Thomas Merton

Thomas
Merton
1915
1968

French-born Anglo-American Catholic Writer, Poet, Trappist Monk and Social Activist

Author Quotes

A humble man can do great things with an uncommon perfection, because he is no longer concerned about incidentals like his own interests and his own reputation, and therefore he no longer needs to waste his efforts in defending them

An author in a Trappist monastery is like a duck in a chicken coop. And he would give anything in the world to be a chicken instead of a duck.

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'.

A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.

An ethic of barely disguised selfishness is no longer an ethic. Nor can we afford to raise this to the national level and assume that the world will adjust itself if every nation seeks its own advantage before everything else. On the contrary, we are obliged to widen our horizons and to recognize our responsibility to build an international community in which the right of all nations and other groups will be respected and guaranteed. We cannot expect a peaceful world society to emerge all by itself from the turmoil of a ruthless power struggle – we have to work, sacrifice and cooperate to lay the foundations on which future generations may build a stable and peaceful international community.

Businesses, are, in reality, quasi-religious sects. When you go to work in one, you embrace A New Faith. And if they are really big businesses, you progress from faith to a kind of mystique. Belief in the product, preaching the product, in the end the product becomes the focus of a transcendental experience. Through “the product” one communes with the vast forces of life, nature, and history that are expressed in business.

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.

Anxiety is the mark of spiritual insecurity.

But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact pleases You.

A man knows when he has found his vocation when he stops thinking about how to live and begins to live.

Any fool knows that you don't need money to get enjoyment out of life.

But indeed we exist solely for this, to be the place He has chosen for His presence, His manifestation in the world, His epiphany.

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

Anyone who regards love as a deal made on the basis of “needs” is in danger of falling into a purely quantitative ethic. If love is a deal, then who is to say that you should not make as many deals as possible?

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

A man who is not at peace with himself necessarily projects his interior fighting into the society of those he lives with, and spreads a contagion of conflict all around him. Even when he tries to do good to others his efforts are hopeless, since he does not know how to do good to himself. In moments of wildest idealism he may take it into his head to make other people happy: and in doing so he will overwhelm them with his own unhappiness. He seeks to find himself somehow in the work of making others happy. Therefore he throws himself into the work. As a result he gets out of the work all that he put into it: his own confusion, his own disintegration, his own unhappiness.

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

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.

A member of the human race! To think that such a commonplace realization should suddenly seem like news that one holds the winning ticket in a cosmic sweepstake.

Art is not an end in itself. It introduces the soul into a higher spiritual order, which it expresses and in some sense explains.

But there is greater comfort in the substance of silence than in the answer to a question.

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.

Without our knowing it, we see reality through glasses colored by the subconscious memory of previous experiences.

Music and art and poetry attune the soul to God because they induce a kind of contact with the Creator and Ruler of the Universe.

Truth, not in distinct and clear-cut definitions but in the limpid obscurity of a single intuition that unites all dogmas in one simple Light, shining into the soul directly from God’s eternity, without the medium of created concept, without the intervention of symbols or of language or the likeness of material things. Here the Truth is One Whom we not only know and possess but by Whom we are known and possessed. Here theology ceases to be a body of abstractions and becomes a Living Reality Who is God Himself.

Author Picture
First Name
Thomas
Last Name
Merton
Birth Date
1915
Death Date
1968
Bio

French-born Anglo-American Catholic Writer, Poet, Trappist Monk and Social Activist