More of Thomas Merton’s words went straight into my heart. In a few short paragraphs (quoted below), he describes the ever-repeating story of my life – worshiping my false self via creatures.
Indeed, when I reflect upon it, I have so many egocentric compulsions. Fantasies about being proven right, of being praised and appreciated, of being needed and wanted, of being cherished and missed… And even though I consciously try to act contrary to such self-serving fantasies, they remain. Unheeded perhaps, but ominously present. Those fantasies have a life of their own, in that I don’t try to create them… but they occupy a great deal of my subconscious mental life.
I know that there is no way to ‘stop’ these fantasies, for they are just the symptoms of a much deeper source of pain and conflict. I find it splendid that I am powerless to stop it, because it is the ego’s compulsive pride that drives the need to be in control…to defend…to hide. And it is the ego’s illusion that such fears and undesirable thoughts can be eradicated. No, it merely drives the fears deeper into the unconscious, where they influence my thoughts and actions completely without my conscious awareness. That is why I am glad that I know I am powerless to stop these thoughts. Because that is at least one teeny step away from the grand illusion perpetuated by my ego into greater self-awareness.
For too long I have identified myself with the self I created according to what I thought would gain love and approval in this world, from family, friends, and perhaps even strangers. I cannot let that continue without doing anything any longer! I desire to cease this empty worship of my false self. I long to be who I am created to be!
I am eager to meet this person, even as I know she will take my entire life-time to emerge :D
From Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation:
The only true joy on earth is to escape from the prison of our own false self, and enter by love into union with the Life Who dwells and sings within the essence of every creature in the core of our own souls. In His love we possess all things and enjoy fruition of them, finding Him in them all. And thus as we go about the world, everything we meet and everything we see and hear and touch, far from defiling, purifies us and plants in us something more of contemplation and of heaven.
Short of this perfection, created things do not bring us joy but pain. Until we love God perfectly, everything in the world will be able to hurt us. And the greatest misfortune is to be dead to the pain they inflict on us, and not realize what it is.
For until we love God perfectly His world is full of contradiction. The things He has created attract us to Him and yet keep us away from Him. They draw us on and they stop us dead. We find Him in them to some extent and then we don’t find Him in them at all.
Just when we think we have discovered some joy in them, the joy turns into sorrow; and just when they are beginning to please us the pleasure turns into pain.
In all created things we, who do not yet perfectly love God, can find something that reflects the fulfillment of heaven and something that reflects the anguish of hell. We find something of the joy of blessedness and something of the pain of loss, which is damnation.
The fulfillment we find in creatures belongs to the reality of the created being, a reality that is from God and belongs to God and reflects God. The anguish we find in them belongs to the disorder of our desire which looks for a greater reality in the object of our desire than is actually there: a greater fulfillment than any created thing is capable of giving. Instead of worshiping God through His creation we are always trying to worship oursleves by means of creatures.
But to worship our false selves is to worship nothing. And the worship of nothing is hell.