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Thomas Merton (1915-68) is the most admired of all American Catholic writers. His journals have recently been published to wide acclaim.
Thoughtful and eloquent, as timely (or timeless) now as when it was originally published in 1956, Thoughts in Solitude addresses the pleasure of a solitary life, as well as the necessity for quiet reflection in an age when so little is private. Thomas Merton writes: "When society is made up of men who know no interior solitude it can no longer be held together by love: and consequently it is held together by a violent and abusive authority. But when men are violently deprived of the solitude and freedom which are their due, the society in which they live becomes putrid, it festers with servility, resentment and hate." Thoughts in Solitude stands alongside The Seven Storey Mountain as one of Merton's most uring and popular works. Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, is perhaps the foremost spiritual thinker of the twentiethcentury. His diaries, social commentary, and spiritual writings continue to be widely read after his untimely death in 1968.
The Wisdom of the Desert was one of Thomas Merton's favorites among his own books--surely because he had hoped to spend his last years as a hermit.
This volume is a stimulating series of spiritual reflections which will prove helpful for all struggling to find the meaning of human existence and to live the richest, fullest and noblest life. --Chicago Tribune
This diary of a monastic life is “a continuation of The Seven Storey Mountain . . . Astonishing” (Commonweal). Chronicling six years of Thomas Merton’s life in a Trappist monastery, The Sign of Jonas takes us through his day-to-day experiences at the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, where he lived in silence and prayer for much of his life. Concluding with the account of Merton’s ordination as a priest, this diary documents his growing acceptance of his vocation—and the greater meaning he found within his private world of contemplation. “This book is made unmistakably real and almost, at times, unbearably poignant by the fact that the exuberance of youth so often wells up through it with rapture, impatience, and even bluster.” —TheNew York Times “A stirring book—the most readable and on the whole, most illuminating of the author’s writings.” —Catholic World
Thomas Merton was recognized as one of those rare Western minds that are entirely at home with the Zen experience. In this collection, he discusses diverse religious concepts-early monasticism, Russian Orthodox spirituality, the Shakers, and Zen Buddhism-with characteristic Western directness. Merton not only studied these religions from the outside but grasped them by empathy and living participation from within. "All these studies," wrote Merton, "are united by one central concern: to understand various ways in which men of different traditions have conceived the meaning and method of the 'way' which leads to the highest levels of religious or of metaphysical awareness."
Merton, one of the rare Western thinkers able to feel at home in the philosophies of the East, made the wisdom of Asia available to Westerners. "Zen enriches no one," Thomas Merton provocatively writes in his opening statement to Zen and the Birds of Appetite--one of the last books to be published before his death in 1968. "There is no body to be found. The birds may come and circle for a while... but they soon go elsewhere. When they are gone, the 'nothing,' the 'no-body' that was there, suddenly appears. That is Zen. It was there all the time but the scavengers missed it, because it was not their kind of prey." This gets at the humor, paradox, and joy that one feels in Merton's discoveries of Zen during the last years of his life, a joy very much present in this collection of essays. Exploring the relationship between Christianity and Zen, especially through his dialogue with the great Zen teacher D.T. Suzuki, the book makes an excellent introduction to a comparative study of these two traditions, as well as giving the reader a strong taste of the mature Merton. Never does one feel him losing his own faith in these pages; rather one feels that faith getting deeply clarified and affirmed. Just as the body of "Zen" cannot be found by the scavengers, so too, Merton suggests, with the eternal truth of Christ.

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