A Favorite Quote from a New Dimensions Guest : Father Matthew Fox

When psalms surprise me with their music
And antiphons turn to rum
The Spirit sings: the bottom drops out of my soul

And from the center of my cellar, Love, louder than thunder
Opens a heaven of naked air.

The opening of a poem written by
the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

“This is a quote about what prayer does to the soul. It’s hard to talk about these things because, as William James says, one of the signs of mystics is ineffability. So, it takes a poet, like Merton, to give us language for what happens to us. I love where the bottom drops out of my soul. I wonder how many of us have had these experiences where the bottom drops out of our soul and how can we increase these experiences. Notice that the spirit is coming from below, it’s coming from the cellar, it’s very feminist. It’s not coming down from above and so the love lies in our cellar, in our basement, if you will. Meister Eckhart, the great 14th century mystic, says that the human soul is ineffable like God is. This means our souls are extremely deep, they’re like infinite. Merton is putting it into words for us ‘louder than thunder opens a heaven of naked air’ and air is another word for spirit. So I think Merton, as any good poet does, named something that’s hard to name. But he does a beautiful job that we are a species whose bottom can drop out of our souls. Maybe we should give that more attention. It might make us happier and more grounded.”

 

Fr. Matthew Fox, Ph.D. author of
A Way To God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality