Light and the Lucid Crystal

Inner lightWhen a ray of light strikes a crystal, it gives a new quality to the crystal. And when God’s infinitely disinterested love plays upon a human soul, the same kind of thing takes place. And that is the life called sanctifying grace.

The soul of man, left to its own natural level, is a potentially lucid crystal left in darkness. It is perfect in its own nature, but it lacks something that it can only receive from outside and above itself. But when the light shines in it, it becomes in a manner transformed into light and seems to lose its nature in the splendor of a higher nature, the nature of the light that is in it.

So the natural goodness of man, his capacity for love which must always be in some sense selfish if it remains in the natural order, becomes transfigured and transformed when the Love of God shines in it. What happens when a man loses himself completely in the Divine Life within him? This perfection is only for those who are called the saints – for those rather who are the saints and who live in the light of God alone. For the ones who are called saints by human opinion on earth may very well be devils, and their light may very well be darkness. For as far as the light of God is concerned, we are owls. It blinds us and as soon as it strikes us we are in darkness. People who look like saints to us are very often not so, and those who do not look like saints very often are.

-Thomas Merton
Part Two, Chapter One, “With a Great Price,” pg 186
The Seven Storey Mountain

This explains a lot. It explains how people who have no faith in God in any manner and no apparent external moral compass (at least from a religious person’s point of view) can still do good and great things for others and uphold noble causes. It also explains how some “religious people,” even though they seem to have faith in God and to uphold the teachings of His prophets and apostles, can harbor evil thoughts and feelings for others and say and do heinous things, all supposedly in the name of God.

Merton further illustrates that a person who is perfect in his or her nature because he or she was made in God’s image and who allows themselves to accept and reflect and refract the light of God as does a crystal, can be perfected beyond human standards and be elevated in a relationship with God and man. This is what it is to be holy.

I was struck with these passages in Merton’s book and remembering this was written when he was a young Trappist monk, I was astonished at how closely some of his ideas and images paralleled those of the Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson, as I often quote them from the interpretation of Rabbi Tzvi Freeman. These quotes, of course, are an extension of Chasidic and even Kabbalistic thought and belief, which seems an even stranger comparison for me to make to the observations and reflections of a Catholic monk writing his autobiography in the 1940s.

I wonder if men from such different cultural and religious backgrounds aren’t on some level joined together by the light of God?

But if this unlikely and wonderful parallel between two men of such divergent faiths exists, how much more tragic that there are so many others in the religious and spiritual arena (and particularly in the blogosphere) who claim the title “saint” or “prophet” but who Merton would definitely classify as “devil?”

When it comes to accepting God’s own authority about things that cannot possibly be known in any other way except as revealed by His authority, people consider it insanity to incline their ears and listen. Things that cannot be known in any other way, they will not accept from this source. And yet they will meekly and passively accept the most appalling of lies from newspapers when they scarcely need to crane their necks to see the truth in front of them, over the top of the sheet they are holding in their hands.

For example, the very thought of an imprimatur on the front of a book – the approbation of a bishop, allowing the book to be printed on the grounds that it contains safe doctrine – is something that drives some people almost out of their minds with indignation.

-Merton, pg 187

I’m not a big fan of censorship and I’m probably one of those people who would be driven out of my mind with indignation if someone should hand me a book that was declared “safe” by the Catholic church. But in reading these sentences and the ones that followed, I began to draw a comparison to what Merton could not possibly have anticipated – the proliferation of information on the world wide web.

The Internet isn’t filtered and in my humble opinion, it never should be, but the danger in this is that anyone who can create a website or blog (and this includes everyone nowadays) will create a website or blog, and they’ll spew their opinions all over the Internet so that anyone with web access can find them and read them.

If you are reasonably well educated from other sources, (such as books and reliable teachers) you can probably make your way through the maze of good content and bad, but there are so many would-be “saints” in the world who unknowingly fall into the teachings of a “devil” out of sheer ignorance.

I was once teaching a class at a congregation and was confronted with a strange thought by one of the students. In the course of the conversation, she said the oddest thing. I believe we were talking about the Tetragrammaton; the most holy and unpronounceable name of God, which many people express as “YHWH,” and she said that the reason the Jewish people were exiled was that they refused to reveal the pronunciation of “the Name” to the world and thus, lost all knowledge of the pronunciation as an additional punishment.


Yes, that sounds crazy to me, too.

I don’t remember all of the details and I probably wouldn’t publish them if I did, but apparently, there was some sort of “teacher” on the Internet who was spreading this kind of information. She gave me the URL to his site and I looked him up.

Oh my!

