Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Tag: The New Man

Being What We Are Not – 5 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – The New Man

41yINHj74-L._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_1. A stubborn insistence on being what we are not

“For pride is a stubborn insistence on being what we are not and never were intended to be. Pride is a deep, insatiable need for unreality, an exorbitant demand that others believe the lie we have made ourselves believe about ourselves. It infects at once man’s person and the whole society he lives in… Pride and selfishness then react upon one another in a vicious circle, each one greatly enlarging the other’s capacity to destroy our life. In a sense, pride is simply a form of supreme and absolute subjectivity. It sees all things from the viewpoint of a limited, individual self that is constituted as the center of the universe. Now everyone knows that, subjectively we see and feel as if we were at the center of things, since that is the way we are made. Pride however comes and elevates this subjective feeling into metaphysical absolute. The self must be treated as if, not merely in feeling but in actual fact, the whole universe revolves around it… If I am the center of the universe, then everything belongs to me. I can claim, as my due, all the good things of the earth. I can rob and cheat and bully other people. I can help myself to anything I like, and no one can resist me. Yet at the same time all must respect and love me as a benefactor, a sage, a leader, a king. They must let me bully them and take away all that they have and on top of it all they must bow down, kiss my feet and treat me as god.”

2. Avoid acting like a baby

“Humility, therefore, is absolutely necessary if man is to avoid acting like a baby all his life. To grow up means, in fact, to become humble, to throw away the illusion that I am at the center of everything and that other people only exist to provide me with comfort and pleasure…”

3. Recognize our own illusions

“We must at least know ourselves well enough to recognize our own illusions, our own limitations, our own weaknesses, enough to be able to tell when it is not the charity of Christ that speaks in our hearts, but only our own self pity… or ambition, or cowardice, or thirst for domination.”

4. Our own liberty

“Without the free and conscious and clearly realized exercise of our own liberty we cannot become, in the full sense, persons.”

5. The divine image in our soul

“Just as some men have to struggle to recover a natural, spontaneous realization of their own capacity for life and movement and physical enjoyment, so all men  have to struggle to regain the spontaneous and vital awareness of their spirituality, of the fact that they have a soul that is capable of coming to life and experiencing profound and hidden values… And this spirituality in man is identified with the divine image in our soul.”

How can we stop acting like a baby all our life?

Purchase The New Man

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 Genuine Knowledge of Ourselves – 8 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – The New Man

41yINHj74-L._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_1. In the substance of our souls

“By this immersion of the created image in the uncreated Image, we live in God and God lives in us… Our natural life is hidden in God Who dwells in the substance of our soul.”

2. Destroyed all spontaneity

“The free man is the one whose choices have given him the power to stand on his own feet and determine his own life according to the higher light and spirit that are in him. The slave, in the spiritual order, is the man whose choices have destroyed all spontaneity in him and have delivered him over, bound hand and foot, to his own compulsions, idiosyncrasies and illusions, so that he never does what he really wants to do, but only what he has to do. His spirit is not in command, and therefore he cannot run his own life…”

3. Consoled by an imaginary Christ

“To have strength, love must face realities. It must confront obstacles. It must accept difficulties. It must make sacrifices. It must be mature. Too often the love which we believe to be charity is merely an evasion of reality and responsibilities. It is the sentimental refuge to which we retire so as not to be bothered by the difficulties and hardships of life: a false sanctuary in which we are consoled by an imaginary Christ.”

4. No cure but mysticism

“The spiritual anguish of man has no cure but mysticism.”

5. The inner recesses of our conscience

“The inner recesses of our conscience, where the image of God is branded in the very depths of our being, ceaselessly reminds us that we are born for a higher freedom and for a far more spiritual fulfillment. Although there is no ‘natural’ bridge between the natural and the supernatural, the concrete situation in which man finds himself, as a nature created for a supernatural end, makes anguish inevitable. He cannot rest unless he rests in God: not merely the God of nature, but the Living God, not the God that can be objectified in a few abstract notions, but the God Who is above all concept. Not the God of a mere notional or moral union, but the God Who becomes One Spirit with our own soul! This alone is the reality for which we are made. Here alone do we finally ‘find ourselves’…”  

6. Exercise of our own liberty

“Without the free and conscious and clearly realized exercise of our own liberty we cannot become, in the full sense, persons.”

