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

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: SPCK (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: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 256,268 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"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

About the Author

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) is regarded as one of the most influential religious writers of modern times. A Trappist monk, and peace and civil rights activist, his bestselling books include New Seeds of Contemplation and his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, which is also part of the SPCK Classics series.


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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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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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Needed for research ....
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x8c6f7c90) out of 5 stars 18 reviews
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8bbe9ccc) out of 5 stars 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.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b9c5a80) out of 5 stars 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.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8baa7d2c) out of 5 stars 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.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8b9c58c4) out of 5 stars 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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8bcae06c) out of 5 stars Evocative and appealing 2 Aug. 2013
By Joyce - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Merton had rewritten his earlier book on contemplation and was discussing plans to publish it when he died in 1968. Shannon has pulled together the notes of that rewrite for this book. I find Merton's style evocative and appealing, his words still amazingly pertinent. He saw even in the 60s how the wisdom of Eastern traditions interwove with Christianity.

Merton understood contemplation as central to Christ's teaching, and saw it as the road to crucifixion of the exterior self in order to liberate the inner being. In his words, "To praise the contemplative life is not to reject every other form of life, but to seek a solid foundation for every other human striving. Without the silence and recollection of the interior life, man loses contact with his real sources of energy, clarity, and peace."

Merton acknowledges that it demands discipline to be a contemplative in today's world. One suggestion he makes is to take advantage of the early morning hours which the world does not value. "The dawn is by its very nature a peaceful, mysterious, and contemplative time of day . . . a time of new life, new beginning, and therefore important to the spiritual life: for the spiritual life is nothing else but a perpetual interior renewal."
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