Defending An Illusion – 10 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – No Man Is An Island

by Mark Votava

41tYJhDcp8L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. What we actually experience as “life”

“For the subconscious mind is a storehouse of images and symbols, I might also say of ‘experiences’ which provide us with more than half the material of what we actually experience as ‘life.’ Without our knowing it, we see reality through glasses colored by our subconscious memory of previous experiences.”

2. A spiritual revaluation of all that is in us

“Dark things come out of the depths of our souls, and we have to consider them and recognize them for our own… And while we face them, and cannot get rid of them, we realize more clearly than ever before our great need for God… Then begins a spiritual revaluation of all that is in us. We begin to ask ourselves what is and is not real in our ideals!”

3. Spiritually mature

“When action and contemplation dwell together, filling our whole life because we are moved in all things by the Spirit of God, then we are spiritually mature. Our intentions are habitually pure…”

4. Enables Christ to suffer in us

“If we love God, suffering does not matter… Pain does not cease to be pain, but we can be glad of it because it enables Christ to suffer in us…”

5. Do not really believe in their own existence

“The reason why men are so anxious to see themselves, instead of being content to be themselves, is that they do not really believe in their own existence. And they do not fully believe that they exist because they do not believe in God. This is equally true of those who say they believe in God (without actually putting their faith into practice) and of those who do not even pretend to have any faith.”

6. Convention is completely unoriginal

“…tradition is creative. Always original, it always opens out new horizons for an old journey. Convention, on the other hand, is completely unoriginal. It is slavish imitation. It is closed in upon itself and leads to complete sterility.”

7. Desiring to grow in love

“It is by desiring to grow in love that we receive the Holy Spirit, and the thirst for more charity is the effect of this more abundant reception.”

8. Interior purity and exterior attention

“We fail to balance interior purity and exterior attention when, in one way or another, we seek ourselves instead of God. If we seek only our own interests in our work, we will not be able to keep our hearts pure and recollected…”

9. Defending an illusion

“I cannot find God unless I renounce this useless activity, and I cannot renounce this activity unless I let go of the illusion it defends. And I cannot get rid of an illusion unless I recognize it for an illusion.”

10. Gratitude for life

“For the full fruitfulness of spiritual life begins in gratitude for life, in the consent to live…”

Do we practice gratitude for life?

Purchase No Man Is An Island

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