Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Tag: Faith and Violence

5 Thomas Merton Books I Really Love A Lot

1. Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander thomasmerton

“We have got ourselves into a position where, because of our misunderstanding of theoretical distinctions between the ‘natural and the supernatural,’ we tend to think that nothing in man’s ordinary life is really supernatural except saying prayers and performing pious acts of one sort or another, pious acts which derive their value precisely from the fact that they rescue us, momentarily, from the ordinary routine of life. And therefore we imagine that Christian social action is not Christian in itself, but only because it is a kind of escalator to unworldliness and devotion. This is because we apparently cannot conceive material and worldly things seriously as having any capacity to be ‘spiritual.’ But Christian social action, on the contrary, conceives man’s work itself as a spiritual reality, or rather it envisages those conditions under which man’s work can recover a certain spiritual and holy quality, so that it becomes for man a source of spiritual renewal, as well as spiritual livelihood.”

2. New Seeds of Contemplation 727578

“As far as the accidentals of this life are concerned, humility can be quite content with whatever satisfies the general run of men. But that does not mean that the essence of humility consists in being just like everybody else. On the contrary, humility consists in being precisely the person you actually are before God, and since no two people are alike, if you have the humility to be yourself you will not be like anyone else in the whole universe. But this individuality will not necessarily assert itself on the surface of everyday life. It will not be a matter of mere appearances, or opinions, or tastes, or ways of doing things. It is something deep in the soul.”

3. The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation edited by William H. Shannon81MA-v3wVDL

“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…”

4. Contemplation in a World of Action51Xo2PA2R+L._SL500_AA300_

“Growth in experience implies a serious self-doubt and self-questioning in which values previously held seem to be completely exploded and no other tangible values come to take their place… A Discipline that in fact blocks and prohibits development can produce nothing but tragic inertia. In such a case, crisis and upheaval are desirable reactions! They keep us in touch with reality…”

 

5. Faith and Violence: Christian Teaching and Christian Practicedownload (12)

“Can contemplation still find a place in the world of technology and conflict which is ours? Does it belong only to the past? The answer to this is that, since the direct and pure experience of reality in its ultimate root is man’s deepest need, contemplation must be possible if man is to remain human. If contemplation is no longer possible, then man’s life has lost the spiritual orientation upon which everything else – order, peace, happiness, sanity – must depend. But true contemplation is an austere and exacting vocation. Those who seek it are few and those who find it still fewer. Nevertheless, their presence witnesses to the fact that contemplation remains both necessary and possible.”

Have you read any of these books? What do you think of Thomas Merton?

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

Our Supposed Christianity – 9 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Faith and Violence

download (12)1. The whole concept of nonviolence

“…the whole concept of nonviolence remains, as far as most Americans are concerned, on the level of pure myth.”

2. An inhuman way of life

“Man has gradually had the life of the spirit and the capacity for God crushed out of him by an inhuman way of life of which he is both the ‘product and slave.’ Instead of striving to change these conditions, and to build an order which man can gradually return to himself, regain his natural and supernatural health, and find room to grow and respond to God, we are rather busying ourselves with relatively insignificant details of ritual, organization, ecclesiastical bureaucracy, the niceties of law and ascetical psychology…”

3. Pay a great deal more attention

“It would seem that we ought to pay a great deal more attention than we do to the traditional spiritual and contemplative wisdoms which prescribe disciplines (in the deepest sense of ‘discipleships’) to help man transcend his empirical self and find his ‘true self’ in an emptiness that is completely ‘awake’ because completely free of useless reflection…”

4. Make real communication impossible

“…if we love our own ideology and our own opinion instead of loving our brother, we will seek only to glorify our ideas and our institutions and by that fact we will make real communication impossible.”

5. Our supposed Christianity

“It is certain that much in our supposed Christianity is in fact a deplorable cult of idols…”

6. We worship ourselves

“My thesis is now clear: in my opinion the root of our trouble is that our habits of thought and the drives that proceed from them are basically idolatrous and mythical. We are all the more inclined to idolatry because we imagine that we are of all generations the most enlightened, the most objective, the most scientific, the most progressive and the most humane. This, in fact, is an ‘image’ of ourselves – an image which is false and is also the object of a cult. We worship ourselves in this image…”

7. Evasion and complacency

“The mystic and spiritual man who in our day remain indifferent to the problems of their fellow men, who are not fully capable of facing those problems, will find themselves inevitably involved in the same ruin. They will suffer the same deceptions, be implicated in the same crimes. They will go down to ruin with the same blindness and the same insensitivity to the presence of evil. They will be deaf to the voice crying in the wilderness, for they will have listened to some other, more comforting voice, of their own making. This is the penalty of evasion and complacency.”

