Everything That Is – 5 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – New Seeds of Contemplation
by Mark Votava
“Detachment from things does not mean setting up a contradiction between ‘things’ and ‘God’… We do not detach ourselves from things in order to attach ourselves to God, but rather we become detached from ourselves in order to see and use all things in and for God. This is an entirely new perspective… The obstacle is in our ‘self,’ that is to say in the tenacious need to maintain our separate, external, egotistic will. It is when we refer all things to this outward and false ‘self’ that we alienate ourselves from reality and from God. It is then the false self that is our god, and we love everything for the sake of this self. We use all things, so to speak, for the worship of this idol which is our imaginary self…”
2. An appreciation of the world
“It is not true that the saints and the great contemplatives never loved created things, and had no understanding or appreciation of the world, with its sights and sounds and the people living in it. They loved everything and everyone.”
3. Escape from the prison of our own false self
“The only true joy on earth is to escape from the prison of our own false self, and enter by love into union with the Life Who Dwells… within the essence of every creature and in the core of our own souls… And thus as we go about the world, everything we meet and everything we see and hear and touch, far from defiling, purifies us and plants in us something more of contemplation…”
4. To worship our false selves
“But to worship our false selves is to worship nothing…”
5. The “false self” must not be identified with the body
“The ‘false self’ must not be identified with the body. The body is neither evil nor unreal. It has a reality that is given by God, and this reality is therefore holy. Hence we say rightly, though symbolically, that the body is the ‘temple of God’… Let no one, then, dare to hate or to despise the body that has been entrusted to him by God, and let no one dare to misuse this body. Let him not desecrate his own natural unity by dividing himself, soul against body, as if the soul were good and the body evil. Soul and body together subsist in the reality of the hidden, inner person. If the two are separated from one another, there is no longer a person, there is no longer a living, subsisting reality made in the image and likeness of God. The ‘marriage’ of body and soul in one person is one of the things that make man the image of God; and what God has joined no man can separate without danger to his sanity.”
Do you worship your false self?
My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!
“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism
My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!
“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline… without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.” Shane Claiborne, author and activist