December 16th, 2017



Ch’ui the draftsman  Could draw more perfect circles freehand   Than with a compass.

His fingers brought forth   Spontaneous forms from nowhere. His mind   Was meanwhile free and without concern   With what he was doing.

No application was needed   His mind was perfectly simple   And knew no obstacle.

So, when the shoe fits   The foot is forgotten,   When the belt fits   The belly is forgotten,   When the heart is right   “For” and “against” are forgotten.

No drives, no compulsions,   No needs, no attractions;   Then your affairs   Are under control.   You are a free man.

Easy is right. Begin right   And you are easy.   Continue easy and you are right.   The right way to go easy   Is to forget the right way   And forget that the going is easy.

Thomas Merton The Way Of Chuang Tzu (Abbey of Gethsemane 1965).

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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 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 will 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 will respond favorably as jury members also desire fairness and they have the ability to ensure it with their verdict.

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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 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 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).

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December 20th, 2012

The Varieties of Religious Experience-Abandonment

There is nothing more generous than a person who sees 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. 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.)

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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 characteristics 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)

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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).

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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).

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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 than 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 than systems that try at least to include these elements in their scope.

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

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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 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, or 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 a conceited individual might 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).

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December 16th, 2011

The Varieties Of Religious Experience (Intuition)

[I]f we look at man’s whole mental life as it exists, on the life of men that lies in them apart from their learning and science, and that they inwardly and privately allow, we have to confess that the part of it of which rationalism can give an account is relatively superficial. It is the part that has prestige for it can challenge you for proofs, and chop logic, and put you down with words. But it will fail to convince or convert you all the same, if your intuitions are opposed to its conclusions.

Intuitions come from a deeper level of our nature than where rationalism resides. This is our subconscious life, impulses, faith, needs, divination which forms the reality our consciousness recognizes as truer than any logic chopping rationalistic talk, however clever, that contradicts it. The truth is that in the metaphysical and religious sphere, articulate reasons make sense only when our inarticulate feelings of reality coincide with our subconscious intuition.

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

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