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Heretic Blood: The Spiritual Geography of Thomas Merton Hardcover – 1 Jun 2000
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The comparison with William Blake's life was also a uniquely covered topic and I was glad to see the similarities in their lives.
Also the clear deliniation of Merton as a heretic was interesting and helped to explain how becoming a Catholic saved Merton from destructive behaviors, how he needed the protection of the monestary's structure as an orphan and also from living in so many places in Europe and in the United States... he needed a physical "center"....
Well worth the read!
Higgins is an advocate of Merton even as he exposes Merton's failings and flaws. Higgins refers to 50-something Merton's affair with the 25-year-old student nurse as "an honest erotic encounter" (p. 231) a few pages after he has quoted Merton's declaration of the contrary: "I suppose really what my nature, in its hunger, really secretly planned was to have her as a kind of mistress while I continued to live as a hermit.
Could anything be more dishonest?" (p. 227, footnote omitted).
Higgins recognizes the often overlooked extremism of Merton, who tended to dramatize his own situation. For example, "Merton drew more than a few extravagant comparisons between his life and the plight of America's blacks. [He declared that as a monk he was deprived 'of human and civil rights.'] Even allowing for Merton's penchant for hyperbole and righteous indignation, the comparison of the American black's plight with that of a Trappist is a bit much" (pp. 179-180). This extremism is also evidenced in "The Seven Storey Mountain" where he wrote, "the culture of the white men is not worth the dirt in Harlem's gutters" (p. 175. footnote omitted).
Also useful is the examination of Merton as "anti-poet" and "anti-monk," as well as excerpts from Merton's correspondence with feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether, who passed as a practicing Catholic while she attended a more with-it Episcopalian congregation with Merton's blessing.
This reviewer disagrees with Higgins about the "heretic" Merton's "personal holiness," but highly recommends Higgins's compilation of information so helpful in understanding Merton.