April 14th, 2017

Learning from Thomas Merton-The Humble Trial Lawyer

The humble trial  lawyer  has a better chance of trying her case at the highest level. According to Thomas Merton “[t]rue humility excludes self-consciousness… .” Thomas Merton, Seeds of Contemplation at 112 (New Directions 1949).

When we are humble we are beyond thinking of ourself. We are only concerned with our client, with the pursuit of justice and accomplishing this at trial. In this state we have no illusions to defend. Our moments are free.

The humble lawyer “can do great things with an uncommon perfection because she is no longer concerned about incidentals, like her own interests and her own reputation, and therefore she no longer needs to waste her efforts in defending them.” Id. at 113. “For a humble [lawyer] is not afraid of failure. In fact she is not afraid of anything, even herself, since perfect humility implies perfect confidence in the power of … [believing in herself and her client’s case] … and there is no such thing as an obstacle.”

 

 

 

    March 26th, 2017

    Learning from Thomas Merton

    Thomas Merton in THE WAY OF CHUNG TZU discusses the classic Ju philosophy of Confucius. A philosophy “built on basic social relationships and obligations that are essential to a humane life and … develop the human potentialities of each person in his relationship to others.” Merton, THE WAY OF CHUNG TZU at 17-18 (New Directions 1965).

    By fulfilling the commands of nature which are commands of love we develop an “inner [subconscious] potential for love, understanding, reverence and wisdom.” Id. at 18. Here we live at the highest level. (According to Merton, Confucius claims that it took until he was 70 to reach this level).

    When we apply Ju philosophy to the practice of law we practice law at the highest level.  Merton outlines three steps to accomplish this:

    Compassion. We must have a “compassionate and devoted love, charged with deep empathy and sincerity, that enables [us] to identify with the troubles and joys of others as if they were [our] own.” Id. As lawyers this means we must have a compassionate and devoted love charged with sincerity and empathy for our client and our jury. We must feel our client’s plight and have a feeling of love and acceptance for the jury panel. This requires internalizing compassion into our subconscious mind before the trial begins.

    Sense of Justice. We must have a sense of justice, responsibility, duty and obligation to others and society. As lawyers this means we stand for fairness for our client. When we can get fairness through negotiation we negotiate. When we cannot get fairness through negotiation we try the case. Before trial we must internalize the reality that fairness for our client can only be accomplished through trial. This must be seeded into our subconscious mind so it is our natural state or presence.

    Disinterest. We must be completely disinterested in ourself. “The mark of the ‘Noble Minded Man’ is that he does not do things simply because they are pleasing or profitable to himself, but because they flow from an unconditional moral imperative.” Id. This moral imperative is justice which, as I interpret Merton, is good in itself. “Hence, anyone who is guided  by the profit motive … is not capable of [being genuine].” Id.

    If I am at “the Merton level” in a jury trial good things are likely to happen. I am before the jury with deeply seeded love in my heart. I love my client, and I go into voir dire with love and acceptance for the panel. My mindset/feeling is recognized by the panel as acceptance. Since I am in trial only because justice demands it, my words and body language demonstrate my pursuit of fairness. Being disinterested the panel recognizes my pursuit of justice as pure rather than tainted by a profit or a for me motive. The panel is likely to respond favorably as jury members also desire fairness and they have the ability to ensure it with their verdict.

      December 25th, 2012

      The Varieties of Religious Experience-Zen

      The first step is “a loosening of the body, without which” nothing can be properly done. This “physical loosening must … be continued in a mental and spiritual loosening, so as to make the mind not only agile, but free; agile because of its freedom, and free because of its original agility; and this original agility is essentially different from everything that is usually understood by mental agility.

      Between the two states of a relaxed body and spiritual freedom “there is a difference of level…[reached] by withdrawing from all attachments [a] becoming utterly egoless: so that the soul, sunk within itself, stands in the plenitude of its nameless origin.”

      To accomplish actionless activity instinctively “the soul needs an inner hold, and it wins it by concentrating on breathing. … The breathing in, like the breathing out, is practiced again and again… with utmost care. One does not have to wait long for results. The more one concentrates on breathing, the more the external stimuli fade into the background.” Soon we become detached from all stimuli. We only know and feel our breath. Our breathing slows to the point it also escapes our attention.

      “This state, in which nothing definite is thought, planned, striven for, desired or expected, which aims in no particular direction and yet knows itself capable alike of the possible and the impossible, so unswerving is its power-this state, which is at the bottom purposeless and egoless …[is] truly spiritual.”

      Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery (1953).

