The Books of Adidam > Related Articles > Transcendental Orthography

Transcendental Orthography
as a Teaching Device


1. Alternatives to Conventional Orthography

Adi Da has often pointed out how ordinary language — even its grammatical conventions and rules of orthography[1] — reflects the ego's separative viewpoint. For example, in the English language,[5] the ego is elevated through the grammatical requirement that the word "I" be capitalized.

Ordinary speech and written language are centered on the ego-"I", as a tent is raised on a centerpole. Therefore, in ordinary speech and written language, the ego-word "I" is commonly capitalized, and everything less than the ego-"I" is shown in lowercase. (Indeed, everything that is not the ego-"I" is grammatically subordinated to the egoic "I"-reference.)

Avatar Adi Da Samraj
"The Eternal Conversation", The Dawn Horse Testament

For this reason, Adi Da always uses the construct, ego-"I", rather than just the word I by itself, wherever "I" refers to the separate self (not the Divine Person). In this way, He never gives the self-promoting, self-centered ego the free propaganda that automatically derives when the capital I appears all by itself. Instead, when referring to the "I" that is the separate self, He always attaches the word "ego-" to the "I" (in His construct: ego-"I") — something like requiring a person to hang a sign around his neck, whenever he appears in public.[5]

Similarly, a presumed separation between "subject" and "object" is automatically built into the grammar of languages like English which have sentences with "Subject-Verb-Object" word order,[2] and the subject (the ego) is given primacy by always appearing in the first position of the sequence. Words like "I" are used by convention, without our ever taking even five minutes to consider whether they actually refer to anything real, or what it is (real or unreal) that they actually refer to.

All modes of conditionally (and merely conventionally) presumed identity are merely convenient fictions, based on the apparent relational transactions between temporally and spatially configured and mutually associated (or provisionally related) "point-of-view-locations".

As such, all names, pronouns, and conditional "self"-references (or ego-"I"-identifications) are merely transactional fictions, or provisional modes of pseudo-identity, presumed on the basis of a perceived need to understand, organize, and manage the conventions of conditionally apparent "point-of-view-relations".

Unless all of this is clearly and actively understood and lived by all human beings (both individually and collectively), the environment of conditionally (and merely conventionally) presumed pseudo-identities (linguistically specified, and mentally proposed, and, altogether, humanly activated, by names, pronouns, and descriptive references of all kinds) is liable to become — and usually does become — a basis for egoically "self"-deluded illusion-cultures (or a human world-mummery).

The fiction of separateness — and the denial of the universal characteristic of prior unity — is a mind-based illusion, a lie, a terribly deluding force, and a profoundly and darkly negative act.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj
"There Is Only Reality Itself — Which Is Real God — and No Other Is At All"
Part XIV, The Aletheon

Even nouns can be misleading, when considered from the viewpoint of Spiritual Realization:

The word "Reality" has the force of a noun. Nouns, according to the conventions of common speech and therefore of writing, indicate a "something" that is objective to consciousness. Therefore, when the adherents of the logical arguments proposed by the traditions proceed to develop their force of argumentation, they do so on the basis not only of prior alienation from Reality, or the ego-base or the self-contraction, but on the basis of the illogical consequences of conventional speech. If you feel separated from Reality and therefore must define It or discover It again or seek It to the point of finding It, then you propose It as a something yet to be attained. Reality is not a something that can be attained, nor is It a something that can be observed. We cannot even reflect upon It as we may reflect upon individual and independent consciousness.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj
"The Imaginary Disease of Un-Reality", The Dreaded Gom-Boo

