39  The Power of Words


Explain to students that this session is about words: Why are words important? What power do they have?


Show this 5 minute Stephen Fry video about the power of words in Nazi Germany: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohrtFuxUzZE and ask the students to respond to such questions as:


Explain that words are tools. They can be used in many different ways. They can heal or hurt, reveal or hide. Give out the following quotes on separate sheets of paper and spread them around the room on different tables:

Encourage the students to circle round the room and write comments on as many of the sayings as possible, noting their ideas, for example on what the saying mean and the extent to which they agree with them.

After the exercise, ask students to offer some reflection on such questions as:

Extend the conversation with such questions as:


Read out loud ‘The Mystic’ by Anthony De Mello:

The mystic was back from the desert.

"Tell us", they said, "what God is like".

But how could he ever tell them what he had experienced in his heart?

Can God be put into words?

He finally gave them a formula -

so inaccurate, so inadequate -

in the hope that some of them might be tempted to experience it for themselves.

They seized upon the formula.

They made it into a sacred text.

They imposed it on others as a holy belief.

They went to great pains to spread it in foreign lands.

Some gave their lives for it.

The mystic was sad.

It might have been better if he had said nothing.


Ask the students for their reflections on whether they think the mystic should have tried to put God into words, and to explain their views.

A printable (pdf) version of this session can be found here

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