Names and meaning : sublime spiritual meanings behind names
A book excerpt from the Iconoclast Press online library.
During my youth my father excelled at the self-created skill of being able to observe people in a passing crowd and invent names for these anonymous by-passers, which, after he had pointed them out and I had looked at the person, tended to suit them perfectly. Anyone passing by on the street, sitting nearby in a restaurant, theatre, or anywhere else in the great inglorious world of the hoi polloi, was the unconscious subject of my father’s light-hearted and lucid pseudonyming, so to speak.
To him, Clem was the chubby tourist walking purposelessly about on a ferry; Boris and Hortense were the thoroughly benign and working-class, incognizant neighbours camped beside us one year. Orville was an uptight, perfectly manicured clerk at a convenience store. Zelda was the repressed, and embittered housewife doing chores on her front porch. It didn’t matter what the person’s name really was, it most likely couldn’t have labelled them any better than my father’s trained sociologist’s keen eye, acutely witnessing the underlying essence beneath the obfuscating form.[i]
Which brings me to the Dumbrowskis. The Dumbrowskis were more of a fabled family to my father than an actuality; they were ever present, and yet never became more than potential. They existed in many guises, but never in reality. Wherever we lived, or travelled, my father would always claim that the Dumbrowski’s were going to join us, or we would meet them somehow along the way. They were part of our life, part of the drama in which we were inextricably bound, though I never recall meeting a true Dumbrowski. And yet, given the Law of the Word, it was inevitable that this fantastic species would one day appear before me in the manifest.
I bring this up not for its nostalgic and anecdotal qualities alone, but because this produced one of those many occurrences, or hallmarks, as it were, in the growth of my soul- the little repetitions or oddities by which I began to intuit the magical, sublime livingness of God’s theatre- and so, though I had never, in reality, met a Dumbrowski as a child, their mythical affinity to my being, due to my father’s regular verbal incantations, would inevitably bring about their existence in the outward drama of my life.
It came to pass that on a rainy autumn day I was hitchhiking along a logging road on the Charlottes, planning to do some Chanterelle picking so as to fill my pockets with some dough again, but suddenly I felt the need to turn around and head the other way. No doubt I had my own ideas about why I was doing this- the ego has an excuse for everything it does without ever humbly admitting that God does everything- but regardless, soon after spinning about and thumbing my way back out of the forest, a beat up old pickup-truck came along and I was given a ride by a woman who would in the end drive me right to the mushroom fields and who, it turned out, was the cousin of a good buddy of mine from back east- four thousand kilometres away- and she had grown up in the town right next to mine. Things like this are intended, it is only for us to empty ourselves into the whole and believe. Had I not turned around she would not have picked me up, and had she not picked me up the rest would not have followed.
What happened is that we drove to a mushroom-picking camp and I set up my tarp and went to sleep. The next day I met a hippy couple who were from my home province as well, and who, soon afterward chose to camp right beside my dilapidated tarp, and their name, of course, was …the Dumbrowskis.
Although these two folks were far from the vulgar, proletariat, dim-witted mob that I had come to associate with the name, I took this event to mean that I was finally at one with a part of my destiny. And no doubt I was. The Dumbrowskis turned out to be absolutely kindred spirits of mine. Our minds met and agreed upon some of the subtlest matters. As well, soon after our meeting I was to remember having had a dream of the woman Dumbrowski, perhaps a week earlier, before they camped near me- a dream that I could not piece together at the time, but recognized her in it after we had spent some time together.
It was a portentous message, and after a few weeks of spiritual exchange, our time together would culminate with her and I alone, standing together by the side of a lake and receiving the rainbow covenant, signalling the fulfilment of our communion.
In relating this I must continue to argue that each of us must accept their own reality, that each person’s reality belongs to that person and that person alone, and that we are not born to agree, we are born to see. And I was beginning to see that once I had disentangled myself from the multifarious layers of phantasmagoria and inertia, I came closer and closer to the inside of the circle, and at that point everything that happened belonged to me, and only me, and I had to believe in it or else I might have to die like all the rest, and start all over again.