Thus, in many ways, conventional language reinforces the egoic viewpoint, rather than helping us transcend egoity. Most of us simply submit to use the language as given, without any thought about it. However, not surprisingly, some of our modernist poets and writers — the "advance guard" of the language of our culture, reaching out with their antennae[4] in playful, new directions — have challenged such conventions. Twentieth century poets and writers like E. E. Cummings and Gertrude Stein carved out new possibilities for capitalization and other aspects of linguistic syntax. But the experiments of such writers are largely an egoic reaction to the constraints represented by ordinary conventions, rather than an expression of Realization and ego-transcendence. For example, the following excerpt from one of E. E. Cumming's poems illustrates his sometimes almost anarchic reaction to "grammarians" (in this example, indiscriminately tossing out all capitalization and all punctuation other than line breaks and one apostrophe):

since feeling is first
who pays attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you

for life's not a paragraph
and death I think is no parenthesis

In contrast, the linguistic experiments of a Spiritual Realizer are based on using and reshaping language to more directly and accurately communicate the greater-than-material Reality. Over the many decades in which Adi Da developed Adidam's Source-Texts — the books that summarize His Teaching — He evolved unique uses of language, intended to communicate the Transcendental Reality (much as He would later develop unique forms of Image-Art to communicate the Transcendental Reality), rather than the ego's separative misinterpretation of Reality. In this article, we mention a couple of the devices He used in His "Transcendental Orthography".[3]

2. Adi Da's Unique, Revelatory Use of Capitalization

Throughout His Source-Texts and particularly in that magisterial and comprehensive manual for the practice of Adidam, The Dawn Horse Testament, Adi Da frequently capitalizes words that would not ordinarily be capitalized in English. And such capitalized words include not only nouns, but also pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and even articles and prepositions. By such capitalization, He is indicating that the word refers (either inherently, or by virtue of the context) to the Unconditional Divine Reality, rather than the conditional (or worldly) reality.

To read (or listen to) and understand My Divine Avataric Word is to be Acausally Released from having to exercise the egoic vision and its separate and separative "point of view".

Therefore, read, and listen to, and recite, and feel (rather than merely think) the Words of My Divine Avataric Message.

The big and small letters of My Texted Gift always interrupt the common flow of mind, and Signal the Heart of "you" that this moment Is the Necessary Instant of Self-Awakening — to Be As "you" Are.

My Divine Avataric Word is a Form of My Divine Agency — an Extension of Myself, a Means Whereby I Bless all-and-All.

My Divine Avataric Word is not independent of Me.

My Divine Avataric Word is not a "substitute" for Me.

Therefore, as you read (or listen to) My Divine Avataric Word, do not abstract yourself from Me.

Do not approach My Divine Avataric Word as if It were a "something" in and of Itself, separate from Me.

Do not make My Divine Avataric Word into a "substitute" for Me.

Always use My Divine Avataric Word rightly — as a (by-Me-Given) Means to turn to Me.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj, The Aletheon

Adi Da's chosen conventions of capitalization vary in different "Source-Texts" and in different sections of a given "Source-Text". In The Dawn Horse Testament (and certain other Texts), Avatar Adi Da employs a convention in which the overwhelming majority of all words are capitalized, and only those words that indicate the egoic (or dualistic) point of view are left lower-cased. This capitalization convention (which Adi Da has worked out to an extraordinarily subtle degree — in ways that are often startling) is in itself a Teaching device, intended to communicate His fundamental Revelation that "There Is Only Real God", and that only the ego (or the dualistic or separative point of view) prevents us from living and Realizing that Truth.

Here is an example:

Therefore, For My Every Devotee, all conditions Must Be Aligned and Yielded In Love With Me — or Else any object or any other Will Be The Cause Of Heart-Stress, self-Contraction, Dissociation, Clinging, Boredom, Doubt, The Progressive Discomfort Of Diminished Love-Bliss, and All The Forgetfulness Of Grace and Truth and Happiness Itself.

Note that "and" and "or" are lower-cased — because these conjunctions are (here, and in all contexts) primary expressions of the point of view of two-ness, or duality.

In the Melrose Bookstore, Adi Da featured the & symbol as a primary  symbol of duality.
Making the same communication in 1972, but using different artistic means, Adi Da featured the "&" ("and") as a primary symbol of duality, featured in the Melrose Bookstore. He placed it in the room with all the books from the Great Tradition, rather than in the Communion Hall. Thus the two rooms and the "&" symbol architecturally communicated the Prior Unity and all the other lesser points of view.

