Monday Morning with Merton: The Connection

When I first met Pia online in the summer of 2006, it was over a discussion in some comboxes and later by email of Merton’s concept of “le point vierge”.  I had never heard of it until Pia brought it to my attention.  In turn, I shared with her what I had read about Merton’s concept of “le temps vierge”.  Both of these concepts (the virginal point and virginal time) could warrant many hours of pondering (and did), but also, ever since, I have been wondering about the connection between the two.  Surely, I thought, there must be a connection between this point, this Divine Spark, and ourselves being offered this potentiality of time.  Yet I could not find what I was grasping after in anything I read by or about Merton, or anywhere else for that matter.  But, patience is a virtue…

Do you remember Arthur Young and his wonderful discovery of St. Basil’s theory?  Well here he is again in a very short clip (just a little over a minute) which you may want to listen to more than once.  (I’m surprised I haven’t worn it out all by myself).  To my knowledge he and Merton did not know each other, but I dearly wish they had.  One can only imagine the insights, discussions and correspondence that might have ensued.

From the Arthur Young Series:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

For anyone not familiar with the two concepts mentioned, or who would like a little refresher:

Le point vierge:

“Again, that expression, le point vierge, (I cannot translate it) comes in here.  At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will.  This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us.  It is so to speak His name written in us, as our poverty, as our indigence, as our dependence, as our sonship.  It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven.  It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely.” [Thomas Merton:  Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, pg. 158]

Le temps vierge:

“…not a blank to be filled or an untouched space to be conquered and violated, but a space which can enjoy its own potentialities and hopes – and its own presence to itself.  One’s own time.  But not dominated by one’s own ego and its demands.  Hence open to others – compassionate time, rooted in the sense of common illusion and in criticism of it.” [The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton,  pg. 117]

9 thoughts on “Monday Morning with Merton: The Connection

  1. AAAhhhh! Perhaps what St Teresa refers to in her Castle of the Soul and that central dwelling place of crystal clearness where He dwells within each of us, le point vierge!

  2. I was thinking they’re both speaking of the soul, but actually, one can clutch/affect/corrupt one’s own soul. At one time, a Protestant and I used to have many round arguments about everything. He said (of what, I don’t recall), “Well, yes–but is that the soul, or the spirit?” Best he could tell, we are mind, body, will, soul and spirit. He quoted Jesus, “Into Your hands..” Was it a case of semantics? My resounding, “Huh..” would’ve left us ripe for future discourse, had I not emailed him of my death as a thinker.

    This Divine Spark (from which Jesus longed to begin a great fire of love?) — was it there always, or after the Cross (and baptism?)? Is it in everyone, or only after one receives the Eucharist? Is this the Proprietor-like indwelling within Whom/Which I encountered in the dying Methodist lady that was so Powerful and so Real, it scared me into back up? Timeless God in every timed body?

    (If one looks closely, one won’t see frown-lines on a donkey, but one may well see baffle-lines. If you need me, I’ll be out in the lower forty, pondering what’s for supper.)

  3. I think Fulton Sheen mentions this too and I’ve read about it elsewhere- every soul has been touched in some way by God and all our lives we – either knowingly or unknowingly- long for that touch again.
    I like to think of this because it means we are all equally valuable to God and no-one has ever been born who has not been touched by Him and loved by Him. And that precious area remains uncontaminated in a contaminated world. You know when they say there’s good in everyone – even the most vile and evil – well this is partly what that means – there is good because there is God. At least that’s what I think – can’t go any deeper than that, don’t know how.

  4. Thank you, Ann. I can grasp that a little tighter.

    Maybe spiritually, we are the Esau, who have rested in the Virginal fundus, elbow to earlobe with “Jacob,” our better Twin, by His choice. Maybe we never forget, for we spiritually share the holy Blood supply, as did/does our Mother. Maybe we are ever looking for our willing and known Twin, veiled differently, now. And maybe we are always closer to success in that than we know, for Mother knows where He is.

    (And yes, maybe it’s better if I don’t think!)

    I believe there is good in even the most vile person. That’s the horror of us — we can abuse our God-allowed free will to refuse to love. That is why we heard and hear and cry for gratitude in the words, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.”

  5. I don’t know why, but I’ve been thinking about the point vierge lately, too…Here we go again with the twins separated at birth thing…. I recall that in those comboxes I also mentioned what my friend Al said, when I read it to him. He said something like: “I guess it means everything is going to be ok, no matter what.” And then we tied it in with Julian of Norwich’s “all will be well”.

    “a point of pure truth…which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will”.

    I think this sums it up for me. We often have this idea or image of who we (think) we are and we don’t realize that we are much more, and that He truly does dwell in us and we can’t destroy that, no matter what. If we choose to refuse Him, we condemn ourselves to eternity without Him, but we will still exist in some way, because I think even He can’t destroy that part of us that was “created in His image and likeness”. -…..did that make sense??

  6. Possibly so, Pia. Yet I think G’s point in mentioning all this is so that we might be presented with an understandable as well as credible locus/intersecting, that we may more readily believe that Divine Union is possible even here in this life. And it would have to be pristine, which is to say, His.

    In looking up what I could find online about “le temps vierge” and “le point vierge,” I found more is written about le point vierge, from Louis Massignon’s study of a Muslim contemplative on which Sufis have greatly picked up.

    Both vierges are a lovely concept, and without a doubt, God is full of gasp-y surprises. But I generally do not seek enlightenment further than trying to discern who is going to do the dishes tonight. I get myself into enough trouble without thinking. Heh. I wait for Him to take my hand in some way, and lead me to the letter “A” and we work our way from there s l o w w w l y.

  7. I think teresa anawim’s comment about the point vierge being the same as what Teresa of Avila speaks of is exactly right. This is the Divine Spark within – within each and every human being no matter what – the Divine Spark even within the most evil members of humanity, without which, as Teresa of Avila says, we would cease to exist.

    Do any of you remember the very long discussions we had at Exhaling about this time last year I think, re the difference between the soul and the spirit, etc. When thinking about the point vierge and temps vierge over the last couple of years, what I couldn’t grasp was the time factor, but after listening to Arthur Young say that the point is the spirit from the Divine Spark or monad, and that the soul is the line stretching out into time, it all makes more sense to me now.

    The Spark within us is divine, and so is outside of time. Our soul is in time. When we deepen our union with God through contemplative prayer, when we reach either moments or enduring periods of time with the One, in a non-dual state (which I believe is what Teresa of Avila and Fr. Thomas Dubay are talking about when they speak of being able to take care of business yet completely absorbed by and in God) then we are also outside of time. I’m thinking that the exact spot where the point and the line meet might be what is called the still point, and that is where, in contemplative prayer, our soul, normally in time, is oned with the Divine Spark within, and we experience union. Now this is just my own grasp on it, so don’t quote me; you all know how I love it when the math and the physics help me understand the spiritual…

  8. Pingback: Turning “points”… « Beyond the Horizon 3

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