Tag Archives: Philosophy

True/False Self

Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self.merton bw

This is the person that I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God—because Truth, Light—knows nothing about him. And to be unknown to God is altogether too much privacy.

My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God’s will and God’s love— outside of reality and outside of life. And such a self cannot help but be an illusion.

We are not very good at recognizing illusions, least of all the ones we cherish most about ourselves—the ones we are born and raised with and which feed the roots of sin. For most of the people in the world, there is no greater subjective reality than this false self of theirs, which cannot exist. A life devoted to maintaining and expanding this false self, this shadow, is what is called a life of sin.

All sin starts from the assumption that my false self, the self that exists only in my own egocentric desires, is the fundamental reality of life around which everything else in the universe is ordered. Thus I use up my life in the desire for pleasures and the thirst for experiences, for power, honor, knowledge, feeling loved, in order to clothe this false self and construct its nothingness into something objectively real. And I wind experiences around myself and cover myself with pleasures and glory like bandages in order to make myself perceptible to myself and to the world, as if I were an invisible body that could only become visible when something visible covered its surface.

To be a saint means to be my true self. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I truly am and of discovering my true self, my essence or core.

Trees and animals have no problem. God makes them what they are without consulting them, and they are perfectly satisfied.

With us it is different. God leaves us free to be whatever we like.

We can be ourselves or not, as we please. We are at liberty to be real, or to be unreal. We may be true or false, the choice is ours. We may wear now one mask and now another, and never, if we so desire, appear with our own true face.

But we cannot make these choices with impunity.

Causes have effects, and if we lie to ourselves and to others, then we cannot expect to find truth and reality whenever we happen to want them.

If we have chosen the way of falsity we must not be surprised that truth eludes us when we finally come to need it and that confusion reigns.

—– From Thomas Merton 

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Prayer of Boethius

Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius, commonly called Boethius, was a philosopher of the early 6th century. He is venerated by the Roman Catholic Church as a martyr and saint. Boethius was both a Christian and a Hellenist, a truly rare combination. His passion in life was a closer relationship between the empires of Rome and Constantinople, and for that passion, he was jailed and executed. I share this prayer of Boethius.

Woodcut from the Nuremberg Chronicle

Bless me in this life with but peace of my Conscience, command of my affections, the love of Thy self and my dearest friends, and I shall be happy enough to pity Ceasar. These are, O LORD, the humble desires of my most reasonable ambition, and all I dare call happiness on earth; wherein I set no rule or limit to Thy Hand or Providence. Dispose of me according to the wisdom of Thy pleasure: Thy will be done, though in my own undoing.

——- Boethius

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Filed under Christian Journey, Commitment, Devotional Quotes, Prayer

Frontier of the Soul

Drawing of the Crucifixion by St. John of the ...

Seeking my Love

I will head for the mountains and for watersides,

I will not gather flowers, nor fear wild beasts;

I will go beyond strong men and frontiers.

——Canticle of John of the Cross Stanza 3

 

At this point John determines that in spite of the darkness he feels, he will continue his search. Not a person among us has not felt a sense of spiritual abandonment from time to time. We all have those times when we lose our way and feel all alone – cut off from God. Quickly we discover that others – intercessors – are not enough to find Him. We must seek, seek restlessly and fervently, for that precious relationship that we have lost. We climb the mountain of virtue to get a closer look at His nature.  Like John, we have no time to waste gathering the gratifications of life, and no fear of the evil one that can deter us from our task. In our quest for God we must go beyond our strength and vision and seek to see life though His eyes. Then, and only then, will we find that which we seek.

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Filed under Conflict, Contemplation, Dark Night of the Soul, Fear, John of the Cross

The mind exists…

English: Stillness by Eckhart Tolle, on a Park...

The mind exists in a state of “not enough” and so is always greedy for more. When you are identified with mind, you get bored and restless very easily. Boredom means the mind is hungry for more stimulus, more food for thought, and its hunger is not being satisfied.

When you feel bored, you can satisfy the mind’s hunger by picking up a magazine, making a phone call, switching on the TV, surfing the web, going shopping, or — and this is not uncommon — transferring the mental sense of lack and its need for more to the body and satisfy it briefly by ingesting more food.

Or you can stay bored and restless and observe what it feels like to be bored and restless. As you bring awareness to the feeling, there is suddenly some space and stillness around it, as it were. A little at first, but as the sense of inner space grows, the feeling of boredom will begin to diminish in intensity and significance. So even boredom can teach you who you are and who you are not.

You discover that a “bored person” is not who you are. Boredom is simply a conditioned energy movement within you. Neither are you an angry, sad, or fearful person. Boredom, anger, sadness, or fear are not “yours,” not personal. They are conditions of the human mind. They come and go.

Nothing that comes and goes is you.
“I am bored.” Who knows this?
“I am angry, sad, afraid.” Who knows this?
You are the knowing, not the condition that is known.

—-Eckhart Tolle

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June 27, 2013 · 3:48 pm

Uncomfortable Religion

cs-lewis

“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”

—–C.S. Lewis

It seems as though the most elusive truth of religion is that it is not really an opiate, but a sometimes uncomfortable commitment. This is the truth that Lewis gives us in his words. Think about it!

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Theory and Work

Someone said to blessed Arsenius, ‘How is it that we, with all our education and our wide knowledge get no- where, while these Egyptian peasants acquire so many virtues?’ Abba Arsenius said to him, ‘We indeed get nothing from our secular education, but these Egyptian peasants acquire the virtues by hard work.’

—sayings of the Desert Fathers

This lesson from the desert takes us to the crossroad of learning and doing. Theory of life can only take us so far, but doing (work) is where we truly learn. Every follower of Christ wants to live a virtuous life, and many spend a great deal of time studying about such a life. Sadly, a life of virtue is never lived out in isolation. We must be workers in the world and flesh out our virtues as we interact with the world. For in the interaction we find the need to turn to God, and in our turning He gives us virtues that can never be attained by learning.

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Filed under Ascetics, Desert Fathers, missional, Prayer

Virtues and Hard Work

Someone said to blessed Arsenius, ‘How is it that we, with all our education and our wide knowledge get no- where, while these Egyptian peasants acquire so many virtues?’ Abba Arsenius said to him, ‘We indeed get nothing from our secular education, but these Egyptian peasants acquire the virtues by hard work.’

 ——Abba Arsenius 

Virtue

Virtue (Photo credit: Leonard John Matthews)

It would do us all well to learn the lesson of humble work. Such work is the prayer of the desert Monk. In our world we tend to devalue the work of our hands, hard work that builds our character and spirit. We replace it by such sayings as,”Work smarter, not harder.” While I would be the first to advise smart work, I must add that true work builds virtue, the kind of virtue that stands against the temptations of the evil one.

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Filed under contemplative, Desert Fathers, Missional Living, Monasticism