Merton expounds on the experience of nothingness:
But to each of us there is a point of nowhereness in the middle of movement, a point of nothingness in the midst of being: the incomparable point, not to be discovered by insight. If you seek it you do not find it. If you stop seeking, it is there. But you must not turn to it. Once you come aware of yourself as seeker, you are lost. But if you are content to be lost you will be found without knowing it, precisely because you are lost, for you are, at last, nowhere.
In his poem “The Fall,” Merton puts it this way:
To enter there is to become unnameable….
Whoever is nowhere is nobody, and therefore cannot
Exist except as unborn:
No disguise will avail him anything
Such a one is neither lost nor found.*
Both Merton and Eckhart are keen on the subject of solitude. Eckhart says:
We must learn an inner solitude, wherever or with whomsoever we may be. One must learn to penetrate things and find God there.
In other words, solitude is wherever Divinity is and Divinity is everywhere and wherever we find ourselves. But it is learning to let go and let be, to taste nothingness, that allows us to experience the Divine in all circumstances. Yet this takes practice and knowing ourselves and plenty of patience as well.
Merton writes in his Asian Journal about a brief retreat he undertook while there.
This is a good retreat and I appreciate the quiet more than I can say. This quiet, with time to read, study, meditate, and not talk to anyone, is something essential in my life.
In his journal written on his sojourn in May, 1968 to northern California, he puts it this way:
I am the utter poverty of God. I am His emptiness, littleness, nothingness, lostness. When this is understood, my life in His freedom the self-emptying of God in me is the fullness of grace. A love for God that knows no reason because He is the fullness of grace. A love for God that knows no reason because He is God; a love without measure, a love for God as personal. The Ishvara appears as personal in order to inspire this love. Love for all, hatred of none, is the fruit and manifestation of love for God—peace and satisfaction. Forgetfulness of worldly pleasure, selfishness, and so on in the love for God, channeling all passion and emotion into the love for God.
We see that Merton draws very heavily from Eckhart in his passages of the Via Negativa. They are companions on the “wayless way” (Eckhart).
*See Sister Therese Lentfoehr, Words and Silence: On the Poetry of Thomas Merton (NY: New Directions, 1979), p. 107.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, A Way To God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey, pp. 77f.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: Greeting the new day, Cadillac Mountain, Bar Harbor, Maine. Photo by Dulcey Lima on Unsplash.
Queries for Contemplation
How important is solitude to you? Are you able to find an “inner solitude” that Eckhart talks about both when alone and when with others around you? What follows from that?
A Way to God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey
In A Way to God, Fox explores Merton’s pioneering work in interfaith, his essential teachings on mixing contemplation and action, and how the vision of Meister Eckhart profoundly influenced Merton in what Fox calls his Creation Spirituality journey.
“This wise and marvelous book will profoundly inspire all those who love Merton and want to know him more deeply.” — Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism