"Among the wise of Secret Knowledge, I am their silence." — Bhagavad Gita, chap. x.
Silence is by many people understood to mean a doing of nothing, or mere abstention from talk; but according to the Old Wisdom Religion, silence is much more than this. Silence is one of the powers of the soul, the action of the Supreme exerted as a restraining influence in the life of man. Indeed, when we come to consider the strong impulse to talk, the vehement urging to give verbal expression to our thoughts and feelings, it is easy to realize that the power competent to dam back and restrain the wordy torrent must be great indeed to achieve a task so difficult.
Because a person sits still and says nothing, it should not be supposed that he is idle. Force cannot be annihilated, and the force which he diverts from finding outlet through the vocal organs, must of necessity, seek another channel for its expression. We are all too apt to ignore those forces which make no impression on our five senses, and yet the world is full of such influences. Think for instance of Universal Gravity, how noiselessly it holds the rolling planets in their orbits! Consider the life-streams of the Sun, nourishing and sustaining flower and beast, and man; yet their beneficent flow is unheralded by outward sound. Infinite Goodness Itself, in whom we live and move and have our being, does not talk with us.
The ignorant and vulgar always admire the force displayed in an exhibition of bad temper, and will quote the words used and treasure up the stormy episode for years — evidently the angry man has made a deep impression. Suppose, however, that a man is tempted to wrath and "refrains his tongue," does he fail of his effect? By no means. Hidden virtue has gone forth from him. A subtle influence has flowed out and entered into others' lives, making it easier for them from that time onward to control their passions and dominate their lower nature.
It is precisely this quality of noiselessness which gives to Silence its value to the Theosophist, who covets the power "which shall make him appear as nothing in the eyes of men." The possession of this power constitutes him as one of those who stand unthanked and unperceived by men, and whose strong shoulders help to hold back the awful load of ancient sins which ever tends to fall and crush our suffering race.
Silence! How impressive is perfect silence! The meanest of our fellows, establishes a claim on our respect if only he will remain silent for half an hour in our presence. What a balm in sorrow is the silent friend who comes to sit with us in perfect, unbroken quiet. He does not weep with you who weep. He does not wring his hands. He simply sits and feels your grief, yet all the while remains founded on the unshaken peace of the Eternal Silence. He is not callous, because he is calm. He is in deep sympathetic touch with you, and yet he stands so surely on his base, that the stormy waves of emotional self-pity which toss your troubled soul, break like ocean's billows at his feet, yet do not, in the least, unsettle his perfect poise and equilibrium.
"All real work is done silently," we are told by our Teacher. The humblest member of the Universal Brotherhood, who silently performs his daily duty as an offering to all the world, who, devoid of personal desires, dedicates his actions to the good of all creatures, does thereby generate powerful currents which flow throughout the nations and quicken into life the slumbering soul powers of the toiling, suffering masses of our fellow men.