Thomas Merton quotes

Thomas Merton photo
92   6

Thomas Merton

Birthdate: 31. January 1915
Date of death: 10. December 1968

Thomas Merton, O.C.S.O. was an American Catholic writer, theologian and mystic. A Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky, he was a poet, social activist, and student of comparative religion. In 1949, he was ordained to the priesthood and given the name Father Louis.

Merton wrote more than 70 books, mostly on spirituality, social justice and a quiet pacifism, as well as scores of essays and reviews. Among Merton's most enduring works is his bestselling autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain , which sent scores of World War II veterans, students, and even teenagers flocking to monasteries across the US, and was also featured in National Review's list of the 100 best non-fiction books of the century. Merton was a keen proponent of interfaith understanding. He pioneered dialogue with prominent Asian spiritual figures, including the Dalai Lama, the Japanese writer D.T. Suzuki, the Thai Buddhist monk Buddhadasa, and the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh, and authored books on Zen Buddhism and Taoism. In the years since his death, Merton has been the subject of several biographies.

Works

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

—  Thomas Merton

Variant: Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone we find it with another.
Source: Love and Living

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

—  Thomas Merton, book No Man Is an Island

Variant: Art enables us to find ourselves and loose ourselves at the same time.
Source: No Man Is an Island

„We must suffer. Our five sense are dulled by inordinate pleasure.“

—  Thomas Merton

Thoughts in Solitude (1956)
Context: We must suffer. Our five sense are dulled by inordinate pleasure. Penance makes them keen, gives them back their natural vitality, and more. Penance clears the eye of conscience and of reason. It helps think clearly, judge sanely. It strengthens the action of our will.

„Chuang Tzu is not concerned with words and formulas about reality, but with the direct existential grasp of reality in itself.“

—  Thomas Merton

"A Note To The Reader".
The Way of Chuang-Tzŭ (1965)
Context: I simply like Chuang Tzu because he is what he is and I feel no need to justify this liking to myself or to anyone else. He is far too great to need any apologies from me. … His philosophical temper is, I believe, profoundly original and sane. It can of course be misunderstood. But it is basically simple and direct. It seeks, as does all the greatest philosoph­ical thought, to go immediately to the heart of things.
Chuang Tzu is not concerned with words and formulas about reality, but with the direct existential grasp of reality in itself. Such a grasp is necessarily obscure and does not lend itself to abstract analysis. It can be presented in a parable, a fable, or a funny story about a conversation between two philosophers.

„We drive by night. Nevertheless our reason penetrates the darkness enough to show us a little of the road ahead. It is by the light of reason that we interpret the signposts and make out the landmarks along our way.“

—  Thomas Merton

Source: The Ascent to Truth (1951), Ch. X : Reason in the Life of Contemplation, p. 114.
Context: One might compare the journey of the soul to mystical union, by way of pure faith, to the journey of a car on a dark highway. The only way the driver can keep to the road is by using his headlights. So in the mystical life, reason has its function. The way of faith is necessarily obscure. We drive by night. Nevertheless our reason penetrates the darkness enough to show us a little of the road ahead. It is by the light of reason that we interpret the signposts and make out the landmarks along our way.
Those who misunderstand Saint John of the Cross imagine that the way of nada is like driving by night, without any headlights whatever. This is a dangerous misunderstanding of the saint's doctrine.

„One might compare the journey of the soul to mystical union, by way of pure faith, to the journey of a car on a dark highway.“

—  Thomas Merton

Source: The Ascent to Truth (1951), Ch. X : Reason in the Life of Contemplation, p. 114.
Context: One might compare the journey of the soul to mystical union, by way of pure faith, to the journey of a car on a dark highway. The only way the driver can keep to the road is by using his headlights. So in the mystical life, reason has its function. The way of faith is necessarily obscure. We drive by night. Nevertheless our reason penetrates the darkness enough to show us a little of the road ahead. It is by the light of reason that we interpret the signposts and make out the landmarks along our way.
Those who misunderstand Saint John of the Cross imagine that the way of nada is like driving by night, without any headlights whatever. This is a dangerous misunderstanding of the saint's doctrine.

