A New Silent Minute for the 21st-Century:
Acknowledging and Holding Humanity’s Uncertain Future
By PATRICK WOLFE
There is no power on earth that can withstand the united cooperation
of men and women of goodwill everywhere. It is for this reason that the continued and widespread observance of the Silent Minute is of such vital importance
in the interest of human welfare.
– Wellesley Tudor Pole
The original Silent Minute crystalized at the time of the Dunkirk evacuation, May 27 – June 4, 1940, when Adolf Hitler’s Nazi forces had overrun much of Western Europe and were soon to capture Paris. In the words of Wellesley Tudor Pole, the British mystic who was the Silent Minute’s architect and champion, “it seemed as if Britain stood alone and unprotected against overwhelming forces of evil.” On June 4, in a famous speech, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill referred to the evacuation as “a miracle of deliverance.”
The Silent Minute, according to Tudor Pole, was intended to be “a daily moment of united prayer and silence” each evening at nine o’clock that would “create a channel between the visible and invisible worlds through which Divine help and inspiration could be received.” Andrew Dakers, in his history of the “Big Ben Minute,” says “about a quarter of a million people were observing the Minute” during its first five months. This number grew to “not less than 5,000,000 people at home and abroad … within a matter of months” after the BBC joined the initiative. On Armistice Sunday, November 10, 1940, during the Blitz, the BBC “began to play the bells of Big Ben on the radio as a signal for the Silent Minute to begin.”
My essay, “Wellesley Tudor Pole and the Big Ben Silent Minute”, notes that a man named Rawson, a friend and fellow officer who served with Tudor Pole during the First World War, and who Tudor Pole described as “a man of unusual character and vision,” seeded the idea of the Silent Minute the night before he was killed in battle. The seed sprouted after Tudor Pole received “an inner request from a high spiritual source.”
“If enough people joined in this gesture of dedicated intent,” he maintained, “the tide would turn and the invasion of England would be diverted.”
In a letter of August 11, 1953, to U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, who had been the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during the Second World War, Tudor Pole told this story: “At the end of the War a Staff Officer of the German Intelligence Corps made this remark when under interrogation at British H.Q. in Germany: ‘During the war you had a secret weapon for which we could find no counter-measure and which we did not understand, but it was very powerful. It was associated with the striking of Big Ben at 9pm each evening [sic]. I believe you called it the ‘Silent Minute’.”
My essay resides on my website, a quiet little place that serves as a repository for some of my writing. As writers like to be read, my website, established in 2018, has provided me with more than a little satisfaction by receiving a growing number of visits. Since “Wellesley Tudor Pole and the Big Ben Silent Minute” was first posted in November 2019, it has been one of the site’s most popular offerings. But, starting in November 2021, interest has grown almost nine-fold from a decidedly modest monthly average of 18 visits for January-October 2021 to an average of 160 visits during the five months ending March 2022.
On March 19, a woman in Santa Fe, New Mexico, contacted me after reading the essay. “The more I read [about Tudor Pole], the more strongly I feel called to both engage in the silent minute practice and to bring it to the attention of changemakers I know and social networks I belong to,” she told me. She asked if I knew “of any other initiatives that are currently mobilizing people around the original spirit of the silent minute.” Unfortunately, I don’t, although there was something of a revival after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001. (See Postscript.)
This exchange of emails, along with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine on February 24, which produced in that country a situation analogous in desperation to that faced by solitary Britain in 1940, sparked in me thoughts of a new Silent Minute. But, as I noted to a friend, I was “at 6s and 7s” about the idea and wondering why I didn’t feel more motivated to, in some manner, take up the challenge. Part of it was that with wars in Yemen, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and other countries, I felt it couldn’t be just about Ukraine. But it was about more than that. I told my friend that I had asked for some help understanding what I was feeling and sensing. An answer arrived in short order. It came in the form of a regular email I receive from Michael Lipson, PhD, in support of a weekly meditation session he facilitates in and from Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
I’ll get to the answer momentarily, but I first want to share the primary message of Michael’s email, which was titled “Nevertheless” and is reproduced, in part, here:
When we think about events in the world that distress us, like Ukraine, Yemen, Syria, Congo, the Amazonian rainforest, the oceans, and an ever-increasing list of etcetera’s, including poverty, discrimination and violence right in our homes and communities, — well, it’s an impressive list…. “The poor you have always with you,” as a young Palestinian pointed out two millennia ago. It’s not going away. Climate change? Not going away.
I wanted to say a few words, then, about our lack of efficacy. Because, if you stop one war, another springs up. Feed one hungry mouth, and another opens in starvation. Save an endangered bit of rainforest, and the fires soon engulf a thousand times as much….
