The Living Book

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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)

If he carries out all these rules while he observes himself, a man will record a whole series of very important aspects of his being. To begin with, he will record with unmistakable clearness the fact that his actions, thoughts, feelings, and words are the result of external influences and that nothing comes from himself. He will understand and see that he is in fact an automaton acting under the influences of external stimuli. He will feel his complete mechanicalness. Everything “happens,” he cannot “do” anything. He is a machine controlled by accidental shocks from outside. Each shock calls to the surface one of his “I’s.” A new shock and that ‘I’ disappears and a different one takes its place. Another small change in the environment and again there is a new ‘I.’

P. D. Ouspensky (1878 – 1947)

Instead of every man directing his energies to freeing himself, to transforming his conception of life, people seek for an external united method of gaining freedom, and continue to rivet their chains faster and faster.

Leo Tolstoy (1828 – 1910)

Those for whom the world smells only of matter, smell themselves only; those that see nothing but passing phenomena, see themselves and no deeper. Not in contemplation of the stars that wheel across the sky shall we discover Thee, O God, Thou who didst enrich with madness Don Quixote! The discovery comes by watching, from the depths of our hearts, the soaring of love’s aspirations. Love is the fairest and most profitable guest that a reasonable creature can entertain. To God it is the most acceptable and pleasing of all things. Not only does it comfort the spirit with sweetness and wisdom, and make her one with God, but it doth so constrain flesh and blood that a man slip never into the snare of trivial beguilements. In the light and warmth of love our life grows strong and comely; a better dwelling, nor a sweeter, never I found.

Richard Rolle (1300 – 1349)

A man can be himself only so long as he is alone, and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom, for it is only when he is alone that he is really free. Restraint is always present in society, like a companion of whom there is no riddance, and in proportion to the greatness of a man’s individuality, it will be hard for him to bear the sacrifices which all contact with others demands.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860)

Bliss is not something to be got. On the other hand you are always bliss. This desire for bliss is born of the sense of incompleteness. To whom is this sense of incompleteness? Enquire. In deep sleep you were blissful. Now you are not so. What has interposed between that bliss and this non-bliss? It is the ego. Seek its source and find you are bliss.

Ramana Maharshi (1879 – 1950)

Attention alone — that attention which is so full that the ‘I’ disappears — is required of me. I have to deprive all that I call ‘I’ of the light of my attention and turn it on to that which cannot be conceived.

Simone Weil (1909 – 1943)

Then flows into us knowledge — an inner revelation which preserves our spirit open, and, lifting us above all images and all disturbance, brings us to an inward silence. Here the divine inspiration is a secret whispering in the inner ear.

John Ruysbroeck (circa 1293 – 1381)

How much confusion of thought comes from our interest in self, and from our vanity when thinking “I am so great” or “I have done this wonderful deed.” The thought of your ego stands between your rational nature and truth, banish it, and then you will see things as they are. He who thinks correctly will rid himself of ignorance and acquire wisdom. The ideas of “I am” and “I shall be” or “I shall not be” do not occur to a clear thinker.

Buddha (circa 560 – 483 B.C.E.)

Heroism is the brilliant triumph of the soul over the flesh, that is to say, over fear, fear of poverty, of suffering… There is no serious piety without heroism. Heroism is the dazzling and glorious concentration of courage.

Henri Amiel (1821 – 1881)

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