„The logic of the poet — that is, the logic of language or the experience itself — develops the way a living organism grows: it spreads out towards what it loves, and is heliotropic, like a plant.“

—  Thomas Merton

Context: There is a logic of language and a logic of mathematics. The former is supple and lifelike, it follows our experience. The latter is abstract and rigid, more ideal. The latter is perfectly necessary, perfectly reliable: the former is only sometimes reliable and hardly ever systematic. But the logic of mathematics achieves necessity at the expense of living truth, it is less real than the other, although more certain. It achieves certainty by a flight from the concrete into abstraction. Doubtless, to an idealist, this would seem to be a more perfect reality. I am not an idealist. The logic of the poet — that is, the logic of language or the experience itself — develops the way a living organism grows: it spreads out towards what it loves, and is heliotropic, like a plant.

„Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.“

—  Thomas Merton

Letter to Dorothy Day, quoted in Catholic Voices in a World on Fire (2005) by Stephen Hand, p. 180.
Context: 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 if anything can.

Help us translate English quotes

Discover interesting quotes and translate them.

Start translating

„It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, though it is a race dedicated to many absurdities and one which makes many terrible mistakes“

—  Thomas Merton

Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (1966)
Context: It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, though it is a race dedicated to many absurdities and one which makes many terrible mistakes: yet, with all that, God Himself gloried in becoming a member of the human race. 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.

„There is a logic of language and a logic of mathematics.“

—  Thomas Merton

Context: There is a logic of language and a logic of mathematics. The former is supple and lifelike, it follows our experience. The latter is abstract and rigid, more ideal. The latter is perfectly necessary, perfectly reliable: the former is only sometimes reliable and hardly ever systematic. But the logic of mathematics achieves necessity at the expense of living truth, it is less real than the other, although more certain. It achieves certainty by a flight from the concrete into abstraction. Doubtless, to an idealist, this would seem to be a more perfect reality. I am not an idealist. The logic of the poet — that is, the logic of language or the experience itself — develops the way a living organism grows: it spreads out towards what it loves, and is heliotropic, like a plant.

„There is no question that the kind of thought and culture represented by Chuang Tzu was what transformed highly speculative Indian Buddhism into the humorous, iconoclastic, and totally practical kind of Buddhism that was to flourish in China and in Japan in the various schools of Zen.“

—  Thomas Merton

"The Way Of Chuang Tzu".
The Way of Chuang-Tzŭ (1965)
Context: The humor, the sophistication, the literary genius, and philosophical insight of Chuang Tzu are evident to anyone who samples his work. But before one can begin to understand even a little of his subtlety, one must situate him in his cul­tural and historical context. That is to say that one must see him against the background of the Confucianism which he did not hesitate to ridicule, along with all the other sedate and accepted schools of Chinese thought, from that of Mo Ti to that of Chuang's contemporary, friend, and constant op­ponent, the logician Hui Tzu. One must also see him in rela­tion to what followed him, because it would be a great mistake to confuse the Taoism of Chuang Tzu with the popular, de­ generate amalgam of superstition, alchemy, magic, and health­ culture which Taoism later became.
The true inheritors of the thought and spirit of Chuang Tzu are the Chinese Zen Buddhists of the Tang period (7th to 10th centuries A. D.). But Chuang Tzu continued to exert an influence on all cultured Chinese thought, since he never ceased to be recognized as one of the great writers and think­ ers of the classical period. The subtle, sophisticated, mystical Taoism of Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu has left a permanent mark on all Chinese culture and on the Chinese character itself. There have never been lacking authorities like Daisetz T. Suzuki, the Japanese Zen scholar, who declare Chuang Tzu to be the very greatest of the Chinese philosophers. There is no question that the kind of thought and culture represented by Chuang Tzu was what transformed highly speculative Indian Buddhism into the humorous, iconoclastic, and totally practical kind of Buddhism that was to flourish in China and in Japan in the various schools of Zen. Zen throws light on Chuang Tzu, and Chuang Tzu throws light on Zen.

