Type of Spiritual Experience
William James corresponded with Theophilus d’Estrella, a gifted artist and photographer who was born deaf. Those born deaf [unless taught Sign from an early age] tend to be particularly isolated from cultural influences and as a result do not develop language or conceptual thinking in the way a hearing person with language does. D’Estrella did not start to acquire any formal sign language until he was nine. He thought in pictures and symbols.
In 1893, James published an autobiographical letter from D’Estrella written to him, along with his own reflections on it.
It in part shows what can be achieved if we get away from structured language based learning and memory based on words and not symbols
A description of the experience
William James 1893 Thought before Language – A deaf Mute’s recollections
D’Estrella: The pictures were not exact in detail but were general. They were momentary and fleeting in my mind’s eye … as a child I thought the briny sea was the urine of a great Sun God and the Moon a Goddess in the sky
James: His cosmological and ethical reflections were the outbirth of his solitary thought … he surely had no conventional gestures for the causal and logical relations involved in his inductions about the Moon, for example. So far as it goes then his narrative tends to discountenance the notion that no abstract thought is possible without words
The source of the experienceOrdinary person
Concepts, symbols and science items
Activities and commonsteps
SuppressionsBeing a child
Deafness and tinnitus
Suppression of learning