Morning at River Gorge
Image: Ron Grimes’ Morning at Red River Gorge
A Writer’s Battle Against Chaos: Silence vs Soul Silence
Ordinary silence refers to the state of soundlessness and is often disdained by busy minds constantly seeking distraction or entertainment. But soul silence consists of mystical, metaphysical space and time wherein one experiences one’s true self.
Introduction: Coherence vs Chaos
For many poets, essayists, or literary fiction composers, the act of writing remains a struggle to stream a coherent river of words across a page. Tranquility and equanimity—progressing through a state of silence—are necessary for the writer to achieve coherence. Thus, the writer battles against the cacophony in the mind that tries to drown out the coherent in favor of the chaotic.
The overhyped essayist/novelist, Carlos Fuentes, once waxed philosophical, quipping: “Writing is the struggle against silence.” That claim is false. Apparently, Fuentes struggled against chaos, and chaos won. For a more accurate definition of “writing” and “silence,” one must engage better sources than Fuentes’ inaccurate effusion.
True Silence and the Soul
The ordinary term, “silence,” refers to a different quality from that of soul silence. The dictionary definition of the term “silence” is “absence of any sound or noise; stillness, ” according to dictionary.com. But from there that definition descends into negativity. Remaining silent about the bad things that happen on this earth is tantamount to collusion with it, which becomes a crime.
What is the opposite of silence? Is it sound or is it noise? Where does silence exist? Is there anywhere in this physical world a place that has true silence? No, there is not. True soul silence exists only on the metaphysical, spiritual plane—true silence is of the soul. True silence can be experienced only by stilling the restive nature that is born of living in a physical body that prods one to do all sorts of things, just to keep oneself entertained, amused, or distracted from the necessary concentration needed for health and harmony of body, mind, and spirit.
If sound is the opposite of silence, then any vibratory sensation defined as sound fulfills the definition of opposite of silence; for example, a car horn, a whisper, an exploding firecracker, singing a song, or rattling pots and pans are all examples of the opposite of silence. Ultimately, all sounds are opposite of silence, but such a definition is unwieldy and meaningless.
If noise is the opposite of silence, then the definition of silence is negated by a value judgment; for example, one man’s music is another man’s noise. Noise is simply any unpleasant sound—again a fact that renders any opposition to the definition of sound as meaningless.
The true opposite of silence is the whole vibratory realm of creation—all of creation exists in a suspension of light and sound; thus light itself may be considered the opposite of sound but at the same time the corollary of sound as it makes up part of the material for physical creation.
The terms “silent” and “silence” must be understood to be mere metaphors for relative quietude and stillness in opposition to deliberate motion and other vibratory producing activities that stimulate the auditory nerves; for example, one naturally seeks “silence,” that is, quietness and stillness, which offer freedom from activities as one deliberately sits to write anything of extended consequence.
Entertainment, Amusement, Distraction
Human beings crave to be entertained, amused, and/or distracted. The human mind is entertained mostly by the phenomenon of “what happens next?” The mind is intrigued by any story because it wants to find out “what happens next?” The mind remains satisfied with almost any level of that phenomenon. Works that have afforded that satisfaction for many years become “classics.” Thus, there are classic novels/novelists, classic poems/poets, and other genre creators.
All operate on some level of the “what happens next” feature, even poetry which usually offers only remembered experience can feature narratives of mysteries to be solved. Then there are the contemporary novels/novelists whose work has yet to become classic but nevertheless offer the required mystery that must be solved. Even TV dramas and situation comedies as well as movies remain of interest because the human mind desires that unholy trinity of “Entertainment, Amusement, Distraction.”
Even political figures may become entertainment “rock stars.” Wondering what the political class will do next creates a huge gathering as attention shifts from political campaign to political campaign. Then there are the junk scientists who offer a flashy but distorted version of so-called science as a medium of entertainment. Charlatans such as Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson have undercut true science for a generation of low-information individuals. Such charlatans have proven repeatedly that they deserve no claim on the public’s attention.
Inner Victories vs Outer Activities
Too much engagement with entertainment venues can lead to lack of accomplishment. These entertainment venues may be more accurately thought of as detainment and distraction that keep the mind from engaging more important endeavors. Writing is an activity in which anyone can engage; it is an activity that strengthens the mind instead of filling it with busy cravings for wondering “what happens next?”
During the act of writing, one can engage a higher level of thought in creating one’s own phenomenon of that mystery. Writing and shaping one’s own thoughts into coherent pieces of poetry, essays, or stories—even if one does not plan to publish—can offer the writer a place of solitude and silence that refreshes the mind and heart.
One can make engagement with concentration and writing a central plank in one’s life platform by realizing the importance those activities have for the life of the mind and soul. Each individual must discover her own unique method for establishing her routine that leads to her highest good. Knowing that inner victories are more important than outer entertainment goes a long way in assisting the mind to find its path.
Many, likely most, people do not even know that being on such a path is what they need. It is likely that even in a deeply personal, expository essay most people do enjoy wondering what comes next. But true inner silence can offer the mind and heart a great opportunity and environment—a place that will satisfactorily replace the busyness that usurps the time and energy required for better writing experiences or even spiritual advancement.
