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The Wisdom of the Desert (New Directions) [Paperback]

By Thomas Merton (Author)
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Item description for The Wisdom of the Desert (New Directions) by Thomas Merton...

New Directions Publishing Corporation Publication 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. The personal tones of the translations, the blend of reverence and humor so characteristic of him, show how deeply Merton identified with the legendary authors of these sayings and parables, the fourth-century Christian Fathers who sought solitude and contemplation in the deserts of the Near East. The hermits of Screte who turned their backs on a corrupt society remarkably like our own had much in common with the Zen masters of China and Japan, and Father Merton made his selection from them with an eye to the kind of impact produced by the Zen mondo.

Publishers Description
The personal tones of the translations, the blend of reverence and humor so characteristic of him, show how deeply Merton identified with the legendary authors of these sayings and parables, the fourth-century Christian Fathers who sought solitude and contemplation in the deserts of the Near East. The hermits of Screte who turned their backs on a corrupt society remarkably like our own had much in common with the Zen masters of China and Japan, and Father Merton made his selection from them with an eye to the kind of impact produced by the Zen mondo.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: New Directions
Pages   1
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7.98" Width: 5.24" Height: 0.27"
Weight:   0.25 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jan 17, 1970
Publisher   New Directions Publishing Corporation
Edition  Revised  
ISBN  0811201023  
ISBN13  9780811201025  

Availability  19 units.
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More About Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was a Trappist monk, spiritual director, political activist, social critic, and one of the most-read spiritual writers of the twentieth century. He is the author of many books, including The Seven Storey Mountain.

Thomas Merton was born in 1915 and died in 1968.

Thomas Merton has published or released items in the following series...
  1. By Thomas Merton
  2. Harvest/HBJ Book
  3. Image Classic
  4. Journals of Thomas Merton
  5. Modern Library Classics (Paperback)
  6. Modern Spiritual Masters
  7. Monastic Wisdom
  8. New Directions Books
  9. New Directions Classics
  10. New Directions Paparback
  11. New Directions Paperbook

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > General
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Authors, A-Z > ( M ) > Merton, Thomas > General
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Authors, A-Z > ( M ) > Merton, Thomas > Paperback
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Catholicism > Inspirational
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > Faith
7Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Clergy > Church Institutions & Organizations

Christian Product Categories
Books > Theology > Theology & Doctrine > Philosophical Theology

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Wisdom of the Desert (New Directions)?

Merton among friends  Jan 21, 2008
"The Wisdom of the Desert", though a slim volume in comparison to the loads of theological tomes both historical and philosophical that have been written about these mysterious Christian hermits and ascetics who somehow found the time to perfect themselves spiritually while being persecuted by the Roman Empire and suffering almost unconscionable poverty.

One can tell from the outset that Merton is at home among these men (particularly Cassian), and the atmosphere of sun, sand, stoic spiritual discipline and God all at once can be a bit stifling and alienating, though always beautiful; in the war-crazed, vicious Western Civilization we live in, is it possible for us to ever attain this sort of simple peace and loving relation to one another? If it was possible then, I suppose it is now. Some of the sayings are puzzling and stay in the mind like golden termites waiting to hatch their golden eggs two days when our mind is ready to receive them. Others are as perfectly poetic as anything Dylan Thomas or Arthur Rimbaud might have written. Others are just perfect.

A must read. If only guys like Merton and Father Berrigan were around today.
Some choices from the 'Verba Seniorum'  Oct 23, 2006
Thomas Merton was a Trappist Monk and wrote this book that contains his favorite quotes from 'Verba Seniorum'. He chooses these for himself and his fellow monks in order to make some of the sayings of the Desert Fathers more accessible. He begins this book with a very well written introduction.

Merton wrote this book not as a history of the early Desert Fathers. What he provides are a selection of extracts from their writings that had proved useful for him in his contemplative life. The book is definitely worth reading. A book you will keep by your night stand.

