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Thomas Merton (January 31, 1915 – December 10, 1968)

Last post 01-01-2007, 12:31 PM by pattye. 21 replies.
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  •  12-10-2006, 5:29 PM 16301

    • perera is not online. Last active: 11-03-2007, 6:59 PM perera
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    Thomas Merton (January 31, 1915 – December 10, 1968)

    38 years after his passing, do you have quotes and passages from him that you would like to share?

    Here's one -

    Merton Prayer

    MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

    - Thomas Merton, "Thoughts in Solitude"
    © Abbey of Gethsemani

     


    Nomali


    ~Save the Earth- it's the only planet with Chocolate.

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  •  12-10-2006, 5:41 PM 16303 in reply to 16301

    Re: Thomas Merton (January 31, 1915 – December 10, 1968)

    I had forgotten that today is the anniversary of Merton's passing (as I had forgotten that the 8th was Bodhi Day).  Thank you, Nomali, for honoring him.  He was my first spiritual "hero," and still has a special place in my heart.

    Here is one of his poems:

    Night Flowering Cactus

    I know my time, which is obscure, silent and brief
    For I am present without warning one night only.

    When sun rises on the brass valleys I become serpent.

    Though I show my true self only in the dark and to no man
    (For I appear by day as serpent)
    I belong neither to night nor day.

    Sun and city never see my deep white bell
    Or know my timeless moment of void:
    There is no reply to my munificence.

    When I come I lift my sudden Eucharist
    Out of the earth's unfathomable joy
    Clean and total I obey the world's body
    I am intricate and whole, not art but wrought passion
    Excellent deep pleasure of essential waters
    Holiness of form and mineral mirth:

    I am the extreme purity of virginal thirst.

    I neither show my truth nor conceal it
    My innocence is described dimly
    Only by divine gift
    As a white cavern without explanation.

    He who sees my purity
    Dares not speak of it.
    When I open once for all my impeccable bell
    No one questions my silence:
    The all-knowing bird of night flies out of my mouth.

    Have you seen it? Then though my mirth has quickly ended
    You live forever in its echo:
    You will never be the same again.


    May the boundless knowledge that time presents and space allows illuminate the native perspectives of your original face.

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  •  12-10-2006, 8:45 PM 16311 in reply to 16303

    • maryw is not online. Last active: 12-02-2007, 1:05 AM maryw
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    Re: Thomas Merton (January 31, 1915 – December 10, 1968)

    I love Thomas Merton and his commitment to contemplation, social justice, and Buddhist-Christian dialogue.

    It is under his influence that a contemplative renewal has emerged within Christianity during the past 35 years.

    I remember being affected by these passages from his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, in which he questions his decision to join the Franciscan order. He eventually went on to become a Cistercian / Trappist instead (same order as Father Thomas Keating), but first had to recognize that the monastic life would not provide an escape out of difficulty and temptation into comfort and heavenly ease:

    I imagined, in my stupid inexperience, that the fight against concupiscence had already been won, and that my soul was free, and that I had little or nothing to worry about any more.

    No, all I would have to do would be to enter the novitiate, and undergo one year of inconveniences so slight that they would hardly be noticeable, and after that everything would be full of fine and easy delights--plenty of freedom, plenty of time to read and study and meditate, and ample liberty to follow my own tastes and desires in all things of the mind and spirit. Indeed, I was entering upon a life of the highest possible natural pleasures: for even prayer, in a certain sense, can be a natural pleasure...

    God was not going to let me walk out of the miseries of the world into a refuge of my own choosing. He had another way prepared for me. He had several questions He wanted to ask me about this vocation of mine: questions which I would not be able to answer...

    ....these words [from the Book of Job] had a dark fire in them with which I began to feel myself burned and seared:

    If He Come to me, I shall not see Him: if He depart, I shall not understand . . . . If He examine me on a sudden who shall answer Him? Or who can say: why dost Thou so?

    There was something in the words that seemed to threaten all the peace I had been tasting for months past, a kind of forewarning of an accusation that would unveil forgotten realities. I had fallen asleep in my sweet security. I was living as if God only existed to do me temporal favors . . .

    . . . Anyway, one day I woke up to find out that the peace I had known for six months or more had suddenly gone.

