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Re: Thomas Merton

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  • Bob M.
    In Merton s essay The Cell (in Contemplation in a World of Action ), he charts what he believes is the essential contemplative (and perhaps ultimately of
    Message 1 of 12 , Oct 29, 2007
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      In Merton's essay 'The Cell' (in 'Contemplation in a
      World of Action'), he charts what he believes is the
      essential contemplative (and perhaps ultimately of all
      human beings), a route downward through loneliness and
      acute boredom, to the place where a man or a woman,
      deprived of diversion and the constant affirmation of
      others, begins to doubt his or her integrity. When the
      'disciple', as Merton calls him, reaches the point in
      which all illusion is stripped away, and he knows his
      own weakness, failure, and despair to the full, then
      the way is made clear for the 'acme', 'the moment of
      truth', in which a new identity is discovered in God
      himself. "The Cell is the place where man comes to know
      himself first of all that he may know God." From this
      rediscovered identity, and this total awareness of
      dependence on God, comes a new independence toward
      other human beings, a new joy in the beauty and wonder
      of the world, a new compassion and insight.

      (From 'Merton: A Biography' by Monica Furlong)

      Bob M.
    • Bob M.
      In the early 1960s Merton had advocated an openness to the world. By 1968 (his last year) he felt a distorting element in the renewal of the church had led to
      Message 2 of 12 , Oct 30, 2007
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        In the early 1960s Merton had advocated an
        openness to the world. By 1968 (his last
        year) he felt a distorting element in the
        renewal of the church had led to a movement
        away from prayer, contemplation, the values
        of the tradition which had provided strength
        for almost 2000 years, in favor of an activism
        that was wholly self-justifying.

        We need the religious genius of Asis and of
        Asian culture to inject a dimension of depth
        into our aimless threshing about. I would say
        an element of heart, of bhakti, of love. These
        are some of the things we must recover.

        (From 'The Seven Mountains of Thomas Merton'
        by Michael Mott)

        Looking back many years later, Merton could
        see how desperately he had longed for love
        and how difficult he had found accepting it,
        even from girls who truly loved him, perhaps
        particularly from them. Part of him needed to
        "keep clear", of dreaded emotional involvement,
        and could only interpret loving approaches from
        others as a kind of clinging, which no doubt
        it often was.

        (From 'Merton: A Biography' by Monica Furlong)

        Bob M.
      • Bob Michael
        Selfishness can hide itself under many guises. I need the discernment to uncover its presence and its different forms. For until I am fully conscious that it
        Message 3 of 12 , Feb 26, 2008
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          Selfishness can hide itself under many guises.
          I need the discernment to uncover its presence
          and its different forms. For until I am fully
          conscious that it is there I can do nothing to
          free myself from it.
          What would it be like to be totally free?
          In a moving passage Thomas Merton offers a
          portrait of a person of perfect freedom in words
          intended, one hopes, not to discourage the
          reader but to show how deep is the reality
          of freedom and how rare its perfect achievement.

          I wonder if there are twenty men alive in
          the world now who can see things as they really
          are. That would mean that there are twenty men
          that are free, who were not dominated or even
          influenced by any attachment to any created
          thing or to their own selves or to any gift of
          God, even the highest, the most supernaturally
          pure of His graces. I don't believe that there
          are twenty such men alive in the world. But
          there must be one or two. They are the ones
          who are holding everything together and keeping
          the universe from falling apart.

          The path to perfect freedom is a difficult
          one. For Merton it must always lead into the
          desert; that is, into the place of silence and
          solitude. Only in solitude can we achieve that
          detachment that frees us to seek God in our lives.
          That is why Merton always saw the monastic setting
          as the ideal locus for contemplation....."Physical
          solitude, exterior silence and real recollection
          are all morally necessary for anyone who wants to
          lead a contemplative life."
          Can one find sufficient solitude to become
          a contemplative in the urban setting in which most
          people are destined to live out their lives?
          Merton's answer would be: only with great, if not
          insurmountable, difficulty. In a celebrated
          passage, which impresses more by its earnestness
          than its practicability, Merton suggests how one
          may try to find solitude in the city.

          Do everything you can to avoid the amusement
          and the noise and the business of men. Keep as far
          away as you can from the places where they gather
          to cheat and insult one another, to exploit one
          another, to laugh at one another, or to mock one
          another with their false gestures of friendship.
          Do not read their newspapers, if you can help it.
          Be glad if you can keep beyond the reach of their
          radios. Do not bother with their unearthly songs
          or their intolerable concerns for the way their
          bodies look and feel.
          Do not smoke their cigarettes or drink the
          things they drink or share their preoccupation
          with different kinds of food. Do not complicate
          your life by looking at the pictures in their
          magazines. Keep your eyes clean and your ears
          quiet and your mind serene. Breath God's air.
          Work, if you can, under his sky.
          But if you have to live in a city and work
          among machines and ride in the subways and eat
          in a place where the radio makes you deaf with
          spurious news and where the food destroys your
          life and the sentiments of those around you
          poison your heart with boredom, do not be upset,
          but accept it as the love of God and as a seed
          of solitude planted in your soul, and be glad
          of this suffering; for it will keep you alive
          to the next opportunity to escape from them and
          be alone in the healing silence of recollection
          and in the untroubled presence of God.

          Actualizing my capacities for contemplation
          requires an existential freedom which liberates
          me from the illusion of my false self that would
          keep me living in a world of unreality. It
          requires moral freedom that detaches me from
          the selfish desires, cares, and ambitions - even
          spiritual ones - that interfere with my search
          for God.
          There is yet another type of freedom needed
          for the contemplative experience, and that is
          what Merton calls intellectual freedom, or the
          freedom from concepts and images of created things.
          For the goal of contemplation is to meet at my
          center God as He is in Himself. And yet "we cannot
          know Him as He really is unless we pass beyond
          everything that can be imagined and enter into
          an obscurity without images and without the
          likeness of any created thing."

          (From 'Thomas Merton's Dark Path' by William H. Shannon, pgs. 46-48)

          Bob M.
        • Bob Michael
          Despite its technical strength Merton saw the United States to be spiritually superficial and weak with a great potential for evil in its sense of mass
          Message 4 of 12 , Feb 29, 2008
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            Despite its technical strength Merton saw
            the United States to be spiritually superficial
            and weak with a great potential for evil in
            its sense of mass responsibility shielded
            behind a veil of altrusism. ['Man Before God' - Kelly]

            Bob M.
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