The World of Silence

The Demonic in Silence

   In silence there is present not only the power of
healing and friendship but also the power of darkness
and terror, that which can erupt from the underground of 
silence, the power of death and evil. "Le silence éternal
de ces espaces infinis m'effraie." (Pascal)
   The word that comes from silence is in danger of
contact with the destructive and demonic power that is in
silence. Every moment something subterranean and mena-
cing can appear in the word and push out the friendliness
and peace that also want to emerge from the silence into 
the word.
   But this menacing power of the demonic can only
invade the word, can only find space in the word when the
word is not filled with the spirit. For the power of the
spirit in the word can overcome the demonic. The fear
is taken out of silence, it is banished, by the word in which 
the spirit dwells—that is, in which truth and order dwell.
The demonic element in silence is tamed by the spirit of
truth and order, and silence then follows the word like a use-
ful, obedient animal: it helps the word by giving it something
of the original power and nourishment that is in silence.
   We speak therefore in a language that has been liber-
ated from the power of the demonic by the spirit. Man is
partly saved from the incursion of the demonic by lan-
guage in which the spirit is at work.
   In the spirit that is in the word there is preserved a
mark of the divine Logos; it is that which gives the word
the power to bring the demonic into subjection.
   But if the word has lost connection with the spirit it is
exposed to all the powers of the demonic, including the
demonic that can come to it from the underground of
silence. Silence is then no longer silent for the sake of the
word but for its own sake only: it stands menacingly
against the word, and the fear comes over man that silence
may take away from him the word and even the sound of
the word.

   Man sometimes uses the elemental demonic power in
silence: when the examining magistrate sits for hours on 
end in silence opposite the criminal, the natural demonic
power of silence becomes so great that the accused's will
is no longer capable of hiding its secrets. The disguise is
broken and the truth revealed.

   The origin of language is "a prehistoric act, of which
we can know nothing" (Scheler), but it is a prehistoric act
like the subjection of the Titans and the pre-Olympic
gods: if it had not been for the victory of the Olympic gods
the powers of subterranean darkness would have prevailed
on the earth. But for the victory of the spirit that is in the
word over the demonic power that is in silence, silence
would have taken possession of everything and laid it waste.
   Before the creation of the word, silence had occupied
everything. The earth belonged to silence. It was as
though the earth were built on and over silence; it was
merely the edge of silence. Then came the word. Demon-
ic silence sank into ruin, but it seemed as if after all the
earth would have to be torn from silence piece by piece
as clearings are made in the primeval forest. From the
primeval forest of silence arose, through the spirit that is
in the word, the friendly ground of silence which feeds and
carries the word.
   But in the night the elemental force in silence sometimes
becomes all-powerful. It is then as though an invasion of
the word were being prepared. The dark forest appears
as the place where silence is gathering its forces for the
attack. The bright walls of the house seem like the tomb-
stones of the word. Then a light appears upstairs in the
room of a house, and it is as though the word were being
spoken for the very first time. The whole colossus of
silence lies waiting for its master like and obedient animal.

   In the following poem by Matthias Claudius the power
of language over the demonism of the silence of the night
is revealed:

          Der Mond ist aufgegangen
             The moon has risen,
          die goldenen Sternlein prangen
             The tiny golden stars shine
          am Himmel hell und klar;
             In the heavens bright and clear;
          der Wald steht schwarz und schweiget,
             The forest stands dark and silent,
          und aus den Wiesen steiget
             And from the meadows climbs
          der weisse Nebel wunderbar.
             A wondrous white mist.

   In this poem the demonic silence of night is overcome
by the brightness of language. Moon and stars, forest,
meadows and mist all find and meet each other in the
clear light of the word. The night becomes so clear in the
light of the poem that moon and stars, forest meadows and
mist find their way to the daylight from which the word
descended. The silence is now no longer dark: it has been
made transparent by the light and radiance of the word
that falls on silence. Through the word the silence
ceases to be in demonic isolation and becomes the friendly
sister of the word.