A Genuine Knowledge of Ourselves – 8 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – The New Man

by Mark Votava

41yINHj74-L._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_1. In the substance of our souls

“By this immersion of the created image in the uncreated Image, we live in God and God lives in us… Our natural life is hidden in God Who dwells in the substance of our soul.”

2. Destroyed all spontaneity

“The free man is the one whose choices have given him the power to stand on his own feet and determine his own life according to the higher light and spirit that are in him. The slave, in the spiritual order, is the man whose choices have destroyed all spontaneity in him and have delivered him over, bound hand and foot, to his own compulsions, idiosyncrasies and illusions, so that he never does what he really wants to do, but only what he has to do. His spirit is not in command, and therefore he cannot run his own life…”

3. Consoled by an imaginary Christ

“To have strength, love must face realities. It must confront obstacles. It must accept difficulties. It must make sacrifices. It must be mature. Too often the love which we believe to be charity is merely an evasion of reality and responsibilities. It is the sentimental refuge to which we retire so as not to be bothered by the difficulties and hardships of life: a false sanctuary in which we are consoled by an imaginary Christ.”

4. No cure but mysticism

“The spiritual anguish of man has no cure but mysticism.”

5. The inner recesses of our conscience

“The inner recesses of our conscience, where the image of God is branded in the very depths of our being, ceaselessly reminds us that we are born for a higher freedom and for a far more spiritual fulfillment. Although there is no ‘natural’ bridge between the natural and the supernatural, the concrete situation in which man finds himself, as a nature created for a supernatural end, makes anguish inevitable. He cannot rest unless he rests in God: not merely the God of nature, but the Living God, not the God that can be objectified in a few abstract notions, but the God Who is above all concept. Not the God of a mere notional or moral union, but the God Who becomes One Spirit with our own soul! This alone is the reality for which we are made. Here alone do we finally ‘find ourselves’…”  

6. Exercise of our own liberty

“Without the free and conscious and clearly realized exercise of our own liberty we cannot become, in the full sense, persons.”

7. A genuine knowledge of ourselves

“But in order to interiorize our spiritual activity we have to develop our awareness of spiritual realities. And this spiritual awareness, which depends first of all on faith, is also impossible if we do not have a genuine knowledge of ourselves.”

8. Never really know ourselves as persons

“Grace is given us for the precise purpose of enabling us to discover and actualize our deepest and truest self. Unless we discover this deep self, which is hidden with Christ in God, we will never really know ourselves as persons…”

Have we been pursuing a genuine knowledge of ourselves?

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