This Commandment relates to the most powerful esoteric tool wielded by either God or His image, man: the power of intelligent sound, The Word. As already pointed out, in Greek the term logos that is commonly translated as “word” means the concept, intent, and act of will behind the word as well as the objective word through which all these are expressed. For example, if we say: “Let’s meditate,” we are expressing the concept of meditation and the decision to meditate now.
Name–or Word–consists of two aspects: sound and intelligent meaning. Sound itself exercises great influence. Some years ago a fire department in the Middle West demonstrated the ability of a particular type of siren to extinguish fire simply by its sound. However it could not be used because it caused intense pain to those not wearing sound-deadening devices. The sound of jet engines have been known to rupture the blood vessels in the lungs of airport workers not wearing sound-eliminating devices. In our modern technological times the problem of “noise pollution” has become quite crucial. It has even been estimated that the ordinary noises of a city can shorten the lifespan of its dwellers by as much as ten years.
Very interesting studies have been made on the physiological effects of music. Plants grow better if certain types of music are played near them, and their growth can be stunted or twisted if chaotic music is played. In one experiment, plants grew leaning away from speakers that were putting out “hard rock” music, and actually grew toward and around speakers that were emitting classical East Indian music. Cows give more milk if soothing music is played while they are being milked. Clerical workers make less mistakes if quiet music is played in the office. And we have all experienced the rousing effect of military band music. In modern times several famous singers have demonstrated their ability to shatter glass by singing a particular note. Sound also has the ability to heal. Some dentists use sound to render their patients impervious to the pain of drilling.
The walls of Jericho
Perhaps the most graphic example of sound power in the Bible is the conquering of Jericho (Joshua 6:1-16, 20). The Hebrews walked around the walls of Jericho in silence several times so that those who were adept in the knowledge of sound could listen and gauge the resonance of the walls as the sound of their footsteps was echoed back from them. When after a few days they had discovered the resonant note of the walls, they instructed the trumpeters to produce that note–and the people to loudly intone that sound in unison–when they received the signal. They did so, and the walls fell as though crushed by a giant hand.
One of the most amazing experiences of my life occurred in the Chicago Opera House–the largest in the world. The great mezzo-soprano, Giulietta Simionato, sang a low note that made the walls literally ring back with the note like a tuning-fork. I realized that if she kept it up she might crack or crumble the walls.
Any name or title of God–as well as the simple word “God”–is also a word of great power when spoken or thought. Never is the Name of God without effect when invoked. Whenever It is spoken or intoned, the power of God becomes manifest. How, then, can we take the Name of God in vain, since it always produces an effect, as we have just said? “In vain” does not just mean without effect, but also means being used to a foolish or evil end–indeed to any end or purpose not intended by God–in other words, to vanity. The medieval ceremonial magicians of Europe used the Name of God in vain by invoking His various titles, both Hebrew and Greek, in their magical rituals whose purpose was the gratification of ego and greed. By the use of Holy Names they sought to conjure and adjure spirits with whom no human beings should traffic. To use the Names of God’s Power for selfish and earthly ends is taking them in vain.
Another way to take God’s Name in vain is to use it in hypocritical or insincere prayers. To falsely take an oath in which God is mentioned (“so help me God,” etc.) is also taking it in vain. Perhaps the silliest way we take the Lord’s Name in vain is when we invoke It without the intention of Its having any effect upon us, without the will or the willingness to truly become a son of God. But the worst taking of God’s Name in vain is when we invoke it in anger, cursing, or swearing. Such a thing is the blackest of black magic, for we are invoking the power of God to harm another, attempting to use the healing power of God as a weapon of injury to hurl at the objects of our displeasure. Of course most people do not think of it in this way and consider they are just “letting off steam” verbally.
Taking the Name effectively
We have considered how the Divine Name is taken in vain, so it would be wise to consider how It is taken effectually, that is, with the right intention–which is the desire and intent to draw near to God. In the Bible, the word translated as “prayer” is prosevki, which means “drawing near.” (The Sanskrit word upasana has the identical meaning and is also used to indicate both prayer and devotional worship.) Most assuredly, it is prayer, both inward and outward, that is the most effective means of drawing near to and entering into union with God.
Knowing the secret of the sacred Name, the fountain of life, we must take It not in vain, but to life and to effect. We should wake up in the morning invoking the Name and go to sleep doing the same. If we truly learn to pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17), all other knowledge will come to us in time. This should be put first on our list of priorities and never forgotten.
Those who apply themselves to ceaseless prayer will come to know the true inner meaning of the words: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
Read the next article in Gnosis of the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes: Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.