The Betrayal of Our Inner Spirit – 5 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Faith and Violence: Christian Teaching and Christian Practice

by Mark Votava

download (12)1. One’s ordinary self

“It seems that we ought to pay a great deal more attention than we do to the traditional spiritual and contemplative wisdoms which prescribe disciplines (in the deepest sense of ‘discipleships’) to help man transcend his empirical self and find his ‘true self’ in an emptiness that is completely ‘awake’ because completely free of useless reflection… All true spiritual disciplines recognize the peril of idolatry in the irresponsible fabrication of pseudo-spiritual concepts which serve only to delude man and to subject him once again to a deeper captivity just when he seems on the point of tasting the true bliss and the perfect poverty of liberation. The supreme risk in this quest for liberation resides in the paradox of transcendence itself. For the Transcendent is also at the same time Immanent, and the mystery is that while man’s spiritual liberation consists in a self-renunciation and self-recovery ‘beyond self,’ it is also at the same time a fantastic awakening to the truth and transcendent value of one’s ordinary self.”

2. A source of action and creativity

“Hence I want to say that the highest form of life is this ‘spiritual life’ in which the infinitely ‘fontal’ (source-like) creativity of our being in Being is somehow attained, and becomes in its turn a source of action and creativity in the world around us…”

3. Nothing is more empty and more dead

“We live in a society that tries to keep us dazzled with euphoria in a bright cloud of lively and joy-loving slogans. Yet nothing is more empty and more dead, nothing is more insultingly insincere and destructive than the vapid grins on the billboards and the moron beatitude in the magazines which assures us that we are all in bliss right now… I think the constant realization that we are exhausting our vital spiritual energy in a waste of shame, the inescapable disgust at the idolatrous vulgarity of our commercial milieu…, is one of the main sources of our universal desperation…”

4. Popular religion has betrayed man’s inner spirit

“Popular religion has to a great extent betrayed man’s inner spirit… The clichés of popular religion have in many cases become every bit as hollow and as false as those of soap salesman, and far more dangerously deceptive because one cannot so easily verify the claims made about the product. The sin of religiosity is that is has turned God, peace, happiness, salvation and all that man desires into products to be marketed in a speciously attractive package deal…”

5. Contribute to this reorientation

“All have the duty to contribute whatever they can to this reorientation. I do not think the word reorientation is strong enough. What is required is a spiritual upheaval such as we seldom see recorded in history. But such things have happened, and let us hope we have not gone so far that they will not happen again.”

Do you think that popular religion has betrayed our inner spirit?

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