The Origin of Speech
in a Deep Structure of Psi
Danny K. Alford*
Phoenix: New Directions in the Study of Man,
Volume II. No. 2 Fall/Winter 1978


Herein we explore the perceived deep relationship between the meaning which flows through speech-forms and that same meaning flow without benefit of speech, traditionally called telepathy. The author suggests that something basic in the makeup of human nature has escaped our attention in the study of language: man's ancient psi abilities. Working within the slower brain-wave rhythms which humans share with the rest of nature, and without which the transfer of much meaning between humans could not take place, these abilities must be accorded open-minded consideration. Insights from many disciplines, as well as an ancient Cheyenne Indian legend, are brought to bear on the notion that language information is processed differently on beta, alpha, and theta brain-wave levels.

The Einsteinian Challenge to Linguistics

Linguistics today is in need of an Einsteinian revolution of thought. Subtle phenomenological riddles have become profound philosophical paradoxes as our culture begins to understand that matter and energy, particle and wave, and therefore space and time, are unitary phenomena: things wriggling in time and wriggles thinking in space are but two sides of a single coin. Because of this essential dynamic vibratory interaction, everything accessible to the mind "sounds" in the dimension of time and meaning. "Form, or shape, is the natural expression of space, sound is the natural expression of time. The eye is the receiving organ of the expressions of space, the ear of the expressions of time." (23)

As a linguist, I am disturbed that my discipline tends to ignore the factor of time in its calculations of meaning--the synchchronic web of time (an ill-understood word having something to do with consciousness, the very core of being) which attends each meaningful exchange of patterned information. We shall explore a brainmind communication model which gives pre-eminence to time through attention to rhythms and frequencies in synchronous channels of communication.

Greist's Psi-Speech Communication System Theory

Walter Greist's paper. "Psi, Speech, and Thought Formation During Conversation" (9), in which he suggested a new theory of human communication, was the inspiration for this paper, Greist takes into account an aspect of human nature, of cognition (not just the rational sense of knowing), which has been consistently overlooked by most intellectuals in the past: man's phylogenetically ancient telepathic/psi abilities. His theory is the first to attempt an explanation of how, through psi, meanings are transferred between human beings, as well as how, through speech, the relative undependability of pure psi communication is overcome.

Greist's insight suggests an exciting new direction for linguistics in understanding bow meaning is transferred between my mind and yours right now. Linguists have devised many major and minor sublevels for sounds, syntax, and semantics (describing structures), but the flow of meaning has always eluded us. There is no meaning contained in the letters on this page, nor in the structured sounds of speech: so where is the meaning and how does it flow? For this we must leave the artificially autonomous world of pure linguistics ("language without speakers, speakers without societies, societies without environments, in sum linguistics without language(s)" (2), and examine our common assumptions about reality and human nature.

What is the Nature of Man?

Many critics of modern science are currently aware that something very basic in the nature of man is conspicuously absent in the dominant mechanistic and reductionist modes of thought. Martin Heidegger points out in his classic Being and Time (3) that we must examine closely the hidden assumptions at the base of each discipline subsumed under the "sciences of man:" to be genuine, a discipline must spell out explicitly its assumptive conceptions of the nature of man. 

In my own field, for example, Noam Chomsky1 methodologically assumed as his starting point (given his pseudo-claims for psychological reality) that man is a language acquisition device for constructing formal grammars from underdetermined speech noises-a conception which rudely ignores a multitude of phenomenological facts about both human beings and language. Greist's unified communication theory, based on recent understandings regarding the nature of man, calls into question all previous analytic language theories (such as Chomsky's) which assume that human interaction with the environment through the five senses alone is responsible for the learning of language, and suggests that we begin constructing a new gestaltic paradigm based on humanistic facts rather than those of artificial intelligence and information-processing. The French philosopher Merleau-Ponty would agree, arguing in his Phenomenology of Perception (11) that the very word "perception" must be unshackled from its commonly limited five-senses meaning to include the very quality of living and being in the world which escapes all verbal descriptions.

