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Turning Toward the World: The Pivotal Years; The Journals of Thomas Merton, Volume 4: 1960-1963
 
 

Turning Toward the World: The Pivotal Years; The Journals of Thomas Merton, Volume 4: 1960-1963 [Kindle Edition]

Thomas Merton
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Review

“A unique insight into the mind and heart of the most important spiritual writer of the twentieth century.”
Henri Nouwen

Product Description

"Inexorably life moves on towards crisis and mystery. Everyone must struggle to adjust himself to this, to face the situation for 'now is the judgment of the world.' In a way, each one judges himself merely by what he does. Does, not says. Yet let us not completely dismiss words. They do have meaning. They are related to action. They spring from action and they prepare for it, they clarify it, they direct it." --Thomas Merton, August 16, 1961

The fourth volume of Thomas Merton's complete journals, one of his final literary legacies, springs from three hundred handwritten pages that capture - in candid, lively, deeply revealing passages - the growing unrest of the 1960s, which Merton witnessed within himself as plainly as in the changing culture around him.

In these decisive years, 1960-1963, Merton, now in his late forties and frequently working in a new hermitage at the Abbey of Gethsemani, finds himself struggling between his longing for a private, spiritual life and the irresistible pull of social concerns. Precisely when he longs for more solitude, and convinces himself he could not cut back on his writing, Merton begins asking complex questions about the contemporary culture ("the 'world' with its funny pants, of which I do not know the name, its sandals and sunglasses"), war, and the churches role in society.

Thus despite his resistance, he is drawn into the world where his celebrity and growing concerns for social issues fuel his writings on civil rights, nonviolence, and pacifism and lead him into conflict with those who urge him to leave the moral issues to bishops and theologians.

This pivotal volume in the Merton journals reveals a man at the height of a brilliant writing career, marking the fourteenth anniversary of his priesthood but yearning still for the key to true happiness and grace. Here, in his most private diaries, Merton is as intellectually curious, critical, and insightful as in his best-known public writings while he documents his movement from the cloister toward the world, from Novice Master to hermit, from ironic critic to joyous witness to the mystery of God's plan.