        December 20th, 2012

        The Varieties of Religious Experience-Abandonment

        There is nothing more generous than a person who sees only the relation of the world with God “in all troubles and the most likely of dangers.” It may be a matter of facing death, marching into the unknown, or working like a slave for the downtrodden. In all such things the person finds the fullness of his relationship with God engulfing him instantly.

        “An army of soldiers with such a spirit would be invincible. For faith lifts and expands the heart above and beyond all that the senses fear.” It is a delight to be one with God as there is a confidence in one’s actions which makes everything acceptable. There is also “a certain detachment of soul which enables us to handle any situation and every kind of person.”

        With faith in God “we are never unhappy and never weak.” This is because we always see God “acting behind happenings which bewilder our senses. Srticken with terror, our senses suddenly cry to the soul: ‘Unhappy wretch, now you are lost and there’s no hope of rescue!’ The robust voice of  faith instantly replies: ‘Hold fast, go forward and fear nothing.’

        Jean-Pierre De Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence (d.1751)(First Image Books edition 1975)(Chapter III (4) at 64)(edited by P.A.T.)

          December 12th, 2012

          The Varieties of Religious Experience-Mysticism

          I live, yet not I, but God liveth in me. Only when I become as nothing can God enter in and no difference between God and me remains.

          “This overcoming of all the usual barriers between the individual and God is the great mystic achievement.” In mystic states the person becomes one with God.

          This is the “everlasting and triumphant mystical tradition,” unaltered by race or creed. “In Hinduism, in Neoplatonism, in Sufism, in Christian mysticism, in Whitmanism, we find the same recurring note, so that there is about mystical utterances an eternal unanimity which ought to make a critic stop and think, and which brings it about that the mystical classics have, as has been said, neither birthday nor native land. Perpetually telling of the unity of man with God their speech antedates languages, and they do not grow old.” William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902)(Mysticism).

          An example of a mystical experience is cited by James:

          In my consciousness of God which comes to me sometimes a presence not a personality but something in myself makes me feel a part of something bigger. In these times I feel myself one with the grass, the trees, birds, insects, everything in Nature. I exalt “in the mere fact of existence, of being part of it all-the drizzling rain, the shadows of the clouds, the tree trunks, and so on.”  As the years go by such moments continue to come, but I want them continually. This is because I know “so well the satisfaction of losing self in a perception of supreme power and love,” that I am happy when this perception is constant. (James citing Starbuck’s Collection).

            December 6th, 2012

            The Varieties of Religious Experience (Saintliness)

            “The collective name for the ripe fruits of religion in a character is Saintliness. The saintly character is the character for which spiritual emotions are the habitual centre of personal energy; and there is a certain composite photograph of universal saintliness, the same in all religions, of which the features can be easily traced:”

            1) The saintly person has a feeling of a life beyond selfish interest. This is combined with a conviction of the existence of an “Ideal Power.”

            2) The saintly person has a sense of a friendly continuity with the “Ideal Power” and her own life.

            3) The saintly person becomes elated and free as the outlines of confining selfhood are absent.

            4) In the saintly person there is a “shifting of the emotional centre towards loving and harmonious affections,” towards “yes” rather than “no” without regard to what others think.

            According to William James these saintly inner conditions have the practical consequence of:

            a) Asceticism- The lack of concern for material goods and comfort. A giving up of fighting for worldly  pleasure.

            b) Strength of Soul– A lack of fear and anxiety, replaced by a “blissful equanimity.”  This is because of a  trusting of the natural order of things.

            c) Purity– As the “sensitiveness to spiritual discords is enhanced, [there is a] cleansing of existence from brutal and sensual elements… .”

            d) Charity– There is “a tenderness for fellow creatures. … The saint loves his enemies, and treats loathsome beggars as brothers.”

            William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, (1902)(Saintliness)

              December 25th, 2011

              James and Eckhart (We are the Son)

              I was converted in my bedroom. I was in perfect health. I was in no way troubled by my soul. A friend sent me a copy of Professor Drummond’s Natural Law in the Spiritual World. I soon read this passage and saw the light: He that hath the son hath eternal life, he that hath not the son hath not life. This is because my reading of Meister Eckhart came to focus:

              St. John says “See how great is the love that the Father has shown us, that we are called and are the children of God.” He says not only “we are called” but “we are.” “So I say that just as we cannot be wise without wisdom, so we cannot be a son without having the same being as God’s son.”

              It is written: Beloved, we are the sons of God, and we shall be like him (John 3:2). So I say God could not make me the son of God if I had not the nature of God’s son.

              William James, The Varieties Of Religious Experience; Meister Eckhart (14th Century Mystic); (edit by PAT).

