Daily Meditations

True Self and False Self: Discovering Self in Discovering God

July 8th, 2019

Guest writer and CAC faculty member James Finley continues exploring insights on the true self and false self that he gleaned from Thomas Merton.

For Merton, the spiritual life is a journey in which we discover ourselves in discovering God, and discover God in discovering our true self hidden in God. Merton writes:

The secret of my identity is hidden in the love and mercy of God.

But whatever is in God is really identical with Him [sic], 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 that 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. [1]

So it is that the spiritual life centers around the one problem of an identity found in faith. Our true self is a self in communion. It is a self that subsists in God’s eternal love. Likewise, the false self is the self that stands outside this created subsisting communion with God that forms our very identity. As Merton puts it:

When we seem to possess and use our being and natural faculties in a completely autonomous manner, as if our individual ego were the pure source and end of our own acts, then we are in illusion and our acts, however spontaneous they may seem to be, lack spiritual meaning and authenticity. [2]

~Adapted from James Finley, Merton’s Palace of Nowhere: A Search for God through Awareness of the True Self (Ave Maria Press: 1978), 31-32.

 

 

References:

[1] Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (New Directions Paperbook: 1972), 35-36.

[2] Thomas Merton, Contemplative Prayer (Image Books: 1996, ©1969), 48.