There were years and years and years worth of articles on his site (I really don’t remember his name) and it would have been impossible to go through all of his stuff. I searched for the information on the “Sacred Name” but didn’t find it. I looked through some random web articles and some of it was relatively sane and a lot of it wasn’t. The guy seemed like he was intelligent and even educated, but his conclusions were highly suspect.

With that memory fully recalled and in reading Merton’s book, I’m beginning to develop a new respect for the “imprimatur” concept. Not in terms of consuming data that is only acceptable to the Catholic church, but with the idea of separating the “wheat from the chafe” relative to sound versus unsound religious “research”. If I want to buy a book, I can always go to Amazon and read the reviews to get some sort of idea if the book is any good or not (although sometimes even that litmus test fails). For random craziness on the web, there often is not litmus test except keeping yourself educated with valid sources and knowing when something looks suspicious.

Even with that, some otherwise reliable and well-educated blog authors can become overly-enamored with their own self-importance, just because they get a lot of attention and some local notoriety. The curse of even marginally “famous” believers is that the temptation to forget that God is the focus can be really strong.

I occasionally get “spammed” by folks who tell me that they’ve got a direct line to the Holy Spirit of God who whispers in their ears and helps them not rely on their own intellectual prowess. That kind of makes it hard for me to say that God should be our final litmus test on information when any sort of supernatural revelation is, by its very nature, totally subjective. We can say that revelations of the Spirit should only be considered on the up and up if they jive with Scripture, but interpretation of Scripture is also extremely variable, depending on who you read, who you talk to, and who you believe. Seems like a vicious circle.

Ultimately, we each take some sort of stand and say that “this religion” or “this denomination” or “this sect” or “this viewpoint” is what we consider foundational, and we proceed from that point. None of us have it completely “right” but then perhaps none of us have it completely “wrong” either. In the intellectual “holy wars” on the web, regardless of our differing opinions, we can still rely on the words of the Master that are not ambiguous:

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. –Mark 12:28-34 (ESV)

I am also reminded of the Prophet Micah:

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? –Micah 6:8 (ESV)

And although not a prophet as we understand the term, Thomas Merton managed to crystallize something important:

So the natural goodness of man, his capacity for love which must always be in some sense selfish if it remains in the natural order, becomes transfigured and transformed when the Love of God shines in it.

If we open ourselves to Him, we are the breath of God. When we love others, then we are breathing, then we are alive.

Develop your awe of heaven and you will diminish your fear of human beings.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
from the Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
to a Jewish activist in a dangerous Arab land

8 thoughts on “Light and the Lucid Crystal”

  1. James, the reason two men from different religious backgrounds having similar views is not because of divine influence, but because they share a common opinion of what is right. It is not any different than a Buddhist, Athiest, Jew and Christian all agreeing on a general moral rule. They are all aligning to what they believe is correct, which is not the same as God’s definition of what is right.

    This goes to that subjective interpretation you mention. God does speak to people today through spiritual guidance and He does anoint true apostles, prophets, teachers and such, but there are so many false servants as well as truely anointed servants who have not learned how to let God interpret things that it has caused a serious distrust of anyone claiming to be an anointed servant of God.

    The plain truth is the great majority of those people are not true anointed servants. I have no doubt they truly believe to be anointed servants, but another truth they and the church have not considered or understand well is that of spiritual warfare and how the enemy misleads. These are all issues that need to be taken seriously, because you don’t realize how you’re being influenced either.

    I said I was an anointed teacher and gave the evidence, but I see your distrust of people like me prevents you from taking in the truth. Unlike others, my credentials do not simply come from spiritual guidance alone. My guidance is corroborated by many 3rd Parties and things in the physical world that are completely out of my control. It shows God’s fingerprint of authentication on what I teach because if you looked at the nature of the evidence you can see that no one but God could duplicate it. However, you’re letting your gut reactions dismiss things before you’ve even looked.

    Going back to the issue of interpretation and subjectiveness. I’ve stated before that man cannot understand God without direct help from God. That means we cannot interpret His guidance in Scripture or His live Spoken Word without God’s direct help. I’ve been on both sides of the fence on this issue, so I know what I’m talking about. You keep going back to your own interpretations and that of other men, which do not take into account the complete picture coming from God’s interpretation.

    I know this letting God interpret thing seems mystical to you, but like I said, it is difficult to understand from where you’re at. You haven’t seen the more complete picture and view from the summit. There is a lot of information you need to take in, but I’m afraid you’re letting the full truth slip by because of many reasons you don’t fully understand.

    We do have to open ourselves to God, but we are not just the His breath. We must learn how to breath with Him. Letting God interpret is not just in the breaths of the moment but also in the cadence of walking in step with those combined breaths. It is the combined breaths that are more important. They do not symbolize our journey with God, but refer to the information He tries to give us. You have to see the complete picture of the combined pieces to get God’s interpretation. Ignoring that is a walk taken by steps determined by your own interpretations, which in the end only reflects yourself instead of God.