Also note that "all conditions", "any object", "any other", and "self" are lower-cased, while "Heart-Stress", "Contraction", "Dissociation", "Clinging," "Boredom", "Doubt", "Discomfort", "Diminished", and "Forgetfulness" are capitalized. Through this use of capitals and lower case, Adi Da is telling us that unpleasant or apparently "negative" states are not inherently egoic. It is only the presumption of duality and separateness — as expressed by such words as "conditions", "object", "other", and "self" — that is egoic.

Note how even in Adi Da's Mahavakya (or "Great Statement"), "He-and-She Is Me", He does not capitalize "and". This Mahavakya is a good illustration of how Adi Da uses capitalization and punctuation with surgical precision. Each of the great aspects of the Divine — the "He" that is Consciousness and the "She" that is Light is capitalized. But the perception of Consciousness and Light as distinct is not Enlightened, so the "and" in "He and She" is lowercase. Because the Realization of "Me" (Adi Da, the Very Divine) is coincident with the Realization of Shiva-Shakti, of non-duality, Adi Da adds in the hyphens and the underlines, "He-and-She Is Me", to reflect the seventh stage Realization. In other words, before Enlightenment, there is He and there is She, and Reality is comprised of He and She, apart. But after Enlightenment, there is just the Divine Me, but that Divine Me can also be viewed from two aspects that are now inseparable from each other: He-and-She. The inseparability is reflected by the hyphens. But because "He alone" or "She alone" is not the Divine Realization, the "and" remains lowercase.

Dr. Jeffrey Kripal adds (in the Foreword he wrote for Adi Da's autobiography, The Knee Of Listening):

What sets [Adi Da's books] apart is the fact that they were written in English, and that this English idiom has been enriched by a kind of hybridized English-Sanskrit, and that a new type of mystical grammar has been created, embodied most dramatically (and, to the ego, jarringly) in Adi Da's anti-ego capitalization practice, in which just about every grammatical move is nondualistically endowed with the status once imperially preserved in English for the non-existent "I".

Such a reading experience constantly calls upon one's ability to think and feel beyond the socially constructed ego.

Dr. Jeffrey Kripal
J. Newton Rayzor Professor of Religious Studies
and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies
at Rice University, Houston, Texas, USA

3. Adi Da's Unique, Revelatory Use of Quotation Marks

Adi Da uses quotation marks to indicate one of two things:

  1. Some ordinary term, commonly presumed to indicate something real, is, in Reality, indicating something that is an illusion.

  2. A word or phrase is being used with a technical manner specific to Adidam, rather than the conventional meaning for the word or phrase.

As an example of the first use of quotation marks, Adi Da places quotation marks around the word "self" throughout the book, Not-Two Is Peace, to indicate to the reader that the separate "self" has no real existence (even though we all constantly presume it does). Similarly, frequently Adi Da uses the term, ego-"I", placing quotation marks to indicate that there is no such thing as the "I". While there is no "I" thing, ego is a reference to an actual process — the activity of separation — and so Adi Da does not place quotation marks around it.

The following passage illustrates Adi Da's second use of quotation marks:

During all of My present Lifetime (of Avataric Divine Incarnation), the "Bright" has always been My Realization — and the "Thumbs" and My Own "Radical" Understanding have always been My Way in the "Bright".

"Bright", "Thumbs", and "Radical" are have technical meanings specific to Adidam.

  • By the word "Bright", Adi Da is referring to the Self-Existing and Self-Radiant Divine Reality.

  • By the word "Thumbs", Adi Da is referring to a specific form of Infusion of Avatar Adi Da's Divine Spirit-Current in the body-mind.

  • The word "radical" derives from the Latin "radix", meaning "root". Thus it principally means "irreducible", "fundamental", or "relating to the origin". The quotation marks emphasize that it is not used in the conventional sense of "politically or socially extreme".

Note: One common use of quotation marks in conventional writing is to signify irony or sarcasm. Adi Da never uses quotation marks in these ways, so readers of His Word should never interpret the quotation marks in His Words as indicators of irony or sarcasm.

