Thomas Merton (1915 – 1968) was an American Trappist monk, writer, theologian, mystic, poet, and scholar of comparative religion. In 1949 he was ordained to the priesthood and given the name Father Louis. Merton wrote more than 70 books, mostly on spirituality, social justice and a quiet pacifism, as well as scores of essays and reviews. Among Merton’s most enduring works is his bestselling autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain (1948). Merton was a keen proponent of interfaith understanding. During his last years, he became deeply interested in Asian religions, particularly Zen Buddhism and was a pioneer of East-West dialog.
Quotes by Thomas Merton…
Why are you attached to any one book, or to the words and ways of one saint when he himself tells you to let them go and walk in simplicity? To hang on to him as if to make a method of him is to contradict him and to go in the opposite direction to the one in which he would have you travel.
There is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace and my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find Him, I will find myself, and if I find my true self, I will find Him.
It is not humility to insist on being someone that you are not. It is as much as saying that you know better than God who you are and who you ought to be. How do you expect to arrive at the end of your own journey if you take the road to another man’s city? How do you expect to reach your own perfection by leading somebody else’s life? His sanctity will never be yours. You must have the humility to work out your own salvation in a darkness where you are absolutely alone…
For pride, which is the inordinate attribution of goods and values and glories to one’s own contingent self, cannot exist where there is no contingent self to which anything can be attributed.
A humble man is not afraid of failure. In fact he is not afraid of anything, even of himself, since perfect humility implies perfect confidence in the power of God, before Whom no other power has any meaning and for Whom there is no such thing as an obstacle.
You will never be able to have perfect interior peace and recollection unless you are detached even from the desire of peace and recollection. You will never be able to pray perfectly until you are detached from the pleasures of prayer.
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.
To become attached to the experience of peace is to threaten the true and essential and vital union of our soul with God, above sense and experience in the darkness of a pure and perfect love.