Thomas Merton Quotes

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Thomas Merton was an American Catholic, Trappist mystic monk, writer, poet, and social activist of the Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky.  He studied comparative religion and communed with Zen and Buddhist monks and he was able to see Ultimate Truth in all of them.

His command of understanding the union with the Ultimate Essence equals that of the greatest mystics in the world.

Thomas Merton quotes:
 

"Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony."

- Thomas Merton

 

“We have the choice of two identities: the external mask which seems to be real...and the hidden, inner person who seems to us to be nothing, but who can give himself eternally to the truth in whom he subsists. (295)”
- Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

“In our creation, God asked a question and in our truly living God answers the question.” 
- Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

“Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny....To work out our identity in God.”
- Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

“A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying [God]. It “consents,” so to speak, to [God's] creative love. It is expressing an idea which is in God and which is not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree”
- Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

"I will be a better Catholic, not if I can refute every shade of Protestantism, but if I can affirm the truth in it and still go further.  So, too, with the Muslims, the Hindus, the Buddhists, etc.  This does not mean syncretism, indifferentism, the vapid and careless friendliness that accepts everything by thinking of nothing.  There is much that one cannot "affirm" and "accept," but first one must say "yes" where one really can.  If I affirm myself as a Catholic merely by denying all that is Muslim, Jewish, Protestant, Hindu, Buddhist, etc., in the end I will find that there is not much left for me to affirm as a Catholic: and certainly no breath of the Spirit with which to affirm it."
- Thomas Merton

“Everyone of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self.  We are not very good at recognizing illusions, least of all the ones we cherish about ourselves. (34) Contemplation 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.(7) Our reality, our true self, is hidden in what appears to us to be nothingness....We can rise above this unreality and recover our hidden reality....(281) God Himself begins to live in me not only as my Creator but as my other and true self. (41)”
- Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

“We thank Him less by words than by the serene happiness of silent acceptance. It is our emptiness in the presence of His reality, our silence in the presence of His infinitely rich silence, our joy in the bosom of the serene darkness in which His light holds us absorbed, it is all this that praises Him.”
- Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

“To enter into the realm of contemplation, one must in a certain sense die: but this death is in fact the entrance into a higher life. It is a death for the sake of life, which leaves behind all that we can know or treasure as life, as thought, as experience as joy, as being. [Every form of intuition and experience] die to be born again on a higher level of life.”
- Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

“The whole aim of Zen is not to make foolproof statements about experience, but to come to direct grips with reality without the mediation of logical verbalizing.”
- Thomas Merton

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them”
- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
- Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.”
- Thomas Merton

“If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.”
- Thomas Merton

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us - and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.   Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”
- Thomas Merton

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves and not to twist them to fit our own image.”
- Thomas Merton

“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody's business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.”
- Thomas Merton

“Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.”
- Thomas Merton

“The more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers most.”
- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone - we find it with another.”
- Thomas Merton, Love and Living

“Finally I am coming to the conclusion that my highest ambition is to be what I already am. That I will never fulfill my obligation to surpass myself unless I first accept myself, and if I accept myself fully in the right way, I will already have surpassed myself.”
- Thomas Merton

“Anxiety is the mark of spiritual insecurity.”
- Thomas Merton

“If a man is to live, he must be all alive, body, soul, mind, heart, spirit.”
- Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

“Instead of hating the people you think are war-makers, hate the appetites and disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed - but hate these things in yourself, not in another.”
- Thomas Merton

“Solitude is a way to defend the spirit against the murderous din of our materialism.”
- Thomas Merton

“Love seeks one thing only: the good of the one loved. It leaves all the other secondary effects to take care of themselves. Love, therefore, is its own reward.”
- Thomas Merton

“Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice. It demands greater heroism than war. It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.”
- Thomas Merton

“Our idea of God tells us more about ourselves than about Him.”
- Thomas Merton

“To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to the violence of our times.”
- Thomas Merton

“A man knows when he has found his vocation when he stops thinking about how to live and begins to live.”
- Thomas Merton

“But there is greater comfort in the substance of silence than in the answer to a question.”
- Thomas Merton

“If you write for God you will reach many men and bring them joy. If you write for men--you may make some money and you may give someone a little joy and you may make a noise in the world, for a little while. If you write for yourself, you can read what you yourself have written and after ten minutes you will be so disgusted that you will wish that you were dead.”
- Thomas Merton, Seeds of Contemplation

“Souls are like athletes, that need opponents worthy of them, if they are to be tried and extended and pushed to the full use of their powers, and rewarded according to their capacity.”
- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“Keeping a journal has taught me that there is not so much new in your life as you sometimes think. When you re-read your journal you find out that your latest discovery is something you already found out five years ago. Still, it is true that one penetrates deeper and deeper into the same ideas and the same experiences.”
- Thomas Merton, The Sign of Jonas

“Life is this simple: we are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and the divine is shining through it all the time. This is not just a nice story or a fable, it is true. ”
- Thomas Merton

“By reading the scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet. ”
- Thomas Merton

“First of all, although men have a common destiny, each individual also has to work out his own personal salvation for himself in fear and trembling. We can help one another to find the meaning of life no doubt. But in the last analysis, the individual person is responsible for living his own life and for "finding himself." If he persists in shifting his responsibility to somebody else, he fails to find out the meaning of his own existence. You cannot tell me who I am and I cannot tell you who you are. If you do not know your own identity, who is going to identify you-”
- Thomas Merton

“If our life is poured out in useless words, we will never hear anything, never become anything, and in the end, because we have said everything before we had anything to say, we shall be left speechless at the moment of our greatest decision.”
- Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

“Only the man who has had to face despair is really convinced that he needs mercy. Those who do not want mercy never seek it. It is better to find God on the threshold of despair than to risk our lives in a complacency that has never felt the need of forgiveness. A life that is without problems may literally be more hopeless than one that always verges on despair.”
- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“The light of truth burns without a flicker in the depths of a house that is shaken with storms of passion and fear.”
- Thomas Merton

“It is only the infinite mercy and love of God that has prevented us from tearing ourselves to pieces and destroying His entire creation long ago. People seem to think that it is in some way a proof that no merciful God exists, if we have so many wars. On the contrary, consider how in spite of centuries of sin and greed and lust and cruelty and hatred and avarice and oppression and injustice, spawned and bred by the free wills of men, the human race can still recover, each time, and can still produce man and women who overcome evil with good, hatred with love, greed with charity, lust and cruelty with sanctity. How could all this be possible without the merciful love of God, pouring out His grace upon us- Can there be any doubt where wars come from and where peace comes from, when the children of this world, excluding God from their peace conferences, only manage to bring about greater and greater wars the more they talk about peace-”
- Thomas Merton, The seven storey mountain

“Every moment and every event of everyman's life on earth plants something in his soul. For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of men.”
- Thomas Merton

“What we have to be is what we are.”
- Thomas Merton

“Reason is in fact the path to faith, and faith takes over when reason can say no more.”
- Thomas Merton

