Silence is the first spiritual experience

We can make a practical and correct idea of what spirituality is by considering the following experiences. When we listen, for example, to a concert, its sounds, through our ears, reach our brain and cause feelings in it, arouse an experience in it. Thus we have two elements: the external event, producer of the experience, and the inner feelings that are formed. In theory, if we could create in our brains, in our neurons, the whole set of activities and links created by the musical event, we would form within us the experience of that concert, but without the concert itself, without the external experience that produced the sensations. What interests me in this subject is not the search for a system to create in us the experience of concerts without having to listen to them; I am interested in conceptually isolating the two parts: the external event, that is the source of the experience, and the inner experience that has been created. The inner experience is what I call “spirituality”. A similar mechanisms, with the same distinction that we made, between source and resulting inner experience, can be realized in a lot of different ways: for example, when we read a book, or meet a friend, or admire a landscape.

This way of conceptually isolating the spiritual experience leads us to note that, for the possibility of a spiritual experience, an event arousing it is always needed; in other words, the spiritual experience is always an aspect of a global event, it cannot occur but in conjunction with the happening of something. This also means that any spiritual experience is always dependent, determined, “colored”, by the kind of event that aroused it.

Once we have conceptually isolated the spiritual experience, not only we can think of it as a part separated from the event that aroused it, but, even if we don’t have either the means or the intention to provoke in us the experience without its source, in some way we do it all the same, without any special device; in fact, it is a very normal activity that we all usually do: I am referring to the act of remembering, of thinking back to. Through memory we can somehow arouse again in our minds what we experienced when we heard the concert. In this case we therefore have a true example of a material, real, not just conceptual, isolation of the spiritual experience from the event that produced it. It remains, however, the dependence from the “coloring”, in the sense that the experience, although recovered only by memory, remains the experience of a concert, experience of music, it is not just an abstract spiritual experience without any determined content. From this point of view, the spiritual experience “pure”, “as is”, does not exist, because of what we said above: a “colouring” event is always needed, even if it is the event of just recalling, the act of returning with memory. Once clarified this, it remains possible to appreciate, we can say, the less, or better, different “color” of a spiritual experience produced by the mere contemplation in silence. From this point of view we can think that the spiritual experience itself is cultivated and appreciated especially in the pure silence, rather than in other experiences more conditioned by more particularistic events. This does not mean that pure silence can replace the other spiritual experiences: we are human beings adapted to live in this world and in some ways, we are not naturally predisposed to live as angels or spirits, although everyone can cultivate the emphases that he prefers.