8. Impatience, willfulness, self-assertion and arrogance

“Impatience, willfulness, self-assertion and arrogance will not help us…”

9. To face one’s inner solitude

“Yet the ‘wilderness’ of man’s spirit is not yet totally hostile to all spiritual life. On the contrary, its silence is still a healing silence. He who tries to evade solitude and confrontation with the unknown God may eventually be destroyed in the meaningless chaotic atomized solitariness of mass society. But meanwhile it is still possible to face one’s inner solitude and to recover mysterious sources of hope and strength. This is still possible. But fewer and fewer men are aware of the possibility…”

Do you think our supposed Christianity has become a deplorable cult of idols?

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

The Betrayal of Our Inner Spirit – 5 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Faith and Violence: Christian Teaching and Christian Practice

download (12)1. One’s ordinary self

“It seems that we ought to pay a great deal more attention than we do to the traditional spiritual and contemplative wisdoms which prescribe disciplines (in the deepest sense of ‘discipleships’) to help man transcend his empirical self and find his ‘true self’ in an emptiness that is completely ‘awake’ because completely free of useless reflection… All true spiritual disciplines recognize the peril of idolatry in the irresponsible fabrication of pseudo-spiritual concepts which serve only to delude man and to subject him once again to a deeper captivity just when he seems on the point of tasting the true bliss and the perfect poverty of liberation. The supreme risk in this quest for liberation resides in the paradox of transcendence itself. For the Transcendent is also at the same time Immanent, and the mystery is that while man’s spiritual liberation consists in a self-renunciation and self-recovery ‘beyond self,’ it is also at the same time a fantastic awakening to the truth and transcendent value of one’s ordinary self.”

2. A source of action and creativity

“Hence I want to say that the highest form of life is this ‘spiritual life’ in which the infinitely ‘fontal’ (source-like) creativity of our being in Being is somehow attained, and becomes in its turn a source of action and creativity in the world around us…”

3. Nothing is more empty and more dead

“We live in a society that tries to keep us dazzled with euphoria in a bright cloud of lively and joy-loving slogans. Yet nothing is more empty and more dead, nothing is more insultingly insincere and destructive than the vapid grins on the billboards and the moron beatitude in the magazines which assures us that we are all in bliss right now… I think the constant realization that we are exhausting our vital spiritual energy in a waste of shame, the inescapable disgust at the idolatrous vulgarity of our commercial milieu…, is one of the main sources of our universal desperation…”

4. Popular religion has betrayed man’s inner spirit

“Popular religion has to a great extent betrayed man’s inner spirit… The clichés of popular religion have in many cases become every bit as hollow and as false as those of soap salesman, and far more dangerously deceptive because one cannot so easily verify the claims made about the product. The sin of religiosity is that is has turned God, peace, happiness, salvation and all that man desires into products to be marketed in a speciously attractive package deal…”

5. Contribute to this reorientation

“All have the duty to contribute whatever they can to this reorientation. I do not think the word reorientation is strong enough. What is required is a spiritual upheaval such as we seldom see recorded in history. But such things have happened, and let us hope we have not gone so far that they will not happen again.”

Do you think that popular religion has betrayed our inner spirit?

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

Corporately Organized Murder – 5 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Faith and Violence: Christian Teaching and Christian Practice

download (12)1. The crucial problem of violence

“Theology today needs to focus carefully upon the crucial problem of violence.  The commandment, ‘Thou shall not kill’ is more than a mere matter of academic or sentimental interest in an age when man not only is more frustrated, more crowded, more subject to psychotic and hostile delusion than ever, but also has at its disposal an arsenal of weapons that make global suicide an easy possibility… “

2. Outwardly ordered and respectable

“The population of the affluent world is nourished on a steady diet of brutal mythology and hallucination, kept at a constant pitch of high tension by a life that is intrinsically violent in that it forces a large part of the population to submit to an existence which is humanly intolerable.  Hence murder, mugging, rape, crime, corruption.  But it must be remembered that the crime that breaks out of the ghetto is only the fruit of a greater and more pervasive violence: the injustice which forces people to live in the ghetto in the first place.  The problem of violence, then, is not the problem of a few rioters and rebels, but the problem of a whole social structure which is outwardly ordered and respectable, and inwardly ridden by psychopathic obsessions and delusions.”