“The devil is no fool. He can get people feeling about heaven the way they ought to feel about hell. He can make them fear the means of grace the way they do not fear sin. And he does so, not by light but by obscurity, not by realities but by shadows; not by clarity and substance, but by dreams and the creatures of psychosis. And men are so poor in intellect that a few cold chills down their spine will be enough to keep them from ever finding out the truth about anything.”
- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“Many poets are not poets for the same reason that many religious men are not saints: they never succeed in being themselves. They never get around to being the particular poet or the particular monk they are intended to be by God. They never become the man or the artist who is called for by all the circumstances of their individual lives. They waste their years in vain efforts to be some other poet, some other saint...They wear out their minds and bodies in a hopeless endeavor to have somebody else's experiences or write somebody else's poems.”
- Thomas Merton

“When we are alone on a starlit night, when by chance we see the migrating birds in autumn descending on a grove of junipers to rest and eat; when we see children in a moment when they are really children, when we know love in our own hearts; or when, like the Japanese poet, Basho, we hear an old frog land in a quiet pond with a solitary splash - at such times the awakening, the turning inside out of all values, the "newness," the emptiness and the purity of vision that make themselves evident, all these provide a glimpse of the cosmic dance.”
- Thomas Merton

“I will no longer wound myself with the thoughts and questions that have surrounded me like thorns: that is a penance You do not ask of me.”
- Thomas Merton, The Sign of Jonas

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to... fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”
- Thomas Merton

“Merely to resist evil with evil by hating those who hate us and seeking to destroy them, is actually no resistance at all. It is active and purposeful collaboration in evil that brings the Christian into direct and intimate contact with the same source of evil and hatred which inspires the acts of his enemy. It leads in practice to a denial of Christ and to the service of hatred rather than love.”
- Thomas Merton, Passion for Peace; Reflections on War and Nonviolence

“The logic of worldly success rests on a fallacy: the strange error that our perfection depends on the thoughts and opinions and applause of other men! A weird life it is, indeed, to be living always in somebody else's imagination, as if that were the only place in which one could at last become real!”
- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“The least of learning is done in the classrooms. ”
- Thomas Merton

“Hurry ruins saints as well as artists.”
- Thomas Merton, Seeds of Contemplation

“Ask me not where I live or what I like to eat . . . Ask me what I am living for and what I think is keeping me from living fully that.”
- Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

“Discovering vocation does not mean scrambling toward some prize just beyond my reach but accepting the treasure of true self I already possess. Vocation does not come from a voice -out there- calling me to be something I am not. It comes from a voice -in here- calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given me at birth by God.”
- Thomas Merton


“New eyes awaken.
I send Love's name into the world with wings
And songs grow up around me like a jungle.
Choirs of all creatures sing the tunes
Your Spirit played in Eden.
Zebras and antelopes and birds of paradise
Shine on the face of the abyss
And I am drunk with the great wilderness
Of the sixth day in Genesis.
But sound is never half so fair
As when that music turns to air
And the universe dies of excellence.
Sun, moon and stars
Fall from their heavenly towers.
Joys walk no longer down the blue world's shore.
Though fires loiter, lights still fly on the air of the gulf,
All fear another wind, another thunder:
Then one more voice
Snuffs all their flares in one gust.
And I go forth with no more wine and no more stars
And no more buds and no more Eden
And no more animals and no more sea:
While God sings by himself in acres of night
And walls fall down, that guarded Paradise.”
- Thomas Merton

“I was not sure where I was going, and I could not see what I would do when I got [there]. But you saw further and clearer than I, and you opened the seas before my ship, whose track led me across the waters to a place I had never dreamed of, and which you were even then preparing to be my rescue and my shelter and my home.”
- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“Indeed, the truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers the most: and his suffering comes to him from things so little and so trivial that one can say that it is no longer objective at all. It is his own existence, his own being, that is at once the subject and the source of his pain, and his very existence and consciousness is his greatest torture.”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“Despair is the absolute extreme of self-love. It is reached when a person deliberately turns his back on all help from anyone else in order to taste the rotten luxury of knowing himself to be lost”

- Thomas Merton

“It is therefore of supreme importance that we consent to live not for ourselves but for others. When we so this we will be able first of all to face and accept our own limitations. As long as we secretly adore ourselves, our own deficiencies will remain to torture us with an apparent defilement. But if we live for others, we will gradually discover that no expects us to be "as gods". We will see that we are human, like everyone else, that we all have weaknesses and deficiencies, and that these limitations of ours play a most important part in all our lives. It is because of them that we need others and others need us. We are not all weak in the same spots, and so we supplement and complete one another, each one making up in himself for the lack in another.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“When you expect the world to end at any moment, you know there is no need to hurry. You take your time, you do your work well.”

- Thomas Merton

“To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.”

- Thomas Merton

“....it is of the very essence of Christianity to face suffering and death not because they are good, not because they have meaning, but because the resurrection of Jesus has robbed them of their meaning.”

- Thomas Merton

“Surrender your own poverty and acknowledge your nothingness to the Lord. Whether you understand it or not, God loves you, is present in you, lives in you, dwells in you, calls you, saves you and offers you an understanding and compassion which are like nothing you have ever found in a book or heard in a sermon.”

- Thomas Merton, The Hidden Ground Of Love: The Letters Of Thomas Merton On Religious Experience And Social Concerns

“For the birds there is not a time that they tell, but the point vierge between darkness and light, between being and nonbeing. You can tell yourself the time by their waking, if you are experienced. But that is your folly, not theirs.”

- Thomas Merton

“We do not want to be beginners [at prayer]. but let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything but beginners, all our life!”

- Thomas Merton

“Whose silence are you-”

- Thomas Merton

“Be still:

There is no longer any need of comment.

It was a lucky wind

That blew away his halo with his cares,

A lucky sea that drowned his reputation.”

- Thomas Merton

“We live in a society whose whole policy is to excite every nerve in the human body and keep it at the highest pitch of artificial tension, to strain every human desire to the limit and to create as many new desires and synthetic passions as possible, in order to cater to them with the products of our factories and printing presses and movie studios and all the rest.”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“In our creation, God asked a question and in our truly living; God answers the question.”

- Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

“Pride makes us artificial; humility makes us real”

- Thomas Merton

“The greatest need of our time is to clean out the enormous mass of mental and emotional rubbish that clutters our minds”

- Thomas Merton

“The solution of the problem of life is life itself. Life is not attained by reason and analysis but first of all by living.”

- Thomas Merton

“The end of the world will be legal.”

- Thomas Merton

“I hear You saying to me:

"I will give you what you desire. I will lead you into solitude. I will lead you by the way that you cannot possibly understand, because I want it to be the quickest way.

"Therefore all the things around you will be armed against you, to deny you, to hurt you, to give you pain, and therefore to reduce you to solitude.

"Because of their enmity, you will soon be left alone. They will cast you out and forsake you and reject you and you will be alone.

"Everything that touches you shall burn you, and you will draw your hand away in pain, until you have withdrawn yourself from all things. Then you will be all alone.

"Everything that can be desired will sear you, and brand you with a cautery, and you will fly from it in pain, to be alone. Every created joy will only come to you as pain, and you will die to all joy and be left alone. All the good things that other people love and desire and seek will come to you, but only as murderers to cut you off from the world and its occupations.

"You will be praised, and it will be like burning at the stake. You will be loved, and it will murder your heart and drive you into the desert.

"You will have gifts, and they will break you with their burden. You will have pleasures of prayer, and they will sicken you and you will fly from them.