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 393 KB
  • Print Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books; 1 edition (13 Oct 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000UVBT6I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #287,516 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Merton's journal writing at its very best. 12 Oct 1998
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This, the fifth of Thomas Merton's complete journals, covers Merton's move to becoming a full-time hermit, the fulfilment of a deep desire for solitude that had haunted Merton from his earliest days at Gethsemani. It begins in August 1963 when Merton was living as a part-time solitary and traces the gradual expansion of the amount of time he was allowed to spend at the hermitage until he was allowed to take up full-time residence there in August 1965. This volume concludes at the end of 1965 allowing us to see Merton's reflections on his first few months as a hermit.
Some parts of this journal will already be familiar to readers as it contains journal entries that were prepared for publication by Merton in the journal A Vow of Conversation, as well as his account of his visit to meet the Zen scholar Suzuki and an early version of Day of a Stranger. Having said that, over half of the material in this journal is previously unpublished and even those parts previously published can read quite differently in their unedited form. Vow leaves the reader with the impression that Merton had effortlessly made the transition to life as a full-time hermit whereas, in Dancing, this transition appears far from easy and a visit from his former novice Ernesto Cardenal brings to the surface the instability Merton experienced with the move.
Dancing in the Waters of Life begins with a masterful introduction by Robert Daggy which highlights the central movements in this volume - Merton's move to the hermitage, his movement into his middle years with increasing health difficulties, and his continuing efforts to work out the paradoxes in his life.
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Was this review helpful to you?
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
The journals of Thomas Merton give us a unique insight into the day-to-day life of a truly extraordinary person and they demonstrate how Merton progressed in his own thinking and spirituality. This volume is particularly insightful because it covers the time during which Merton's hermitage experience became a reality. The daily entries detail the construction of the little concrete building on the hill overlooking the Abbey of Gethsemani first as a conference center where Merton would meet with various visitors, including members of other religious denominations, then as a place where he was allowed to go occasionally for his own spiritual privacy, next as a spot where he could live as a semi-hermit who would spend a day-and-night or two away from the abbey, and finally as Merton's permanent home when he became a full-time hermit. This journal reveals Merton as less frustrated than he appears in the previous volume, in part it must be presumed because Dom James, his ! abbot, seems to have become more sensitive to his desire for greater solitude. It is during this period that Merton reaches his 50th birthday and he writes on several occasions of impending death, almost as though he were anticipating that he would live only a few more years. Reading the daily life of Thomas Merton in his own words, in entries that he did not necessarily intend for viewing by others, provides the very best portrait of this truly complex, this inspired and inspiring man who was and would continue to be the greatest spiritual voice of the 20th century.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Merton finest journal. 25 Sep 1998
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This, the fifth of Thomas Merton's complete journals, covers Merton's move to becoming a full-time hermit, the fulfilment of a deep desire for solitude that had haunted Merton from his earliest days at Gethsemani. It begins in August 1963 when Merton was living as a part-time solitary and traces the gradual expansion of the amount of time he was allowed to spend at the hermitage until he was allowed to take up full-time residence there in August 1965. This volume concludes at the end of 1965 allowing us to see Merton's reflections on his first few months as a hermit.
Some parts of this journal will already be familiar to readers as it contains journal entries that were prepared for publication by Merton in the journal A Vow of Conversation, as well as his account of his visit to meet the Zen scholar Suzuki and an early version of Day of a Stranger. Having said that, over half of the material in this journal is previously unpublished and even those parts previously published can read quite differently in their unedited form. Vow leaves the reader with the impression that Merton had effortlessly made the transition to life as a full-time hermit whereas, in Dancing, this transition appears far from easy and a visit from his former novice Ernesto Cardenal brings to the surface the instability Merton experienced with the move.
Dancing in the Waters of Life begins with a masterful introduction by Robert Daggy which highlights the central movements in this volume - Merton's move to the hermitage, his movement into his middle years with increasing health difficulties, and his continuing efforts to work out the paradoxes in his life.
Read more ›
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Merton finest journal. 25 Sep 1998
By p.pearson@ucl.ac.uk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This, the fifth of Thomas Merton's complete journals, covers Merton's move to becoming a full-time hermit, the fulfilment of a deep desire for solitude that had haunted Merton from his earliest days at Gethsemani. It begins in August 1963 when Merton was living as a part-time solitary and traces the gradual expansion of the amount of time he was allowed to spend at the hermitage until he was allowed to take up full-time residence there in August 1965. This volume concludes at the end of 1965 allowing us to see Merton's reflections on his first few months as a hermit.
Some parts of this journal will already be familiar to readers as it contains journal entries that were prepared for publication by Merton in the journal A Vow of Conversation, as well as his account of his visit to meet the Zen scholar Suzuki and an early version of Day of a Stranger. Having said that, over half of the material in this journal is previously unpublished and even those parts previously published can read quite differently in their unedited form. Vow leaves the reader with the impression that Merton had effortlessly made the transition to life as a full-time hermit whereas, in Dancing, this transition appears far from easy and a visit from his former novice Ernesto Cardenal brings to the surface the instability Merton experienced with the move.
Dancing in the Waters of Life begins with a masterful introduction by Robert Daggy which highlights the central movements in this volume - Merton's move to the hermitage, his movement into his middle years with increasing health difficulties, and his continuing efforts to work out the paradoxes in his life. At times in this journal we see Merton at his most free and yet, almost in the next sentence he can be highly introspective and obsessed with certain aspects of his life. This tension runs throughout this volume and, as Daggy points out, accounts "for the highs and lows, the joy and the despair, the enthusiasm and the carping." (xii-xiii.) Merton's own sense of this continuing movement in his life, of the dance, comes over clearly in a passage he wrote in January 1964: "The need for constant self-revision, growth, leaving behind, renunciation of yesterday, yet in continuity with all yesterdays...my ideas are always changing, always moving around one center, always seeing the center from somewhere else. I will always be accused of inconsistencies - and will no longer be there to hear the accusation." (67.)
Dancing allows us the most direct contact with Merton of any of the journals yet published. The difficulties of this period which Merton writes about, the tensions, his continuing ill health and his coming to terms with middle age and the absurd world of the sixties can make this volume sound like the ravings of a man obsessed with himself. Yet there is a fine balance here between the madman and the prophet, as was frequently the case with the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures. When one considers Merton's other writings of this time - Emblems of a Season of Fury, Seeds of Destruction, The Way of Chuang Tzu, Gandhi on Non-Violence, along with such classics essays as "Rain and the Rhinoceros," and his "Message to Poets" - it is the stature of the prophet which becomes evident and this journal gives us an intimate insight into the dynamics of the prophet.
