Also talking vs. not talking.
St. John of the Cross wrote, 'The Father spoke one word from all eternity and he spoke it in silence, and it is in silence that we hear it.' This suggests that silence is God's first language and that all other languages are poor translations. The discipline of Centering Prayer and the other traditional practices are ways of refining our receptive apparatus so that we can perceive the word of God communicating itself with ever greater simplicity to our spirit and to our inmost being. Keating, Thomas. Intimacy With God. P.55
Express yourself completely, then keep quiet. Be like the forces of nature (...). Tao Te Ching 23, quoted after Novak Philip, The World's Wisdom, P.151.
So I tell you this, that for every unfounded word men utter they will answer on Judgment day, since it is by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words condemned. Matthew 12:37
Do not talk ill of anyone. Do not say or hear things that would give rise to hatred against anyone. Shanti Vachan Bhandar, 742.
(The person who practices the right speech) avoids tale-bearing (...). What he has heard here, he does not repeat there so as to cause dissension (...). He avoids harsh language (...). He speaks such words as are gentle, soothing to the ear, loving, such words as to go to the heart, and are courteous, friendly, and agreeble to many. He avoids vain talk (...). He speaks at the right time, in accordance with facts, speaks what is useful, speaks of the law and the discipline: his speech is like a treasure, uttered at the right moment, accompanied by arguments, moderate and of full sense. Ascribed to Buddha, quoted after Novak Philip, The World's Wisdom, P.71.
One should observe silence for an hour or two every day. It will enhance one's spiritual power. Shanti Vachan Bhandar, 753.
Talk only after you have given careful thought to what you are going to say. Shanti Vachan Bhandar, 2002.
Speak only as much as is necessary, eat only to satiate your hunger. Excess of speaking and eating decreases your spiritual power. Shanti Vachan Bhandar, 2080.
One who talks ill of others will always remain impure, whatever religious and other noble deeds he may perform. By talking ill, he has filled his own mind with the dirt of others. Shanti Vachan Bhandar, 2126.
"One desert monk in the early centuries of Christianity used a wonderful picture: 'When the door of the steambath,' he said, 'is continually left open, the heat inside rapidly escapes through it; likewise the soul, in its desire to say many things, dissipates its remembrance of God through the door of speech, even though everything it says may be good.....Timely silence, then, is precious, for it is nothing less than the mother of the wisest thoughts.' Reverential quiet, far from being a waste of time, can be a foundation for everything significant we do." Jones, Timothy. The Art of Prayer. P.48-49.
Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights. Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet, P.54.
In my opinion, and according to my experience, the rule concerning silence should stand in the very first place. God does not give himself to a chattering soul, which like a drone in a beehive, buzzes around but gathers no honey. A talkative soul is empty inside. It lacks both essential virtues and intimacy with God. A deeper interior life, one of gentle peace and of that silence where God dwells, is quite out of the question. A soul that never tasted the sweetness of inner silence is a restless spirit which disturbs the silence of others. Faustina Kowalska, The Diary, 118.
Silence is a sword in the spiritual struggle. A talkative soul will never attain sanctity. The sword of silence will cut off everything that would like to cling to the soul. We are sensitive to words and quickly want to answer back, without taking in regard as to whether it is God's will that we should speak. A silent soul is strong; no adversities will harm it if it perseveres in silence. The silent soul is capable of attaining the closest union with God. It lives almost always under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. God works in a silent soul without hindrance. Faustina Kowalska, The Diary, 477.
My life at present flows on in peaceful awareness of God. My silent soul lives on Him, and this conscious life of God in my soul is for me a source of happiness and strength. (...) Silence is so powerful a language that it reaches the throne of the living God. Silence is His language, though secret, yet living and powerful. Faustina Kowalska, The Diary, 886, 887.
A certain brother came to Abbot Poemen and said: What ought I to do, Father? I am in great sadness. The elder said to him: Never despise anybody, never condemn anybody, never speak evil of anyone, and the Lord will give you peace. Merton T., The Wisdom of the Desert.
"... this spiritual prayer is more interior than the tongue, more deeply interiorized than anything on the lips, more interiorized than any words or vocal song. When someone prays this kind of prayer he has sunk deeper than all speech, and he stands where spiritual beings and angels are to be found; like them, he utters "holy" without any words...
