The Awareness of Mystery – 10 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation edited by William H. Shannon

by Mark Votava

81MA-v3wVDL1. Recover your basic natural unity

“The first thing that you have to do, before you even start thinking about such a thing as contemplation, is to try to recover your basic natural unity, to reintegrate your compartmentalized being into a coordinated and simple whole and learn to live as a unified human person.  This means that you have to bring back together the fragments of your distracted existence so that when you say ‘I,’ there is really someone present to support the pronoun you have uttered.”

2. Depth, reality, and a certain incommunicability

“Only from the inner self does any spiritual experience gain depth, reality, and a certain incommunicability…”

3. Solitude is necessary for spiritual freedom

“Solitude is necessary for spiritual freedom.  But once that freedom is acquired, it demands to be put to work in the service of a love in which there is no longer subjection or slavery.  Mere withdrawal, without the return to freedom in the action, would lead to a static and deathlike inertia of the spirit in which the inner self would not awaken at all.  There would be no light, no voice within us, only the silence and darkness of the tomb.”

4. The teaching of Christ is essentially “contemplative”

“The fact that ‘contemplation’… is not mentioned in the New Testament should not mislead us.  We shall see presently that the teaching of Christ is essentially ‘contemplative’…”

5. The life of contemplation

“The life of contemplation is, then, not simply a life of human technique and discipline; it is the life of the Holy Spirit in our inmost souls…”

6. Present in us

“Christ is really present in us…”

7. This hidden presence of the Spirit

“By virtue of this hidden presence of the Spirit in our inmost self, we need only to deliver ourselves from preoccupation with our external, selfish, and illusory self in order to find God in us…”

8. The awareness of mystery

“Hence the sacred attitude is one which does not recoil from our own inner emptiness, but rather penetrates into it with awe and reverence, and with the awareness of mystery.”

9. Becoming aware of our inmost self

“The sacred attitude is, then, one of reverence, awe, and silence before the mystery that begins to take place within us when we become aware of our inmost self…”

10. A life of great simplicity and inner liberty

“The life of contemplation in action and purity of heart is, then, a life of great simplicity and inner liberty.  One is not seeking anything special or demanding any particular satisfaction.  One is content with what is.  One does what is to be done, and the more concrete it is, the better.  One is not worried about the results of what is done.  One is content to have good motives and not too anxious about making mistakes.  In this way one can swim with the living stream of life and remain at every moment in contact with God, in the hiddenness and ordinariness of the present moment with its obvious task.”

What is your favorite quote?

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

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