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New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton
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New Seeds of Contemplation (original 1961; edition 1972)

by Thomas Merton

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Member:chuck_ralston
Title:New Seeds of Contemplation
Authors:Thomas Merton
Info:New York : New Directions Publishing Corporation [1972, c1961] Paperback ; xv, 297 p. ; 21 cm. (NDP-337) = = = = = =
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New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton (1961)

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» See also 15 mentions

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Serendipity: "the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way."
—Google Dictionary

I was listening to the Homebrewed Christianity Podcast while running, just after finishing up Merton's book. The Podcast was a question-and-answer time with the influential German theologian of the cross, Jürgen Moltmann. Moltmann's theology emphasizes the pathos of God. While the Greek philosophers envisioned a dispassionate Deity, Moltmann (in line with the Old Testament) speaks of a passionate God who is angered, loves, suffers, and even repents!

It was during this discussion that I realized what bothered me about Merton.

...

Before I get there, let me start with praise. Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk, a man dedicated to cloistered contemplation. This book is a collection of advice about contemplation. What does contemplation mean? Do you need to be isolated to be a contemplative? What sort of obstacles do contemplatives face? What is the role of spiritual experience in contemplation?

Each of the 39 chapters are full of insight into the human condition—insight only grasped by someone who has spent his life in the contemplation of God. The more I grow in the Christian life, the more Merton's observations resonate with my own experience. He is a wise spiritual director.

...

Now back to the problem. For Merton, the ideal contemplative is not a person who is passionate but one who lets feelings, even religious feelings, flow across the surface of her mind without being moved. These consolations are mere distractions:

"Many contemplatives never become great saints, never enter into close friendship with God, never find a deep participation in His immense joys, because they cling to the miserable little consolations that are given to beginners in the contemplative way" (206).

I wholeheartedly agree that experience-chasing is devastating to true Christianity. That said, if our God is passionately engaged with his creation, if he created us with passions and emotions, how could ignoring that part of our being honour God? Could this emphasis of Merton be the result of his interfaith dialogue with Buddhism adjusting his anthropological insight?

In the end, I value and will continue to read Merton. Much of this work was pure gold. However, I fear that his dispassionate view of humanity suggests a deity more like the Greeks envisioned than the Hebrew writers of scripture! ( )
1 vote StephenBarkley | Dec 14, 2015 |
Most excellent ( )
1 vote aegossman | Feb 25, 2015 |
Having tried twice to get through this since the late 90s, and having not read it for more than 2 years, and having read at least half of it, I am returning this to "To Read" because some day I WILL read it through.
1 vote librken | Oct 29, 2014 |
For the second time, my father gave me a Thomas Merton book. I take it that I had actually better start reading them before he asks me questions about the texts...
1 vote 50MinuteMermaid | Nov 14, 2013 |
If you read nothing else by Merton, read this. Personal, direct, and lucid, it contains some of his most challenging insights into the struggle to find an honest relationship with God and one's fellow humans. The book takes a compelling yet thoughtful look at a wide variety of spiritual themes, but is -- like most of Merton's writings -- devoid of theorizing. A must for anyone who is ready to seriously reassess the reality and direction of his or her life. But beware: you will not emerge untouched. Reprinted over twenty times and translated into more than twelve languages.
1 vote Priory | Aug 30, 2013 |
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Epigraph
Tu Qui Sedes in Tenebris Spe Tua Gaude: Orta Stella Matutina Sol Non Tradabit.
Dedication
First words
What is Contemplation? Contemplation is the highest expression of man's intellectual and spiritual life. It is that life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive. If is spiritual wonder. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being.
Quotations
The silence of the spheres is the music of a wedding feast. The more we persist in misunderstanding the phenomena of life, the more we analyze them out into strange finalities and complex purposes of our own, the more we involve ourselves in sadness, absurdity and despair. But it does not matter much, because no despair of ours can alter the reality of things, or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there. Indeed, we are in the midst of it, and it is in the midst of us, for it beats in our very blood, whether we want to to or not.
Omnia in omnibus deus.
Vivo, iam non ego, vivit vero in me Christus.
Bonum est praestolari cum silentio salutare Dei.
Lux in tenebris lucet et tenebrae eam non comprehenderunt.
Last words
Disambiguation notice
New Seeds of Contemplation is a revised and expanded version of Merton's earlier book Seeds of Contemplation.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 081120099X, Paperback)

"It can become almost a magic word," Thomas Merton says of contemplation; "or if not magic, then inspirational, which is almost as bad." With these words, Merton takes us through the reality of contemplation, which is, the author says, "life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive. It is spiritual wonder." Above all, contemplation is "awareness of the reality" of the Source, "with a certitude that goes beyond reason and beyond simple faith." As these definitions should suggest, in this 20th-century classic on the contemplative life, as in the best of Merton's work, this Trappist monk wonderfully combines a disciplined and deeply learned intellect with the lyrical passion of the poet. It is this rare combination that makes this book not only informative but also moving. Covering a diverse range of subjects ("Faith," "The Night of the Senses," "Renunciation"), it moves the reader through certain traditional "phases" of contemplation, and gives an idea of what to expect in this spiritual process (including despair and darkness). The book describes, but it also enacts. In its own prose it invites the reader to "cast our awful solemnity to the winds and join in the general dance." --Doug Thorpe

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:17 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In print for more than forty years, New Seeds of Contemplation has served as a guide to the contemplative life for several generations of spiritual seekers. The word contemplation is itself somewhat problematical, according to Thomas Merton: "It can become almost a magic word, or if not magic, then 'inspirational,' which is almost as bad." In this modern Christian classic, Merton reveals contemplation to be nothing other than "life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive." The thirty-nine short "seeds" that make up this book are intended to awaken and cultivate the contemplative, mystical dimension of the spiritual path for everyone. New Seeds of Contemplation is a revised and expanded version of Merton's earlier book Seeds of Contemplation.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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