A Unity Beyond Division – 11 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation

by Mark Votava

81MA-v3wVDL1. The inner self

“Only from the inner self does any spiritual experience gain depth, reality, and a certain incommunicability…”

2. Essentially “contemplative”

“…the teaching of Christ is essentially ‘contemplative’…”

3. Intuition of God born of pure love

“Mystical contemplation is an intuition of God born of pure love…”

4. Loneliness and isolation

“Be content to remain in loneliness and isolation, dryness and anguish, waiting upon God in darkness…”

5. Rested and refreshed in your whole being

“Genuine contemplation involves no tension. There is no reason why it should affect anyone’s nerves: on the contrary, it relaxes them. It leaves you rested and refreshed in your whole being… There is no strain in real contemplation, because when the gift is real, you do not depend on it, you are not enslaved by the ‘need’ to experience anything. The contemplative does not seek reassurance in himself, in his virtue, in his state, in his ‘prayer’…”

6. Renounce your inertia

“If you are waiting for someone to come along and feed you the contemplative life with a spoon, you are going to wait a long time, especially in America. You had better renounce your inertia…”

7. A unity beyond division

“The contemplative life is primarily a life of unity. A contemplative is one who has transcended divisions to reach a unity beyond division…”

8. The silence and recollection of the interior life

“Without the silence and recollection of the interior life, man loses contact with his real sources of energy, clarity, and peace…”

9. Awareness, life, creativity, and freedom

“The important thing in contemplation is not enjoyment, not pleasure, not happiness, not peace, but the transcendent experience of reality and truth in the act of a supreme and liberated spiritual love. The important thing in contemplation is not gratification and rest, but awareness, life, creativity, and freedom. In fact, contemplation is man’s highest and most essential spiritual activity.”

10. A static and deathlike inertia of the spirit

“Solitude is necessary for spiritual freedom. But once that freedom is acquired, it demands to be put to work in the service of a love in which there is no longer subjection to slavery. Mere withdrawal, without the return to freedom in the action, would lead to a static and deathlike inertia of the spirit in which the inner self would not awaken at all. There would be no light, no voice within us, only the silence and darkness of the tomb.”

11. A constant discipline of humility

“The life of contemplation is, then, not simply a life of human technique and discipline; it is the life of the Holy Spirit in our inmost souls. The whole duty of the contemplative is to abandon what is base and trivial in his own life, and do all he can to conform himself to the secret and obscure promptings of the Spirit of God. This of course requires a constant discipline of humility…”

Do you seek a unity beyond division?

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