SUMMIT TO SHORE: Theologically and philosophically informed eclectic ruminations on everything between summit to shore, especially cycling, hiking and backpacking, kayaking, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, politics, culture, travel, poetry, and creative writing by John Edward Harris, a progressive Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Minister of the Word and Sacrament.
Monday, August 6, 2018
Musings on Merton: The True Self Encounters New Seeds of Contemplation
I first heard of Thomas Merton
(1911-1968) when I was in seminary. That was over thirty five years ago. I did
not hear the name uttered by a seminary professor in a classroom lecture but by
a fellow student during a casual conversation. It took me thirty years before I
started reading Merton and learned firsthand why Merton’s writings have meant
so much to so many.
From new seeds, new gardens grow.
I was already versed in
contemplative prayer and considered myself somewhat of a mystic before I
started reading Merton. When I learned that a Bridges to Contemplative Living with Thomas Merton group was meeting at the nearby St. Joseph Retreat Center, I signed up. I
read Merton’s spiritual autobiography, The Seven Story Mountain, to prepare myself for participating in that group.
Published in 1948 when Merton was thirty-seven years, The Seven Story Mountain
is probably Merton’s best known work and the entry point for many who are drawn
to Merton’s writings.
Little did I know when I signed up
to participate in that Bridges that a
little over four years later I would be enrolled in Pittsburgh Theological Seminary’sSpiritual Formation Certificate Program and attending an intensive Sunday evening through Wednesday noonSpiritual Formation Certificate Program course
entitled “Thomas Merton and the Journey to True Self.”
I was thrilled to learn, near the
conclusion of the course, that one of the two options for the final assignment
was to write a series of four 600-700 word blog posts introducing readers to
four themes from Merton’s New Seeds ofContemplation, one of the two books by Merton we were required to read
prior to attending the class. The other book we were required to read for
class, and spent the most time discussion in class, was Merton’s The New Man.