Thomas Merton and Humility

Thomas Merton was such a gift to Christianity and to mankind as a whole. He had deep spiritual insight which has fallen on deaf ears in most instances as is usually the case with Truth. I often quote W. H. Auden on this note, “And Truth met him and held out her hand. And he clung in panic to his tall belief and shrank away like an ill-treated child.”

Here is a stirring observation by Merton:

At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and absolute poverty is the pure Glory of God written in us, as our poverty, our indigence, as our sonship. It is like a pure diamond blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it, we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that could make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely. I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere.

As I copy this for you I am stirred once more. This is now added to my daily devotional. It is absolutely stirring and painfully humbling. I really like his conclusion, “I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere.” We prefer a “program” as that is easier. A program offers “slam, bam, thank you ma’am” with everything written up neatly in a little syllogism. And when we can wrap spirituality up like that we have succeeded in co-opting God, in maintaining our illusion of supremacy under the guise of spirituality. If we look closely, with a discerning spirit (and practice “mindfulness”) we have to acknowledge, ‘Oh, this is all about me.”

I conclude with part of a stirring sonnet by John Masefield about this spiritual smugness:

How many ways, how many different times
The tiger mind has clutched at what it sought,
Only to prove supposed virtues crimes,
The imagined godhead but a form of thought.
How many restless brains have wrought and schemed,
Padding their cage, or built, or brought to law,
Made in outlasting brass the something dreamed,
Only to prove (itself) the thing held in awe.


13 thoughts on “Thomas Merton and Humility

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