On the Value of Silence

From PODnet Thelema echo.

Date: 20 Dec 93 From: Josh Norton To: Fir

Fi> What do _you_ think the silence in 'to know, to will, to dare, to keep
Fi> silent' stands for?

I haven't ranted on this for a while...maybe it's time again. Where's that doggone soapbox? [finds it, stands on it...]

In my view keeping silence has several different purposes -- a couple of which I seem to remember mentioning in another message to you.

The first is avoiding unnecessary trouble. Talking about magick to people who don't know anything about it is usually a good way to cause difficulties for yourself. The type and extent of the problems are dependent on the hearer's preconceptions of the subject, but almost uniformly results in some diminishment of your status in their eyes. And it makes you a target for the mass psychic pressure built up around people's naive view of magick, forcing you to spend a lot of your time and energy simply fending it off instead of doing useful work.

There's no point in bothering them with things they can't understand -- let them form their impressions of you on the basis of the aspects of yourself that do impinge directly on their version of reality, and leave the rest out of it. Ideally, the magickal side of your life should be invisible to anyone not directly involved in it. And if someone "outside" does become aware of it, they should have the impression that your interest is just a harmless quirk, not to be taken seriously.

A desire to talk to non-magicians about magick is usually a sign of some unresolved emotional problems that the person ought to look at -- from my random observations, often a low sense of self-worth. Keeping silence in the face of such urges makes the person more conscious of them, and forces her to deal with them.

Talking above your level of understanding to other magicians usually isn't a problem -- the embarassment when someone tells you you're talking nonsense is enough to shut you up. <G>

Now, all the above is the "outer" value of keeping silence. On the inner side, its value lies in the prevention of what I would call "premature crystalization" of awareness.

The intellect and the language-using parts of the mind are, magickally speaking, fairly low-level parts of the human being. In fact, they are not truly spiritual in nature, but are entirely part of the manifest world; as much so as the physical body or the external physical world. Thus a magickal energy which is transformed into ideas or speech is as much grounded as one that manifests as physical events. The energy "solidifies" in whatever form the ideas and speech give it, and all its future manifestations are determined by that initial intellectual form. It takes a great deal of work to undo an idea once it gets established in one's mind. This effect is neither good nor bad in itself; it is simply a fact of existence that we cannot avoid, and have to take into consideration in our magickal work.

Where applicable, we want our speech and ideas to be a perfect reflection of the inner events they are intended to describe. The better the correspondence between the magickal force or event and the manifested idea, the more effective and productive is the manifestation in our lives. But in practice, the nature of the nervous system and the intellect creates problems that have to be overcome before such reflections become possible.

First, the intellect has been conditioned, through a lifetime of mundane experience, to reflect the perceived nature of the mundane world, _not_ the magickal and spiritual worlds. It has a strong conditioned bias towards certain modes of interpretation that are totally wrong for dealing with events in those latter worlds.

Second, the languages we have used all our lives have their own built-in bias towards certain world-views, which are equally inappropriate for describing magickal perceptions and events. These biases are layered on top of the mind's conditioned interpretations of experience, producing further distortions.

Third, our nervous systems are such that it takes time and repeated exposures before we can really see a new thing as it is. E.g. take someone who has lived most of his life in the hilly, green, semi-urban environments of Ohio and dump him in the desert, and it will be days or weeks before he begins to really see the details of his new environment. Similarly for a desert-dweller dumped in a city. In either case, the nervous system has to accumulate experience of the new environment over time before it can begin to make an accurate perceptual model of its surroundings.

This last point is even more true of magickal initiatory work. Our primary goal in such work is to open our awareness to new levels of being with new and previously-unexperienced qualities and natures, to learn to perceive on those levels in a way that accurately reflects their nature, and finally to act on and from those levels towards lower levels of existence. It is a constant movement into the unknown.

In such a situation, permitting the intellect (and the lower mind as a whole) to go along in its normal course is a recipe for failure. The intellect will always attempt first to interpret new experiences in terms of its past experience and its conditioned and language-determined biases. If we allow it to do so with respect to our magickal experiences, it is guaranteed to produce a "vehicle of manifestation" for that experience that is totally inappropriate to the real nature of that which is being experienced. This effectively stops our progress until we deliberately destroy those inappropriate ideas and substitute ones that are a better reflection of the event. It is better to not allow this process to occur in the first place, and this is where keeping silence on the internal levels comes into it.

Before everything else, we have to train ourselves into a constant awareness that our first experiences of any new level do not truly reflect its nature. No matter how glorious and mind-expanding the experience seems to be, we have to remain aware that in many ways it gives us a false picture, because our nervous systems do not know how to properly interpret it. It is only with repeated exposures over a long period, and frequent recall and re-examination of our memories of the accumulated experiences, that our nervous systems learn to see the new level (both inside and outside ourselves) as it is.

Having created this awareness in ourselves, we next have to consciously _refuse_ to allow the intellect to make any "final" interpretations or descriptions of the experience. By an act of will, we have to shut off its tendency to talk to itself about the experience and force it to remain silent on that subject until we are thoroughly familiar with the new level. And even then, every idea we have about it should be considered tentative, momentary, and subject to change without notice.

This shutting off of the internal dialog eventually breaks down the mind's tendency to interpret, and forces it into a state where the experience itself becomes primary, and its reactions to the experience are a perfectly fluid reflection of the experience in all its details. When this state is reached, words and ideas begin to arise -- seemingly out of nowhere -- that DO accurately reflect the nature of the experience. But even these should be viewed not as final interpretations, but as part of a constantly developing and changing understanding.


I admit that all this doesn't really answer to your original comment, which was that sometimes speaking seems to release us from an energy, and sometimes it doesn't affect the flow at all. That involves some other factors, such as where the energy is coming from.

Usually when the energy is coming into us from a higher level, speech that is in accord with its nature simply acts as a conduit, allowing it to flow downwards unimpeded. The energy that passes through is replaced, so long as conditions for the contact do not change. The natural tendency of divine forces is to work their way downwards into manifestation, and you are simply facilitating their passage.

Similarly, when the energy comes from our dynamic interaction with our environment, it tends to get replaced as long as the conditions that produced it continue to exist. But the conditions are often more ephemeral -- such as a transit of Mars, or some such -- and the energies get released in a single peak before the natural movements of events change the conditions.

In either of these instances, speech or thought that is not in accord with the nature of the energy tends to divert it into destructive activity until the channels for its passage are clear again.

Others, such as those that come from social frictions, are easily released and not replaced. While those that come from natural conflicts among the different parts of our internal natures tend to follow a hold- and-explode pattern, building up until some external condition allows for their release, followed by another buildup, etc.