    The Eden I had been living in had vanished. I was outside the wall. I did not know what flaming swords barred my way to the gate whose rediscovery had become impossible. I was once more out in the cold and naked and alone.

    Then everything began to fall apart, especially my vocation to the monastery. . .

    . . . When I looked at myself in the light of this doubt, it began to appear utterly impossible that anyone in his right mind could consider me fit material for the priesthood.

    Merton's first taste of "self-knowledge" hinted to me, at a time when I was fresh from conversion and in that joyful "spiritual honeymoon" period, that a contemplative path would not be all sweetness and light!

    Mary

     


    Let the beauty we love be what we do.
    There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

    ~Rumi
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  •  12-10-2006, 9:03 PM 16313 in reply to 16301

    Re: Thomas Merton (January 31, 1915 – December 10, 1968)

    Seeing this post/call for quoats of Thomas Merton gave meback a memory of the first time I cried in a zendo. That warm morning, as a fan was turned on to cool the room,( reminded of how he went ) I sobbed with thankfulness for being reminded of him there, for an invocation of his influence.

    Turning to what he called "Antipoem I" I recalled his friend, Jacques Maritain, writing something about the power of a poem, or artwork, being in the prophetic relation to the destiny of the poet, or artist.

    Antipoem I

    O the gentle fool / He fell in love / With the electric light / Do you not know, fool, / That love is dynamite? // Keep to what is yours / Do not interfere / With the established law / See the dizzy victims of romance / Unhappy moths! / Please observe / This ill-wondered troth. // All the authorities / In silence anywhere / Swear you only love your mind / If you marry a hot wire. // Obstinate fool / What future we face / If one and all / Follow your theology // You owe the human race / An abject apology.

    -Thomas Merton                                                                ( '67 ? )

     

    Though Merton may have only been extolling the value of being "off the grid", or of not exclusivly attending to the horizontal at the expense of the verticle, I, as a newcomer to being on-line, just recently familiarizing with the internet, am astounded at the relevence of this medium to personal development. My resistance to cyberspace now seems foolish indeed. Thank you Nomali and the whole Integral' team.


    'takes all kinds.
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  •  12-11-2006, 1:58 AM 16316 in reply to 16313

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    Re: Thomas Merton (January 31, 1915 – December 10, 1968)

    A New Humanism

    "Christianity does not teach man to attain an inner ideal of divine tranquillity and stoic quiet by abstracting himself from material things. It teaches him to give himself to his brother and to his world in a service of love in which God will manifest his creative power through men on earth.

    The center of Christian humanism is the idea that God is love, not infinite power. Being love, God has given himself without reservation to man so that He has become man. It is man, in Christ, who has the mission of not only making himself human but of becoming divine by the gift of the Spirit of Love."

    -- Thomas Merton, from Love and Living


    Let the beauty we love be what we do.
    There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

    ~Rumi
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  •  12-11-2006, 2:06 AM 16317 in reply to 16316

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    Re: Thomas Merton (January 31, 1915 – December 10, 1968)

    "God utters me like a word containing a partial thought of Himself.

    If I am true to the concept that God utters in me, if I am true to the thought of Him I was meant to embody, I shall be full of His actuality and find Him everywhere in myself, and find myself nowhere.

    To be 'lost is to be left to the arbitrariness and pretences of the contingent ego, the smoke-self that must inevitably vanish.

    To be 'saved' is to return to one's inviolate and eternal reality and to live in God."

    --Thomas Merton, from New Seeds of Contemplation


    Let the beauty we love be what we do.
    There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

    ~Rumi
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  •  12-11-2006, 7:07 AM 16326 in reply to 16317

    • perera is not online. Last active: 11-03-2007, 6:59 PM perera
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    Re: Thomas Merton (January 31, 1915 – December 10, 1968)

    Yet it is in this loneliness that the deepest activities begin. It is here that you discover act without motion, labor that is profound repose, vision in obscurity, and, beyond all desire, a fulfillment whose limits extend to infinity.
    Thomas Merton

     


    Nomali


    ~Save the Earth- it's the only planet with Chocolate.

