ACU conference embracing the power of silence

29 August 2019
Image: Pixabay.


Conferences are often described as “talkfests” but a Conference coming up at Australian Catholic University will explore the power of not talking.

Sacred Silence in Literature and the Arts will involve silent meditation experiences, art, and music as well as traditional conference talks. The Conference will explore the capacity of literature and the arts to tap into the spiritual recesses of the mind and the ways in which writers, artists and spiritual leaders use silence to inspire and enhance their work.

Conference Convenor Associate Professor Michael Griffith said increasing interest in meditation in the health and wellbeing space meant there was now greater acceptance of the power of both contemplative practices and the importance of art and literature as a bridge to spiritual experience.

“We are trying to use that interest to get people to an understanding of the deeper experience that is possible when you go beyond the rational. It doesn’t have to come from any particular religious tradition, but it opens up a new way of experiencing the sacred.”

Associate Professor Griffith, who teaches literature at ACU, said he had observed an increasing appreciation of the value of stillness and silence in the current generation of students. “When you talk to them about Romantic poets like Wordsworth, who introduced the idea of silence to enhance understanding and access parts of oneself, they really get that. It’s part of human nature that stillness gives us access to all sorts of things going on within us.”

Silent practices can also bridge faith and ideological differences and are also embraced by interfaith and peace activists.  The conference will include Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim and Indigenous Australian contributions.

Father Laurence Freeman, Director of the World Community for Christian Meditation, will lead the conference community in silent meditation and will speak about the role of silence in the work of American Jewish artists Mark Rothko. Father Freeman is an internationally renowned peace activist, who co-leads peace events with the Dalai Lama.

Other speakers include:

  • Riley Lee, the first non-Japanese Grand Master of the shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute), who will talk about the importance of silence within music;
  • Dr Susan Murphy, a Zen Roshi, who will discuss the seven forms of silence in Zen awakening;
  • Visual artist Leonard Brown who will explore how he uses the theology of negation in both his canonical icon painting and his contemporary art;
  • Poet Judith Beveridge who will discuss the power of poetic concentration to reverberate into and animate our consciousness;
  • Indigenous Yuin Elder Uncle Max Dulumunmun, who will speak about sacred silence in the Indigenous experience;
  • Art History Professor Sasha Grishin, who will explore links between early 20th century Russian avant-garde artists and the Russian spiritual tradition of medieval icons

Sacred Silence in Literature and the Arts Conference 2019

Friday 4 – Saturday 5 October 2019
Gleeson Auditorium, Australian Catholic University,
25A Barker Road, Strathfield, NSW

With thanks to ACU.


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