Merton on Contemplation

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Contemplation is life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive.

It is spiritual wonder.

It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being.

It is gratitude for life, for awareness, and for being.

It is a vivid realization of the fact that life and being in us proceed from an invisible, transcendent, and infinitely abundant Source.

Contemplation is, above all, awareness of the reality of that Source.

It knows the Source, obscurely, inexplicably, but with a certitude that goes both beyond reason and beyond simple faith. It is a more profound depth of faith, a knowledge too deep to be grasped in images, in words, or even in clear concepts. It can be suggested by words, by symbols, but in the very moment of trying to indicate what it knows the contemplative mind takes back what it has said, and denies what it has affirmed. For in contemplation we know by “unknowing”. Or, better, we know beyond all knowing or “unknowing”.

     Thomas Merton (1915 – 1968) from New Seeds of Contemplation, 1962.

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