Thomas Merton on the chopping block.

Page 1 of 2 (21 items) 1 2 Next >
This post has 20 Replies | 0 Followers

Posts 5286
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Posted: Sat, Aug 26 2017 11:07 AM

The Power and Meaning of Love

I missed this earlier... Loving most things by Thomas Merton I would love to see this in Logos, less than two weeks to get it under contract though.


Posts 3395
Milkman | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Aug 26 2017 12:29 PM

Looks pretty good.



Posts 5286
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Aug 28 2017 8:11 AM

For those not familiar: 

MERTON, THOMAS (1915–1968)


Merton was born in Prades, France, on 31 January 1915. His Episcopal father (from New Zealand) met his Quaker mother (from New York) while both were studying art in Paris. Shortly after birth Merton was baptized “Tom,” but his parents gave him little religious education. When he was one year old they moved to New York where soon John Paul, a younger brother, was born. Tom’s mother taught him to read before he entered school, and he remained an avid reader all his life. She died when he was six; then he traveled with his father till placed in boarding schools in France and England.

While studying at Cambridge he got into unidentified trouble (it seems he fathered a child). He then returned to New York to live with his mother’s family and attend Columbia University, from which he would receive his bachelor’s and master’s degree in literature. He had considered himself an atheist until as an undergraduate he read Etienne Gilson’s The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy. He was further influenced by writings of Aldous Huxley, Jacques Maritain, Leon Bloy, and the poetry of William Blake and Gerard Manley Hopkins (“they sang me into the Church”). He was rebaptized Catholic on 16 November 1938. He soon began an application to enter the Franciscans and taught at the Franciscan college, St. Bonaventure’s (now University), in upstate New York.

Merton met Catherine de Hueck and briefly considered working at Friendship House, an outreach house in Harlem, but instead decided to enter the Trappists (Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance). He entered the monastery of Gethsemani in Kentucky on 10 December 1941—three days after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. The abbot gently encouraged Merton’s longtime interest in writing. He published a book of poems and wrote two biographies before completing his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain. Appearing in October 1948, it quickly became a bestseller; it has been translated into fifteen languages and sales are estimated at three-and-a-half million. He soon followed with Seeds of Contemplation which was translated into fourteen languages. He continued writing on Christian spirituality, The Ascent to Truth and No Man Is an Island, but in the early 1950s he broadened his interest to include Eastern spirituality with a particular interest in Zen. He became restless with the common life of the monastery and requested transfer to a monastic congregation that allowed more solitude. Some limited modifications of schedule were made for him, and in 1955 he began serving as novice director.

In 1958, after being distant from world events, Merton developed an interest in social causes, notably race relations, the politics of Latin America, and later U.S. military actions in Vietnam. This brought a change in his popular image: he lost some former readers and gained some new ones. Though he was not an absolute pacifist and publication of his pacifist writings was restricted, many leading opponents of the Vietnam War quoted him and visited him at Gethsemani. In 1965 he finished his work as novice director and obtained permission from Cistercian authorities to spend most of the day at a hermitage on the monastery grounds (in recent times there had been no Cistercian hermits). From the time of his entrance until 1968 Merton rarely left the monastery—save for hospital stays in Louisville with nervous stress, allergy, and back problems. But with Vatican II he took several trips within the U.S. and then left to attend monastic conferences in Calcutta and Bangkok. After presenting a paper in Bangkok on 10 December 1968, he was found dead in his room, electrocuted by the faulty wire of an electric fan. He is buried in the monastic cemetery at Gethsemani.

Merton wrote about fifty books—it is difficult to give an exact number as some essays are duplicated in different collections and some booklength manuscripts have appeared only as articles. He wrote poetry and prose, a play and a novel, letters and journals, essays and satires, biographies, and an autobiography. His writings considered contemplation and spirituality, monastic history and life, contemporary art and literature, liturgy, pacificism, racism, Eastern religion, and consumerism. Twenty-five years after his death his books continue to sell. Most of his original papers are kept in the archives of The Merton Study Center at Bellarmine College, Louisville, Kentucky.

Spiritual Teaching

Central to the thought of Merton is the radical denial of the self; this refers to the reflective self known in the Cartesian cogito. This self is considered an illusion created by the deceptive forces that pit one person against another in competition. Merton insisted we must lose this artificial self in order to discover our true self (“person”) in Christ. In Christ we will discover our person united in love with the persons of all other people. Sometimes Merton would call this awareness (infused) contemplation or the “transcendent experience”—for by it we transcend our individual selfhood. In contemplation we find our person—what can never be known in reflection. It is a timeless identity that simply is. Much of Merton’s interest in Zen writers came from their radical and unequivocal denial of all selfhood.

In telling of contemplation as the life of God infused in us, Merton set his understanding in opposition to those who regard contemplation as a warm, oceanic feeling of bliss. He found such bliss sometimes recommended in spiritual literature, but he considered it only psychological regression (he allowed something similar might be involved in the early stages of Christian mysticism). Yet the experience can leave one bogged down in feelings of sweetness and ego-peace, while nothing transcendent to the self is involved. So he warned that spiritual directors must be careful “not to confuse this narcissistic self-awareness with true mystical contemplation.” Merton would also oppose Aldous Huxley and others who had claimed that mystical states can be had with drugs. For Merton insisted true mysticism involves “a direct spiritual contact of two liberties [God’s and our own].” In true mysticism God is not known as an ‘object’ or as the “one in everything.” Rather one contacts the biblical “I AM”; it is the free presence of Another and so it depends not on chemicals but on the freedom of the divine Other.

Merton would also distinguish true mysticism from what some psychologists speak of as a “peak experience”: this he saw as only “a heightening and intensification of our personal identity” that enables us to feel exhilarated and good about ourselves. But the self-aware subject would remain self-aware and not transcend the self at all. Should the ego claim the transcendent experience as its own, Merton would see this as the “crowning glory of egohood and self-fulfillment”—that is, the crowning glory of illusion.

Merton believed that the “transcendent experience [infused contemplation]” is found in the Christian, the Jewish, the Buddhist, and the Sufi traditions. Christians would tell of it when they would speak of putting on the mind of Christ; other traditions would tell of the “(I) AM,” the Atman, the Pneuma, etc. To arrive at this awareness one must turn one’s ego-consciousness inside out so that one becomes a desert, a nothing, a void. Because Zen Buddhist writers insisted most strongly on a radical self-emptying, Merton had more interest in them than other writers on Asian religion. Zen Buddhists do not speak of a personal God, yet Merton found them “very germane and close to our own approaches to inner truth in Christ.” It is their “approaches” that resemble the Christian approaches: they too insist on the radical denial of self. But in opposition to the Buddhists Merton continued to insist on the personal nature of God. This is evident in his continued insistence that contemplation is love and in the spontaneous prayer he offered shortly before his death; though leading a prayer for many nontheistic, Asian monks, he did not soften his theism. His considerable interest in Asian religious texts drew him to Asia, but he would explain: “I am not very open to Hindu religion, as distinct from philosophy.”

Merton has told of three forms of contemplation: the metaphysical, the natural, and the infused. All are in opposition to the Cartesian cogito. Metaphysical contemplation would put us in touch with Being apart from the division between subject and object. Then, natural contemplation would involve a loving gaze upon an objective truth or beauty (such as a good liturgy); here there would be some division between subject and object. Then, infused contemplation would involve a radical entrance into God apart from all selfhood; one would disappear from this world.

The value of freedom runs through all the writings of Merton. He would speak of God as Freedom or Liberty, and our freedom is the image of God within us. Yet people in the modern world are estranged from their freedom and caught in a frantic activism. His autobiography begins with the claim, “Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness in the image of the world in which I was born.” His autobiography then tells of his journey from the prison of compulsive behavior to the monastery, where he found the “sweet savor of liberty” within “the four walls of my freedom.”

