Monday, October 26, 2009

Merton on Nothingness

"At the center of our being is a point of nothingness, which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point, a spark, which belongs entirely to God.
It's like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven.  It is in everybody!
I have no program to seize this.  It is only given.   But the Gate of Heaven is everywhere!"
Now give yourself the treat of testing Merton's words.  Go here.  Watch.  Listen.  You may find yourself drawn to that very point of nothingness.  I did.

Another exquisite example.

Addendum (12/26/09) - A more complete quote of Merton's on Nothingness:
"At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by 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 mind or the brutalities of our will.  This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us.  It is, so to speak, His name written in us.  As our poverty, as our indigence, as our dependence, as our son-ship, 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 would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely.  I have no program for this seeing; is it only given.  But the Gate of Heaven is everywhere."
[Quoted by Kallistos Ware from Merton's Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander]

And I just came across this comment (of my own) to Lux Umbra Dei:
I've also read widely in many traditions. They're all pointing at the same vanishing point. This is all that really matters to me. But the "vanishing point" is also within all of us... and like the heart of reality.
 What amazes me (literally blows me away!) is their similarity to the first post of this blog.



Rowan said...

I think that many of us are drawn to a monastic life. There is an assumed quiet and slowing of pace that is tremendously attractive in a society where the push is faster and faster.

I have been to St. Benedict's Monastery (a Trappist monastery) in Snowmass, Colorado. There was certainly a quiet centeredness there. However as a woman, I am forever denied access to the Trappist monastic life. Of course, no longer being Catholic doesn't really help.

The idea of this "blazing diamond" rings with something I have experienced since childhood, but would never have termed as a point of nothingness. I have always seen or felt what I term as an internal fire. In some people it blazes high and in others it seems banked. Sometimes an ember barely glowing through the ash - but it is there. I had always seen that as the essence of the person, and that bringing that flame to life was one of the things I was drawn to do in this life. Feeling, though rarely saying, that it is all of our hobs to do that. That "flame" I interpreted as the essential expression, the purest expression, of that person in this life. I guess it could be interpreted as the "god spark."

Thanks for sharing the video and Merton's thoughts TheraP. It raises some interesting introspections.

TheraP said...

Yes, I have been to Snowmass as well. Wonderful place! That's where I "heard the bell".

So good to *see* you, Rowan. I've been sending healing energies all the time....

Actually, the Cistercians do have monasteries for women. Here's one that interests me, as a book by their former Abbess had a profound impact on me - in terms of helping me understand some things I've discussed here.

You can take a look at their website if you like. I really like what she has to say about "spiritual priesthood" - that was extremely helpful to me.

(sorry I don't know how to make the link active!)

Peaceful Turmoil said...

Very nice.

This reminds me of something I have been wondering about lately, namely whether spirituality must go through logical-semantic language and conception, or whether other forms of expression and reception, such as art (including stories, paintings, music, icons, architecture, robes and scapular and beads, etc) can function on its own as a form of theology, as a way of directly going into Mystery.

The only time I really get a sense of what I imagine as the sacred is from these things. Simple bells. Candles. Incense. Frescoes. Icons and statues. The image of the monastic in robes chanting or holding a religious artifact. Things like that. Being in a temple or shrine or cathedral with these kinds of things and no service.

On the other hand, logical-semantic or discursive theology (which tries to parse what these mytho-poetic stories, images, sounds, etc are supposed to "mean") tend to be rather like vivisection, that is, trying to dissect a living thing. It is brutal, destructive, and misses the point. It limits and reduces a wonder to a set of intellectual propositions and mundane ideas to be argued over. And in that realm, my views are always heretical and blasphemous. It always seems to me a source of division and distraction.

Which is why the usual hymns and liturgical prayers of Christianity actually drive away any sense of what I think of as sacred. These elements seem to be too influenced and beholden to this other, more recognized and respected form of theology. Then again, maybe I just don't get any of it.

TheraP said...

Dear Peaceful Turmoil,

I think you're on to something. We cannot "grasp" Mystery. It comes upon us - takes us by surprise. And yes, in simplicity. NOT via intellectualizing.

Peace be with you.