Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Tag: The Inner Experience

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

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?

Purchase The Inner Experience

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

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

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

The Awareness of Mystery – 10 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation edited by William H. Shannon

81MA-v3wVDL1. Recover your basic natural unity

“The first thing that you have to do, before you even start thinking about such a thing as contemplation, is to try to recover your basic natural unity, to reintegrate your compartmentalized being into a coordinated and simple whole and learn to live as a unified human person.  This means that you have to bring back together the fragments of your distracted existence so that when you say ‘I,’ there is really someone present to support the pronoun you have uttered.”

2. Depth, reality, and a certain incommunicability

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

3. Solitude is necessary for spiritual freedom

“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 or 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.”

4. 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’…”

5. The life of contemplation

“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…”

6. Present in us

“Christ is really present in us…”

7. This hidden presence of the Spirit

“By virtue of this hidden presence of the Spirit in our inmost self, we need only to deliver ourselves from preoccupation with our external, selfish, and illusory self in order to find God in us…”

8. The awareness of mystery

“Hence the sacred attitude is one which does not recoil from our own inner emptiness, but rather penetrates into it with awe and reverence, and with the awareness of mystery.”

9. Becoming aware of our inmost self

“The sacred attitude is, then, one of reverence, awe, and silence before the mystery that begins to take place within us when we become aware of our inmost self…”

10. A life of great simplicity and inner liberty

“The life of contemplation in action and purity of heart is, then, a life of great simplicity and inner liberty.  One is not seeking anything special or demanding any particular satisfaction.  One is content with what is.  One does what is to be done, and the more concrete it is, the better.  One is not worried about the results of what is done.  One is content to have good motives and not too anxious about making mistakes.  In this way one can swim with the living stream of life and remain at every moment in contact with God, in the hiddenness and ordinariness of the present moment with its obvious task.”

What is your favorite quote?

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

51DJfJVBpBL (1)

The Paradox of the Illuminated Way – 6 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation edited by William H. Shannon

81MA-v3wVDL1. Bearing with problems until they solve themselves

“One of the strange laws of the contemplative life is that in it you do not sit down and solve problems: you bear with them until they somehow solve themselves.  Or until life itself solves them for you.  Usually the solution consists in a discovery that they only existed insofar as they were inseparably connected with your own illusory exterior self.  The solution of most such problems comes with the dissolution of this false self.  And consequently another law of the contemplative life is that if you enter it with the set purpose of seeking contemplation, or worse still, happiness, you will find neither.  For neither can be found unless it is first in some sense renounced.  And again, this means renouncing the illusory self that seeks to be ‘happy’ and to find ‘fulfillment’ (whatever that may mean) in contemplation…”

2. Solitude is necessary for spiritual freedom

“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 or 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.”

3. The awareness of mystery

“…the sacred attitude is one which does not recoil from our own inner emptiness, but rather penetrates into it with awe, reverence, and with the awareness of mystery.”

4. The creative energy of love

“In active contemplation, a man becomes able to live within himself.  He learns to be at home with his own thoughts.  He becomes to a greater and greater degree independent of exterior supports.  His mind is pacified not by passive dependence on things outside himself – diversions, entertainments, conversations, business – but by its own constructive activity.  That is to say, that he derives inner satisfaction from spiritual creativeness: thinking his own thoughts, reaching his own conclusions, looking at his own life and directing it in accordance with his own inner truth, discovered in meditation and under the eyes of God.  He derives strength not from what he gets out of things and people, but from giving himself to life and to others.  He discovers the secret of life in the creative energy of love…”

5. Leave familiar and conventional patterns of thought and action

“When one is called into the darkness of contemplation, he is called to leave familiar and conventional patterns of thought and action and to judge by an entirely new and hidden criterion: by the unseen light of the Holy Spirit.  This of course is, from a certain point of view, fraught with great risk…”

6. The paradox of the illuminated way

“The paradox of the illuminated 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.”

Which quotes do you like the best?

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

51DJfJVBpBL (1)

Desire and Awareness – 10 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation

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. Constant tension and conflict

“The life of a contemplative is apt to be one constant tension and conflict between what he feels to be the interior movements of grace and the objective, exterior claims made upon him by the society to whose laws he is subject…”

3. Our true self

“Hence 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.”

4. The path of humility, obscurity, and emptiness

“The grace of contemplation leads always in the path of humility, obscurity, and emptiness.”

5. Contemplation should not be exaggerated

“Contemplation should not be exaggerated, distorted, and made to seem great.  It is essentially simple and humble.  No one can enter into it except by the path of obscurity…  It implies also much discipline… It implies justice to other people, truthfulness, hard work… Contemplation is not a kind of magic and easy shortcut to happiness and perfection…  There may be much desolation and suffering in the spirit of the contemplative, but there is always more joy than sorrow…”

6. Spiritual discipline

“Whenever one seeks the light of contemplation, he commits himself by that very fact to a certain spiritual discipline…”

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. Without the silence and recollection of the interior life

“To praise the contemplative life is not to reject every other form of life, but to seek a solid foundation for every other human striving.  Without the silence and recollection of the interior life, man loses contact with his real sources of energy, clarity, and peace.  When he tries to be his own god and insists on keeping his hands on everything, he drives himself to ruin…”

9. Desire and awareness

“…in the beginning of contemplation as well as in times of great trial, the desire and awareness of God are something so deep, so mute, and so tenuous that it is hard to realize their presence at all.  However, a glance is sufficient to tell you that they are there.  In fact, the true contemplative suffers from the fact that he thinks he is without desire of God, and that very suffering bears witness to his desire.  This suffering itself is often the work of infused love…”

10. Becoming aware of our innermost self

“The sacred attitude is, then, one of reverence, awe, and silence before the mystery that begins to take place within us when we become aware of our innermost self…”

Which quote most stands out to you?