Ambrose Alexander Worrall
Silence is a subject worthy of our most earnest and sincere attention, for silence is to sound what contraterrene matter is to the material world, a necessary yet illusive companion.
Silence is mysterious.
We have all heard of the silence that could be felt, and we have read that the complete absence of sound can be disturbing to many people, for it is a condition foreign to nature.
Why, then, do we seek silence? Could it be that we feel an inward desire to experience something infinitely finer than the sensations to which we are accustomed?
We, in common with all creation, came out of the silence into temporal conditions, the world of sound. Perhaps the innermost being yearns to return to the soundless state from whence it came, to seek order and leave confusion, to replace the unreal with the real, to substitute that which is eternal for that which is transient.
Saints and sages through the ages have pondered over silence and tried with every verbal expression at their command to give the world their thoughts on this tremendous subject.
Let us review briefly some of their observations.
Thomas Carlyle, the Scottish essayist and historian, said:
One loves to reflect on the great empire of silence, higher than all the stars; deeper than the Kingdom of Death. Silence alone is great, all else is small
Here the writer is trying to emphasize the magnitude of silence.
Alexander Pope, the English poet, wrote the following verse:
|Silence! Coeval with eternity;
Thou wert, ere nature’s self began to be;
’Twas one vast nothing all, and all
slept fast in thee.
In this stanza the author conveys the impression that all things exist in silence, in an inactive state independent of time.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, the well-known American poet and philosopher, gave what appears to be an urgent message, perhaps pleading, but in it we can read almost a command as he says:
|Let us be silent, that we may hear the whisper of the Gods.|
Here we have a purpose for silence.
John Keats, the English poet, evidently had heard something akin to the “whisper of the Gods” in the silence, for he said:
|Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter.|
The Book of the Golden Precepts is studied by mystic students of the East. In it we can find some thoughts on silence and what may be heard in that mysterious state. What was referred to by Emerson as “the whisper of the Gods” and by Keats as “unheard melodies” is described in The Book of the Golden Precepts, and as translated into the English language, appears in several ways: “the voice of the silence,” “the voice in the spiritual sound,” “the soundless voice,” and “the soundless sound.”
These expressions indicate that what is heard in the silence differs in some way from the sounds we hear with the physical ear.
Another translation that is indicative of the conditions necessary for hearing the “whispers of the Gods,” speaking of the student, says:
|When he has ceased to hear the many, he may discern the One — the inner sound which kills the outer.|
No writing on silence would be complete without some reference to excerpts from the Holy Bible.
Let us listen to Job:
|Fear came upon me and trembling, which made all my bones to shake. Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair of my flesh stood up; It stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof; an image was before mine eyes, there was silence, and I heard a voice.|
Here we have the “whispering of the Gods,” the “unheard melodies,” and “the voice of silence,” as expressed by Job.
In approaching the study of silence we should give consideration to four realms in the arcana of being.
The first and most familiar realm is the kingdom of nature, the world of which we are aware in our every day activities.
Here we are exposed to external stimuli which excite the senses of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling. It is the realm of physical sensation.
The second, and less familiar, is the state where physical sensation has been subdued to the point where one is not aware of external stimuli of a physical nature, yet one is fully conscious and capable of performing the function of thinking. This is the realm of Silence.
The third, known only to the comparatively few that have experienced it, is the realm of Deep Silence, where one no longer is subject to disturbance generated in the world of thought.
In the deep silence one receives the pure inspiration, the spiritual powers of discernment, nothing but the truth.
The fourth is the realm of Absolute Silence, which we could call “Silence Unlimited,” or perfect and complete silence.
This is the condition in which God dwells.
In Absolute Silence there is neither time nor space; motion does not exist; there is no observer and nothing to be observed; there is nothing to learn, for all things are known. It is eternity; it is infinity; it has neither position nor size; its center is everywhere and its circumference is nowhere. This is perfection and only the perfect can understand it.
Man can approach the Absolute Silence but cannot enter it.