Man's Ancient Psi Nature 

The accumulated evidence from parapsychology both here and abroad indicates that psi abilities are possessed by everyone, although people who grow up in Western societies where these abilities have been systematically suppressed by religion and education tend to be markedly less aware of this aspect of their human birthright. Moreover, since animals and even plants have demonstrated psi abilities repeatedly in controlled experiments, these abilities are, evolutionarily speaking, phylogenetically very ancient.2

Psi, in its deep connection with language, is not necessarily some dramatic paranormal phenomenon, but is a rather nondramatic, garden-variety, lowest-common-denominator field-effect of unconscious meaning-flow and -recognition. Modern physics was long since forced to give up a purely structural and materialistic paradigm (an electron can demonstrably be in two places at once and nowhere in-between) in favor of a paradigm embracing gestaltic fields and their abstracted singularities. This is an aspect of the nature of reality that linguists can no longer afford to ignore.

The Deep Structure of Psi:
A Time-based Brainmind Model 

Let us assume a brainmind model, incorporating psi, with four major frequency rhythm; beta, alpha, theta, and delta,3 and let us view them as natural communication channels of production and recognition. BETA-CHANNEL is active in the production of human speech: at 13 cps (cycles per second) and up, it indicates focused interaction with the environment. ALPHA-CHANNEL is a dynamically receptive pattern-recognition process: at about 7-12 cps, it indicates a no-thought "listening" state such as that found in meditation. THETA-CHANNEL, at about 3-6 cps, is active in image and symbol production and is intimately involved with emotions, qualities, symbols, dreams, and consciousness. DELTA-CHANNEL, below theta frequencies, is believed generally inoperative except in deep sleep.

In gross neurophysiological terms, beta and alpha are functions of the left and right cortical hemispheres, theta of the subcortical limbic brain, and delta of the reptilian brain. 

The Russian parapsychologist, Vasiliev, among others, has pointed out that "the electrical activity of the cerebral cortex is unquestionably ... connected with mental activity."(21:21) When we think and when we perceive, our brains produce rhythmic electric currents which with their magnetic components spread out into space at the velocity of light (3:23).4 As any normal EEG (electroencephalogram) reading will show, in waking consciousness we generally emit a gestalt of electrical rhythms in beta, alpha, and theta levels simultaneously. Since we are constantly interpreting a primary fourth-dimensional reality composed of information coded in electromagnetic frequencies, according to the Pribram-Bohm unified field theory (7, 16),5 our three information channels are processing simultaneously speech information through one channel, recognition of face and bodily expressions, tone of voice, psi, and other subliminal perceptions through other channels. (Of course, one may intensify any particular information channel by entering fully the appropriate discrete altered states of consciousness.)

Science and Tribal Knowledge Merge
at the Tower of Babel 

At this point I should like to present a Cheyenne Indian legend which is germane to this discussion:

Long ago, men and animals and spirits all communicated in the same way. Then something happened. After that, men had to speak to each other in different languages. But they retained "The Old Language" in dreams, and in communicating with spirits and animals.6

Here we see a notion of reality within tribal knowledge which is congruent with our proposed model, even to its delineating the realms of reality (waking vs. prayers, visions, and dreams) in which each mode of communication now works best. 

I think we can all recognize in this account echoes of the various Tower of Babel type legends, found as frequently around the world as the Flood legends-and even a touch of the Hebraic Garden of Eden, about which the historian Josephus wrote that one of the penalties accompanying man's exile (19:104)7 was the loss of the ability to communicate with animals. British8 and Russian9 scientists, among others, have printed speculations regarding the pre-speech status of telepathic communication in human beings, generally agreeing that the rise of human speech and complex cultural societies repressed a more "primitive" form of knowing. Even today, those few societies left on the face of the earth with authentically enculturated telepathic communication, such as Australian and South Pacific native peoples(18), are those with little use for civilization or writing.10 

With technology and writing, the "still, small voice of psi," as Tart describes it,11 gets lost in the multitude of things to pay attention to. Tart has also pointed out (20:113) that in our ordinary or beta state of consciousness, there is not only a removal of our attention energy from psi processes, but as well an active inhibition of mental processes that might be conducive to psi. In contrast to our own psi-repressive culture, Native American cultures deliberately perform rituals designed to assist their members into discrete altered states of consciousness (as with drumming, peyote rituals. etc.).

