This short essay focuses on the passage of the Tower of Babel, exploring the themes of language, human nature and the divine-human boundary which is at the center of many stories throughout the Bible. This passage contains many interesting metaphysical issues and reveals the complexity of the divine-human interactions, which seem to contradict some religious interpretations. It also shows that language is a very powerful tool among human beings and a fundamental layer of the expansion of culture. The use of language turns out to be a means of transgression in human’s history and we will see how the Babel’s passage expresses this idea.
The Tower of Babel tells the story of the nations that were formed after the flood and by migrating to the east they chose to settle in the land of Shinar in order to build a city and, in this city, a tower that would reach the heavens. These nations shared the same language and by creating this monument they hoped to be recognized and to consolidate a solid and unified identity. However, the divine imperative to “fill the earth” goes against this project, so God divided the nations all over the face of the earth and assigned them different languages. It is said that this scattering and this expansion of cultures was realized to confuse the individuals and to divide them so they couldn’t understand each other anymore. But, this is where the confusion occurs for me. It seems that the construction of the tower is a means of centralizing humanity around a single construction, a single vision, a single language, in order to contain the spirit and to restrict the extent of the human essence which is fundamentally creative. Therefore, God wants to liberate human multiplicity, allow humans to grow and develop in the immensity of the space he has bequeathed to them. So instead of being a means of confusing the unity of the species and of dividing humanity, the multiplication of language is a means of broadening their vision, of unleashing their creative potential and to enrich culture. In the footnote, it is said that “The Lord is described here as fearing the human power that might result from ethnic and linguistic unity.” This doesn’t make sense according to the definition of God. God does not fear, and especially not humans, God has no feelings and He has no intentions to confuse or to destroy unity. God is the source of creation and order. Therefore, when it says, a few lines further, that the name Babel is interpreted here as “confusion”, but that it originally means “gate of god”, it reveals how confusion never takes roots in God’s will, but in human’s work, which manipulates symbols and language to change their meaning and thereby to confuse our understanding of reality and, in this case, of God’s will. The meaning of certain words are diverted and modified on purpose to satisfy certain authorities and the diffusion of biased ideas in order to maintain a control of conscience. What we can understand from the name Babel meaning “gate of god” is that the scattering of the nations across the earth is not a curse, but a way to guide human beings towards the richness of their mind and the multiple paths they can take to reach and touch the greatness of God. This so-called unity that the species want to create can be grasped through the depth of creation. And the “fear of the Lord” in front of the dangerous power that the people of Babel wants to gain can be seen as a disapproval of centralized power, of the systematization of human language and therefore of the restriction of the mind. The desire to unify the species around one language and one culture is the desire to consolidate a single ideology, a single way of expressing and understanding reality which is in fact very complex and profound. If God created the earth and the universe so vast and full of ressources, it is to inhabit it and integrate its natural order, it’s to use the resources made available to us, in harmony with the whole. Not to shut ourselves up in a tower, pretending to be on the same level as God and to see things through a specific lens, using a language supposedly perfect. And as God created an immense land for us to live on, God also created a vast spiritual space that we have to explore, a great mind that allows us to imagine, create and evolve as the intelligent beings we are supposed to be. In this story, the preservation of the divine-human boundary is set by making the growth of the language and of the culture horizontal instead of vertical. There’s not one way going upward, but many ways distributed all over the face of the earth. This doesn’t mean human beings lack or don’t deserve divine connection, it means that they have to expand inside their own realm and unify with their own nature. We have to merge with this material existence, with this experience on earth that we are destined to accomplish and, when the time comes, God will allow us to be elevated to the heavens and use this ultimate language, God’s language, which is fundamentally distinct from human words.
Therefore, it’s fallacious to believe God intended confusion and division among humans; rather, God restrained the expansion of dogmatic power and the confusion of controlled language. The Tower of Babel highlights the systematic intentions of humans to establish power through the homogenization of culture, through dogmas, through control of language, etc. The human ideal of perfection always seems flawed and contradictory to the true divine project, which is most likely the multiplication of creative potential and to embrace our complex and multiple nature.