If you are looking for a book that gives you a history of the Desert Fathers and a wide range of their writings, then this is the wrong book for you.
A wisdom well warmed  Oct 1, 2005
Thomas Merton was perhaps the best known monastic of the last century. That he was a Trappist perhaps puts him in the best contemporary context from which to understand the Desert Fathers - the kind of hermit/distance existence that they had does not really exist in the world today (true, there are a few who carry on the tradition in the deserts of Egypt and a few other places, but often even they advise against this becoming a trend in Christian practice again). The Trappists are among those for whom silence and solitude are intentional practices, much like the Desert Fathers.

Merton, a talented writer on matters spiritual, states in the Author's note that his intention was not to produce a new 'edition' by academic standards, or to do any piece of new research. Rather, Merton set out to produce an accessible collection of wisdom sayings that had been contained in the collection 'Verba Seniorum', a Latin text of stories and proverbs handed down from the Desert Fathers and those who knew and wrote about them.

In the fourth century, while Christianity was still struggling as a minority (sometimes a violently oppressed minority) in the Empire, there were those who saw that the greater threat to the new faith was not the imperial officials and their forces, but rather the attractions and lure of the cities. It was very easy to put forth the claim that the world was not a Christian one, and that one would have to renounce the world to live an authentically Christian life - the Desert Fathers tended to do this renunciation in rather dramatic fashion (and, to varying extent, this is what monastics continue to do to this day). This renunciation was true even with official tolerance and imperial imprimatur, for Christianity was still the decided minority.

Merton states that it is a mistake to think that the Desert Fathers were isolationist individuals, however - 'the very fact that they uttered these "words" of advice to one another is proof that they were eminently social.' They sought an equality amongst themselves under God, and were welcoming toward those who sought them for instruction and wisdom.

In this collection, the 'Verba Seniorum' are perhaps the most true to the actual words of the Desert Fathers that we can get. Most writing about them came from people who added literary flourishes and often hagiographic legendary material into the mix; these are much more simple. They are 'the plain, unpretentious reports that went from mouth to mouth in the Coptic tradition before being committed to writing in Syriac, Greek and Latin.'

Over and over again, the Desert Fathers stress love above all. Their love reaches out for tolerance toward others, even as they sometimes seem to be intolerant toward themselves. Perhaps their generosity toward others came from a recognition of the faults of their own and the hope that God will deal more generously with them as they strive to deal generously with others.

'One of the brethren had sinned, and the priest told him to leave the community. So then Abbot Bessarion got up and walked out with him, saying: I too am a sinner!'

This is a wonderful, heartfelt, wise collection. It is not organised according to any overarching theme or systematic theological paradigm, but rather like a collecton of 'quotable quotes', often seemingly random. I often take the book and open it at random, to see what insights I can gain from it that day.

lost a star due to $- per-page...  May 28, 2001
but, this book was a very pleasant surprise; perhaps because I had no conception / or misconceptions, of the subject. After all, 'everyone' knows that monk-hermits have absolutely no contact with anyone, ever- right??

Wrong!! the first of many myths shot down.

I was looking for spiritual advice. What was constantly hammered [seemed to me ] was : don't criticise anyone, anywhere, under any circumstances- at least over a number of consecutive 'vignettes'.

Perfect for What it sets out to do  Sep 7, 2000
As another reviewer notes, Merton's selections are not as comprehensive as Helen Waddell's, and his introduction does not provide nearly as detailed an account of the historical and literary context of the desert fathers' sayings. This is not Merton's purpose. He is trying to give us a sense of the spiritual essence of the fathers, and he does it brilliantly. Although he is not as elegant a writer as Waddell, nor as learned, he has a much deeper intuitive understanding of the fathers' search for God and their love for each other. His selections emphasize the importance of this love and downplay the fanatical asceticism that many people associate with the fathers. Throughout his introduction, he emphasizes that love is far more important in the Christian life than either mysticism or asceticism. Thus, although a sympathetic reader may not learn terribly much about the history of the desert fathers from Merton, she will begin to understand "the wisdom of the desert".

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