We do what seems good, not because we think it will solve the problem forever, but in the certainty that events will often defeat us. We do what seems good, because the giving itself is good: whether it’s a matter of giving food or care, time or talent or treasure. When I worked in Mother Theresa’s Home for Dying Destitutes in Calcutta, this got very clear, this nevertheless. The response of the dying people to a bit of (from a certain standpoint) ineffectual human touch was convincing. There is a blessing in the giving and receiving of gifts, regardless of outcome.
The answer I found in Michael’s email came in its first sentence, which referenced the Council on the Uncertain Human Future, the core phrase of which resonated with me to such an extent that a variation of it is in the title of this essay. Moreover, while I believe a new Silent Minute should serve multiple purposes—such as supporting an independent and self-determining Ukraine, healing and empowering other war-torn countries, healing and empowering humanity and Mother Earth, and other worthy objectives individual participants are moved to focus on—I also believe that the new Silent Minute’s overarching focus should be Humanity’s Uncertain Future.
While Michael’s email and the name of the Council on the Uncertain Human Future were the stimulus for these ideas, the dreadful situation in Ukraine provided the initiating prompt to act. Putin’s invasion, the millions of refugees it has spawned, and the Russian leader’s allusion to the possible use of nuclear weapons represent the point of the spear of what is currently scheduled to follow for all of humanity: the invasive and cascading catastrophe of climate change and the many millions more refugees it will produce in great, tragic waves. The likelihood of this latter situation looms larger with each passing day. Hundred of millions, nay billions, of people are at risk, according to the February 28, 2022, report of the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change, unless we dramatically change course, and soon. Three weeks after the release of this report, UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, told attendees at the Economist Sustainability Conference “that the world is ‘sleepwalking to climate catastrophe’ and that meeting the goal of keeping global warming to under 1.5 degrees C ‘is on life support. It is in intensive care.’”
Ukraine is also the spearpoint for how quickly the unthinkable can occur, for how unprepared humanity—as a species—is, and for how blinkered and inadequate our thinking and compassion are given how other wars and human suffering hardly register in terms of our attention.
We have been enjoined by our wisdom traditions to love one another. But in critical ways, especially systemic ways, we have failed to do this. We have repeatedly privileged systems and power over people. The renowned Harvard physician and medical anthropologist Paul Farmer encapsulated the problem in this brief sentence: “The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.”
While acknowledging the enormity of the climate crisis confronting us, the mystic David Spangler and others argue that an even more fundamental crisis is that of human consciousness and how we perceive ourselves and our responsibility to each other and the planet. The crises of climate and consciousness are interwoven. The stark reality before us, which will increasingly intrude upon our attention, is whether the reckoning we are facing will wreck our world before we wise-up sufficiently to mitigate the repercussions that are already baked into our future. Put another way, will we achieve a transformational tipping point in human consciousness before a climate change tipping point is tripped—from our continuing production of greenhouse gasses and/or from one of several interactive factors such as the rates of ice calving, ice melt, sea-level rise, gas release from the permafrost, or sea-temperature rise suddenly escalating, resulting in a runaway situation that cascades and is increasingly catastrophic?
In the brief yet profoundly elongated time since 2020, that pandemic-introducing year of perfect sight or signalling, I have encountered numerous descriptions of the word hope, some of which I referenced in my recent essay, “Living by Vow: Where hope meets intention and will,” which discusses ordinary versus wise hope. In the spirit of this difference and Michael Lipson’s “Nevertheless,” a particularly pertinent and sober description of hope, comes from Václav Havel (1936-2011), the writer who was president of both the old Czechoslovakia and the current Czech Republic, the former of which, in 1968, like Ukraine today, faced aggression by Moscow’s totalitarian leaders. “Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well,” Havel says, “but the certainty that something is worth doing regardless of how it turns out.”
Being certain that something is worth doing regardless of how it turns out is the hallmark of devotion born of inner knowing and potential self-sacrifice. This certainty and devotion, like the Ukrainian spearpoint discussed above, points to the challenge, invitation, and opportunity of fiery hope. This term comes from “a visionary experience” David Spangler had in December 2013.
“I was sitting on a sofa in my house reading when a non-physical being abruptly appeared in the air in front of me,” David has recounted. “While this in itself was not unusual for me, the appearance of this being was. He looked like a knight out of a storybook, clad in shining golden armor, its face hidden within its helmet. On its chest burned a flame, as bright and radiant as a piece of sunlight. It said clearly, ‘I am a Knight of Fiery Hope! I speak to all humans. You are not entering a darkened age. You are entering a time when the Light of your creative spirit can manifest new vision and new life. Be what I am. Let fiery hope, not despair or fear, shape your world.’ Having delivered this message, this being then disappeared.”
