FOR A MUSIC OF SILENCE

IT’S STRANGE HOW OFTEN one thing leads to another, and having thought of Meister Eckhart on the way home from Woodford the other night I picked up my copy of Meister Eckhart from Whom God Hid Nothing and was thereby reminded of Brother David Steindl-Rast’s marvellous Foreword to a little volume full of big stuff! Here’s a snippet –

All the different religions can be traced back to an experience of communion with the Ultimate by their founders or reformers. Historic circumstances lead them to great diversity of religious traditions, yet all of those diversities are only so many expressions of one and the same mystical core – expressions of the sense of ultimate belonging. This mystical core needs to bring forth so many different myths and teachings, needs to be celebrated in so many different rituals, because it is inexhaustible.

Not only is the mystical core of religion inexhaustible, it is also ultimately unspeakable. The heart of all ritual is stillness; the heart of all teaching is silence. The mystics of every tradition know this … the language of mystics explodes ordinary language. What is left, after that, is silence, a silence that unites.

Language is meant to build bridges. Yet how often language divides. It divides when we get stuck in concepts and abstractions, alienated from experience. It is a dreadful thing when this happens to religious language, yet it tends to happen in every tradition. This is why we need the language of the mystics to blow to pieces the conceptual walls that divide us – long enough for us to get in touch again with that silent ground of our unity in experience. Once we are grounded in silence, conceptual thinking, too, will regain its proper function. No longer will concepts be the bars of a mental prison, but rather the bars of a musical score – for a music of silence.

WOW! This is “just” a foreword! And that only part of it. And then there’s Meister Eckhart himself. Oh how vivifying are the words of the mystics of old and of the present day. And oh how we need them. I’ve been preparing Sunday’s Pew Sheet with the prophesy of Ezekiel in the Valley of the Dry Bones … and inspirited, in company with Eckhart and Brother David alike, I’m praying “breath of Life come sweeping through” (our imprisoned traditions)  in a musical silence.

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