Thomas Merton

Poet, Author

1915 – 1968

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Who was Thomas Merton?

Thomas Merton, O.C.S.O., was an Anglo-American Catholic writer and mystic. A Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky, he was a poet, social activist, and student of comparative religion. In 1949, he was ordained to the priesthood and given the name Father Louis.

Merton wrote more than 70 books, mostly on spirituality, social justice and a quiet pacifism, as well as scores of essays and reviews, including his best-selling autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, which sent scores of World War II veterans, students, and even teenagers flocking to monasteries across the US, and was also featured in National Review's list of the 100 best non-fiction books of the century. Merton was a keen proponent of interfaith understanding. He pioneered dialogue with prominent Asian spiritual figures, including the Dalai Lama, the Japanese writer D.T. Suzuki, and the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh. Merton has also been the subject of several biographies.

Famous Quotes:

  • We do not exist for ourselves...
  • Attachment to spiritual things is.. just as much an attachment as inordinate love of anything else.
  • In the last analysis, the individual person is responsible for living his own life and for finding himself. If he persists in shifting his responsibility to somebody else, he fails to find out the meaning of his own existence.
  • We stumble and fall constantly even when we are most enlightened. But when we are in true spiritual darkness, we do not even know that we have fallen.
  • It is easy enough to tell the poor to accept their poverty as Gods will when you yourself have warm clothes and plenty of food and medical care and a roof over your head and no worry about the rent. But if you want them to believe youtry to share some of their poverty and see if you can accept it as Gods will yourself!
  • I am willing to admit that some people might live there for years, or even a lifetime, so protected that they never sense the sweet stench of corruption that is all around them -- the keen, thin scent of decay that pervades everything and accuses with a terrible accusation the superficial youthfulness, the abounding undergraduate noise, that fills those ancient buildings.
  • Death is someone you see very clearly with eyes in the center of your heart: eyes that see not by reacting to light, but by reacting to a kind of a chill from within the marrow of your own life.
  • I cannot make the universe obey me. I cannot make other people conform to my own whims and fancies. I cannot make even my own body obey me.
  • The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another
  • At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will.

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Born
Jan 31, 1915
Prades
Parents
Siblings
Religion
  • Catholicism
Nationality
  • United States of America
  • France
Profession
Education
  • Columbia University
  • Clare College, Cambridge
  • University of Cambridge
  • M.A.
Died
Dec 10, 1968
Bangkok

Submitted
on July 23, 2013

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"Thomas Merton." Biographies.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 20 Oct. 2021. <https://www.biographies.net/people/en/thomas_merton>.

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