Saturday, October 08, 2005


I wanted to try to share some of the things I've learned since I began to practice the discipline of Silence, try to possibly correct some of the misconceptions that we can so easily have about Silence. It is not just like some object that is there, like a table, that we listen to. What exactly it is would be hard to put into words, but I definitely think that we can easily underestimate what we are engaging in when we engage in the discipline of Silence. I feel the topic is beyond me, so I wanted to share some words from some folks to whom I will now defer.

This quote, from The World of Silence, by Max Picard, talks about how Silence isn't just something we do, but is about actaully communing with God on the most intimate of levels. "The origin of language [Silence] is impenetrable, like that of every creature, because it came from the perfect love of the Creator. Only if man were to live constantly in perfect love, could he learn the origin of language and of all creatures." (p. 26)

From the same book, showing how, when we "practice silence", we enter into something already present in everything we do, speak and think: "There is something silent in every word, as an abiding token of the origin of speech. And in every silence there is something of the spoken word, as an abiding token of the power of silence to create speech." (p. 17)

From T.S. Eliot's The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism, speaking indirectly about Silence in much the same way as above: "What I call the 'auditory imagination' is the feeling for syllable and rhythm, penetrating far below the conscious levels of thought and feeling, invigorating every word; sinking to the most primitive and forgotten, returning to the origin and bringing something back, seeking the beginning and the end. It works through meanings certainly, or not without meanings in the ordinary sense, and fuses the old and obliterated and the trite, the current, and the new and surprising, the most ancient and the most civilised mentality." (p. 111)

From The World of Silence, on the wholeness of Silence and how it brings wholeness, that Silence reconciles that which is customarily viewed as irreconcilable and fully separate: "One cannot imagine a world in which there is nothing but language and speech, but one can imagine a world where there is nothing but silence. Silence contains everything within itself. It is not waiting for anythying; it is always wholly present in itself and it completely fills out the space in which it appears." (p. 17) "...existence and activity are one in silence. It is as though the whole orbit of a star were to be suddenly concentrated into a single light..." (p. 19)

From the same book, on Silence and the Beautific Vision: "In the human body silence is the fount of beauty...The silence out of which language came is now transformed into the mystery surrounding turth...There is a radiance surrounding truth, and this radiance is a sign that truth has an impulse to expand in all directions. The radiance surrounding truth is beauty. In this way truth is able to penetrate far and wide; the radiance of beauty prepares the way for truth; it occupies all space in advance of truth. The truth is already present everywhere...Beauty is also present in silence, it is primarily in silence. Beauty relieves silence of its heaviness, brings it up into the light of earth and brings it to man. The radiance of the beauty which rests on silence is a premonition of the radiance inhering in the word of truth." (p. 30, p. 31, p. 34)

Also from Max Picard, on how Silence has, I guess you could call it, a "personality" on its own; it cannot be manipulated or used by humans for his own purposes or ends, or that man's conception of silence does not affect the truth of silence: "Where silence is, man is observed by silence. Silence looks a man more than man looks at silence. Man does not put silence to the test; silence puts man to the test. " (p. 17)

From Meister Eckhart, from Whom God Hid Nothing, on just how truly pure Silence is not connectd to any image or sound whatsoever, this, I think, would be the most common misconception handed down to us by the Enlightenment; and this misconception would be the most difficult to break: "'In the midst of the silence there was spoken in me a secret word.'...where is this silence and where the place in which the word is spoken? is in the purest part of the soul, in the noblest, in her ground, yes, in the very essence of the soul. That is the mid-silence, for no creature ever entered there, nor any image, nor has the soul there either activity or understanding, therefore she is not aware of any image either of herself or any creature."