Sentics: The Science of Emotion Communication 

Many researchers here and abroad12 have confirmed the anecdotal evidence that strong links exist between psi and emotions that although visual, auditory, and other sense information may be communicated through psi channels, the most effective and forceful psi communication happens with the impetus of strong emotion, as with accidents and deaths.

Recently, a new science of the communication of emotion, called Sentics, has arisen from the experimental research of Manfred Clynes (6). In a recent book of that title he shows that emotions, or cognitive sentic states, are systemic holorganismic patterns of information flow--production, recognition and reproduction. Each sentic state is characterized by specific and distinct EEG brainwave patterns, as well as by arbitrary motor motions which can be quantified and graphed. Through various cultural samples in Bali, Japan, and Mexico, as well as in America, Clynes demonstrated that sentic forms, dynamic electromagnetic patterns of meaningful information in the central nervous system, are not culture-specific, but partake of "precise, genetically programmed brain processes." They represent, he says, natural "words" of emotion communication, "words that were developed before speech arose, and are not just intro-species shared, but inter-species shared as well, as when animals read our emotional intents we theirs.

The Limbic-Theta Frontier 

Since it is well recognized that "The theta rhythm is characteristically associated with the emotions" (21:20) and with the older limbic brain.13 it seems that Clynes' objective is similar to my own in that he is attempting to describe the THETA-CHANNEL of communication which lies within the pre-speech14 processes traditionally called intuitive.15 

Here is the symbol-making unconscious, holographically linked by coded meaningful electromagnetic patterns to the rest of Nature, without which our relatively recent speech-tokens could mean nothing. This is the real language16 ability which underlies human speech, with electromagnetically patterned "words" composed of qualities far more precise than the speech-words used to describe them (6:33). We respond predictably to emotionally-loaded words, as in the spate of political propaganda we have all recently been subjected to. Moreover, there is evidence that emotions are an important factor in children's acquisition of language.17

It is important to recognize that linguistics has been seen by its practitioners as a way of illuminating what is human about human nature. I propose, however, that that goal will be best achieved by studying the nature part of human nature, finding what communications processes man shares with the rest of nature before attempting to judge what is purely human about language. It is clear that psi processes and the "flow of meaning" between beings is antecedent to human speech-tokens.

Do Words Refer to Thoughts or Things?

Greist's unified communication theory claims that words refer to thought patterns rather than to external things: a formidable challenge to the classic Wörten-und-Sachen reference theories, correctly recognizing the ontological inappropriateness of the artificial subject/object distinction in the gestaltic realm of patterned meaning.

Let's examine, for a moment, the notion of thought-patterns. We have seen in Clynes' work that "To each basic emotion there corresponds a characteristic brain pattern." In fact, brainwave patterns have been catalogued for more than a hundred "words", many--like those for "blocking" and "alpha"--without specific emotional content. Many of you are aware that SRI International has tested a "primitive mind-reading machine" (15.5:258) which can direct a TV camera in any of four directions (up, down, left, right) simply by monitoring a person's concentrated thoughts. Thoughts and symbols are no less than different modes of energy, expressions of time frequencies. 

The Russian scientist Inyushin has proposed (13:38), following Einstein and paralleling Pribram and Bohm, that the entire universe known to the mind is composed of vibrations: the finer vibratory rates are perceived as thoughts and the slower rates perceived as impressions of things in space.18 Since "An impressive body of research in many laboratories has demonstrated that the brain structures see, hear, taste, smell, and touch by sophisticated mathematical analysis of temporal and/or spatial frequencies" (7), we must be prepared to accept the possibility that words refer to the coded patterns perceived rather than the physical things being encoded (which accounts for linguistic relativity of viewpoints even though seeing the same objects).


The works of Greist and Clynes are important additions to modern conceptualizations of the nature of reality, and of the ways in which speech and psi interact in these realms of patterned meaning. Information, "the ghost in the machine," is more basic than space, time, energy, or matter. Information coded in meaningfully patterned enfolded gestalts (such as seeds) become activated spatially and temporally in this reality as they manifest in linearly unfolding physical forms (such as trees). Man's psi nature, processing enfolded gestalts on the alpha and theta channels, links him holographically with the macrogestalt of patterned meaningful information, while the beta channel of speech is a fundamental human tool by which people bond together in a common culture valuing a subsection of the total available thought-patterns. Speech is man's primary device for bringing about rapid and precise communication flows of information. I conclude with a quotation from my conceptual mentor, Benjamin Whorf, who gained recognition posthumously for his Einsteinian relativity interpretations of language, thought, and reality. Whorf believed, as presented here, that the processes of consciousness, always present in normal speech exchanges, can operate as well independently. He said,