For God is silence, and in silence is he sung by means of that psalmody which is worthy of Him. I am not speaking of the silence of the tongue, for if someone merely keeps his tongue silent, without knowing how to sing in mind and spirit, then he is simply unoccupied... he is just keeping an exterior silence and he does not know how to sing in an interior way". St. John the Solitary, quoted in "The Fountain & the Furnace: The Way of Tears and Fire" by Maggie Ross. Submitted to L-Center Discussion Group by Ann Potschka. Paulist Press, 1987
'Let the will quietly and wisely understand,' says St. Teresa, 'that is not by dint of labour on our part that we can converse to any good purpose with God.' 'The best and noblest way in which thou mayst come into this Life,' says Eckhart, 'is by keeping silence and letting God work and speak. Where all the powers are withdrawn from their work and images, there is this word spoken...the more thou canst draw in all thy powers and forget the creature the nearer art thou to this, and the more receptive.' Underhill, Evelyn. Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Man's Spiritual Consciousness. P.64.
Learn to master time, and you will be able, whatever you do, whatever the
stress, in the storm, in tragedy, or simply in the confusion in which you
continuously live - to be still, immobile in the presence, face to face with
the Lord, in silence or in words. If you use words, then you can bring to
God all that is around you, all the storm. If you are silent, you can
rest in the 'eye' of the cyclone or the hurricane, in the calm there, but
leaving the storm around you to rage, while you are where God is, at the only
point of total stability. But this point of total stability is not a
point where nothing happens. It is the point where all
the conflicting tensions meet and are counterbalanced by one another and are held in the powerful hand of God. Bloom, Anthony. Beginning To Pray. P. 58.
Only within the intervals of our silences, when we finally have nothing left to say or can say no more, do our hearts become attentive to the vocabulary of the one language being spoken among us. Only in the humble silences between our words can we recognize beyond all words the common tongue of yearning for freedom that unites us. (...) Jonathan Montaldo - "The Witness of Thomas Merton's Inner Work.", address to the Parliament of the World Religions, Cape Town, South Africa, December 1999.
If our life is poured out in useless words, we will never hear anything in the depths of our hearts, where Christ lives and speaks in silence. We will never be anything, and in the end, when the time comes for us to declare who and what we are, we shall be found speechless at the moment of the crucial decision: for we shall have said everything and exhausted ourselves in speech before we had anything to say. Merton, Thomas. No Man Is An Island. P. 260. Submitted to L-Center Discussion Group by Gary Horn mailto:email@example.com
Silence is the interior air that the spirit of man needs in order to grow spiritually. Such silence leads man into the inner recess and there his Heavenly Father will recompense him (Matt.6:6). This recompensing comes to man in the healing of psychic disturbances, the chaotic meaninglessness of so many past experiences that hang like dried skeletons within man's memories, the anxieties that force man into an isolation of deadly loneliness. Man becomes consoled, loved by God in an experience that is beyond concepts. He knows that he knows God loves him! This being-loved-by-God experience at the deepest level of his consciousness restores his strength, pushes him to new self-giving and creativity." Maloney, George A. Inward Stillness. P.30
Psalm 62:1 For God alone my soul in silence waits; from him comes my
salvation. First, we are so afraid of silence that we chase ourselves from
one event to the next in order not to have to spend a moment alone with
ourselves, in order not to have to look at
ourselves in the mirror. We know that those times when we have to be alone are
often the most comfortless and fruitless of times for us. But we are not
only afraid of ourselves and of self-discovery, we are much more afraid of God
- that he may disturb us and discover who we really are, that he may take us
with him into his solitude and deal with us according to his will. We are
afraid of such lonely, awful encounters with God, and we avoid them, so that he
may not suddenly come too near to us. It would be too dreadful to have to
face God directly, to have to answer to him. Our smiles would have to
disappear; for once something would have to be taken seriously, and we are not used to that. This anxiety is a mark of our times; we live in fear that we may suddenly find ourselves before the Eternal. Gerald W. Hughes. God of Surprises. P. 97.
Submitted to L-Center Discussion Group by Gary Horn mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
I beseech you, withdraw in silence. Your obligation is not so much to do, but to adore God, to stay with Him. Our Lady of Medjugorie, June 24, 1986. Words from Heaven, P.176.
Dear children, today I am calling you to renew your heart. Open yourself to God and surrender to Him all your difficulties and crosses so God may turn everything into joy. Little children, you cannot open yourselves to God if you do not pray; therefore, from today decidPe to consecrate a time and a day only for an encounter with God in silence. ( ) Our Lady of Medjugorie, July 25, 1989. Words from Heaven, P.254.
( ) I do not desire you to talk about prayer, but to pray. Let your every day be filled with prayer of gratitude to God for life and for all that you have. I do not desire your life to pass by in words, but that you glorify God with deeds. I am with you and I am grateful to God for every moment spent with you. ( ). Our Lady of Medjugorie, April 25, 1991. Words from Heaven, P.261-2.
