Into The Unknown – 6 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – The Wisdom of the Desert

by Mark Votava

519YpqDZSjL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. A complete inner transformation

“The full difficulty and magnitude of the task of loving others is recognized everywhere and never minimized.  It is hard to really love others if love is to be taken in the full sense of the word.  Love demands a complete inner transformation – for without this we cannot possibly come to identify ourselves with our brother.  We have to become, in some sense, the person we love.  And this involves a kind of death of our own being, our own self.  No matter how hard we try, we resist this death: we fight back with anger, with recriminations, with demands, with ultimatums.  We seek any convenient excuse to break off and give up the difficult task…”

2. Union with one another

“The Christian mystics of all ages sought and found not only the unification of their own being, not only union with God, but union with one another in the Spirit of God.  To seek a union with God that would imply complete separation, in spirit as well as in body from all the rest of mankind, would be to a Christian saint not only absurd but the very opposite of sanctity.  Isolation in the self, inability to go out of oneself to others, would mean incapacity for any form of self-transcendence.  To be thus the prisoner of one’s own selfhood is, in fact, to be in hell…”

3. Love is the spiritual life

“Love in fact is the spiritual life, and without it all the other exercises of the spirit, however lofty, are emptied of content and become mere illusions.  The more lofty they are, the more dangerous the illusion.”

4. The most important of all voyages of discovery

“What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves?  This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it all the rest are not only useless but disastrous…”

5. Strike out fearlessly into the unknown

“We cannot do exactly what they did.  But we must be as thorough and as ruthless in our determination to break all spiritual chains, and cast off the domination of alien compulsions, to find our true selves, to discover and develop our inalienable spiritual liberty and use it to build, on earth, the Kingdom of God.  This is not the place in which to speculate what our great and mysterious vocation might involve.  That is still unknown.  Let it suffice for me to say that we need to learn from these men of the fourth century how to ignore prejudice, defy compulsions and strike out fearlessly into the unknown.”

6. In desperate need of simplicity

“In any case these Fathers distilled for themselves a very practical and unassuming wisdom that is at once primitive and timeless, and which enables us to reopen the sources that have been polluted or blocked up altogether by the accumulated mental and spiritual refuse of our technological barbarism.  Our time is in desperate need of this kind of simplicity.  It needs to recapture something of the experience reflected in these lines.  The word to emphasize is experience…”

Which quotes do you like the best?

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