Stratford Caldecott writes here of his discovery of an Eastern Orthodox hermit named Silouan living in the Shropshire hills of England. His book is a profound poetical theological sequences of mystical meditations.Wisdom Songs is described as a collection of five Centuries on the Holy Name, the Song of Songs, Holy Wisdom, the Mysteries of Glory and the Wisdom of Stillness. This ancient monastic wisdom genre was much loved by the desert fathers and hermits of old, nourishing saints and seers for hundreds of years.
Stratford writes of the monk’s meditation on the sacred name “I AM” and the mystical answer to the core philosophical question of why there is anything at all, and what it’s essence might be:
Descartes sought for an indisputable first principle on which to base his philosophy, and concluded that “the proposition, I am, I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind.” I think therefore I am. For Descartes, then, the very fact that I am thinking – or that I can doubt that I am thinking – is proof of my existence, and for Augustine, too,fallor, sum (“If I am mistaken, I am”) (City of God, XI, 26). But where does the “I” come from, and to what does it refer? Thinking is certainly taking place, but all that is proven here is that thinking exists.
The foundation of thought is not “I am”—that is too specific, too hasty—but “something is” or “being is”. Being is that in which there can as yet be no distinction between what it is and the factthat it is—essence and existence. It is that whose nature is to exist. Everything else exists against the background of that necessity, a Presence or Principle which contains every possibility.
It’s pretty deep stuff, but well worth the effort because Stratford’s explanation itself will lead you to prayer and wonder. The monk’s book must do so even further, and this is monk Silouan and Stratford’s point–that the great questions are answered within monastic meditation and mysticism–not through rational philosophy alone.
Some time ago I composed this little piece which says the same thing in a simple way:
Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know that I AM
Be still and know