"And when you have been praised a little and loved a little I will take away all your gifts and all your love and all your praise and you will be utterly forgotten and abandoned and you will be nothing, a dead thing, a rejection. And in that day you shall being to possess the solitude you have so long desired. And your solitude will bear immense fruit in the souls of men you will never see on earth.

"Do not ask when it will be or where it will be or how it will be: On a mountain or in a prison, in a desert or in a concentration camp or in a hospital or at Gethsemani. It does not matter. So do not ask me, because I am not going to tell you. You will not know until you are in it.

"But you shall taste the true solitude of my anguish and my poverty and I shall lead you into the high places of my joy and you shall die in Me and find all things in My mercy which has created you for this end and brought you from Prades to Bermuda to St. Antonin to Oakham to London to Cambridge to Rome to New York to Columbia to Corpus Christi to St. Bonaventure to the Cistercian Abbey of the poor men who labor in Gethsemani:

"That you may become the brother of God and learn to know the Christ of the burnt men.”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny....To work out our identity in God.”

- Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

“But the man who is not afraid to admit everything that he sees to be wrong with himself, and yet recognizes that he may be the object of God's love precisely because of his shortcomings, can begin to be sincere. His sincerity is based on confidence, not in his own illusions about himself, but in the endless, unfailing mercy of God.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“The question of love is one that cannot be evaded. Whether or not you claim to be interested in it from the moment you are alive you are bound to be concerned with love because love is not just something that happens to you: It is a certain special way of being alive. Love is in fact an intensification of life a completeness a fullness a wholeness of life.”

“We have the choice of two identities: the external mask which seems to be real...and the hidden, inner person who seems to us to be nothing, but who can give himself eternally to the truth in whom he subsists. (295)”

- Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

“Prayer and love are learned in the hour when prayer becomes impossible and the heart has turned to stone.”

- Thomas Merton

“A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying [God]. It “consents,” so to speak, to [God's] creative love. It is expressing an idea which is in God and which is not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree”

- Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

“The man who fears to be alone will never be anything but lonely, no matter how much he may surround himself with people. But the man who learns, in solitude and recollection, to be at peace with his own loneliness, and to prefer its reality to the illusion of merely natural companionship, comes to know the invisible companionship of God. Such a one is alone with God in all places, and he alone truly enjoys the companionship of other men, because he loves them in God in Whom their presence is not tiresome, and because of Whom his own love for them can never know satiety.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“We live on the brink of disaster because we do not know how to let life alone. We do not respect the living and fruitful contradictions and paradoxes of which true life is full.”

- Thomas Merton

“It is useless to try to make peace with ourselves by being pleased with everything we have done. In order to settle down in the quiet of our own being we must learn to be detached from the results of our own activity. We must withdraw ourselves, to some extent, from the effects that are beyond our control and be content with the good will and the work that are the quiet expression of our inner life. We must be content to live without watching ourselves live, to work without expecting any immediate reward, to love without an instantaneous satisfaction, and to exist without any special recognition.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“We cannot arrive at the perfect possession of God in this life, and that is why we are travelling and in darkness. But we already possess Him by grace, and therefore in that sense we have arrived and are dwelling in the light.

But oh! How far have I to go to find You in Whom I have already arrived!”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“The cause of liberty becomes a mockery if the price to be paid is the wholesale destruction of those who are to enjoy liberty. Ghandi, quoted in Merton, p. 68”

- Thomas Merton, On Non-Violence

“The peace produced by grace is a spiritual stability too deep for violence — it is unshakeable”

- Thomas Merton

“It is a kind of pride to insist that none of our prayers should ever be petitions for our own needs: for this is only another subtle way of trying to put ourselves on the same plane as God – acting as if we had no needs, as if we were not creatures, not dependent on Him and dependent, by His will, on material things, too.”

- Thomas Merton, The seven storey mountain

“Our Christian destiny is, in fact, a great one: but we cannot achieve greatness unless we lose all interest in being great. For our own idea of greatness is illusory, and if we pay too much attention to it we will be lured out of the peace and stability of the being God gave us, and seek to live in a myth we have created for ourselves. And when we are truly ourselves we lose most of the futile self-consciousness that keeps us constantly comparing ourselves with others in order to see how big we are.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“Music is pleasing not only because of the sound but because of the silence that is in it: without the alternation of sound and silence there would be no rhythm.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“For the ones who are called saints by human opinion on earth may very well be devils, and their light may very well be darkness”

- Thomas Merton

“This act of total surrender is not merely a fantastic intellectual and mystical gamble; it is something much more serious. It is an act of love for this unseen person, who, in the very gift of love by which we surrender ourselves to his reality also makes his presence known to us.”

- Thomas Merton

“Peace cannot be built on exclusivism, absolutism, and intolerance. But neither can it be built on vague liberal slogans and pious programs gestated in the smoke of confabulation. There can be no peace on earth without the kind of inner change that brings man back to his "right mind." p. 31”

- Thomas Merton, On Non-Violence

“A purely mental life may be destructive if it leads us to substitute thought for life and ideas for actions. The activity proper to man is purely mental because man is not just a disembodied mind. Our destiny is to live out what we think, because unless we live what we know, we do not even know it. It is only by making our knowledge part of ourselves, through action, that we enter into the reality that is signified by our concepts.”

- Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

“Pardon all runners,

All speechless, alien winds,

All mad waters.

Pardon their impulses,

Their wild attitudes,

Their young flights, their reticence.

When a message has no clothes on

How can it be spoken.”

- Thomas Merton

“The greatest temptations are not those that solicit our consent to obvious sin, but those that offer us great evils masking as the greatest goods.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“I just remember their kindness and goodness to me, and their peacefulness and their utter simplicity. They inspired real reverence, and I think, in a way, they were certainly saints. And they were saints in that most effective and telling way: sanctified by leading ordinary lives in a completely supernatural manner, sanctified by obscurity, by usual skills, by common tasks, by routine, but skills, tasks, routine which received a supernatural form from grace within.”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“What do you want to want to be, anyway-"

"I don't know; I guess what I want to be is a good Catholic."

"What you should say"--he told me--"what you should say is that you want to be a saint.”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“Every man becomes the image of the God he adores.

He whose worship is directed to a dead thing becomes dead.

He who loves corruption rots.

He who loves a shadow becomes, himself, a shadow.

He who loves things that must perish lives in dread of their perishing.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“'Jesus lived and died in vain if He did not teach us to regulate the whole of life by the eternal law of love.' Gandhi, quoted in Merton, p. 38”

- Thomas Merton, On Non-Violence

“There is no greater disaster in the spiritual life than to be immersed in unreality, for life is maintained and nourished in us by our vital relation with realities outside and above us.”

- Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

“Everyone of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self…  We are not very good at recognizing illusions, least of all the ones we cherish about ourselves. (34) Contemplation 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.(7) Our reality, our true self, is hidden in what appears to us to be nothingness....We can rise above this unreality and recover our hidden reality....(281) God Himself begins to live in me not only as my Creator but as my other and true self. (41)”

- Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

“Because there is happiness only where there is coordination with the Truth, the Reality, the Act that underlies and directs all things to their essential and accidental perfections: and that is the will of God. There is only one happiness: to please Him. Only one sorrow, to be displeasing to Him, to refuse Him something, to turn away from Him, even in the slightest thing, even in thought, in a half-willed movement of appetite: in these things and these alone, is sorrow, in so far as they imply separation, or the beginning, the possibility of separation from Him Who is our life and all our joy. And since God is a Spirit, and infinitely above all matter and all creation, the only complete union possible, between ourselves and Him, is in the order of intention: a union of wills and intellects, in love, charity.”

