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Monk Reflections - November 2022

Experiencing True Self - False Self : Reflections on Thomas Merton

Part II: Who we Truly Are

“There is only Christ: He is everything and he is in everything.” (Col. 3:11)

If we think our ego or someone else’s ego is in control of our life, we better think again. God abiding intimately within us, as us, references again that expression to which Thomas Merton often referred:

"At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will.”

Choosing to make His home in each of us allows Him to take the Wheel from us. We need to let go and Trust in His immense personal love for each of us in our brokenness, just the way we are. It is in our very powerlessness and fragmentation, with all of our warts, that we return His Love to Him. Our weakness and nothingness attracts God’s unconditional Love for us, so that we nurture a deep Trust that He never allows anything to happen to us that will hurt us in the long haul. Since God sees Himself in each of us, Thomas Merton assures us – “The secret of my identity is hidden in the love and mercy of God. But whatever is in God is really identical with Him, for His infinite simplicity admits no division and no distinction. Therefore, I cannot hope to find myself anywhere except “in Him”.

God even brings Good out of the bad things that He allows to happen. When God allows injustices to happen, He desires us to stand up in the face of these many daily inequities and change them. It is one of the many ways Christ is bringing about Goodthrough us, as us. We are not God’s puppets; He is so intimately close to us that He is more “us” than we are ourselves.

It seems obvious how God brings Good from bad through Christ’s tragic Passion, out of which emerged His triumphant and Glorious Resurrection. Christ was able to surrender His own human will to His Father’s Divine will, since He Trusted in His Father’s love for Him. Then, Christ generously passed on that same unconditional Love to His executioners along with His Compassionate, Forgiving and merciful Heart. He just kept on Loving and Loving more and more. How deeply Christ desires with Desire to allow Him to Love us unconditionally in our brokenness, just the way we are. His monumental Love for each of us surpasses our wildest expectations and imagination.

It seems God’s biggest project is the efforts He has been making since the beginning of time to convince His Human Family that He Loves us.

Fr. Thomas Keating feels the human family remains very shy about allowing God to Love us. Perhaps that may be because our false ego self is slow to accept Gifts from God, since so many of us have been programmed with a conditionally-loving God, from whom we have to earn our loveableness. It may be only when we “Experience” Christ living within us “as us”, beyond our mind, that we will know for certain how loveable we each are.

Christ’s Father is also our Father and, as the source of all Goodness, is always concerned for the wellbeing of His cherished Human Family. He is giving Himself away to us unceasingly in an intimate love affair that will never cease to be, abiding deeply in our innermost heart as our own Truest and most profound Self, so that every detail and Present Moment of our simple and ordinary daily lives is a manifestation of Christ’s immense Love for us.

God, in His Divine Providence, whether we are aware of it or not, through the ages, is using both “The Good” and “The Bad” to bring us closer to Himself. He wants us to Trust solely in His huge, compassionate Heart because He is aware that we are wounded and are powerless to heal ourselves. In our weakness and fragmentation, we depend entirely on His Unconditional Love.

Gradually, the Human Family is maturing and evolving very slowly to who each of us already and Truly is, before the origin of the universe. It is through the realization that God has Gifted us with His own Divine-Human Image and Likeness that we awake to our True self, beyond concepts, which is not the discovery of a new unity, but of an Older Unity that we already are Oned with Christ. However, we imagine we are not Oned, and what we recover is our Original Unity. Thomas Merton assures us – “Who we have to be is who we already are.” Time for all of us to wake up – we are each a unique manifestation of Christ and as His Image, the same Love that He is.

How deeply Christ desires us to “Wake Up”, even now on earth, to our intimate Union and Oneness with Him and His Loving Father – “Father may they be One in us as you are in me and I am in you” (John 17:21). When we go Home to God and see Him face to face, “Wide Awake” to how much we are like Him as our True Self, we will experience the fullness and happiness that God created us for, and so desires for each of us, in our intimate union with Him. Even now, in our contemplative experiences beyond our mind, God can gift us with a “bit of heaven … all the way to heaven”!😊 Is this why St. Catherine of Genoa ran through the streets shouting, “God is Me, God is Me!”?

We can live with a Peace and contentment that surpasses our understanding – “Happily Embracing” our life, just the way it is, with all its ups and downs, in all the simple and ordinary details of The Present Moment, which we realize is a manifestation of God’s immense personal Love for us. God is madly in Love with each of us, “as if” we were His One and Only Beloved. Don’t allow your psychological ego, with its “negative self-critic”, to put you down and deprive you of the “Loveable Awesome True Self that you Truly are” – manifesting Christ and His Love in your own unique way. Christ became Incarnate to let us know who we truly are as Him.

How profoundly Christ desires us to Trust whole-heartedly in His Overwhelming, Unconditional Love for us, in whom He sees His very own Divine Self, and has gifted us a share in His Divine Nature (2 Peter :4). We hurt ourselves badly with our “lukewarm trust”. There is never any limits to how much we can Trust in God’s tremendous Love for each of us, just the way we are, with our wayward hearts and powerlessness.

Christ is most Present to us in His Silence. It is His favorite language. Sometimes when our heart feels mute, He is moment-to-moment pouring out Himself and His Love into our inmost being, speaking Silently and communing with us heart-to-heart. Listen to the Silence! He is everywhere and always Present.