  2. James, the reason two men from different religious backgrounds having similar views is not because of divine influence, but because they share a common opinion of what is right. It is not any different than a Buddhist, Athiest, Jew and Christian all agreeing on a general moral rule. They are all aligning to what they believe is correct, which is not the same as God’s definition of what is right.

    Frankly, unless you can see through God’s eyes, you might not have any idea of who is a “true” servant of God and who isn’t. I think Merton made very good points on that issue. Also, how can you, or anyone, be certain that God didn’t or couldn’t supernaturally influence two men as diverse as Merton and the Rebbe? You have a tendency to pigeon-hole situations rather than letting the possiblity of wonder and awe of God be part of your universe.

    I said I was an anointed teacher and gave the evidence, but I see your distrust of people like me prevents you from taking in the truth. Unlike others, my credentials do not simply come from spiritual guidance alone.

    First rule of thumb in assessing “religious people” is that anyone who has to draw attention to themselves and say they are “an anointed teacher” should be considered suspect. Don’t take that personally (since I don’t know you personally), but anyone who has been “touched” by God doesn’t have to continually pop in on the comment’s section of other people’s blogs and say, “Here I am. I’m anointed.”

    I know this letting God interpret thing seems mystical to you, but like I said, it is difficult to understand from where you’re at.

    Maybe. As far as mysticism goes, I’m a bit more open to that experience than you might realize.

    Tyler, each of us negotiates his or her relationship with God as individuals, We choose resources and teachers we feel we can trust. Sometimes we make mistakes, but God is compassionate and generous and will not lead us astray.

    If I’m making decisions that don’t include you as a teacher or advisor, don’t take it personally. Ultimately, it’s up to God what happens to me and not you. If you are convinced that you are an “anointed teacher,” then you don’t need my acceptance (or lack thereof) to validate you. If you do need my acceptance, for whatever reason, then consider that you might have issues you need to take back to God before you presume to teach others.

    1. A man is the sum of his experiences. Whether you believe it or not, my experiences qualify me to speak on these matters. I don’t “pigeon-hole” as you suspect. Like you said, you don’t know me or my background. You could have a much better understanding of that because I gave you links to all the information you need, which included my background. But you dismiss it as “spam” instead of what I’m really trying to do, which is to help you understand everything better. I didn’t
      ask for money or try to profit in any way from what I said.

      I’m not trying to “draw attention to myself” either. You’re judging me before having all the information. I’m trying to point out the difference between others and myself. Don’t let pride overtake simple logic. You let emotions factor in your responses and reasoning too much, and you don’t understand how the enemy leverages that to keep you off track. God wants us on the right path but the enemy will try to lead you astray.

      I don’t need your approval for validation, but I am concerned for you and your family because spinning your wheels spiritually can have very serious consequences. I see this everywhere in the church and world, and have concern over it because I know what the consequences are. You don’t realize how you are filling yourself with both light and dark. You keep talking about the “light” of God’s wisdom but you don’t understand how the misinterpretation of men change that light into darkness.

      When truth is misconstrued or taken too far it becomes untrue. You’ve been taking in the truth all the same as the untruths and focusing on the things that sound good to you, whether they’re true or not. That’s what the church and world do.

      I know very well the wonder of God and His Creation. That’s clearly documented in my experiences. I see it everyday, even more so than most people because I’ve learned how to listen to God. You still don’t realize how God has orchestrated your experiences and blogging to coincide with the themes I teach. It’s because you’re not looking at the bigger picture and connecting things right. The things you focus on prevent you from understand it.

      There’s danger to focusing too much on the wonder of God. You also need the knowledge that comes from His Spirit, not the knowledge that comes from man because light turns to dark easier than you realize. There’s no way you’re going to learn how to get knowledge correctly from God without listening to His true anointed servants. We’re given roles for a reason and we were taught by God the correct way to listen to Him so we could teach others. You’re expecting God to do the same thing with everyone, which is not how He works.

  3. Tyler, I’ve been very patient in allowing you to use the comments section of my blog to express yourself and your ideas. However, it’s time to put an end to this circular debate since, as far as I can tell, it serves no useful purpose. If I want to find out more about you and what you believe, I know how to find your blog. If I decide not to find out more about you, that’s my choice. If you somehow feel you have a responsibility to help me from “spinning my wheels,” I hearby absolve you of that responsibility.

    I’m politely asking you to desist in any further efforts to convince me to review and (presumably) espouse your viewpoints. If, for any reason, I want to continue this conversation, I know how to contact you. Please do not comment on my blog any further.

    To put it more bluntly, “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

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