Born: January 31, 1915
Prades, Pyrénées-Orientales, France
Died: December 10, 1968
Samut Prakan, Thailand
Thomas Merton spent 27 years in Nelson County, Kentucky as a Trappist Monk in the Abbey of Gethsemani. He authored more than 70 books covering a wide range of genres including autobiography, biography, essays, poetry, novel, and letters. He wrote numerous poems and articles with a wide variety of topics, including religious spirituality, non-violence, social justice, interfaith understanding, comparative religion, and nuclear proliferation.
Most notable of his publications were his best-selling autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain (1948) which sold over one million copies and has been translated into fifteen languages, Seeds of Contemplation (New Directions, 1949), and The Sign of Jonas (Harcourt Brace and Company, 1953). He published over 2,000 poems during his career. The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton was published posthumously (New Directions, 1977).
He is widely considered to be the most important American Catholic writer of the twentieth century. He was known as an activist who considered race and peace the two most urgent issues of his time. He was an ardent supporter of Martin Luther King and the nonviolent civil rights movement, which he cited as being “. . . the greatest example of Christian faith in action in the social history of the United States.”
During his time, he was considered to be at the forefront of a world-wide ecumenical movement. His role as a religious thinker and social critic is often compared to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Flannery O’Connor, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
He attended Cambridge University for one year in 1933. He entered Columbia University in January 1935 and graduated with a B.A. in English in 1938. In late 1938, he made a religious conversion and was received into the Catholic Church at Corpus Christi Church. After graduation he stayed at Columbia, taking graduate courses toward his M.A. In 1940, he completed his master’s thesis “On Nature and Art in William Blake.” While at Columbia he studied under some remarkable teachers of literature, including Mark Van Doren, Daniel C. Walsh, and Joseph Wood Krutch. From 1940-1941 he taught English at St. Bonaventure College, a Catholic Franciscan school in Allegany, New York. In December 1941, he entered the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani at New Haven, Kentucky as a Trappist Monk and remained there for the next 27 years until his accidental death from electrocution in 1968 in Bangkok, Thailand where he was attending a conference of Asian Benedictines and Cistercians.
The Seven Storey Mountain. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1948.
The Sign of Jonas. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1953.
Day of a Stranger. Salt Lake City, UT: Peregrine Smith, 1981.
Bread in the Wilderness. Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1953.
The Living Bread. New York: Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, 1956.
Praying the Psalms. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1956.
He Is Risen. Niles, IL: Argus Communications, 1973.
Exile Ends in Glory: The Life of a Trappistine, Mother M. Berchmans, O.C.S.O. Milwaukee, WI: Bruce Publishing Company, 1948.
What are These Wounds?: The Life of a Cistercian Mystic, Saint Lutgarde of Aywières. Dublin/London: Clonmore and Reynolds, 1948.
The Last of the Fathers: Saint Bernard of Clairvaux and the Encyclical Letter, Doctor Mellifluus. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1954.
Contemplation and Meditations:
Seeds of Contemplation. Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1949.
The Ascent to Truth. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1951.
Disputed Questions. New York: Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1960. New Seeds of Contemplation. London, UK: Burns & Oates, 1962.
Raids on the Unspeakable. Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1966. Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander. New York: DoubleDay, 1966. Contemplative Prayer. New York: Herder and Herder, 1969.
Spiritual Direction and Meditation and What is Contemplation? Weathampstead-Hertfordshire, UK: Anthony Clarke Books, 1975. [1st published 1950]
The Way of Chuang Tzu. Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1965.
Mystics and Zen Masters. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1967.
Zen and the Birds of Appetite. Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1968.
The Secular Journal of Thomas Merton. New York: Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, 1959.
The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton. Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1973.
Woods, Shore and Desert: A Notebook, May 1968. Santa Fe, NM: Museum of New Mexico Press, 1982.
Cassian and the Fathers: Notes for Conferences Given in the Choir Novitiate. Abbey of Gethsemani. New Haven, KY: Abbey of Gesthamni, 2005.
The Other Side of the Mountain: The End of the Journey; the Journals of Thomas Merton, Volume 7, 1967-1968. New York: HarperOne, 1998.
On The Banks of Monk’s Pond: The Thomas Merton/Jonathan Greene Correspondence, With Essays by Jonathan Greene. Ed. Jonathan Greene. Frankfort, KY: Broadstone Books, 2004.
Papagni, Mario. The Cold War Letters of Thomas Merton. M.A. Thesis: Spring Hill College, 2006.
