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The Unspeakable


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Very much taken with the following, a small part of which I quoted previously in another section.

 

Hopefully its length does not contravene any copyright laws.....if it does, it will have to be deleted.

 

The passage comes from the book "Raids on the Unspeakable", a book Merton at one point said was written for the "beats" who might just catch what he was on about and understand him. Not sure I identify entirely ( :D ) with the beats, and I find myself at the edge of understanding. But Merton's words here have resonated so much with me since first reading them that I feel compelled to share them.......

 

 

 

 

......the deeper question is the nature of reality itself.

 

Inexorable consistency. Is reality the same as consistency?

 

The "reality" of the world of many is of consistency, but the reality of the real world is not consistent.

 

The world of consistency is the world of justice, but justice is not the final word.

 

There is, above the consistent and logical world of justice, an inconsistent illogical world where nothing "hangs together," where justice no longer damns each to their own darkness. This inconsistent world is the realm of mercy.

 

The world can only be "consistent" without God.

 

His freedom will always threaten it with inconsistency - with unexpected gifts.

 

A god who is fitted into our world scheme in order to make it serious and consistent is not God.

 

Such a world is not to be taken seriously, such a god is not to be taken seriously. If such a god is "absent" then doubtless the absence is a blessing.

 

To take him seriously is to submit to obsession, to doubt, to magic, and then to escape these, or try to escape them, by willfulness, by the determination to stake all on an arbitrary selection of "things to be taken seriously" because they "save," because they are "his affairs."

 

(Note that even atheism takes seriously this god of consistency)

 

But mercy breaks into the world of magic and justice and overturns its apparent consistency. Mercy is inconsistent. It is therefore comic. It liberates us from the tragic seriousness of the obsessive world which we have "made up" for ourselves by yielding to our obsessions. Only mercy can liberate us from the madness of our determination to be consistent - from the awful pattern of lusts, greeds, angers and hatreds which mix us up altogether like a mass of dough and thrusts us all together into the oven.

 

Mercy cannot be contained in the web of obsessions.

 

Nor is it something one determines to think about - that one resolves to "take seriously," in the sense of becoming obsessed with it.

 

You cannot become obsessed with mercy!

 

This is the inner secret of mercy. It is totally incompatible with obsession, with compulsion. It liberates from all the rigid and deterministic structures which magic strives to impose on reality (or which science, the child of magic, tries to impose)

 

Mercy is not to be purchased by a set way of acting, by a formal determination to be consistent.

 

Law is consistent. Grace is "inconsistent."

 

The Cross is the sign of contradiction - destroying the seriousness of the Law, of the Empire, of the armies, of blood sacrifice, and of obsession.

 

But the magicians keep turning the Cross to their own purpose. Yes, it is for them too a sign of contradiction: the awful blasphemy of the religious magician who makes the Cross contradict mercy. This of course is the ultimate temptation of Christianity. To say that Christ has locked all doors, has given one answer, settled everything and departed, leaving all life enclosed in the frightful consistency of a system outside of which there is seriousness and damnation, inside of which there is the intolerable flippancy of the saved - while nowhere is there any place left for the mystery of the freedom of divine mercy which alone is truly serious, and worthy of being taken seriously.

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Tariki,

 

As I read the quotes it also felt as if i were on the edge of understanding though the words to describe such are unidentifiable. A glimpse of a justice that cannot even be called justice, beyond the concepts of men, to the reality of who or what we are which changes our whole perception leaving nothing to be said.

 

Has the writings of Thomas Merton been even more instrumental or inspiring in your journey than your Pure Land study?

 

Joseph

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Tariki,

 

As I read the quotes it also felt as if i were on the edge of understanding though the words to describe such are unidentifiable. A glimpse of a justice that cannot even be called justice, beyond the concepts of men, to the reality of who or what we are which changes our whole perception leaving nothing to be said.

 

Has the writings of Thomas Merton been even more instrumental or inspiring in your journey than your Pure Land study?

 

Joseph

 

Joseph, I'd just like to say first that the quotation given is a continuous extract from Merton's essay "To Each His Darkness" (notes on a novel by Julien Green) and is not made up of individual quotes. This essay forms part of the book of separate essays contained in "Raids on the Unspeakable."

 

Thinking back I "discovered" Merton much the same time that I slipped across from Theravada Buddhism into the Pure Land. (Theravada being part of the way of the Sages, where one develops wisdom and gains enlightenment , as opposed to the way of Pure Land, where one returns to the foolish self to be saved by Amida.- I don't think I would ever have made it as a sage.... :D )

 

To a certain extent the two have illuminated each other. Pure Land - on its own - would still have remained a somewhat "exotic" formulation...............it just allowed me to open to the implications of pure grace without the nagging voice of fundamentalism and all its associated miseries and inanities, and Merton - not being didactic in any way, and able to express his own total reliance upon Divine mercy without dogmatism - comforted my "Christian" side.

 

Now, really, I see that it is individuals that truly inspire me, their lives and their words - irrespective of creed. Shinran, who initiated the form of Pure Land that I find most illuminating, wrote some great stuff, and though he can come across as a little bit of a stuffed shirt, he was a stuffed shirt with soul!! And, for me, Merton is something else. Just like me, he often liked a tipple!

 

Anyway, all the best

Derek

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