Plucking Wild Figs

. . . there is the worst and most insidious despair, which can mask as mysticism or prophecy, and which intones a prophetic answer to a prophetic question. That, I think, is likely to be a monk’s professional hazard, so I purify myself of it at the beginning, like Amos who complained, “I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet, but I am a herdsman, plucking wild figs” (Amos 7:14).

The prophetic illusion–which is quite common in our time–is at the opposite extreme from the gregarious illusion, which is more common still in every time. The false prophet will accept any answer, provided that it is his own, provided it is not the answer of the herd. The sheep mentality, on the other hand, accepts any answer that circulates in its own flock, provided only that it is not the answer of a prophet who has not been dead for at least five hundred years . . . it seems to me that the honest position lies somewhere in between.


Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island


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