This remains the best book I have read to date. The spiritual craftsmanship is profound as it is beautiful. Using a very plain and unassuming style, Merton draws on his highest intuition to channel the sacred heart of the Catholic mystical tradition and guide the reader in the thinking needed to develop a loving appreciation of God.
Ineffably valuable and truly stupendous in implications, this book lays down a set of ethereal stepping stones to traverse the chaos of the void, tumble through the flaming sword of the cherubim that guards the gate of heaven, and emerge in a place of primordial peace. A masterpiece.
God is reality in its most unadulterated and immediate form. God represents reality stripped bare of any manner of falsehood or constriction and subsists in a state of invulnerable perfection, free from the dross of human folly, such as power seeking agendas, concepts, confusion or greed. God appears as ‘the clear blackness’ surrounding and infusing all. God is omniscient, holy, merciful and good.
Contemplation is the conscious, loving appreciation of the dynamics of God.
Contemplation cannot be learned by theory, it can only be facilitated by seeking God (reality) with genuine desire and passion. It requires the willingness to be honest at all costs and the capacity to trust God. Contemplation may be entered into by serving others and thinking about how to serve others, as this reflects the nature or character of God.
Christ is supremely puissant and reigns as King forever. The metaphysical manifestation called Christ is impossible to supersede or overthrow; this is the nexus point that unites all people and means that we are one person, one divine body manifesting in many physical bodies. Christ inevitably owns us all and will, ultimately, unite us.
The best way to learn contemplation is to maintain high standards of moral discipline and act on the desire to be with God, to want to know the truth of reality and oneself, and thereby find liberation. Christ is the thing that delivers the opportunity to see this truth.
The simple, poetic turn of phrase make for a highly satisfying read.
Asserts that the path to contemplation is unique to the individual; exhibits a healthy respect for individual free will and the idiosyncrasies of personality. Affirms the right of all people to determine their own means to commune with the divine.
The book illuminates very clearly a place of goodness and moral discernment within the reader, a very handy reference point amidst the strife and confusion of the present day.
Shows us that the highest expression of freedom is choosing to do God’s will, which means actively seeking truth and eschewing any activities or tendencies which disrespect or pervert God’s creation. Reminds us that there is no freedom in sin, only death.
Makes one realise that we are the property of God. We own nothing, may “take nothing” and must treat everything as sacred, or at least strive to do so.
Engenders a vibrational wavelength that is highly refined and palpably holy. This sort of wavelength, this sort of maturity, offers the promise and hope of a peaceful world.
Perhaps too accepting of Catholic dogma, which undeniably has elements that serve only to isolate, denounce or deride individuals that express interests or experiences outside the ambit of Catholic control and tradition.
Dated in some respects. The book was written in 1961, so many of the socio-political issues alluded to have shifted or elapsed.
“For it is God’s love that warms me in the sun and God’s love that sends the cold rain. It is God’s love that feeds me in the bread I eat and God that feeds me also by hunger and fasting. It is the love of God that sends the winter days when I am cold and sick, and the hot summer when I labor and my clothes are full of sweat: but it is God Who breathes on me with light winds off the river and in the breezes out of the wood.
His love spreads the shade of the sycamore over my head and sends the water-boy along the edge of the wheat field with a bucket from the spring while the laborers are resting and the mules stand under the tree.
It is God’s love that speaks to me in the birds and streams; but also behind the clamor of the city God speaks to me in His judgments, and all these things are seeds sent to me from His will.
If these seeds would take root in my liberty, and if His will would grow from my freedom, I would become the love that He is, and my harvest would be His glory and my own joy.
And I would grow together with thousands and millions of other freedoms into the gold of one huge field praising God, loaded with increase, loaded with wheat. If in all things I only consider the heat and the cold, the food or the hunger, the sickness or labor, the beauty or pleasure, the success and failure or the material good or evil my works have won for my own will, I will find only emptiness and not happiness. I shall not be fed, I shall not be full. For my food is the will of Him Who made me and Who made all things in order to give Himself to me through them.”
New Seeds of Contemplation, p. 16-17