He who observes it cannot describe it, for there is nothing with which to compare it; only God is perfect and only God can comprehend it.
Sir Thomas Browne said, “God hath not made a creature that can comprehend Him,” and we can say the same of Absolute Silence.
We humans are observers, receivers of various forms of stimuli which give us the experience of sensation.
We are acutely tuned to the physical world, and the sensations of which we are most aware are of a physical nature.
However, we can receive stimuli other than those usually connected with the world of matter.
Stimulation by thought is an example.
How are sensations registered?
Paul the Apostle said to the Corinthians, “There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.”
In the waking state we are well aware of our physical, or natural bodies, for they register pleasure, pain, hunger, exhaustion and other sensations.
In the sleeping condition these sensations are not registered on the consciousness, and we are said to be unconscious.
We should be careful not to assume this to be total oblivion of the consciousness to all forms of stimuli, for we are talking only of physical stimuli in this instance.
Let us now give some thought to the spiritual body of which Paul writes.
In the economy of nature we might well question the need for a plurality of bodies. We can reason that there is a need for the physical body, because, without it we would not be able to function as we do on the material plane of existence.
The body of flesh is peculiarly adapted to this world of ours, and we might go so far as to say it is essential to our very existence. In other words, a physical body is necessary for the expression of life in a physical world.
We cannot conceive that each of us would be equipped with a spiritual body if it did not have a purpose. It is reasonable to assume that a spiritual body must be one that is peculiarly adapted to a spiritual plane of existence. In other words a spiritual body is essential for expression of life in a spiritual world. Therefore, we conclude that there is a spiritual world.
As we go about our daily activities in this material world using our physical bodies, we do not notice and are not aware of the spiritual body. There seems to be no added burden, as one might expect from carrying around an extra body. Do we park it somewhere when we awake, and pick it up again when we go to sleep? Is it kept in storage for use only after the death of the physical body, or do we live in it constantly? These are some of the questions one might ask.
It does not sound reasonable to assume that we are moving from one body to another each time we got to sleep or wake up; or that we keep it in storage for three score years and ten, or thereabouts, and occupy it only at the time of death.
We will assume then that we are in our spiritual bodies at all times.
This occupancy of two bodies at the same time poses other questions. Are the two bodies occupying the same space? If so, how is this possible?
It is easier for us to believe that two bodies occupy the same space at the same time, than it is to believe that we can be in two places at the same time. Also, we know that the things that appear solid to us are really composed of particles, which, considering their size, are as far apart, relatively speaking, as the planets, and that between these particles there is only what we might look upon as space. This space is occupied by fields of force holding the particles in their orbital or other paths.
If there is no interference in the force fields of two bodies it is conceivable that they can occupy the same space at the same time, and we will assume that this is so. By the same laws any number of things could occupy the same place at the same time.
We look upon the physical world as something substantial, something real. But we must realize that this reality is only apparent to the physical senses, and if we had no physical bodies we would have no physical senses with which to observe material conditions. In other words we would not respond to physical stimuli, and could consider the mundane plane as belonging to a group of things that may exist, but which are without substance.
This is how material things appear to one functioning in the spiritual body, and using only the spiritual senses.
It now becomes clear, that, as seen with the physical eyes the spiritual world seems to be unreal, and as seen with the spiritual eyes the physical world seems to be unreal.
Everything depends on the kind of senses being used to make the observation.
Irrespective of the type of stimuli being registered, the observations take place in the mind. The physical senses relay the information through the spiritual senses to the mind.
Mind, soul, and spirit have sometimes been referred to as synonymous terms, but for our purposes we will consider the mind as an instrument of the spirit; associated with and inseparable from the spiritual body (sometimes called the soul).
The mind is the receiver and interpreter of all sensation.
The mind, as an instrument, can be tuned to produce harmony from the impressions received. If a musical instrument is out of tune the finest player will have great difficulty making it produce beautiful music. Therefore, the mind must be kept finely tuned to receive clearly, blend, and interpret the sensations that reach it. It must be properly pitched so that it will respond only to the stimuli desired.
