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The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation Paperback – 22 Aug 2003


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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: SPCK Publishing (22 Aug. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0281056161
  • ISBN-13: 978-0281056163
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 0.6 x 23 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 555,209 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Merton speaks to us even now -- and freshly -- with these perceptive insights into the contemplative life."--Paul Wilkes, author of Beyond the Walls: Monastic Wisdom for Everyday Life

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Man in our day, menaced on all sides with ruin, is at the same time beset with illusory promises of happiness. Read the first page
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Doherty on 16 Jan. 2006
Format: Paperback
THE INNER EXPERIENCE is a recently edited and published work which reflects Merton's thinking on the subject of contemplation about 1959 - eleven years after the publication of both THE SEVEN STOREY MOUNTAIN and WHAT IS CONTEMPLATION? The most interesting chapters in the book, in my opinion, are Chapter 5 which attempts to describe the various kinds of contemplation as well as Chapter 7 dealing with the texts on contemplative prayer written by St. John of the Cross, Blessed John Ruysbroeck, Meister Eckhart and St. Bernard of Clairvaux. THE INNER EXPERIENCE preceeds NEW SEEDS OF CONTEMPLATION which was written in 1961.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The best of the modern Christian mystics. Clear guidance on how best to view life and death. Add Eckhart Tolle, and you are away on the only sane path.
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Amazon.com: 11 reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
The Inner Experience 21 Feb. 2010
By Derek (True-Small-Caps.Blogspot.Com) - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Thomas Merton seems to have published more books since he died than he did while he was alive. The Inner Experience is a set of notes on contemplation he effectively began in 1948, revised and expanded in 1959, but was never happy enough with to allow publication during his lifetime. After excerpts had been serialized over the years, the Merton Legacy Trust finally allowed complete publication in a single volume.

This is not, Merton warns at the outset, a self-help book. Contemplation, he says, is not a program whereby the false "I" can manipulate the true "I." On the contrary, so long as the false self is busy with its projects, the inner self will remain hidden. And even when the inner self emerges, the final goal has not been attained. While some Eastern religions stop with the awakening of the true self, Christians continue on to know God. Solitude and seclusion may be necessary for long stretches of this journey, but the contemplative vocation finds its ultimate fulfillment in a love that reaches out to others.

Merton has an interesting perspective on active contemplation. He sees it as a progressive letting go of the agendas and plans of the false self in favor of an approach to life where we simply discern the way events are flowing. This flow he sees as God's will. Self-seeking motivations have been abandoned to the point that the contemplative is not even aware that he is contemplating.

Infused contemplation is, of course, beyond the control of the individual. While Merton sketches a few characteristics of infused contemplation -- a passive, intuitive, non-conceptual, and above all loving knowledge of God -- he avoids the fruitless question of exactly where active contemplation ends and infused contemplation begins. Instead he cite passages from five authors that may be helpful in recognizing the beginnings of infused contemplation. These writers are St. John of the Cross, John Ruysbroeck, the author of The Cloud of Unknowing, Meister Eckhart, and St. Bernard of Clairvaux. To emphasize the need to abandon the programs and desires of the false self and to replace them with pure love, Merton devotes a further chapter to St. John of the Cross on this point.

Among the dangers for the contemplative to avoid, Merton mentions blanking out, seeking some kind of self-annihilation, a withdrawal from reality, and straining after mystical experiences. Monasteries, with their one-size-fits-all regulation of life, paradoxically present special difficulties. But life outside the monasteries presents other problems. Silence has become an expensive luxury. Most people need group support, and for these Merton proposes something along the lines of contemplative third orders, but without stifling organizational structures. Merton sees these relatively informal lay or priestly-lay groups as offering promise for the future. In particular he admires the Little Brothers of Jesus and the simple Christian ashram of Fr. Jules Monchanin (a co-worker of Fr. Henri Le Saux in India).

The cover photo is by Merton himself, and the introduction is by the book's editor, William H. Shannon.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
the trappist speaks 17 Jan. 2007
By Daniel B. Clendenin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Next to CS Lewis, the monk Thomas Merton (1915-1968) might have been the most influential Christian in the West during his lifetime. Best known for his powerful autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain, Merton was a Trappist monk, writer, social activist, and contemplative Christian. Here he contrasts two ways of living Christianly. The exterior or external self is a life of self-impersonation, superficiality, alienation, conformity, indulgence, and narcissism: "Reflect, sometimes, on the disquieting fact that most of your statements of opinions, tastes, deeds, desires, hopes and fears are statements about someone who is not really present. When you say `I think,' it is often not you who think, but they--it is the anonymous authority of the collectivity speaking through your mask. When you say `I want,' you are sometimes simply making an automatic gesture of accepting, paying for, what has been forced upon you. That is to say, you reach out for what you have been made to want." In contrast, and this is the positive theme of the entire book, is the life of what the Apostle Paul called the "inner man," and other Christians throughout the last two millennia the way of illumination, the way of the heart, or contemplation.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Merton at Midstream 14 Jan. 2006
By Patrick Doherty - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
THE INNER EXPERIENCE is a recently edited and published work which reflects Merton's thinking on the subject of contemplation about 1959 - eleven years after the publication of both THE SEVEN STOREY MOUNTAIN and WHAT IS CONTEMPLATION? The most interesting chapters in the book, in my opinion, are Chapter 5 which attempts to describe the various kinds of contemplation as well as Chapter 7 dealing with the texts on contemplative prayer written by St. John of the Cross, Blessed John Ruysbroeck, Meister Eckhart and St. Bernard of Clairvaux. THE INNER EXPERIENCE preceeds NEW SEEDS OF CONTEMPLATION which was written in 1961.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Gateway to Spirituality 18 Mar. 2014
By Phil Calandra - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Thomas Merton attempts to show how contemplation is central to human life and how one's life can be fully integrated by this practice. Through contemplation one does not actively solve the problems of life but these problems are somehow resolved on their own in more of a "passive" way. Thomas Merton indicates that man is an "image" of "God" and that his "inner self" is a kind of "mirror" in which "God" not only sees Himself but reveals Himself to the "mirror" in which He is reflected. I believe the editor, William H Shannon, very deftly outlines Merton's spiritual progression by comparing several of his books, thereby, giving the reader an excellent road map to Merton's work. It should be noted that this is not a how to do book, but, more or less, what not to do on the spiritual path. I believe this book is replete with spiritual insights which are invaluable to one on the spiritual path and is extremely uplifting. I would highly recommend this it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I have both the book and the e-book. Cuz it's such a useful book! 17 May 2014
By TheraP - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Thomas Merton needs little introduction. This book does. It's not a book for the beginner, necessarily, but it certainly can challenge someone who's serious about the spiritual path and appreciates a succinct, helpful discussion of issues related to prayer - what Merton aptly describes as "inner experience". I like that term. And I like how Merton describes prayer as both inner - in our experience of Holy Mystery - and totally connected to our physical life in all its myriad aspects.

Worth hanging onto and referring back to.
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