In his Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, Thomas Merton describes his moment of enlightenment:
In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers.
It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness…
This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud… I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.
The city of Louisville has since renamed the four-way intersection he was standing at when he had his revelation “Thomas Merton Square”. There stands a double sided bronze plaque with one side telling his biography and the other side called “A Revelation”.
Recorded on a scrap of paper found sewn up in his doublet after his death:
From about half past ten in the evening to
about half an hour after midnight. Fire.
God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob,
not the God of philosophers and scholars.
Absolute Certainty: Beyond reason. Joy. Peace.
Forgetfulness of the world and everything but God.
the world has not known thee, but I have known thee.
Joy! Joy! Joy! tears of joy!
(Happold, F.C. Mysticism. A Study and an Anthology. Third Edition. Penguin Books. 1990. Page. 39)