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The Big Silence

Ratings: 7.52/10 from 23 users.


The Big SilenceAbbot Christopher Jamison, a Benedictine monk, believes that he can teach five ordinary people the value of silent meditation, as practised by monks in monasteries, so they can make it part of their everyday lives.

He sets up a three-month experiment to test out whether the ancient Christian tradition of silence can become part of modern lives.

Christopher brings the five volunteers to his own monastery, Worth Abbey, before sending them to begin a daunting eight days in complete silence at a specialist retreat center.

Journey into the interior space that time in silence reveals. They encounter anger, frustration and rebellion, but finally find their way to both personal and spiritual revelation.

Will they make silent contemplation a part of their everyday lives? How much will their lives be changed by what they have discovered in their time in silence And will Abbot Christopher's hope, that they will discover a new belief in God, be fulfilled?

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92 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Billy Bingbong

    Priest: Now Billy, it's time to try meditating again.
    Billy: Ok I will try as you have shown me.
    Priest: How did it go Billy?
    Billy: Wow it was amazing! I felt as if I existed in a different way, it felt very peaceful and beautiful!
    Priest: Have you ever felt that way before Billy?
    Billy: No never.
    Priest: When you had the nice feelings, was it like a new experience for you?
    Billy: Yes, like nothing before.. It's nice to know I have that place to go to, and it rests inside my mind.
    Priest: NO BILLY!!
    Billy: What??
    Priest: The peaceful place you went to was not inside your head, it was the holy spirit visiting you!
    Billy: What?? But that doesn't make sense? Someone visited me while I meditated?
    Priest: When you had the euphoric feelings, that was GOD VISITING YOU!
    Billy: Omg really?! Wow!! Why did he visit me, what does all this mean?
    Priest: It means you must dedicate your life to the bible, tell others of your experience with god and promote the good book, and give 30% or more of your income to the good church! yay!

  2. Justin

    ^^pretty ignorant and weak.

  3. Bobbler

    Billy Bingbong is basically correct.
    Some people experience a oneness with the universe,others like they have been visited by god.
    It can even be explained scientifically(alpha waves etc) but it cannot be denied that these religious types are hijacking something that exists in all people and wrapping it up in their own belief system.
    It would be like someone telling you you are going to have a certain type of trip for 8 days and then giving you some acid lol.

  4. Micheal

    Hi I thought this documentary was very interesting, I am going to try Silence out for myself and see will it change me in any way as big changes have been made in the people in this film, The Abbey looks like a really cool place to. : )

  5. Billy Bingbong

    Bobbler: " cannot be denied that these religious types are hijacking something that exists in all people and wrapping it up in their own belief system."


  6. zardoz

    @Bobbler "highjacking" is a good word to describe it (and a bit smarmy as well), although I didn't find the Christian aspect to be overbearing in the overall context. There's an excellent docu Vlatko might like to get called The Dhamma Brothers, about some people who organize Buddhist meditation groups in prisons. The prisoners engage in ten days of absolute silence and the personal transformations are amazing - truly moving film. That one also has an advantage in that there is no attempt to push Buddhism as a religion (which they would never get away with anyway since it takes place in the deep South!) - only the practice of meditation. Even so, they are constantly at odds with the authorities.

  7. TriforceV

    @Bobber & @Billy Bingbobg,

    Just finished watching this 3 hour documentary...
    I was really impressed with the transformation and the effect that silent meditation had on these individuals.

    But I have to agree with both of you regarding the christian context, I often cringed at the advice given by the monk who was clearly interpreting their Revelations as christian interpretations of God.

    I think its more a spiritual inward journey, that religious institutions need not play a part, connecting these very profound spiritual experiences with the hocus-pocus of Christianity almost seems like a crime...

    Still, the message was beneficial in that we, as people really need to connect with ourselves, and detach ourselves from the busy hassle of everyday life, for that reason alone I rather liked the documentary.

  8. Pyrrhus

    Quiet, solitary, pauses from life's the hustle-&-bustle are, doubtless, beneficial. Superstition is not.

  9. Keith

    Triforce V - granted I have not watched this yet but plan to, but in any case, you are suggesting that their experience was very valuable but connecting it to a Christian context is criminal...but were it not for the context the experiment, and therefore their experience would not have taken place. So, is it better that they had the experience - tainted by bias (because really guys, can't we be a little more gracious and call it bias instead of trying to apply such sinister comic-book motivations to it? Those of you who have this caricatured understanding of it, I would argue have never spent even a few hours with someone of Christian depth, but instead have prejudice based on many third party sources. Feel free to correct me.)then not having had the experience?

    My take is that meditation is precisely the kind of thing that while, yes you can explain its positive effects largely with science, that explanation alone would not keep the practice - and therefore the benefit - alive in cultures. So to denigrate a tradition that, in spite of its many flaws, has mastered and preserved and perpetuated a practice that is very valuable to human experience, simply because you just can't stand their interpretation of WHY the experience exists, is not a useful place to apply your hostility. But then, my opinion is that there is really no useful place for hostility and I'm clearly in the minority on the TDF boards in that respect.

  10. aaangie

    i really ernjoyed this, the spiritual aspect and the talk of meditation. but all that talk about god spoiled it

  11. Saturnine

    What a bunch of naive comments. The whole point of all religious practices is to give the most genuine human experiences some coherent external shape. This external form serves as a guide which helps people better conceive such things as kindness and love. WIthout religious practice there is no such order. (I'm quite sure that a non-religious contemplative practice is a contradiction in terms.)

  12. aaangie

    I am not religious, I consider my path spiritual. I am Buddhist, and I meditate a lot. I do not consider Buddhism a religion, as there is no god.

  13. Saturnine

    When I was a kid, I was taught that the stories that are told about Jesus to children should not to be taken too seriously, and that there is really no way of imagining God (or Jesus) correctly on the base of those stories. That's where I got the idea, that the point of the whole language of religion is to teach us the concept of love more deeply than is possible without it. I'm sure Buddhism does this as well. It's just that I find it rather irritating that the question of the sense in which God "is" and the sense in which Jesus is "the Son of God" is rarely even really asked, let alone answered properly. In this documentary the question was in fact put rather nicely, in the suggestion that the question whether God "exists" or not is a matter of finding it out yourself.

  14. deg

    "Silence" In religions other-than "Christianity" it is known as "MEDITATION." AS IF....."silence" is a "new-concept." Some guys, like "Alex" and "Paul" think....they are some kind of "experts" when they have NO proper-credentials. They seem to enjoy seeing their words in "print." Yet, they waste their time here, rather than in writing a book, because they'd have to convince a publisher to print it. All those words, and nothing said? hummm?

  15. Keith

    @deg - many of Christians also call it meditation. I read that in a book. Quite a few actually. I've written one of them too...books that is. Working on the publishing at the moment. I have published various articles, some of which actually make reference to...gasp...meditation in a Christian context.

    Also @ Aangie - I find it odd that, given what I understand of Buddhism, I have recently come in contact with several self-professing Buddhists who not only do not include God in their belief system (I don't have a problem with that and as far as I understand the practice it doesn't seem inconsistent), but also hold (and like to spout off about) rather condescending and even intolerant views toward people, especially Christians, who do claim belief in a God. That attitude does not strike me as consistent. I also don't appreciate the insinuation that somehow any one faith tradition or school of thought lays claim to some kind of superior and pre-existing claim on the practice of meditation. We have been doing it for a very long time too. Is it consistent with your Buddhist belief and practice to impugn the sincere belief of others, because they too meditate and it leads them to what they understand to be God?

  16. Billy Bingbong

    As far as I'm concerned each and every religious person has been totally brainwashed and has no idea how ridiculous their magical beliefs are. Trying to debate the fact with someone who has had ideas of total faith pushed on them for years is pointless. I truly mean no disrespect, this is my honest opinion.

