The Bookish Beware

"How deluded we sometimes are by the clear notions we get out of books. They make us think that we really understand things of which we have no practical knowledge at all. I remember how learnedly and enthusiastically I could talk for hours about mysticism and the experimental knowledge of God, and all the while I was stoking the fires of the argument with Scotch and soda."

~Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain, p. 224


The Impiety God Loves

What a marvelous description Merton gives us of his friend Bob Gibney:

"Gibney was not what you would call pious. In fact, he had an attitude that would be commonly called impious, only I believe God understood well enough that his violence and sarcasms covered a sense of deep metaphysical dismay--an anguish that was real, though not humble enough to be of much use to his soul. What was materially impiety in him was directed more against common ideas and notions which he saw or considered to be totally inadequate, and maybe it subjectively represented a kind of oblique zeal for the purity of God, this rebellion against the commonplace and trite, against mediocrity, religiosity."

~Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain, pp. 200-201


Merton on Columbia

While Merton would praise some of his teachers at Columbia, he has this to say about the institution as a whole:

"Poor Columbia! It was founded by sincere Protestants as a college predominantly religious. The only that remains of that is the university motto: In lumine tuo videbimus lumen--one of the deepest and most beautiful lines of the psalms. 'In Thy light, we shall see light.' [The verse, incidentally, inscribed above the entrance of Calvin College's chapel.] It is, precisely, about grace. It is a line that might serve as the foundation stone of all Christian and Scholastic learning, and which simply has nothing whatever to do with the standards of education at modern Columbia. It might profitably be changed to In lumine Randall videbimus Dewey."

~Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain, p. 194