Merton, Thomas

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Merton, Thomas

Thomas Merton, 1915–68, American religious writer and poet, b. France. He grew up in France, England, and the United States and studied at Cambridge and at Columbia (B.A., 1938; M.A., 1939). Converted to the Roman Catholic Church during his college career, he became in 1941 a Trappist monk. He was later ordained a priest and is known in religion as Father M. Louis. Merton died as a result of an accident in Thailand while attending an ecumenical council of Catholic and Buddhist monks. Among his volumes of poems are Figures for an Apocalypse (1947), The Tears of the Blind Lions (1949), and The Strange Islands (1957). Best known of his books are his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain (1948, repr. 1970), two volumes on Trappist life, The Waters of Siloe (1949) and The Sign of Jonas (1953, repr. 1973), and Mystics and Zen Masters (1967). His Seeds of Contemplation (1949), The Silent Life (1957), and New Seeds of Contemplation (1962, rev. ed. 1972) are volumes of meditations. Also of interest are his Disputed Questions (1960), Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (1966), Faith and Violence (1968), Contemplation in a World of Action (1971), The Journals of Thomas Merton (Vol. I, 1995), and his Asian journal, ed. by Naomi Burton et al. (1973).

See A Thomas Merton Reader, ed. by T. P. McDonnell (1962); study by J. T. Baker (1971).

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