- Thomas Merton, The seven storey mountain

“A man who fails well is greater than one who succeeds badly.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“Day after day I read Freud, thinking myself to be very enlightened and scientific when, as a matter of fact, I was about as scientific as an old woman secretly poring over books about occultism, trying to tell her own fortune, and learning how to dope out the future form the lines in the palm of her hand. I don't know if I ever got very close to needing a padded cell: but if I ever had gone crazy, I think psychoanalysis would have been the one thing chiefly responsible for it.”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“In all His acts God orders all things, whether good or evil, for the good of those who know Him and seek Him and who strive to bring their own freedom under obedience to His divine purpose. All that is done by the will of God in secret is done for His glory and for the good of those whom He has chosen to share in His glory.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“The soul of man, left to its own natural level, is a potentially lucid crystal left in darkness. It is perfect in its own nature, but it lacks something that it can only receive from outside and above itself. But when the light shines in it, it becomes in a manner transformed into light and seems to lose its nature in the splendor of a higher nature, the nature of the light that is in it.”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“True happiness is not found in any other reward than that of being united with God. If I seek some other reward besides God Himself, I may get my reward but I cannot be happy.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“The Hindus are not looking for us to send them men who will build schools and hospitals, although those things are good and useful in themselves--and perhaps very badly needed in India: they want to know if we have any saints to send them.”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“God does not demand that every man attain to what is theoretically highest and best. It is better to be a good street sweeper than a bad writer, better to be a good bartender than a bad doctor, and the repentant thief who died with Jesus on Calvary was far more perfect than the holy ones who had Him nailed to the cross. And yet, abstractly speaking, what is more holy than the priesthood and less holy than the state of a criminal- The dying thief had, perhaps, disobeyed the will of God in many things: but in the most important event of his life He listened and obeyed. The Pharisees had kept the law to the letter and had spent their lives in the pursuit of a most scrupulous perfection. But they were so intent upon perfection as an abstraction that when God manifested His will and His perfection in a concrete and definite way they had no choice but to reject it.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“Because You have called me here not to wear a label by which I can recognize myself and place myself in some kind of a category. You do not want me to be thinking about what I am, but about what You are. Or rather, You do not even want me to be thinking about anything much: for You would raise me above the level of thought. And if I am always trying to figure out what I am and where I am and why I am, how will that work be done-”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“The lights of prayer that make us imagine we are beginning to be angels are sometimes only signs that we are finally beginning to be men. We do not have a high enough opinion of our own nature. We think we are at the gates of heaven and we are only just beginning to come into our own realm as free and intelligent beings.”

- Thomas Merton, The Ascent to Truth

“Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone we find it with another.”

- Thomas Merton

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”

- Thomas Merton

“There are days when I am convinced that Heaven starts already, now, in this ordinary life just as it is, in all its incompleteness, yet, this is where Heaven starts.. see within yourself, if you can find it. I walked through the field in front of the house, lots of swallows flying, everywhere! Some very near me..it was magical. "We are already one, yet we know it not.”

- Thomas Merton

“They were in the world and not of it--not because they were saints, but in a different way: because they were artists. The integrity of an artist lifts a man above the level of the world without delivering him from it.”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“For it had become evident to me that I was a great rebel. I fancied that I had suddenly risen above all the errors and stupidities and mistakes of modern society--there are enough of them to rise above, I admit--and that I had taken my place in the ranks of those who held up their heads and squared their shoulders and marched into the future. In the modern world, people are always holding up their heads and marching into the future, although they haven't the slightest idea what they think the "future" is or could possibly mean. The only future we seem to walk into, in actual fact, is full of bigger and more terrible wars, wars well calculated to knock our upraised heads off those squared shoulders.”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“Most of the world is either asleep or dead. The religious people are, for the most part, asleep. The irreligious are dead. Those who are asleep are divided into two classes, like the Virgins in the parable, waiting for the Bridegroom's coming. The wise have oil in their lamps. That is to say they are detached from themselves and from the cares of the world, and they are full of charity. They are indeed waiting for the Bridegroom, and they desire nothing else but His coming, even though they may fall asleep while waiting for Him to appear. But the others are not only asleep: they are full of other dreams and other desires. Their lamps are empty because they have burned themselves out in the wisdom of the flesh and in their own vanity. When He comes, it is too late for them to buy oil. They light their lamps only after He has gone. So they fall asleep again, with useless lamps, and when they wake up they trim them to investigate, once again, the matters of a dying world.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“My opinion is that it is a very extraordinary thing for anyone to be upset by such a topic. Why should anyone be shattered by the though of hell- It is not compulsory for anyone to go there. Those who do, do so by their own choice, and against the will of God, and they can only get into hell by defying and resisting all the work of Providence and grace. It is their own will that takes them there, not God's. In damning them He is only ratifying their own decision--a decision which He has left entirely to their own choice. Nor will He ever hold our weakness alone responsible for our damnation. Our weakness should not terrify us: it is the source of our strength. Libenter gloriabor in infirmitatibus meis ut inhabitet in me virtus Christi. Power is made perfect in infirmity, and our very helplessness is all the more potent a claim on that Divine Mercy Who calls to Himself the poor, the little ones, the heavily burdened.”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“I am earth, earth

My heart's love

Bursts with hay and flowers.

I am a lake of blue air

In which my own appointed place

Field and valley

Stand reflected”

- Thomas Merton

“God, Who is everywhere, never leaves us. Yet He seems sometimes to be present, sometimes to be absent. If we do not know Him well, we do not realize that He may be more present to us when He is absent than when He is present.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“Once you have grace," I said to him, "you are free. Without it, you cannot help doing the things you know you should not do, and that you know you don't really want to do. But once you have grace, you are free. When you are baptized, there is no power in existence that can force you to commit a sin--nothing that will be able to drive you to it against your own conscience. And if you merely will it, you will be free forever, because the strength will be given you, as much as you need, and as often as you ask, and as soon as you ask, and generally long before you ask for it, too.”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.

~No Man Is an Island~”

“It is true that neither the ancient wisdoms nor the modern sciences are complete in themselves. They do not stand alone. They call for one another. Wisdom without science is unable to penetrate the full sapiential meaning of the created and the material cosmos. Science without wisdom leaves man enslaved to a world of unrelated objects in which there is no way of discovering (or creating) order and deep significance in man's own pointless existence. (p. 4)”

- Thomas Merton, On Non-Violence

“When society is made up of men who know no interior solitude it can no longer be held together by love: and consequently it is held together by a violent and abusive authority. But when men are violently deprived of the solitude and freedom which are their due, then society in which they live becomes putrid, it festers with servility, resentment and hate.”

- Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

“We thank Him less by words than by the serene happiness of silent acceptance. It is our emptiness in the presence of His reality, our silence in the presence of His infinitely rich silence, our joy in the bosom of the serene darkness in which His light holds us absorbed, it is all this that praises Him.”

- Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

“God has left sin in the world in order that there may be forgiveness: not only the secret forgiveness by which He Himself cleanses our souls, but the manifest forgiveness by which we have mercy on one another and so give expression to the fact that He is living, by His mercy, in our own hearts.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“Violence is not completely fatal until it ceases to disturb us.”

- Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

“The only thing to seek in contemplative prayer is God; and we seek Him successfully when we realize that we cannot find Him unless He shows Himself to us, and yet at the same time that He would not have inspired us to seek Him unless we had already found Him.”

- Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

“Indeed, it is a kind of quintessence of pride to hate and fear even the kind and legitimate approval of those who love us! I mean, to resent it as a humiliating patronage.”

- Thomas Merton, The seven storey mountain

“Living is not thinking. Thought is formed and guided by objective reality outside us. Living is the constant adjustment of thought to life and life to thought in such a way that we are always growing, always experiencing new things in the old and old things in the new. Thus life is always new.”

- Thomas Merton

“If there are no self-evident first principles, as a foundation for reasoning to conclusions that are not immediately apparent, how can you construct any kind of a philosophy- If you have to prove even the basic axioms of your metaphysics, you will never have a metaphysics, because you will never have any strict proof of anything, for your first proof will involve you in an infinite regress, proving that you are proving what you are proving and so on, into the exterior darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. If Descartes thought it was necessary to prove his own existence by the fact that he was thinking, and that his though therefore existed in some subject, how did he prove that he was thinking in the first place- But as to the second step, that God must exist because Descartes had a clear idea of him – that never convinced me, then or at any other time, or now either. There are much better proofs for the existence of God than that one.”

- Thomas Merton, The seven storey mountain

“For our duties and our needs, in all the fundamental things for which we were created, come down in practice to the same thing.”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“The fruitfulness of our lives depends in large measure in our ability to doubt our own words and to question the value of our own work. The man who completely trusts his own estimate of himself is doomed to sterility.”

- Thomas Merton, Seeds of Contemplation

“I did not even know who Christ was, that He was God. I had not the faintest idea that there existed such a thing as the Blessed Sacrament. I thought churches were simply places where people got together and sang a few hymns. And yet now I tell you, you who are now what I once was, unbelievers, it is that Sacrament, and that alone, the Christ living in our midst, and sacrificed by us, and for us and with us, in the clean and perpetual Sacrifice, it is He alone Who holds our world together, and keeps us all from being poured headlong and immediately into the pit of our eternal destruction. And I tell you there is a power that goes forth from that Sacrament, a power of light and truth, even into the hearts of those who have heard nothing of Him and seem to be incapable of belief. ”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“Death is someone you see very clearly with eyes in the center of your heart: eyes that see not by reacting to light, but by reacting to a kind of a chill from within the marrow of your own life. ”

- Thomas Merton, The Intimate Merton: His Life from His Journals

“Contemplation in the age of Auschwitz and Dachau, Solovky and Karaganda is something darker and more fearsome than contemplation in the age of the Church Fathers. For that very reason, the urge to seek a path of spiritual light can be a subtle temptation to sin. It certainly is sin if it means a frank rejection of the burden of our age, an escape into unreality and spiritual illusion, so as not to share the misery of other men.”

- Thomas Merton, The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation

“How deluded we sometimes are by the clear notions we get out of books. They make us think that we really understand things of which we have no practical knowledge at all.”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“There was to be nothing special about it, nothing that savored of a religious Order, no special rule, no distinctive habit. She, and those who joined her, would simply be poor--there was no choice on that score, for they were that already--but they would embrace their poverty, and the life of the proletariat in all its misery and insecurity and dead, drab monotony. They would live and work in the slums, lose themselves, in the huge anonymous mass of the forgotten and the derelict, for the only purpose of living the complete, integral Christian life in that environment--loving those around them, sacrificing themselves for those around them, and spreading the Gospel and the truth of Christ most of all by being saints, by living in union with Him, by being full of His Holy Ghost, His charity.”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“The secret of my full identity is hidden in Him. He alone can make me who I am, or rather who I will be when at last I fully begin to be. But unless I desire this identity and work to find it with Him and in Him, the work will never be done”

- Thomas Merton

“I seek to speak to you, in some way, as your own self. Who can tell what this may mean- I myself do not know, but if you listen, things will be said that are perhaps not written in this book. And this will be due not to me but to the One who lives and speaks in both.”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“When the light of God's truth begins to find its way through the mists of illusion and self-deception with which we have unconsciously surrounded ourselves, and when the image of God within us begins to return to itself, the false self which we inherited from Adam begins to experience the strange panic that Adam felt when, after his sin, he hid in the trees of the garden because he heard the voice of the Lord God in the afternoon.

If we are to recover our own identity, and return to God by the way Adam came in his fall, we must learn to stop saying: "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked. And I hid." [Genesis 2:10] We must cast away the "aprons of leaves" and the "garments of skins" which the Fathers of the Church variously interpret as passions, and attachments to earthly things, and fixation in our own rigid determination to be someone other than our true selves.”

- Thomas Merton, The New Man

“To enter into the realm of contemplation, one must in a certain sense die: but this death is in fact the entrance into a higher life. It is a death for the sake of life, which leaves behind all that we can know or treasure as life, as thought, as experience as joy, as being. [Every form of intuition and experience] die to be born again on a higher level of life.”

- Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

“There is something in the depths of our being that hungers for wholeness and finality. Because we are made for eternal life, we are made for an act that gathers up all the powers and capacities of our being and offers them simultaneously and forever to God. The blind spiritual instinct that tells us obscurely that our owns lives have a particular importance and purpose, and which urges us to find out our vocation, seeks in so doing to bring us to a decision that will dedicate our lives irrevocably to their true purpose. The man who loses this sense of his own personal destiny, and who renounces all hope of having any kind of vocation in life has either lost all hope of happiness or else has entered upon some mysterious vocation that God alone can understand.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“For me to be a saint means to be myself. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I am and of discovering my true self.”

- Thomas Merton

“There is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.”

- Thomas Merton

“How did it ever happen that, when the dregs of the world had collected in western Europe, when Goth and Frank and Norman and Lombard had mingled with the rot of old Rome to form a patchwork of hybrid races, all of them notable for ferocity, hatred, stupidity, craftiness, lust, and brutality--how did it happen that, from all of this, there should come Gregorian chant, monasteries and cathedrals, the poems of Prudentius, the commentaries and histories of Bede, the Moralia of Gregory the Great, St. Augustine's City of God, and his Trinity, the writings of Anselm, St. Bernard's sermons on the Canticles, the poetry of Caedmon and Cynewulf and Langland and Dante, St. Thomas' Summa, and the Oxoniense of Duns Scotus-

How does it happen that even today a couple of ordinary French stonemasons, or a carpenter and his apprentice, can put up a dovecote or a barn that has more architectural perfection than the piles of eclectic stupidity that grow up at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars on the campuses of American universities-”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“To allow oneself to be carried away

By a multitude of conflicting concerns,

To surrender to too many demands,

...To commit oneself to too many projects,

To want to help everyone with everything

Is to succumb to violence.”

