Many words about silence – almost an oxymoron
This is a wonderful and thought provoking book. Maitland explores silence both from her personal experience, and from the garnered writings, sayings and teachings of others who have either sought silence, or had silence thrust upon them.
Inevitably, many of the chosen experiences of silence come from those who sought silence and or solitude (as she points out, the two are not necessarily the same) as the route towards an experience of the Divine. Maitland recognises that certain groups of people, while not seeking a closer union with divinity, may encounter experience of profound silence and contemplation – for example, explorers in inhospitable climes. She finds a common felt sense of silence across written accounts of these various experiences, although inevitably it seems that those who consciously search for the experience in spiritual surrender may travel further into the silence.
I was also fascinated by her drawing out the difference between the ‘eremitical tradition’ – hermits seeking surrender to Divinity and the tradition of solitude as ‘the way of the artist’, which was part of the Romantic tradition, and has influenced much modern thinking about individual artistic creation. She contrasts the surrender of the ego, the losing of boundary, the merging with all, that is the spiritual way, and the solitary act of artistic creativity which is the fuller realisation of ‘Self’ – if you like, the clearest realisation of the individual.
I would have liked a little more exploration of the journey towards inner silence – that quietening of the mind’s chatter – even if one is in a noiseless environment, and solitary, the full mind can often feel like a crowd of irritating noisy chattering fools! (well, mine can!) She touches more briefly on this, in the final chapter. it is perhaps a more difficult subject to write about anyway, since how can the wordless space be described? To describe it with words is to lose it.
Image: Deviant Art.com
A Book of Silence Amazon UK
A Book of Silence Amazon USA