                December 23rd, 2011

                The Varieties Of Religious Experience (The Divided Self)

                The new will which I began to have was not yet strong enough to overcome the other will, strengthened by long indulgence. So these two wills, one old, one new, one carnal, the other spiritual, contended with each other and disturbed my soul. I understood by my own experience and what I had read, “flesh lusteth against spirit, and spirit against flesh.” It was me in both the wills, yet more myself in that which I approved in myself than that which I disapproved in myself. Yet it was through myself that habit had attained so fierce a mastery over me. Still bound to earth, I refused to fight for the spiritual side, as much afraid to be freed from all bonds, as I ought to have feared being trammeled by them.

                Thus the thoughts by which I meditated upon a spiritual existence were like the efforts of one who would awake, but being overpowered with sleepiness is soon asleep again. Although I was sure it was better to surrender to a spiritual existence then to yield to my lusts, my lusts pleased me and held me bound.

                There was naught in me to answer the spiritual call: “Awake from your lusts,” but my answer was: “Wait a little while.” But the little while grew into a long while. For I was afraid the spiritual existence would take me too soon, and heal me at once of my lusts, which I wished to satiate rather then extinguish.

                With lashes of words did I scourge my own soul. Yet it refused, though it had no excuse to offer. I said to myself: “Come, let it be done, now” and as I said it I was on the point of the resolve. I all but did it, yet I did not do it. And I made another effort, and almost succeeded, yet I did not reach it, and did not grasp it, and the evil to which I was so wonted held me more then the better life I had not tried.

                William James, The Varieties Of Religious Experience (1902)(Quoting St. Augustine with edit by PAT).

                  December 21st, 2011

                  The Varieties Of Religious Experience (Melancholy)

                  There is an antagonism that arises between the healthy-minded way of viewing life and the way of viewing life that holds evil is a reality. To the person who knows evil exists healthy-mindedness is unspeakably blind and shallow. To the healthy-minded person the melancholy person seems diseased.

                  The method of averting one’s attention from evil, and living simply in the light of good is splendid as long as it will work. It will work with many persons; it will work far more generally then most are ready to suppose; and within the sphere of its successful operation there is nothing to be said against it as a religious solution.

                  But it breaks down impotently as soon as melancholy comes; and even though one be free from melancholy one’s self, there is no doubt that healthy-mindedness is inadequate as a philosophical doctrine, because the evil facts which it refuses to account for are genuine; and may be the best key to life’s significance, and possibly the openers to the deepest levels of truth.

                  Since evil is as genuine part of nature as good, the philosophic presumption should be that evil has some rational significance, and that healthy-mindedness, failing as it does to accord to sorrow, pain, and death any positive and active attention whatever, is less complete then systems that try at least to include these elements in their scope.

                  William James, The Varieties Of Religious Experience (1902)(edited by PAT).

                    December 18th, 2011

                    The Varieties Of Religious Experience (Healthy Mindedness)

                    His favorite occupation seemed to be strolling or sauntering about outdoors by himself, looking at the grass, the trees, the flowers, the vistas of light, the varying aspects of the sky, and listening to the birds, the crickets, the tree frogs, and all the hundreds of natural sounds. It was evident that these things gave him great pleasure far beyond what they give ordinary people.

                    All natural objects objects seemed to have a charm for him. All sights and sounds seemed to please him. He appeared to like all men, women , and children he saw, and each who knew him felt he liked him or her.

                    He did not argue or dispute, and he never spoke about money. He always justified those who spoke harshly about his writings. He would not allow his tongue to give expression to fretfulness, antipathy, and complaint. He never spoke deprecatingly of any nationality or class of men, or against any trades or occupations-not even against any animals, insects, or inanimate objects, nor any of the laws of nature, nor any of the results of those laws, such as illness, deformity, and death. He never complained or grumbled either at the weather, pain, illness, or anything else. He never swore. He could not very well, since he never spoke in anger and apparently never was angry. He never exhibited fear, and he apparently never felt fear.

                    Walt Whitman owes his importance in literature to the systematic expulsion from his writings of all contractile elements. The only sentiments he allowed himself to express were of the expansive order; and he expressed these in the first person, not as your mere monstrously conceited individual might so express them, but vicariously for all people, so that a passionate and mystic ontological emotion suffuses his words, and ends by persuading the reader that men and women, life and death, and all things are divinely good.

                    Thus it has come about that many regard Walt Whitman as the restorer of the eternal natural religion. He has infected them with his own love of comrades, with his own gladness the he and they exist.

                    William James, The Varieties Of Religious Experience (1902)(edited by PAT).