Detachment – 7 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – New Seeds of Contemplation
by Mark Votava
1. Not so easy to recognize
“Sometimes contemplatives think that the whole end and essence of their life is to be found in recollection and interior peace and the sense of the presence of God. They become attached to these things. But recollection is just as much a creature as an automobile. The sense of interior peace is no less created than a bottle of wine. The experimental ‘awareness’ of the presence of God is just as truly a created thing as a glass of beer. The only difference is that recollection and interior peace and the sense of the presence of God are spiritual pleasures and the others are material. Attachment to spiritual things is therefore just as much an attachment as inordinate love of anything else. The imperfection may be more hidden and more subtle: but from a certain point of view that only makes it all the more harmful because it is not so easy to recognize.”
2. The desire of peace and recollection
“You will never be able to have perfect interior peace and recollection unless you are detached even from the desire of peace and recollection…”
3. Attached to the “experience” of peace
“To become attached to the ‘experience’ of peace is to threaten the true and essential and vital union of our soul with God above sense and experience in the darkness of a pure and perfect love.”
4. The risk of losing what is essential
“If we attach too much importance to these accidentals we run the risk of losing what is essential, which is the perfect acceptance of God’s will, whatever our feelings may happen to be.”
5. Light, courage and strength
“When we consider the fidelity, the resoluteness, the determination to renounce all things for the love of God, without which we cannot pass over to the higher levels of purity and contemplation, we remain aghast at our own weakness, our own poverty, our evasions, our infidelity, our hesitancy. Our very weakness clouds our vision. We are left helpless, knowing very well that we are asked to give up everything, yet not knowing how or where to begin. In such a condition there is no use in forcing the issue. Great patience and humility are needed, and humble prayer for light, courage and strength.”
6. Union with the will of God
“But if I think the most important thing in life is a feeling of interior peace, I will be all the more disturbed when I notice that I do not have it. And since I cannot directly produce that feeling in myself whenever I want to, the disturbance will increase with the failure of my efforts. Finally I will lose my patience by refusing to accept this situation which I cannot control and so I will let go of the one important reality, union with the will of God, without which true peace is completely impossible.”
7. Transcends all satisfaction and all experience
“True contemplation is the work of a love that transcends all satisfaction and all experience to rest in the night of pure and naked faith…”
Is detachment a struggle for you?
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