Quote: Thomas Merton “Speaking Out for the Inside”

Thomas Merton to John Hunt, Senior Editor of the Saturday Evening Post.  He “invited Merton to write a piece about monasticism for the “Speaking Out”  column.  As the following letter indicates, Merton had other ideas.  The article was never written.”  

[Big surprise there.]  

December 18th, 1966

“Thanks for your letter of the 13th.  All right, I am still open to all kinds of suggestions and even have one of my own…  Let’s see how I can put it in a few words:

Say an article “Speaking Out for the Inside”.  An attempt to make people realize that life can have an interior dimension of depth and awareness which is systematically blocked by our habitual way of life, all concentrated on externals.  The poverty of a life fragmented and dispersed in “things” and built on a superficial idea of the self and its relation to what is outside and around it.  Importance of freedom from the routines and illusions which keep us subject to things, dependent on what is outside us.  The need to open up an inner freedom and vision, which is found in relatedness to something in us which we don’t really know.  This is not just the psychological unconscious.  It is much more than that.  Tillich called it the ground of our being.  Traditionally it is called “God,” but images and ideas of the deity do not comprehend it.  What is it?

The real inner life and freedom of man begin when this inner dimension opens up and man lives in communion with the unknown within him.  On the basis of this he can also be in communion with the same unknown in others.  How to describe it?  Impossible to describe it.  Is it real?  People like William James “scientifically” verified its reality at least as a fact of experience in many lives.  The appetite for Zen etc., reflects a need for this.  What is Zen?  What about LSD?  What can one do?  And with some observations on the tragic effect of neglect on this: possibly our society will be wrecked because it is completely taken up with externals and has no grasp on this inner dimension of life.

That is rather tough, and will demand a lot of your readers.  My suggestion is: frankly admit the toughness and unpalatableness of the subject and treat it as it is.  Some may be hit, most will remain indifferent.”


From: Thomas Merton:  A Life in Letters: The Essential Collection.  Edited by William H.  Shannon and Christine M. Bochen.  New York, 2008., p. 189f.



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