The ego self we construct for ourselves is necessary for our survival, but is an illusion of who we Truly are. Thomas Merton sees this mistaken ego identity at the bottom of many of our problems leading to Sadness, Absurdity, and Despair.

Before Thomas Merton experiences this false ego identity in someone else, he becomes acutely aware of it in himself. He understands how hollow he is as an ego, and experienced his ego as his own biggest mistake. This is before he “woke up” to who he Truly is as a unique manifestation of Christ.

When reading Merton’s description of our ego, it might be valuable to see it as Merton’s way of telling us some things about himself. He was a “Truth Teller” and he always passed on his experiences to us because they were real to him. Otherwise, it can sound extremely accusatory, even though we realize we need it to survive until we “wake up” to our True Self.

It usually doesn’t help much for people to shake their finger at us when they see that we are still addicted to our mistaken ego identity. When we “wake up” to our True Self, our ego self becomes very relative and insignificant. It then takes its rightful place in our rational consciousness.

Merton tries to explain: “This false ego self is the person I want myself to be, but who cannot exist because God does not know anything about him. And, to be unknown of God, is altogether too much privacy!” God knows who we are as unique manifestations of Christ because He sees Himself in each of us.

Merton continues to describe our mistaken ego identity: “We are not very good at recognizing illusions, least of all the ones we cherish about ourselves… For most of the people in the world, there is no greater subjective reality than this false self of theirs which cannot exist.” “We assume that our false self, that exists only in our own egocentric desires, is the fundamental reality of life to which everything else in the universe is ordered. Thus, I use up my life in the desire for Pleasures, Power, Honor and Knowledge to clothe this false self and construct it’s nothingness into something objectively real.”

“But there is no substance under the things with which I am clothed. I (ego) am hollow and my structure of pleasures and ambitions has no foundation. I am objectified in them. But they are all destined, by their very dependency, to be destroyed and, when they are gone, there will be nothing left of me but my own nakedness and emptiness and hollowness to tell me I am my own mistake!”

The seriousness of these allegations tells us how determined Merton was about helping us to “wake up” to our True Self. That is God’s Gift to us, beyond our mind, and is not dependent on our efforts when we age. Christ is living intimately within us as us, gradually freeing us of our addiction to our mistaken ego identity and all the problems it creates for us.

For Merton, the awakening to our True Self was the segue for the Human Family to experience the Happiness God created us for, and our awareness of who we really are, as unique manifestations of Christ. When we “wake up” to the intimate “Divine Presence” of Christ living within our inmost being as us, our mistaken ego self takes its trivial and insignificant place in our rational consciousness.

As we grow older and are persevering in our own receptivity and search for union with God, He often Gifts us with an “Awakening” to our True Self, and Christ’s Divine Presence dominates our awareness in the simple and ordinary details of our daily lives. It is then that our ego self is transformed and becomes Oned with our True Self as an awesome manifestation of Christ. There is nothing extraordinary about this Gift. We are given a peace and contentment, that surpasses our understanding, in every Present Moment of our life, as a manifestation of Christ’s immense love for us.

Our false ego self never dies entirely, and that is why we Trust solely in God’s compassionate and merciful Heart to rest secure, knowing that even our many failings and mistakes bring us closer to Him, who loves us unconditionally. Everything is working together for our good, even our weakness and brokenness. God is caring for us in every Present Moment of our life.

When we die, you will go to heaven and experience how intimately Oned you are with Christ as your own True Self. Egos are baggage that we leave behind at the front gate. There will be little of you (ego) there. That’s why we will call it heaven!

God, in His immense Love for His Divine-Human Family, is continuing to create the universe, galaxy after galaxy, and more importantly, sharing His very own Divine Image and Likeness with all the precious little babies He gives birth to daily. God dwelling intimately within us, as us, is our unceasing Hope, and is much more than our optimism that everything will come out in the wash.

Each of us is already Oned with Christ before the origins of the universe and called to “wake up” to our God-given Holiness through our intimate Oneness with Christ, who is our own True Self abiding within us, as us (Eph. 1:4-6). If we have never been told or experienced who we Truly are, it is time to “Wake Up” and “Go out to the whole world: Proclaim the Good News to all creation.” (Mark 16:15) As St. Francis of Assisi said – “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words.” How do we do this as individuals?

It is through the realization that God has Gifted us with His own Divine-Human Image and Likeness that we “awake” to our True Self beyond concepts. This is not the discovery of a new unity, but the “awakening” of an older unity that we are already Oned with Christ, but imagine we are not, and what we recover is our “Original Unity.” Thomas Merton assures us – “Who we have to be is who we already are.”

Just for us to be chosen to share in God’s existence and being, as unique manifestations of Christ, is our most precious Gift. It is how we become an Unceasing Prayer as God is pouring Himself out into our innermost hearts, Loving Himself within us and through us, abiding closer to us than we are to ourselves, through all the Up’s and Down’s of our daily lives, loving us beyond our wildest expectations. Our prayer becomes not something “we do”, but “someone we are.”

Author’s Note: This thing is voluminous, but I hope some people reconsider who they Truly are. Merton is a Prophetic Truth Teller, and went right to the roots of the Human Family’s problems. We don’t let go of our ego easily, but God wants us to wake up to who we already are, as unique manifestations of Christ, and He usually gets His way!😊 If not on earth, then in heaven.

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