  17. Keith


    I don't doubt that it is your honest opinion, but to then suggest you mean it with some kind of respect is disingenuous. You are very clearly saying you have no respect at all for an intellect such as mine, which has spent a great deal of time wrestling with the colliding - though not mutually exclusive - worlds of empirical fact, mystical possibility and experience, poorly expressed religious tradition, the human condition, etc. It does you a disservice, not me, to be so intolerant and so closed to the notion that you may be wrong about some of your conclusions. I was asked by a frothing-at-the-mouth atheist if I could concede that I may one day be proven wrong about God, and I said of course I can! I asked if he could exercise the same humility - after all we're dealing in the world of the unknown so humility should be a prerequisite for the conversation...

    So, I can handle your disrespect, but if its all the same you may as well call it that.

  18. Keith

    Oh, and I have not in fact had "total faith" (not even sure what that means) pushed on me for years. My parents encouraged questions and inquiry and I believe what I believe and practice what I practice based on that inquiry and most importantly on first-hand experience.

  19. Billy Bingbong

    I am sorry you find my opinion disrespectful.
    I mean no disrespect in the sense that I can respect the fact that you have beliefs and I will not try and sway you from them, because I respect that you have the right to your own beliefs.
    I am glad you are willing to be proven wrong about your beliefs, this type of open mindedness is something I have not experienced in discussions I have had with religious people. I think we can both rest assured, that if some undeniable form of proof of religion came to existance, like if the man in the sky who watches over everything came down and paid us a visit, non-believers would accept humility and the belief system - you would see us in church every Sunday.
    I admit I have a lot of trouble accepting religion as much of it does not seem concrete, it basically seems to me to be built on a system of "total faith," and by this I mean people are expected to believe things which can not be proven, only spoken of.
    I would very much like to have an in depth discussion with you about religion, but I think I have offended you and for this I am sorry. I respect you and I respect your right to your beliefs. What I know about religion is limited compared to someone who has studied it, but I believe I know enough to understand what is happening - and I do not like it.

  20. James31

    I get feeling very disappointed in man kind when I see a load of ridiculous comments on the internet blasting people for their belief in God. Why so many atheists feel the need to criticise people who have a different belief system than themselves is beyond me. Its like grade school all over again. You would think that after the thousands of years our species has had to build civilisations, we would be able to coexist peacefully and accept the differences in each other. Curiosity and questioning things that you have little knowledge about is one thing, but what I have seen on the internet is really sad.

  21. TriforceV

    @Keith -

    I agree with you, if not for the christian context of meditation this experiment would not have taken place.
    Now having said that, I do thing that alternative meditation practices, as Buddhist monks do in areas like Tibet also follow a similar mantra of silence.

    But I think Buddhism would have probably been more beneficial as from what I've seen they do not attempt to impose or shape any belief system on the experience.
    If the individual chooses to become a Buddhist, it is his choice alone.
    But lets take a step back, even beyond Buddhism, I think Meditation and Religion are two completely different things.

    I believe that they are interconnected, and because of the profound spirtual experience associated with meditation, many gravitate towards institutions like christianity that attmepts to explain the inexplicable euphoric feelings with religious ideals.
    What I'm saying however is this need not occur.

    For example, one the practitioners in this experiment and atheist, experienced something profound and yet she choose to still reject Jesus and God.
    The Priest was dumbfounded, and proclaimed that even though she felt gods presence and holy touch (whatever), she still didn't believe.
    I think its the opposite, I think the Priest cannot accept that the feelings and spiritual experiences might be something that is not associated with Religion, and is something we all have deep inside.

    I think religion might be a product of meditation, and a feeling of communicating or a higher purpose, and that individuals (men), like Jesus or Mohammad experienced and tried (unsuccessfully) to share the message of love and compassion in their own unique way, from these meditative experiences.

    So my point is, Meditation is good, Religion and its dogma, control, traditions, regulations, laws are the real problem here.
    You can be spiritual without being religious. Religion is outside stimuli from dead people telling others what to do, Meditation is inward, your inner soul telling you what to do.

  22. nomaD

    There is one God you can worship it however you want, he loves variety that is plain to see

    seek and ye shall find

  23. princeton

    oh geez...
    imaginary friends abound
    @billy bingbong

    Don't let the god worshipers brow-beat you...

    if you are a christian or muslim, your religion and the texts you deem to be of highest moral value command the deaths of all nonbelievers and support/recommend vile behavior and treatment of fellow human beings, with your supreme being displaying the highest level of corruption. for this alone.. I feel I have a right to be bashful, for you are engaging in something very dangerous which has lead to atrocities in the past and still to this day!

    belief in god is not just an opinion or simple belief.. it is a bias and prejudice substantiated by no facts whatsoever with no possibility of ever being true.

    any "God's" existence is impossible in the same way that a square circle cannot exist, or 2 + 2 will never equal 94. all definitions of gods that have been put forth are either synonymous with non-existence, or simply describe something completely natural.. ..supernatural is synonymous with imaginary and non-existent.

    also, religion is not a necessity to morality.. its actually quite the opposite.. religion is the manipulation of morality, and ancient texts can be used to justify whatever believers want to act out, whether good or bad.

    morality is best defined and understood through logic and empiricism. morality cannot be subjective, but must be objective.. or else, it is just bias and manipulation.

  24. princeton


    religions was no result of meditation

    the primitive human mind will make up answers where it lacks understanding (origins, nature, life). religion arose out of stories used to fill that gap but slowly evolved into a way to dominate others and control the masses...

  25. daniel

    i did ten days silence but it was buddhist. and it was really challenging and i saw so much stuff coming up to the surface. you really cannot philosophise or negate the impact it can have.

  26. Billy Bingbong

    To any of you who are religious, what do you believe will happen to me (being of no faith) when my time comes and I die?

  27. TriforceV


    I agree and disagree,
    The founders of many worlds religion could have experienced profound revelations shaped them to create a philosophy that evolved into a religion.
    I didn't say Religion was a result of a meditation, rather it was a product of, a possible alternative.

    Where I agree, however is that their messages, was limited by human understanding and conceptualization, the religious orders established were distorted, corrupted and became tools of power.
    As the saying goes
    "The road to hell is paved with good intentions" - kind of ironic considering it might be the story of religious orders :).

    But yes, I agree with you that religion is very flawed.

  28. TriforceV

    @Billy Bingbong -

    Burn baby Burn!... lol
    What a silly question.

  29. Billy Bingbong

    It's not a silly question, I am interested to see what different faiths have in store for me, in turn contradicting themselves, what a silly comment.

  30. Saturnine

    I think it's often the case, that religion must die inside a person in order that the space for authentic thought concerning good and evil can even appear properly. There are many of us Christians who fool themselves with empty (or merely personal or subjective) religious concepts for some time. When people are like that, they are at risk of doing many sorts of mistakes, including all the evils that religions can (rightly) be accused of.

    But two things must be seen clearly here: 1) Everyone does this. Human subjectivity and error are not only a matter of (false) religion. 2) Many people mature and grow up in their understanding of religious concepts, and don't fall for irrationalities. The world needs more of these people. If only more critics of religion could somehow transform and become them.

  31. Keith

    Next - @Triforce

    Absolutely, meditation is by no means exclusive to Christians. I meant that this particular experiment with these particular individuals at this particular time, etc. My belief is that all truth is God's truth. All beauty is God's beauty. However people get there, their lives will be better for it. It's not for me or any other follower of some path to wield our own tainted concept of truth around like a weapon or like a limiting force. The reality I call God is always bigger than we expect, never smaller.

