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A Search for Solitude: Pursuing the Monk's True LifeThe Journals of Thomas Merton, Volume 3: 1952-1960 (Merton, Thomas//Journal of Thomas Merton) [Paperback]

By Thomas Merton (Author)
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Item description for A Search for Solitude: Pursuing the Monk's True LifeThe Journals of Thomas Merton, Volume 3: 1952-1960 (Merton, Thomas//Journal of Thomas Merton) by Thomas Merton...

The third volume of Trappist monk Thomas Merton's "journals" chronicles his struggle to reconcile his celebrity as an author and peace activist with his desire for a life of silence and contemplation and also his conflicts with monastic routine, and his exploration of Zen, existentialism, Marxism, and Latin American culture. Index.

Publishers Description

The third volume of Thomas Merton's journals chronicles Merton's attempts to reconcile his desire for solitude and contemplation with the demands of his new-found celebrity status within the strictures of conventional monastic life.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: HarperOne
Pages   406
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1.25" Width: 5.5" Height: 8.25"
Weight:   0.7 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Feb 27, 1997
Publisher   Harper Collins Publishers
Edition  Revised  
Series  Journals of Thomas Merton  
ISBN  0060654791  
ISBN13  9780060654795  

Availability  2 units.
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More About Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton

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.

Thomas Merton was born in 1915 and died in 1968.

Thomas Merton has published or released items in the following series...
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  4. Harvest Book
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4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Authors, A-Z > ( M ) > Merton, Thomas > General
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7Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > General
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Reviews - What do customers think about A Search for Solitude: Pursuing the Monk's True LifeThe Journals of Thomas Merton, Volume 3: 1952-1960 (Merton, Thomas//Journal of Thomas Merton)?

Valuable insights into Merton through the 1950's.  Oct 17, 1997
Volume three of the complete journals of Thomas Merton - A Search for Solitude: Pursuing the Monk's True Life, edited by Lawrence S. Cunningham - follows on from where volume two ended with an entry dated July 25, 1952 and concludes in May 1960.

The title given to this volume does not reflect the turbulence Merton was experiencing in the years covered by this journal. "Searching for Solitude" and "Pursuing the Monk's True Life" were not easy tasks for Thomas Merton. In The Sign of Jonas Merton battles with his dual vocations of being a solitary and a writer and, by the end of the journal, having discovered solitude both through writing and through his work as Master of Scholastics, the impression Merton gives in his masterful epilogue to Jonas, "Fire Watch, July 4, 1952", is that his problems over his vocation have been resolved. As Michael Mott and William Shannon have made clear in their biographies of Merton this was certainly not true. As Shannon notes, "The Sign of Jonas ends when the struggle is just beginning to warm up" for Merton's "most serious crisis of stability yet" and this is where the third volume of journals begins.

Beginning with July 1952 this volume goes up to March 1953 where there is a break up until July 17, 1956 when the journal begins again. Cunningham provides no explanation for the missing years simply stating Merton "kept rather brief journal entries in the last months of 1952 and in 1953, with a hiatus in 1954-1955." (xiii) My major criticism of this volume is that no attempt at an explanation is provided for this hiatus. Patrick Hart, General Editor of these journals, has pointed out that the policy decision was made to publish Merton's journals in their entirety and that the publishers did not wish them to have more than the bare minimum in the way of footnotes to avoid them appearing like "a German doctoral dissertation." The lack of comment on Merton's hiatus of the mid fifties is taking this policy to an extreme and does not help the reader.

From biographies of Merton it is possible to fill in the events of these "missing years" and to find the reason for the hiatus. In early 1953 Merton agreed to a request of Gabriel Sortais, Abbot General of the Cistercian Order, that he cease keeping a journal and l the lack of journal writings from 1953 through to 1956 suggests that Merton was obeying Sortais's wishes.

In the fifties Merton experienced three major periods of instability, two of these, in 1953 and 1959 are covered in A Search for Solitude the other, from 1955 falls into the period when Merton was not keeping a journal but it can be traced in Mott's biography. These periods of instability show Merton's struggle with his vocation and with self doubt, struggles which are not found in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander. The instability Merton writes of in his own life is an instability which has come to characterise the final decades of this century. Merton's writing in this journal serve as a witness to the qualities which sustained him through these profound periods of instability, especially a deep sense of obedience and a committment to his search for God and for truth.

In the late summer of 1952 Merton mentions three options he is considering as possibilities for greater solitude - the Carthusians, the Camaldolese or the possibility of a separate scholasticate. As Merton's crises in The Sign of Jonas had led to opportunities for greater solitude at Gethsemani so, in response to his 1952 crisis Dom James allowed Merton to use a disused toolshed in the Gethsemani woods for limited periods of time. Merton called the toolshed St. Anne's and writes that "St. Anne's is what I have been waiting for and looking for all my life" adding "everything that was ever real in me has come back to life in this doorway wide open to the sky!" (32.)

Merton's second major crisis of the fifties began in the early summer of 1955 and, though not covered in A Search for Solitude, it is worth mentioning briefly in this review as it highlights a pattern in Merton's life, a pattern very evident in this volume of Merton's journals. A visiting abbot had complained of a "hermit mentality" in the community and swept away some of the priviledges Dom James had arranged to provide Merton with more solitude. This led to Merton's application for a transitus to the Camaldolese in June 1955. Following on from this crisis of stability there followed a period of stability for Merton until in 1958 he began actively looking into opportunities once again to become a hermit and in November 1959 applied for an exclaustration to go to Mexico to become a hermit near the Benedictine monastery of Cuernavaca. When Merton's request was turned down he accepted the decision with relief and writes the next day of "a very great peace and gratitude at knowing that I have really, at last, found my definite place and that I have no further need to look, to seek, except in my own heart." (360) As with Merton's earlier crises of stability this crisis led to changes in this position at Gethsemani. In March 1960 Merton was given a quiet cell of his own in the monastery and plans were also begun for a cinder block building that would eventually become Merton's hermitage.

Merton's relentless "search for solitude" is central to this third volume of his journals. Other themes found in the earlier two volumes are present as well as many new themes. A good part of Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander was written in the period covered by A Search for Solitude and so the development of Merton's thought can be seen through comparing this journal with Conjectures. Events and themes which would later be worked up for inclusion in Conjectures are here in their raw state. In particular Merton's expanding horizons over the latter years of this journal are striking. As Merton searched for a solitary life he was also asking questions about the monk's relationship to the world, realising that his solitary vocation was not merely "cuddling in self-love" (298) but involved a "responsibility to be in all reality a peacemaker in the world." (149) These years also saw the great expansion in Merton's correspondence and the influence of his correspondents upon him is profound. Of particular note in this journal is Merton's reflections on his contact with Boris Pasternak and his correspondence with Latin American writers. Merton's correspondence has been published elsewhere but the shockwaves from it permeate the second half of this journal. Reflecting on the effect of this correspondence upon him Merton writes:
Like Dick Whittington turning again at the sound of Bow bells, because London was his life and vocation and fortune. I have "turned again" at the voice of the Andes and of the Sertao and of the Pampas and of Brazil. (169)

Merton concludes this journal saying "I know you are leading me, and therefore there is no conflict with anyone. Nor can there be" (394) and yet, having accompanied him on his search for solitude and his pursuit of the monk's true life through these pages, having shared with Merton his struggles and his solaces, we know all too well that his search will continue along with his struggles.


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