Posts Tagged ‘ books ’


Excerpt from the book I am reading by Thomas Merton called Raids on the Unspeakable:

“And to have the will to be saved, must one limit oneself very carefully to a few select things that are taken seriously? And must everything else be ignored? In other words, to be saved is to exclude from consideration the possibility that one might be damned?

To take that possibility of damnation seriously is, then, to be lost?

But how do anything else?  How not to take it seriously?

(Think of the unspeakable triviality of popular religion which consist in not taking the possibility of damnation seriously anymore!

To be saved, is then, to be rescued from all seriousness!

To fall into the ludicrous and satanic flippancy of false piety, kitsch, Saint Suplice!–or the euphoria of busy and optimistic groups!)

So, unless you can falsify and dominate reality with will, you are lost–and if you can impose your own obsession on reality (instead of having reality impose itself as an obsession on you) then are you perhaps doubly lost?

The question of this book, the deeper question, is the very nature of reality itself.

Inexorable consistency.  Is reality the same as consistency?

The world of consistency is the world of justice, but justice is not the final word.

There is, above the consistent and the logical word of justice, and inconsistent illogical world where nothing “handing together,” where justice no longer damns each man to his own darkness.  This inconsistent world is the realm of mercy.

The world can only be consistent without God.

A god who is fitted into our world scheme in order to make it serious and consistent is not God.

To take him seriously is to submit to obsession, to doubt, to magic, and then to escape these, or try to escape them, by willfulness, by the determination to stake all on an arbitrary selection of “things to be taken seriousely” because they “save,” because they are “his affairs.”
(Note that even atheism takes seriously this god of consistency.)

The Cross is the sign of contradiction–destorying the seriousness of the Law, of the Empire, of the armies, of blood sacrifice, and of obsession.

But the magicians keep turning the Cross to their own purposes.  Yes, it is for them too a sign of contradiction: the awful blasphemy of the religious magician who makes the Cross contradict mercy! This of course is the ultimate temptation of Christianity!  To say that Christ has locked all the doors, has given one answer, settled everything and departed, leaving all life enclosed in the frightful consistency of a system outside of which there is seriousness and damnation, inside of which there is the intolerable flippancy of the saved–while nowhere is there any place left for the mystery of the freedom of divine mercy which alone is truly serious, and worthy of being taken seriously.

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I bought four more books.

The first is Conscious Love: Insights from Mystical Christianity by Richard Smoley.  Smoley is pretty well known for his writings on the more esoteric and mystical side of Christianity.  The only thing I've read from him is the introduction to Annie Besant's book Esoteric Christianity.


Though love is a perennial topic for writers of all kinds, much of what
is written about love is simplistic and unsatisfying. In Conscious Love,
Richard Smoley—an expert on the esoteric traditions of mystical
Christianity—incorporates insights and wisdom about love from noted
thinkers in literature, art, philosophy, sociology, cultural criticism,
and even neurology. This remarkable book offers a blueprint for
infusing conscious love into human relationships.

What Is Called Thinking?

Martin Heidegger

Martin Heidegger is up next.  I've been meaning to get into him, seeing as he's one of the more popular (though dense and difficult to read) of the existentialists.  I particularly think his affinity for Being will appeal to me.  We shall see. 

This book, What is Called Thinking? is supposedly one of his later books that sort of attempts to revist a lot of the material he wrote in the beginning of his philosophical career, mainly Being and Time.  It seemed like a good place to start, because thought I really want to own a copy of Being and Time and I want to read it….it's a little intimidating to be honest.

Next up, B. Alan Wallace's Hidden Dimensions: The Unification of Physics and Consciousness.  Wallace is actually a rather popular writer on Buddhism, and I've noticed a few quotes from his books floating around in my Vox neighboorhood.  What he attempts to do in this book is show how Western Science and Eastern Spirituality converge into one beautiful strain of thought.

From an review:

The question is this: Can quantum mechanics tell us anything useful
about the nature of reality in the observable day-to-day world? …. how do Einstein's theories of Relativity tie in with
our day-to-day experiences and with quantum theory?

proposes that three fundamental problems are all related: first, the
problem of measurement in quantum mechanics; second the problem of time
in quantum cosmology and third the so-called "hard problem" in brain
science that tries to explain how consciousness can arise form
apparently inanimate matter.

He comes to the conclusion, rightly, I believe, that consciousness
does not emerge from the brain but is conditioned by it. Furthermore,
that the entire Universe of mind and matter arises from a fundamental
non-dual reality.

Last but not least, a book on Chuang Tzu by Thomas Merton.  I always enjoy Merton's style and I've been meaning to learn more about Chuang Tzu. 


"Working from existing translations, Thomas Merton composed a series of
personal versions from his favorites among the classic sayings of
Chuang Tzu, the most spiritual of the Chinese philosophers. Chuang Tzu,
who wrote in the fourth and third centuries B.C., is the chief
authentic historical spokesman for Taoism and its founder Lao Tzu (a
legendary character known largely through Chuang Tzu's writings).
Indeed it was because of Chuang Tzu and the other Taoist sages that
Indian Buddhism was transformed, in China, into the unique vehicle we
now call by its Japanese name — Zen. The Chinese sage abounds in wit,
paradox, satire, and shattering insight into the true ground of being.
Father Merton, no stranger to Asian thought, brings a vivid, modern
idiom to the timeless wisdom of Tao. Illustrated with early Chinese

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New (old) books!

