Email: Monasticism: Carthusian Decadence and ‘Silence’ as a Way Through… (16.11.2021)

Dear Gillian

The Carthusians appear to be creating the opulence of lay life in the monastery. Whereas the Desert Fathers sat in a cave or small enclosed structure – so as to force or direct the gaze inward – the Carthusian has what is effectively a self-contained two-storeyed flat with adjacent (private) garden! This would cost about £500,000 in London. Furthermore, all purposeful physical labour is performed by the lay brothers whilst the brothers themselves live unregulated lives of no hassle! A massive diversion me thinks.

Dear Adrian

You forget the efficacy of ‘silence’ as an effective way through… Many individuals cannot cope with a genuine and sustained ‘silence’ within which they must ‘enquire’ continuously to find meaning in their existences…

Dear Gillian

Good point about ‘silence’ as a way through. Completely missed in this 1980s book and so obvious I missed it despite it being a central aspect of genuine meditation practice. Indeed, the ‘hua tou’ (話頭 ) found within Chinese Ch’an Buddhism requires the aspirant to turn the mind’s awareness ‘back’ in upon itself so that the ‘hearing’ capacity is re-traced to its perceptive – non-perceptive origin. This treats ‘silence’ and ‘noise with an equal ‘transformative’ value as both arise from sense-organ – sense-data dichotomy. Silence can be preferred to noise only in the initial stages of gaining entry into the empty mind ground – spirit – soul, etc. This is because when the awareness exists only within the world of externality, ‘noise’ (disturbance) and ‘lack of noise’ (tranquillity) appear ‘separate’ to one another – like this ‘chair’ and that ‘cat’ – but when the origin of sensory perception is penetrated all is experienced with a certain equanimity of experience. 

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