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Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton: Social Critic

James Thomas Baker
Copyright Date: 1971
Edition: 1
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    Thomas Merton
    Book Description:

    Thomas Merton: Social Criticorganizes and critically analyzes the social thought of the Cistercian monk who has become an internationally known symbol of the spiritual element in man. The author evaluated all of Merton's writings, published and unpublished, then discussed his interpretations with Merton personally. The result is a perceptive relation of Merton's social thought to its genesis in his own life experiences and contemplation, a faithful rendering of Merton's thought on the problems of our time.

    Merton, the author makes clear, called for a spiritual, social, and religious union. It was a poetic and sometimes unimplemented solution to alienation and division, a valid and authentic, if at times limited, response to the contemporary chaos. This study will be greeted by a strong reaction from Mertonians everywhere.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5059-8
    Subjects: History, Religion, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Chapter One The Pilgrim’s Progress
    (pp. 1-26)

    Thomas Merton was born on January 31, 1915, in Prades, a French village lying in the Pyrenees Mountains near the Spanish border. His parents, both artists, had met in Paris and had come to the south of France to paint. His father was Owen Merton, a New Zealander of Welsh extraction; his mother, Ruth Jenkins, was the daughter of a successful publisher on Long Island. Merton always attributed his own adult personality to his parents who were, he said, captives in the world but not captives of it. In his autobiography he wrote: “I inherited from my father his way...

  5. Chapter Two The World & Thomas Merton
    (pp. 27-43)

    Because Thomas Merton’s fame both inside and outside the church reached its height in 1949 with the success ofThe Seven Storey Mountain,many people still think of him as the brilliant young world traveler and poet who left the world and its problems behind forever when he stole away to the knobs of Kentucky. Indeed, Merton created and perpetuated this image during the late 1940s and early 1950s by constantly repeating his characteristic call for Christians to renounce the world’s values, abandon man’s society, and choose lives of stern and silent devotion to God either in a monastery or...

  6. Chapter Three The Social Ethics of Contemplation
    (pp. 44-65)

    Being a fallible man, Thomas Merton made many errors in judgment during his years as a spokesman for the contemplative life, and although he corrected most of them as his thought matured, they helped create a false image of his personality and attitude. In his early writings, for example, he unconsciously gave the impression that contemplation in the monastic sense was for everyone and that the monastic life was superior to life in the world. One might catch strong hints of this attitude in The Seven Storey Mountain and Seeds of Contemplation. He seemed to be tempting the average Christian...

  7. Chapter Four The Battle of Gog and Magog
    (pp. 66-97)

    Although Thomas Merton became a monk to escape a world he had come to hate, he was never able to forget about it completely, and over the twenty-seven years of his monastic career his attraction to it took the form of an uncertain love affair, with all the attendant quarrels and emotional reconciliations. He said in 1941 that he never wanted to see the world again, but by the late 1950s he was again on speaking terms with it, and by the mid-1960s he was its friend and lover. When in 1965 his abbot finally permitted him to leave the...

  8. Chapter Five The Grim Reaper of Violence
    (pp. 98-124)

    When Thomas Merton emerged from his monastic hideaway in the early 1950s and looked again upon the America which he had adopted, he saw a land filled with violence, a society whose personality and nature were molded by its violent past and whose inability to change its violent present might cause it to be destroyed. The violence to which he referred more and more often in his later writings was not simply crime in the streets but something which he believed afflicted the whole structure of American life which, while outwardly ordered and respectable, was inwardly chaotic. It was the...

  9. Chapter Six Catholicism in the Modern World
    (pp. 125-148)

    In the middle and late 1960s Thomas Merton’s interest in the world focused ever more closely upon the relationship which he hoped would be established between the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian and even non-Christian religious bodies. The very circumstances of his death indicate the extent of his concern for ecumenical dialogue.

    Although in the last fifteen years of his life he wrote on many different topics relating to the church and society, the main concern of his thinking and writing, from which all his other interests took their inspiration and direction, was to define his own role as...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 149-156)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 157-164)
  12. Index
    (pp. 165-173)