( ) There are many who think that they are doing a lot by talking about the messages but do not live them. Dear children, I invite you to life and to change all the negative in you, so that it all turns into the positive and life. Dear children, I am with you and desire to help each of you to live and, by living, to witness the good news. ( ) Our Lady of Medjugorie, May 25, 1991. Words from Heaven, P.262.
We must retire from all outward objects, and silence all the desires and
wandering imaginations of the mind; that in this profound silence of the whole
soul, we may hearken to the ineffable voice of the Divine Teacher. We
must listen with an attentive ear; for it is a still, small voice. It is
not indeed a voice uttered in words as when a man speaks to his friend; but
it is a perception infused by the secret operations and influences of the Divine Spirit, insinuating to us obedience, patience, meekness, humility, and all the other Christian virtues, in a language perfectly intelligible to the attentive soul. But how seldom is it that the soul keeps itself silent enough for God to speak! The murmurs of our vain desires, and our self-love, disturb all the teachings of the Divine Spirit. _A Guide to True Peace, or The Excellency of Inward and Spiritual Prayer. P 2. Submitted to L-Center Discussion Group by Gary Horn email@example.com
One desert monk in the early centuries of Christianity used a wonderful
picture: 'When the door of the steam bath,' he said, 'is continually left
open, the heat inside rapidly escapes through it; likewise the soul, in its
desire to say many things, dissipates its remembrance of God through the door
of speech, even though everything it says may be good.....Timely silence, then,
is precious, for it is nothing less than the mother of the wisest
thoughts.' Reverential quiet, far from being a waste of time, can
be a foundation for everything significant we do. Jones, Timothy. The Art of Prayer: A Simple Guide. PP.48-49.
.'Saints listen for the sounds and silences of God,' writes Cornelius Plantinga, 'They quiet themselves into a kind of absorbency, a readiness to hear the word of God, and so the voice of God, and even some of the silences of God.' When God comes, I want my soul to be conditioned to respond, not with grasping but with gentle gratitude. I cannot do it on my own--I lack the discipline--but when I catch a glimmer of God, when he comes to dwell in my prayer times, I will want to turn toward him with what John of the Cross calls 'a loving attention and a tranquil intellect.' In such moments our souls will be awakened to an awareness that, while alert, is not agitated. 'God is in his holy temple,' wrote the Old Testament prophet when he saw God, 'let all the earth be silent before him.' Jones, Timothy. The Art of Prayer: A Simple Guide. P.51.
Even as fire without fuel finds peace in its resting-place, when thoughts become silence the soul finds peace in its own source. Maitri Upanishad, quoted after: Novak Philip, The World Wisdom, P.20.
The parrot can speak, and yet is nothing more than a bird; the ape can speak, and yet is nothing more than a beast. Here now is a man who observes no rules of propriety (li) (...) Confucius, quoted after: Novak Philip, The World's Wisdom, P.123.
Those who know don't talk. Those who talk don't know. Tao Te Ching 56, quoted after: Novak Philip, The World Wisdom, P.152.
The temple God loves most is the temple of His devotee's inner silence and peace. (...) First establish in yourself a temple of beauty and peace; there you will find Him, on the altar of your soul. Paramahansa Yogananda, Man's Eternal Quest, P.108.
Let no one hear harsh words from you. Be not afraid to speak truth when you are asked to do so, but do not force your thoughts on others. Paramahansa Yogananda, Man's Eternal Quest, P.143.
When a sincere man speaks, the world moves. When he says something, others listen. Paramahansa Yogananda, Man's Eternal Quest, P.144.
God is behind everything. (...) We can find Him in this jungle of daily life, in the cave of inner silence. Paramahansa Yogananda, Man's Eternal Quest, P.181.
In silence we face and admit the gap between the depths of our being, which we consistently ignore, and the surface which is untrue to our won reality. We recognize the need to be at home, with ourselves in order that we may go out to meet others, not just with a mask of affability, but with real commitment and authentic love. (...) If we are afraid of being alone, afraid of silence, it is perhaps because of our secret despair of inner reconciliation. If we have no hope of being at peace with ourselves in our own personal loneliness and silence, we will never be able to face ourselves at all: we will keep running and never stop. And this flight from the self is, as the Swiss philosopher Max Picard pointed out, a "flight from God." After all, it is in the depths of conscience that God speaks, and if we refuse to open up inside and look into those depths, we also refuse to confront the invisible God who is present within us. This refusal is a partial admission that we do not want God to be God any more than we want our selves to be our true selves. Thomas Merton, Love and Living.
