Monday, September 5, 2011

How can one reject the effect if he continues to embrace the cause?

Photograph by Thomas Merton
Some extracts from the 1963 introduction to the Japanese translation of Seven Story Mountain.
"I have learned to look back into the world with greater compassion, seeing those in it not as alien to myself, not as peculiar and deluded strangers, but as identified with myself. In freeing myself from their delusions and preoccupations, I have identified myself, nonetheless, with their struggles and their blind, desperate hope of happiness.

"But precisely because I am identified with them, I must refuse all the more definitely to make their delusions my own. I must refuse their ideology of matter, power, quantity, movement, activism and force. I reject this because I see it to be the source and expression of the spiritual hell which man has made of his world: the hell which has burst into flame in two total wars of incredible horror the hell of spiritual emptiness and sub-human fury which has resulted in crimes like Auschwitz or Hiroshima. This I can and must reject with all the power of my being. This all sane men seek to reject. But the question is: how can one sincerely reject the effect if he continues to embrace the cause? ...

"The monastery is not an "escape from the world." On the contrary by being in the monastery I take my true part in all the struggles and sufferings of the world. To adopt a life that is essentially non-assertive, a nonviolent life of humility and peace, is in itself a statement of one's position. But each one in such a life can, by the personal modality of his decision, give his whole life a special orientation. It is my intention to make my entire life a rejection of, a protest against the crimes and injustices of war and political tyranny which threaten to destroy the whole race of man and the world with him....

"By my monastic life and vows I am saying no to all the concentration camps, the aerial bombardments, the staged political trials, the judicial murders, the racial injustices, the economic tyrannies, and the whole socio-economic apparatus which seems geared for nothing but global destruction in spite of all its fair words in favor of peace. I make monastic silence a protest against the lies of politicians, propagandists and agitators, and when I speak it is to deny that my faith and my Church can ever seriously be aligned with these forces of injustice and destruction.

"My life, then, must be a protest against [those who invoke their faith in support of war, racial injustice and tyranny] also, and perhaps against these most of all....

"The time has come for judgement to be passed on this history. I can rejoice in this fact, believing that the judgement will be a liberation of Christian faith from servitude to and involvement in the structures of the secular world. And that is why I think certain forms of Christian "optimism" are to be taken with reservation, in so far as they lack the genuine eschatological consciousness of the Christian vision, and concentrate upon the naive hope of merely temporal achievements — churches on the moon!

"If I say no to all these secular forces, I also say yes to all that is good in the world and in man. I say yes to all that is beautiful in nature, and in order that this may be the yes of a freedom and not of subjection, I must refuse to possess anything in the world purely as my own. I say yes to all the men and women who are my brothers and sisters in the world, but for the yes to be an assent of freedom and not of subjection, I must live so that no one of them may seem to belong to me, and that I may not belong to any of them. It is because I want to be more to them than a friend that I become, to all of them, a stranger. "

HT: Jim Forest


  1. Very powerful and wise words from Merton. As relevant today as as they were almost 50 years ago. Thanks for posting them, Beth.

  2. I like the way Merton makes his very monastic life a protest to the "ways of the world" - the greed, the power and force, the consumerism. It's really the only way we have. THanks for stopping by and commenting, Paul!

    1. I am new to your blog on Merton. Beautiful tribute by the way!! I agree with your comment, the greed, power and force, consumerism....leading us down a path to where I wonder??

      My morning hours are my favorite time to write. From 3:00 am till 7:00 am I write. I learn. I grow.

      Thank you for posting and continuing with your beautiful work for Thomas Merton.

  3. i was discussing finding the spiritual in everyone with my wife last night, how difficult it can be when you are working with people at a job, i found that people i find most unpleasant, i can sense their unhappiness, which is where i find the connection

    i still prefer not to be around them
    but i found writing down what they say somehow helps

    he's right about the monastery thing - i mean you have to deal with the same stuff as outside

    nowadays when the pres. or whomever says "country" over all other concerns, put country first, they mean: "kill as many as we say so"

  4. I think you're right about that thing about the country over all other concerns.

    Would love to see some of the things that you write about what the unhappy people say.


From Dorothy Day’s editorial in the Catholic Worker on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.