Social Teaching

Merton had had an interest in social issues (racial justice and world peace) while a student in Cambridge and Columbia. Later, in writing on the same issues as a monk, he tried to bring the activists of the sixties the perspective of one “halfway between in and out of the action.” He warned pacificists against antagonistic forms of protest that drove the opposition only further into its “patriotism.” He was suspicious of all group movements and wanted each individual to “stand on one’s own two feet.” This required “a lucid reason, a profound religious faith and, above all, an uncompromising and a courageous spirit of self sacrifice.” His earlier writings had spoken of contemplation as a monastic ideal that required considerable withdrawal from the world. But eventually he would see contemplation as necessary for anyone who wanted to live freely and sanely in the world. He would see people crowded together yet alienated from themselves and one another with minds full of propaganda and slogans, so he came to consider solitude essential to any true human community and silence necessary for meaningful speech.

Monastic Teaching

Merton wrote abundantly on monastic issues and Catholic liturgy. In general he favored the monastic reforms that followed Vatican II, but he insisted on retaining both discipline and asceticism to free the monk from slavery to his appetites. But he came to believe that the formalisms of monastic life can bring about another form of servitude. Personally, he found it increasingly difficult to assist at community office, but he wanted Latin and Gregorian chant to remain. He had an interest in Asian religions, but he did not think Christian and non-Christian monks could form a common monastic community. During the twenty-seven years of his monastic life, he changed from being a world-denying ascetic to being a world-affirming Christian involved in the events of his time.


 Michael Glazier and Monika K. Hellwig, The Modern Catholic Encyclopedia (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2004), 539–541.


PS: Apologizes for the poor formatting from this previous posting.

Posts 5286
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Aug 28 2017 11:37 AM

I was first introduced to Thomas Merton by a Devotional Bible released by Thomas Nelson that had a reading from him, but later more fully by a former United Church pastor who considered Merton his spiritual mentor through his writings. This is one of the most profound mid 20th century Catholic voices to come out of America. Had I caught this book earlier I would have championed it earlier but still hope we can get enough interest to save it.


PS: Here is the devotional gem from that NCV The Answer Bible (1993 edition) while not part of the book on offer it should give you a clue as to his writing style and spiritual viewpoint:

There are various ways of being happy and every [person] has the capacity to make [one’s] life what it needs to be for [one] to be have a reasonable amount of peace in it. Why then do we persecute ourselves with illusory demands, never content until we feel we have conformed to some standard of happiness that is not good for us only but for everyone? Why can we not be content with the secret gift of happiness that God offers us, without consulting the rest of the world? Why do we insist, rather, on a happiness that is approved by the magazines and TV? Perhaps because we do not believe in a happiness that is given to us for nothing. We do not think we can be happy with a happiness that has no price tag on it.

If we are fools enough to remain at the mercy of people who want to sell us happiness, it will be impossible for us to ever be content with anything. How would they profit if we became content? We would no longer need their new product.

The last thing the sales[person] wants is for the buyer to become content. You are of no use in affluent society unless you are always just about to grasp what you can never have.

The Greeks were not as smart as we are. In their primitive way they put tantalus in hell. Madison Avenue, on the contrary, would convince us that Tantalus is in heaven.

God gives us freedom to make our lives within the situation which is the gift of His love to us, and by means of the power His love grants us. But we feel guilty about it. We are quite capable of being happy in the life He has provided us, in which we can contentedly make our own way, helped by His grace. We are ashamed to do so. For we need one thing more than happiness: we need approval. And the need for approval destroys our capacity for happiness. “How can you believe, who seek glory from another?”[John 5:44]

For the United States, approval has to be bought-not once, not ten times, but a thousand times over every day.

Leond Bloy remarked on this characteristic of our society: A businessman will say of someone the he knows him if he knows he has money.