- Thomas Merton

“Conscience is the light by which we interpret the will of God in our own lives.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“The biggest human temptation is toi settle for too little.

Thomas Merton”

- Thomas Merton

“In any case, his religious teaching consisted mostly in more or less vague ethical remarks, an obscure mixture of ideals of English gentlemanliness and his favorite notions of personal hygiene. Everybody knew that his class was liable to degenerate into a demonstration of some practical points about rowing, with Buggy sitting on the table and showing us how to pull an oar.”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“I got to a state where phrases like "the Good, the True, and the Beautiful" filled me with a kind of suppressed indignation, because they stood for the big sin of Platonism: the reduction of all reality to the level of pure abstraction, as if concrete, individual substances had no essential reality of their own, but were only shadows of some remote, universal, ideal essence filed away in a big card-index somewhere in heaven, while the demi-urges milled around the Logos piping their excitement in high, fluted, English intellectual tones.”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“I thought to myself, who is this excellent man Van Doren who being employed to teach literature, teaches just that: talks about writing and about books and poems and plays: does not get off on a tangent about the biographies of the poets or novelists: does not read into their poems a lot of subjective messages which were never there- Who is this man who does not have to fake and cover up a big gulf of ignorance by teaching a lot of opinions and conjectures and useless facts that belong to some other subject- Who is this who really loves what he has to teach, and does not secretly detest all literature, and abhor poetry, while pretending to be a professor of it-...It was because of this virtual scholasticism of Mark's that he would never permit himself to fall into the naive errors of those who try to read some favorite private doctrine into every poet they like of ever nation or every age. And Mark abhorred the smug assurance with which second-rate left-wing critics find adumbrations of dialectical materialism in everyone who ever wrote from Homer and Shakespeare to whomever they happen to like in recent times. If the poet is to their fancy, then he is clearly seen to be preaching the class struggle. If they do not like him, then they are able to show that he was really a forefather of fascism. And all their literary heroes are revolutionary leaders, and all their favorite villains are capitalists and Nazis.”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“I had refused to pay any attention to the moral laws upon which all our vitality and sanity depend: and so now I was reduced to the condition of a silly old woman, worrying about a lot of imaginary rules of health, standards of food-value, and a thousand minute details of conduct that were in themselves completely ridiculous and stupid, and yet which haunted me with vague and terrific sanctions. If I eat this, I may go out of my mind. If I do not eat that, I may die in the night.”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“It is the will of God that we live not only as rational beings, but as "new men" regenerated by the Holy Spirit in Christ. It is His will that we reach out for our inheritance, that we answer His call to be His sons. We are born men without our consent, but the consent to be sons of God has to be elicited by our own free will.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“What a revelation it was, to discover so many ordinary people in a place together, more conscious of God than of one another: not there to show off their hats or their clothes, but to pray, or at least to fulfill a religious obligation, not a human one. For even those who might have been there for no better motive than that they were obliged to be, were at least free from any of the self-conscious and human constraint which is never absent from a Protestant church where people are definitely gathered together as people, as neighbors, and always have at least half an eye for one another, if not all of both eyes.”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“The land which thou goest to possess is not like the land of Egypt from whence thou camest out...  For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord...Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near...Why do you spend money for that which is not bread and your labor for that which doth not satisfy you-”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“See, see Who God is, see the glory of God, going up to Him out of this incomprehensible and infinite Sacrifice in which all history begins and ends, all individual lives begin and end, in which every story is told, and finished, and settled for joy or for sorrow: the one point of reference for all the truths that are outside of God, their center, their focus: Love.”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“If we live with possibilities we are exiles from the present which is given us by God to be our own, homeless and displaced in a future or a past which are not ours because they are always beyond our reach. The present is our right place, and we can lay hands on whatever it offers us.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“One of the effects of original sin is an instinctive prejudice in favour of our own selfish desires. We see things as they are not, because we see them centered on ourselves. Fear, anxiety, greed, ambition and our hopeless need for pleasure all distort the image of reality that is reflected in our minds. Grace does not completely correct this distortion all at once: but it gives us a means of recognizing and allowing for it. And it tells us what we must do to correct it. Sincerity must be bought at a price: the humility to recognize our innumerable errors, and fidelity in tirelessly setting them right.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“We cannot have peace with others because we don’t have peace with ourselves, and we cannot have peace with ourselves because we have no peace with God.” (aprox translation)

- Thomas Merton, The Living Bread

“The Lord did not create suffering. Pain and death came into the world with the fall of man. But after man had chosen suffering in preference to the joys of union with God, the Lord turned suffering itself into a way by which man could come to the perfect knowledge of God.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“We cannot find Him unless we know we need Him. We forget this need when we take a self-sufficient pleasure in our own good works. The poor and helpless are the first to find Him, Who came to seek and to save that which was lost.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“Faith is the door to the full inner life of the Church, a life which includes not only access to an authoritative teaching but above all to a deep personal experience which is at once unique and yet shared by the whole Body of Christ, in the Spirit of Christ.”

- Thomas Merton, Zen and the Birds of Appetite

“We are obliged to love one another. We are not strictly bound to 'like' one another. Love governs the will: 'liking' is a matter of sense and sensibility. Nevertheless, if we really love others it will not be too hard to like them also.

If we wait for some people to become agreeable or attractive before we begin to love them, we will never begin. If we are content to give them a cold impersonal 'charity' that is merely a matter of obligation, we will not trouble to understand them or to sympathize with them at all. And in that case we will not really love them, because love implies an efficacious will not only to do good to others exteriorly but also to find some good in them to which we can respond.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“We have what we seek. We don't have to rush after it. It was there all the time, and if we give it time it will make itself known to us.”

- Thomas Merton

“Therefore, doing the Stations of the Cross was still more laborious than consoling, and required a sacrifice. It was much the same with all my devotions. They did not come easily or spontaneously, and they very seldom brought with them any strong sensible satisfaction. Nevertheless the work of performing them ended in a profound and fortifying peace: a peace that was scarcely perceptible, but which deepened and which, as my passions subsided, became more and more real, more and more sure, and finally stayed with me permanently.”

- Thomas Merton

“For each one of us, there is only one thing necessary: to fulfill our own destiny, according to God's will, to be what God wants us to be.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“His justice is the love that gives to each one of His creatures the gifts that His mercy has previously decreed. And His mercy is His love, doing justice to its own exigencies, and renewing the gift which we had failed to accept.”

- Thomas Merton

“I have my own way to walk and for some reason or other Zen is right in the middle of it wherever I go. So there it is, with all its beautiful purposelessness, and it has become very familiar to me though I do not know "what it is." Or even if it is an "it." Not to be foolish and multiply words, I'll say simply that it seems to me that Zen is the very atmosphere of the Gospels, and the Gospels are bursting with it. It is the proper climate for any monk, no matter what kind of monk he may be. If I could not breathe Zen I would probably die of spiritual asphyxiation.”

- Thomas Merton

“A man is a free being who is always changing into himself. This changing is never merely indifferent. We are always getting either better or worse. Our development is measured by our acts of free choice, and we make ourselves by the patterns of our desires.

If our desires reach out for the things that we were created to have and to make and to become, then we will develop into what we were truly meant to be.

