Thomas Merton is wrong: Christian mysticism is a bad idea.
Thomas Merton was a great proponent of ecumenism. For Merton, all religion, East and West, sought the same thing: unity with God. He was also a beautiful writer. Nevertheless, it seems to me that he got something fundamental wrong.
The goal of Christian mysticism is to find unity with God. Solitude, contemplation, self-denial and often silence all aim at the emptying of the self in order that we might be filled with God. But what if the goal of unity is the wrong goal? The proper Christian goal is faith in God and following the teachings of Jesus Christ. Chief among Christ’s teachings is loving and caring for other people.
Whatever unity with God that is necessary in order to feel fulfilled is achieved through the eucharist (communion). We partake of the blood and body of Christ, and so incorporate his body into ours, and our body into the membership in the church. What else is needed? What else is there? *
Contemplation is about the self, not God
If this is so, what purpose does the contemplative search for mystical unity with God serve? I think it serves solely the need of the individual, and little to do with a greater unity with God. What if instead of the word “unity,” I substituted “a feeling of belonging to God’s world because I am one of his creatures.” Putting it this way is more long winded, but it says all that need be said. The search for wholeness is a search for self, not God.