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Every movement of my own natural appetite, even though my nature is good in itself, tends in one way or another to keep alive in me the illusion that is opposed to ­God’s reality living within me. Even though my natural acts are good they have a tendency, when they are only natural, to concentrate my faculties on the man that I am not, the one I cannot be, the false-self in me, the person that God does not know. This is because I am born in selfishness. I am born self-centered. And this is original sin. Even when I try to please God, I tend to please my own ambition, his enemy.

 — “Pray for Your Own Discovery,” Seeds of Contemplation.


Thomas Merton (1915–1968) was a poet, mystic, and political and religious writer who as a Trappist monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky, was also active in interreligious dialogue. With more than 70 books to his name, he is most famous for his spiritual autobiography — compared in its way to St. ­Augustine’s Confessions for its depth of spiritual insight — The Seven Storey Mountain.

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