In our discussions of Chapter 5 we talked about the great diversity of created things from the smallest organisms (bacteria) to the largest (trees and mountains.) The individuality found in diversity is not an imperfection but part of God's design and perhaps a reflection of His infinite nature. For the created things, like trees and animals, their very being is a natural expression of God's will, and as such, they are "saints" sanctified by being just what God created them to be.
By giving humans free will, God gives us the freedom to be whatever we like. Because we have our will, holiness is more than humanity, our vocation is to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity our own destiny. To work out our own identity in God, which the Bible calls "working out our salvation" (Philippians 2:12-13) is a labor that requires sacrifice and anguish, risk and many tears. It demands close attention to reality at every moment and great fidelity to God as He reveals Himself, obscurely, in the mystery of each new situation.
In this Chapter Merton continues to discuss the false self. To say that I was born in sin is to say that I came into the world with a false self. I was born with a mask... thus I came into existence and nonexistence at the same time because from the very start I was something that I was not. He further writes that the false self cannot exist because it exists outside of God's will and God's love - outside of reality and outside of life.
Merton also introduces True Self in this chapter which is finding out who I am. The secret of my identity (True Self) is hidden in the love and the mercy of God. But whatever is in God is really identical with Him for His infinite simplicity admits no division and no distinction. Therefore I cannot hope to find myself anywhere except in Him. Therefore, there is only on problem on which all my existence, my peace and my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find Him I will find myself and if I find my True Self I will find Him. This is something that no (hu)man can do alone. The only one who can teach me to find God is God, Himself, Alone.
I recommend two additional sources that talk about the false self and True Self. They are: The Human Condition: Contemplation and Transformation by Fr. Thomas Keating and Immortal Diamond: The Search for our True Self by Fr. Richard Rohr. Either of these can be purchased at your favorite bookseller or you can download The Human Condition by clicking on the linked title above.
Finally, there were two important points made in our evening's discussions: (1) Did God make all things for good? If a Tree gives glory to God by being a Tree, does something like Cancer give glory to God by being Cancer? This is something we all need to personally ponder but, like Job regarding suffering, I am coming to an understanding that there a limit to our understanding regarding how God works. Our false self looks to try to explain all mystery, especially those that appear threatening to us. Those of the Christian tradition may consider reading Job:38-42. (2) Did Jesus suffer during his death on the cross, after all if he had Divine knowledge he must have foreseen his own resurrection? The point made during our evening discussion was that knowledge does not necessarily alleviate human physical pain, anguish and suffering. The important implication relating back to True Self is that even if we operate out of the place of True Self, we will still experience discomfort, pain and physical suffering, but we may be better able to cope, accept and understand it.