7. A genuine knowledge of ourselves

“But in order to interiorize our spiritual activity we have to develop our awareness of spiritual realities. And this spiritual awareness, which depends first of all on faith, is also impossible if we do not have a genuine knowledge of ourselves.”

8. Never really know ourselves as persons

“Grace is given us for the precise purpose of enabling us to discover and actualize our deepest and truest self. Unless we discover this deep self, which is hidden with Christ in God, we will never really know ourselves as persons…”

Have we been pursuing a genuine knowledge of ourselves?

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 Mystic – 13 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – The New Man

41yINHj74-L._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_1. Without awareness

“The fulness of human life cannot be measured by anything that happens only to the body.  Life is not merely a matter of physical vigor, or of health, or of the capacity to enjoy oneself.  What is life?  It is something far more than the breath in our nostrils, the blood beating in our wrists, the response to physical stimulation.  True, all these things are essential for a fully human life, but they do not themselves constitute that life in all its fulness.  A man can have all this and still be an idiot.  And one who merely breathes, eats, sleeps and works, without awareness, without purpose and without ideas of his own is not really a man.  Life, in this purely physical sense, is merely the absence of death.  Such people do not live, they vegetate.”

2. The soul’s structure

“The ‘image’ of God is found in the soul’s structure – awareness, thought, love…”

3. Pride and selfishness

“For pride is a stubborn insistence on being what we are not and never were intended to be.  Pride is a deep, insatiable need for unreality, an exorbitant demand that others believe the lie we have made ourselves believe about ourselves.  It infects at once man’s person and the whole society he lives in…  Pride and selfishness then react upon one another in a vicious circle, each one greatly enlarging the other’s capacity to destroy our life…”

4. To know myself fully

“But if my true spiritual identity is found in my identification with Christ, then to know myself fully, I must know Christ…”

5. One and the same thing

“…for Christianity and Christian mysticism were, originally, one and the same thing…”

6. If we think we see perfectly

“If we think we see perfectly, after all our speculation, we deceive ourselves…”

7. Love is specified not by laws

“Love is specified not by laws but by persons.  Love has its laws, but they are concrete, existential laws based on values hidden in the very person of the Beloved…”

8. Our own liberty

Without the free and conscious and clearly realized exercise of our own liberty we cannot become, in the full sense, persons.”

9. Our deepest self

The deep option that makes us free, and thereby brings to life our true, our deepest self, is a resurrection of Christ in our own lives…”

10. The absence of a reality

“Death is not a reality, but the absence of a reality…”

11. We are never fully ourselves

“In order to be fully himself, man needs to love another as himself…  We are never fully ourselves until we realize that those we truly love become our ‘other selves’…”

12. The mystic

“The ‘mystic’ is simply the ‘spiritual’ man in the fullest sense of the word ‘spiritual’…”

13. To awaken to one’s own reality

“Who can comprehend or explain the mystery of what it means to awaken to one’s own reality as an existential consequence of the fact that we are loved by Reality itself?…”

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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Entirely Available to Love – 8 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – The New Man

41yINHj74-L._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_1. Expand and extend our power to love others

“For a man to be alive, he must exercise not only the acts that belong to vegetative and animal life, he must not only subsist, grow, be sentient, not only move himself around, feed himself, and the rest.  He must carry on the activities proper to his own specifically human kind of life.  He must, that is to say, think intelligibly.  Above all he must direct his actions by free decisions, made in the light of his own thinking.  These decisions, moreover, must tend to his own intellectual and moral and spiritual growth.  They must tend to make him more aware of his capacities for knowledge and for free action.  They must expand and extend his power to love others, and to dedicate himself to their good: for it is in this that he finds his fulfillment.”

2. The full meaning of our existence

“To find the full meaning of our existence we must find not the meaning that we expect but the meaning that is revealed to us by God…”

3. Our own personal existence

“Man is fully alive only when he experiences, at least to some extent, that he is really spontaneously dedicating himself, in all truth, to the real purpose of his own personal existence…”

4. Our deepest and truest self

“Grace is given us for the precise purpose of enabling us to discover and actualize our deepest and truest self…”

5. Humility is absolutely necessary

“Humility, therefore, is absolutely necessary if man is to avoid acting like a baby all his life.  To grow up means, in fact, to become humble, to throw away the illusion that I am the center of everything and that other people only exist to provide me with comfort and pleasure…”

6. Mysticism

“The spiritual anguish of man has no cure but mysticism.”

