The Thunder of Silence
A Television Review by Stuart Brent, May 29, 1961 noted in the December 1961 Monthly Letter.
Stuart Brent has appeared on Channel 7, Chicago, in his television program “Books and Brent” for the past two and on half years. This half hour program is considered by many as the outstanding book review program on the air ands a widespread, faithful, and discriminating audience.
This book was called to my attention by some viewers, and I must say that it is a very penetrating, very powerful book filled with enormous wisdom, and yet the simplicity of the wisdom almost precludes the possibility of trying to understand it or talk to you about it.
I wonder if you know what I mean? Have you yourself ever had the experience, the embarrassing experience, of having read a book with great avidity, really eating it up, and then afterwards having your husband say, “What is it all about?” or a friend on the phone saying to you “Tell me about it,” and then suddenly you discover that you can’t, that your words are halting, that you are groping, that somehow or other you felt it all, you understood it all, and while you were reading you were in perfect paradise.
This book called The Thunder of Silence by Joel Goldsmith and published by Harper and Brothers is very candidly and very frankly and very openly a theological approach to living, but it is really more than that. It is a fresh approach, in many ways a highly iconoclastic approach. It is a re-evaluation of the doctrine and the concept of the New Testament.
The chapter that I found the most revealing in this book and which would take many hours to discuss, frankly, is the one that deals with karma. Now karma we understand as follows; I have just now – I’ll put it in the first person – I have just now done a bad thing to someone. You do not know about it. No one knows about it, but I did it. I did a bad thing. However you want to use your imagination in thinking of the word bad, you can: I tried to get a man fired from his job, let us say, or I blackballed him, or I blackmailed him, or I maligned him, or I bore false witness against him. I did a bad thing to this man, but you do not know about it. In karma, what I have done will be paid back to me. It may not be paid back today, but some day it will be paid back to me. It must be paid back to me, because in karma you must live each moment of your life on a causal relationship, on a cause and effect relationship.
Mr. Goldsmith utilizes this concept of karma, ties it up with the Old Testament, and exploits it to a considerable degree. As ye sow so shall ye reap. On this particular basis, he tries to point out that there is a really wide declension that exists between the concept of the Old Testament and the concept as it is expressed in the New Testament, in the concept as it is expressed by Jesus; whereas as far as Mr. Goldsmith is concerned, men and women everywhere make a terrific error when they think that God has anything whatsoever to do with the idea of cause and effect relationship. God is all-love, God is all-power, God is all-goodness; and because God is all-love, it is impossible, utterly impossible, for a causal relationship ever to be attributed to the concept of God, and it is herein, you see, that he utilizes the ideas of Jesus in a very revealing and a profoundly psychological explanation.
Many of you who might be interested in reading The Thunder of Silence will discover that there are phrases that you will perhaps understand, but with much of it, even though it is written with great clarity and purity of thinking, you suddenly discover that you are deeply mystified, because you recognize at once, of course, that you are entering into the realm of metaphysics. My suggestion to you when you read a book such as The Thunder of Silence is to sit back and let the writers talk to you; and you, instead of reading a paragraph and our mind criticizing it or reading another page and saying, “Well, I do not agree with you,” rather than do that, it would be my suggestion that you use a pencil and paper and write either on the margin what it is that you disagree with, or that you write on a sheet of paper what you disagree with.
Then after you have finished reading one chapter, you may go back and once again refresh yourself with the things that you have objected to; and then, of course, what takes place is that there will at once be an enormous clash in you between the way that you have been raised or on the principles of what you understood Christianity to be, what you felt the Old Testament meant, what you thought that the concept of God meant, because in this particular book it is completely different from much of what you had earlier ever thought of. Now when you continue to read The Thunder of Silence, you will discover that talking about God is far from being the way by which it is possible for you to comprehend it.
One of the wonderful qualities of this book that I found, at any rate, aside from the chapter dealing with karma is the chapter that deals with the notion – its really not a chapter, just several pages long – deals with the idea of now. It doesn’t really make any difference to God when you discover God. In other words, no matter how deep your sins are, you can discover God; but when you discover God, you discover Him now, and the now is with you always, so that when Mr. Goldsmith speaks about men and women being in constant communication with individuals such as Moses or Buddha or Christ or individuals who have a most extraordinary subcutaneous and a deeply powerful intuitive understanding of all reality, it is possible.
I, for one, have never denied the validity of being able to understand and comprehend what is not possible for most of us to comprehend or understand, because you do not have to live forever to realize the incredible failing of human reasoning. You do not have to think that you must be a profound and provoking kind of a scholar to realize that those who are simplest in their heart, even though they may not have a Ph.D. degree from a fine Eastern university, are infinitely greater, there is an infinitely greater concourse in the movement of their being with that which is spiritual than for those of us who perhaps understand the quantum theory as well as the concepts involving the law of thermo dynamics.
This is a book that really is most remarkable in the sense that it forces the individual once again to re-examine the basis of much of his thinking. If you think of it as a mental paradise, you can. If you want to think of it on the basis that this is something new, involving something that no one has ever before written, or something that perhaps you yourself have never before thought about, I think that would be legitimate too. Let me read something to you. (Then Mr. Brent quotes pages 35, 46, 47 of The Thunder of Silence.)
There is a great deal of Christian Science in this, there is a great deal of Berkleynian idealism in it, but there are a number of very fine and brilliant thoughts in the book, and as a result The Thunder of Silence makes for very excellent and stimulating reading. I must be candid with you. I read the book, and I found myself continuing the reading of it even though I thought I knew in advance what Mr. Goldsmith’s thesis was. Nevertheless, I found one of the very best explanations concerning karma – the law of karma – and the Old Testament as in contradistinction to the Sermon on the Mount that I have ever looked at. And as a result, I thought that a book of this nature should be brought to your attention so that you would know that it exists, and those of you who are interested in that particular kind of literature will find this one to be a most stimulating and good one to read. And now until tomorrow, good reading to everyone.