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Thoughts In Solitude Kindle Edition
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He wrote in his Preface to this 1958 book, "The notes found in these pages were written in 1953 and 1954 at times when the author, by the grace of God and the favor of his Superiors, was able to enjoy special opportunities for solitude and meditation. Hence the title. This does not imply that the notes are subjective or autobiographical. They are in no way intended as an account of spiritual adventures... These are simply thoughts on the contemplative life... What is said here about solitude is not just a recipe for hermits. It has a bearing on the whole future of man and of his world: and especially, of course, on the future of his religion."
He observes, "To live as a rational animal does not mean to think as a man and to live as an animal. We must both think and live as men." (Pg. 28) He states that in meditative prayer, "one thinks and speaks not only with his mind and lips, but in a certain sense with his whole being. Prayer is then not just a formula of words... it is the orientation of our whole body, mind and spirit to God in silence, attention, and adoration." (Pg. 48)
He suggests, "Poverty means need. To make a vow of povery and never go without anything, never have to need something without getting it, is to try to mock the Living God." (Pg. 61) He adds, "My knowledge of myself in silence ... opens out into the silence and the 'subjectivity' of God's own self." (Pg. 70) He concludes, "We find God in our own being which is the mirror of God." (Pg. 116) He advises that we should NOT try to drive evil out of our souls by wrestling with our own darkness: "It is sufficient to turn away from my darkness to His light." (Pg. 120)
These earlier meditations will be of considerable interest to those studying the "spirituality" aspect of Merton's thought.
Readable, and certainly quick going but the kind of book one goes through "easily," it is a book that allows for reflection. I wondered about humility, and I wondered how in the world could something like humility be available to a layman, especially one who has neither the desire for nor the means of holding and having solitude as did Thomas Merton.
I think Thomas Merton held solitude, as one embraces something, as one would embrace God. As a man or woman comes to Christ. Intangible as that may sound, the writer brings the reader to come with him on the inner journey and the journey of desire to be with God in quiet and solitude. Not alone, but in a solitude that is like a solidarity with the Almighty. This is the having solitude that I mention. Or so I understand it by the book.
But I did not come to the book, after reading a while, to admire Thomas Merton. Of course, I do. I did not come to the book to get secrets about God, but Thomas Merton says there are secrets available to those who read the scriptures. There is both the telling and the untelling of a relationship with God that explains to the reader, through inference and through his reflections, that solitude brings people to mystery. I want to believe that there is mystery in the relationship with Christ, that in God we find and feel things (called religious experience) that are not available to us other ways. Thomas Merton writes of religious experience in this book, and he does it very well.
I'm sure you have heard that this is the second of his books that critics cite as one of his two best. The other is, "The Seven Story Mountain." I read that book as the first of his books I read. I am glad I did. Here I stop a moment to tell you I am not doing justice to his writing, for in both books he is a spiritual master. Here he writes of the spiritual life, and for me it is the beginnings of thought on considering spiritual life:
"Spiritual life is not mental life. It is not thought alone. Nor is it, of course, a life of sensation, a life of feeling--'feeling" and experiencing the things of the spirit, and the things of God.
Nor does the spiritual life exclude thought and feeling. It needs both."
I like how he explains this explanation, saying, "Everything must be elevated and transformed by the action of God, in love and faith."
The end of the book is like a prayer, and the entire book has a prayer quality to it. The chapters are short. They are like arrows of writing. There is a warmth to the writing, and an inviting quality is evident because Thomas Merton wants his reader to know what it is to love God, and to recognize this is what a man or woman may have in his or her lifetime.
As I come to the end of this review, it is important to remark that a reader can take his affection, even his passionate humility tempered in a life of solitude, and find ways of understanding and coming closer to God. I grant his is a holy life, an easy thing to say, and I want to close with this quote:
"The solitary life is a life in which we cast our care upon the Lord and delight only in the help that comes from Him. Whatever He does is our joy. We reproduce His goodness in us by our gratitude. (Or--our gratitude is the reflection of His mercy. It is what makes us like Him.)
Peter Menkin, Epiphany
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I couldn’t relate much to the content as I don’t follow the same belief as the author’s
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.Read more