Our minds are tuned by the people, things and thoughts we associate with. The harmonious mind is associated with harmonious conditions.
When the mind is receiving it can be likened to a radio receiver. The mind has a built-in tuning mechanism which, for the most part, operates automatically.
During our waking state it uses the sensorium, the sensory apparatus of the physical body, to receive impressions from the physical world, at the same time it usually is insensible to impressions from the spiritual world.
During our sleeping state the mind tunes out the sensorium of the physical world and usually receives no sensation from physical stimuli. We have switched off the radio; the program continues but we are not receiving it. We are asleep.
Our method of receiving can be likened to a radio receiver.
Suppose we have a radio that receives the long wave broadcast, and is also capable of receiving standard and short wave broadcasts. The long wave broadcast would be the equivalent of physical stimuli, the standard broadcast would represent stimuli on the thought plane, and the short wave broadcast the stimuli from the spiritual plane.
We select the band of frequencies desired by turning our attention switch. Unfortunately, the switch is seldom turned to the shortwave, or spiritual band because we are forced by circumstances and custom to concentrate on the long wave, or physical band, and the standard broadcast or thought band, which, to a large extent, govern our waking existence.
Silence, which on first thought may appear to be a very simple subject, becomes somewhat complex as we give it more study.
At first we thought silence meant the shutting out of sound. Then we discovered that we must define sound because some speak of sounds not falling under the usual definition of sound, which means audio frequencies falling approximately in a band extending from twenty to fifteen thousand cycles per second.
These ordinary sound waves occur in an elastic medium, usually the air, and travel at the rate of about eleven hundred feet per second.
Now, a wave is not a simple phenomenon. Should we be asked whether or not we knew what a wave is we would probably quickly answer, “Yes.” However, to properly describe it requires a lot of words.
As you watch the waves the next time you visit your favorite shore, remember:
A wave is a disturbance in the surface of the water, usually consisting of a ridge and a trough, the form of the disturbance advancing over the surface indefinitely, while the particles of the liquid themselves are not correspondingly displaced in the direction of the advance of the disturbance, but execute comparatively small movements, generally oscillatory.
Sound waves are similar to waves in the water, but in air they travel much faster.
No sound is heard until the sound waves strike the eardrum, and only then if the person is conscious.
Obviously if we can disconnect the consciousness from receiving impressions that strike the eardrum we will achieve one type of silence.
Thought waves travel at tremendous speed, probably equal to the speed of light.
No eardrum is necessary to receive thought waves; they impinge directly on the mind that is tuned to respond to them.
Quite a number of persons have developed the ability to ignore ordinary sound waves.
How is it possible to attain this degree of silence? It can be achieved by concentrating upon some one particular objective to the exclusion of all others.
There is a story told of a famous musician who played his violin while undergoing a surgical operation on his head. All of his attention was directed to his music; he felt no pain from the surgeon’s knife.
In this case much more than sound sensations were ignored; it illustrates the extent to which we can control the type of sensation that is allowed to register on the mind.
Having learned to ignore sound waves, the next step is to control thought reception.
It seems to be fairly well established that thought transference is not only possible, but occurs quite commonly in our everyday lives, though we may not always recognize it as such.
Wandering thoughts impinge themselves upon any responsive mind that for the moment is not actively engaged in thought processing.
Thought processing is the act by which we think, as in solving a problem, developing an idea, planning, or any other directed mental effort.
Thinking is a function of the mind.
Thoughts attract thoughts of a like nature. A single thought entering the mind can start a thinking process that can have far-reaching possibilities.
Byron said, “The power of thought is the magic of the mind,” and modern psychology is well aware of the influence of deep concentrated thought on the minds of certain individuals.
Thought control starts with selective thinking. If there is a thought that should be avoided, do not entertain it. Some have tried to destroy thoughts by fighting them. This is not a successful method. The way to overcome unwanted thought is to think its opposite. In this way hope replaces despair, confidence replaces fear, success takes the place of failure and faith takes the place of doubt.