My own studies suggest, to me, that language, for all its kingly role, is in some sense a superficial embroidery upon deeper processes of consciousness, which are necessary before any communication, signalling, or symbolism whatsoever can occur, and which also can, at a pinch, effect communication (though not true AGREEMENT without language's and without symbolism's aid. (24:239)


1. This remark, loosely quoted from Bert Dreyfus, philosophy professor at UCB (personal communication), while seemingly unnecessarily harsh, is Dreyfus' synthesized assessment of Chomsky's position throughout a number of published works. back to text

2. See, for instance, the literature search in Walter Greist's dissertation (9). back to text

3. We shall, for the moment, be forced to ignore four other known brainwave rhythms since little is known of them at present. Also, lest my own position be misconstrued because of exclusive mention of measurable brainwaves, an optimum explanation of psi phenomena undoubtedly includes the effects of faster-than-speed-of-light tachyons which are released simultaneously with physical frequencies, the c2 of Einstein's e = mc2, according to de Broglie's equation, is the constant product of slower-than-light physical frequencies and faster than-light pilot-waves. For more on this line, see Andrija Puharich's excellent groundbreaking work (17).

Note also that Dr. Banesh Hoffman, one of Einstein's assistants, said in a joint statement with Nobel Prize-winning physicist Pascal Jordan, "A gravitational field has some similarity with the force that transmits telepathic information, in that both act at a distance and penetrate all obstacles." Gravity is another word, like "perception," which needs a much broader understanding than commonly given, since what is called gravity between two planets is called attraction, desire, love, etc., between human beings. The significance of the recent discovery of "gravity waves" may be better understood in terms of the ideas presented in this paper. back to text

4. Since our brains emit electromagnetic radiation (EMR), we may speculate that different portions of the brain organize relevant information around different magnetic poles, coded within frequencies, and that the portions themselves interact electrically in cross-filing and retrieval; as with a magnet, north and south magnetic poles are separate, but connected through electricity flowing between them, Wilder Penfield's neurosurgical electric probes into the brain, triggering vivid memories, may substantiate this speculation. (12:85) back to text

5. See (7) for holographic mind/universe theories of neurosurgeon Pribram and physicist Bohm, heirs apparent to an Einsteinian unified field theory: "The brain is a hologram, interpreting a holographic universe." back to text

6. Recounted to me by J. Youngblood Henderson, Cheyenne-Chickasaw, formerly Assistant Professor of Native American Studies, UCB. back to text

7. Compare the Hebraic notion of Eden with Lawrence Blair's interpretation (4:19):

back to text

8. Watson (22:239) reports that

On this, Hardy's last point, Marilyn Ferguson (8:349) reports that one team of scientists has suggested that organisms of the same species employ a communications system using modulated, coherent electromagnetic radiation, and that (8:18) the cerebral cortex actually emits near-infrared radiation which can be altered by electrical stimulation; that as well, the limbic brain radiates light about ten times brighter than starlight. back to text

9. In a collection of articles written by Soviet parapsychologists, Prainikova and Popovkin (12:106) report on Lazar Soukharebsky's views ("Telepathic aptitudes were normal in our ancestors ... It is the development of civilization that has made telepathic communication impossible."), and Mogchev reports an equivalent notion (12:85) ("Telepathy was used as a communication link by people in prehistoric times who lacked language. Gradually, with the development of languages, telepathic abilities may have regressed.") back to text

10. See my "The Effects of Literacy on Cognition and Being in the World: Linguistic Implications of the Brainmind-Rhythms Model" (1) for a discussion of how literacy changes the natural pattern of beta-speaking and alpha-listening to a cognitively different beta-speaking/beta-reading mode of processing language, elevating the sense of vision to supremacy and destroying the natural orchestration of the senses. back to text

11. "I understand psi as a deliberate 'listening to a still, small voice within,' trying to pick up an infrequent and subtle quality of your mental processes that conveys psi information. This difficult task must be done against the background of the incessant mental chatter of our ordinary state of consciousness." (20:145) back to text

