Seven Essential Thomas Merton Books

New Seeds of Contemplation

Today is the 100th anniversary of Thomas Merton's birth.To celebrate this day here is a list of seven books I would recommend to anyone who wants a grounding in Merton's life and wisdom, without having to read all of his many books. With over seventy titles to his name, it can be daunting to approach his work, especially for the first time. I hope this list will help readers to find the key themes and insights of his body of work; and even if you are a long-standing fan of Merton, maybe … [Read more...]

Christian Mystics to Celebrate in 2015

"Teresa of Ávila" (1827) by François Gérard (1770-1837). Public domain.

2015 is something of a red-letter year for Christian contemplatives.This is the 100th anniversary of the birth year of Thomas Merton, who was born on January 31, 1915. Merton lived until 1968, and in his short life wrote over fifty books, published both before and after his accidental death at age 53. Merton entered the Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani in 1941, and became world-renowned after his spiritual memoir, The Seven Storey Mountain, became a surprise bestseller in 1948. Merton is a … [Read more...]

“That God’s Love Might Live in Us” — A Few Lovely Words from Thomas Merton

I've been re-reading Thomas Merton's The Waters of Siloe for a class I'm teaching at the monastery. It's basically Merton's history of the Cistercian order, but it's also full of his insights into Cistercian spirituality (and monastic spirituality in general). I especially love the book because it devotes several pages to the founding of the monastery in Georgia, including a wonderful photograph of the monks sitting in front of the old barn where they lived when they first came to the … [Read more...]

“Does anyone read Thomas Merton any more?”

Yesterday I received a review copy of a beautiful new book: The Selected Essays of Thomas Merton, edited by Patrick F. O'Connell. This newly published anthology from Orbis Books includes thirty-three essays on a wide range of topics. I am confident that anyone who loves Merton, poetry, or contemplation will find much to savor here. Merely glancing at the table of contents is enough to make this reader practically salivate: with topics ranging from St. John of the Cross to Gandhi, from Boris … [Read more...]

Does God = Consciousness?

A reader writes...Carl, I am a theoretical physicist by training and have struggled with the idea of supernatural concepts like God. Even so, contemplation has increased my sense of God being part of me, which I like very much. So here is my question: Do you think it is too radical to say God IS your consciousness? After all, Jesus said, "The Father and I are one."  Personally, it seems wonderful to have such awareness of God 24/7. Since we have no idea what consciousness is, saying it is God … [Read more...]

Returning to Reality

My latest blog entry for the Huffington Post has been published; it's called Would Thomas Merton Use an iPad? Contemplation, Technology and Discernment.Beneath the whimsical title, this post looks at a serious question: how the philosophy and spirituality of Thomas Merton might be used a compass point for considering ethical questions related to technology and society. The inspiration for this comes from a recently published book, Returning to Reality: Thomas Merton's Wisdom for a … [Read more...]

Coming back from the desert

No longer are such centres of solitude and critical reflection located only in the remote regions. The last decade has seen the growth of urban contemplatives, communities of Christian women and men who seek to live lives of prayer and silence within the urban scene. It was a movement predicted over twenty-five years ago by the Jesuit Jean Daniélou:'The Constantinian phase in Christian history is coming to an end ... The flight into the desert was a revolutionary innovation, lasting from the … [Read more...]


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