This article appears in our sections
The Books of Adidam: Related Articles and Miscellaneous Questions


Orthography includes rules of spelling, hyphenation, capitalization, word breaks, emphasis, and punctuation.


In this one sense, the German language is a little different from many other European languages (including English) in that, at least when there is a separable prefix, the verb infinitive appears at the end of the sentence, enabling subject and object to be closer to each other in the sequence, separated only by the separable prefix. For example, "I will throw away the garbage" is, in German: "Ich werde den Müll wegwerfen" (literally: I will the garbage throw away).

I wouldn't necessarily call German a "less egoic" language on this basis. But its somewhat different word order in certain circumstances suggests some interesting possibilities for language altogether. For example, a grammar consciously designed to reflect of Adi Da's wisdom about egoity might place the verb first, and then the subject and object: in other words, making the process in which the actors are participating primary, and subordinating the actors, both subject and object, to a secondary participatory role (along with the separable prefixes connoting tense): "Throw away will I the garbage." English poetry does allow such an "inverted" word order, but normal speech seldom does.

Interestingly, taken together, the languages of the world reflect a number of different preferred word orders, including the one I just described. Linguists divide the world's languages into SVO languages (Subject-Verb-Object), SOV languages (Subject-Object-Verb), and VSO languages (Verb-Subject-Object). SOV languages are the most common. These include Japanese, Burmese, Ancient Greek, Hindi, Tibetan, and many more (about 497 altogether). SVO languages are next most common, and include English and most European languages (German as well, with the already mentioned exception), Chinese, and many other languages (about 435 altogether). Together, SOV and SVO languages account for for more than 75% of all languages that have a preferred order. The VSO languages are a much smaller but still significant group (about 85 languages altogether). They include Semitic languages (e.g., classical Arabic and classical Hebrew), Celtic languages, Afroasiatic languages (including Egyptian), Mayan languages, and Austronesian languages (Hawaiian, Tongan, etc.). A good introduction to the subject is Matthew Dryer, Order of Subject, Object, and Verb, Chapter 81 of The World Atlas of Language Structures Online.


Thanks to Askold Skalsky for the wonderful phrase, "Transcendental Orthography", which he used in his paper, Transcendental Realism and Radical Narrative in Adi Da Samraj's The Orpheum, from the 2009 CESNUR Conference.


"Artists are the antennae of the race." Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading.


English is the only language in which the word for first person singular ("I") is capitalized. (Thanks to Daniela Morena for pointing this out.) This appears to have resulted from sensibilities around the time of Chaucer about the look of the written English language. At that time, the word, "i", was newly derived from the German "ich", having first been shortened to the Middle English form, "ic", and then to the more modern "i". But as a single, short, and skinny letter, lowercase "i" was small and hard to read. Consequently, early manuscript writers (around 1250) and typographers (Gutenberg's printing press was invented in 1450) began enlarging it to make it more readable — leading to the modern capital "I". For more on this history, read the New York Times article, "Me, Myself and I",'s "Why Do We Capitalize I?", and the Online Etymology Dictionary article.

Even though there is no universal egoic principle that insists that, in every language, the word for "first person singular" be capitalized, the psychological impact in the one language in which it is capitalized (English) is exactly as Adi Da describes: "Ordinary speech and written language are centered on the ego-'I', as a tent is raised on a centerpole." So the origins of the capital "I" may have been accidental and not egoic per se, but egoity seized upon this "free gift" to reinforce and promote itself in the way Adi Da describes.

Quotations from and/or photographs of Avatar Adi Da Samraj used by permission of the copyright owner:
© Copyrighted materials used with the permission of The Avataric Samrajya of Adidam Pty Ltd, as trustee for The Avataric Samrajya of Adidam. All rights reserved. None of these materials may be disseminated or otherwise used for any non-personal purpose without the prior agreement of the copyright owner. ADIDAM is a trademark of The Avataric Samrajya of Adidam Pty Ltd, as Trustee for the Avataric Samrajya of Adidam.

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