Thomas Merton: A Life In Letters. Eds. William H. Shannon and Christine M. Bochen. New York: HarperOne, 2008.
Thomas Merton: A Life In Letters. Eds. William H. Shannon and Christine M. Bochen. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2010.
Monastic, Church and Spiritual Life:
The Waters of Siloe. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1949.
No Man Is an Island. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1955.
Silence in Heaven. London, UK: Thames & Hudson, 1956.
The Silent Life. New York: Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, 1957.
Thoughts in Solitude. New York: Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, 1958.
The Wisdom of the Desert: Sayings From the Desert Fathers of the Fourth Century. Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1960.
Spiritual Direction and Meditation. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1960.
The New Man. New York: Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, 1961.
Life and Holiness. New York: Herder and Herder, 1963.
Seasons of Celebration. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1965.
Gethsemani: A Life of Praise. New Haven, KY: Abbey of Gethsemani, 1966.
Contemplation in a World of Action. New York: Doubleday. 1971.
Cistercian Life. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Book Services, 1974.
Merton, Thomas; Hart, Patrick. The Monastic Journey. London, UK: Sheldon Press, 1977.
Merton, Thomas; Burton, Naomi; Hart, Patrick (1979). Love and Living. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1979.
Merton, Thomas; Daggy, Robert E. (1981). Introductions East and West: The Foreign Prefaces of Thomas Merton. Oakland, CA: Unicorn Press, 1981.
My Argument with the Gestapo: A Macaronic Journal. New York: Doubleday, 1969.
Essays & Misc.:
The Behavior of Titans. Norfolk, CT: New Directions. 1961.
Merton, Thomas; Hart, Patrick. The Literary Essays of Thomas Merton. Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1981.
Merton, Thomas (1992). Thomas Merton: Spiritual Master. Ed. Laurence S. Cunningham. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1992.
Thirty Poems. Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1944.
A Man in the Divided Sea. Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1946.
The Tears of the Blind Lions. Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1949.
The Strange Islands: Poems. Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1957.
Selected Poems. Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1959.
Emblems of a Season of Fury. Norfolk, CT: New Directions. 1963.
On the Banks of Monks Pond. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1989 (first published Monks Pond: No. 1, 1968).
Cables to the Ace. Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1968.
The Geography of Lograire. Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1969.
The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton. Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1977.
In the Dark Before Dawn: New Selected Poems of Thomas Merton. Norfolk, CT: New Directions. 2005.
Seeds of Destruction. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 1964. Gandhi on Non-Violence. Norfolk, CT: New Directions. 1965.
Faith and Violence. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1968.
The Non-Violent Alternative. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1980.
The Hidden Ground of Love: Letters on Religious Experience and Social Concerns (Letters, 1). New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1985.
Opening the Bible. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1986.
A Vow of Conversation: Journals 1964-1965. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1988.
Thomas Merton in Alaska: The Alaskan Conferences, Journals and Letters. New York: New Directions, 1988.
The Road to Joy: Letter to New and Old Friends (Letters, II). New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1989.
The School of Charity: Letters on Religious Renewal and Spiritual Direction (Letters, III). New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1990.
The Courage for Truth: Letters to Writers (Letters, IV). New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1993.
Witness to Freedom: Letters in Times of Crisis (Letters, V). New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1994.
Run to the Mountain: The Story of a Vocation (Journals, I: 1939-1941). San Francisco: Harper, 1995.
Entering the Silence: Becoming a Monk and Writer (Journals, II: 1941-1952). New York: HarperCollins, 1996.
A Search for Solitude: Pursuing the Monk’s True Life (Journals, III: 1952-1960). San Francisco: Harper, 1996.
Turning Toward the World: The Pivotal Years (Journals, IV: 1960-1963). San Francisco: Harper, 1996.
Dancing in the Water of Life: Seeking Peace in the Hermitage (Journals, V: 1963- 1965). New York: HarperCollins, 1997.
Learning to Love: Exploring Solitude and Freedom (Journals VI: 1966-1967). San Francisco: Harper, 1997.
The Other Side of the Mountain: The End of the Journey (Journals VII: 1967-1968. New York: HarperOne, 1998.
The Intimate Merton: His Life from His Journals. San Francisco, CA: HarperOne, 1999.
Dialogues with Silence. New York: HarperOne, 2001.
Love and Living. New York: Harcourt Trade Publishers, 2002.
The Inner Experience. San Francisco: Harper, 2003.
Seeking Paradise: The Spirit of the Shakers. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2003.
Peace in a Post-Christian Era. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004.