    In response to: "I believe that they are interconnected, and because of the profound spirtual experience associated with meditation, many gravitate towards institutions like christianity that attmepts to explain the inexplicable euphoric feelings with religious ideals.
    What I’m saying however is this need not occur."

    I also believe they are interconnected, but there is something you misunderstand and presume here. Not ALL Christians are obsessed with attempting to explain and codify the spiritual experience to others. Some of us seek to experience within a context and find depth and beauty in this experience which we would not foist on others. You and many others over-generalize when you assume that one expression of Christianity (the noisiest in society and the easiest to impugn) is the only one. For any conversations such as these to be useful to both or all parties we have to take each other at face value instead of presuming we know what and how we believe simply because of an affiliation we presume we understand.

    Regarding the Buddhist approach and this experiment, you are probably right. In my experience, the deep and complicated history of contemplative or mystical Christianity is not something that is useful to dip into, particularly if you have a prejudice that would make some of the context distasteful. I think it would be more useful for someone who's perspective is: "I have no idea what's out there and maybe if I meditate I'll find out." Or for someone who is deeply struck by some of the inherent truth in the teachings of Jesus and seeks to connect it to an experience that transcends the intellectual.

    Finally, you said, "You can be spiritual without being religious. Religion is outside stimuli from dead people telling others what to do, Meditation is inward, your inner soul telling you what to do."

    I agree that you can be non-religious and spiritual, but the benefit - which many cast aside because the zeitgeist of the moment is that religion is bad bad bad, worthless worthless worthless - of being open to a specific religious context is the wisdom and truth that have been accumulated and added to in a tradition through careful, thoughtful, honest practice over the years. Is it tainted, absolutely! Should you refuse to eat the most fantastic meal ever prepared for you because the chicken had freckles, or because one of the shallots had a bad spot cut out of it? Okay, that metaphor didn't come out quite right, but I hope you see what I'm trying to say.

  32. Keith

    @ Triforce V

    One more comment in response to something you said. You refer to religion with a capital R, and this is a common mistake and common frustration for me in these conversations. Christianity, much less religion, is not something monolithic which can either be yayed or nayed in its entirety as both refer to massive numbers of peoples who have about as broad a range of belief systems as you could possibly imagine. So when you refer to Religion, and "it's dogmas and regulations" it is misleading, not intentionally mind you. I'm suggesting that you and many others are misled to believe that the whole of religious belief and practice is something you can get your arms around and therefore cast away as one big nasty package. It just isn't that simple, not matter how much easier and divisible that makes anyone's reality or argument. So again, I'd suggest that in these kind of discussions that it's more useful to us all to discuss what YOU believe and what I believe not what YOU presume I and a few billion others believe. Unless you are Karen Armstrong - probably the person with the most thorough understanding of all religions on the planet - we simply have to have a more inquisitive and humble approach to my opinion that is.

  33. Keith

    moving on...


    Thank you for illustrating my point beautifully about the uselessness of presuming you know what I and billions of others do or don't believe. I'll respond to your points one at a time.

    "if you are a christian or muslim, your religion and the texts you deem to be of highest moral value" Okay, lets stop there. You have just told me what texts I deem to be of highest moral value. Why? Have you sat in my church? Do you observe my prayer and spiritual reading practices? I, and many other Christians, happen to have a pretty practical view of the Bible - seeing it as a very flawed document that charts one small part of the story of human beings figuring out what it means to relate to their God. I am not sure what you mean by "bashful" in that sentence, but that's beside the point. It just so happens that this book also tells me that two things trump all the other things in the entirety of its pages - "Love God and Love every other human being on planet earth even more than you love yourself." To me, that's a pretty hefty corrective, and while I think there is much to be gleaned from the Bible (and much to be looked at carefully in historical context and grieved for its waywardness), I'd be okay with simply pursuing that one. You'll have a hard time pinning atrocities to Jesus core teachings which have their foundation in that statement he is reported to have made. So I'll politely ask again, please refrain from informing me, a total stranger to you, what I believe. I'll afford you the same intellectual respect.

    "no possibility of ever being true." Wow I am going to go ahead and say that is a belief which is wildly arrogant and more presumptuous than anything I believe. To presume that you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt what is or is not possible on a cosmic level is quite shocking. Even our greatest scientific minds (professing atheists included) would not be so bold. You do no one a greater disservice than yourself by being so declarative and limiting. Also, you have a lot in common at a basic level with the dogmatic believers you despise, as they too declare such wildly arrogant certainty.

    "any “God’s” existence is impossible...." How many times in just the last century has science discovered and proved something that was declared impossible possible? Quite a few. Again, that's an awfully big claim that resembles Biblical fundamentalists more closely than it does many brilliant scientists.

    "ancient texts can be used to justify whatever believers want to act out, whether good or bad." That pretty much describes what people of their worst, of any stripe, have done throughout history. They behave badly and find a rationale. Religion or atheistic human altruism can provide a means for this rationalizing of evil, and they can presumably also inspire people to higher good. It just so happens that there is much much more evidence of religion doing so than atheistic altruism.

  34. Keith

    @ Billy, thanks for your reply. You haven’t offended me per se. I was attempting to encourage that you think carefully about words you use like respect. I think in our society the term is used lightly when the word “politeness” is really what is meant. What I’m saying is, if your general opinion is that people with religious faith are simply dumb and deceived and state so much, then follow it or precede it with “I mean no disrespect” that really means, I want to try to be polite, but I think you’re an deluded fool. Anyway, given all that I’m glad you are open to dialogue in a genuinely respectful way, and I’m happy to oblige. Regarding open-mindedness, the fact that the people you have discussed religion with have not displayed this is not only sad but evidence that the people you’ve talked to are a poor sampling! I’m guessing they were online hot-heads, just like the raving Atheists who abound on TDF who love to first explain what Christian doctrine is and then why its horrendous, instead of, oh, I don’t know, asking someone who actually believes and practices it. Like I said, if you genuinely aspire to a posture of openness to the unknowns of life in general, rather than an aggressive posture which prejudges, there are plenty of us rational types willing to just talk for both of our benefits (not with hidden conversion motives). Email me or hit me up on gmail chat anytime – saintnarcissus[at]gmail[dot]com

    Regarding this statement, “I admit I have a lot of trouble accepting religion as much of it does not seem concrete, it basically seems to me to be built on a system of “total faith,” and by this I mean people are expected to believe things which can not be proven, only spoken of.” You are precisely right, there is nothing concrete about religious faith. However, I think the area I’d ask you to reconsider you parameters for is whether it ought to be about proof or experience. In my opinion it is about experience. I can prove nothing to you and wouldn’t try. New Earth Creationists do us all a disservice by trying to turn what ought to be a tangible yet…slippery…experience into something concrete and scientific. I believe because I have experienced firstly, I do not believe because there is proof. Proof would take all the mystery out of my faith experience. Oh, also I don’t believe God is either male, human, or lives in the sky, so I don’t expect to see any man come down any time soon.

    For what its worth, I agree with you that I do not like much of what is happening. I would counter that you, as any of us, only see a very small slice of what is indeed happening. I’d be happy to tell you of things which are happening that you probably would like.

  35. Keith

    @ Billy

    In answer to your question about what will happen to you. I have no idea, but I don't believe it will be bad. My current understanding of the God I believe in and the God I pursue union with leads me to believe that God wishes union with every human being and that this reality is at the core of spiritual reality. The advantage to belief for me is not a ticket to any place of privilege in the afterlife, but a life here that is full of ever increasing peace and meaning, and hopefully ever decreasing angst and despondence.

  36. Keith

    Oh, and Billy...have I satisfactorily contradicted myself yet? :)

  37. Keith

    @ Saturnine

    Well said! Couldn't agree more.

