A Search for Wisdom and Spirit: Thomas Merton's Theology of the Self

By Anne E. Carr | Go to book overview

4
THE WISDOM OF THE SELF: LEARNING FROM THE EAST

The last section of Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander is entitled, in a phrase from a Zen koan, "The Madman Runs to the East." And indeed the last years of Merton's life involve an Asian pilgrimage, first in study and then in actual travel. In 1965, Merton began to live almost entirely as a hermit in a wooded area about a mile from the main buildings of the monastery at Gethsemani. It was there that he spent most of the three remaining years of his life until he left for Asia in the fall of 1968. The last years were not simply quiet, however.

The topics of war and peace, violence and nonviolence, already apparent in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, become more central as the focus of Merton's thinking and writing. Just as he had been a conscientious objector in World War II, in these last years he protested the war in Viet Nam. In 1965 he addressed an open letter on peace and war to the American Catholic hierarchy and, in Rice's phrase, entered into a kind of guerilla warfare for peace. With his friends and correspondents, Dorothy Day and Daniel Berrigan, he was among the few well-known American Catholics to take an early and open stand against the war, a subject on which his sharpest polemical skills were employed in a steady campaign.

But if the violence of humankind was one deep concern, it was matched by his continued concern for the interior peace of

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A Search for Wisdom and Spirit: Thomas Merton's Theology of the Self
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Seeds of the Self 10
  • 2 - Seeking the Spirit: the Christian Inheritance 34
  • 3 - Conjectures at a Turning Point 54
  • 4 - The Wisdom of the Self: Learning from the East 75
  • 5 - I Live Now Not I . . . " 96
  • 6 - The Story of the Self 121
  • Epilogue 141
  • Notes 149
  • Selected Bibliography of Books by Thomas Merton 165
  • Index 167
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