To say of someone “I do not know him” means, in business, “I am not sure that he will pay.”

But if he has money, and proves it, then “I know him.”

So we have to get money and keep spending it in order to be known, recognized as human. Otherwise we are excommunicated. 

--Thomas Merton, conjectures of a guilty bystander.

Posts 5286
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Aug 29 2017 9:54 AM

Here is a sample from one merton; s works already in Logos... I am going to be a little intense bumping this every couple of days because have only about 10 days to get it over the line...

This light that is in us has been given us for the service of love. That is not to say that the intelligence is inferior to the will, but only that the purest thing that is in us, the mind, is what enables us to make a total gift of ourselves to God. If we did not have intelligence, we would not be free, and if we were not free our love could not be disinterested; and if our love were not disinterested it would not be pure. And without pure love we cannot see God. Since it is written: “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God!”15

The greatest sorrow of the saints lies in the fact that this purity and their freedom of love, which are themselves God’s greatest gifts to us because they enable us to reach Him, quickly fall out of our grasp. We are never clean for long. We always have to wash our souls as well as our hands. We are always falling back into darkness and selfishness and thoughtlessness and imperfection. That is why contemplation on earth is only a faint foretaste of beatitude: it is so inconstant. Nevertheless, Saint Thomas shows us how the life of the contemplative can always be at least virtually ordered to union with God. It is consoling to hear him say that even necessary and seemingly unspiritual bodily operations like eating and sleeping, which may sometimes interrupt our contemplation, nevertheless form part of the contemplative life on earth because without them we would not be able to go on praying and loving and contemplating God.16

15 Matthew 5:8.

16 Summa, I IIae. Q. 3, a. 2, ad 4.

 Thomas Merton, The Ascent to Truth (Tunbridge Wells, Kent: Burns & Oates, 1976), 213.


Posts 5286
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 31 2017 1:43 PM

Maybe a lost cause since I see little movement in that past few days but I will keep plugging away till the end, here is Basil Pennington, speaking on merton:

From time to time God in his provident love raises up in our midst a man or woman whose way of being gives to our lives a new hope, a more expansive vision. Thomas Merton, Father Louis of Gethsemani, was such a man. He has spoken and he continues to speak to the hearts of many men and women from very different outlooks and backgrounds. More than anyone else I have ever known, Merton was “Everyman”; he was extraordinarily aware that his life was in some way not just his own, even as he lived with exceptional courage the unique truth of his own inner being.

My personal contacts with Tom were limited. As monks we did not have many opportunities to travel and meet. In the early days even correspondence was strictly limited. Later that was not the case. However, Father Flavian, who was under Merton’s guidance as a young monk and later served him as confessor and abbot, believes we can actually get to know Tom better through his writings than we could have through personal contact. Certainly Tom has left us a rich literary heritage. Of all his writings, perhaps his spontaneous, wide-ranging letters, reveal him most clearly. While I have never ceased to find more and more in Tom’s writings, published and unpublished, I have found the tapes of his talks to his novices and his community have given me the best sense of the man: the wonderful humor, the deep humanity, the lively sense of the divine in all and through all. Nothing was foreign to this man who was centered at the Center of the universe. The tapes, even more than the writings, make me aware of the fact that Tom is still very much alive in the Lord and continues to speak to us in a living way.

 M. Basil Pennington, On Retreat with Thomas Merton (New York: Continuum, 1997), 1–3.


Posts 291
Hapax Legomena | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 31 2017 4:58 PM

I'm in.  Hoping . . .

Posts 979
Deacon Steve | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Aug 31 2017 6:37 PM


Posts 10678
Forum MVP
NB.Mick | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Sep 1 2017 12:21 AM

Dan Francis:

I'm in...

Running Logos 8 latest beta version on Win 10

Posts 5286
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Sep 2 2017 10:00 AM


Dan Francis:

I'm in...


