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The Seven Storey Mountain (1948)

by Thomas Merton

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4,722562,447 (3.93)93
Biography & Autobiography. Religion & Spirituality. Nonfiction. HTML:One of the most famous books ever written about a man's search for faith and peace.
The Seven Storey Mountain tells of the growing restlessness of a brilliant and passionate young man, who at the age of twenty-six, takes vows in one of the most demanding Catholic ordersthe Trappist monks. At the Abbey of Gethsemani, "the four walls of my new freedom," Thomas Merton struggles to withdraw from the world, but only after he has fully immersed himself in it. At the abbey, he wrote this extraordinary testament, a unique spiritual autobiography that has been recognized as one of the most influential religious works of our time. Translated into more than twenty languages, it has touched millions of lives.
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English (52)  Catalan (3)  All languages (55)
Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
I found the first half a simple biography but the second half really focused on Merton's spiritual journey. ( )
  Doondeck | May 23, 2024 |
Two things in Shannon’s note in this edition propelled me to begin this book. First, Merton may have been a product of or perhaps even drawn to the post Reformation, pre Vatican II arrogance of the Church that led it to promote an exclusionary, limiting interpretation of the Gospels. And what attracts and emboldens him to believe and profess his faith through our shared body of the Church? Second, how does the issuance of a human child ever in our faith get deemed something so horrific as to be revealed only in a “tell-all” version of his life, how can it reasonably be labeled a “disaster” for him and the unmarried women?

I’d like to read a forward written perhaps in the pen of the ‘disastrous’ child. A man, especially a religious one, who avoids the privilege of knowing, acknowledging, and supporting his own blood cannot, in my opinion, be trusted to carry the full message of Christ. No child in a classroom, a boardroom, or the theatre of life would or should ever imagine having to introduce themselves as a bastard, a disaster, a secret, or the unwanted product of a so-called aspiring Man of God. Women, mothers certainly do not and cannot hide from such accomplishments, i.e. bringing a life into this world. So I would call his posture in reference to this child a “social abortion” and no less and perhaps more unfortunate that a bona fide abortion. What is it exactly that is so secret, disastrous, or so shameful about a child born as to warrant being rejected by the Franciscan Order or public opinion or him? This escapes me entirely.

I expect to read in the remainder of Merton’s book of someone who is preoccupied with scrubbing his earthly life dry of the pitfalls of everyday humanness. Why bother? There is no sin so original, after all, other than that of Adam and Eve, that anyone should imagine they have invented, a frailty so novel that they can’t be forgiven or make amends. To run from one’s own ‘failures’ so assuredly while pursuing a Christ-like life, then, it seems to me, is a profound disservice to the gift of being human and accessing the grace of God in the first place.

I’ll update my review. If I can finish his missive. Lord, give me strength. ( )
  NeelieOB | Jan 20, 2024 |
Fiftieth Anniversary Edition
  StMatthewOttawa | Jul 4, 2023 |
A writer must be very good to convey any essence of spiritual matters, and Merton is not that writer. I don't mind the Catholic biases (usual for their time), but for the most part, this is too dogmatic. The censorship inflicted by his religious order and acknowledged by the commentators (but not by Merton) also surely reduces the interest of the book, and the gaps left thereby (and other details) cast suspicion on the factual integrity of the writer. And we know that the devil is in the details.

If you are a religious person with mountains of faith, then add some stars; you might enjoy this book. ( )
  KENNERLYDAN | Jul 11, 2021 |
The Seven Story Mountain, published in 1948, is the autobiography of Thomas Merton, which he completed when he was only 31 years old. The book recounts the spiritual and intellectual journey that led Merton not only to espouse the Roman Catholic faith, but to become a Trappist monk. The Trappists are among the most severe of all Catholic orders, living very abstemiously, with complete submission to the will of their superiors, and, pursuant to their vows of silence, scarcely speaking at all.

Merton was an accomplished prose writer and a respectably competent poet. He forewent a fairly successful secular literary career to become the best known and best selling “Catholic” author of his generation. In later life, while remaining devoutly Catholic, he explored, analyzed, and praised eastern religions, particularly Buddhism.

The title of The Seven Story Mountain refers to Dante’s description of Purgatory, up through which Virgil must struggle and climb to reach Paradise. Presumably, Merton viewed his early life as his own purgatory.

