Meister Eckhart exclaims that “there is nothing in all creation so like God as silence.”  Might he be right?  The Scriptures say: “Be still and learn that I am God.”

We find silence in all of the Four Paths of our mystical/prophetic journey. Each touches us so deeply that we are moved to silence.  In the Via Positiva the beauty of life and creation moves us to an awe that carries silence with it.  Job testifies to this per the video that accompanies this meditation. 

We have been considering one dimension of the Via Negativa—that of grief and loss.  Now we move on to the second dimension of the VN, that of Silence and Contemplation.

There is silence in the Via Creativa insofar as creativity is often born of solitude, deep silence and the emptying of the Via Negativa into our birthing process.  Of course the VC creates its own awe, wonder, gratitude and therefore silence both for the artist at work and for the recipients of that work—who are also artists.  One has to be silent in some deep ways to read a book or respond to a painting, a piece of music, etc.  The French philosopher Gabriel Marcel reminds us that it is not just the writer of the book but those who receive it who are artists.  They too are engaging in silence therefore.

Furthermore, since we are all artists we are all silence-makers meant to relate to each other at the deep level of silence.

“Banner of the Disappeared” A protest by the Mothers of the Disappeared, Argentina. Photo by Beatrice Murch, Flickr

The Via Transformativa offers its version of silence—justice makers and prophets are often silenced by the guardians of the status quo for example.  The word prophet means “to speak out” (pro-pheto in Greek).  It has everything to do with the fifth chakra.  Powers that be often want to gag truth and stifle voices of justice.  Yet we all carry the prophetic impulse within us.  Thus, silence. 

There is also in the Via Transformativa a deep silence that is part of listening to others’ stories of oppression and liberation.  In the base community movement for example it was hearing the stories of the peasants and small farmers and indigenous peoples oppressed by the powers that be that constituted the circle of wisdom and solidarity that grew from the deep listening to injustice and struggle.  Injustice first kicks you in the gut; then it moves you to silence; then to action.

Thus we carry silence—or is Silence carrying us?—throughout our journey.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, “The Apophatic Divinity: Meister Eckhart Meets Buddhism via Thich Nhat Hanh,” in Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior For Our Times, pp. 35-56.
Banner Image: “Mountaintop Vista” Photo by Alfred Aloushy on Unsplash

For Deeper Contemplation

Put yourself into the silence of one of these experiences suggested in this meditation: The Scripture quote?  The Via Positiva?  The Via Negativa?  The Via Creativa?  The Via Transformativa? What do you perceive? Journal, draw, drum or dance your experience.

Recommended Reading

 While Matthew Fox recognizes that Eckhart has influenced everyone from Julian of Norwich to Eckhart Tolle, Karl Marx to Carl Jung, and Annie Dillard to Anne Morrow Lindbergh, he also wants to introduce Eckhart to today’s activists addressing contemporary crises. Toward that end, Fox creates dialogues between Eckhart and Carl Jung, Thich Nhat Hanh, Rabbi Heschel, Black Elk, Karl Marx, Rumi, Adrienne Rich, Dorothee Soelle, David Korten, Anita Roddick, Lily Yeh, M.C. Richards, and many others.

Fox’s spirituality weds the healing and liberation found in North American Creation Spirituality and in South American Liberation Theology. Creation Spirituality challenges readers of every religious and political persuasion to unite in a new vision through which we learn to honor the earth and the people who inhabit it as the gift of a good and just Creator.

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9 thoughts on “In Praise of Silence”

  1. Avatar
    Fr. Jose J. Kaleekel

    തെ silencing and stilling is best depicted in one of the indian images by name nataraja nritha- the dance of shiva. A beautiful image and mystic experience. The captured moment in the dance of birthing, living and recreating. In the end life is that great dance.
    Thanks for all your inspiratoy stilling.
    I gazed at the image before me and thought to share many moments of stillness in my life before this image in my sacred space.

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Fr Jose,
      Thank you for offering the nataraja nritha, the cosmic dance of Shiva, in response to our meditation on silence. Your contemplating of this image of ecstatic dance of birthing, living, and recreating brings you to an experience of “silencing and stilling”. This is a powerful image for me, ecstatic Shiva caught mid dance by paint or sculpture while recreating the cosmos, and you, a person beholding the mystery. I wonder, have you ever danced in response to this image?
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team.

  2. Avatar

    When you re-arrange the letters in Silent, the word Listen emerges. In my world the two are deeply connected—I need silence in order to listen at the deepest levels.

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Mary,
      What an fascinating practice, to find words imbedded inside other words – especially words that are related. This connection between Silence and Listen, each one hidden inside the other, gives uu something provocative to ponder. Thank you for offering it!
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Dailly Meditation Team

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Larry, Yes. Beautiful. Silence is much more than the absence of sound. I think of night after snowfall, and the silence inside a cave. Then there is the silence between friends when no words are needed. Thank you for expanding our sense of silence.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation team

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