Went to the used bookstore in Santa Cruz with my sister.  Walked out with …5 books.

Freedom, Love and Action

This Light in Oneself


A Scanner Darkly

Practical Mysticism - Evelyn Underhill

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The Ascent to Truth

The Ascent to Truth

Thomas Merton

I just started reading Thomas Merton's The Ascent to Truth, which is about contemplation and mysticism.  It seems like it will be a really good book for me, as I've been meaning to get into some of the classic writers in the older Christian tradition, and this book seems to introduce them quite well.  He's modeling his discussion mainly after the writings of St. John of the Cross.

In the introduction, he goes into the fact that the biggest danger to Christianity does not come from without, but from within.  It is the preoccupation with the external to the point of exclusion of the interior life.  He points out that concepts cannot contain God, and anyone who is satisfied with knowing God only through concepts does not really know God at all.  Contemplation starts and ends with love.

So far, nothing that I haven't read before, but it is really cool to see him explain and quote people like St. John of the Cross, Blaise Pascal, Gregory of Nyssa, etc etc. 

I'll keep posting about it as I read through it.  I'm looking forward to delving deeper into classic mysticism, and will probably be buying some of their writings the next time I'm at my favorite bookstore.

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Book/Movie Announcement: The Fountain and His Dark Materials

Here we go folks!

Movie:  The Fountain, Darren Aronofsky

Yesterday, today, tomorrow. Past, present, future. Through time and
space, one man embarks on a bold 1000-year odyssey to defeat
humankind's most indomitable foe: Death. Hugh Jackman plays that man,
devoted to one woman (Rachel Weisz) and determined to protect her from
forces that threaten her existence. His quest leads him to a Tree of
Life…and to an adventure into eternity. Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem
for a Dream
) directs, continuing his string of imaginative, involving
filmmaking with a tale alive with ideas and filled with astonishing
vistas. "Not many films can blow your mind and break your heart at the
same time, but this one will."

This film wasn't well received, but I think that's because it is difficult to understand.  And if it's difficult to understand, it might just be right up our alley. 🙂

Extra Credit: The Orphanage, Guillermo Del Toro
It's still in theaters so it's not fair to make it the main movie, but GO SEE IT.  It's from the maker of Pan's Labyrinth, only it's *better.*  Yes, you heard me.  Go watch it and come back so we can discuss it!

Book: His Dark Materials Trilogy, Phillip Pullman

From These books are what the very best of Children's literature does. They
are entertaining and fanciful, yet they simultaneously challenge and
educate both the mind and heart. Like hot soup when you are sick, they
are "Good and Good for You."

Dark Materials" are a great counter-point to the mindless fun of Harry
Potter and friends. Pullman's writing is educated and insightful, his
characters are real and multi-faceted. The series is packed with
adventure, ideas, beliefs, fantasy, talking armored bears, Texas
Balloonists, animals, gypsies, and just about everything else. The tone
of the series is serious, and as dark as the name implies.

of Narnia;" "Prydain Chronicles;" "The Hobbit;" "Harry Potter;" "The
Time Quartet;" "Wind in the Willows;" and now…"His Dark Materials."
Philip Pullman, welcome to the club.


These books have caused quite the controversy, as they were written by an atheist, and the story is said to be very anti-religious.  Because of this, I think *everyone* should read them.  There's no use debating whether or not they are good or bad, or harmful or insightful if we don't know what we're talking about.  No matter where you fall theologically, these books are an exciting ride, and can lead to some pretty awesome discussion!

Note: Normally, we put it to a vote, but this round I have very little time, so I'm picking the book and movie selections based on what I'm already reading/watching.  I hope you guys don't mind, and I think they're decent enough choices that we can have some fun with them. 🙂

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Pilgrim and Holy the Firm Summary

Holy the Firm

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Here are the links to everything we discussed regarding Annie Dillard’s books!

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Straying Trail of Blood
Random Quotes
Laura’s Reaction

Holy the Firm

Dillard and Christianity
Comparing the Days

Book/Movie Announcement: Happy Death and Magnolia

Not too many people voted, but it's all good.  Not too many people participate either, but it doesn't matter.  I'd rather have quality than quantity, and boy do we have it. 🙂

Here's the book for this round:

Happy Death

Albert Camus

"As the novel follows the protagonist, Patrice Mersault, to his victim's
house — and then, fleeing, in a journey that takes him through stages
of exile, hedonism, privation, and death -it gives us a glimpse into
the imagination of one of the great writers of the twentieth century.
For here is the young Camus himself, in love with the sea and sun,
enraptured by women yet disdainful of romantic love, and already
formulating the philosophy of action and moral responsibility that
would make him central to the thought of our time."

"An intriguing and entertaining study in characters going through
varying levels of crisis and introspection. This psychological drama
leads you in several different directions, weaving and intersecting
various subplots and characters, from a brilliant Tom Cruise, as a
self-proclaimed pied-piper, to a child forced to go on a TV game show
and the pressures he faces from a ruthless father."

Happy reading/watching! 😉

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