Cover image for Intimate Merton : his life from his journals
Intimate Merton : his life from his journals
Merton, Thomas, 1915-1968.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
[San Francisco] : HarperSanFrancisco, [1999]

Physical Description:
xvii, 374 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes index.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BX4705.M542 A3 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
BX4705.M542 A3 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
BX4705.M542 A3 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
BX4705.M542 A3 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Biography

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Perhaps the Book of Life, in the end, is the book one has lived. If one has lived nothing, one is not in the Book of Life.
I have always wanted to write about everything. That does not mean to write a book that covers everything--which would be impossible, but a book in which everything can go. A book with a little of everything that creates itself out of nothing. That has its own life. A faithful book. I no longer look at it as a "book." -- Thomas Merton, July 17, 1956

In this diary-like memoir, composed of his most poignant and insightful journal entries, The Intimate Merton lays bare the steep ways of Thomas Merton's spiritual path. Culled from the seven volumes of his personal journals, this twenty-nine year chronicle deepens and extends the story Merton recounted and made famous in The Seven Storey Mountain. This book is the spiritual autobiography of our century's most celebrated monk--the wisdom gained from the personal experience of an enduring spiritual teacher. Here is Merton's account of his life's major challenges, his confrontations with monastic and church hierarchies, his interaction with religious traditions east and west, and his antiwar and civil-rights activities. In The Intimate Merton we engage a writer's art of "confession and witness" as he searches for a contemporary, authentic, and global spirituality.

Recounting Merton's earliest days in the monastery to his journey east to meet the Dalai Lama, The Intimate Merton reveals a life lived in continuous pursuit of meaning, equanimity, and love. The Intimate Merton captures the essence of what makes his life journey so perennially relevant.

"My best writing has always been in journals." -- Thomas Merton

Author Notes

Born in France, Thomas Merton was the son of an American artist and poet and her New Zealander husband, a painter. Merton lost both parents before he had finished high school, and his younger brother was killed in World War II. Something of the ephemeral character of human endeavor marked all his works, deepening the pathos of his writings and drawing him close to Eastern, especially Buddhist, forms of monasticism.

After an initial education in the United States, France, and England, he completed his undergraduate degree at Columbia University. His parents, nominally friends, had given him little religious guidance, and in 1938, he converted to Roman Catholicism. The following year he received an M.A. from Columbia University and in 1941, he entered Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky, where he remained until a short time before his death.

His working life was spent as a Trappist monk. At Gethsemani, he wrote his famous autobiography, "The Seven Storey Mountain" (1948); there he labored and prayed through the days and years of a constant regimen that began with daily prayer at 2:00 a.m. As his contemplative life developed, he still maintained contact with the outside world, his many books and articles increasing steadily as the years went by. Reading them, it is hard to think of him as only a "guilty bystander," to use the title of one of his many collections of essays. He was vehement in his opposition to the Vietnam War, to the nuclear arms race, to racial oppression.

Having received permission to leave his monastery, he went on a journey to confer with mystics of the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. He was accidentally electrocuted in a hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, on December 10, 1968.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

"A path through the woods" is the description Hart and Montaldo (Merton's last secretary and a Merton lecturer, respectively) give to this condensation of the diaries faithfully kept by Merton before and throughout his 27 years as a Trappist monk at Our Lady of Gethsemani monastery in Kentucky. "Woods" serves as metaphor for Merton's full body of autobiographical work, encompassing the journals published during his life and the seven volumes that remained unpublished for 25 years after his death in 1968. This manageable portrait of Merton's inner and outer life, beginning in 1939, is condensed from the seven volumes and will likely suffice for all but Merton scholars and the most devoted aficionados. Merton's restlessness, his frustration with censorship of his anti-war writings and his affinity for nature are portrayed here. Readers are privy to his dreams and his experiences of divine and human love, including details of his secretive love affair. The volume ends as abruptly as his life, cut short at age 53 by accidental electrocution in Bangkok, where he was exploring Asian religions. The path cleared by Hart and Montaldo, worthy guides to this terrain, is a boon for busy readers, who will turn to Merton's journals not only for information about his life but to learn, from his spiritual self-scrutiny, more about themselves. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This is a one-volume condensation of Merton's journals, which have been published over the last few years; its seven chapters correspond to the seven volumes of Merton's complete journals. Hart, who was Merton's last secretary, and Montaldo (Entering the Silence) have maintained all of Merton's central themesÄincluding the controversial ones, like the relationship with the nurse identified as "M." and Merton's doubts about his vocation. Unfortunately, owing to deletions, the transitions are sometimes abrupt and jarring, and footnotes from the original identifying persons and terms have been removed. But this is certainly not an attempt to sanitize Merton's journals; all of Hart and Mantaldo's condensing is intended to make their riches available to those who do not want to wade through all seven volumes. A nice selection of photographs is included. Because Merton is probably the most widely selling American spiritual writer, this title is sure to be in great demand. For most libraries.ÄAugustine J. Curley, O.S.B., Newark Abbey, NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