  38. Billy Bingbong

    @ Keith
    I am not trying to attack you, so perhaps we can move on.
    You really blow me away with your take on your religion, I have not experienced such views from a religious person. I thought the foundation of all religion is promise of a privelaged afterlife, but for you and possibly many others this is not the case.
    I honestly believe (without trying to be offensive - merely stating an opinion while trying to understand) that religion uses all the good that people can do in their lives as a bait for faith. One who has commited their life to the bible would soon realise that everything they are being told to do is the "right" way, and the "peaceful" way. How could they disagree with that?
    I think it is fantastic that your main goal is a peaceful and meaningful life, but why must people believe in an invisible man to do this?
    What if there was another book, that taught us how to live together peacefully, which didn't have the god like aspects? I could definately go for something like that.
    A few years back I read the first book of The Celestine Prophecy. I thoroughly enjoyed it and the aspects of connecting with nature, then at the end of the book, the people in the story used their connections with nature to make themselves invisible to avoid danger. I then put the book down and forgot about it, because if they were able to do this invisible act - devout followers could do it as a demonstration in public, which would have been on television and in newspapers, and I never saw that.

  39. Keith

    @ Billy

    I know you weren't trying to attack me, and as I said I'm just trying to give a little perspective about how we use words and how much we presume rather than inquire about others and perhaps I pushed my point too far, but yes lets move on. It seems we already have.

    You said, "religion uses all the good that people can do in their lives as a bait for faith. One who has commited their life to the bible would soon realise that everything they are being told to do is the “right” way, and the “peaceful” way. How could they disagree with that?" and I'm not sure if I understand your question. Can you explain? Sorry.

    in response to "why must people believe in an invisible man to do this?"

    Well I don't know that anyone absolutely must believe one thing or another to do this, but I know that for me, simply aspiring to the ideal without the real connection with a real being results only in endless intellectualized philosophizing, not experiential and transformational action. What I'm saying is that I can easily accept and yammer all day about how one might aspire to and/or achieve these ideals without God being part of the equation, but I know for myself that God being part of the equation actually makes it possible and alive, not just theory or philosophy. So you may not require belief in God to live a life of beauty, purpose, meaning, harmony, etc. but I have concluded that I do. And the thing I keep coming back to which I think is misunderstood is that it is all about experience. I have met the "invisble man" as you call God. It is most certainly not something I can prove to you emperically. I can only tell you, that as silly as it may sound to you, I have experiences that for me eclipse the philosophical. Those experiences are inseperable, for me, from my faith tradition.

    "if there was another book..." I guess what I'm trying to say (and it hasn't always been this way for me) is that a book would never be enough to change a human being, to infuse that sense of understanding that is deeper than words. The book is merely a small part of the equation. The personhood of God, Godself (I don't say himself merely because I don't believe God has a gender in human terms) is at the heart of all of it. I would happily have God with no bible. I would never want the Bible with no experience of God, I would just as soon have my favorite novel in that case. So another book that teaches such things may be useful in some small way, but the experience and way of life that I find to be possible and real - and that I see as the foundation of all that has been good about the Christian tradition - is of far greater importance. So in short, I don't HAVE to BELIEVE in an invisible man to pursue a goal of a peaceful and meaningful life, but I have to experience this more or less invisible being to do anything more than aspire to that kind of life.

    I don't know if that makes any sense, as it doesn't always make sense to me. It is a process and an experience not a code or system that I follow. A process and an unfolding truth and reality is a lot harder to pin down than a dogmatic and systematic theology. There is plenty of that out there but in my experience it doesn't change lives and usually separates and divides people. I am glad you are open to seeing that theirs is not the only way Christianity is expressed in the world, even if it has the loudest bullhorn.

  40. TriforceV


    I understand your desire to illustrate the positive aspects of religion. And I do agree with you that some messages or stories might have spiritual meaning.

    What I refer to as religion are things like...
    The inquisition, witch burnings, crusades, medieval pope politics, indulgences, bible created 300 years after Jesus(and many different versions), or the history of Christianity, starting from its inception, the donitation of Constantine, the constant changing and alterations, conflicts, changes, divisions of Christianity into different view points, different sects (protestant, Quakers, evangelicals, monastic monks, eastern orthodox).

    The list goes on and on, Christianity at its core is a contradiction, confusion, cruelty, manipulative, and often proven wrong again and again.
    Nor is Christianity the only religion with a spotted past, many other religions suffer the same spotted history, change in laws and practices long after the foundations of these religions.

    Now you say you had some experience in which you felt or saw God, and like the monk in this documentary, I'm sure you genially believe that. And how am I to tell you that your experience was false, or unreal.
    But like the monk in this documentary, your experience was most likely influenced by your previous and present religious beliefs that shaped it into your acceptance.

    Now I do believe myself in a higher purpose, even a higher being, possibly a universal awareness, beyond our comprehension or understanding.....
    But I do not believe in religion, its messages, its rules, its heaven and hell, fire and clouds, and baby Jesus appearing in bread...
    That for me is and always will be unnecessary crap.

  41. princeton

    great.. let's get at it then.
    'To presume that you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt what is or is not possible on a cosmic level is quite shocking"
    so I am arrogant to know that no where ever in the universe will 2+2=76? maybe somewhere in the universe a naked ape can survive 1,000,000 degrees unaided? or maybe its possible I don't exists! I think not.. there is plenty we can know without a doubt.

    in response to your reference to scientific discoveries.. all scientific observations regardless how baffling and strange must have a logically consistent explanation, or else we are dealing in mere fantasy and bias, not epistemology or knowledge, this is why science works.. to say such things as immaterial consciousness or some other self contradictory entity exists does not fit in this category, sorry!

    "I, and many other Christians, happen to have a pretty practical view of the Bible – seeing it as a very flawed document"
    lol.. contradicting yourself there.. if you are a christian, then you must either accept what is taught in the text.. or you just pick and chose what you like and run with it with no regard to fact, truth, or logical consistency (which is not found in the texts). I know there are many picky choosy Christians.. but to me its all the same, you find a fictional book, know it's just a book written by some guy, but then proceed to treat the parts you like as reality.. with no rational/empirical distinction or proof.
    I mean there are kernels of truth in harry potter & Lord of the rings.. so what? its fiction and its kinda $illy to pick and chose some parts to use as a religion!

    "Love God and Love every other human being on planet earth even more than you love yourself"
    one. it is my strong opinion (logically sound also) that you can only love others through love for yourself, and cannot love any other person more than you can love yourself. people put that selfless love act on, but its just not true, either that or its just not love.
    two. as far as loving god.. well.. first when you use that word "GOD" you have to be describing something very specific. god does not mean "everything that exists" or "inter-connectedness" and any other such hazy definition, because we already have words to describe such things without religion.
    when you say "GOD" you mean immaterial consciousness, which is an impossibility, and you may even mean some infinite dude or all powerful person responsible for everything. Occam's razor renders all such concepts unnecessary and illogical, because our universe can be explained quite beautifully without resorting to personification of natural phenomenon.
    You may have profound experiences and visions, and i submit most human life on earth does experience something of the sort.. but what we know for sure is that scientists have replicated those religious visions by stimulating certain parts of the brain.. again.. no need to reach and conjure up sky ghosts.. our brain is the most complex thing we know to exist, and it is responsible for what we experience as life love and beauty..

    as for the last part of your post @ me.. the majority of the world is religious, and if you look at the world around you, it is a very nasty place. Religion of course has influenced more in both directions (good, evil) than atheist altruism because there are simply way more religious people.. but another reason for this is because atheists have to work to come up with logical justifications for moral edicts without the need for punishment or reward. morality is being solidified as a science and pioneers of recent have done a great job at clearly defining where morality comes from and what morality truly is in a scientific manner.. this is all pretty new & exciting stuff.. atheists for the most part didn't have this kind of moral clarity.. the religious just did what they were told!

