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.
Hello everyone. This video is connected to the article, we can say lesson or even meditation, that has as a title “Silence and spiritual experience”.
Now, when we think of silence, we instinctively think like subtracting something, subtracting noise, sound, activity, so doing nothing: this is an idea of silence, but something that is quite the opposite is suggested to me by the Italian language, because in English we say “to be silent”, but in Italian we say “to make silence”. This reminds me that silence actually is not just taking off, stopping doing things, but actually doing something, making something, producing something. It’s producing an experience, so it’s not just subtracting and make things more poor, but quite the opposite: is enriching life. So, since silence can be perceived, can be experienced like a production, a making of something, this means that it can be also received, we can even say enjoyed, it can be received as an experience, something that flows towards me, if somebody else is silent or is producing silence, or something that flows from me to other people or even to myself.
It can be compared to a concert. In a concert the player plays his instrument and actually, when we experience silence, we are interpreting it with our life, our being, our personality, and so it can be received, enjoyed can be got exactly in the way similar in a concert. This way the player interprets his silence and the receiver makes his interpretation of the silence that he received.
On this line of thoughts we can consider that silence needs anyway, needs always some kind of container. We can’t experience silence just without anything. For example, we can think that in a concert, in a musical concert, there are moments of silence or even when I’m talking now, there are short pauses of silence. So, we can think of this: that, if we have containers with things, like noises, sound, talking, in the middle of these things there is the experience of silence, like between musical notes. But, actually, what I want to say is something a bit deeper, that is, silence is not only inside the brackets that are left by the words or in the moments when the musical instruments are silent, that don’t make any sound, but silence is able to be contained in the sound itself. I mean, when I listen to a concert, silence is not only when the instruments pause, stop, but exactly when I’m listening to their notes. The musical note, the musical sound itself is able to transmit, to contain silence. How? Because, if something was prepared with meditation, reflection, a style of life, then silence dwells, inhabits the note, the word, the action, so that, in order to communicate silence, I don’t need to stop. I can communicate silence exactly in the words and not only in the moments of silence between the words. The word itself, the sound itself, the action is itself, is able to carry a message of silence.
Going on on this reflection, we can consider that, since silence is in some kind of a container, either in the pauses or, we said, in the sound itself, containers means history, containers means experiences, so my words or the musical notes of a concert or the actions, the events of life, they mean things, events, that happen over time. So, silence is not stopping, is not just in the pauses, silence is immersed in history. This means that, when I decide to have a moment of silence, is not going outside life, outside the history of the world, outside the history of myself, but exactly the opposite. Silence is part of history, silence is a contribution to build our history. So, this means that silence is in a rich and complex relationship, it is not an escaping from life, from things, from sound, but building a new, as much as possible, a new relationship of things, where relationships are built not just between sounds, between words, interpretations, but silence has its own content, its own opinion, its own word, we might say, to say to all the other things. So, while over time, while in the going on of my life I can have moments of silence that are intermingled, interrelated with the other moments of my life, this means that, over time, the experience of silence shapes me, becomes part of me and, as i said, dwells inside words, inside sounds, inside the style of my life, so that it’s like a sponge. Words, actions, sounds become like a sponge that is able to absorb inside itself the pregnancy of silence, so that words themselves, as i said, are able to carry silence, without not much need necessarily to stop. The sound itself, at this point, brings silence inside it and, since I cultivate this, I become able as well to receive the silence that is contained in the sounds, in the notes that were prepared by the composer and also interpreted by the player. All this obviously, at least in my experience, in my opinion, is an enrichment of our experience and makes everything in our life deeper, communicating something more, because, as i said, silence is not just interruptions, subtracting, but is creating new relationships with all the things that are in me. This means that, since I became like a sponge that has absorbed experiences of silence and silence is able to flow from me to other people, it becomes able to flow even to myself, so that I can listen to my own style, to my own growing up, improving, enriching, so that I am able to receive this experience of silence from other people, from concerts, from life, from the universe and even from myself.
This is a way of building a kind of something that I think is real spirituality. We can notice that, in the way I’ve talked about silence, I have not made any reference to anything that is supernatural, in another world, divine, transcendent; I have talked just about material things. I don’t deny anything transcendent, but I want just to show that actually our material experience, the history of the world, of our life, if experienced with the enrichment that comes from silence, interacting with everything, it becomes like a new universe that we can explore. It’s already present in our life, we just need to pay attention, to become educated to be sensitive to the silence that is present, we might say, actually, everywhere: it’s not just when I admire the sky with the stars, the marvelous things of nature, like the trees, the countryside. We learn to find, to see, to listen, to perceive the silence present in a lot of more things, even everywhere and to introduce our silence, have a relationship of experiences of silence and so just enrich each other and enrich ourselves.
So, I wish for everybody to have this experience that makes everything richer and enables us just to enjoy our life, mostly how it already is and we just become more able to see more things, to enjoy more things.
See you in the next meditations.