The Intimate Merton His Life from His Journals Chapter One The Story of a Vocation 1939-1941 October 1, 1939. 35 Perry Street. New York City Today has the smells of a feast. A girl sitting opposite me in the restaurant at breakfast: some perfume on that reminded me of several things. First, the perfume and the softness and complexion of her skin reminded me of a whole class of girls I had been in love with from fourteen on. The kind that are rather thin than plump, rather blonde than dark, who seem at the same time soft and sad, their sadness, a kind of mystery, a melancholy which makes them appear intelligent and good. Then the perfume too reminded me of all sorts of Sundays and feasts and the rich smells going with them at Douglaston. The smell of powder and perfume in my Grandmother's room. The smell of the same room, with all the heat on in the morning, with my Grandfather having breakfast in bed: the room smelling of perfume, powder, cold cream, radiator heat, fried eggs, toast, strong coffee. All at once. Other feast smells: Brilliantine I bought in Bermuda this year. Good, fat, lavender smell. Means sun and the white coral houses and the dark cedars. That nostalgia is now complicated by the fact that there's no going to Bermuda now, because of the war. Feast smells at Douglaston: cigar smoke, meaning Uncle Charles and the funny sheets (he bought the Tribune: Pop took the Times). Candy. Smell of dinners, of course. Smell of Christmas tree, noise of steam chirping in the radiator, at the same time. Noises: Outside now it is raining. Noises of a cocktail shaker at Douglaston, first with a martini being stirred in it, then with something being shaken in it. Generally, sun outside, or late slanting sun through the French windows. Noise of a toy electric train going around its tracks. Noise of winding up a clockwork locomotive--slower turn of the key, thickening catch of the spring. Noise of the cook chopping or pounding things in the kitchen. Noise of tires singing past the house on the road outside, in winter or in autumn when the road is light and bare and hard. Noise of a fire, cracking and snapping in the grate, just lit. The sheaves of sparks that rush up the chimney from time to time. Noise of the dog jumping up inside the door and scratching on it as you come up the steps. Noise of Pop walking upstairs, beating with his hand on the banister halfway between the beats of his feet on the hollow-sounding wooden steps. Noises of someone (never me!) shoveling coal into the furnace downstairs, the shovel chunkily bites in under the coal, which smothers its sound: the coal rushing off the shovel into the fire, leaving the shovel ringing slightly, full of a load. Noise of someone opening up the legs of a card table--a drag and a sudden catch. Noise of starting the radio: click of the knob, the light comes on, then half a second later, a sudden swell of hum that dies again a little, while the radio settles down to think up a real sound. After that nothing very interesting comes out of the radio, as a rule. Noise of the cellar door banging shut: never one bang, but a bang and a quarter because of the bounce. Noise of footsteps on the cement steps leading down to the cellar. Noise of dragging ash cans up the cellar steps, step by step, the heavy, muffled bumping, muffled by the weight of the fine pinkish gray ash. All this took place under the window of the room I slept in: that room was Pop's den. It had an office desk and a swivel chair. Noise made by the swivel chair when you turned on it completely. First no noise at all, then a kind of slight, singing protest. (Noise of the drawers opening and shutting.) The protest of the chair comes not from making it turn, but it is uttered by a tough spring as you lean back in the chair and tilt it quite a bit. Noise of raking leaves, of mowing the grass, of digging with a spade, of raking ground or hoeing. Sweeping the sidewalk and the brick front steps. Noise of the sprinkler, as it turns scattering whirling threads of water around the air over the front lawn. Twenty or thirty feet away the leaves of the privet hedge move where you would not have suspected water was falling. Thank God then for all good smells and good sights and good sounds, but what is the good of being attached to them and sitting and turning over their memory and dwelling on the recollections they bring to you, cherishing a sadness for these things which are gone away? Pop and Bonnemaman are dead, and it will never again be the same as being sixteen and eighteen and living at Douglaston on vacations. What a vanity it would be anyway to moan over the happiness of those times because, at eighteen and twenty and twenty-one, while I was active and rushing about after all sorts of things, who can say those were very good or happy years for me when I was full of anger and impatience and ingratitude toward my family to an extent it is horrible to think about now? Then I was proud and selfish and denied God and was full of gluttony and lust. I was so filled with all these things that even now the unhappiness of them does not leave me at all but keeps forcing itself back upon me in thoughts and dreams and movements of anger and desire. I am still full of that same pride and wretchedness which is very strong and very hard to get rid of because of the strength of self-will which weakens love and prayer and resists God. But all these things were much... The Intimate Merton His Life from His Journals . Copyright © by Thomas Merton. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Intimate Merton: His Life from His Journals by Thomas Merton All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

A Path Through Thomas Merton's Journalsp. XI
Part I The Story of a Vocation, 1939-1941p. 1
Part II Becoming a Monk and Writer, 1941-1952p. 45
Part III Pursuing the Monk's True Life, 1952-1959p. 103
Part IV The Pivotal Years, 1960-1963p. 155
Part V Seeking Peace in the Hermitage, 1963-1965p. 211
Part VI Exploring Solitude and Freedom, 1966-1967p. 269
Part VII The End of the Journey, 1967-1968p. 313
Indexp. 367