Towards the Silent Heart

kitchen table philosophy

Seeking the great river of life

Kitchen Table Philosopher Joseph Raffa muses on the search for the mainstream that feeds all life.

I have wandered many tributaries in my search for the Great River of Life. But so many of the streams I travelled led only into marshes and swamps. Oh, how I searched for this mainstream,this Great River that feeds all of life.

I have journeyed forwards and backwards, moved in circles that go round and around; wandered the highways and byways, endlessly asking the what fors and whys. Questions – always unanswered – reasons – on the tip of my mind. But the Great River remains elusive, refuses to make itself known.

Demarcation is not for the River, its movement is not for the mind. No sun shines on its surface, no wind ripples in waves. Its course is not watery motion, its silence like that of the grave.Why then does the search continue and the questions continue to fall like leaves from the trees in Autumn, that litter the ground but to die?

In our journey are we then like a river, lost and out on its own, seeking to flow into Greatness, but doomed to wander alone? Why then do we urge for the Greatness, yet wander the streams of the mind; these streams that lead only to deserts – where they dry out, wither and die?

  • Joseph’s Kitchen Table Philosopher series of spiritual writing is available from and other online retailers.










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Why ask why?

by Joseph Raffa

ID-10066300What use is it to ask the why and wherefore?
Birds fly, grasses grow without fuss or bother.
Only man torments himself with questions. Life goes on regardless.
Does life, the universe need reasons for its existence? Or is this the invention of the human mind, bent on understanding in this way?
Apart from man, life does not reason why. There is birth, growth, decay and death but the system goes on and on.
Only man suffers the torment of an inquisitive reason. So, everything is wrapped in reason and man is satisfied.
Sometimes I wonder if modern man belongs to the natural order of things – or is he an aberration? Long ago, before his present state of displacement he was close to the earth and the sky, to the seasons, to the green world and the sea.
Then he broke away and became civilized with all its attendant problems and deep sense of separation. Now technologically competent and reason wise he seems lost in an alien world, divorced from the wonder that surrounds him.
More’s the pity. His mind is ever busy and overflowing with movement.
But what of the heart, of that inner need to return to the magic that once he knew? When the Springtime of Life was ablaze with wonder and he walked in kinship with all that surrounded him and asked not questions of why and what?
For there was no need for this. He was at one with the All that Is and that was all that mattered. All else was secondary and of lesser consequence to the expanded state of his exalted Being.


Mightier than pen or sword

By Joseph Raffa

There is an oft-repeated saying that the pen is mightier than the sword.  Although both have been active for many years human nature has not improved significantly for the better. It should be obvious by now that it must take more than the pen, force or human intention to bring about the changes that are badly needed.

A clearer guidance system in human affairs is necessary – one superior to the present collective human reason and one capable of over-riding the disarranged and disjointed efforts that have prevailed to date. What would follow if scientists tried sending a rocket projectile into outer space with a faulty launching system? The rocket could well go anywhere but where intended.

Human living has been in disarray, not expressing the harmony that should flow naturally from being cast in God’s image. Is it the Creator at fault or human nature in ways not yet fully understood? Certainly violence, selfishness and disturbing behaviour have a wider expression than love and happy cooperation.

What’s the attraction that draws people to a vigorous support of the self and its standing in life? If any experience, any action threatens the self or blocks its demands and desires, then reaction and retaliation follow.

Another saying often heard is that unconditional love is the solution to our problems. But this kind of love seems to be beyond most people. Love that expects a return, we know. To give, to do, and gain favours in return, this is the way of the mind, of the self in action. Our love has boundaries. Our families, friends, state, nation, we will give and work for what or who we are identified with. After this our kind of love loses its force. Outsiders are looked on differently.

What we care for then, is the self, all that’s included within its conception of what it is and should look after. Outside of its own area it is somewhat indifferent to what takes place. What then is the self? How has it come into being? What is its basis for action? We know it as a conscious expression in time, a composite expression of physical and mental attributes. These we have evidence of. We hear too that there is a spiritual side – a soul side. This we may or may not know. It depends on whether evidence of the soul has come our way.

Perhaps in this lies our trouble. We act from the physical, mental and emotional side and confusion often follows. Troubles too. Spontaneous action from the soul or spiritual side and there’s a different story. Harmony, love, joy, follow, understanding too. A welcome change in the human expression flows. The self is temporarily put aside, its self-destruct capacity brought to an end.

Where does evidence come from to verify all this? Not from reason. The spiritual is beyond its comprehension. Nor in any way from a mind conditioned by the senses or the ordinary flow of experience. The barriers are too great. The mind can only act from what it knows, talk about what it has experienced or believes.  But life, to be lived without disruption, needs a factual base, one of the reality of what we are and a clear understanding of what is actually taking place. The clearer the understanding, the more informed the actions.

Enter the spiritual, the reality of what we are and the source of the clearest insights that could ever flow into the mind – about human behaviour, its motives for action, its background, even of the ultimate nature of the universal expression.

