But what is the point of silence? The point was, we learned, not mere silence, not silence to preserve some sort of order, but something much greater. In silence the idea was to recollect ourselves, to place ourselves more squarely in the presence of God than we would if people were talking to us all the time. We could pray, we could meditate, we could contemplate. . . . Silence was broken, of course, by people doing things they could not control -- coughing, sneezing, short periods of recreation, the sounds of work being done . . . But all of this merely emphasized the silence rather than disturbing it. Sounds could never absorb this silence; nothing could order it around. It concentrated itself, and from it all else flowed. Silence could never be silenced.
There is a silence of the tongue, there is a silence of the whole body, there is a silence of the soul, there is a the silence of the mind, and there is the silence of the spirit. The silence of the tongue is merely when it is not incited to angry speech or to stirring up trouble; the silence of the soul is when there are no ugly thoughts bursting forth within it; the silence of the mind is when it is not reflecting on any harmful knowledge or wisdom; the silence of the spirit is when the mind ceases even from stirrings caused by created spiritual beings and all its movements are stirred solely by Being, at the wondrous awe of the silence which surrounds Being. In this state it is truly silent, aware that the silence which is upon it is itself silent.