Meng-hu on Thomas Merton on solitude

Merton insists that “non-conformity” cannot be rebellion, for this sets up new illusions, subjective ones instead of social ones. This can be worse than accepting the social myth. But to guard against a false religion or a narcissistic mythology — “a world of private fictions and self-constructed delusions” — means becoming “fully awake,” fully conscious.

Hence, solitude must be characterized by “emptiness, humility, and purity.” The solitary pulls free of the diversions that alienate him from self and from God to live in transcendent unity.

His solitude is neither an argument, an accusation, a reproach or a sermon. It is simply life itself. It is. … It not only does not attract attention, or desire it, but it remains, for the most part, completely invisible.

Merton stresses the distinction between the solitary and the individualist. The individualist does not seek transcendence, only a heightened self-consciousness, a higher form of diversion. He does not reject the social myth but maintains it as a backdrop to his own myths. He seeks not the hidden and metaphysical but the smugness of self-congratulations. In short, the individualist’s model is not the desert but the womb.
Meng-hu in his article “House of Solitude: Thomas Merton’s Notes for a Philosophy of Solitude. Cites Thomas Merton‘s “Notes for a Philosophy of Solitude” published in Disputed Questions, (New York: Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1960), p. 177.

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