Well, Lee, I don’t think you have misunderstood at all! Merton is telling us that the true self is ” made only in union with God” and James is saying the same thing, except that he is telling us also how we attain this state and why we need to do so. We are not born ‘only in union with God’; we attain it. Girard refers to the ‘autonomous self’, that is the belief that our thoughts and desires originate within ourselves, and as James explains, we are really inducted into our desires and sense of self by our milieu and the social other. In other words we learn to desire what the other desires. Girard also describes the conversion process as ‘the redirection of desire towards God’ that is,the finding of the true self. The false self is concerned with the desires of the social other or the world and this is an idolatrous position. Have you read Simone Weil on ‘Idolatry’ in ‘Gravity and Grace’ She explains this wonderfully well, as does James, who expresses himself in a different language which brings it all to us in a very human way. As we mentioned in a previous post, theology is also anthropology.
This is something we come to gradually, it is an evolutionary process, and, contemplation is so important in our progress towards the true self. If you would like to discuss this further, we can certainly continue the discussion.