But if our desires reach out for things that have have no meaning for the growth of our spirit, if they lose themselves in dreams or passions or illusions, we will be false to ourselves and to other men and to God. We will judge ourselves as aliens and exiles from ourselves and from God.

In hell, there is no recollection. The damned are exiled not only from God and from other men, but even from themselves.”

- Thomas Merton

“And of course most non-Catholics imagine that the Church is immensely rich, and that all Catholic institutions make money hand over fist, and that all the money is stored away somewhere to buy gold and silver dishes for the Pope and cigars for the College of Cardinals.”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“The whole function of the life of prayer is, then, to enlighten and strengthen our conscience so that it not only knows and perceives the outward, written precepts of the moral and divine laws, but above all lives God's law in concrete reality by perfect and continual union with His will.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“Show us your Christ, Lady, after this our exile, yes: but show Him to us also now, show Him to us here, while we are still wanderers.”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“Do not desire chiefly to be cherished and consoled by God; desire above all to love Him.

Do not anxiously desire to have others find consolation in God, but rather help them to love God.

Do not seek consolation in talking about God, but speak of Him in order that He may be glorified.

If you truly love Him, nothing can console you but His glory. And if you seek His glory before everything else, then you will also be humble enough to receive consolation from His hand: accepting it chiefly because, in showing His mercy to us, He is glorified in our souls.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“You have got me walking up and down all day under those trees, saying to me over and over again, "Solitude, solitude." And You have turned around and thrown the world in my lap. You have told me, "Leave all things and follow me," and then You have tied half of New York to my foot like a ball and chain. You have got me kneeling behind that pillar with my mind making a noise like a bank. Is that contemplation-”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“Today the artist has inherited the combined functions of hermit, pilgrim, prophet, priest, shaman, sorcerer, soothsayer, alchemist.”

- Thomas Merton

“In the end, it's the reality of personal realtionships that save everything.”

- Thomas Merton

“In the use of force, one simplifies the situation by assuming that the evil to be overcome is clear-cut, definite, and irreversible. Hence there remains but one thing: to eliminate it. Any dialogue with the sinner, any question of the irreversibility of his act, only means faltering and failure. Failure to eliminate evil is itself a defeat. Anything that even remotely risks such defeat is in itself capitulation to evil. The irreversibility of evil then reaches out to contaminate even the tolerant thought of the hesitant crusader who, momentarily, doubts the total evil of the enemy he is about to eliminate. p. 21”

- Thomas Merton, On Non-Violence

“The most awful tyranny is that of the proximate Utopia where the last sins are currently being eliminated and where, tomorrow, there will be no more sins because all the sinners will have been wiped out. p. 22”

- Thomas Merton, On Non-Violence

“The geographical pilgrimage is the symbolic acting out an inner journey. The inner journey is the interpolation of the meanings and signs of the outer pilgrimage. One can have one without the other. It is best to have both.”

- Thomas Merton

“Words stand between silence and silence: between the silence of things and the silence of our own being. Between the silence of the world and the silence of God. When we have really met and known the world in silence, words do not separate us from the world nor from other men, nor from God, nor from ourselves because we no longer trust entirely in language to contain reality.”

- Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

“The deepest of level of communication is not communication, but communion. It is wordless ... beyond speech ... beyond concept.”

- Thomas Merton

“The real reason why so few men believe in God is that they have ceased to believe that even a God can love them.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“People have no idea what one saint can do: for sanctity is stronger than the whole of hell.”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“The world as pure object is something that is not there. It is not a reality outside us for which we exist....It is a living and self-creating mystery of which I am myself a part, to which I am myself, my own unique door.”

- Thomas Merton

“For now, oh my God, it is to You alone that I can talk, because nobody else will understand. I cannot bring any other man on this earth into the cloud where I dwell in Your light, that is, Your darkness, where I am lost and abashed. I cannot explain to any other man the anguish which is Your joy nor the loss which is the Possession of You, nor the distance from all things which is the arrival in You, nor the death which is the birth in You because I do not know anything about it myself and all I know is that I wish it were over - I wish it were begun.”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“To desire Him to be merciful to us is to acknowledge Him as God. To seek His pity when we deserve no pity is to ask Him to be just with a justice so holy that it knows no evil and shows mercy to everyone who does not fly from Him in despair.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“The silence of the spheres is the music of a wedding feast. The more we persist in misunderstanding the phenomena of life, the more we analyze them out into strange finalities and complex purposes of our own, the more we involve ourselves in sadness. But it does not matter much because no despair of ours can alter the reality of things, or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there.”

- Thomas Merton

“Our thought should not merely be an answer to what someone else has just said. Or what someone else might have said. Our interior world must be more than an echo of the words of someone else. There is no point in being a moon to somebody else's sun, still less is there any justification for our being moons of one another, and hence darkness to one another, not one of us being a true sun.”

- Thomas Merton

“It is by the Holy Spirit that we love those who are united to us in Christ. The more plentifully we have received of the Spirit of Christ, the more perfectly we are able to love them: and the more we love them the more we receive the Spirit. It is clear, however, that since we love them by the Spirit Who is given to us by Jesus, it is Jesus Himself Who loves them in us.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“The Holy Spirit is the most perfect gift of the Father to men, and yet He is the one gift which the Father gives most easily.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“In actual fact, conventions are the death of real tradition as they are of all real life. They are parasites which attach themselves to the living organism of tradition and devour all its reality, turning it into a hollow formality.

Tradition is living and active, but convention is passive and dead. Tradition does not form us automatically: we have to work to understand it. Convention is accepted passively, as a matter of routine. Therefore, convention easily becomes an evasion of reality. It offers us only pretended ways of solving the problems of living - a system of gestures and formalities. Tradition really teaches us to live and shows us how to take full responsibility for our own lives. Thus tradition is often flatly opposed to what is ordinary, to what is mere routine. But convention, which is a mere repetition of familiar routines, follows the line of least resistance. One goes through an act, without trying to understand the meaning of it all, merely because everyone else does the same. Tradition, which is always old, is at the same time ever new because it is always reviving - born again in each new generation, to be lived and applied in a new and particular way. Convention is simply the ossification of social customs. The activities of conventional people are merely excuses for NOT acting in a more integrally human way. Tradition nourishes the life of the spirit; convention merely disguises its interior decay.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“It is not merely our own desire but the desire of Christ in His Spirit that drives us to grow in love. Those who seldom or never feel in their hearts the desire for the love of God and other men, and who do not thirst for the pure waters of desire which are poured out in us by the strong, living God, are usually those who have drunk from other rivers or have dug for themselves broken cisterns.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“Bodily agitation, then, is an enemy to the spirit. And by agitation I do not necessarily mean exercise or movement. There is all the difference in the world between agitation and work.

Work occupies the body and the mind and is necessary for the health of the spirit. Work can help us to pray and be recollected if we work properly. Agitation, however, destroys the spiritual usefulness of work and even tends to frustrate its physical and social purpose. Agitation is the useless and ill-directed action of the body. It expresses the inner confusion of a soul without peace. Work brings peace to the soul that has a semblance of order and spiritual understanding. It helps the soul to focus upon its spiritual aims and to achieve them. But the whole reason for agitation is to hide the soul from itself, to camouflage its interior conflicts and their purposelessness, and to induce a false feeling that 'we are getting somewhere'.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“Who is willing to be satisfied with a job that expresses all his limitations- He will accept such work only as a 'means of livelihood' while he waits to discover his 'true vocation'. The world is full of unsuccessful businessmen who still secretly believe they were meant to be artists or writers or actors in the movies.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“The only trouble is that in the spiritual life there are no tricks and no shortcuts. Those who imagine that they can discover spiritual gimmicks and put them to work for themselves usually ignore God's will and his grace.”

