Enthusiastically yours

An en-thou-siastic St Francis receiving the stigmata, Paris, BnF, Latin 760 f.523r

Has a god recently blown through you or infused you with divine flavours? If you’re feeling enthusiastic, then it must have been the case. At least from an etymological point of view.

Rabelais seems to have been the first to use the word enthousiasme, the root of the English word, as the ‘sacred delirium which seizes the interpreter of divinity, the poet’s exaltation under the effect of inspiration’. But the French word harkens back to the medieval Latin enthusiasmus, which in turn winks over to an older Greek verb enthousiazein, to be inspired or possessed by a god, en_theos, literally to be in-godded.

I en thou – to creatively misquote Buber, though I’m sure he would’ve endorsed the quasi-divine interpenetration of the selves entering an ‘I towards Thou’ relationship.

You don’t have to acknowledge the divine wind to feel enthusiastic. Or to burn with enthusiasm, the kind of passion which earned the word a bad rep in the 17th century when the Puritans started claiming exclusive in-godding within mankind. Thankfully, no amount of misplaced enthusiasm caused enthusiasm to be highjacked by one enthusiastic party or another. But I am tempted by my own enthusiasm to start a petition for the revamping of the word’s spelling, so that we may recover the lost theos root. Because, as the Santa said in The Great Beauty, le radici sono importanti, the roots are important.

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