There is a hidden wholeness to be found in the world despite its complexity and apparent fragmentation. There is a sense of unity despite difference that can be held together by the willing contemplative heart. The inner experience of God is trustworthy because it is real and so is its transformative effect on the mind’s grasp of reality. This contemplative wisdom culminates in a more perfect sense of the whole of things and their mutual relations. A holistic kind of knowing penetrated by love is the hallmark of the mystic.
In Zen and the Birds of Appetite, Merton writes an account of Zen realization: “Zen implies a breakthrough, an explosive liberation from one-dimensional conformism, a recovery of unity which is not suppression of opposites but a simplicity beyond opposites. . .This means a totally different perspective than that which dominates our society—and enables it to dominate us”(Merton, 1968, 140).
How does the post modern Christian person reconcile scientific, secular, and global consciousness of western society with one’s faith perspective?
“The new consciousness which isolates man in his own knowing mind because it severs the communion between subject and object, man and nature, upon which wisdom depends. In the new consciousness man is. . .radically cut off from the ground of his own being, which is also the ground of all being” (Merton, 1981, 108).
Contemplation cultivates a sublimely different way of experiencing reality, closer to deep truth and unity in difference. Mystical consciousness is re-centering subjectivity from self to God. The self is not its own center and does not orbit around itself. Instead, it is centered on the one center of all which is ‘everywhere and nowhere.’ In whom “all are encountered, from whom all proceed. Thus from the very start this consciousness is disposed to encounter ‘the other’ with whom it is already united anyway in God” (27).
Merton, Thomas. Zen and the Birds of Appetite. New York: New Directions, 1968.
_____. The Literary Essays of Thomas Merton. New York: New Directions, 1981.