Thomas Merton was the most influential and
prolific monastic author of the 20th century.

Additional articles, essays and text on Thomas Merton are still being assempled for publication in this blog post by May 1, 2012.
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Thomas Merton, a Monastic Theologian For Our Times

A Monk & Theologian Ahead of His Time

 Even a Best Selling Author Can get Duped by �Harmeless� New Age Budhist Cults


How Thomas Merton & His Great, Best Selling Autobiography & Other Writings Inspired Millions From All Walks of Life & Faiths To Resist Religious & Political Tyranny, War & Social Injustice.

 

His writings Enlivened Two Generation To Walk The High Road Up Toward World Peace, Spiritual Contemplation, Global Enlightenment, Social Equality & Human Liberation


 This Is A Tribute to the Late, Great Thomas Merton, the Most Influential and Prolific Monastic Author of the Twentieth Century and Profiled in Who's Who & The Institute of Thomas Mertton Studies, etc.

 

Thomas Merton, born in France, 1915-December 10,1968, Cistercian Trappist monk and priest, (Father Louis) philosopher, an unorthodox Catholic and monastic theologian of the Cistercian Order of The Monks of the Strict Observance, author of the best seller: The Seven Story Mountain, autobiography,1948

 

Thomas Merton patiently worked within the system till his untimely and suspicious death; What changes he could not make within the system, he inspired others to do so latter; All his books received the official "Imprematur" of the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

 

No other Catholic or monastic author in modern history was so hounded in such a degrading manner by the US Intelligence establishment (F.B.I.) as he was,(The threatened his freedom of speech and freedom of the press) since the early 1950's-Alwas quietly workiing and siting in his cloistered monastery and latter, his even more remote wood framed hermitage behind the monastery writing many books on theology and sociial comentary.

 

At age 13, after reading starter books on the life of St. Francis of Assisi and other great saints and authors, I started reading Thomas Merton's books, starting with The Silent Life, a beautiful review of Benedictine and Cistercian monastic spirituality and his best-selling autobiography Seven Story Mountain.

 

 It was these and many other books and experiences and Merton's very poetic, gentel message of Peace, deep spirituality and monastic contemplation which opened my eyes at a young age (during the height of the Viet Nam War) and inspired me to become, later at age 18, after graduating from high school, a Catholic consciencious objector to all war and militarism; (Social injustice and racial inequality always accompany extreme nationaliism and militaristic ideology) And to start walking in the trailblazing footsteps of St. Francis, the great saint of Peace and universal brotherhood and Thomas Merton; Who were amoung the greatest thinkers, social and spiritual reformers of their times.

 

"It is my intention to make my entire life a rejection-a protest against the crimes and injustices of war and political tyranny." Thomas Merton, Gethsemane Abbey in the late 1960's

 

"With the race troubles in the South,(His Abbey is in Kentucky) one can see the beginnings and perhaps more that the beginnings of a Nazi mentality in the United States; There is a powerful and influential alliance of business and military men who consider everyone who disagrees with them a Communist, a traitor and a spy; The atmosphere is not unlike what I remember from the Germany of 1932."


"Thomas Merton kept insisting that we must see the nuclear (war) threat as a moral issue and he thought it was insane.�


"His famous essay on Adolph Eichmann shows that up so clearly; He said that when a nuclear war comes it will not be because of the insane, psychotics getting to the button; it will be because sane persons have accepted sane commands coming all down the chain of command; And he felt we were really on a very perilous course because of the insanity of thinking you could win a nuclear war; And he was even thinking about that; Or that you could limit a nuclear war; That 20,000,000 people were expendable; Thomas Merton saw all that and cried out against it.�


"Thomas Merton�s wholeness, humanness, his integration, his overcoming the split between the sacred and the secular was a great contribution of his�..�

Sister Mary Luke Tobin, Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a Roman Catholic order of nuns


Thomas Merton was active, as a young college student of journalism, in progressive and anti-war politics in France in the 1930's and at New York�s Columbia University where he was also a student majoring in journalism. He entered the Cistercian, Trappist Abbey of Gethsemane in Kentucky in 1941 in his late 20's with degrees in Journalism.


The abbot of the monastery soon found that Merton had great gifts and talent for broad research, deep thought and writing; So the abbot immediately assigned him to an office in the monastery to write his autobiography, The Seven Story Mountain, a best seller in 1947; Also, The Waters of Siloh, the definitive history of the Cistercian Order of monks and nuns; This book covered the Trappist monastic reforms in France in the Fifteenth Century and the American Abbey of Gethsemane and a highly acclaimed, voluminous series of spiritual writings, essays on the Desert Fathers, many commentaries on the Vedic mysticism of India, Zen and other Buddhist Masters and latter, his anti-war books and essays such as his self published The Cold War Letters.


Many conservative Catholics didn't comprehend and strongly objected to Merton�s current events commentaries; Thomas Merton was a monk and deep thinker ahead of his time. He blazed a new trail that few of his Church or religious and monastic orders fully understood or dared to tread themselves till latter; Merton opened up a new path for a whole new questioning and rebellious generation who were crying out in loud protests for and seeking and demanding answers and real solutions to in the 1960�s & 70�s


His latter books inspired millions from all faiths and no religious faith to become increasingly aware and active against the grave social injustices of war, fascism, spiritual disintegration, violence, militarism and racial inequality in America and the world; His latter, 1960�s anti-war writings flowed from his remote wood framed hermitage in the woods behind his monastery where many great movers and thinkers of his day sought him out and visited him such as the popular folk singers and Peace activists Joan Baez and Bob Dylan.

 

 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had planned to visit Merton just before King�s own assassination by the CIA-Aan documented by King�s wife Coretta and family; They presented these documents to Janet Reno, Attorney General under President Clinton in the early 1990's.


Thomas Merton inspired many to become conscientious objectors and Peace activists, including myself; And he encouraged leaders like Ernesto Cardenal, Nicaraguan Minister of Culture (1979-1988) at the beginning of the Nicaraguan revolution, and to see monastery and contemplative life as a great path and global model for helping to build new and higher forms of social and spiritual relationships based on Peace, social equality, common or collective ownership of property like the early Christians in Jeruselam and the Desert Fathers and Mothers and global cooperation instead of capitalism, materialistic social competition, war, militarism, violence and greed which usually leads to war and violence; Christ and the first Christians, like their Essene brothern of the desert were against Roman domination of their time.

 

This anti-materialistic, anti-worldly, anti-greed, collective ownership of property, universal brotherhood and social equality are amoung the central themes of orthodox Christianity down through the Ages; And are greatly reflected in the writings of the Early Church Fathers as well as in the lives of the saints-East and West; These great teachings, values and principals are amoung the central themes of the New Testament, the Gospels, the Holy Rule of St.Benedict, the Rule of St. Augustine, the Rule of St. Basil, the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Church etc.

 

Thomas Merton as standing on a Biblical and an ancient Christian, high moral, rock solid foundation


Ernesto Cardenal, of Niceragua, as a young man, entered Gethsemane Abbey of Cistercian monks in Kentucky in the 1960�s and studied as a devout monastic novice under the close direction of Thomas Merton (Fr. Louis), then Master of Novices of the Abbey. Ernesto, a few years latter left the Trappist monastery before his solemn monastic profession ceremony at the Abbey; He then joined the Jesuit Order and was ordained a priest to serve his people in Nicaragua; He then helped found a monastery at the beginning of the Nicaragua revolution, based on liberation theology and Thomas Merton�s epoch creating monastic model and spiritual counsel.


The revolutionary Nicaraguan government then appointed Ernesto Cardenal to be Minister of Culture from 1979 to 1988; serving the oppressed people of his native homeland and Central America in the true and liberating tradition of Thomas Merton.


Ernesto Cardenal is the author of several books of poetry including his crowning opus Cosmic Cantical, translated by John Lyons, 1993; He is currently director of Casa de los Tres Mundos in Nicaragua.


Ernesto Cardenal�s other works include include: Zero Hour, Flights of Victory, Homage To the American Indians, Los Ovnis de Oro Poemas Indios


"Ernesto Cardinal is one of the world�s major poets� � Choice magazine


"Priest and Nicaraguan revolutionary as well as a poet, Cardenal epitomizes what makes literature live in Central America today.� � Booklist


Ernesto Cardenal is one of the great guides, enlightening a new generation in the groundbreaking heritage and literary tradition of Thomas Merton-to help illuminate and liberate the world from all oppression and social alienation and degradation.


Other books by Thomas Merton:

 

The Collected Poems

The Literary Essays 

Seeds of Contemplation

My Argument With The Gestapo

*Seeds of Destruction

The Wisdom of the Desert

*Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

Elected Silence

*The Cold War Letters, self published, sent to all Trappist monasteries in US & beyond

*Peace & In The Post Christian Era 


*His writings against the Viet Nam war and in support of Peace and social injustice

 

Thomas Merton was born in France, was a student at Oxford, England and Columbia University., NYC, He entered the Cistercian/Trappist monastery of Gethsemane Abbey in Kentucky in 1941, was appointed master of scholastic s and then Master of novices at Gethsemane Abbey in mid to late 1940's; He wrote for many secular and religious publications like the Catholic Worker, Common Wheel magazine, etc.


