Towards the end of his excellent little book, “Contemplative Prayer”, Thomas Merton warns, in the strongest of terms, against methods of meditation which don’t lead us face to face with our own emptiness and “dread”. In the following passage the context ( in which Merton may have had in mind the popular meditation of the Beatles) gives way to a caution which is still relevant to us all today, especially those of us who desire to have a life based in contemplative prayer.
“…a form of contemplation that merely produces the illusion of “having arrived somewhere”, of having achieved security and preserved one’s familiar status by playing a part, will eventually have to be unlearned in dread – or else we will be confirmed in the arrogance, the impenetrable self-assurance of the Pharisee. We will become impervious to the deepest truths. We will be closed to all who do not paricipate in our illusion. We will live “good lives” that are basically inauthentic, “good” only as long as they permit us to remain established in our respectable and impermeable identities. The “goodness” of such lives depends on the security afforded by wealth, recreation, spiritual comfort, and a solid reputation for piety. Such “goodness” is preserved by routine and the habitual avoidance of serious risk – indeed of serious challenge. In order to avoid apparent evil, this pseudo- goodness will ignore the summons of genuine good. It will prefer routine duty to courage and creativity. In the end it will be content with established procedures and safe formulas, while turning a blind-eye to the greatest enormities of injustice and uncharity.”