The Inner Experience by Thomas Merton
Notes on Contemplation

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Thomas Merton draws on both Eastern and Western traditions to explore the hot topic of contemplation/meditation in depth and to show how we can practise true contemplation in everyday life.

Never before published except as a series of articles in an academic journal, this book on contemplation was revised by Merton shortly before his death. The material bridges Merton's early work on Catholic monasticism, mysticism, and contemplation with his later writing on Eastern, especially Buddhist, traditions of meditation and spirituality. This book thus provides a comprehensive understanding of contemplation that draws on the best of Western and Eastern traditions.


About Thomas Merton

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Born in France, Thomas Merton was the son of an American artist and poet and her New Zealander husband, a painter. Merton lost both parents before he had finished high school, and his younger brother was killed in World War II. Something of the ephemeral character of human endeavor marked all his works, deepening the pathos of his writings and drawing him close to Eastern, especially Buddhist, forms of monasticism. After an initial education in the United States, France, and England, he completed his undergraduate degree at Columbia University. His parents, nominally friends, had given him little religious guidance, and in 1938, he converted to Roman Catholicism. The following year he received an M.A. from Columbia University and in 1941, he entered Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky, where he remained until a short time before his death. His working life was spent as a Trappist monk. At Gethsemani, he wrote his famous autobiography, "The Seven Storey Mountain" (1948); there he labored and prayed through the days and years of a constant regimen that began with daily prayer at 2:00 a.m. As his contemplative life developed, he still maintained contact with the outside world, his many books and articles increasing steadily as the years went by. Reading them, it is hard to think of him as only a "guilty bystander," to use the title of one of his many collections of essays. He was vehement in his opposition to the Vietnam War, to the nuclear arms race, to racial oppression. Having received permission to leave his monastery, he went on a journey to confer with mystics of the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. He was accidentally electrocuted in a hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, on December 10, 1968. William H. Shannon is Professor Emeritus, at Nazareth College in Rochester, New York. He is the founding president of the International Thomas Merton Society, the general editor of the Thomas Merton letters, and coauthor of The Thomas Merton Encyclopedia with Christine Bochen and Patrick F. O'Connell. He is the author of the much acclaimed biography of Merton, Silent Lamp, as well as a number of books on spirituality, and has been published in many journals. He lives in Rochester, New York.
Published May 1, 2003 by HarperSanFrancisco. 192 pages
Genres: Religion & Spirituality, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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Publishers Weekly

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Thomas Merton, the prolific monk whose autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain brought Christian contemplation into the 20th century, forbade his literary executors to publish The Inner Experience, an unfinished 1959 rewriting of his early book What Is Contemplation?

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Spirituality & Practice

Only one who can remain at peace in emptiness, without projects or vanities, without speeches to justify his own apparent uselessness, can be safe from the fatal appeal of those spiritual impulses that move him to assert himself and 'be something' in the eyes of other men.” This fascinating passa...

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Project MUSE

But eventually it was realized that "The Inner Experience" had already been published—by binding the Cistercian Studies reprints into booklets and making them available to the public, the journal's editor (as a call to the Library of Congress made clear) had inadvertently "published" the bulk of ...

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