From The Name of The Rose, by Umberto Echo: "All I can do now is be silent...Soon I shall be joined with my beginning...I shall soon enter into this broad desert, perfectly level and boundless, where the truly pious heart succumbs in bliss. I shall sink into the divine shadow, in a dumb silence and an ineffable union, and in this sinking all equality and all inequality shall be lost, and in that abyss my spirit will lose itself, and will not know the equal or the unequal, or anything else: and all differences will be forgotten. I shall be in the simple foundation, in the silent desert where diversity is never seen...I shall fall into the uninhabited ['uninhabited' here does not mean that Christ is not there, but that, in Silence, we enter into an existence that is not our own] divinity where there is no work and no image." (p. 610 & 611)

"The fact that two contrary phenomena like silence and speech are so closely allied as to seem to belong together, could never have been achieved by man, but only by an act of God Himself. The contiguity of silence and speech is a sign of that Divine state in which they are perfectly united. It was inevitable that speech should come out of silence. For since Christ the Divine Word came down to men from God, the 'still small voice', the way of transformation of silence into speech was traced out for all time. The Word that appeared two thousand years ago was on the way to man from the beginning of time, and therefore from the very beginning there was a breach between silence and speech. The event of two thousand years ago was so miraculous that all silence from time immemorial was torn open by speech. Silence trembled in advance of the event and broke in two [into Silence and Speech]." (World of Silence, p. 30)

Friday, October 07, 2005

Freedom in Christ

I am currently reading Traveling Light, by Eugene Peterson, kindly lent to me by Ms. Momawag. It is re-awakening things in me that, to a degree, people around me (and Satan, the one who chokes and devours) had convinced to be false, untrue, and invalid. I am remembering that this freedom that is hidden in the depths of my soul is bestowed onto me by God's love for me and by His image dwelling in me. Quoted from Galatians, on p. 59 of Peterson's book, "While we were in conference we were infiltrated by false brethren who slipped in to spy out the freedom we have in Christ Jesus that they might reduce us to servitude. We didn't give them the time of day - we were determined to preserve the truth of the gospel for you."

I have experienced this lately with some of my Christian brothers; somehow this doesn't surprise me, even this moemnt, as it is what I was raised to be accustomed to. I have also experienced this recently within the world, my whole life really, but especially recently. I have been bitten to the core of my soul by the servitude built into the very system of my Architectural profession, and bigger, into the very system of our American politics, this so-called "free" country. Peterson mentions early on in his book that the spiritually sensitive among us, that is, those who have experienced the freedom from God's grace upon us, are super-sensitive to any effort at the squelching of our God-given freedom. And the efforts persist abundantly.

"There are people who do not want us to be free. They don't want us to be free before God, accpeted just as we are by his grace. They don't want us to be free to express our faith origianlly and creatively in the world. They want to control us; they want to use us for their own pourposes. They themselves refuse to live arduously and openly in faith, but huddle together with a few others [or with millions of others] and try to get a sense of approval by insisting that all look alike, talk alike and act alike [or, as Architect, make buildings that look alike, talk alike, and act alike], thus validating one another's worth. They try to enlarge their numbers only on the condition that new members act and talk and behave as they do. These people infiltrate communities of faith 'to spy out our freedom which we have in Christ Jesus' and not infrequently find ways to control, restrict and reduce the lives of free Christians." (p. 67).

My boss at work is realizing that I am free, and that I see quite clearly right through him that he is not. And I am meeting resistance from him for it. I intend to resist his efforts to mold me into a fulfiller of his own lowly purposes that are guided by his own insecurities and lack of faith. He thinks that he has power over me by grudgingly handing me a pay-check; but he does not realize that he has not power but that which is given to him from my Father in heaven.

In E4, we have recenlty been reading and learing about exodus for the oppressed in the world. In this context, I am realizing that what is truly so moving to me is less the pragmatic efforts to empower the poor (but of course that), and more God's originally intended plan for us to live and bask freely in His love. I am realizing the core of what urges me so deeply to "free" the oppressed. From p. 65 of the Peterson book: "Our attitude toward the poor is still one of the surest tests of our freedom. The moment freedom is used to avoid acts of mercy or help or compassion, it is exposed as fraud. A free person who finds ways to enhance the lives of the poor demonstrates the truest and most mature freedom. A free person who diminishes the lives of the poor by dealing our ridicule or withholding gifts is himself diminished, is herself diminished." Not by coincidence, my boss has found excueses not to help the poor, saying that they choose it, which is the the most clever of excuses. He is a smart man, enabling himself to avoid his own freedom so craftily, using such an astounding vision of and power for free choice.

"Excuses need excuses, to keep your ego fed...Love your self, and I won't be in your way." (Chris Pierce). More primally, "Let God's love for you dwell in you", but nonetheless, Chris Pierce has a point here.


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