The version of Catholicism that forms the back story of the book is rather dated—it happens to be the version I was taught in the 1950s. It is full of devotion to the saints: in Merton’s case, special devotion to The Virgin and to the Little Flower (St. Therese of Lisieux, whom he considers “the outstanding saint of the 19th century”). His devotion to the Virgin manifested itself in a rather extreme view that sanctity comes to man only through her: “God has willed that there be no other way.” !!!

In addition, it includes some truly perverse views of man’s condition in the universe. For example Merton writes:

“…man’s nature, by itself, can do little or nothing to settle his most important problems. If we follow nothing but our natures, our own philosophies, our own level of ethics, we will end up in hell.”

That sounds more like a hard-shell Southern Baptist than a modern Catholic.

Merton frequently ascribed divine intervention as the cause of perfectly unexceptional events. In several places, he says (paraphrasing), “God brought us together” or “Jesus caused me to read a particular book.” In one strange passage, he accounts for his recovery from rather sever illness to the prayers of unknown people:

“Only God could help me. Who prayed for me? One day I shall know. But in the economy of God’s love, it through the prayers of other men that these graces are given. It was through the prayers of someone who loved God that I was, one day, to be delivered out of that hell where I was already confined without knowing it.”

I found two of his observations particularly amusing. The first concerned the attitudes of one of the students he taught at St Bonaventure college. Merton could hardly fathom that one of the students didn’t believe in devils!

The second amusing observation concerned the consequences of the tendency of Catholics to bifurcate sinning into mortal and venial sins and to downplay or even disregard venial sins. To him, the fact that imbibing in alcohol was only a venial sin resulted in “a lot of drunk Irishmen on Saturday night.”

But in my view, the craziest, totally batty idea Merton expressed had to do with the power of prayer:

“The eloquence of the liturgy was even more tremendous; and what it said was one, simple, cogent, tremendous truth: this church, the court of the Queen of Heaven, is the real capital of the country in which we are living. This is the center of all the vitality that is in America. This is the cause and reason why the nation is holding together. These men [the monks], hidden in the anonymity of their choir and their white cowls, are doing for their land what no army, no congress, no president could ever do as such: they are winning for it the grace and the protection and the friendship of God.”

Who’da thunk it?! My apologies to the author, but my most recent atlas still lists Washington DC as the nation’s capital. Moreover, Messrs. Eisenhower, Truman, and the 11 million members of the WWII armed forces might have been able to bring some nuance to Merton’s observations in 1948!

The book, having a highly religious and devotional content, sold surprisingly (perhaps “astonishingly” is more accurate) well, with sales of more than 600,000 copies in hard cover and more than 3 million in paperback. That fact alone demonstrates how much this country has changed from the late 1940s.

The book is actually pretty well written and interesting for historical purposes, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone except young Catholics (to compare its preconceptions with the modern church) and students of comparative religion.

(JAB) ( )
  nbmars | Jun 23, 2021 |
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thomas Mertonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Avati, JamesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Evelyn WaughIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Giroux, RobertIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"For I tell you that God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham."
CHRISTO
VERO
REGI


*****

English Translation:
"for Christ, the true king"

from phrase:
Ad te ergo nunc mihi sermo dirigitur, quisquis abrenuntians propriis voluntatibus, Domino Christo vero Regi militaturus oboedientiæ fortissima atque præclara arma sumis.

To thee, therefore, my speech is now directed, who, giving up thine own will, takest up the strong and most excellent arms of obedience, to do battle for Christ the Lord, the true King.
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On the last day of January 1915, under the sign of the Water Bearer, in a year of a great war, and down in the shadow of some French mountains on the borders of Spain, I came into the world.
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Biography & Autobiography. Religion & Spirituality. Nonfiction. HTML:One of the most famous books ever written about a man's search for faith and peace.
The Seven Storey Mountain tells of the growing restlessness of a brilliant and passionate young man, who at the age of twenty-six, takes vows in one of the most demanding Catholic ordersthe Trappist monks. At the Abbey of Gethsemani, "the four walls of my new freedom," Thomas Merton struggles to withdraw from the world, but only after he has fully immersed himself in it. At the abbey, he wrote this extraordinary testament, a unique spiritual autobiography that has been recognized as one of the most influential religious works of our time. Translated into more than twenty languages, it has touched millions of lives.
.

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