Artificially Preconceived Structures – 6 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Thoughts on the East  

by Mark Votava

41-YyV+BcJL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Become ourselves unreasonable

“It is when we insist most firmly on everyone else being ‘reasonable’ that we become ourselves unreasonable…”

2. You never find happiness until you stop looking for it

“My opinion is that you never find happiness until you stop looking for it.  My greatest happiness consists precisely in doing nothing whatever that is calculated to obtain happiness: and this, in the minds of most people, is the worst possible course.”

3. Artificially preconceived structures

“…the Zen consciousness does not distinguish and categorize what it sees in terms of social and cultural standards.  It does not try to fit things into artificially preconceived structures.  It does not judge beauty and ugliness according to canons of taste – even though it may have its own taste.  If it seems to judge and distinguish, it does so only enough to point beyond judgment to the pure void.  It does not settle down in its judgments as final.  It does not erect its judgment into a structure to be defended against all comers.”

4. What conveniently fits our prejudices

“We quickly forget how to simply see things and substitute our words and our formulas for the things themselves, manipulating facts so that we see only what conveniently fits our prejudices…”

5. Always pass from one thing to another

“But we in the West, living in a tradition of stubborn egocentered practicality and geared entirely for the use and manipulation of everything, always pass from one thing to another, from cause to effect, from the first to the next and to the last and then back to the first.  Everything always points to something else, and hence we never stop anywhere because we cannot: as soon as we pause, the escalator reaches the end of the ride and we have to get off and find another one.  Nothing is allowed just to be and to mean itself: everything has to mysteriously signify something else…”

6. An authentic metaphysical consciousness

“…our highly activist and one sided culture is faced with a crisis that may end in self-destruction because it lacks the inner depth of an authentic metaphysical consciousness.  Without such depth, our moral and political protestations are so much verbiage.  If, in the West, God can no longer be experienced as other than ‘dead,’ it is because of an inner split and self-alienation which have characterized the Western mind in its single-minded dedication to only half of life: that which is exterior, objective, and quantitative.  The ‘death of God’ and the consequent death of genuine moral sense, respect for life, for humanity, for value, has expressed the death of an inner subjective quality of life: a quality which in the traditional religions was experienced in terms of God-consciousness.  Not concentration on an idea or concept of God, still less on an image of God, but a sense of presence, of an ultimate ground of reality and meaning, from which life and love could spontaneously flower.”

Which quote do you like the most?

Here are some other posts I have done on Thomas Merton and his writings.