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Remember Augustine’s dictum, “Amor meus, pondus meum.” “My love is a weight, a gravitational force.” As one loves temporal things, one gains an illusory substantiality and a selfhood which gravitates “downward,” that is to say acquires a need for things lower in the scale of being than itself. It depends on these things for its own self-affirmation. In the end this gravitational pull becomes an enslavement to material and temporal cares, and finally to sin. Yet this weight itself is an illusion, a result of the “puffing up” of pride, a “swelling” without reality. The self that appears to be weighed down by its love and carried away to material things is, in fact, an unreal thing. Yet it retains an empirical existence of its own: it is what we think of as ourselves.

Thomas Merton (1915 – 1968)

All the matter of the world that surrounds us, the food that we eat, the water that we drink, the air that we breathe, the stones that our houses are built of, our own bodies — everything is permeated by all the matters that exist in the universe. There is no need to study or investigate the sun in order to discover the matter of the solar world; this matter exists in ourselves and is the result of the division of our atoms. In the same way we have in us the matter of all other worlds. Man is, in the full sense of the term, a “miniature universe”; in him are all the matters of which the universe consists; the same forces, the same laws that govern the life of the universe, operate in him; therefore in studying man we can study the whole world, just as in studying the world we can study man.

P. D. Ouspensky (1878 – 1947)

There is no greater mystery than this, that we keep seeking reality though in fact we are reality. We think that there is something hiding reality and that this must be destroyed before reality is gained. How ridiculous! A day will dawn when you will laugh at all your past efforts. That which will be the day you laugh is also here and now.

Ramana Maharshi (1879 – 1950)

Start first with yourself and abandon yourself. Truly, if you won’t first leave yourself, wherever you may go you will find obstacles and war, anywhere. They who seek peace in external things — in places or in ways and methods, in persons or works, in monasticism or isolation, in poverty or humility, in anything, however great that might be — not one of them has the least value and it does not bring peace at all.

They who ask this way, ask wrong. The further they go, the less they find what they seek. They walk like the man who has lost his way: the more he walks the more his delusion grows… But if someone abandons himself, whatever else he might keep, whether riches or honours, or anything, he has abandoned all things. See yourself and wherever you find him, see him off. The more you go out of all things, that much, neither less nor more, God comes in you with all that is His.

Meister Eckhart (circa 1260 – 1328)

It is not “man” in the abstract who recognizes anything. It is always a certain principle, having become active in him, that recognizes its own counterpart in external nature, when it comes in contact with it. Only he in whom is light can see the light; only the element of love can feel love; only the divinity in man can know God in and through man.

Jacob Boehme (1575 – 1624)

The spiritual life justifies itself to those who live it, but what can we say to those who do not understand? This, at least, we can say: that it is a life whose experiences are proved real to their possessor, because they remain with him when brought closest into contact with the objective realities of life. Dreams cannot stand this test. We wake from them to find that they are but dreams. Wanderings of an overwrought brain do not stand this test. These highest experiences that I have had of God’s presence have been rare and brief — flashes of consciousness which have compelled me to exclaim with surprise, “God is here!”

William James (1842 – 1910), from The Varieties of Religious Experience, attributed to J. Trevor

You grieve for those for whom you should not grieve. The wise grieve neither for the living nor the dead. Never at any time was I not, nor thou, nor these princes of man, nor shall we ever cease to be. The unreal has no being, the real never ceases to be.

Bhaghavad-Gita (500 B.C.E.)

Jesus’ followers asked him, “When will the kingdom come?” He answered, “It will not come by watching for it. It will not be said, ‘Look, here it is,’ or ‘Look, there it is.’ Rather, the father’s kingdom is spread out upon the earth, and people do not see it.”

Gospel of Thomas

You have to make your own world, instead of succumbing to the one that presses on you. You have to turn the tables on what appears to be fate or the full weight of society. Against the greatest odds, you have to keep your wits about you and refuse to surrender to anyone or anything less than divine. You have to be faithful to the mystery taking place in your heart, rather than to any idea or system that would try, with the best of motives, to disempower you and make you theirs.

Thomas Moore (1940)

And it is in this darkness, when there is nothing left in us that can please or comfort our own minds, when we seem to be useless and worthy of all contempt, when we seem to have failed, when we seem to be destroyed and devoured, it is then that the deep and secret selfishness that is too close to us for us to identify is stripped away from our souls. It is in this darkness that we find liberty. It is in this abandonment that we are made strong. This is the night which empties us and makes us pure.

Thomas Merton (1915 – 1968)

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