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  •  12-11-2006, 12:57 PM 16343 in reply to 16326

    Re: Thomas Merton (January 31, 1915 – December 10, 1968)

    One of the most famous passages from Merton's Asian Journal (on his visit to Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka):

    "I am able to approach the Buddhas barefoot and undisturbed, my feet in wet grass, wet sand. Then the silence of the extraordinary faces. The great smiles. Huge and yet subtle. Filled with every possibility, questioning nothing, knowing everything, rejecting nothing, the peace not of emotional resignation but of Madhyamika, of sunyata, the Void, that has seen through every question without trying to discredit anyone or anything - without refutation – without establishing some argument. For the doctrinaire, the mind that needs well established positions, such peace, such silence, can be frightening.
     
    I was knocked over with a rush of relief and thankfulness at the obvious clarity of the figures, the clarity and fluidity of shape and line, the design of the monumental bodies composed into the rock shape and landscape, figure rock and tree. And the sweep of bare rock slopping away on the other side of the hollow, where you can go back and see different aspects of the figures. Looking at these figures I was suddenly, almost forcibly, jerked clean out of the habitual, half-tied vision of things, and an inner clearness, clarity, as if exploding from the rocks themselves, became evident and obvious. The queer evidence of the reclining figure, the smile, the sad smile of Ananda standing with arms folded (much more imperative than Da Vinci's Mona Lisa because completely simple and straightforward).

    The thing about all this is that there is no puzzle, no problem and really no 'mystery.' All problems are resolved and everything is clear, simply because what matters is clear. The rock, all matter, all life is charged with dharmakaya -- everything is emptiness and everything is compassion. I don't know when in my life I have ever had such a sense of beauty and spiritual validity running together in one aesthetic illumination. Surely, with Mahabalipuram and Polonnaruwa my Asian pilgrimage had become clear and had purified itself. I mean, I know and have seen what I was obscurely looking for. I don't know what else remains, but I have now seen and have pierced through the surface and have got beyond the shadow and the disguise.  The whole thing is very much a Zen garden, a span of bareness and openness and evidence… a beautiful and holy vision.” ("Asian Journal" pgs. 233 -236)


    May the boundless knowledge that time presents and space allows illuminate the native perspectives of your original face.

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  •  12-12-2006, 1:22 AM 16369 in reply to 16343

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    Re: Thomas Merton (January 31, 1915 – December 10, 1968)

    Recollections of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West

    by
    Bro. David Steindl-Rast O.S.B.

    See here.

     


    Nomali


    ~Save the Earth- it's the only planet with Chocolate.

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  •  12-12-2006, 7:08 PM 16399 in reply to 16369

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    Re: Thomas Merton (January 31, 1915 – December 10, 1968)

    Reflecting on Merton, Henri Nouwen wrote:

    It is perhaps always a bit disappointing when we look for an answer to the question of God in our lives. We are left only with the titles of books, names of people and a few old facts. It seems all a bit lean and superficial. God doesn't let Himself get caught in titles, names, and facts. But He lets Himself be suspected. And therefore it is only the one who prays to God, quite possibly the one who searches for silence himself, who can recognize Him in the many little ideas, meetings, and happenings on the way.


    Let the beauty we love be what we do.
    There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

    ~Rumi
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  •  12-12-2006, 7:15 PM 16401 in reply to 16399

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    Re: Thomas Merton (January 31, 1915 – December 10, 1968)

    ".... It is basic to Zen ... and to Christian mysticism ... to radically and unconditionally question the ego which appears to be the subject of the transcendent experience, and thus of course to radically question the whole nature of experience itself precisely as 'experience.' Are we any longer able to speak of an experience when the subject of the experience is not a limited, well-defined, empirical subject? Or, to put it in other words, are we able to speak of 'consciousness' when the conscious subject is no longer able to be aware of itself as separate and unique? Then if the empirical ego is conscious at all, it is conscious of itself as transcended, left behind, irrelevant, illusory, and indeed as the root of all ignorance (avidya)? ...

    In the Christian tradition the focus of this 'experience' is found not in the individual self as a separate, limited and temporal ego, but in Christ, or the Holy Spirit 'within' this self. In Zen it is Self with a capital S, that is to say precisely not the ego-self. This Self is the Void."

