Friday, February 2, 2007

an inner dynamism

Brush drawing by Thomas Merton, "Untitled"
image size: 11 3/4" h x 7"w
This is very powerful if you take the time to read it slowly and carefully:
December 23, 1967. "We must face the challenge of the future realizing that we are still problems to ourselves. Where the religious dimension enters in is not just in pious clich├ęs but in a radical self-criticism and openness and a profound ability to trust not only in our chances of a winning gamble, but in an inner dynamism of life itself, a basic creativity, a power of life to win over entropy and death. But once again, we have to pay attention to the fact that we may formulate this in words, and our unconscious death-drive may be contradicting us in destructive undertones we don’t hear.

"In other words, we have all got to learn to be wide open, and not get closed up in little tight systems and cliques, little coteries of gnostic experts." (“Witness to Freedom, p. 73)

"In the case of a Zen artist, there is then no artistic reflection. The work of art springs “out of emptiness” and is transferred in a flash, by a few brush strokes, to paper. It is not a “representation of” anything, but rather it is the subject itself, existing as light, as art, in a drawing which has, so to speak, “drawn itself”. The work then is a concretized intuition: not however presented as a unique experience of a specially endowed soul, who can then claim it as his own. On the contrary, to make any such claim would instantly destroy the character of “emptiness” and suchness which the work might be imagined to have. " (The Literary Essays of Thomas Merton, p. 264. This text was first published in “The American Benedictine Review” in 1960.)

Notes from Roger Lipsey: "In any sound approach to abstract imagery, it helps to be alert to the afterimage or recessive image – an evocative form that is barely present, so that one can’t be sure of it, yet one falls under its spell. One senses that “something else,” difficult to name, is there. [In this image] the subliminally sensed image is of a standing, robed figure, perhaps distantly akin to ancient Chinese figures of the Buddha in which the robe flares out in elegant pleated folds. I cannot say that this is so; I can only say that there is the bearing of a standing figure in this dynamic yet stately image." (“Angelic Mistakes, The Art of Thomas Merton”, by Roger Lipsey, p. 44)


  1. I really do love your blog. Thanks for sharing!!!!

  2. thank you, joey. There really is so much to share with Merton. He's endless with topics to talk about!