7. Conscious of everything trivial

“Having lost his realization of his true identity, man has exchanged the peace of innocent self-realization for the agony of guilt-ridden self-awareness.  Instead of being perfectly actualized in spirit, integrated and unified in the selfless ecstasy of a contemplation that goes out entirely to the ‘other,’ man is literally ‘dis-tracted’ – pulled apart – by an almost infinite number of awarenesses.  He is conscious of everything trivial, remembers everything except what is most necessary, feels everything that he should not feel, yields to demands that he should never even hear, looks everywhere, pays attention to every creaking board and rattling shutter in his haunted house.  For his soul and body, created to be a temple of God, cannot help but seem a haunted place after the desecration that has evicted its only rightful dweller.  It is of no avail to try to exorcise the accusing silence by turning the place into a den of thieves.  No amount of business prosperity and luxury can hide the abomination of desolation within us.”

8. Entirely available to love

“There are few true contemplatives in the world because there are few men who are completely lost to themselves and entirely available to love…”

Which quotes are your favorite?

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

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Our Deepest Self – 9 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – The New Man


41yINHj74-L._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_

1. Beyond the surface of all that is actual

“…the mystic goes further still and plunges into the dynamic infinity of a Reality which not only IS, but which pours forth from its own inexhaustible depths the reality of everything else that is real.  The mystic, that is to say the contemplative, not only sees and touches what is real, but beyond the surface of all that is actual, he attains to communion with the Freedom Who is the source of all actuality…”

2. Grace is unity

“Grace is not a strange, magic substance which is subtly filtered in our souls to act as a kind of spiritual penicillin.  Grace is unity, oneness with ourselves, oneness with God…”

3. Awareness, thought, love

“The ‘image’ of God is found in the soul’s structure – awareness, thought, love…”

4. Entirely available to love

“On this readiness to change depends our whole supernatural destiny.  There are few true contemplatives in the world because there are few men who are completely lost to themselves and entirely available to love.  That is to say there are few who are able to renounce their own methods of self-support in the spiritual journey towards God…”

5. An inner transformation

“Jesus not only teaches us the Christian life, He creates it in our souls by the action of His Spirit.  Our life in Him is not a matter of mere ethical goodwill.  It is not a mere moral perfection.  It is an entirely new spiritual reality, an inner transformation.”

6. Free, spontaneous, sincere

“Christianity is a religion of love…  Love is impossible without obedience that unites the wills of the lover and the One loved.  But love is destroyed by a union of wills that is forced rather than spontaneous…  God does not want the worship of compulsion, but worship that is free, spontaneous, sincere, ‘in spirit and in truth.’  True, there must always be a limit where human weakness is protected against itself by a categorical command: ‘Thou shall not!’ There can be no love of God that ignores such commands.  However, a true and mature love obeys not because it is commanded, but because it loves.”

7. Realities, obstacles, difficulties

“Our love, left to itself, is not always either very pure or very strong.  To have strength, love must face realities.  It must confront obstacles.  It must accept difficulties.  It must make sacrifices.  It must be mature.  Too often the love which we believe to be charity is merely an evasion of reality and responsibilities.  It is the sentimental refuge to which we retire so as not to be bothered by the difficulties and hardships of life: a false sanctuary in which we are consoled by an imaginary Christ.”

8. Exercise of our own liberty

“Without the free and conscious and clearly realized exercise of our own liberty we cannot become, in the full sense, persons.”

9. Our deepest self

“The awakening of our spiritual liberty is impossible unless a movement of the loving and merciful will of Christ reaches out to touch and stir the depths of our own spirit.  The deep option that makes us free, and thereby brings to life our true, our deepest self, is a resurrection of Christ in our own lives.  It is the movement that our own will makes when it is mysteriously united with His, as if we were but one will, one person.”

Which quote do you enjoy the most?

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