- Thomas Merton, Contemplative Prayer

“The wise man has struggled to find You in his wisdom, and he has failed. The just man has striven to grasp You in his own justice, and he has gone astray.

But the sinner, suddenly struck by the lightning of mercy that ought to have been justice, falls down in adoration of Your holiness: for he had seen what kings desired to see and never saw, what prophets foretold and never gazed upon, what the men of ancient times grew weary of expecting when they died. He has seen that Your love is so infinitely good that it cannot be the object of a human bargain.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“Like the prophet Jonas, whom God ordered to go to Nineveh, I found myself with an almost uncontrollable desire to go in the opposite direction. God pointed one way and all my "ideals" pointed in the other. It was when Jonas was traveling as fast as he could away from Nineveh, toward Tharsis, that he was thrown overboard, and swallowed by a whale who took him where God wanted him to go...But I feel that my own life is especially sealed with this great sign, which baptism and monastic profession and priestly ordination have burned into the roots of my being, because like Jonas himself I find myself traveling toward my destiny in the belly of a paradox.”

- Thomas Merton

“To know the Cross is not merely to know our own sufferings. For the Cross is the sign of salvation, and no man is saved by his own sufferings. To know the Cross is to know that we are saved by the sufferings of Christ; more, it is to know the love of Christ Who underwent suffering and death in order to save us. It is, then, to know Christ.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“The true inner self must be drawn up like a jewel from the bottom of the sea, rescued from confusion, from indistinction, from immersion in the common, the nondescript, the trivial, the sordid, the evanescent.”

- Thomas Merton

“The selfishness of an age that has devoted itself to the mere cult of pleasure has tainted the whole human race with an error that makes all our acts more or less lies against God.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“Those who refuse His mercy satisfy His justice in another way. Without His mercy, they cannot love Him. Without love for Him they cannot be 'justified' or 'made just'. That is to say: they cannot conform to Him Who is love. Those who have not received His mercy are in a state of injustice with regard to Him. It is their own injustice that is condemned by His justice. And in what does their injustice consist- In the refusal of His mercy. We come, in the end, to this basic paradox: that we owe it to God to receive from Him the mercy that is offered to us in Christ, and that to refuse this mercy is the summation of our 'injustice'. Clearly, then, only the mercy of God can make us just, in this supernatural sense, since the primary demand of God's justice upon us is that we receive His mercy.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“The man who fears to be alone will never be anything but lonely, no matter how much he may surround himself with people. But the man who learns, in solitude and recollection, to be at peace with his own loneliness, and to prefer its reality to the illusion of merely natural companionship, comes to know the invisible companionship of God”

- Thomas Merton

“The logic of worldly success rests on a fallacy: the strange error that our perfection depends on the thoughts and opinions and applause of other men!" Thomas Merton”

- Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

“One who is content with what he has, and who accepts the fact that he inevitably misses very much in life, is far better off than one who has much more but who worries about all he may be missing . . . the relative perfection which we must attain to in this life if we are to live as sons of God is not the twenty-four-hour-a-day production of perfect acts of virtue, but a life from which practically all the obstacles to God's love have been removed or overcome. One of the chief obstacles to this perfection of selfless charity is the selfish anxiety to get the most out of everything, to be a brilliant success in our own eyes and in the eyes of other men. We can only get rid of this anxiety by being content to miss something in almost everything we do. We cannot master everything, taste everything, understand everything, drain every experience to its last dregs. But if we have the courage to let almost everything else go, we will probably be able to retain the one thing necessary for us— whatever it may be. If we are too eager to have everything, we will almost certainly miss even the one thing we need. Happiness consists in finding out precisely what the "one thing necessary" may be, in our lives, and in gladly relinquishing all the rest. For then, by a divine paradox, we find that everything else is given us together with the one thing we needed.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“Once the question of grace and free will is reduced to a juridical matter, once witnesses line up with plaintiff or defendant and the jurors strive to determine who is entitled to what, we are inevitably tempted to act as if everything that was given to free will was taken from grace and everything conceded to grace was withdrawn from our own liberty.

On both sides of the debate, whether one is arguing "for grace" or whether one is a defender of "nature," it seems that everyone is more or less obsessed with this great illusion of ownership and possession. What is strictly mine- How much can God demand of me - how much can I demand of Him- Even if I come up with the answer that nothing is strictly mine at all, I have still falsified the perspective by asking a foolish question in the first place. "How much is mine-" Should such a question ever be asked- Should such a division ever be made at all- To ask such a question makes it almost impossible for me to grasp the paradox which is the only possible answer: That everything is mine precisely because everything is His. If it were not His, it could never be mine. If it could not be mine, He would not even want it for Himself. And all that is His is His very self. All that He gives me becomes, in some way, my own self. What, then is mine- He is mine. And what is His- I am His.”

- Thomas Merton, The New Man

“Consequently, the truth of God lives in our souls more by the power of superior moral courage than by the light of an eminent intelligence. Indeed, spiritual intelligence itself depends on the fortitude and patience with which we sacrifice ourselves for the truth, as it is communicated to our lives concretely in the providential will of God”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“It is by desiring to grow in love that we receive the Holy Spirit, and the thirst for more charity is the effect of this more abundant reception.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“The married man and the mother of a Christian family, if they are faithful to their obligations, will fulfill a mission that is as great as it is consoling: that of bringing into the world and forming young souls capable of happiness and love, souls capable of sanctification and transformation in Christ.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

“...only God's truth without limit, without defect, without stain. This clean light, which tastes of Paradise, is beyond all pride, beyond comment, beyond proprietorship, beyond solitude. It is in all and for all. It is the true light that shines in everyone, in "every man coming into this world." It is the light of Christ, "Who stands in the midst of us and we know Him not.”

“It is true that we are called to create a better world. But we are first of all called to a more immediate and exalted task: that of creating our own lives.”

“The first step toward finding God--who is truth--is to discover the truth about myself; and if I have been in error, this first step to truth is the discovery of my error”

- Thomas Merton, The Intimate Merton: His Life from His Journals

“Everything in modern city life is calculated to keep man from entering into himself and thinking about spiritual things. Even with the best of intentions a spiritual man finds himself exhausted and deadened and debased by the constant noise of machines and loudspeakers, the dead air and the glaring lights of offices and shops, the everlasting suggestion of advertising and propaganda.  The whole mechanism of modern life is geared for a flight from God and from the spirit into the wilderness of neurosis.”

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

© 2015 by Gerald Whitehawk.  In case of an emergency, ALWAYS call 911All the information on this site and our publications is for informational purposes, only, and it does not constitute professional advice.  All intellectual property rights in and to the practice of ESOTHERAPY® and ESO-PHENOMENOLOGICAL® MEDICINE are reserved by Gerald Whitehawk.

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