False Self and True Self, Part II

Mystics and Non-Dual Thinkers: Week 6

False Self and True Self, Part II
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Here is how Thomas Merton describes the False Self in New Seeds of Contemplation:

Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self.

This is the man that 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.

My false self and private self is the one who wants to exist outside of the reach of God’s will and God’s love—outside of reality and outside of life. And such a self cannot help but be an illusion.

We are not very good at recognizing illusions, least of all the ones we cherish about ourselves—the ones we are born with and which feed the roots of sin. For most of the people in the world, there is no greater subjective reality than this false self of theirs, which cannot exist. A life devoted to the cult of this shadow is what is called a life of sin.

All sin starts with the assumption that my false self, the self that exists only in my 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 and the thirst for experiences, for power, honor, knowledge, and love, to clothe this false self and construct its nothingness into something objectively real. [1]

And this is how Merton discovers his True Self:

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.

Ultimately the only way I can be myself is to become identified with Him in Whom is hidden the reason and fulfillment of my existence.

Therefore there is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace and my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find Him I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find Him.

But . . . there is no human and rational way in which I can arrive at that contact, that possession of Him, which will be the discovery of Who He really is and of Who I am in Him.

That is something that no man can ever do alone. . . .

The only One Who can teach me to find God is God, Himself, Alone. [2]

Gateway to Silence:
“We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and the divine is shining through it all the time.”  —Thomas Merton

References:
[1] Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (Shambhala: 2003), 36-37.
[2] Ibid., 37-38.

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