    Merton, from The Way of Chuang Tzu


    Let the beauty we love be what we do.
    There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

    ~Rumi
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  •  12-12-2006, 7:18 PM 16403 in reply to 16401

    • maryw is not online. Last active: 12-02-2007, 1:05 AM maryw
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    Re: Thomas Merton (January 31, 1915 – December 10, 1968)

    "There is no wilderness so terrible, so beautiful, so arid and so fruitful as the wilderness of compassion. It is the only desert that shall truly flourish like the lily ...."

    Merton, from The Sign of Jonas


    Let the beauty we love be what we do.
    There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

    ~Rumi
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  •  12-12-2006, 10:47 PM 16422 in reply to 16369

    Re: Thomas Merton (January 31, 1915 – December 10, 1968)

    Reading Bro. David's Recollections of Thomas Merton's Last days in the West, and looking through that at my own expirience of formal communities, including to some degree this less formal (on-line) community of  I I forums, one notion, .."substituting activity for growth,.." lept with poignant resonance as a kind of calling me on a familiar personal tendancy.

    Further, considering this forum a mode of community, another passage stood out as relevent to me now ( having overheard too much re: chief exec.off. travails).

    Bro. David quoats Fr. Louis as saying, "You don't want to repudiate the community, but you have to go it alone at times. If the community is made up of a little group of people who always try to support one another... nothing happens and all growth is being stifled. This is possibly one of the greatest dangers we face in the future." 

    Co-rising with my floating the prospect of treating the on-line scene as naturally as the proximal relationships (which, prior to these few posts, were the only explicit vessels for discoarse I'd used, exepting snailstyle correspondence) I've noticed a definite affect-force evoked in me while reading posts or blogs, which surprises me, which I then wonder if some shadow-work might be a valid addressing of my own "substituting activity for growth", even while posting. 

    With Trust and Thanks, KCD


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  •  12-13-2006, 1:16 AM 16429 in reply to 16422

    Re: Thomas Merton (January 31, 1915 – December 10, 1968)

    Thomas Merton was one of 20th centuries greatest Christian mystics...

     

    The term mysticism derives from The Mystical Theology, a tiny treatise written by the greatest Christian writer of the sixth century, Dionysius the Areopagite, a.k.a. Pseudo-Dionysius or St. Denys [the Areopagite]. But Dionysius is in no way the "founder" of Christian mysticism. That honor belongs to none but Jesus the Christ himself. But there was mysticism long before Jesus was born. God "strolled in the Garden" with man (Heb. 'adam). Jacob saw heaven opened. God spoke to Joseph through dreams. Moses communed with God on Sinai. David lost himself in dancing for the Lord.

    But when Jesus declared "I and the Father are one," (Jn. 10.30) he proclaimed in himself the union of God and humankind, and he offers it to all who follow him (he gave the power to become sons of God to all who believe. (Jn. 1.12).

    From there, the mystic heart is seen in the letters of the apostles: Paul reached the divinized state of losing his "self": I no longer live, but Christ lives in me! (Gal. 2.20) James wrote that every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of Lights, in whom there is no variation nor shadow of turning. (Jas. 1.17) Peter proclaimed that Christ even descended to hell to liberate imprisoned souls, (1 Pet. 3.19) and John understood the most sublime truth of God's essence: God is Love! (1 Jn. 4.8,16). This is only the beginning. Every century has been influenced by Christian mystics—from apostles and martyrs, Church Fathers and Desert Mothers, to monks and nuns of religious orders, to the lay mystics—men and women and boys and girls in every century, in every denomination, in every walk of life.


    JC
    33° 13' N 87° 37' W
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  •  12-13-2006, 11:54 AM 16459 in reply to 16429

    Re: Thomas Merton (January 31, 1915 – December 10, 1968)

    Not sure if it was something I ate last night that caused this, but my night was full of vivid dreams.  Strangely, at one point, I recall dreaming of a saxophone-playing camel.  He had a complicated contraption draped around his head that allowed him to play it, and he could also back his head away from the big, canvas-like opening and move his lips in a way that produced the sound of barroom, tinkling jazz piano.  Someone next to me whispered that Thomas Merton was one of the first people who really appreciated the talents of the sax-playing camel.  They said he used to sit in the Oberoi Hotel, sipping Arak and listening to this camel's sultry strains in the evening after attending intermonastic conferences in the day...

     


    May the boundless knowledge that time presents and space allows illuminate the native perspectives of your original face.

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