The ascent of humanity is a descent into a language of conventional symbols, representations of reality instead of the integrated vocal dimension of reality. This gradual distancing, in which and through which language assumed a mediatory function, paralleled, contributed to, and resulted from the generalized separation of man and nature. It is the discrete and separate self that desires to name the things of nature, or that could even conceive of so doing. To name is to dominate, to categorize, to subjugate and, quite literally, to objectify. No wonder in Genesis, Adam's first act in confirmation of his God-given dominion over the animals is to name them. Before the conception of self that enabled dominion, there was no naming—none of the original vocalizations were nouns.
Fascinatingly, ancient languages were far less dominated by nouns than modern languages: from the ancient nounless original language, it is claimed, by Neolithic times only half of all words were verbs, declining to less than ten percent of words in modern English.xiii The trend continues to this day, with the growth of passive and intransitive uses of verbs that objectify and abstract reality by saying, in effect, A is B. Language has evolved toward an infinite regression of symbols, words defined in terms of each other, that distances us from the world. Significantly, some indigenous languages apparently lack a word for "is", as the shaman Martin Prechtel claims for at least two Native American languages.xiv I have also noticed that Taiwanese, an ancient Chinese dialect firmly based in a preindustrial society, has an amazing profusion of descriptive action words that do not exist in or have disappeared from modern Mandarin and English. In English the same tendency manifests as a gradual supplanting of the simple present by the present progressive ("I am walking" instead of "I walk").
A few modern thinkers have sought to reverse or undo this trend. Alfred Korzybski, in his monumental tome, Science and Sanity, spends over a thousand pages reproving us for our wanton use of the "is" of identity, which reduces things to other things, proposing what he believes is a new "non-Aristotelean" mode of thought. He was apparently unaware that numerous mystics (such as Lao Tze) preceded him in this insight by thousands of years. Nonetheless, writing in the 1920s, Korzybski was ahead of his time, and helped to launch the movement known as neurolinguistic programming that seeks to induce mental health (sanity) through new language patterns. More recently, the physicist-sage David Bohm has proposed a new mode of language he calls the rheomode, aimed specifically at recovering the dwindling verb form and thereby fostering an understanding of the universe in terms of process rather than thing. "The Rheomode" is the first chapter of his book Wholeness and the Implicate Order, in which Bohm attempts to introduce his interpretation of quantum mechanics. We might understand him to imply that the rheomode is the only way of speaking that is consistent with the true nature of physical reality, which is a fundamentally unified and interconnected whole. In Bohm's view, the artificial division of the world into subject and object is, at bottom, incoherent. I am not a separate I, I am the universe "Charles-ing".