12. See Tart (20:1 18) and Ostrander and Schroeder (12:158), where Kotik says that "the quality of transmission [of telepathy] depends on the emotions evoked in the sender by the information being transmitted," those emotions being evoked as well in the receiver. back to text

13. Ferguson reports (8) on "altered states of consciousness, states in which the limbic brain seems to have gained ascendancy," agreeing with Penfield and Tart (see Footnote 15 below), about the seat of consciousness. back to text

14. Clynes says, on page 19:

back to text

15. Clynes (page 145) states that

Researchers both here and abroad are cognizant that the limbic system of the brain, below the cortical hemispheres, is involved with the production of theta-waves. It is the dreaming brain, the vast pool of symbols, producer of emotions, and--according to Tart and Penfield--the very seat of consciousness. See Tart (20) and Penfield (14:112). back to text

16. Language in the sense of de Saussure's term la langue, as opposed to a particular language (le langage) or the act of speaking (la parole). back to text

17. Marilyn Silva, UC Berkeley Linguistics, personal communication. back to text

18. The importance of converting vibrations into thoughts and things can be understood when we realize that, in Blair's words (4:20), the differences between blue and orange, F sharp and E flat, even between a circle and a square, are differences only in spatial and temporal wave motion. Inyushin continues:

Neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield (14:35) mentioned this same image-making power.
back to text


1. Alford, Danny. "The Effects of Literacy on Cognition and Being in the World: Linguistics Implications of the Brainmind-Rhythms Model." (Forthcoming in Phoenix: New Directions in the Study of Man.)

2. Anttila, Raimo. "Generative Grammar and Language Change: Irreconcilable Concepts?" In Bela Brogyanyi (ed.). Amsterdam Studies in Theory and History of Linguistic Science: Current issues in Linguistic Theory. John Benjamins B.V.: Amsterdam. (forthcoming).

3. Bentov, Izhak. Stalking the Wild Pendulum: The Mechanics of Consciousness. Dutton: New York. 1977.

4. Blair, Lawrence. Rhythms of Vision. Warner, New York. 1975.

5. Bowart, Walter. Operation Mind Control. Dell: New York. 1978.

6. Clynes, Manfred. Sentics: The Touch of Emotions. Anchor Books: New York. 1978.

7. Ferguson, Marilyn (ed.). Brain/Mind Bulletin of 4 July, 1977.

8. Ferguson, Marilyn. The Brain Revolution. Bantam: New York. 1975.

9. Greist. Walter. "Psi, Speech and Thought Formation During Conversation," presented at 1974 Mexico City AAA Conference. In Joseph Long (ed.), Extrasensory Ecology. Scarecrow Press, 1977. (The paper is a condensation of his unpublished dissertation, Psi-Speech Communication Theory, University of Kentucky. 1975.)

10. Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Harper and Row: New York. 1962.

11. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Phenomenology of Perception. Humanities Press: New York. 1962.

12. Ostrander and Schroeder. The ESP Papers. Bantam: New York. 1976.

13. Oyle, Irving. Time, Space, and Mind. Celestial Arts: Millbrae, Calif. 1976.

14. Penfield, Wilder. The Mystery of the Mind. Princeton University Press. 1975.

15. Pinnea, Lawrence. In San Francisco Chronicle, 28 June, 1974.

16. Pribram, Karl. In G. Globus et al. (eds.). Consciousness and the Brain. Plenum. 1976.

17. Puharich, Andrija. Beyond Telepathy. Anchor Press: New York. 1973.

18. Rose, Ronald. Primitive Psychic Power. Signet: New York. 1968.

19. Sagan, Carl. Dragons of Eden. Random House: New York. 1977.

20. Tart, Charles. Psi. Dutton: New York. 1977.

21. Vasiliev, L. L. Experiments in Distant Influence: Discoveries by Russia's Foremost Parapsychologist. Dutton: New York. 1976.

22. Watson, Lyall. Supernature. Bantam: New York. 1973.

23. Wilson, Richard. The Miraculous Birth of Language. Philosophical Library: New York. 1948.

24. Whorf, Benjamin. Language, Thought, and Reality. MIT Press. 1956.