Practicing selective thinking makes the mind responsive to the selected level of thought subjects. Other levels of thought do not make impressions because the mind is not responsible to their particular frequencies.
It is in this way that we learn to control thought reception. Complete control enables us to prevent thought reception.
The companion to thought reception is thought composition.
The mind is of such a nature that it gathers thought particles and thought impressions of a like nature, puts them together in some form of homogeneous combination and broadcasts the result by generated thought waves, the spoken word, writing, painting, acting, or some other form of expression. The control of this function is the next step toward silence, and it is the most difficult.
Obviously, if we prevent thought reception we have an easier task when we seek to prevent thought composition, so complete control of thought reception is a prerequisite to control of thought composition.
The control of thought composition and its natural result, thought wave generation, is accomplished by turning the attention exclusively to the Silentium Altum, the deep silence.
If we turn to the Holy Scriptures we find such statements as, “The Lord is in His holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before him,” and “Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord; for he is raised up out of his holy habitation.” In these excerpts the terms “holy temple” and “His holy habitation” are synonymous with “Silentium Altum,” the deep silence.
The phrases “let all the earth keep silence” and “Be silent, O all flesh” mean the same as “be non-receptive to audio and thought waves,” and “be completely inactive with respect to thought composition.”
The words “he is raised up” mean that the person has become aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit and has entered the deep silence.
In the deep silence it is possible to have revelations. These seem to have no relation to time as we know it. It is as though one suddenly becomes aware of something that had been buried deep in the consciousness. As far as the earth is concerned it may belong to the future, but in the state of deep silence time does not exist, and that which is revealed out of time will surely come to pass when time is fitted into the equation.
Occasionally experiences in deep silence may be of such a nature that they can only be understood under the conditions that pertain to deep silence, and there are no means of conveying this experience or its meaning to the temporal world. The knowledge thus gained is of enlightenment only to the one thus blessed. The world is not ready for it, and cannot receive it.
In religion we are concerned with that which is eternal more than with that which is temporal. We look forward to everlasting life, heaven, and the peace which passeth all human understanding. The closest we can come to this while on earth is to enter the deep silence. There you are one with the Lord.
Some of us may not experience deep silence while on earth, but we are privileged to make the attempt.
If we consider deep silence as representative of the adytum of the holy temple and our best efforts only take us into the outer chambers of the sanctuary, we should be thankful, for there we can experience a closeness to God that can be felt.
The walls of this holy temple are not wrought by human hands, and there is room for all who earn the right to enter therein.
Any place of worship should provide the opportunity for entering into the silence.
Hugo said, “A church is God between four walls.”
This is a simple and concise definition of a place of worship, and because God is apt to speak to each one differently according to his needs and understanding, there should be a time of silence so that each has an opportunity to hear the Lord and receive His guidance.
There is not enough time given to silence in the majority of religious meetings today. Things are arranged to suit man’s time rather than God’s. There is much ritual and planning, and more and more time is given to activity and less and less time is allowed the Lord to do His work.
In the third chapter of Ecclesiastes we read, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. A time to keep silence.”
We should pay more attention to this in our meetings.
There are some who seek the silence in places other than the church, for the church has not provided them with this opportunity.
A very successful businessman meets with a small group in his private office each Saturday morning. There, after some preparation of the mind by reading and discussing appropriate material, they sit in the silence, each receiving according to his needs.
There are many meetings in private homes, where families are seeking, in the silence, to receive guidance, spiritual knowledge, a closer relationship with God than they have been able to obtain in their regular places of worship. Some have, through this silent meditation, re-established their faith in God.
Silence is alive with opportunities to present our problems and questions to God. We should use it for this purpose.
This brings us to the practice of praying in silence. We are so accustomed to using words to express ourselves that many of us form the words in our mind when praying in silence. This is not necessary for God knows our needs.
