“Oh, Dad!” Jokes #1

3 May

The Western tradition also knows transcendences of language towards silence. The Trappist ideal goes back to abandonments of speech as ancient as those of the Stylites and Desert Fathers. St. John of the Cross expresses the austere exaltation of the contemplative soul as it breaks loose from the moorings of common verbal understanding:

Entréme donde no supe,

y quedéme no sabiendo,

toda sciencia trascendiendo

But to the Western point of view, this order of experience inevitably carries a flavour of mysticism. And whatever our lip service (itself a revealing word) to the sanctity of the mystic vocation, the commanding Western attitude is that of Cardinal Newman’s quip, that mysticism begins in mist and ends in schism.

–From George Steiner, Language and Silence (London: Faber & Faber, 1967), p. 31

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