New Seeds Of Contemplation
Thomas Merton
Shambhala, Boston (USA), 2003 (1962)
303 pages
ISBN: 1-59030-049-1

So far, there are only a few quotes here.

Merton starts, in the firtst chapter, by defining what contemplation is:

Contemplation is the highest expression of man's intellectual and spiritual life. It is that life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive. It is spiritual wonder. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being. It is gratitude for life, for awareness and for being. It is a vivid realization of the fact that life and being in us proceed from an invisible, transcendent and infinitely abundant Source. Contemplatin is, above all, awareness of the reality of that Source. It knows the Source, obscurely, inexplicably, but with a certitude that goes both beyond reason and beyond simple faith. For contemplation is a kind of spiritual vision to which both reason and faith aspire, by their very nature, because without it they must always remain incomplete. Yet contemplation is not vision because is sees "without seeing" and knows "without knowing." It is a more profound depth of faith, a knowledge too deep to be grasped in images, in words or even in clear concepts. It can be suggested by words, by symbols, but in the very moment of trying to indicate what it knows the contemplative mind takes back what is has said, and denies what is has affirmed. For in contemplation we know by "unknowing." Or, better, we know beyond all knowing or "unknowing."

(Thomas Merton: New Seeds Of Contemplation, pp. 1-2).

The only way to get rid of misconceptions about contemplation is to experience it. One who does not actually know, in his own life, the nature of this breakthrough and this awakening to a new level of reality cannot help being misled by most of the things that are said about it. For contemplation cannot be taught. It cannot even be clearly explained. It can only be hinted at, suggested, pointed to, symbolized. The more objectively and scientifically one tries to analyze it, the more he empties it of its real content, for this experience is beyond the reach of verbalization and of rationalization. Nothing is more repellent than a pseudo-scientific definition of the contemplative experience. One reason for this is that he who attempts such a definition is tempted to proceed psychologically, and there is really no adequate psychology of contemplation. To describe "reactions" and "feelings" is to situate contemplation where it is not to be found, in the superficial consciousness where it can be observed by reflection. But this reflection and this consciousness are precisely part of that external self which "dies" and is cast aside like a soiled garment in the genuine awakening of the contemplative.

Contemplatin is not and cannot be a function of this external self. There is an irreducible opposition between the deep transcendent self that awakens only in contemplation, and the superficial, external self which we commonly identify with the first person singular. We must remember that this superficial "I" is not our real self. It is our "individuality" and our "empirical self" but it is not truly the hidden and mysterious person in whom we subsist before the eyes of God. The "I" that works in the world, thinks about itself, observes its own reactions and talks about itself is not the true "I" that has been united to God in Christ. It is at best the vesture, the mask, the disguise of that mysterious and unknown "self" whom most of us never discover until we are dead. Our external, superficial self is not eternal, not spiritual. Far from it. This self is doomed to disappear as completely as smoke from a chimney. It is utterly frail and evanescent. Contemplation is precisely the awareness that this "I" is really "not I" and the awakening of the unknown "I" that is beyond observation and reflection and is incapable of commenting upon itself. It cannot even say "I" with the assurance and the impertinence of the other one, for its very nature is to be hidden, unnamed, unidentified in the society where men talk about themselve and about one another. In such a world the true "I" remains both inarticulate and invisible, because it has altogether too much to say —not one word of which is about itself.

(Thomas Merton: New Seeds Of Contemplation, pp. 7-9).

Physical solitude, exterior silence and real recollection are all morally necessary for anyone who wants to lead a contemplative life, but like everything else in creation they are nothing more than means to an end, and if we do not understand the end we will make a wrong use of the means.

We do not go into the desert to escape people but to learn how to find them; we do not leave them in order to have nothing more to do with them, but to find out the way to do them the most good. But this is only a secondary end.

The one end that includes all others is the love of God.

(Thomas Merton: New Seeds Of Contemplation, p. 82).

At the root of all war is fear: not so much the fear men have of one another as the fear they have of everthing. It is not merely that they do not trust one another; they do not even trust themselves. If they are not sure when someone else may turn around and kill them, they are still less sure when they may turn around and kill themselves. They cannot trust anything, because they have ceased to believe in God.

(Thomas Merton: New Seeds Of Contemplation, p. 114).

A man who has been killed by one enemy is just as dead as one who has been killed by a whole army. If you are friends with one habit of mortal sin you live in death, even though you may seem to have all the other virtues.

Some people think it is enough to have one virtue, like kindness or broadmindedness or charity, and let everything else go. But if you are unselfish in one way and selfish in twenty-five other ways your virtue will not do you much good. In fact, it will probably turn out to be nothing more than a twenty-sixth variety of the same selfishenss, disguised as virtue.

(Thomas Merton: New Seeds Of Contemplation, p. 179).

Do not think that you can show your love for Christ by hating those who seem to be His enemies on earth. Suppose they really do hate Him. He loves them, and you cannot be united with Him unless you love them too.

If you hate the enemies of the Church instead of loving them, you too will run the risk of becoming an enemy of the Church, and of Christ; for He said: "Love your enemies," and He also said: "He that is not with me is against me." Therefore if you do not side with Christ by loving those that He loves, you are against Him.

(Thomas Merton: New Seeds Of Contemplation, pp. 179-180).

A man cannot be a perfect Christian —that is, a saint— unless he is also a communist. This means that he must either absolutely give up all right to possess anything at all, or else only use what he himself needs, of the goods that belong to him, and administer the rest for other men and for the poor: and in his determination of what he needs he must be governed to a great extent by the gravity of the needs of others.

But you will say it is practically impossible for a rich man to put into practice this clear teaching of Scripture and Catholic tradition. You are right. And there is nothing new in that. He said it was easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than it was for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

If Christians had lived up to the Church's teaching about property and poverty there would never have been any occasion for the spurious communism of the Marxists and all the rest —whose communism starts out by denying other men the right to own property.

(Thomas Merton: New Seeds Of Contemplation, p. 181).

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