Friday, November 30, 2012

the reality and unreality of our being

Photograph by Thomas Merton
"... it is in solitude that the monk most completely comes to discover the true inner dimensions of his own being, at once "real" and "unreal".  The conviction of ones' "self" as a static, absolute and invariable reality undergoes a profound transformation and dissolves in the burning light of an altogether new and unsuspected awareness.  In this awareness we see that our "reality" is not a firmly established ego-self already attained that merely has to be perfected, but rather that we are a "nothing", a "possibility" in which the gift of creative freedom can realize itself by its response to the free gift of love and grace.  This response means accepting our loneliness and our "potentiality" as a gift and a commission, as a trust to be used - as a "talent," in the language of the parables.  Our existence is then at once terrible and precious because radically it belongs not to us but to God.  Yet it will not be fully "His" unless we freely make it "ours" and then offer it to Him in praise.  This is what Christian tradition means by "obedience to the Word of God."  The monk must learn this for himself."

-Thomas Merton, "The Spiritual Father in the Desert Tradition", Merton and Hesychasm, p. 298


  1. ..This response means accepting our loneliness and our "potentiality" as a gift and a commission, as a trust to be used - as a "talent"..

    This is powerful stuff, Beth, and for me, acutely timely.

    Thank you...

    1. PS: Is the picture another of north India's astronomical clocks?

  2. In A Hidden Wholeness/The Visual World of Thomas Merton, this photo appears, "The Royal Observatory" in "New Delhi". It seems to me the photo reflects the tumult that might occur in the transformation of being Merton writes about, the dark and the light, all in motion, little footing for the self.

  3. Yes, J - I should have labeled the photo better, and thanks to James for doing it. When I was looking for a photo for these Merton words I found this one on my computer and thought it would work. Only later I realized that I had already previously posted it on this blog somewhere. I was going to look for another one today, but, as James says, it does works here. I felt like the looking up, dizzying, sense as one loses the usual "ego-ground" of ones being. It's a bit scary.

  4. There is no Truth within. There is no Truth in the past, there is no Truth in the future. Having no consolations, we exist in this moment, floating in space or an infinitely radiant sea of Conscious Light, totally sublimed, beyond consolation or belief, without the slightest fraction of abstract verbal consideration to console us, without the slightest fleshy prominence standing out against Infinity to make us Happy.

    That IS our Condition, you see. That IS the Truth of it. That is all there there iS. And it is not an answer. There are no answers in it. All your struggling for information and certainly is just more of the same old follishness. IT is all Conscious light an open-ended spontaneously arising Light Show. You go to your death without knowledge.

    Everything changes moment to moment. therefore the Law of the universe is change itself, the sacrifice of everything presently arising, now, now and now. Sacrifice is simply the Law, the disposition of Love. Sacrifice is inherently happy, inherently free. It has no answers.

    Everything will change. thus it is not in time that we have the Eternal Vision. It is the moment, in our disposition, in our love, in our sacrifice, by throwing everything away and being totally willing to be dead. You are not only free in this moment, you are also profoundly happy, and ridiculous.

    1. For sure, we are profoundly ridiculous and without answers ... really like your phrasing of "change". I like to think about that in the context of dynamic relationship.

      And "Willing to be Dead", I'd have to phrase as "Willing to be Empty". (is it possible to be willing to be dead? dead to ego, yes ... but dead?)

      I'd have to quibble a bit with "You go to your death without knowledge". I think that I know what you are saying, but I just wouldn't say it that way.

      I don't know that I'm struggling/reaching for information or answers as much as a "way - Way of being." For me, that involves a kind of searching / reaching. Perhaps eventually a collapse into having been there all along, seeing the place for the first time ... but I don't know that I get to that insight without looking around.

  5. In this time and place when left brained so called theologians are presumed to be the authorities on the the matters of ultimate importance it seems to me that the single most important sentence in the "New" Testament is the line attributed to "Paul", whoever he was.

    Namely that the LEFT-BRAINED word always kills the Living Spirit. Always, immediately and without exception.

    Furthermore how much more "theology" needs to be written? There is now more "theology" available than ever before. ALL of the multitude of possible "theological" topics and subjects, including all of the verses of the Bible have been written about countless numbers of times.

    And yet the human world is becoming more and more insane every day. And the leading vectors of this now universal insanity are right-wing so called "orthodox" or "traditionalist" Christians.

    The problem of true knowledge and Spiritual Truth is not theological or imtellectual, linguistic or cultural.It is the problem of the spirit, of the feeling-heart. It is the absence of Realization. There is nothing to be believed and no dogma to be attained. Truth is revealed, not talked about, or written in any form.

    The task before us is not the purification or ever more perfect rendering of ancient texts and matters of presumed report (as in the case of "Jesus"). Such is a temptation based on the need for the mind-created illusion of certainty.

    The pursuit of the literate answer, the mental solution of our philosophy and "theology", is uniquely responsible for the confusion and smallness, the self-involved and anxious energy of Western life, it. For this and not any dogmatic reason we must abandon or surrender the motive to this kind of seeking. We must become open to what is always already available at the centre of Life and Consciousness.

    The problem is the problem of the heart. The solution is actual surrender and Realization. Faith, or openness and surrender into the Living divine Reality, is the only path open to us. All else is partial and distracting, built on the motive of our sin, our failure to love and be free, our bondage to numberless fascinations, our dark urge to mortal superiority.

    1. that's why I like Centering Prayer - prayer of the heart. It is, at least for me, a way to get out of my head (left or right).



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