Cold War Letters

Cold War Letters
By Thomas Merton
Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2006
Review by Carl McColman

Thomas Merton was one of the great prophetic voices of the turbulent 1960s, but some of his most trenchant writing was not allowed to be published during his lifetime. His “cold war letters” consisted of correspondence with a variety of well- and lesser-known artists and activists (including Erich Fromm, Clare Booth Luce, Henry Miller, and Dorothy Day) with whom Merton shared his thoughts about how people of faith and vision might be able to stand against the forces of chaos and destruction that defined that turbulent age. Written between 1961 and 1962, these letters were eventually collected and — after he was denied permission to publish them — circulated by Merton in mimeograph form. Here we find Merton the prophet, speaking on behalf of peace and against the horror of possible nuclear devastation. Almost fifty years later, it seems that his words remain even more urgently relevant than ever. If your perception of Merton is just as some monk withdrawn from the world and lost in navel-gazing, this book will correct your perception of the man who is arguably the greatest mystic of recent history.

Preliminary Practices for Christian Contemplatives
Faith, Doubt and Perseverance
Busting the "Goody Two Shoes" Stereotype of Saints
Sanctity and Struggle, or, Why Saints Have Chaotic Inner Lives (Hint: It's Because We All Do)
About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • benjamindavid

    Thank you for sharing this! I honestly can’t wait to read it.

  • zoecarnate

    Ah, it’s great to see some regular posts ’round here again!

    How would Cold War Letters compare to another posthumously-released tome, Peace in the Post-Christian Era?

  • Carl McColman

    Merton was censored in April 1962; at that time he had just finished writing “Peace in the Post-Christian Era” and was in the midst of writing these “Cold War Letters.” The Abbot General of the Trappist order prohibited Merton from publishing on the question of peace. However Merton’s own abbot, Dom James Fox, gave Merton permission to circulate both “Peace in the Post-Christian Era” and the “Cold War Letters” in mimeograph form. So both books date from the same era in Merton’s life, were barred from being published at the time they were written, and were circulated anyway in manuscript form. Moral of the story: they really are companion volumes to one another. “Peace” is an actual book whereas “Cold War” is a collection of letters: offering two different perspectives on Merton’s singular prophetic voice.

  • Lorna Tatomir

    Loved your site. I found it on a search for Trappist monks in Kenya..of all things. I think I would like to read Almost Catholic as I am one of those. I am also a Lay
    Cistercian kind out of New Melleray and OLM Abbey in Iowa although Canadian in place . Trying to figure out how to do such a great message site as I see here. So much great info…for a treat on New Melleray Abbey and catch their homilies.and better yet the chapter talks under community. You can find a little more on Lay Cistercians unless you are one under the International Lay Cistercian site… Christ LJT

  • Lorna Tatomir

    Thought your site was great. You might like what you find under the International Lay Cistercians site. Really liked yours …will come again. to read more…liked the audio on Mysticism…..I am a Lay Cistercian on…..

  • fakeexpressionsoftheunkown

    Thanks for this. I have never read this book or “peace in the post-christian era” and plan to order both right away!!