I believed, and not long after these events occurred I had another dream in which I was wearing two coats- one inner and one outer- and they were almost perfectly matched. That is when I began to recognise the old axiom that “what is outside of us is a reflection of what is inside”, and vice versa. The spiral was beginning to tighten.[ii]
[i] Having said that, the names we are born with are not arbitrary, and are important labels, often disclosing a singularly important aspect of our journey or predisposition on earth, and so it is with humble regret that I acknowledge having changed the names of the real people who populate my real story, but it is not my right to advertise another’s existence in front of a world in which they might, for very good reasons, desire to remain anonymous.
Ah, but what’s in a name, you ask? Many things, I say.
My first name is Jack. A Jack is a common man- the antiquated, colloquial name for a servant, a man servant, servator mundi (the ‘body’ according to Jung), or man-jack, as it were, from which arises the oft-used expression ‘a Jack-of-all-trades’ (I am certainly not this, although by my early thirties I had done such varied jobs as: caddy, worm farmer, paperboy, prep-cook/dishwasher/delivery boy, hockey referee, farm worker, gas jockey, service in both the navy and army, waterbed installer, co-owner of two retail outlets, truck driver, warehouse labourer, road crew worker, security guard, co-op employee, mason’s assistant, fish-hatchery slave, kayak guide, biological assistant, internet writer, mushroom picker, and caretaker of numerous locations. I relate this list without braggary or arrogation, but only so as to conclude that I understand quite well the reasons why “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”); a Jack is the often ridiculous character in a nursery rhyme, who jumps over candlesticks and falls down and breaks his crown and so on; a Jack, in the biological world, is what is called a ‘promiscuous salmon’ who swims up the stream two years earlier than the rest of the species, and spawns over the awaiting egg beds while the mature bulls fight futily to the death for their now plundered breeding grounds; a Jack is a levered device to help lift heavy things from the earth; Jack is a prefix for such vernacular expletives as jackass, and jack-off; and Jack is the most powerful card in the game of Euchre, a game which, by some, would be considered as the cultural sport of the cultureless land of my upbringing.
My middle name is Ernest, and throughout my life I have indeed been earnest, perhaps to a fault, often forcing my way through a set of circumstances, which might have been better left alone or adroitly seduced, so to speak. But earnestness was a necessary trait to balance out the rest of my apathetic nature, thus allowing me to accomplish things which I had not really the energy to accomplish. Such earnestness could also account for my being an Aries, a ram, which, among other undiscovered aspects of this sign, tends to make me somewhat of a bull in a china shop in the world where spirit and matter mix and collide.
My last name is Haas. Haas, in Dutch, means rabbit. And though the root of rabbit, unknown to the greater part of mankind, is Rabbi, this does not prevent the cosmic joke from coming full circle and completing my name as Jack Rabbit.
Furthermore, on one of my Father’s trips to Holland- at a time when I was in Canada, writing about my experience of wonder and absolute non-understanding- he found himself often being laughed at when the receptionists at hotels would see his surname as he signed in, for at that time a country-wide advertising campaign had recently been set in motion, and it had a rabbit as the lead figure, and the rabbit spoke the words: “Mein naam ist Haas, ick weiss von nichts.” which translates, synchronistically, as “My name is Haas, I don’t know anything.”
On top of all this, my name is not even Jack Haas, for my birth name is actually John- a name which means “favored by the gods” (‘favored’, from my opinion, in the sense of a child choosing a particular teddy bear out of the pile, for no logical reason, and carrying and thrashing it about for a while, until one of the eyes is missing and a leg needs to be sewn back on; then the child chooses another)- and my parents had simply called me Jack from day one, or, actually they had called me Jackie to begin with- a fully androgynous alias which might be symbolic of my later, earnest need to marry my male and female halves within me.
And my surname, Haas, was actually my father’s stepfather’s last name, and so I have no actual blood tie to the Haas lineage.
Therefore it seems appropriate, given the all too real and all too unreal drama of my odyssey, that my name is Jack Haas, and my name is not Jack Haas.
[ii] This inner and outer reciprocity is not an absolute rule of the cosmos, due to the essential fact that the greater Will might veto or override the rules of the show for a time, and place a person in non-reflective circumstances when the need arises.
(excerpted from In and Of: memoirs of a mystic journey, by Jack Haas)
Books by Jack Haas. Autobiography, Memoir, Spirituality, Mysticism, Comparative Religion, Poetry, Art, Photography.