    I submit that morality out of fear or obedience is not morality at all....

    you sir, have beautifully demonstrated my point which is to say people will use religious texts to satisfy their own prejudices and biases.. and just rationalize away the parts they don't like . even if it is a positive message or outlook, it is incorrect and errors can become dangerous no matter how benign they look on the surface!

  42. daniel

    if silence is at the core of christian faith then why won't they all just shut up?

  43. sollsam

    Connecting with oneself and spirituality has nothing to do with religion. It would have been a nice documentary if the God shit was not included.

    I live in a country where silence is big part of everyone's daily life - Finland people hardly talk here. Sure it develops character and you see the effect on everybody. Most people are rational and have good disciplines. But silence didn't make them stupid enough to be religious. In fact the vast majority of the population don't believe in god. In 2010 alone more than 80,000 people have resigned from church membership.

    I found it surprising when the monk tries to make a different interpretation of silent. I live with it everyday so do the majority of the population here. It is so depressing! It's killing me!

  44. Keith


    What you're essentially saying is that when I refer to Religion with a capital R, I mean the bad part. That's like saying, if you ever hear me refer to computers just assume I am referring to hard-drive crashes, lonely people who don't have a real life, and electronic waste piling up in landfills.

    Atrocities and bad behavior have happened in human history from the beginning and will continue to happen. They have happened with religious motivation and with equal zeal and evil at the hands of marxists. People do bad stuff to people, sometimes it is religious.

    I don't disagree with a single one of the things you describe as negative aspects of Christianity and its history. Not one. But to say that you understand and are qualified to judge what is "at it's core" is overreaching yourself. Christianity at its core is about following Jesus and his teachings, which when done results in people doing good things for other people and bettering themselves rather than the opposite.

    You are right in saying that you are not qualified to judge my experience and tell me if its real or not, but then you go on to do so by kindly and condescendingly informing me about what and why that experience most likely is. You do not know me or my history and we are speaking through text online. You're hardly qualified to make any such judgment or even a guess. I get really frustrated by the repetition of presumption on this site and many forums like these. If I ever presume anything at all about any of you - your belief, your motivation, your experience, your hair color, your sexuality, whatever...please call me out on it because it is annoying and not helpful. Again and again I attempt to steer conversations to a useful place where we can discuss our own experience and belief but people seem to have much more fun (and perhaps by their own yardstick, success) talking to me about why what I believe or have experienced is flawed. Useless.

    My point is don't presume anything you don't know to be factual. It is a waste of space to do so.

  45. Keith


    so I am arrogant to know that no where ever in the universe will 2+2=76? maybe somewhere in the universe a naked ape can survive 1,000,000 degrees unaided? or maybe its possible I don’t exists! I think not.. there is plenty we can know without a doubt.

    No, you're arrogant to assume certainty of something much more esoteric. Of course there is plenty we can know without a doubt. There are also things that up to this point we cannot. As I said, astrophysicists who do not believe in God would not be as declarative as you are. Perhaps I should ask, are you an expert in a relevant field?

    Regarding your second paragraph. If you'd look closely at what I said to you, you would realize I am not suggesting that science can prove anything about God. I have made it clear that I don't find value in trying to PROVE Christianity or the existence of God empirically. My point is that these things cannot be DIS-proven. I am saying that when you are dealing with things that are beyond the realm of current science, science can't comment on whether it does or does not exist, and good scientists don't. They simply say, we don't know. When asked if there might be an even tinier particle in matter than the tiniest one discovered, they'll tell you, we don't know. When asked if there is life beyond our galaxy they'll tell you, we don't know. I accuse you of arrogance because you are not willing to be humble enough to admit that you don't and can't know. "I believe" or "I do not believe" are very different from "I know" and "I do not know."

    You said, "if you are a christian, then you must either accept what is taught in the text.." Okay, please be so kind now as to educate me on proper theology, and perhaps state your educational credentials. Please begin by defining "Christian" for me. Next define what "acceptance" means in a religious sense. Then tell which text or texts every Christian must accept, and tell me who says this is so, and how you know they say it is so, and how you know that what they say is the defining authority on what being "a christian" means. Your assumption continues to be that being a Christian all comes back to the Bible and so your means of impugning me is going to largely hinge on this. That is an assumption which is not accurate. In any case, if you can satisfactorily answer the questions above then it will help elucidate whether or not I have contradicted myself.

    "one. it is my strong opinion (logically sound also) that you can only love others through love for yourself, and cannot love any other person more than you can love yourself. people put that selfless love act on, but its just not true, either that or its just not love." Playing semantics with the maxim does not in any way disprove the usefulness and even psychologically non-contradictory nature of the teaching. Any Christian teachers and mentors of wisdom or depth do not teach "selfless" love. In fact the core of this belief and its practice is based in the concept that we are all loved equally by God, so there is more than enough love in the cosmos to go around. Part of loving others sacrificially involves being at peace with one's self and indeed loving one's self by embracing the reality that one is deeply loved and accepted by God.

    Your second point of the existence of God I already addressed and I'm not interested in proving the existence of God to you. As I said your argument for DIS-proving God are very weak in my opinion because we are talking about an intangible that even people like Dawkins and Hitchens will admit you can't fully disprove.

    As to my experiences, I'm aware of all the studies your describing. All good and interesting stuff. I won't bore with you a novel-length explanation about the complexities of my own experience because I would never offer them as proof to anyone else. They are most certainly and admitedly subjective. I'm okay with that. Again, I'm not interested in proving anything but in having discussions, and in this case providing some defense from intellectually weak intolerance.

    I'm glad to hear about that progress with atheists studying morality scientifically. That sounds positive and will only serve to make the world a better place. I look forward to the results. We have that desire in common, now if only we could engender a bit more civility and respect intellectually. When you say "the religious just did what they were told" you once again speak for people you don't know about about realities you scorn without seeking to understand. I do not make moral choices because someone or a text is telling me to do so. I certainly don't make moral choices out of fear. I make moral choices because they are right. Those choices are in sync with the teachings of Christ. I am empowered to do good, to be a better person through my spiritual experience. That is very different from "doing what I am told."

    As I explained to Billy in one of my responses, if you personally have the fortitude as an atheist to be a great person who not only treats others well and fairly, but has deep personal peace and satisfaction then I am genuinely happy for you. I do not have that fortitude and draw strength and peace and meaning from my experience of God.

  46. Genie

    Atheists are so annoying when they get on a tangent on the internet. All the use of big words and snarky comments in an attempt to seem smarter than a christian. When will they understand that it makes them look like, well, a snarky, rude, arrogant a-hole.

  47. Keith

    @Genie, while I do my best to avoid generalizations about whole groups (despite enduring it every time I open my "mouth" on a forum like this), I get annoyed too by that frequent phenomenon. Sometimes I admit I just want to ask SOME of the people I wind up talking you realize that for every carefully reasoned 10 arguments I offer in sincerity...I get back a handful of bitter, condescending, poorly reasoned and usually regurgitated (bad rip-offs of hitchens usually)excuses for arguments? It gets tiring, but you know once in a great while (I'd say maybe one in ten)I get deep in discussions that start that way and I have managed to talk people back from the stark-raving-atheist brink and manage a civil conversation in which we both learn something, which is all I really want out of it.

    All that said...thanks for having my back. :)

  48. jack1952

    When I read the posts on these sites I find that there are atheists and theists who are strong extremists. I'm confused by the "your going to burn in hell forever" religious zealots who still profess to love everyone. Equally though I'm surprised at the anger shown by the atheists who arguments usually end in name calling and a call to not tolerate the religious crackpots. I'm not sure what this intolerance entails but I don't like the sounds of it.

