauseam, the sparkle and fizz, the twinkle and glow, the sheen and glimmer, morning’s calm, sunset’s good-bye, the cricket’s evening recital and firefly’s illuminated jig in the moon’s glow above shadowy fields, buzzing bees gathering  nectar, ants’ tireless labor, the comical waddle of a duck, the invasion of Monarch butterflies, pigeons returning home, the dark phalanx of geese focused on destination, the tides gentle and persistent “catch me if you can”…the sound of pounding surf, a night filled with twinkling stars and radiant moon, the hush of silence, the family circle and love of your spouse are all derivatives of God’s salitter.

Sitting motionless next to a burbling brook, my mind trailing after its soothing song slithering, bumping, and sloshing its secret journey in the cool of a benevolent evening. The moment unruffled, leaves brushed by a dulcet wind nodding in agreement. Sanctuary. Joy. God’s essence.

Salitter is what will be missing when Satan is chained to a bleak lifeless world for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3). All the joys and wonders and simple things that transform existence into unbelievable Yahoo!, enjoyable and sweet as I know it, will be withdrawn, God’s substance dried up. And when His salitter is removed, the lifeless earth is left bland, colorless, loveless, and stripped of all that makes existence a gift. Swallowed in insipid darkness. Clean of salitter. Nothingness. Hell. And for a thousand years Satan’s echo chamber.

Salitter does not define God, it simply recognizes God’s manifestation in a world gone mad, His footprints, if you will. Salitter is a glimpse of God in His handiwork ancillary to His written word. A constant reminder of living hope and transcendence that surrounds me every day. Spending time in His world, His creation in any capacity, tends to open my eyes to His Spirit.

As one who battles persistent doubt, salitter offers me reprieve, a spirit-laden word infusing needed life into my faith in God, who like Boehme before his illumination, I’ve often found aloof and obscure. There are no guarantees doubt will leave me alone, quite the contrary, but a re-born mindfulness of God’s presence in my neighborhood can only help. Another arrow in my quiver of faith as I engage and ponder existence.

Boehme’s awakening and writings, way deeper and more prolific and complex than I have shared here, went on to influence such minds as Schopenhauer and Hegel, who later labeled Boehme “the first German philosopher.”[3] God incarnated into the human family and no one, not even a Christian mystic philosopher, is beyond His kind influence. The meaning of salitter has touched my spirituality, reminding me God has not yet dried up from the earth. Far from it. I found its meaning restorative. I am now more keenly aware of God’s presence in the often-overlooked intricacies of my life, my gaze widened, my focus clearer, more heedful of His quotidian essence and grace.

“Somewhere over the rainbow” is an unsullied place filled with God’s divine essence, saturating everything, making life an unprecedented Eden of resplendent love and delight. Ours to enjoy, beyond the distant horizon, unending. Salitter, only a word you say, but a word revealing a reality greater than myself, blessing my existence, and a reminder I am not alone, for everywhere I look I see reflections of the Word… A word that echoes the Word.

In a time when one could easily think God is absent or doesn’t care, salitter refutes that notion with power (see John 1:1-5, 14).

Words matter… ask the Father.

“That's how it is with my words. They don't return to me without doing everything I send them to do” (Isaiah 55:11).[4]

 

Notes & References:

[1] Weeks, Andrew. Boehme: An Intellectual Biography of the Seventeenth-Century Philosopher and Mystic. SUNY Press, Albany, New York, 1991, pp. 1-3; 65-68.

[2] “Salitter” by Barry Weber. The First Morning. September 11, 2008: https://thefirstmorning.com/2008/09/11/salitter/

[3] Andrew Weeks, Op Cit, p.3.

[4] Contemporary English Version

 

Greg Prout is father of three, grandfather of five, and has been happily married for 36+ years to Mary Ventresca.

Photo by Dave Herring on Unsplash

 

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