'To be/ become identified with'

ThomasK

Senior Member
Belgium, Dutch
I would like what the (very) precise meaning of that expression is in Thomas Merton's 'New Seeds of Contemplation' (p. 65):
"The more I become identified with God, the more will I be identified with all the others who are identified with him."
The most common interpretation would be 'to resemble', I guess, something like be 'the image of God', but then there is become vs. be (come to resemble vs. resemble ?),and I especially wonder about this passive - or is it no passive? Is 'identified' more like an adj. than a Past Participle?
 
  • Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The verb "to become" does not mean "to resemble". It literally means "to come to be". So...

    "The more I came to be identified with God..." - I don't think that is a passive construction. It is not other people who are doing the identifying. Rather 'identifying' is an adjective.

    I am not sure if that is your question, or are you more concerned with the meaning of 'identified'?
     
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    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I see it more as an adjective. It isn't normal English to say "I become identified."

    I don't see it different grammatically from " "I become frozen" or "I become impatient". "I am frozen" (I'm really cold) isn't passive is it? Then neither is "I became frozen" (I became really cold). By analogy with those I think the "identified" is adjectival.
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I see it more as an adjective. It isn't normal English to say "I become identified."

    I don't see it different grammatically from " "I become frozen" or "I become impatient". "I am frozen" (I'm really cold) isn't passive is it? Then neither is "I became frozen" (I became really cold). By analogy with those I think the "identified" is adjectival.
    I agree. For a moment I saw it as passive but then realised there was no agent.
     

    ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    You will certainly be right, but then the whole phrase: just resembling? Would you think there are other ways of expressing the meaning in English? (I am always wary of the little nuances that one misses in translations)
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    You will certainly be right, but then the whole phrase: just resembling? Would you think there are other ways of expressing the meaning in English? (I am always wary of the little nuances that one misses in translations)
    I don't understand where you get the word "resembling" from. Why do you think this verb is relevant? Are you suggesting it as meaning "identified with"?
     

    ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    Well, someone translated it like this:
    "The more I (come to) resemble God, the more will I resemble all the others who resemble him."
    What would be your paraphrase (forget about theology as for me: how would a native speaker understand that?)? That would be based on Gen 1, 26-27: in my image, after my likeness...
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Before we continue, I think we must be clear what you are asking. Is it

    1. The meaning of "identify" in this passage
    or
    2. The meaning of "become" and "be" (as suggested by the underlining in your original post)?

    My guess is that Merton is using "identify" in an ontological sense rather than to mean simply "resemble". To be certain I would have to read the passage. I'll try to find the relevant text online. Let's see what others think.
     
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    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I have done a little reading around. I haven't found the full text yet but I found this passage by another author.

    We must remember that this superficial “I” is not our real self. The
    “I” that works in the world, thinks about itself, observes its own
    reactions and talks about itself is not the true “I” that has been
    united to God in Christ.
    Christian Footings: Creation, World Religions, Personalism, Revelation, and ...
    By Robert Imperato

    Note: I cannot link to this book. You may wish to search for it online.

    I think that that makes it clear that the discussion is not about resembling God but rather being united with God - having the same identity as God in some sense.

    Do you have link to the full text?
     
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    ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    It was Thomas Merton himself, Biffo. But this is quite interesting: we generally translate the relationship we aim at as one of resemblance, but of course this ontological idea of having the same identity is... 'wiser'. 'Resemblance' can be very misleading as a term! Thanks a lot!

    (So my question was twofold, but focused mainly on the 'identified'. I addes the become vs. be issue because I thought it threw light on the question... But the text is not on a site, I am afraid)
     

    jcardha

    Member
    English (Australia)
    From my basic understanding of Christianity, when the word "resemble" is used in regards to humanity's relationship with God, it is basically interchangeable with other words with similar meanings such as "identify". What "resemble" suggests is that, by resembling God or identifying with Him, we are essentially imitating Him and following in His example of goodness, virtue, and love. I think a sufficient colloquial equivalent of what Merton says would be:

    "The closer I am to God (i.e. more like / resembling Him), the closer I will be to those who are close to Him."

    That is, by being closer to God, God's believers will be closer to each other, and so (if I may extend this line of argument) God's community is strengthened.


    In regards to the become vs. be issue, I think it's useful to look at it in terms of the parallelism that Merton sets up to compare the different states of being:

    "Become identified" = On the way to being identified
    "More...identified" = Being more identified
    "Are identified": Completely identified

    So Merton is sort of presenting a spectrum of identification, from "not being completely identified" to "completely identified". From a linguistic or literary standpoint, this type of sentence structure gives the argument more emphasis, verve and authority. It's also easier to read and process.
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    From my basic understanding of Christianity, when the word "resemble" is used in regards to humanity's relationship with God, it is basically interchangeable with other words with similar meanings such as "identify". What "resemble" suggests is that, by resembling God or identifying with Him, we are essentially imitating Him and following in His example of goodness, virtue, and love. I think a sufficient colloquial equivalent of what Merton says would be:..
    I think we need more evidence than is provided by a basic understanding. The title of Thomas Merton's book is 'New Seeds of Contemplation'. Clearly he intends to break with conventions to some extent.

    I don't think we can comment further without access to the actual text. And by the way I disagree with your point of view. I don't think it has anything to do with imitation except that that might be part of the road towards identification. :)
     

    ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    I could of course type a larger part of the text here, but I am not allowed to here. What JC says, is indeed what is commonly accepted, as far as I can see. I am just intrigued by words, and especially by whether people like Merton offer a new understanding of classical terms.

    However, as far as I know, 'New Seeds of Contemplation' is simply an improved version of 'Seeds of Contemplation': 'much enlarged and revised', I read somewhere, and that is what I have always heard. But he does break with some conventions, and he presents faith often in a fresher way, so I'd say, instilling life into coagulated terms for instance, which is one reason why I love to check on the precise meanings of words.

    I did find the passage in the Shambhala edition here, p. 67 (top of the page)...
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I could of course type a larger part of the text here, but I am not allowed to here. What JC says, is indeed what is commonly accepted, as far as I can see. I am just intrigued by words, and especially by whether people like Merton offer a new understanding of classical terms.

    However, as far as I know, 'New Seeds of Contemplation' is simply an improved version of 'Seeds of Contemplation': 'much enlarged and revised', I read somewhere, and that is what I have always heard. But he does break with some conventions, and he presents faith often in a fresher way, so I'd say, instilling life into coagulated terms for instance, which is one reason why I love to check on the precise meanings of words.

    I did find the passage in the Shambhala edition here, p. 67 (top of the page)...
    Unfortunately I am not able to read beyond page 56. After that I get an error message. Nevertheless I have been reading some of the book. It is superbly written in clear prose and I find what he says very easy to follow.

    It is perfectly clear to me that he thinks that many conventional practices are based on misunderstandings, especially of what is meant by the self and communicating with God. He is an iconoclast in the best sense.

    I am now even more confirmed in my original answer that the is talking more about being part of God's identity than trivially trying imitate what we imagine to be God's characteristics.

    My final answer - he is talking about merging with God rather than emulating God.

    Beyond that we would have to discuss the book in depth and that would require everyone to read it followed by many hours of discussion.
     
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    ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    Thanks a lot for your effort !!! I like your idea of merging with God rather than emulating God, and indeed, TM does warn against certain 'illusions', and I appreciate those ideas very much myself.
     
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