The World of Silence

Knowledge and Silence

   "The human mind not only perceives the object
as it is presented to the mind, but there is a move-
ment in the mind which goes out beyond the object"

There are more possibilities in the movement
of the mind than are required for the mere perception of
the object. They give breadth to the mind.
   The breadth of the mind and the breadth of silence
belong together, for the breadth of the mind needs a 
corresponding natural breadth exterior to itself. It is true
that the mind is autonomous and can create its own
breadth for itself, but the breadth of silence acts as a kind
of natural reminder. When the human eye comes from the
breadth of silence, it does not concentrate merely on one
specific part of a phenomenon. It is true that the All-
Comprehending Being of God is the background from
which the mind receives its own reflected power of all-
embracing knowledge, but in the world of immanence,
silence is the impulse that gives its all-embracing quality
to the human eye. What is seen is then not merely one
aspect—the purely economic, the psychological, or the
racial aspect—but the whole of the phenomenon. 
   When the eye concentrates on but a single aspect, it
tries to compensate itself by artificially enlarging that
aspect, making it absolute (be it the economic, the
psychological, or the racial). By this quantitative expan-
sion of the phenomenon a pseudo breadth is achieved
which is a sign of the human desire for the All-Compre-
hending, for the whole.
   It is not long before the eye sees the particular
part only when it is conspicuous, when it is clearly
opposed to another part, when it juts out sharply from the
other parts. Opposites are conspicuous and strike the eye
more easily than the whole reality of a thing, for that is
inconspicuous. We have for example become unable to
see the whole reality of faith and of knowledge; of all
these things we know only the contradictions and the
polarities. "Life and spirit", "faith and knowledge", are
regarded as valid only when they are in polar opposition
to each other. Man is no longer able to give enough room
to life and spirit, faith and knowledge, so that each man
can exist satisfactorily without impeding the other.

   There are not anything like so many polarities as it
might appear. What happens is that phenomena are
especially manipulated so as to seem a contradiction to 
other phenomena, since otherwise they may fail to catch the
eye. Unless they are presented to the eye in this especially
prepared form the eye will simply not see them at all.
   For example: there is a real opposition today between
America and Russia. But the Americans and the Russians
—and not only they—exaggerate the differences between
them, make them over distinct, because today people do
in fact see nothing but the differences between things the
conspicuous and sensational differences that have to be
exaggerated in order to be perceived at all. The unob-
trusive things of life are ignored today; they might as well
not exist. From this exaggeration of the differences a war
might well arise. That would be the most terrible thing
imaginable: if war were to come not from passion or
political necessity but merely from a psychological defect
in man, which forces him to exaggerate the differences
between phenomena in order to notice they are there at

   When a man is in relation with silence, he is not
burdened by his knowledge. Silence takes the burden
from him. Men of earlier days were not oppressed by their
weight of knowledge, however heavy it may have been:
silence helped to carry weight. The knowledge was not
pent up. The excess of knowledge disappeared into the
silence so that man was able to face things with ever
renewed innocence and lack of prejudice.
   Silence was woven into the very texture of the whole
approach to knowledge; there was no urge to unveil
everything. Silence was allowed to have its share in things
by keeping many things inviolate from contact with
   In that world of silence things were not so conspicuous
as they are today (where they seem to be calling out,
appealing to man to take them on and concern himself
with them exclusively). Things seem to belong more
to silence than to man, which is why he did not lay such
violent hands on them, did not exploit them so intensively
for his own ends; and even the results of inquiry and
research pointed rather to the silence behind than to the
thing itself. What was discovered seemed to be nothing
but silence made audible. It was simply the part of
silence which had of its own accord revealed itself to
   Knowledge was not torn out of silence; it was still in
relationship with silence. It was as it were prepared with
the ingredients of silence and therefore still belonged to
silence. For example, knowledge in the world of Herodotus
is very various and variegated, but all the same there is
a peace over all the mass of knowledge—the peace which
comes from the calm gaze of the gods, which is sent on in
advance in order to accompany into the silence of the gods
that in things which belongs to the gods.
   Just as there is no difference today between silence and
language (silence is no longer a phenomenon on its own,
but merely the word that has not yet been spoken), so
there is today no longer any difference between what has
and what has not yet been investigated. What has not yet
been investigated, what is still hidden and mysterious, is
no longer a phenomenon in itself but simply that which
has not yet been investigated.
   That does not mean that modern science is useless, but
it does mean that in science today there is no real meeting
between man and the object of his investigation. That is
the fundamental defect in the whole feverish activity of
science today: there is no longer any need for a personal
meeting, a personal encounter with the object. The
object and the investigator are in fact of little significance.
They have been depersonalized by the methods of modern
science. The whole process has been mechanized.
Formerly the encounter between man and the object was
an event: it was like a dialogue between man and the
object under investigation. The object was given into
man's care and keeping, and through the personal meeting
with man the object became more and man became more
because through the meeting he had helped the object to
become more than it was before the meeting. It was like
that in the beginnings of modern science, in the days of
Galileo, Kepler, Swammerdam.