Another Sample of Merton's writings from a resource already in Logos:

There is no true spiritual life outside the love of Christ. We have a spiritual life only because we are loved by him. The spiritual life consists in receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit and his charity, because the Sacred Heart of Jesus has willed in his love that we should live by his Spirit—the same Spirit who proceeds from the Word and from the Father, and who is Jesus’ love for the Father.

If we know how great is the love of Jesus for us we will never be afraid to go to him in all our poverty, all our weakness, all our spiritual wretchedness and infirmity. Indeed, when we understand the true nature of his love for us, we will prefer to come to him poor and helpless. We will never be ashamed of our distress. Distress is to our advantage when we have nothing to seek but mercy. We can be glad of our helplessness when we really believe that his power is made perfect in our infirmity.

The surest sign that we have received a spiritual understanding of God’s love for us is the appreciation of our own poverty in the light of his infinite mercy.

We must love our own poverty as Jesus loves it. It is so valuable to him that he died on the cross to present our poverty to his Father, and endow us with the riches of his own infinite mercy. We must love the poverty of others as Jesus loves it. We must see them with the eyes of his own compassion. But we cannot have true compassion on others unless we are willing to accept pity and receive forgiveness for our own sins. We do not really know how to forgive until we know what it is to be forgiven. Therefore we should be glad that we can be forgiven by our brothers. It is our forgivingness of one another that makes the love of Jesus for us manifest in our lives, for in forgiving one another we act towards one another as he has acted towards us.

 Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, Third Edition (New York; London: Burns & Oates, 1997), 37–38.


Posts 5286
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Sep 4 2017 9:49 AM

We only have till Thursday or Friday at the latest to get this under contract... this is the last sample of Merton's (or merton related books) I am going to share, please consider it and if not thank you for your time.

Perfect Joy

Is there to be found on earth a fullness of joy, or is there no such thing? Is there some way to make life fully worth living, or is this impossible? If there is such a way, how do you go about finding it? What should you try to do? What should you seek to avoid? What should be the goal in which your activity comes to rest? What should you accept? What should you refuse to accept? What should you love? What should you hate?

What the world values is money, reputation, long life, achievement. What it counts as joy is health and comfort of body, good food, fine clothes, beautiful things to look at, pleasant music to listen to.

What it condemns is lack of money, a low social rank, a reputation for being no good, and an early death.

What it considers misfortune is bodily discomfort and labour, no chance to get your fill of good food, not having good clothes to wear, having no way to amuse or delight the eye, no pleasant music to listen to. If people find that they are deprived of these things, they go into a panic or fall into despair. They are so concerned for their life that their anxiety makes life unbearable, even when they have the things they think they want. Their very concern for enjoyment makes them unhappy.

The rich make life intolerable, driving themselves in order to get more and more money which they cannot really use. In so doing, they are alienated from themselves, and exhaust themselves in their own service as though they were slaves of others.

The ambitious run day and night in pursuit of honours, constantly in anguish about the success of their plans, dreading the miscalculation that may wreck everything. Thus they are alienated from themselves, exhausting their real life in service of the shadow created by their insatiable hope.

The birth of a man is the birth of his sorrow.

The longer he lives, the more stupid he becomes, because his anxiety to avoid unavoidable death becomes more and more acute. What bitterness! He lives for what is always out of reach! His thirst for survival in the future makes him incapable of living in the present.

What about the self-sacrificing officials and scholars? They are honoured by the world because they are good, upright, self-sacrificing men.

Yet their good character does not preserve them from unhappiness, nor even from ruin, disgrace, and death.

I wonder, in that case, if their “goodness” is really so good after all! Is it perhaps a source of unhappiness?

Suppose you admit they are happy. But is it a happy thing to have a character and a career that lead to one’s own eventual destruction? On the other hand, can you call them “unhappy” if, in sacrificing themselves, they save the lives and fortunes of others?

