…we either believe in God, or not…but when our love for God bursts out into the dark yet luminous flame of interior vision, we are enabled, at least for an instant, to directly experience something that is God. For at such moments life and reality and God cease to be concepts which we think about and become realities in which we consciously participate.
The reality of God is known to us in contemplation in an entirely new way. When we apprehend God through the medium of concepts, we see God as an object separate from ourselves, as a being from whom we are alienated, even though we believe that God loves us and that we love God. In contemplation this division disappears, for contemplation goes beyond concepts and apprehends God not as a separate object but as the reality within our own reality, the being within our own being, the life within our own life. In order to express this reality we have to use symbolic language, and in respecting the metaphysical distinction between the Creator and creature we have to emphasize the I-Thou relationship between the soul and God. Nevertheless, the experience of contemplation is the experience of God’s life and presence within ourselves not as object but as the transcendent course of our own subjectivity. Contemplation is a mystery in which God reveals Godself to us as the very centre of our own most intimate self…. When the realization of God’s presence bursts upon us, our own self disappears in God and we pass mystically through the Red Sea of separation to lose ourselves (and thus find our true selves) in God.
Contemplation is the…most paradoxical form of self-realization, attained by apparent self-annihilation.
Life then, is not known, but lived. It is lived and experienced in its completeness, that is to say in all the ramifications of its spiritual activity. All the powers of the soul reach out in freedom and knowledge and love, and all converge again, and all are gathered together in one supreme act which is radiant with peace. The concreteness of this experience of reality is in the highest sense existential. And further more it is a communion – a perception of our own reality immersed in and in some sense coalescent with the supreme reality…God. Finally, it is a communion with Christ, the incarnate Word. Not only a personal union of souls with him, but a communion in the one great act by which he conquered death once and for all in his death and resurrection.
– The New Man, Thomas Merton [alt.]