3. White-collar violence

“We tend to judge violence in terms of the individual, the messy, the physically disturbing, the personally frightening.  The violence we want to see restrained is the violence of the hood waiting for us in the subway or the elevator.  That is reasonable, but it tends to influence us too much.  It makes us think that the problem of violence is limited to this very small scale, and it makes us unable to appreciate the far greater problem of the more abstract, more global, more organized presence of violence on a massive and corporate pattern.  Violence today is white-collar violence, the systematically organized bureaucratic and technological destruction of man.”

4. Death and even genocide as big business

“The theology of violence must not lose sight of the real problem which is not the individual with a revolver but death and even genocide as big business.  But this big business of death is all the more innocent and effective because it involves a long chain of individuals, each of whom can feel himself absolved from responsibility, and each of whom can perhaps salve his conscience by contributing with a more meticulous efficiency to his part in the massive operation.”

5. Corporately organized murder

“Modern technological mass murder is not directly visible, like individual murder.  It is abstract, corporate, businesslike, cool, free of guilt-feelings, and therefore a thousand times more deadly and effective than the eruption of violence out of individual hate.  It is this polite, massively organized white-collar murder machine that threatens the world with destruction, not the violence of a few desperate teen-agers in a slum.  But our antiquated theology myopically focused on individual violence alone fails to see this.  It shudders at the phantasm of muggings and killings where a mess is made on our own doorstep, but blesses and canonizes the antiseptic violence of corporately organized murder because it is respectable, efficient, clean, and above all profitable.” 

Which quote do you like the best?

Here are some other posts I have done on Thomas Merton and his writings.

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Honest Perplexity – 6 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Faith and Violence: Christian Teaching and Christian Practice

download (12)1. The sin of religiosity

“The sin of religiosity is that it has turned God, peace, happiness, salvation and all that man desires into products to be marketed in a speciously attractive package deal…”

2. Struggle along with everybody else and collaborate with them

“In fact we are learning that we are as other men are, that we are not a special kind of privileged being, that our faith does not exempt us from facing the mysterious realities of the world with the same limitations as everybody else, and with the same capacity for human failure.  Our Christian calling does not make us superior to other men, does not entitle us to judge everyone and decide everything for everybody.  We do not have answers to every social problem, and all conflicts have not been decided beforehand in favor of our side.  Our job is to struggle along with everybody else and collaborate with them in the difficult, frustrating task of seeking a solution to common problems, which are entirely new and strange to us all.”

3. The violent repression of others

“’Freedom’ cannot retain its meaning if it continues to be only freedom for some based on the violent repression of others.”

4. A deplorable cult of idols

“It is certain that much in our supposed Christianity is in fact a deplorable cult of idols…”

5. Arrogant dictation

“So I am apologizing to you for the inadequacy and impertinence of so much that has been inflicted on you in the name of religion, not only because it has embarrassed me, and others like me, but because it seems to me to be a falsification of religious truth.  In fact, I am secretly grateful to you for refusing to accept so much of the arrogant dictation that they have tried to foist on you.  And here you notice that I have a tendency to slip out of my rank among the capital B-Believers, and even to edge over a little toward your side, not because I don’t believe, but just because things sometimes seem to me a little quieter and more thoughtful where you are.”

6. Honest perplexity

“My own peculiar task in my Church and in my world has been that of the solitary explorer who, instead of jumping on all the latest bandwagons at once, is bound to search the existential depths of faith in its silences, its ambiguities, and in those certainties which lie deeper than the bottom of anxiety.  In these depths there are no easy answers, no pat solutions to anything.  It is a kind of submarine life in which faith sometimes mysteriously takes on the aspect of doubt when, in fact, one has to doubt and reject conventional and superstitious surrogates that have taken the place of faith.  On this level, the division between Believer and Unbeliever ceases to be so crystal clear.  It is not that some are all right and others are all wrong: all are bound to seek in honest perplexity.  Everybody is an Unbeliever more or less!  Only when this fact is fully experienced, accepted and lived with, does one become fit to hear the simple message of the Gospel…”

Which quote do you like the best?

Here are some other posts I have done on Thomas Merton and his writings.