Interpreting this experience, David made clear that the Knight of Fiery Hope wasn’t saying, “’Have hope because everything’s going to work out and your planetary problems will all be solved.’ Rather he was describing a creative presence and potential within us—something ‘fiery’ in the sense of being active and dynamic and something that holds open the door of possibility.” David added, “hope can change ourselves. It can change how we meet events that cannot in themselves be changed for one reason or another but which can be altered in their effects by how we respond, especially by how we work together and care for each other.”
Tudor Pole said the original Silent Minute was meant to “create a channel between the visible and invisible worlds.” That is also one of the purposes of the new Silent Minute. As “the subtle worlds reach out to many people around the globe to provide inspiration and assistance during these difficult times,” a second purpose is to increase the opportunity for participants to receive this inspiration and assistance.
In July 2021, David Spangler received a lengthy communication from his subtle colleague, Marcus, and translated some of it as follows:
…while we are optimistic about your future, we are much less optimistic about your present and the level of suffering which humanity will need to experience and endure as a result of its choices—or its lack of choosing actions that will be helpful. You need to prepare for disruption and death, though we ask you not to dwell upon these possibilities.
Though my work is not involved with the Post-Mortem Realms, I am aware of preparations being made for the arrival of a great many souls whose incarnations will increasingly be brought to a conclusion…. [T]heir deaths [will occur] in numbers rarely seen in your history…. One simple truth that could make a difference, if it can be widely spread, understood, and accepted is that death is not an ending and thus is not to be feared.
Marcus stressed that “partnership between the subtle and physical worlds can make a great difference and will be increasingly necessary. This is because such partnership is a key element within the new civilizational impulse seeking to emerge. The changes are multidimensional, not just confined to the physical world only.” Supporting such partnership(s) is a third purpose of the new Silent Minute.
In important ways, Marcus’s message builds on that of the Knight of Fiery Hope. Here are two quotations from Marcus that, I believe, will serve as watchwords for the new Silent Minute.
May all who can, open to [the] qualities…. of fiery hope, peace, joy, and love…. and to the potential and energy of the new civilization unfolding around us. May love, not fear, hope, not despair, joy, not distress, compassion, not anger or hate, enfold each of us in safety, protection, and courage. May we have the will to do what is available to us to bring the new civilization into being. May my strength, my calm, my courage, my joy, my love, empower at least one other person to join in this enterprise and become a source of vision and new life.
Be peacefully urgent and aware, open to engage with love and power with what the world brings to your doorstep.
If you are reading this article, there is a good chance that it or some of the information it contains is on your doorstep and that participating in the new Silent Minute or partnering with the subtle realms in some other way is in your immediate or near future. But that is for you to determine.
The title of this article asks readers and potential participants in the new Silent Minute to acknowledge and hold humanity’s uncertain future. To these words we must add three more: intention, which Tudor Pole spoke of; openness, which Marcus and David emphasize; and, of course, silence. More on these words momentarily.
David also emphasizes that we are sovereign beings who possess agency. He, like Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen and others, points out that we have the capacity to bless. It’s a simple thing, but what portion of the population actually does it? I suggest blessing is a good way into the new Silent Minute, a good way to express our intentions. Since Putin’s attack on Ukraine, and because of the desperation of the resulting situation, I have often found myself at different times of the day silently saying with intention: “Bless Ukraine. Bless its people, its government, its leaders.” But for participation in the new Silent Minute, I feel I need to expand this formulation in several ways. For example,
May peace return to Ukraine. May Ukraine prosper.
May peace and stability come to other war-torn countries.
And because we often erroneously perceive climate change as a complex abstraction that belongs to the future, a looming entity somewhere in the offing, even though we are already suffering its consequences, I must make a special effort to include intentional statements such as:
Bless Gaia, Mother Earth, and humanity’s awareness of the need for intervention, constructive change, and good and conscientious stewardship of all aspects of our planetary environment.
Bless and strengthen humanity’s resolve to avoid, to the greatest extent possible, the devastating consequences of climate change. May humanity move with sufficient speed and effectiveness to minimize loss of life and destruction due to climate change.
I will also include personal statements such as:
May I be alert to what life is asking of me. May I play my part and do my bit.
I ask for insight, guidance, fortitude, discernment, and self-discipline.
Each participant in the new Silent Minute can develop their own blessings, invocations, and personal statements (or whatever labels they wish to apply to them) that reflect what is in their hearts and that constitute their personal intentions and vows. Once we express our blessings, invocations, personal statements, etc., we need to silently hold sacred space open for them in which they may resonate and be received by our spiritual partners.
As to when during the day to practice the new Silent Minute, I favour a free-form approach that emphasizes access and personal convenience, particularly in the sense of “as the spirit moves you.”