In his monastic solitude and studies, he had thousands of correspondents seeking his counsel and advice, writing to him and seeking him out from all over the world.


Dr. Martin Luther King, just before his documented CIA linked assassination, was planning to visit Thomas Merton at his monastery in Kentucky for a private meeting and discussion in 1966, according to one of Merton�s biographers.

 

Thomas Merton was one of the greatest and most prolific Western authors and commentators on Vedic and Buddhist thought, mysticism and spirituality of modern times.


"The Gita can be seen as the main literary support for the greatest religious civilization of India, the oldest surviving culture in the world. The present translation and commentary is another manifestation of the permanent living importance of the Gita. Swami Bhaktivedanta (Prabhupada) brings to the West a salutary reminder that our highly activist and one-sided culture is faced with a crisis that may end in self destruction because it lacks the inner depth of an authentic metaphysical consciousness. Without such depth, our moral and political protestations are just so much verbiage.� -Thomas Merton

Introduction to Bhagavad-Gita As It Is By His Divine Grace A.A. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, (The Hare Krishna cult) 1972


Thomas Merton, like his contemporary, articulate poets and authors, Allen Watts and Allen Ginsberg, products of the 60�s counterculture who were to a great extent also seduced and decieved by destructive Vedic and Buddhist New Age cults, was one of the West�s leading published commentators and proponents of Vedic and Zen Buddhist thought and other New Age mysticism in the West at the time.


Thomas Merton was obviously unaware of the latter published revelations (published after Merton�s untimely and suspicious death by �accidental� electrocution from a five ft. tall bed room fan�See below) such as in Monkey On A Stick by John Hubner.


John Hubner�s book and many other press and eyewitness reports during the latter 1970�s and 80�s exposed Swami Prabhupada�s Hare Krishna cult�s corruption and murder in the US; Hubner�s book exposed the cult�s violence and their abuse of underlings (The cult operated many Temple schools) and women members, international drug smuggling, pimping and prostituting its women members, voluntary and involuntary hetero and homosexual pedophilia with its pre-pubescent and post pubescent members, stashing heavy counter band weapons at their temples� including their rural temple ranch, Mt. Kainlash, near Hopeland,100 miles north of San Francisco; There, a large amount of Nazi Swastika flags and Neo Nazi literature and uniforms etc were also discovered in a massive law enforcement raid in the mid 1970�s; Threats, harassment and murder of whistle blowing former cult members by a Hare Krishna temple Swami at the cult�s East Coast �Golden Temple� near Moundsville, West Virginia; The cult�s failed, repeated efforts in the early and mid 1970�s to gain secret admission into and alliance with various Neo Nazi organizations and Aryan Nations parties and fascist cults; The Neo- Nazi�s refused the Krishna devotee�s admission because the Neo-Nazis considered them to be �too effeminate and swishy in their long flowing temple robes.� The above corruption, violence and murder was revealed in the well researched book, Monkey On A Stick, 1988 and in the author�s latter public lectures headlined Cult Viciousness in the San Francisco area during the author�s speaking tours; We have a video of one of his lectures.


If Thomas Merton had known that this Hare Krishna temple (International Society of Krishna Consciousness-ISCON) corruption, abuse, murder and fascism was about to unfold in Swami Prabhupada�s new �religious� Vedic movement, he would have never gotten himself and others involved with this insidious and destructive mind control cult or with any of its top leaders and chief guru, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada who founded the cult in New York City in 1966.


 I will always memember my meeting and talking with Thomas Merton in May, 1968, on a retreat at Christ of The Desert Benediictne Monastery in central New Mexico; A profound inspration.

Noted Monk Electrocuted in Thailand
Des Moines Register & Tribune, December 11, 1968

Bangkok, Thailand (AP)-

Thomas Merton, (Father Louis, Cistercian Monks of the Strict Observance) the Trappist monk who wrote “The Seven Story Mountain” (autobiography) and other best sellers, was electrocuted when he moved an electric fan and touched a bare spot in the cord, local Catholic sources reported.

The body of the 52 year old Catholic philosopher and theologian was found on the floor of a room he was occupying during a visit to Bangkok.

A priest at the church of St.  Louis said Merton was not missed when he failed to show up for lunch.  But in late afternoon other monks became worried, searched for him and found the body.

