From Douglas Steere:
The deepest prayer at its nub is a perpetual surrender to God./.. all meditation and specific acts of prayer might be seen as preparations and purifications to ready us for this never ending yielding. Yet what is so often concealed is the there is a terrible dread that sweeps over me in the face of such an expectation. If I am what I think myself to be and God is as I have picture him to be, then perhaps I could bear to risk it. But what if he should turn out to be other than I have pictured him, and what if, in his piercing presence, whole layers of what I have known myself to be should dissolve away and an utterly unpredictable encounter take place. (page 139)
Contemplation is the highest and most paradoxical form of self-realisation, attained by apparent self-annihilation. (page 140)
This loss, this going out, this ecstasy is not a going out from one form of self-containment into another, as though we were but pouring the precious fluid of our being into a bigger and more richly embellished container marked ‘mysticism’. No. Rather the going out is a going out into Being itself. The awareness of our being is made one with the Being of God. It is in contemplation that God becomes ALL in ALL in us as created persons called to perfect union with God. (page 142)
God, however, is not in existence, but is rather Existence itself. He is that by which we are. (page 142)
How strange God’s ways are! He calls us to a union we do not understand. He calls us to a place of encounter which we cannot find. We search and search. Our silence reveals to us not a garden of delights but an awful nothingness. God leaves us in an awful emptiness. All our initial enthusiastic notions of prayer deteriorate into an acknowledgement of our utter superficiality and lack of authenticity before God. We can only throw ourselves completely ion his mercy. We can only believe that in Christ, God has already spied us afar off returning repentant to his home. In Christ God has already rushed out to meet us, fallen upon us and kissed us. We can only accept that our poverty is so utterly deep that God himself will have to be our inheritance. Our darkness is so intense that God himself will have to be our light. (page 143)
At the centre 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. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. (page 145)
The following lengthy quote, written by Merton just before his death, echoes with the insight into the true self.
The three doors (they are one door)
1. The of emptiness. Of no-where. Of no place for a self, which cannot be entered into by a self. And therefore is of no use to someone who is going somewhere. Is it a door at all? The door of no-door.
2. The door without sign, without indicator, without information. Not particularised. Hence, no one can say of it “This is it. This is the door.” It is not recognisable as a door. It is not led up to by other things pointing to it: “We are not it, but that is it – the door” No signs saying “Exit”. No use looking for indications. Any door with a sign saying “Not-door”. Or even “No Exit”.
3. The door without wish. The undesired. The unplanned door. The door never expected. Never wanted. Not desirable as a door. Not a joke, not a trap door. Not select. Not exclusive. Not for a few. Not for many. Not for. Door without aim. Door without end. Does not respond to a key. Do not have you hopes on possession of the key.
Christ said “I am the door”.
This one door is the door of the Palace of Nowhere. It is the door of God. It is our very self, our true self called by God to perfect union with himself. And it is through this door we secretly enter in responding to the saving call to:
“Come with me to the Palace of Nowhere where all the many things are one.” (page 147)