Snapshot of Merton Hermitage
Taken by Jim Forest in November 1964
"As for spiritual life: what I object to about [the phrase] ‘the Spiritual Life’ is the fact that it is a part, a section, set off as if it were a whole. It is an aberration to set off our ‘prayer’ etc. from the rest of our existence, as if we were sometimes spiritual, sometimes not. As if we had to resign ourselves tofeeling that the unspiritual moments were a dead loss. That is not right at all, and because it is an aberration, it causes an enormous amount of useless suffering. Our ‘life in the Spirit’ is all-embracing, or should be. First it is the response of faith receiving the word of God, not only as a truth to be believed but as a gift of life to be lived in total submission and pure confidence. Then this implies fidelity and obedience, but a total fidelity and a total obedience. From the moment that I obey God in everything, where is my ‘spiritual life’? It is gone out the window, there is no spiritual life, only God and His word and my total response."
— Thomas Merton, extract from a letter to Etta Gullick, an Oxford scholar with whom he had an extensive correspondence during the last eight years of his life
The Hidden Ground of Love: The Letters of Thomas Merton on Religious Experience and Social Concerns, ed. William H. Shannon (NY: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1985), p 357.
HT: Jim Forest