THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN by Thomas Merton

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN

The Journals of Thomas Merton, Vol. VII: 1967-1968
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KIRKUS REVIEW

This last volume in the series of Merton’s published journals, edited by his secretary and friend, Brother Patrick Hart, records the far-flung thoughts and travels of the intrepid Trappist monk during the final 14 months of his unexpectedly shortened life. By the opening date of these journal entries, Oct. 18, 1967, Merton had been living for several years as a hermit, though still part of the monastic community of Gethsemani, in Kentucky. The paradoxical outcome of Merton’s interdependent talents for writing and spirituality was a nagging tension between the fame that befell him for his books and the solitude he needed for his spiritual nurture. After some opening reflections on monastic politics, Merton’s entries turn to what would become his final quest for optimal solitude, in trips to New Mexico, northern California, Alaska, and finally, courtesy of an invitation to attend a meeting of monastic superiors in Bangkok, to Asia, where he enjoyed three memorable interviews with the Dalai Lama. The form and content of the entries varies as much as the travels, including newly written poems by Merton himself, references to books he was reading—by Kierkegaard, Hesse, George Steiner, Foucault, Anaãs Nin, among many others—discussion of current events, from the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. to the remarriage of Jackie Kennedy, and, toward the end, extensive quotes from Hindu and Buddhist spiritual masters. Many of the entries show the hand of the accomplished writer, such as one, a month before Merton’s death, on Calcutta, whose “massive poverty and exhaustion” revealed “the innocence of despair.” Merton saw Asia through the idea of its spirituality and found there, at life’s end, what he in turn left as part of his own legacy: an opening onto a vast spiritual expanse that, beyond all self-expressive need, “can afford to be silent, unnoticed, undiscovered.”

Pub Date: July 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-06-065486-4
Page count: 384pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1998




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