For the Father is sweet, and in his will is what is good. He has taken cognizance of the things that are yours, that you might find rest in them. For by the fruits does one take cognizance of the things that are yours, because the children of the Father are his fragrance, for they are from the grace of his countenance. For this reason, the Father loves his fragrance, and manifests it in every place. And if it mixes with matter, he gives his fragrance to the light, and in his repose, he causes it to surpass every form (and) every sound. For it is not the ears that smell the fragrance, but (it is) the breath that has the sense of smell and attracts the fragrance to itself, and is submerged in the fragrance of the Father, so that he thus shelters it, and takes it to the place where it came from, from the first fragrance, which is grown cold. It is something in a psychic form, being like cold water which has frozen (?), which is on earth that is not solid, of which those who see it think it is earth; afterwards, it dissolves again. If a breath draws it, it gets hot. The fragrances, therefore, that are cold are from the division. For this reason, faith came; it dissolved the division, and it brought the warm pleroma of love, in order that the cold should not come again, but (that) there should be the unity of perfect thought.

–Gospel of truth

Deeper than this is the problem of a wrong attitude toward God and

toward prayer which is purely rationalistic. Somebody has said that
the God of the prayer-manuals can love no one but himself. It is this
God who is nothing but a mathematical first cause, running a big
machine of which He presses the button to get glory for Himself out
of it. This is terrible theology, but it is really not too wild a
caricature of the manuals. If you try to fit prayer into that kind of
structure you get something inhuman, and it is part of our problem
because it is too hard to get away from a structure that you studied
devotedly. What did we all do when we were taking our theology? It
went in one ear and out the other and we used it for examinations,
but it was still there and some priests remain dominated by this
purely mechanical formula. God  is a great big machine, an
impersonal, loveless kind of thing. This view of God makes, for
instance, the problem of evil insoluble because you can’t get away
from the fact that if He operates in this way He is causing evil, or
if He is not actually causing it He is permitting it, and you get
into this vicious circle—”How does God allow people to sin?” These
are not real problems; they becomes problems only when you have a
rationalistic concept of God. Our prayer tends to fall into this
pattern and it becomes falsified.

Any theology in which we pretend to justify God by reason is bound
to be bad theology. You cannot do it. It is the theology of Job’s
friends. The Book of Job tells us a great deal about prayer. It says
that here is a man who undergoes great evil and here are four people
who come along and explain the evil logically and they tell Job why
he is wrong and why he has to suffer. We talk about the patience of
Job, but Job is not patient at all. In fact, he is mad at God and he
is arguing with God and he is protesting against God and saying you
are not right, you are wrong, you shouldn’t be doing this to me. And
what happens at the end of it is that God comes along and says Job is
right.

This is real theology, because it is not logical. And the real
theological message of this is not that God hits people over the head
to show that He is there but that our relations with God are person-
to-person relationships, and that we don’t deal with God according to
some system. You don’t look up in a book, asking yourself, “How do I
talk to God about this?” Something evil has happened in your life. So
you look in the book, and the book says, “God permits evil for your
good,” and you say, “Oh well, all right.” There is nothing wrong with
this, but the Bible says that if you really talk with God and say
what is in your heart you are doing right. You speak to God as a
child to a father and you go to Him and tell Him what you want Him to
know and then He tells you what He wants you to know, and this puts
it on a completely person-to-person basis. You don’t get to God
through a system. You speak from your heart. That is the basic idea,
and that is what the Book of Job is saying. That is what prayer is
and that is what we have to do. God is jealous of us precisely and
not for his glory but for our freedom. He wants us to have this
freedom and spontaneity and the reality of this personal love for Him.

Thomas Merton
THOMAS MERTON IN ALASKA
New Directions, 1989

“Kabbalah teaches us you never know the narrative you are in while you are in it. But you must have confidence in the goodness of the universe while you actively pursue the path that is right for you.”

– David Ariel (author of “The Mystic Quest”)

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