„All problems are resolved and everything is clear. The rock, all matter, all life, is charged with dharmakaya… everything is emptiness and everything is compassion.“

—  Thomas Merton

The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton (1975) Part One : Ceylon / November 29 - December 6.
Context: Looking at these figures I was suddenly, almost forcibly, jerked clean out of the habitual, half-tied vision of things, and an inner clearness, clarity, as if exploding from the rocks themselves, became evident and obvious. … The thing about this is that there is no puzzle, no problem, and really no "mystery."
All problems are resolved and everything is clear. The rock, all matter, all life, is charged with dharmakaya… everything is emptiness and everything is compassion. I don’t know when in my life I have ever had such a sense of beauty and spiritual validity running together in one aesthetic illumination. Surely with Mahabalipuram and Polonnaruwa my Asian pilgrimage has come clear and purified itself. I mean, I know and have seen what I was obscurely looking for. I don’t know what else remains but I have now seen and have pierced through the surface and have got beyond the shadow and the disguise.
The whole thing is very much a Zen garden, a span of bareness and openness and evidence, and the great figures, motionless, yet with the lines in full movement, waves of vesture and bodily form, a beautiful and holy vision.

„Persons are not known by intellect alone, not by principles alone, but only by love. It is when we love the other, the enemy, that we obtain from God the key to an understanding of who he is, and who we are.“

—  Thomas Merton

Letter to Dorothy Day (20 December 1961).
Context: Persons are not known by intellect alone, not by principles alone, but only by love. It is when we love the other, the enemy, that we obtain from God the key to an understanding of who he is, and who we are. It is only this realization that can open to us the real nature of our duty, and of right action. To shut out the person and to refuse to consider him as a person, as an other self, we resort to the impersonal "law" and to abstract "nature." That is to say we block off the reality of the other, we cut the intercommunication of our nature and his nature, and we consider only our own nature with its rights, its claims, it demands. And we justify the evil we do to our brother because he is no longer a brother, he is merely an adversary, an accused. To restore communication, to see our oneness of nature with him, and to respect his personal rights and his integrity, his worthiness of love, we have to see ourselves as similarly accused along with him … and needing, with him, the ineffable gift of grace and mercy to be saved. Then, instead of pushing him down, trying to climb out by using his head as a stepping-stone for ourselves, we help ourselves to rise by helping him to rise. For when we extend our hand to the enemy who is sinking in the abyss, God reaches out to both of us, for it is He first of all who extends our hand to the enemy. It is He who "saves himself" in the enemy, who makes use of us to recover the lost groat which is His image in our enemy.

„The secret of the way proposed by Chuang Tzu is … not the accumulation of virtue and merit … but wu wei, the non-doing, or non-action, which is not intent upon results and is not concerned with consciously laid plans or deliberately organized endeavors: "My greatest happiness consists precisely in doing nothing whatever that is calculated to obtain happiness“

—  Thomas Merton

"The Way Of Chuang Tzu".
The Way of Chuang-Tzŭ (1965)
Context: The secret of the way proposed by Chuang Tzu is … not the accumulation of virtue and merit … but wu wei, the non-doing, or non-action, which is not intent upon results and is not concerned with consciously laid plans or deliberately organized endeavors: "My greatest happiness consists precisely in doing nothing whatever that is calculated to obtain happiness... Perfect joy is to be without joy... if you ask 'what ought to be done' and 'what ought not to be done' on earth to produce happiness, I answer that these questions do not have [a fixed and predetermined] answer" to suit every case. If one is in harmony with Tao-the cosmic Tao, "Great Tao" — the answer will make itself clear when the time comes to act, for then one will act not according to the human and self-conscious mode of deliberation, but accord­ ing to the divine and spontaneous mode of wu wei, which is the mode of action of Tao itself, and is therefore the source of all good.
The other way, the way of conscious striving, even though it may claim to be a way of virtue, is fundamentally a way of self-aggrandizement, and it is consequently bound to come into conflict with Tao. Hence it is self-destructive, for "what is against Tao will cease to be."

„The humor, the sophistication, the literary genius, and philosophical insight of Chuang Tzu are evident to anyone who samples his work.“