Silence is therefore important even in the life of faith and in our deepest encounter with God. We cannot always be talking, praying in words, cajoling, reasoning, or keeping up a kind of devout background music. Much of our well-meant interior religious dialogue is, in fact, a smoke screen and an evasion. Much of it is simply self-reassurance and in the end it is little better than a form of self-justification. Instead of really meeting God in the nakedness of faith in which our inmost being is laid bare before him, we act out of an inner ritual that has no function but to allay anxiety. Thomas Merton, Love and Living.
The word meditation makes it look heavier. It is better to call it just a simple, innocent silence and existence opens all its beauties to you. Osho, Autobiography of a Spiritually Incorrect Mystic, P.179.
The silence of mysticism implants virtues in the soul precisely because it
effects a certain deep detachment which, in turn, leads to love. And that
one who loves has all the virtues is states again and
again in the scriptures: in the last analysis there is not a
multiplicity of virtues but only one virtue. William Johnstone, The Still Point, P.117.
Abraham is an individual in the presence of an Absolute Personality. This relationship is incomprehensible. To try to express it - for Abraham to try and express it, would be a terrible temptation to hypocrisy or sacrilege. Hence the vow of silence. He has to endure this martyrdom of being incomprehensible, absurd. Thomas Merton, Run to the Mountain, P.265.
When you heart becomes the grave of your secret,
that desire of yours will be gained more quickly.
When seeds are buried in the earth,
their inward secrets become the flourishing garden.
Rumi, Mathnawi I, 175-177, quoted in: Helminski, Kabir (2000). The Rumi Collection. P.82.
Be refreshed in the darkness.
Doesn't a moment of silence
restore beauty to the voice?
Rumi, Mathnawi I, 3861-3865, quoted in: Helminski, Kabir (2000). The Rumi Collection. P.85.
Be silent, for this tongue of yours is the enemy of the soul.
Rumi, Intellect is a Shackle, quoted in: Helminski, Kabir (2000). The Rumi Collection. P.157.
If you speak well of another, the good will return to you. The good and praise you speak of another you speak in reality of yourself. (...) If you accustom yourself to speak well of others, you are always in "paradise." When you do a good deed for someone else you become a friend to him, and whenever he thinks of you he will think of you as a friend - and thinking of a friend is as restful as a flower garden. (...) Love everybody so that you may always stay among the flowers of the garden. (...) Rumi, Fihi Ma Fihi #15, quoted in: Helminski, Kabir (2000). The Rumi Collection. P.180.
Julien Green says: "Religion is not understood. Those who wish themselves pious, in order to admire themselves in this state, are made stupid by religion. What is needed is to lose ourselves completely in God; what is needed is perfect silence, supernatural silence. Pious talk has something revolting about it." Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, P.153-4.
It was said of Abbot Agatho that for three years he carried a stone in his mouth until he learned to be silent. Thomas Merton, The Wisdom of the Desert, P.30.
Abbot Pastor said: Any trial whatever comes to you can be conquered by silence. Thomas Merton. The Wisdom of the Desert, P.55.
It follows, therefore, that we can know with certainty when we are in the proper state to speak about God, if during the hours when we do not speak we maintain a fervent remembrance of God in untroubled silence. St. Diadochos of Photiki (circa 400-486 CE), quoted in Philokalia, Vol. I., P.255.
Only spiritual conversation is beneficial; it is better to preserve stillness than to indulge in any other kind. St. Thalassios the Libyan (VI-VII Century C.E.), quoted in: (1981). The Philokalia. Vol. II., P.311.
I used to sit for hours together, with nothing but the "I am" in my mind and soon peace and joy and a deep all-embracing love became my normal state. In it all disappeared - myself, my Guru, the life lived, the world around me. Only peace remained and unfathomable silence. Nisargadatta Maharaj, quoted in: Harvey, Andrew (Ed). (2001). Teachings of the Hindu Mystics, P.120.
Silence is the very Presence of God - always there. But activity hides it. We need to leave activity long enough to discover the Presence - then we can return to activity with it. Pennington, Basil. (1978). O Holy Mountain! Journal of a Retreat on Mount Athos. P.40.
Essentially hesychasm (literally, silence) is a process of interior cleansing, of uprooting passions from within the depths of the soul, of purifying the heart and guarding the mind in order to prevent the re-entry of sinful thoughts which feed the passions and lead to actual sin. The practice of unceasing prayer - which the Scripture demands of us, is fulfilled by the use of the Jesus Prayer, "Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner," developed under the guidance of an Elder (staretz)(...). Archbishop Antony Medvedev, quoted in: Pennington, Basil. (1978). O Holy Mountain! Journal of a Retreat on Mount Athos. P.132.
The talk is in your world. In mine – there is eternal silence. My silence sings, my emptiness is full. I lack nothing. You cannot know my world until you are there. Sri Maharaj Nisargadatta. (2005). I am That. P.80.
Last updated: 2008/03/02