‘Psille et sale’ – ‘sing and keep silent’. A contradiction? Not to the quiet, contemplative heart, as with all other paradoxes, which are not contradictions per se. That is the title of a short piece by the great playwright and poet of Spain’s ‘Golden century’ Calderon de la Barca. His time was one where reason and faith opposed each other, each one claiming priority, if not exclusivity. Not unlike the present time, where, in the Western world, the antagonism is between spirituality (rather than religious faith) and practicality, pragmatism, ‘business as usual’ – empiricism, if you will.
Paralleled by St. John of the Cross in the following way when considering whether there is anything else to do “once a single flash of love or light has illumined our darkness” (Juan Mascaro’, in his Introduction to The Upanishads:
What is wanting, if indeed anything be wanting, is not writing or speaking – whereof ordinarily there is more than enough – but silence and work. For whereas speaking distracts, silence and action collect the thoughts and strengthen the spirit.
The silence of contemplation, on the one hand, and activity, which is unavoidable, on the other. St. Peter of Alca’ntara, mentor of St. Teresa of Avila, contrasted meditation and contemplation, the first being the means, and contemplation the end:
… in contemplation the spark is struck: the love we were seeking is here. The soul enjoys silence and peace, not by many reasonings, but by simply contemplating the Truth.
It is the same thought – and the reality of human experience – that is echoed in one of the oldest Upanishads:
When the wise rests his mind in contemplation on our God beyond time, who invisibly dwells in the mystery of things and in the heart of man, then he rises above pleasures and sorrow. (Katha Up.)