Finding Ourselves – 8 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander  

by Mark Votava

download (16)1. Alienated by the society

“Man is alienated by the society he lives in. He does not yet know what he will be when he becomes himself. But alienated man must be wiped out, and then man as he really ought to be will come into existence.”

2. To imprison ethics in the realm of division

“To imprison ethics in the realm of division, of good and evil, right and wrong, is to condemn it to sterility, and rob it of its real reason for existing, which is love. Love cannot be reduced to one virtue among many others prescribed by ethical imperatives. When love is only ‘a virtue’ among many, man forgets that ‘God is love’ and becomes incapable of that all-embracing love by which we secretly begin to know God as our Creator and Redeemer…”

3. Keep me in this silence

“…keep me in this silence so that I may learn from it the word of your peace and the word of your mercy and the word of your gentleness to the world: and that through me perhaps your word of peace may make itself heard where it has not been possible for anyone to hear it for a long time.”

4. Love is stronger than hate

“Even though we have the power to destroy the whole world, life is stronger than the death instinct and love is stronger than hate… Because there is love in the world,… there remains always the hope that man will finally, after many mistakes and even disasters, learn to disarm and to make peace, recognizing that he must live at peace with his brother. Yet never have we been less disposed to this.” 

5. Finding ourselves

“If we are going to be personally free and productive human beings we need to recover some kind of interest in the possibility of attaining a relatively human and civilized condition, in which we ourselves can find ourselves and help others do the same. And that we might even be able to communicate something of what it means to attain these goals.”

6. Fully healthy and fruitful spirituality

“But because of our mentality we block the ‘total response’ that is needed for a fully healthy and fruitful spirituality. In fact the very idea of ‘spirituality’ tends to be unhealthy in so far as it is divisive and itself makes total response impossible. The ‘spiritual’ life thus becomes something lived ‘interiorly’ and in ‘the spirit’… The body is left out of it, because the body is ‘bad’ or at best ‘unspiritual.’ But the ‘body’ gets into the act anyway, sometimes in rather disconcerting ways, especially when it has been excluded on general principles.” 

7. Lost touch with reality

“Yet if in resisting doubt we convince ourselves that we truly ‘know God’ we have lost touch with reality…”

8. Part of nature

“We have to have the humility first of all to realize ourselves as part of nature. Denial of this results only in madness and cruelties…”

Which quotes do you like the best?

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

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