Gurdjieff International Review

The Silence at the Source

This issue concludes with reminders of the silence at the heart of the oral tradition

So, what is the knowledge being conveyed by the different oral traditions? It is not spiritual knowledge because, practically speaking, this is useless. Rather, it is spiritual experience—an experience of stillness.

We are reaching for something deeper within us. When we come into its presence, our ordinary minds and capacity for language are useless. The transmission of the knowledge we seek occurs only obliquely through the spoken word, and more directly through silence, both of which constitute aspects of an oral tradition.

Swami Chetanananda, Parabola, August 1992

In October I was with G. in Moscow. His small apartment on the Bolshaia Dmitrovka, all the floors and walls of which were covered in the Eastern style with carpets and the ceilings hung with silk shawls, astonished me by its special atmosphere. First of all, the people who came there—who were all G.’s pupils—were not afraid to keep silent. This alone was something unusual. They came, sat down, smoked, they often did not speak a single word for hours. And there was nothing oppressive or unpleasant in this silence; on the contrary, there was a feeling of assurance and of freedom from the necessity of playing a forced and invented role. But on chance and curious visitors this silence produced an extraordinarily strange impression. They began to talk, and they talked without stopping as if they were afraid of stopping and feeling something...

I realized in this place that people feared silence more than anything else, that our tendency to talk arises from self-defense and is always based upon a reluctance to see something, a reluctance to confess something to oneself.

I quickly noticed a still stranger property of G.’s apartment. It was not possible to tell lies there.

P. D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous, pp. 271-272

Is it possible to accomplish an external task in an intelligent and efficient manner, without at the same time losing this sense of a presence which is infinitely beyond us? This is the game we are playing now. We try here a little, there a little ... and sometimes silence comes to our aid. This silence is very tumultuous inside us, and many associations get in the way, but there is, nevertheless, a place for an acknowledgment of real silence—not real outer silence but real inner silence. An immense opening. And of that one hardly dares speak. One would wish to speak of it as little as possible. One would wish to allow it to impose itself of its own accord.

Sometimes one finds words—and that seems very seductive—but that’s not what really counts. Once again let us return to the experience itself.

Henri Tracol, Further Talks and Essays, p. 167

There is something about the silence of a hundred people who have a certain education, more than the silence of two or three people. There is also something about the agitation of a hundred people [smiles]. Can see the agitation around adults.

But it is so striking when people are very quiet, turned toward what calls them “innerly” and not at all taken by whatever is around them. Each face becomes beautiful. And it is lost as soon as that quietness is not in them.

And it is good to receive this impression, for we wish to have an aim, a double aim, to be related both to what is inside—which gives meaning, openness—and to the world. To be in relationship with both.

When something real is received, by grace, then a wish arises. Like falling in love: there must be a relation; then it is felt, real. Any other “wish” is illusion, abuse of the word.

There is no wish without relation. A wish is based on something real. The wish to serve That.

Michel de Salzmann, The Next Attention, pp. 338–339

I have a preconceived idea that a state of silence, of peace, is deprived of energy and of life, a state where there is a stop, the suspension of everything that generally moves me. In fact, silence is a moment of the greatest energy, a state so intense that everything else seems quiet...

The perception of “I” that is revealed in the stillness must be as strongly established as the notion of myself rooted in the body...

The wish to be conscious is the wish to be. It can only be understood in silence.

Jeanne de Salzmann, The Reality of Being, pp. 165–167

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Featured: Spring 2012 Issue, Vol. XI (1)
Revision: April 1, 2012