Merton on the Importance of a “Living Teacher”

mertonleanralpheugenemeatyard2Despite the antiquated male language, Merton’s point in the quote below is well-taken.

The transmission of the Tao of Christ is done best through living teachers.

It reminds me of the old saying: Don’t do what the saints did. Instead, dream the dreams the saints had.

Merely reading books and following the written instructions of past masters is no substitute for direct contact with a living teacher. The Master does not merely lecture or instruct. He has to know and to analyze the inmost thoughts of the disciple. The most important part of direction is the openness with which the disciple manifests to the Spiritual Father not only all his acts but all his thoughts.–Thomas Merton

Contemplation in a World of Action by Thomas Merton (Doubleday and Co., 1973, p. 299)

One response to “Merton on the Importance of a “Living Teacher””

  1. Thank you for the Merton meditation today. My feelings about Fr. Louis are complicated and rarely seem to sit still for long: I saw him originally as a “past master” for my own life, then as a tormented huckster, then again as a huckster who happened often enough to say true things. But Merton never fails to challenge me.

    For my part, I’m not sure how much I agree with this quote beyond the superficial agreement that it is better to work with a living saint than to read about a dead one. When I returned to Quaker practice as a young man after a long adolescence away from it, I struggled a long time with the idea that I needed some kind of teacher. Perhaps I was just dealing with the death of one of the elders from the meeting of my youth. But after a few months of waiting I realized that I would be waiting a long time, and I started my practice with no living teacher, not realizing for some years that the world is full of living teachers.

    Thanks again for the opportunity to think on these things.

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