Saturday, October 08, 2005

Silence

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?...it 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)

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A typical dictionary definition of hypnosis states that it is: a state that resembles sleep but that is induced by suggestion. However, anyone who has tried hypnosis (and any self respecting hypnotist) will tell you that this is a very simplistic view of the subject!
A much better description comes from the Free Online Dictionary which states that hypnosis is: an artificially induced state of consciousness, characterised by heightened suggestibility and receptivity to direction. So what does this mean and how can it be used to your advantage?

Well, the subject of hypnosis has been discussed and pondered since the late 1700s. Many explanations and theories have come and gone though science, however, has yet to supply a valid and well-established definition of how it actually happens. It's fairly unlikely that the scientific community will arrive at a definitive explanation for hypnosis in the near future either, as the untapped resources of our 'mostly' uncharted mind still remain something of a mystery.
However, the general characteristics of hypnosis are well documented. It is a trance state characterized by extreme suggestibility, deep relaxation and heightened imaginative functioning. It's not really like sleep at all, because the subject is alert the whole time. It is most often compared to daydreaming, or the feeling you get when you watch a movie or read a captivating book. You are fully conscious, but you tune out most of the outside world. Your focus is concentrated intensely on the mental processes you are experiencing - if movies didn't provide such disassociation with everyday life and put a person in a very receptive state then they would not be as popular (nor would TV advertising be as effective!). Have you ever stated that a film wasn't great because you just couldn't 'get into it'???
This works very simply; while daydream or watching a movie, an imaginary world becomes almost real to you because it fully engages your emotional responses. Such mental pursuits will on most occasions cause real emotional responses such as fear, sadness or happiness (have you ever cried at a sad movie, felt excited by a future event not yet taken place or shivered at the thought of your worst fear?).
It is widely accepted that these states are all forms of self-hypnosis. If you take this view you can easily see that you go into and out of mild hypnotic states on a daily basis - when driving home from work, washing the dishes, or even listening to a boring conversation. Although these situations produce a mental state that is very receptive to suggestion the most powerful time for self-change occurs in the trance state brought on by intentional relaxation and focusing exercises. This deep hypnosis is often compared to the relaxed mental state between wakefulness and sleep.
In this mental state, people feel uninhibited and relaxed and they release all worries and doubts that normally occupy their mind. A similar experience occurs while you are daydreaming or watching the TV. You become so involved in the onscreen antics
 
"Personal Development", I'm glad you like my site. I, however, just want to clarify something. I don't think of Silence in itself as the pathway to transformation, but as a by-product of the presence of the transforming love of the Holy Spirit. God is the REFUGE of the weary. When I go to Him for rest, He reminds me, "Be still and know that I am God."

My very seeking of Silence for transformation would itself be a noisy grasping for something out of thin air that would, however, cause lots of clanging and banging, along with some cleanup afterwards. Would be a "seeking after the wind", if you will. When seeking after the wind, I end up running into things, things such as hard objects like trees, buildings, pains, unexpected circumstances or stubborn people who won't go along with my plans for them. Such collsisions hurt, and I am left wondering how they happened. The Holy Spirit reveals such painful and unexpected collisions as the very grounds for His transforming love. It is THEN that I find myself sitting in the Ground of Silence.
 
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