A Time to Keep Silence: Page 69

"A Time to Keep Silence (New York Review Books Classics)" (Patrick Leigh Fermor)

Blog-Sothoth's review intrigued me. I have always been a great lover of solitude, and controlled silence. If I have ever discovered religion, or the voice of The Other, it has been after blissful hours of quietude. Minor note, since my flesh is weak, I'd want to have an inebriant of some sort handy if I retreated to my Pasta Abbey.

Page 69 reads:
Mental discipline, prayer and remoteness from the world and its disturbing visions reduce temptation to a minimum, but they can never entirely abolish it. In mediaeval traditions, abbeys and convents were always considered to be inexpugnable centres [sic, or not, depending upon one's country of origin] of revolt against infernal dominion on earth. They became, accordingly, especial targets. Satan, issuing orders at nightfall to his foul precurrers[?], was rumoured [sic] to dispatch to capital cities only one junior fiend. This solitary demon, the legend continues, sleeps at his post. There is no work for him; the battle was long ago won. But monasteries, those scattered danger points, become the chief objectives of nocturnal flight; the sky fills with the beat of sable wings as phalanx after phalanx streams to the attack, and the darkness crepitates with the splintering of a myriad lances against the masonry of asceticism. Piety has always been singled out for the hardest onslaught of hellish aggression. The empty slopes of the wilderness became the lists for an unprecedented single combat, lasting forty days and nights, between the leaders of either faction; when the Thebaid filled up with hermits, their presence at once attracted a detachment of demons, and round the solitary pillar of St. Symeon the Stylite, the Powers of Darkness assembled and spun like swarming wasps.

What, a psychiatrist may ask, are the results of the manhandling of the delicate machinery of the psyche which these struggles involve? Can so many human instincts be seized like a handful of snakes, tied up in a sack,
(links added by the curious typist)

From the Amazon description:
While still a teenager, Patrick Leigh Fermor made his way across Europe, as recounted in his classic memoirs, A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water. During World War II, he fought with local partisans against the Nazi occupiers of Crete. But in A Time to Keep Silence, Leigh Fermor writes about a more inward journey, describing his several sojourns in some of Europe’s oldest and most venerable monasteries. He stays at the Abbey of St. Wandrille, a great repository of art and learning; at Solesmes, famous for its revival of Gregorian chant; and at the deeply ascetic Trappist monastery of La Grande Trappe, where monks take a vow of silence. Finally, he visits the rock monasteries of Cappadocia, hewn from the stony spires of a moonlike landscape, where he seeks some trace of the life of the earliest Christian anchorites.

More than a history or travel journal, however, this beautiful short book is a meditation on the meaning of silence and solitude for modern life. Leigh Fermor writes, “In the seclusion of a cell—an existence whose quietness is only varied by the silent meals, the solemnity of ritual, and long solitary walks in the woods—the troubled waters of the mind grow still and clear, and much that is hidden away and all that clouds it floats to the surface and can be skimmed away; and after a time one reaches a state of peace that is unthought of in the ordinary world.”

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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on January 14, 2008 3:35 PM.

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