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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful guide to Saint John of the Cross and to contemplation
This book has to be my favourite Thomas Merton book to date. I have been in seminary and spent time in a monastery, but still I could n't get past the first few chapters of St John of the Cross books. Now, reading this book I am starting to understand in a balanced and clear way what St John of the Cross, and ultimately what Christian mysticism and contemplation are all...
Published on 10 Oct. 2010 by Clive Smart

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Introduction to Mystical theology
This is a book which Thomas Merton wanted to write to explain the theological background to his experiences in mysticism after he entered the Cistercian monastery of Gethsemani, Kentucky.That said, it is heavy going. He read widely in the works of St John of the Cross, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and the Cistercian 12th century writers. It helped that he was well-grounded in...
Published on 7 May 2010 by Desmond J. Keenan


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful guide to Saint John of the Cross and to contemplation, 10 Oct. 2010
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This book has to be my favourite Thomas Merton book to date. I have been in seminary and spent time in a monastery, but still I could n't get past the first few chapters of St John of the Cross books. Now, reading this book I am starting to understand in a balanced and clear way what St John of the Cross, and ultimately what Christian mysticism and contemplation are all about. Merton so clearly and intelligently expounds the role of the intellect and the role of faith on the journey. He enters into the mindset of St John and has clearly walked his way with a real passion. He relates it all back to us in modern day parlance. A book that does n't just heat up the head, so to speak, but that puts fire in the heart too. It will make you want to dig out your Saint John of the Cross books and re-read them and most importantly, spend more time with the Lord in silent contemplation. Time spent with Merton, is time well spent!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Introduction to Mystical theology, 7 May 2010
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This review is from: Ascent to Truth (Paperback)
This is a book which Thomas Merton wanted to write to explain the theological background to his experiences in mysticism after he entered the Cistercian monastery of Gethsemani, Kentucky.That said, it is heavy going. He read widely in the works of St John of the Cross, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and the Cistercian 12th century writers. It helped that he was well-grounded in Latin at an English school.For St John of the Cross, his favourite author, he quotes from Peer's translation. Of modern works he quotes Jacques Maritain to whom he acknowledges his debt.
The question of progress in prayer arises after a person has learned all the usual prayers and repeated them and would like to go further.The vast majority of people are satisfied with simple repetitive vocal prayer like saying the rosary.
Merton himself was one who felt called to go further. He discovered too that some Cistercian abbots encouraged monks to try to develop interior prayer.
He favours the path of darkness as expounded by St John of the Cross, and like St John of the Cross he bases his treatise on the theology of St Thomas Aquinas. St John of the Cross is a bit off-putting to say the least, unlike St Teresa of Avila but St Therese of the Child Jesus followed his teaching closely.
It is hardly the best introduction to the subject though philosophically and doctrinally absolutely correct
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Merton's key theological work, 8 April 2013
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gille liath (US of K) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ascent to Truth (Paperback)
Some misleading comments here, starting with the description 'A Study of St John of the Cross'. The edition I bought does not carry that subtitle, which I suspect is not original. It is certainly not an accurate description of the book, which aims as he puts it 'to give a clear and concrete idea of the prelude to mysticism and to lay down a few fundamental principles without which infused contemplation cannot be thoroughly understood'. It is not in any way a crib or study guide for John of the Cross.

It is probably his most technical, philosophical and theological work. In it he attempts to establish that reason and the conceptual apparatus of the Church are essential aspects of Christian contemplation. Yes, he makes frequent reference to The Ascent of Mount Carmel, as the standout book on the subject in the Catholic tradition; he also avails himself freely of excerpts from St Teresa, St Thomas Aquinas and various others. In other words - and uncharacteristically for Merton - this is very much a defence of orthodoxy. Of all his books, this is the one for which he might have wanted a Nihil Obstat; it still doesn't have one, though.

I read it as a response to those, common in Merton's day and probably more so now, who believe that vagueness is a spiritual quality, and that mysticism should have no truck with analytical concepts or with organised religion. Merton absolutely napalms this attitude, showing it to be ill-informed, ill-considered and ultimately sterile.

The obvious question though, and the flaw in the argument, is: what about other religions then? Merton refers to 'Oriental Mysticism' a number of times, in a way that suggests his attitude is generally favourable; but I have the impression that he himself had not worked out, at this stage, where it stood in his scheme. If assent to Catholic doctrine is essential to true mysticism, it does not appear that Hindhus or Buddhists can be true mystics.

Hard going? Well, it depends what you are comparing it to. This is, by its nature, difficult stuff; there is no way it can be made accessible at the 'For Dummies' level. Bearing that in mind, I think the exposition is admirable: systematic, cogently reasoned and clearly written. It is certainly a lot easier to read and to follow than Mount Carmel. However anyone looking for a purely discursive book as an aid to meditation or prayer should look elsewhere.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 7 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Ascent to Truth (Paperback)
Great book worth of reading
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