Thomas Merton on Two Forms of The Spiritual Life


 

“He who is spiritually “born” as a mature identity is liberated from the enclosing womb of myth and prejudice. He learns to think for himself, guided no longer by the dictates of need and by the systems and processes designed to create artificial needs and then “satisfy” them.”

“This emancipation can take two forms: first that of the active life, which liberates from enslavement to necessity by considering and serving the needs of others, without thought of personal interest or return. And second, the contemplative life, which must not be construed as an escape from time and matter, from social responsibility and the life of the sense, but rather, as an advance into solitude and desert, confrontation with poverty and the void, a renunciation of the empirical self, in the presence of death, and nothingness, in order to overcome the ignorance and error that spring from the fear of being nothing.” (Thomas Merton, Raids on the Unspeakable, 17-18)

 

 

Author: Matthew Zachary Gindin

Freelance journalist and teacher. I write regularly for the Forward, All That In Interesting, and the Jewish Independent, and have been published in Religion Dispatches, Situate Magazine, Elephant Journal, and elsewhere.

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