Reading, Writing, Thinking, Meditating
Paramahansa Yogananda has extrapolated that the acts of reading, writing, thinking, and meditating have a proper set of proportions:
Silence is efficacious for the soul that suffers the indignity of remaining unaware of itself in the face of noise, distraction, and chaos. Writing can serve to usher in that silence by allowing the writer to take the time to muse on eternal things, opening the mind to Divine Silence. The path to Divine Silence leads straight home, where the soul can find rest while still encased in the physical body.
Instead of heeding the quotation by Carlos Fuentes, “Writing is the struggle against silence,” writers—as well as thinkers of all stripes—are far better served to realize the quotation by Paramahansa Yogananda:
Spiritual blessings are bestowed on those who realize true spiritual silence by allowing that stillness to enter the mind and heart. The biblical command, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 KJV), remains one worth taking to heart. Being still and listening in one’s inner silence results in filling the void that seems so intimidating. As the Divine fills that silent void, all the sacredly promised blessings come pouring in.
The Efficacy of Silence in Uniting with Soul
In addition to his claim about silence, “What joy awaits discovery in the silence behind the portals of your mind no human tongue can tell,” Paramahansa Yogananda has said, “God is the mirror of silence in which all creation is reflected.” This sentiment corroborates the quotation of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, offered in the above callout.
One of the first instructions for meditation is to find a place where you can experience silence, a place free from noise. And if you cannot find such a noiseless environment, you must mentally shut out the noise and refuse to let it distract you from your journey inward.
Complete silence is impossible to find in this world ruled by maya. But it is helpful to filter out as much sound as possible when wanting to engage in deep concentration in order to write, concentrate on an issue, or to enter a session of meditation. The key is practice; the more one practices, strengthened by deep yearning for attunement with that inner stillness, the closer one can approach silence.
Also, the more one practices quieting the mind for writing compositions the better one becomes at that act. The old adage, “Practice makes perfect,” remains operative whether the practice is one’s act of writing or one’s engagement with the Infinite Reality (God) in meditation.
Western Attitude Sees Silence as Negative
Many citizens in Western culture believe that silence is a negative quality. They are so accustomed to having conversation, background music, traffic noise, and the sounds of other people moving nearby, that they become unsettled if they are thrust into a quiet situation. For example, a city dweller visiting the country suddenly becomes aware that all he hears is birds and exclaims, “the silence is deafening,” and then loneliness sets in because he has associated constant noise and motion around him with congeniality with others.
What actually happens is that constant sound serves as a distraction from the inner self, and being a stranger to the inner self makes one uneasy if suddenly forced by silence and stillness to confront it. But the purpose of seeking silence is to aid one in attuning with the inner self. Unless one has become aware that stillness, solitude, and silence are truly necessary for spiritual advancement and even physical health, these qualities seem frightening and unrewarding. When one sits to meditate, it seems that one is doing nothing. While experienced writers will have long become more acquainted with silence than non-writers, the former may remain worlds away from the true soul silence that one engages for mediation upon the Divine Reality
Paramahansa Yogananda’s Methods
For engaging true silence—not merely the metaphoric silence of maya, Paramahansa Yogananda’s teachings remain a useful tool. They offer things to do—actual physical motion that ultimately leads to stillness and silence. Expecting an active body and mind to stop all activity is unrealistic. But through the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, “Father of Yoga in the West,” devotees learn the importance of stillness and silence and are given exercises that help set one on the journey leading from activity and noise to stillness and silence.
Paramahansa Yogananda dramatizes the importance of silence in his poem/affirmation titled “Meditation on Silence” in Metaphysical Meditations:
This poem/affirmation demonstrates the efficacy of silence; in addition to serving as an affirmation, it also instructs devotees on the purpose of silence: silence does not simply stand like an empty chamber—it “spreads everywhere.” This knowledge helps the mind accept the fact that the consciousness through silence behaves like vibrations in the atmosphere spreading “like a radio song, above, beneath, left and right, within and without.”
The father of yoga in the west has explained that each human soul is already united with Spirit, Who is unbounded, His being existing everywhere at all times. Through soul silence, the devotee comes to realize that oneness with the ever “expanding sphere.”
Kriya Yoga Burns Karma
The useful comparison of silence to a “wildfire of bliss” is instructive and satisfying as devotees find out that the negative qualities of sorrow and pride are dissolved through this blessèd silence, which they naturally possess. Contacting inner silence burns up the dark qualities that are keeping the soul from uniting with Spirit. This unifying act reminds devotees of the yogi’s likening Kriya Yoga to a fire that burns up the seeds of past bad karma.
Humanity then learns that silence is like the ether which “passes through everything”—that substance that carries every vibration of creation. The affirmation instructs all minds and hearts and continues to remind them that their silence is a vehicle leading them to their sacred goal, “into the halls of His infinite mansion.” The metaphor of the “mansion” is the perfect place to end the journey—the soul’s home in Spirit.
- Academy of Achievement. “Carlos Fuentes. “
- Friends of Silence. “Paramahansa Yogananda. “
- Alex Berezow, PhD. “Bill Nye Is A Terrible Spokesman For Science. ” The American Council on Science and Health. May 13, 2019.
- Hank Campbell. “Five Things Neil deGrasse Tyson’s ‘Cosmos’ Gets Wrong. ” The Federalist. March 13, 2014.
- “Stillness. ” Paramahansa Yogananda: The Royal Path of Self-Realization.
- “Lessons for Home Study. ” Self-Realization Fellowship.
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