There is no greater disaster in the spiritual life than to be immersed in unreality, for life is maintained and nourished in us by our vital relation with realities outside and above.

Thomas Merton, in Thoughts in Solitude

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Humans, especially in a secular culture which exiles any notion of God, seem habitually inclined to reduce the scope of existence.

This small screen instinct is prohibitively destructive.  It is as if they wish to rule or abide in a kingdom that is small and in its smallest cannot gather a larger picture of existence, and surely cannot “connect the dots.”

Such individuals are poor analysts, blind leaders lacking in wisdom, unable to inspire.  You will know them in hard times when complexity visits by their silence. In short, they hide in their practiced paralysis.  We are in such times.

Yet, consider this: Merton’s comment does not go far enough, for it is not just the spiritual which is damaged when we are stuck in the mortal muck of unreality, but our psychological, emotional, social and interpersonal life which is damaged, distorted and grotesquely so.

How can this be?  Easy.  A lived life is designed to be compensatory.

Psychotherapist Carl Jung, M.D., rightly says that life contains a trajectory for “psychic equilibrium,” a natural, built-in compensatory element.  That is, that life as presented offers each a whole personhood, that there is teleological imperative to know the Self, the True Self.  Of this Merton would agree.

Teleological imperative?  Yep.  But what does that say?

“Teleo” is derived from the word “teleos” – meaning perfect, complete and from its kindred “telos” means: end.

Combined “teleological” means we are designed for a perfect or perfected end point – a whole life, a life of full development of the human being we are made to be.

Alas, that speaks to the words above.

Merton went on to say that failing to live beyond the reductionist, surface existence of “material” unreality – we starve, live a life that is dead.  Jung would agree.  Zombies, anyone?

Ironically, our conception and birth calls us to die to the narrows and sickness of unreality.

For Merton this means: “renouncing the illusory reality which created things acquire when they are seen only in their relationship to our own selfish interests.” (Emphasis added.)

Does Christ come to mind?  Do you see how a life is destined to be lived in its fullness of being?

Think the Parable of the Rich Young Man.  Read it in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 19, verses 16-22.

Happy trails.



Note: Make no mistake, we are governed and influenced by the ones Merton describes.  You need not, and best not, be one of them.