    The pursuit of happiness has been called a basic human right. That would suggest that one should not impose, threaten or browbeat another person to believe something that that person chooses not to believe. Moral condescension cannot engender the goodwill that should guide all our lives.

    My apologies to those on both sides who truly try to engage in thoughtful and respectful discussions.

  49. Billy Bingbong

    @Keith Sorry for the confusion, the question you asked about was rhetorical. Thank you for your response.

    @Jack, What you are saying makes a great deal of sense. As I believe religious people have been brainwashed unfairly, I take it as a duty to help them understand the possibility of this. You are right a person has the right to believe what they want to believe, but what if a person has been unjustly convinced of something that is actually false?

  50. ProudinUS

    Ive meditated for years!
    1)First i visit my thing I like to call "Happy bag"
    2)I reach inside bag were god mysteriously put a special herb just for me to enlighten the stress of everyday hustles and bustles
    3)I'm naturally advised to put this special herb in what is known as " the pipe with many meanings."
    4) light herb in the pipe and take a big need to be afraid to hold in for good 30 sec.before exhaling.THis magical herb will tend to want you to listen to a pink floyd album which was gods true gift in music.If god has not blessed you with the magical tunes of floyd,your sure to have a Zeplin or willie Nelson tune available.If those are not at your disposal maybe you should reconsider the whole meditation thing and go to rehab!

  51. sebastian liew

    I find some comments and negativity on God quite disturbing. What is wrong mentioning about God? Do you have a inner conflict with this term? Look deeper into your own issue. Why is the word God irritating to you?
    Christianity no doubt has shaped Western and modern civilisation.
    I am Asian and was once a Buddhist and now I embraced Catholic. But I don't find any conflict on this. In fact my Buddhist education enrich my Catholic faith.
    BTW, for Westerners no need to look so far to Eastern religious for spirituality. The Christian culture especially the mystical part do the same or if not better.

  52. jack1952

    @ Billy Bingbong

    Sometimes it is difficult to judge whether someone has been brainwashed or not. Since information is readily available to all, many have been exposed to modern science and have freely chosen to continue to believe that this does not fit in with their spirituality. Others just repeat what they are told without any real thought behind it. Either way it is very difficult to change their minds. As long as they don't try to suppress new ideas or limit discussion and education of these ideas, I say live and let live.

  53. Billy Bingbong

    Yes Jack, thank you for giving this some clarity for me. I look at Sebastians comment above yours and all I see is a typical religious person who would NEVER allow ANY form of changing his mind on this matter - and he is believing in an invisible man who performs magic! I can't stand it, I have had it with religious debates, it is quite possibly the silliest thing for a human being to do - to believe in something mystical and magical without any solid evidence yet so many do, it is beyond reason to me. I can only come to the conclusion that ALL religious people have been brainwashed as I stated earlier, because I find it hard to believe that a 30 year old man can believe in an invisible magic man without doubting it. How brilliant those bibles must be, and also the peer pressure from families as one grows.
    I have said my piece, good luck to you Jack.

  54. jack1952

    @ Billy Bingbong

    To finish, I have a reason for my "live and let live" attitude. Recently someone very close to me was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
    She spent the last 18 months of her life reading her Bible and in prayer. I knew her all her life and that faith brought her an inner peace that she had never experienced in her life. Even though I could not share in her belief system, it would have been cruel of me to try and dissuade her of those beliefs and the tranquility it brought her.

    I sincerely thank you for good wishes and hope the best of luck to you Billy.

  55. princeton

    hurray @keith
    "No, you’re arrogant to assume certainty of something much more esoteric"

    buddy.. this is just a weasel way of dodging the fact that certainty can be achieved.. and when it comes to science or any search for truth.. It is not up to me or others to disprove your extraordinary claims.. matter of fact, with extraordinary claims, must come extraordinary evidence. nice try putting it back in my court, but no.. I did not make any claims outside the ordinary, but as a christian, I am almost certain you do!
    as far as scientists and "experts in relevant fields".. many are religious.. so i cannot speak for them. i just follow the logic and evidence.

    A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Christians believe Jesus is the Messiah (the Christ in Greek-derived terminology) prophesied in the Hebrew Bible, and the Son of God.
    and if not the bible, then which book?

    right on @ jack & billy bingbong

  56. keith


    You'd make Billy Graham proud with your evangelistic zeal and reasoning. Unfortunately something that evangelists warning of hell or God delusions don't realize is that people can't be saved that way.

    @princeton, I look forward to responding tomorrow when I have more than thirty seconds, but for now I'd like to applaud you on your mastery of wikipedia and google in defining what I believe.

  57. Deedee

    This was a wonderful documentary. I am so very glad I stuck with it, because this is exactly what I want for my be able to be silent just to hear my true self. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my true self is what touches God.
    I cried throughout this story..I feel very glad for each participant. And I would love to see a follow up to know exactly how they are using there own experiences in a very selfish world. God bless them and I hope everyone else who sees this enjoys it just as much as I did!

  58. Keith


    Please have the decency to call me by name - I post my real one by the way - rather than a condescending "buddy." Feel free to call me buddy when you are open minded enough to have an exchange of ideas instead of what you percieve as some kind of foregone conclusion intellectual smackdown.

    Anyway, again, I don't have time to go indepth but just a note. You say I'm dodging the fact that certainty can be achieved. I do not say it couldn't, I say it hasn't yet. Quite different. I don't make extraordinary claims about A,B,C and D being true. I choose to believe certain things based on my experience and I foist them on no one. I don't require extraordinary evidence as proof for you, I have sufficient evidence for myself and so long as I'm not insisting you accept my beliefs, I can't and don't need to supply you with proof that you accept.

    The only out of the ordinary claim you make is that God can be disproven. Again, most scientists of importance will not make this claim and I am NOT referring to religious ones. I thought I made that pretty clear. By "experts in relevant fields" I meant non-religious and impartial physicists and such. Unless you have some data to actually challenge that assertion, simply deciding that anyone who disagrees with you must be religious is absolutely silly.

    I'll get to your definition tomorrow when I have time.

  59. Matt

    I would like to contribute to this discussion by giving three quotations from G. K. Chesterton. You might want to simply meditate on them in silence; i.e. do not hang on to them as 'great truths', not debunk them as 'wrong'. Just mull them over.

    1. "The trouble with Christianity is not that it has been tried and found wanting but that it has been found difficult and left untried"

    2. "Insisting that God is inside man, man is always inside himself. By insisting that God transcends man, man transcend himself"

    3. "When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing - they believe in anything".

  60. Tipsy

    Once again, I find myself frustrated by the religious context of these comments. I'm with Jack on this one - can't we just accept that everyone believes different things, and let it lie?

    Atheists, agnostics, stop badgering - you wouldn't want people telling you that you're wrong for believing that your head will still be attached tomorrow, and in a way, that's what you're doing to them.

    Religious folks, keep in mind that if you're making a comment praising God, you're unintentionally prodding a hornets nest.

    And to both sides, nothing you say will change what the other thinks about life. You cannot argue God away, nor can you convince God into someones life.

    As for the doc, I liked it. It was an interesting social experiment to see people almost completely removed from a social environment. I've always enjoyed being in the quiet, away from people, perhaps this is why. I do love my reflecting time.

  61. jack1952

    You just can't get angry enough to make a foolish man smart.

  62. Genie

    I think the Atheists are the ridiculous ones in the conversations against religion here. You can not prove that god does not exist. No you dont HAVE to prove it to declare it. Neither does a religious person have to prove the existence of god, purely because of the nature of the god concept. So to declare up and down that god doesn't exist and get angry and bash people with words for their belief, is ridiculous. To feel it is your duty to inform people that god may not exist is ridiculous because maybe you should understand that god MAY exist. So in short, if you want to sit and declare that god doesnt exist, then you better be prepared to prove that statement, or maybe you should remain "silent", and move on. If some one was to follow the teachings of christianity, no one would be hurt as a result, and no "atrocities" would be commited.