In this journal we can see the sources to which Merton was turning for his own spiritual and intellectual nourishment. Of particular interest to Merton in this period are Rilke, Barth, Bultmann, and Sartre. The Church Fathers, scripture and the religious writings of other traditions are all evident along with a growing awareness of his natural surroundings, brought about partly through a growing closeness to nature and its rhythms in his life at the hermitage: "Came up to the hermitage at 4 a.m. The moon poured down silence over the woods, and the frosty grass sparkled faintly. More than two hours of prayer in firelight...Sweet pungent smell of hickory smoke, and silence, silence." (93.)
Although not as intensely involved in the peace movement as he was earlier in the sixties Merton's awareness of the issues confronting it is clearly still evident as is his grasp of a wide range of national and international issues - race relations and civil rights, the space race, American politics, Viet Nam and the effects of the Vatican Council.
In all the journals of Thomas Merton references can be found to the various anniversaries that were important to him. In this journal the dominant such date is his fiftieth birthday. Throughout this journal Merton makes references to a variety of health problems and his fiftieth birthday provides the occasion for an extended reflection on his life connecting his present self with various moments in his life from Oakham, through Cambridge and Columbia to Gethsemani concluding "Why go on? Deo gratias for all of them." (199.) As he approaches middle age Merton is more able to see the unity of his life and discovers, in the midst of his vulnerability, a new sense of happiness which he had not experienced previously writing "Lay in bed realizing that what I was, was happy. Said the strange word `happiness' and realized that it was there...And I was that." (177.)
This is a journal full of movement, from Merton's daily journeys between the hermitage and the monastery, through his frequent visits to Louisville, to his first ever return visit to New York since entering Gethsamani. There is also the movement of his restless spirit, of his continuing debates with the abbot, the church and the wider society. The rhythm of this movement gives it at times the feeling of a dance, one in which Merton dances very lightly, touching on spiritual masters down through the ages and calling his reader to undertake the same dance in their own life and to join in the general dance of creation.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Merton. Again. 18 Oct 2000
By A. Hogan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Thomas Merton has become, since his absurd death,many thingsto many people. Only with Pope John Paul II, in my estimation, has such a varried and vocal sparring been going on for legacies and interpertations{I actually do not know who will have the more influential leagcy. My guess is merton.}In this, the 5th volume of these magnificent diaries, Merton has begun the transition to hermit,such as it was.Much of the published writings from this period have the smooth polish of an editors hand. Not so with these entries. Merton still writes,to borrow a phrase from Ross Mcdonald, like a slumming angel,and his nuggets of insight into his own foibles, that of his brethren{his abbot, of course, comes off no better here than the previois volumes}comes through almost painfully at times.. His reading list is so varied and prodigiois, that coupled with his correspondence, I cannot fathom how he found time to write,never mind pray,and meditate . Herein I think is the true genius,a word that has become so commonplace that it has lost its power.Mertons powers of concentration must have been extraordinary,his ability to focus on the thing at hand, without losing interest in momentary gifts{the fire-light reflecting through a glass jar of honey, the sound of deer scurrying about in new fallen snow.]The Thomas Merton I encountered here is an adult,believer,long discarding the triumphialism of the newly converted,grwing more at peace. Of course, we know how this part of the journey ends,so reading this again with that in mind makes it all the more pointed,and still retaining its power. HAving read all 7 volumes, I look foward to re-reading them for I believe them to be that good, and certainly worth the time, effort and cost.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Merton! 2 Sep 2000
By LuelCanyon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This fifth volume of Merton's Journals hits a home run, an analogy Thomas Merton would probably relish. I've read volumes 1 through 5, and here Merton hits his stride. The diarist in Merton contributes nearly everything within his vast sight and makes it important and touching. The lengthier review on this page covers the base ground admirably. One of the really interesting aspects of these journals is the inadvertently given bibliography of Merton's own reading material, everything from Elias Canetti to Barth to D. T. Suzuki! These volumes give us a whole and uncompromising look at Merton's innermost sensibilities, apparent in his formal oeuvre, but turned over and examined like a winter leaf in these journals. I think the various editors of these volumes, a different editor for each, deserve high praise for the consistency of tone in their editing, one volume to the next; a job done wisely and well. It is as well a tribute to the consistency of Merton's path over the years. He was a true monk, an authentic thinker in the best tradition, and a heck of a writer. When Thomas Merton writes, he never loses that clear-sky-with-stars timbre of voice, spending his real humility like gold, and awakening all the sleeping people. The more I read these journals the more I miss him. Noble and unforgettable.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Execllent day-by-day summary of the hermitage experience 4 Aug 1998
By John A. Ostenburg (JOstenburg@aol.com) - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The journals of Thomas Merton give us a unique insight into the day-to-day life of a truly extraordinary person and they demonstrate how Merton progressed in his own thinking and spirituality. This volume is particularly insightful because it covers the time during which Merton's hermitage experience became a reality. The daily entries detail the construction of the little concrete building on the hill overlooking the Abbey of Gethsemani first as a conference center where Merton would meet with various visitors, including members of other religious denominations, then as a place where he was allowed to go occasionally for his own spiritual privacy, next as a spot where he could live as a semi-hermit who would spend a day-and-night or two away from the abbey, and finally as Merton's permanent home when he became a full-time hermit. This journal reveals Merton as less frustrated than he appears in the previous volume, in part it must be presumed because Dom James, his ! abbot, seems to have become more sensitive to his desire for greater solitude. It is during this period that Merton reaches his 50th birthday and he writes on several occasions of impending death, almost as though he were anticipating that he would live only a few more years. Reading the daily life of Thomas Merton in his own words, in entries that he did not necessarily intend for viewing by others, provides the very best portrait of this truly complex, this inspired and inspiring man who was and would continue to be the greatest spiritual voice of the 20th century.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Turning toward the world:the pivotal years,Vol 4 22 Feb 2001
By John Diaper - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book illustrates vividly the calms and the storms of living out a life of commitment.There is enough content in the book to effectively encourage the persevering christian who seeks to deepen his or her relationship with Jesus Christ.Notations on the daily life in the monastary,and the relationship Merton had with his fellow monks and superiors,serves to illuminate the fact that here we have no "plaster saint", but man in all his frailty! Merton calls us,through this book,to live out our indiviuality with respect to the tradition from which we come. There is suberb referencing to all literature mentioned throughout the text,and the introduction summarises well the events in Merton's life to which these journals belong.If you are a Christian ,then this book will surely give you the thirst to deepen your relationship with Jesus,through prayer.
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