Participation in the new Silent Minute is a demonstration of fiery hope and of Marcus’s watchwords as conveyed by David Spangler. It is also an exercise in agency, intention, and spiritual partnership. May it help to transform human consciousness and to bring the new civilization into being.
I am chagrined to report that I did not learn of the Global Silent Minute until a couple of days after this essay was posted. According to its website, the Global Silent Minute began on December 21, 2019, “as a once only event to create a planetary pause to recalibrate Humanity to its true destiny within the Universe.” Recognizing global challenges, however, the Global Silent Minute “has continued as a daily practice…. to harness the power and cooperation [on] both sides of the veil for global cooperation, peace and freedom.” Dot Maver, who co-founded the Global Silent Minute with Dorothy Thompson, said in December 2021, that, while its hard to measure participation, “we were up to seventy-some million at one point.”i The Global Silent Minute’s website can be found here: https://www.globalsilentminute.org/
Copyright © 2022 Patrick S. Wolfe
All rights reserved. Short segments may be quoted with due attribution.
An author and historian, Patrick Wolfe lives in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
- “Silent Minute,” Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silent_Minute – accessed 2016-01-22. ↑
- Paul Fletcher, Light upon the Path: The Unpublished Writings of Wellesley Tudor Pole, Chalice Well Press, Glastonbury, UK, 2015, 176. The Silent Minute is not to be confused with the separate campaign, started in February 1940 by Ronald Heaver (1900-1980), for a National Day of Prayer that was held on Sunday, May 26, 1940, and led by King George VI at Westminster Abbey. See Fletcher, 179. Fletcher also states (179): “It is even said that it was Heaver’s vision that ‘saw’ the small boats as the method of evacuation and that was relayed to the military commanders.” ↑
- Churchill quoted in Fletcher, 179. ↑
- Wellesley Tudor Pole, The Silent Road: In the Light of Personal Experience, Neville Spearman, London, 1960, 139. Wellesley Tudor Pole, “Round the World at Nine O’Clock,” quoted in Fletcher, 176-177. ↑
- Dakers quoted in Fletcher, 180. ↑
- “Silent Minute,” Wikipedia. ↑
- Patrick Wolfe, “Wellesley Tudor Pole and the Big Ben Silent Minute” – https://patrickswolfe.com/2019/11/07/wellesley-tudor-pole-and-the-big-ben-silent-minute/ ↑
- “Silent Minute,” Wikipedia. ↑
- “Silent Minute,” Wikipedia. ↑
- Quoted in Fletcher, 238. The story is also mentioned in the Walter Lang/Edward Campbell Introduction to Tudor Pole’s book, Writing on the Ground, 13. ↑
- The United Nations IPCC report of February 28, 2022, “lists mounting dangers to people, plants, animals, ecosystems and economies, with people at risk in the millions and billions and potential damages in the trillions of dollars…. By 2050, a billion people will face coastal flooding risk from rising seas, the report says. More people will be forced out of their homes from weather disasters, especially flooding, sea level rise and tropical cyclones.” Seth Borenstein, The Associated Press, “UN climate report paints picture of gloomier world,” Victoria Times Colonist, Tuesday, March 1, 2022, A12. ↑
- Antonio Guterres quoted in Trevor Hancock, “WHO’s focus on planetary health is timely,” Victoria Times Colonist, Sunday Islander, April 3, 2022, 13. ↑
- Speaking at Royal Roads University on September 16, 2020, about his book Commanding Hope: The Power We Have to Renew a World in Peril, complexity scientist Thomas Homer-Dixon alluded to the consciousness crisis when he referenced humanity’s need for a sense of shared fate and a clear vision of a desirable future encompassing security, opportunity, justice (including bridging inequality), and identity. More than fifty years earlier, in a lengthy speech delivered to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference on August 16, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke of the need for a “higher synthesis.” Arguing that “communism forgets that life is individual” and “Capitalism forgets that life is social,” he maintained that the kingdom of brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of communism nor the antithesis of capitalism, but in a higher synthesis…. That combines the truths of both.” Martin Luther King, Jr., “Where Do We Go From Here?” address delivered to the eleventh annual SCLC Convention in Atlanta, Georgia – Reprinted on DAILYGOOD, Wednesday, September 16, 2020. ↑
- David Spangler, “David’s Desk #160 – The Knight Revisited,” distributed by the Lorian Association, September 5, 2020. ↑
- Spangler, “David’s Desk #160 – The Knight Revisited.” ↑
- David Spangler, Introduction to Susan Stanton Rotman, “Coping with Darkness Without Conceding,” distributed by the Lorian Association, September 11, 2020.↑