Pharisaism is One of the Worst Plagues of Our Time – 5 quotes from Thomas Merton’s writings – The Literary Essays of Thomas Merton

by Mark Votava

41gcy8uO2nL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Seeks to know the meaning of life

“The contemplative is not just a man who sits under a tree with his legs crossed, or one who edifies himself with the answer to ultimate and spiritual problems. He is one who seeks to know the meaning of life not only with his head but with his whole being, by living it in depth and in purity, and thus uniting himself to the very Source of Life – a Source which is infinitely actual and therefore too real to be contained satisfactorily inside any word or concept or name assigned by man: for the words of man tend to limit the realities which they express, in order to express them. And anything that can be limited cannot be the infinite actuality known to the contemplative without words and without the mediation of precise analytical thought. We can say, then, that contemplation is the intuitive perception of life in its Source…”

2. Man’s drive to destroy, to kill, to dominate, to oppress

“Man’s drive to destroy, to kill, or simply to dominate and to oppress comes from the metaphysical void he experiences when he finds himself a stranger in his own universe. He seeks to make that universe familiar to himself by using it for his own ends, but his own ends are capricious and ambivalent. They may be life-affirming, they may be expressions of comprehension and of love, or they may be life-denying, armored in legalism and false theology, or perhaps even speaking the naked language of brute power…”

3. A growing and evolving present

“By his work, man is integrated into a growing and evolving present, a world that is real and fully engaged in organic development. By his work man grows with that world into what it is going to be: there is no other way for man to find himself…”

4. Pharisaism is one of the worst plagues of our time

“We are by now familiar enough with the fact that dialogue requires openness and honesty, and this supposes first of all that on both sides there is a complete willingness to accept the other as he is. This also presupposes a willingness to be oneself and not pretend to be someone else… Pharisaism works two ways: on the one hand the man who thinks that it is enough to recognize an obligation by a purely formal and punctilious fulfillment is a pharisee. On the other the man who detects the failure and points to it, without fulfilling an equivalent obligation himself, is also a pharisee… Pharisaism is one of the worst plagues of our time…”

5. Disassociate the creative from the human

“…we have begun, out of resentment, to disassociate the creative from the human. We now tend to assume that a humanistic outlook frustrates the real creative urge, which is in some way subhuman, or even antihuman. But this makes our ‘creativity’ nothing more than a destructive and negative reaction against that very element of life and spirit upon which creativity depends.”

Do you agree that pharisaism is one of the worst plagues of our time?

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

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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