The Sound of Silence

This is the title of a song by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. The song was popular in the 1960s. Simon wrote the lyrics in February 1964, allegedly written in response to John F Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963. People really wonder about the meaning of the song. Some say it is about man’s loneliness or estrangement in the midst of technology. But it is really a piece written about the Thought Adjuster or the “still small voice” which talks to the prophet Elijah.

As can be seen from the lyrics, it is sometimes possible for a spiritually enlightened person to suddenly recognize the guiding of the “still small voice.”  For the purpose of contrast, the lyric is displayed in blue, while the relevant quotations in the Urantia Book are in red.

Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again

Here, Simon refers to his habit of talking to his Thought Adjuster, which he calls “darkness,” because he talks to him during the quiet time before dawn.

Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping.

“At such times, and sometimes during sleep, the Adjuster is able to arrest the mental currents, to stay the flow, and then to divert the idea procession; and all this is done in order to effect deep spiritual transformations in the higher recesses of the superconsciousness. (p.1199, § 2)

The Thought Adjuster plants its seeds during sleep to foster deep spiritual transformations. This phrase also is reminiscent of the Parable of the Sower in the Bible.

And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence.

The Urantia Book continues:

It is sometimes possible to have the mind illuminated, to hear the divine voice that continually speaks within you, so that you may become partially conscious of the wisdom, truth, goodness, and beauty of the potential personality constantly indwelling you. (p.1199, § 3)

The indwelling divine voice plants seeds and speaks silently. The sound of silence is nothing more, nor less, than the voice of Thought Adjuster, which is your eternal potential and you are his personality potential.

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
'Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence.

Some people argue that this phrase refers to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, as the lyric was written a year later. They may be right. People below the second and third circles rarely hear the Adjuster’s direct voice (the flash that stabs the eyes, the light that splits the night) except in a supreme situation, and Kennedy’s assassination dashed the hopes of the entire nation at the time.

While the voice of the Adjuster is ever within you, most of you will hear it seldom during a lifetime. Human beings below the third and second circles of attainment rarely hear the Adjuster's direct voice except in moments of supreme desire, in a supreme situation, and consequent upon a supreme decision. (p. 1213, § 4)

The world mourned the death of the young president, and for millions of people it was a sublime experience which reminded them of God. They wanted to share such life experiences with God.

And indirectly and unrecognized the Adjuster is constantly communicating with the human subject, especially during those sublime experiences of the worshipful contact of mind with spirit in the superconsciousness. (p. 1203, §3)

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence.

Ten thousand people, maybe more” is reminiscent of the great throng that gathered at Kennedy’s funeral. But the “people hearing without listening” reminds us of Jesus’ reference to the parables. When Matthew asked why Jesus spoke in parables, Jesus said:

And this we will do so that those who really desire to enter the kingdom may discern the meaning of the teaching and thus find salvation, while those who listen only to ensnare us may be the more confounded in that they will see without seeing and will hear without hearing. (p. 1689, § 2)

Now, compare the next passage with two separate passages in the Urantia Book.

"Fools", said I, "You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you"
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed
In the wells of silence.

The Adjuster is the wellspring of spiritual attainment and the hope of divine character within you. He is the power, privilege, and the possibility of survival, which so fully and forever distinguishes you from mere animal creatures. (p.1193, §3)

But usually, when your Adjuster attempts to communicate with you, the message is lost in the material currents of the energy streams of human mind; only occasionally do you catch an echo, a faint and distant echo, of the divine voice. (p. 1205, § 5)

How did Paul Simon choose the words, “well” and “echo,” and create the image of the Adjuster’s countless words that fall on deaf ears but reverberate in our subconsciousness (or is it superconsciousness)?


And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made.

The people bowing to the neon god seems to refer to the materialism modern man serves:

And again I assert that no man can serve two masters; either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to one while he despises the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (p.1854, §3)

And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, "The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls"
And whispered in the sounds of silence.

Yet the people are not mindful of the warning signs of materialism, and the signs have been flashing from the subconscious wells in the silent voice of the indwelling Adjuster.

It would be a miracle, a one-in-a-billion chance for a person to recognize the voice of the Adjuster without reading the Urantia Book. Either Paul Simon read the book or he was just such a one-in-a-billion person.

E. Kwan Choi, April 26, 2007

Jesus sleeping image
A mural in a church in Corinth, May 2006.