Only Silence Can Express

Only Silence Can Express

The following essay was originally published over ten years ago on March 11, 2008. It is being placed here for your consideration.


Holy art Thou, who by thy Word has constructed all that is; Holy art Thou, who brightness, nature has not darkened; Holy art Thou, of whom all Nature is an image…Accept pure offerings of speech from a soul and heart uplifted to thee, Thou of whom no words can tell, no tongue can speak, whom only silence can express. – From Book one of the Hermetica, attributed to Hermes the Thrice Great.

Lama Govindudu (1898-1985), a German veteran of the First World War, ex-patriot, and pioneer of bringing Tibetan Buddhism to the West, wrote two landmark books which remain classics generations after first appearing in print, Foundations of Tibetan Buddhism and The Way of the White Clouds. Foundations addresses the underlying psychology of Tibetan Buddhist practices, as well as its emphasis on the power of sound, or mantra in the process of achieving Enlightenment, or Illumination.  In a compilation by Richard Power of several of Govinda’s lesser known essays, The Lost Teachings of Lama Govinda, our German Tibetanphile demonstrates the many similarities between the writings of the French Jesuit and scientist, Teilhard de Chardin and Buddhist philosophy. While it is not known to what degree either man was familiar with Hermetic philosophy, it is also clear that their statements are in sympathy with it as well.

Tibetans are taught to view all of matter as an expression of cosmic order, and enlightenment in a different phase of becoming. As modern qabalists like to say, “Kether is in Malkuth and Malkuth is in Kether, except of a different nature.”  More clearly it is stated in the Heart Sutra, “form is emptiness, and emptiness is form”.  For de Chardin in his work, Hymn of the Universe, we see his insights expressed:

“I bless you matter, and you I acclaim; not as the pontiffs of science and moralizing preachers depict you, debased, disfigured – a mass of brute forces and base appetites – but as you reveal yourself to me today, in your totality and your true nature…The aspect of life which most stirs my soul is the ability to share in an undertaking, in a reality, more enduring than myself; it is in this spirit and with this purpose in view that I try to perfect myself and master things a little more. When death lays its hand upon me it will leave intact these things, these ideas, these realities which are more solid and precious than I;…What I want my God, is the by a reversal of my forces (of consciousness) which you alone can bring about, my terror in the face of the nameless changes destined to renew my being be turned into an overflowing joy at being transformed into you.”

The inward turning of our consciousness, not in a rejection of matter, but to better understand it by penetrating into its deepest secrets is the essential technique of alchemical meditation, Tantric exercises, and the insightful process of de Chardin – or a form of Jana Yoga if you will, in which through a contemplative form of study, study founded upon a correct view of Being or the mind.

In fact, de Chardin states that we only become spiritual when we become creative. That is, we make choices; understand cause and effect, the fruits of our actions and in doing so, become conscious. We become awake, or illumined in slow and progressive degrees.  This understanding of our self as a mirror image of God, or as microcosm, ultimately gives understanding of the macrocosm as a natural aspect of inner unfoldment. Or as the ancient aphorism of the Greek Mysteries, those descendent from the land of Khem, state it, “Know thyself, and you will know the gods.”

The most common trait among those who have had this insight, this opening of their inner eye into the reality of their own being, their own mind and its mirror of the Cosmos is that most often they are silent about it.  Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven being within or among us and taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdome come, they will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.  Metaphysical abstractions are absent from the skeletal and fragmentary record we have of his teachings. Jesus was pragmatic in his method and doctrines.  Siddhartha never spoke of God or cosmic realities and focused only on helping each person understand their own mind that they may understand the nature and source of suffering and liberation.  The Hermetic teachings are filled with cosmic notions that in the end are used to demonstrate that there is no difference between the mind of man and the mind of God, and that all apparent notions of material and spiritual are mental constructs.  “As above, so below; as below, so above. To accomplish the miracle of the One Thing.”

Lama Govinda states, “The silence of the Buddha was more significant than all our words. It was the silence of the ultimate inexpressible mystery that is open to all, but which must be approached by each single person alone. It is the mystery of that center all human beings share, in which the whole universe is contained. This center is all-comprehensive depth consciousness, in which the sum total of all experiences and all forms of life of the beginningless and endless circle of all events of the universe is accumulated.   It is called in Buddhist terminology “the treasure house of consciousness” (alaya-vijnana), and in this center the solidarity of all beings is contained. It is the source of all creative forces. Without reaching this center, we cannot find liberation. But because this center contains the solidarity of all living beings, we cannot liberate ourselves without sharing this liberation with all humanity, as I think Christ has already demonstrated. The light of God would be what in Buddhism we call “the consciousness of enlightenment” (bodhicitta), which consists of becoming conscious individually of that universal center within us.” (p. 50-51)

Awakening to this individual consciousness of the universal center within has at times been assisted by various forms of ritual initiation, almost always of a dramatic and extremely traumatic nature. It is no surprise that it is also associated with extreme illness, accidents, and near-death experiences as well, and almost universally occurs suddenly and unexpectedly. Yet this awakening is just that, an awakening or insight into the totality of reality. It is not a permanent state of consciousness. It is a crack in the door of our psyche, not a full opening and entering into the room of our Being. Those who can enter at will we call adepts; those who live there, we call masters, saints, Enlightened Beings.

The gradual understanding of ourselves, our very mind or consciousness, how it functions, and what it is, is the measure of our unfoldment, our adepthood. The more we unfold the more we become both an individual, and aware of the whole. We do not become ‘a part of the whole’ in that we merge our mind with the cosmic mind into the great sleep of Hindu nirvana, but instead, are fully aware of our essential relationship with all, and the effects of our actions on our self as well as others, physical and non-physical. This is the awakening to the Law of Cause and Result – the only law that truly rules our life and all of creation.


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