Posted by: Billy Marsh | November 18, 2008

Phantasmagorical

Master and Musician 2 ~ Phil Keaggy

Phantasmagorical: Master and Musician 2 ~ Phil Keaggy

Though I don’t have a “word of the day” calendar, I always am welcome to new vocabulary. I guess my “word of the week” this past week could be “Phantasmagorical.” I had never seen it or heard it before until I bought Phil Keaggy’s new instrumental album by the same name. At first, I thought it was a made-up word, but then I looked it up in my dictionary and found it to my surprise. Here’s what it means:

phantasmagoria – a sequence of real or imaginary images like that found in a dream.

After listening to Keaggy’s new record with better understanding of the meaning of its title, I now know why he named it with such a grandiose term. However, my exposure to this new word didn’t stop there.

In my Ph. D. reading of all places, I encountered it a second time. In Carl F. H. Henry’s God, Revelation, and Authority, Vol. I, I found the word being used in a sentence, and I was proud to know what it meant in its context. It made me feel smart! Here’s the passage where Henry inserted the term:

The early Christians evinced none of the modern attachment to the magical and mystical, to spells and incantations and to every imaginable admixture of religious aberration. The New Testament vision of the kingdom of God is no plunge into existential subjectivity, no phantasmagoric anti-intellectual experience, nor is it like being “turned on” by LSD even though ventured, as Timothy Leary would have it, as a sacred rite (115).  

Henry’s thoughts above appear in a chapter titled “The Countercultural Revolt” where he is responding to the mid-20th century’s attitude towards meaning, tradition, and religious experience. In the broader scheme, hopefully by the title of his work you can guess that he is going to make an argument for spirituality that is rooted in the revelation of God in the Scriptures.

It seems that this past week I was on the border of having a phantasmagorical experience with the word phantasmagoria. Perhaps after reading this post, you can say the same thing.

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Responses

  1. You and those big words!

  2. A delightful anecdote. I love how sometimes when you learn a new word, all of a sudden you see it everywhere. I call this, “linguistic providence.”

    The first time I came across this word was years ago when I read Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” for the first time. The scene is describing the protaganist making his way through the house:

    “Much that I encountered on the way contributed, I know not how, to heighten the vague sentiments of which I have already spoken. While the objects around me – while the carvings of the ceilings, the sombre tapestries of the walls, the ebon blackness of the floors, and the phantasmagoric armorial trophies which rattled as I strode, were but matters to which, or to such as which, I had been accustomed from my infancy – while I hesitated not to acknowledge how familiar was all this – I still wondered to find how unfamiliar were the fancies which ordinary images were stirring up.”

    Spooky.

  3. “linguistic providence” – I like it.

    Very interesting passage from Poe. The classic writers are always a good source for beefing up the vocabulary, not to mention they usually use hard words appropriately.


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