  63. Keith

    Again, you are referring to only some people with some beliefs and assuming that your limited perspective (we ALL have a limited perspective as just one person) is comprehensive enough to explain the whole of Christian, let alone religious in general, belief. I love science and am an avid reader of science magazines, watcher of documentaries. My understanding of the big picture of God and truth has plenty of room in it for scientific facts...all of them. I do expose myself to moder science, all the time and I love it. I do NOT repeat things others have told me. Incidentally 9 out of 10 arguments attacking my faith (entirely unprovoked usually) are precisely that...parroting what Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, Shermer, etc. etc. say. Interestingly one argument that those well-educated atheists do not offer is that they can disprove the existence of God. That argument is only offered by people with far less understanding and wisdom. As I've said before, so far science has not disproven God. If and when it does, we'll have a different conversation. So while I appreciate your live and let live attitude, I don't appreciate the condescension and presumption that your statements preceding it suggest. The fact is, your limited understanding of what certain religious beliefs are, is not adequate to explain or dismiss any one with whom you have not shared close relationship such that you know what THAT individual believes.

  64. Keith

    @ Tipsy, thanks for the Chesterton quotes. He was indeed brilliant.

    @ Princeton

    Okay, your definition. Christian means "little Christ" so to identify myself as a Christian I identify myself as someone whose ideal is to emulate Jesus Christ's way of life and to apply his teachings. The primary source for this teaching indeed is found in four books of the modern Bible. However, the canon was formed three centuries after Jesus, and the early church after him were around. The Bible such as we have it today is an important document, surely it is the important document for understanding what Jesus was about and what context he lived in. But for me, I am no less a "little Christ" simply because I do not make an idol of an ancient collection of writings that make up an important part of the historical narrative of the tradition that I am a part of. It's funny you say if not the Bible than "which book?" Why must there be a book? I am part of an experiential tradition, with many flaws, and a book need not be at the heart of it. Aboriginal Australians have a defined spirituality and belief system that has been intact for tens of thousands of years! So, I am okay with being part of an evolving tradition (evolving away from violent and dogmatic bible obsessed expressions) that is only 2,000 year old. So, part of your definition is more or less correct, but your assumption that it simply must revolve around a book is wrong. And you, and many vitriolic commenters hang nearly all of your snarky arguments on attacking the Bible. If you do this in an argument with a fundamentalist and biblical literalist, you'll get somewhere and you would be in the right. But to insult me and assume rhetorical superiority without understanding what I and many others believe, and we have every right to call ourselves Christians, is pointless. If you want to argue with ME, though I'd prefer an actual dialogue, please direct your criticism at my beliefs and statements rather than at what you assume them to be based on a clearly incomplete education or worse a quote pulled from a website. I will offer the same courtesy. I'll dialogue with Princeton, whoever you may be, on your terms rather than with Sam Harris, Dan Dennet, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens or the flying Spaghetti Monster. I promise it would be a much more useful and interesting conversation.

  65. Keith

    @ Genie, regarding your last comment I heard a good and challenging quote from a wise Atheist futurist who sees no place for religion in a potential future utopia. He was asked what he thought of Christianity and his response was something like, "I think it's a great idea, when are they going to do it?"

    Like I said before, though we are not the ones with the money, the bullhorns, the signs, the political noise or the guns, some of us are attempting to "do" it.

  66. Genie

    Jacque Fresco right? Well put, I must say. I myself am catholic and was raised with it. But I am my own person with my own responsibility to check into things. My parents and the generations before me checked into things as I have. We have all came to the conclusion that what we were raised to believe is truth. There are unfortunatly many people that dont study their religion. That leads to people doing and saying wrong things in the name of their religion. The same happens with Atheists. Many times I hear or read misinformed statements about Christianity from Atheists.

  67. jack1952

    @ keith

    I was referring more to those who think they're smart and believe their anger proves them right.

    Personal beliefs as pertaining to religion, are just that; personal. They are neither right or wrong. They only exist. When asked how you feel you can't be wrong if you are honest about your feelings. Science is based on facts and is therefore subject to errors as that is the nature of facts. Science and religion are two different disciplines. They can co-exist but only when we make a conscious effort to allow it to happen.

  68. jack1952

    @ keith

    In the above post, I should have said "as that is in the nature of trying to discover new facts"

  69. Keith

    Thank you Jack!!! Ah the sweet sound of solid reasoning. I absolutely agree. I don't regard the bible as a scientific text and I don't see my faith as needing to be in the realm of certainty. Creationists who embarrass themselves by trying to turn bronze age texts into scientifically reconcilable documents are out of their depth and plain wrong, as are supposedly empirically concerned atheists who see it as their role in life to badger people with religious beliefs. My religious experience, or whatever you want to call it, is based above anything else upon my own experience which is absolutely subjective and I wouldn't have it any other way. One is subjective, and as you say personal. Science, as you say, is not.

    Thank you. And thanks for clarifying the bit about anger, also an excellent point.

    See people? See what can happen when we think and dialogue instead of reacting and presuming? Its a lovely thing.

  70. sebastian liew

    This is a good movie. It reminds the Westerners who are seeking spirituality to look into their own traditions namely Christian in general and Catholic monasticism in particular.
    I am Asian a convert to Catholic from Buddhism. I am glad that the Christian tradition do have the msytical path just like some Eastern faiths. In my opinion, the Catholic msytical tradition looks into meditaion not as a technique or an attainment to something or someone but a relationship with our Creator. It is the practice of no self ; a life of surrender. A life of surrender; living for my Beloved God is what really make me at peace with myself and others.
    Life begins to have real meaning and happiness.

  71. Olivier

    I have experience with this sort of thing. Being alone, particularly in nature, is nothing less than sacred for the person who has the spiritual equipment to realize it. I've more than once been a guest on retreat at a particular monastery in Atlantic Canada. It really is, at first, either a huge relief -- like stepping out of a painfully loud room -- or a shock immediately preceding symptoms of withdrawal from the frenetic buzz of urban life. No advertising, so spin, to stigma, no praise... just you. After a few days, the head clears, much like the ringing in one's ears fades away after standing too long next to a blasting speaker. Perspective widens and nature itself reveals itself to you, naked as it always has been. But now you have nothing to do but pay attention. In any case, that was my experience. Whatever you presently claim to believe concerning the existence and origins of consciousness in the universe, as well as the exact nature of its relationship to the human skull, including your own, it can all be understood most clearly and felt most powerfully on the background of substantial silence and solitude.

  72. eryn b

    A spacious, brave experiment with silence. Really, isn't it intriguing? How often have I explored the inner space of my own experience? Very Brave I think. Such a rare opportunity. I'm thankful to all of these folks involved, for their honesty and courage. I highly recommend trying a retreat with some tradition or group that you feel has the ability, and familiarity and expertise to guide participants in having some supportive silent time like this. You may doubt and criticize all you like, but you won't REALLY know for Yourself until you try it. ... be curious...

  73. Femaloid

    I am an atheist and I have done a similar retreat, but it was also at a catholic monastery. Where would an atheist or non-religious person go for a similar experience? I guess they could just go to a cottage and bring a psychologist with them or something.

  74. Tamna

    I was about to watch the video and thought I'd read the first few comments. After reading them, all I could think was "Why can't those who commented comprehend written English?"

    I am speaking of those who took issue with the inclusion of Christianity, God or "a belief system" being discussed by those who were in the video.

    Did you not read the first WORD of the description, let alone the first two short paragraphs?

    Here, let me copy them down for you:

    ABBOT Christopher Jamison, a BENEDICTINE MONK, believes that he can teach five ordinary people the value of silent meditation, as practised by MONKS in MONASTERIES, so they can make it part of their everyday lives.

