Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was a Trappist monk, poet, writer, linguist, pacifist, theologian, activist priest, and prophetic figure. Merton’s books deal with spirituality, social justice, civil rights, and resistance to war.
Merton’s family were Quakers. They lived in England in 1920’s, where Merton studied Italian and French at Cambridge University. He received an MA in literature from Columbia University in 1939. He studied theology and was ordained a priest in 1949. Merton then entered a monastery to become a contemplative monk and also to protest against the materialism and capitalism in U.S. culture.
He studied comparative religions, particularly Hinduism, Zen Buddhism, the Sufi tradition of Islam, and the Chinese writer, Chuang Tzu. Merton bridged the spiritual traditions of the West and the East. Merton’s autobiography, “Seven Storey Mountain (1948),” became a best-seller that made him known to millions of readers. The hardback edition of his autobiography sold over 600,000 copies.
Merton was a pacifist and wrote against the war in Vietnam. His superiors ordered him in 1962 to cease writing about war and peace.
Merton said. “The closer one comes to God, the less one can understand God.”
Martin Luther King Jr. and Merton saw the American nation as sick and troubled, Kennedy and Merton saw social progress and economic justice as being intertwined. A deadly Venn diagram.