The silent prayer can be an attitude of pleading from the heart; an appeal without formal preparation of any kind; more like a looking toward God knowing He will help.
This kind of praying gets results. It is not cluttered up with our feeble attempts to find the right words; there is no feeling of failure because we may have used the wrong method of supplication. Let us use this simple effective method to get better results in our prayer lives, remembering that silent prayer brings us to that state of adoration which makes communion with God possible.
Those who would approach the deep silence require some preparation.
We might consider here the matter of faith.
First we should define faith. There are classical definitions such as:
|Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen|
|Faith is a Divine virtue by which we firmly believe the truths which God has revealed|
|Faith is a firm and sure knowledge of the Divine favor to us founded on the truth of a free promise in Christ, and revealed to our minds and sealed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit|
or we can cogitate over the sage remarks of Sir Thomas Browne who said:
|To believe only possibilities is not Faith but mere philosophy|
and supplement this with the remarks of Saki who came to the conclusion that:
|When once you have taken the impossible into your calculations, its possibilities become practically limitless.|
Or, you can give a little thought to my own definition:
|Faith is the lack of resistance to that which you hope to receive.|
To be pragmatic, let us say you should believe you will obtain some benefits from seeking silence, or you should not make the attempt.
Assuming that you have the desire and the faith, then other conditions will be considered.
Choose a time when you will not be disturbed. Sit comfortably in a quiet, well-ordered place. Practice only when you are alert and physically comfortable. Practice when your mental condition is serene. Companions should be few in number and sincere. Spend no more than five minutes at each sitting in the beginning. This can be lengthened as you progress. Follow your spiritual impressions as to the length of each sitting.
You should expect, and you will probably experience, some unusual conditions as you practice entering into the silence.
Keep in mind that the process is simply a transition from the physical state of awareness, to a state of spiritual consciousness. This change is very similar to that which takes place when you go to sleep, but there is one important difference, your consciousness stays awake.
In the sleep state the spiritual body is usually not conscious of the physical body. In the silence the same condition exists, and you will have no sense of weight, or tension, or tiredness, or pain in the physical body. You recognize its presence but it has become as a shadow to you.
During the transition period you will be functioning on both the physical and spiritual planes at the same time. Receiving stimuli from both sources at once will be confusing until you become accustomed to it. After that you will pass more rapidly from one state to the other and pay little attention to transitory conditions.
Job was a little apprehensive when he had his experience, but I suspect he had had no previous knowledge of this transitory process and did not understand what was happening to him.
A common physical experience during the transition stage is the feeling of a taut band around the head and perhaps a fainting sensation. This should not cause any concern and will be of relatively short duration, for you will either have the courage to ignore it and pass through the transitory condition, or you will decide to come back to earth, as it were, because you prefer not to have this experience.
You may need many practice sessions before you can break through this transition stage and receive spiritual illumination. But if you are persistent you will be rewarded.
At first you may see “as but through a glass darkly,” but don’t be discouraged; things will be clearer as you become more proficient in the art.
Entering into the deep silence should not be considered lightly. Remember, there are laws to be observed.
What you get out of the silence depends to a great extent on the conditions under which you enter into the silence. Consider the objective. It must be wholesome, unselfish and constructive. You must be properly conditioned before making the attempt. Prayer is one way of preparation; music another; and spiritual meditation another. Perhaps a combination of all three might be best for you.
Before entering into the silence you must be at peace with yourself and with the world.
Remember that Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
It is important that any group sitting in the silence should be of one accord.
Read the second chapter of The Acts to see what can happen when a few are gathered together in harmony. Here is what it says in part:
|And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.|
These were physical and spiritual manifestations happening at the same time. Something like this could happen to you in the silence.
In the deep silence you can expect to receive knowledge, guidance, spiritual gifts, peace and awareness of God’s power.
Bear in mind that with these things comes added responsibility. Use what you receive for the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people, in accordance with your highest sense of what is right and just, and you will enter into the joy of serving your fellow man, and the Lord, giving to one what you receive from the other in Silentium Altum.