Rigidity and Prejudice – 9 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation edited by William H. Shannon

by Mark Votava

81MA-v3wVDL1. Contemplation is the work of love

“Contemplation is the work of love, and the contemplative proves his love by leaving all things, even the most spiritual things, for God in nothingness, detachment, and ‘night.’ But the deciding factor in contemplation is the free and unpredictable action of God…”

2. Our true self

“…we must become detached from the unreality that is in us in order to be united to the reality that lies deeper within and is our true self – our inmost self-in-God.”

3. A life of unity

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

4. What real freedom means

“It is the contemplative who keeps this liberty alive in the world, and who shows others, obscurely and without realizing it, what real freedom means.”

5. Only from the inner self

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

6. The teaching of Christ is essentially contemplative

“The fact that ‘contemplation’… is not mentioned in the New Testament should not mislead us. We shall see presently that the teaching of Christ is essentially ‘contemplative’…”

7. The price of our liberty

“At such times, walking down a street, sweeping a floor, washing dishes, hoeing beans, reading a book, taking a stroll in the woods – all can be enriched with contemplation… This contemplation is all the more pure in that one does not ‘look’ to see if it is there… It never attracts anybody’s attention, least of all the attention of him who lives it. And he soon learns not to want to see anything special in himself. This is the price of his liberty.”

8. The paradox of the illuminative way

“The paradox of the illuminative way is, then, that the awakening and enlightening of the inner man goes with the darkening and the blinding of the exterior man. As our inner spiritual consciousness awakens, our exterior… consciousness is befuddled and hampered in its action…”

9. Rigidity and prejudice

“The great obstacle to contemplation is rigidity and prejudice. He who thinks he knows what it is beforehand prevents himself from finding out the true nature of contemplation, since he is not able to ‘change his mind’ and accept something completely new. He who thinks that contemplation is lofty and spectacular cannot receive the intuition of a supreme and transcendent Reality which is at the same time immanent in his own ordinary self. He who needs to be exalted and for whom mysticism is the peak of human ambition will never be able to feel the liberation granted only to those who have renounced success. And since most of us are rigid, attached to our own ideas, convinced of our own wisdom, proud of our own capacities, and committed to personal ambition, contemplation is a dangerous desire for any one of us…”

Are you stuck in rigidity and prejudice in your life?

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