The Seven Storey Mountain
The complete and unedited edition of Thomas Merton's famous autobiography, one of the greatest works of spiritual pilgrimage ever written. Travelling in his early years with his artist father in the United States, France and England, Thomas Merton prided himself...
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The complete and unedited edition of Thomas Merton's famous autobiography, one of the greatest works of spiritual pilgrimage ever written. Travelling in his early years with his artist father in the United States, France and England, Thomas Merton prided himself on his worldly accomplishments. His year at Clare College, Cambridge, was indulgent, and although Columbia University to which he went next suited his temperament better, it did nothing to assuage his restlessness. Gradually Merton recognized his need for faith and became a Catholic. With his baptism he began entertaining thoughts of monasticism but his desire to enter the priesthood in a Franciscan monastery came to nothing, and he remained a lay teaching member of the order for some time. However, when he was twenty-seven he made a retreat to a Trappist monastery in Kentucky. This momentous experience convinced him that the silence of the Cistercian Order was what he craved. The Seven Storey Mountain tells the story of Merton's search for faith and peace in a world which first fascinated and then appalled him. It is written with the profound insight of a man who has seen himself clearly.
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 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.