Merton on The Unspeakable

The Unspeakable. What is that? Surely, an eschatological image. It is the void that we encounter, you and I, underlying the announced programs, the good intentions, the unexampled and universal aspirations for the best of all possible worlds. It is the void that contradicts everything that is spoken even before the words are said; the void that gets into the language of public and official declarations at the very moment when they are pronounced, and makes them ring dead with the hollowness of the abyss. It is the void out of which Eichmann drew the punctilious exactitude of his obedience, the void which drawls in the zany violence of Flannery O’Connor’s Southerners, or hypnotizes the tempted conscience in Julien Green.

It is the emptiness of “the end.” Not necessarily the end of the world, but a theological point of no return, a climax of absolute finality in refusal, in equivocation, in disorder, in absurdity, which can be broken open again to truth only by miracle, by the coming of God. Yet nowhere do you despair of this miracle. You seem to say that, for you, this is precisely what it means to be a Christian; for Christian hope begins where every other hope stands frozen stiff before the face of the Unspeakable. I am glad you say this, but you will not find too many agreeing with you, even among Christians.”

— from “Raids on the Unspeakable (New Directions Paperbook)” by Thomas Merton

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