Encountering Merton

I have heard from many along the way about an appreciation for the writings and thought of Thomas Merton.  However, up to this point, I have not had the experience of reading his writings for myself.  I am now a fan of the man and his way.   I am learning to appreciate his style of writing, for he doesn’t write like anyone I have ever read before, but there is something deep and connective in his writing.  

Quoted from Book of Hours, page 184-185.

“Contemplation is not trance or ecstasy

not emotional fire and sweetness that come with religious exaltation

not enthusiasm, not the sense of being ‘seized’ by an elemental force

and swept into liberation by mystical frenzy.

Contemplation is no pain killer.

In the end the contemplative suffers the anguish of realizing that he no longer knows what God is

this is great gain,

because “God is not a what,”

Not a “thing.”

There is “no such thing” as God

because God is neither a “what” or a “thing”

but a pure “who,”

the “thou” before whom our inmost “I” springs into awareness.”


As a person who has spent their life studying to know God by means of knowing revelation, and theology, while walking in devotion as a disciple.  However the reality is, as I have discovered, that we tend to focus on encounter when that is our goal and we tend to focus on knowledge when that is our goal and has been our educational discipline.  At this point, Merton’s words are a huge challenge and one that needs to be taken up.  I want to move in the way of the mystical approach to God, to encounter, to surrender even that which is precious, even our knowledge that we might enter in  to relationship with God as a true discoverer, a true learner.


One thought on “Encountering Merton

  1. cool; is this guy a modern writer? I know what you mean about connecting with what an author is saying- sometimes intellectual books are crafty and insightful but just have no life or inspiration toward action. If you like mystical and action/experiential type material I’d recommend American transcendentalist writers- I liked what I read of Ralph Waldo Emerson in “The American Scholar” and look forward to reading some of his work in the future but I’d at least recommend that. I disagree with some of his beliefs and perspectives but the stuff I do agree on and the way he delivers all of it is simply inspiring and delightful. As far as Christian devotion I’ve mostly read “The Imitation of Christ” which is usually accredited to Thomas Kempis. Anyway, I figured I’d trade recommendations with you.



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