—  Thomas Merton

"The Way Of Chuang Tzu".
The Way of Chuang-Tzŭ (1965)
Context: The humor, the sophistication, the literary genius, and philosophical insight of Chuang Tzu are evident to anyone who samples his work. But before one can begin to understand even a little of his subtlety, one must situate him in his cul­tural and historical context. That is to say that one must see him against the background of the Confucianism which he did not hesitate to ridicule, along with all the other sedate and accepted schools of Chinese thought, from that of Mo Ti to that of Chuang's contemporary, friend, and constant op­ponent, the logician Hui Tzu. One must also see him in rela­tion to what followed him, because it would be a great mistake to confuse the Taoism of Chuang Tzu with the popular, de­ generate amalgam of superstition, alchemy, magic, and health­ culture which Taoism later became.
The true inheritors of the thought and spirit of Chuang Tzu are the Chinese Zen Buddhists of the Tang period (7th to 10th centuries A. D.). But Chuang Tzu continued to exert an influence on all cultured Chinese thought, since he never ceased to be recognized as one of the great writers and think­ ers of the classical period. The subtle, sophisticated, mystical Taoism of Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu has left a permanent mark on all Chinese culture and on the Chinese character itself. There have never been lacking authorities like Daisetz T. Suzuki, the Japanese Zen scholar, who declare Chuang Tzu to be the very greatest of the Chinese philosophers. There is no question that the kind of thought and culture represented by Chuang Tzu was what transformed highly speculative Indian Buddhism into the humorous, iconoclastic, and totally practical kind of Buddhism that was to flourish in China and in Japan in the various schools of Zen. Zen throws light on Chuang Tzu, and Chuang Tzu throws light on Zen.

„This new language of prayer has to come out of something which transcends all our traditions, and comes out of the immediacy of love. We have to part now, aware of the love that unites us, the love that unites us in spite of real differences, real emotional friction… The things on the surface are nothing, what is deep is the Real. We are creatures of Love. Let us therefore join hands, as we did before, and I will try to say something that comes out of the depths of our hearts. I ask you to concentrate on the love that is in you, that is in us all. I have no idea what I am going to say. I am going to be silent a minute, and then I will say something…
O God, we are one with You. You have made us one with You. You have taught us that if we are open to one another, You dwell in us. Help us to preserve this openness and to fight for it with all our hearts. Help us to realize that there can be no understanding where there is mutual rejection. O God, in accepting one another wholeheartedly, fully, completely, we accept You, and we thank You, and we adore You, and we love You with our whole being, because our being is Your being, our spirit is rooted in Your spirit. Fill us then with love, and let us be bound together with love as we go our diverse ways, united in this one spirit which makes You present in the world, and which makes You witness to the ultimate reality that is love. Love has overcome. Love is victorious. Amen.“

—  Thomas Merton

Closing statements and prayer from an informal address delivered in Calcutta, India (October 1968), from The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton (1975); quoted in Thomas Merton, Spiritual Master : The Essential Writings (1992), p. 237.

„What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy if anything can.“

—  Thomas Merton

Letter to Dorothy Day, quoted in Catholic Voices in a World on Fire (2005) by Stephen Hand, p. 180.
Context: 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 if anything can.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

Similar authors

Padre Pio photo
Padre Pio10
Italian saint, priest, stigmatist and mystic
Pierre Teilhard De Chardin photo
Pierre Teilhard De Chardin63
French philosopher and Jesuit priest
Hans Urs Von Balthasar photo
Hans Urs Von Balthasar17
Swedish Catholic theologian
G. K. Chesterton photo
G. K. Chesterton220
English mystery novelist and Christian apologist
Anthony de Mello photo
Anthony de Mello134
Indian writer
H.P. Lovecraft photo
H.P. Lovecraft204
American author
Friedrich Dürrenmatt photo
Friedrich Dürrenmatt19
Swiss author and dramatist
A.A. Milne photo
A.A. Milne168
British author
Napoleon Hill photo
Napoleon Hill66
American author
Yukio Mishima photo
Yukio Mishima59
Japanese author
Today anniversaries
Aaron Copland photo
Aaron Copland13
American composer, composition teacher, writer, and conduct… 1900 - 1990
Paul Watson photo
Paul Watson13
Canadian environmental activist 1950
Maria Callas photo
Maria Callas10
American-born Greek operatic soprano 1923 - 1977
Britney Spears photo
Britney Spears27
American singer, dancer and actress 1981
Another 63 today anniversaries
Similar authors
Padre Pio photo
Padre Pio10
Italian saint, priest, stigmatist and mystic
Pierre Teilhard De Chardin photo
Pierre Teilhard De Chardin63
French philosopher and Jesuit priest
Hans Urs Von Balthasar photo
Hans Urs Von Balthasar17
Swedish Catholic theologian
G. K. Chesterton photo
G. K. Chesterton220
English mystery novelist and Christian apologist
Anthony de Mello photo
Anthony de Mello134
Indian writer