 Thomas Merton, Thoughts on the East (Tunbridge Wells, Kent: Burns & Oates, 1996), 25–26.


Posts 5286
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Sep 6 2017 9:44 AM

Nothing short of a minor miracle appears likely to save The Power and Meaning of Love... I suppose if it is not meant to be it is not going to happen but I do think we are missing out on some profound wisdom. Thanks everyone for trying.


"We are under sentence ofdeath, an extinction without remembrance or memorial, and we cling to life and to the present. This causes bitterness and anguish. Christ will cure us of this clinging and then we will be free and joyful, even in the night. " (T.M Letter to Etta Gullick-January 1962)

Posts 285
Roger Dittmar | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Sep 7 2017 6:40 AM

Dan Francis:

Nothing short of a minor miracle appears likely to save The Power and Meaning of Love... I suppose if it is not meant to be it is not going to happen but I do think we are missing out on some profound wisdom. Thanks everyone for trying.


"We are under sentence ofdeath, an extinction without remembrance or memorial, and we cling to life and to the present. This causes bitterness and anguish. Christ will cure us of this clinging and then we will be free and joyful, even in the night. " (T.M Letter to Etta Gullick-January 1962)

Recent Faithlife post from Wipf and Stock Publishers regarding Thomas Merton:


Posts 5286
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Sep 7 2017 10:53 AM

Thanks it had another great Merton quote:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”


Posts 291
Hapax Legomena | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Sep 7 2017 2:21 PM

I've got $9.95 ready to go.

Come ON Faithlife!  Get this one going!

Posts 5286
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Sep 9 2017 9:42 AM

The Power and Meaning of Love has made it to ALMOST THERE.... I have no idea how long this period of grace will be, but lets make a hard push to get this man's fine essay's under contract.

and so another sample of merton's words from A Logos book:

Just as all the infinite Light, Life, and Goodness which are in the Word are generated by the Father, with whom He is one, so too the divine wisdom and contemplation, the supernatural life and love and peace which fill the heart of the Christian proceed from Christ with the Holy Ghost and the Father dwelling in the depths of his being. Saint John of the Cross has just told us something of this mystical presence of Christ within us. The mystic begins to discover something of Christ dwelling within him by grace “like an immense hidden being … out of which God has communicated certain obscure glimpses of His Divine Beauty.”6

In a word, there is no contemplation of God save in Christ, for Christ is the Word of God and the Beauty of God and the Truth of God, in Whom God beholds His own Divine Splendour.

6 Spiritual Canticle, II. Peers, vol. ii, p. 240. See above, p. 222.

 Thomas Merton, The Ascent to Truth (Tunbridge Wells, Kent: Burns & Oates, 1976), 229.


Posts 5286
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Sep 10 2017 6:33 PM

One more really hard PUSH!!!!!

I seek to speak to you, in some way, to your own self. Who can tell what this means? I myself do not know.

Thomas Merton

 Lawrence S. Cunningham, Thomas Merton and the Monastic Vision (Grand Rapids, MI;Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), 183.

Let Merton speak to you!!!!


Posts 5286
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Sep 11 2017 5:26 PM


Posts 3863
Forum MVP
Friedrich | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Sep 11 2017 7:23 PM

Dan Francis:


Okay, I ordered, thanks for the heads up!

but then, if I wait juusssst a little bit longer, I might get you to copy the whole resource on this thread. Stick out tongue

I like Apples.  Especially Honeycrisp.

Posts 5286
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Sep 11 2017 8:48 PM

I have shard none of the essays in the book just snipets from various Logos resources. 

Here is a snippet from one of his journals  

When you accept what you have, you see all you have received is more than enough and you are overwhelmed. I desire other things because I fear to be content with what I have—I fear it is inglorious. In the last few days I have seen what matters is to be humble enough to admit I am content with just this. Leave the rest to God.
September 7, 1958, III.216


Page 1 of 2 (21 items) 1 2 Next > | RSS