Merton had come to the Far East several months from his retreat in Kentucky (Abbey of Our Lady Of Gethsemane) to attend a number of religious conferences.  He came to Bangkok for a meeting with the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of the Tibetan Buddhists who fled from his homeland when the Chinese Communists seized control there.

'The Seven Story Mountain', an (autobiographical) account of Merton's conversion to Catholicism, catapulted him to literary fame in 1948.  (Just before the Abbot appointed him Master of Novices at the cloistered, Cistercian Abbey) He wrote 19 more books on a wide range of religious and other subjects.' (Including Zen and Vedic mysticism, war, Peace, racism and other social justice issues then escalating during the Vietnam War)

'The Seven Story Mountain' was third on the best seller list in 1949.  Some of his other early works included 'Thirty Poems', 'No Man is an Island'.  'Seeds of Contemplation', and 'The Sign of Jonas' ('The Waters of Siloe'-A history of the Cistercian Order and the Trappist reforms of the 15th century in France) (At age 19, long before entering the monastery, he wrote and had published a biography on Mahatma Gandhi- the great Peace prophet of India)

In 1966 he wrote 'Conjectures of A Guilty Bystander' (This book inspired millions to oppose the injustices of the Vietnam war and all war.) and in 1967 'Mystics and Zen Masters'.

His 'The waters of Siloe', written shortly after 'The Seven Story Mountain', was acclaimed as a sensitive discussion of monastery like.

Most of his works reflected the contemplative and rural life Merton led at the Gethsemane Abbey of the Cistercian Order (Founded in 11th century France as a reform of the Benedictine Holy Rule of St.  Benedict) south of Bardstown, KY.

The trip to Bangkok was one of the first breaks in a self-imposed isolation that Merton began two years ago.  He withdrew, he told friends, to pray, meditate and study.

Merton actively opposed war, which he called "an avoidable tragedy.'

'The problem of solving international conflict without massive violence has become the number one problem of our time', he said recently.

Merton was born in 1915 in Prades, a village of the French Pyrenees, of an American Quaker mother and a British Anglican father.  He grew up and studied in France, England, Bermuda and the United States, taking a masters degree at New York City's Columbia University.

"He taught English briefly at Columbia and while there, he write latter, became 'vain, self-centered, dissolute, weak, sensual, obscene and proud.  I was a mess'.

"The whole work of man in this life is to find God." Merton wrote.

In 1941 he became a postulant at Gethsemane (Abbey in KY.) Five years latter he took the vows of a monk and he was ordained a priest in 1949 ( in the Cistercian Order)

Explaining why he chose the strictly disciplined monastic life, Merton wrote: "A man is a man who has given up everything to possess everything.  He is one who has abandoned desire to achieve the highest fulfillment of desire.  He has renounced his liberty to become free."

But the solitude Merton sought was not always to obtain.  The writing which brought him also brought him pilgrims from many places, and despite the Trappist regime of silence, he was encouraged to propagate his thoughts.

Merton's devotion to his severe ideals was tempered by a wry sense of humor.

"You have got me kneeling behind that pillar." he complained to God, "with my mind making a noise like a bank.  Is that contemplation?

A spokesman at Gethsemane (Abbey) said Merton would be buried at the monastery cemetery in Kentucky after a private ceremony."

END OF PRESS PIECE FROM DES MOINES REGISTER & TRIBUNE, Dec.  11, 1969


In about 1992, on invitation by the good Abbot and monks of Gethsemane Abbey, the Dalai Lama and a large ceremonial entourage of attending Buddhist monks, with great solemnity, incense, chanting, cymbals and other Buddhist ceremonial instruments paid an unprecedented official visit to the humble monks of the Abbey for 2 days, as guests of honor at a huge monastery banquet, speeches, including giving a tribute to Thomas Merton at his grave site in the monastery cemetery behind the Abbey church.  The Abbey cut a CD of the great event with all the music and tributes.

I had the great honor of meeting and talking with Thomas Merton in May of 1968 when our paths coincidentally crossed at the Benedictine Abbey of Christ In The Desert, 13 miles from Abiqui, New Mexico, on the northern side of the mountain range from Los Alamos National Laboratory.

I was on a Summer pilgrimage to various monasteries and hermitages in the south west; and Merton was on a similar, rare pilgrimage from his Abbey to various monasteries, hermitages in the Western states and to a Buddhist & Christian monks and nuns conference in Bangkok and then on to meet with the Dalai Lama.

 
Paul Bernardino