The Deepest Silence, by John Roger Barrie

Odilon Redon, Silence, 1895-1900.

Odilon Redon, Silence, 1895-1900.

“By embarking on the spiritual path, an aspirant is attempting to encounter silence firsthand. This is the quintessential journey in life–the inner sojourn. It is returning to a source long ago forgotten but often glimpsed at moment unawares. Recapturing that which flitters on the periphery of awareness is the goal of the mystic. …The mystic consciously dives into silence, at first unfelt. With repeated practice it becomes a living, palpable Presence filled with immeasurable vitality and boundless, nondual continuity. But what causes this gradual revelation?

First we need to discover why we do not experience silence. The simplest answer is that we are habituated to noise. We are addicted to novelty, sensation, to ourselves. Fuss and commotion, mental chattering, and outer stimulation occupy our minds from dawn to dusk. The twentieth-century Japanese Zen master Nan-in rightly noted that we are overflowing with our own ideas and opinions; to learn Zen we must first empty our minds. But there is no room for such emptiness. When one is clattering away on a keyboard sixteen hours every day, the capacious pockets of silence are kept well at bay. We thereby deafen ourselves to the underlying silence we would otherwise clearly hear.

By intentionally quieting our restless minds and calling a temporary halt to the random noise–inner and outer–to which we are subject, we create an environment conducive to the manifestations of silence. Welling up from within, this silence subtly engulfs us, drowning out all the noise of existence. The Jewish mystics refer to God as “ayin,” nothingness. When we quell the somethingness of our lives, this nothingness emerges. But as long as we dwell in the realm of substance, it remains elusive.”♦

—John Roger Barrie on the mystical heart of silence, an excerpt from “The Deepest Silence” from our Spring 2008 issue: “Silence.”

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