The World of Silence

Silence, Language and Truth

   Language is more than silence because truth is
manifested in language. There is truth in silence, too,
but it is not so characteristic of silence as it is of language 
that truth is present in it. Truth is in silence only in so
far as silence participates in the truth that is in the order
of being in general. In silence truth is passive and slum-
bering, but in language it is wide-awake; and in language
active decisions are made concerning truth and falsehood.
   In itself, by its nature, language is only of short dura-
tion, like a break in the continuity of silence. It is truth
that gives it continuity, that enables it to become a world
of its own; it is because it receives this continuity from
truth that language does not pass away. The silence out
of which language came is now transformed into the
mystery surrounding truth.
   Without truth language would be a general fog of words
above the silence; without truth it would collapse into an
indistinct murmuring. It is truth that makes language
clear and firm. The line separating the true from the
false is the support that holds language back from falling.
Truth is the scaffolding that gives language and indepen-
dent foothold over against silence. Language becomes a
world of its own, as we have said already; and language
now has not only a world behind it—the world of silence,
but a world near at hand—the world of truth.
   The word of truth must keep in rapport with silence,
however, for without it truth would be too harsh and too
hard. It would then seem as though there were only one
single truth, since the austerity of the individual truth
would suggest a denial of the inter-relatedness of all truth.
The essential point about truth is that it all hangs together
in an all-embracing context.
   The nearness of silence means also the nearness of
forgiveness and the nearness of love, for the natural basis
of forgiveness and of love is silence. It is important that
this natural basis should be there, for it means that forgive-
ness and love do not have first to create the medium in
which they appear.
   'There is no truth', said one. The other said: 'But
you are yourself assuming that it is a truth that there is no
   The logical force displayed in this sentence is an indica-
tion that through the logic that is in language from the
very beginning, truth is automatically manifest in language.
Through its very structure language brings truth to man:
truth presses itself on him before he seeks it out for himself.
   This is another sign that man did not acquire language
on his own account, but that it was given to him by a
Being that is Truth itself.
   Language corresponds by its very structure to the truth
that is made manifest in it. Therefore everything has an
impulse to be expressed in language, because it finds
fulfilment in language and is raised to a higher level
through the truth. There is an incline from silence to
language, to the truth of the word; and the gravitational
force of this incline pushes truth on still further from lan-
guage down into the active life of the world.
   Truth is present as an objective reality in the logic of
language, and this given objective reality refers man to
something outside himself, to the objective in general.
When he speaks, man is reminded of the certainty of
an objectively given truth.
   Through this objectivity that is in language, there is
more in language than in the individual (i.e., the subject) can
take out, more than the individual needs. There is so
much objective reality in language that it will last to the
end of human history and beyond.
   Because of this objectivity in language, more is often
expressed than the speaker intends, and therefore man
often learns more from language than he puts into it with
his own thoughts.
   Man is therefore exalted by language because it is more
than man himself.
   It is part of the nature of man that he is not able to
express the whole of truth in words. To fill the empty
spaces in language which are not filled with truth, he
brings in sorrow. Sorrow can stretch out a word to the
silence in which it sinks to rest and oblivion.
   Only Christ was able to fill speech brimful with truth.
This is why His words are not melancholy: in Him the
space of language is filled with nothing but truth. There
is no room left for sorrow or for melancholy.
   There is a radiance surrounding truth, and this radiance
is a sign that truth has an impulse to expand in all directions.
   The radiance surrounding truth is beauty. In this way
truth is able to penetrate far and wide; the radiance of
beauty prepares the way of truth; it occupies all space in
advance of truth and for truth. The truth is already
present everywhere, in partibus infidelium.
   Beauty is also present in silence; it is primarily in
silence. Silence would sink weighted down into its own
darkness, down to the abyss, dragging down with it much
that belongs to the brightness of earth, if beauty were not
also present in silence. Beauty gives a lightness and air-
ness to silence, so that it, too, becomes a part of the bright-
ness of earth. Beauty relieves silence of its heaviness,
brings it up into the light of earth and brings it to man.
The radiance of the beauty which rests on silence is a
premonition of the radiance inhering in the word of truth.
   In the God-Man the Word, the Truth, and the radiance
of Perfect Beauty are a unity. One is not behind the other
or even beside the other, but all are one in a perfect unity.
And in this unity all history meets in one Person: the
beginning of man, his sin, and his redemption.