We hear this, we read words like this and we are stymied. The spiritual is an unknown quantity. We can’t find a signpost pointing the way that guarantees certitude. People try, each in their own way, formulating methods, adopting techniques, meditating, disciplining mind and emotions. Everything helps a little including reading and reflection. But only on an intellectual level. And this is not the spiritual.

The self is persistent in its movements and will continue as long as it is imbued with the idea that intention, application and reason are the way to go.  All this plus the “right” techniques. And that is the core of the difficulty in this business of spiritual discovery. While the self is full of its own activity, that which is not a mere self-projection cannot come shining through.  If the darkness continues can there ever be light?

Understand this. The self is the darkness, the barrier that prevents realisation. While it circulates as the centre of the human expression, it holds centre stage like a prima ballerina. Let the dance of the self stop. Do not feed it in any way. All the strands of self activity must come to rest. Mental, emotional, imaginative, the whole kit and caboodle of what the self is.

And if this is allowed to happen, naturally, spontaneously, it’s like the sudden end of a prolonged storm, Serenity reigns. Serenity and silence. In this moment when the self is not, the spiritual shows its nature and whomsoever it happens to, is reborn. And then you learn that there is something mightier than both pen and sword and also that the spiritual is what we came from and this is what we are going back to and that a life based on spiritual discovery is the best way to go.



Joseph’s moving collection of short pieces about Jesus is available from this weekend at a significant discount.

“The light he reflected is our lighthouse, shining through the gloom of our daily living and lighting our way to  another world, a different way of living.”



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Trapped on life’s treadmill


Image courtesy of Naypong /

by Joseph Raffa

Why is it that we are not left to enjoy our lives in peace? We are continually urged to do this or that, to work harder, produce more, spend, save or invest. And of course, at election time we are told to be very careful – to consider the issues intelligently, so that we vote for the right party and thereby go on to prosperity and economic wellbeing.

Inwardly, the pressures we impose on ourselves are just as demanding. We pattern out our lives in programmes and routines that must be done, regardless of how we feel, and we subject ourselves to stern disciplinary actions so that our intentions are fulfilled, come what may.

All the time we are harried from within and without. We are urged to drive ourselves constantly onwards, either by self-imposed directives or by outside authorities, eager to shape our lives for our eventual benefit. As a consequence, our lives are carved up – a slice for this, a slice for that, with a piece going here and there till there is very little left that we can call our own.

Is it any wonder then, that we throw ourselves into whatever pleasures or amusements surround us at the moment, to grasp a little of those experiences we can hold for ourselves alone? Something that we can give ourselves to, without hindrance or restraint, without any strong demand or urgent need arising to drag us away. At these times, we can function at a natural level, regardless of whether the moments indulged in are truly beneficial or not. Just so long as we express this deep-felt need to be ourselves as we want to be, if only momentarily.

For we feel the restrictions and demands of modern living so deeply. With the incessant ‘this must be done, then that’, on and on, endlessly till it seems that our lives are carved up into many little pieces, just to feed the voracious appetites of the dragons of modern social living and personal intention.

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What Kind of Love?

Baby2_edited-1People speak of love as the solution to the problems and difficulties that come our way. But, to say “I love you”, is that enough? You may care as much as you will for children, friends, even feel for the human race but this does not bring an end to the troubles that keep on coming.

We need more than to be loved. We need to be able to understand our actions. To be loved does not guarantee this. I speak here of what humans understand as love, in the way they love their children, or as husbands and wives love one another.

I do not speak here of that other kind of love – of what is called God’s love for mankind. This does indeed bring enlightened action and a deeper understanding of our actions, our motives and thinking processes. By this love we do see deep into our minds, into the very heart of what we are. Ordinary human love, no matter how well intentioned, cannot compare with this, neither in quality nor in its power to bring about change.

Both are necessary. Ordinary human love is enough to provide shelter, food, clothing, education, affection. This is the kind we know. It gives a measure of guidance to growing children, security and a feeling of well-being.The other overlaps this and extends beyond it.  There is a light that glows in the darkness of our living, that will not permit the brooding problems of the mind to overwhelm it. Human love as we know it cannot do this – cannot take us through life without being torn about inwardly, without being prey to anxieties.

Extend our arms as often as we will – offer ourselves, our help, our time, search for the words that may soften a blow – none of this can match the touch of Universal Love. The emptiness we feel inside, the loneliness, the disarray we reflect, the single-minded pursuit of what draws us regardless of consequences to our minds or health – this does not yield to words or good intentions.

When minds are enclosed, locked in a personal prison of desire and intention, the key to freedom lies not in the hands of the mind. We can acknowledge the desire to be free – urge to cast aside the restraints we feel, rail against the dark, prison walls that surround us – but if a greater love does not come our way, bringing the light of a fresh understanding, we will languish in time, in the restrictions of the mind. And we will not even understand why we are in trouble, why we suffer as we do nor why we are harried from all sides.

Joseph Raffa

For a list of Joseph’s books and links to where to buy them visit Joseph’s Bookshelf.