    He sets up a three-month experiment to test out whether the ancient CHRISTIAN tradition of silence can become part of modern lives.

    In the description above what exactly makes you believe that the persons in the documentary will not include references to Christianity, God and/or a belief system that is connected to the CHRISTIAN tradition of silence?????

    Sheesh people, what did you expect?

    If the documentary had been set in a secular environment run by those not part of a religious order, you might have had a point. It wasn't and you don't.

  75. Matt

    Yes Tamma! That's what I also said in my own comment.

  76. StarboundMonkeys

    Isaac Newton would sit passively for several solid hours at a stretch, day after day, just letting understanding of a situation develop incrementally in his imagination, slowly budding, branching and flowering like a plant. He said that this practice of holding a subject "ever before me" was the secret of his great genius, and that Truth was "the offspring of silence and unbroken meditation".

  77. za

    It's amazing how we as humans don't really grasp how accustomed we are to noise, distraction, and diversion. I've visited several monasteries (Trappist) and had identical feelings and perceptions as the people in this documentary. When you're born into something, and live within it (our cultures), we don't know that it can be different.

    Get bored? Turn on the telly. Grab a book. Call a friend. Play a game. Find some busy work. All of these things are fine, but if they are what we do exclusively, then we are missing out on so much.

    Think about it this way. Imagine yourself day after day after day, having someone following you around talking at you constantly. Never a break. Always words thrown at you, even while you sleep.

    You'd go mad.

    And we are going mad.

    Because that's exactly what we do to ourselves. That person following us around all day, talking relentlessly, is ourselves.

    It's called thought. And we never get a real break from it. Meditation and meditative prayer does that for us. It's a vacation for our minds. A silent mind is a mind that listens. It's no longer clogged with thoughts. It is free.

    And if our intention is to be more loving, generous, kind, forgiving, etc., then what we will hear is the wisdom it takes to do just that. It comes in through the silence. It really does.

    I haven't yet seen the entire thing, but so far, it's a truthful portrayal, as far as my own experience goes.

  78. za


    I hope I didn't hear what I just heard. The Father said that "if you ain't got a pure heart, then you can't see G-d."


    I hope he didn't mean that. Because if you're a Christian, you can't attain to purity of heart without G-d. And if you can't see God until you're pure, you've set up a very nasty catch-22.

    I hope he and the Church don't really believe that, because is they do, then they're playing games with your souls. And that's manipulative and it's evil.

  79. Jacob Yackobo Sergent

    I think he means god is always there but if your head is full of noise how can you taste or know something so subtle and wonderous?

  80. Jayne Graves

    I have been fascinated from the moment I came upon this documentary - THE BIG SILENCE. It brought up many meaningful thoughts and caused me to think about the ability to silence ourselves so that we can hear our Father Creator who I do believe is present whether we access His presence or not. Through silence, if we believe, we are filled with His Spirit and receive wisdom that is beyond our own consciousness. I was intrigued with the spiritual guides comments regarding each person in the experience. They seemed to have understanding of human nature beyond most of us. I really like the way they related to the people practicing silence. They added to the depth of the experience. The BIG SILENCE brought many bible passages to mind: Psalm 46:10 Be Still and Know that I am God
    Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities -
    His eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
    Would love to go to Wales and do 8 days of silence. Since Wales is not close - I am motivated to go to a monastery closer by for silence. To God be the Glory.

  81. Tim Neal

    This is a great point about the power of silence and creativity. I would add that there is a bit too much superimposing of religious ideology on the silence or suggestions of what will happen when you enter silence instead of just bringing in the people and letting them discover what they will and phrase their discovery however they want.

  82. John An

    @ SaintNarcissus

    You my friend are an inspiration. I love your intelligence and thoughtfulness which you put into your debates, with some of, ahem, 'much lesser kind'.

    Frankly, I find atheists such "wannabes". I can accept agnostics, at least they're honest about it. But atheists, who shout from roof tops that they know with certainty there is no God, when God is so much bigger than their little materialistic theories, are just plain infuriating....
    They just regurgitate the babble of 'Dawkins and co', (the new pseudo-intellectual-fad of 21st centruy) - who are making mighty fine profits peddling half ass philosophy, to an ADD generation.
    Atheists are very much the new dogmatists - the very thing they hate.
    The irony is, they're absolutely blind to their way of speaking.

    So thank you for letting me see that there may be some hope in the world. Loved reading your masterful wisdom. :)

  83. John An

    This is a fantastic documentary!

    I watched the whole thing in one go - even though it's in 3 parts, an hour long each. I had tears in my eyes towards the end of the second hour...
    The transformation and the opening up of the five souls - like that of a pine cone - was just beautiful... The way that the 'ego-masks' were dropping away by the end of the 8 day practice was just wonderful.
    I have to do this as well. I'm inspired...

    It just shows that all of us have a connection with the divine, if we just are willing to step out of 'the matrix'. (And what a seductively binding matrix it is...)

  84. Duncan Geoghegan

    The 5 in the documentary were emotionally vulnerable, either from recent deaths, a shitty childhood or from losing their job. They're not a fair cross-section of society, but that doesn't mean silence doesn't help.

    This would be an interesting documentary: take 5 religious leaders and get them to smoke DMT for 8 days... would they attribute the God they find to their religious practice or the magic cigarette they just smoked? And even if they held on to their religious beliefs, why would their God choose to reveal Himself through DMT, or another psychedelic...?


    lovely..a documentary about silence...with tasteful incidental backing from the 'bbc soundtrack' cd....just turn stuff o

    rned on (edit) further on..from what that hELEN SAID seems the monks have dukebox....or a ace venue for synthesis x :)
    btw cat n'pgeons, i thgt the BBC was ad free? i won't peek but i guess them's monks retreat got a site?....nn x

    silence isn't lack of noise.. its there all the time, like a bike u can ride? now there's a thought........

  86. Gavin Doig

    Some of the music is lovely. reminds me of Richard Skelton and his Broken Consort. Well worth watching.Very enjoyable.

  87. MarianneVW

    Beautiful, what an experience.

    The integrity and warmth of father Christopher touches me. I have experienced the monasterian tradition and spirituality of the Carmelites and it's become a part of my life.

    Silence, such a life tresure. It's possible to include one part of silence, even when it's just a minute of five, in every day life.

  88. Ann Rhodes

    Well, how many people are there really who are free of death, pain, upheval, stress, etc. in their lives?

  89. Dolores Thomas

    Reminded me very much of Zen Buddhism and some versions of Yoga, which also operate on silence and inner focus. In the end, maybe it's all the same, whatever name you give it.
    That's why I appear to understand why some of these people resisted ("antipathy", father Christopher calls it) embracing Catholicism. There is a big distance between spirituality and doctrine, that should not be ignored.
    Gorgeous documentary, indeed. I also watched the full 3 hours all at once.

  90. GreenOurFuture

    I am a no-longer Catholic and discovered Buddhist Vipassna meditation as a form of silent discipline that is often offered without any proselytising. You might be able to find a source of Vipassna meditation in your area.

  91. Trina Dionne Tilson

    For those who suggest that the Benedictine discipline of silence is new or a take off on new age religion- St. Benedict formed his Rule and monastary about the year 530. Silence was not a concept either. I really enjoyed the documentary and love Norvene Vest's book No Moment Too Small that is an easy read but has exercise that introduce ways to bring the disciplines of prayer, study (lectio divina) and silence into the daily life.

  92. Alison Rosenberg

    Beautiful documentary. I agree with the 3 at the end that you don't have to connect God with religion. I believe religion is man made but spirituality is something that can be achieved by all. I'd really love to take part in a silent retreat one day.

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