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Merton's Palace of Nowhere Paperback – August 1, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 157 pages
  • Publisher: Ave Maria Press; Revised edition (August 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0877930414
  • ISBN-13: 978-0877930419
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #130,254 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"This one door is the door of the Palace of Nowhere. It is the door of God. It is our very self, our true self called by God to perfect union with himself. And it is through this door we secretly enter in responding to the saving call to 'Come with me to the Palace of Nowhere where all the many things are one.'"

About the Author

James Finley is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Santa Monica, California. Finley spent a number of years under the spiritual direction of Thomas Merton, and they were contemporaries during Finley's six years at the Abbey of Gethsemani. In addition to his clinical practice, Finley leads contemplative retreats and teaches throughout the United States and Canada, and he is the author of many books.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 22 customer reviews
This book is very well written.
All spiritual wanderers will find this book a rich resource for the growth of the soul and a spiritual discipline.
Clarke Oler
I read but a few pages at a time and spend long periods letting it's meaning trickle in.
W. Relph

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

83 of 84 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
Apart from the gospels and new testament,this is,THE,most rewarding book i have ever read.It stresses with clarity the fundamental importance of becoming aware of our true identity in christ,and equally important of becoming aware of our false self,the self rooted in the ego.The book is a wake up call for all those who would see the spiritual life as a process of self agrandizement.With it's raw honesty and gentleness one gradually becomes ever more aware of just how important the issue of identity is in the spiritual life,and the huge importance merton ascribed to it.This book is a threat to the ego and it's hollow and false little world,that it creates in it's rivalry with god.I advise all christians to read and reread this beautiful book,even if at times,it becomes a little tough.
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62 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Mark Nicholson on January 29, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I would agree with the other reviewer that this book is the most rewarding book I have read to date. I'd been interested in reading Merton and learning about his thought for years since so many of my spiritual "mentors" were themselves "mentored" by Merton. But he was so prolific and so deep I wasn't sure where to start and was looking for a kind of "Merton for Dummies" book! This book is that and so much more.

Sometimes people's gift is in creative, original thought (Merton in this case). And sometimes people's gift is to be able to understand another's thoughts/teaching and to synthesize them into a coherent whole. This is Finley's gift. I don't know that I've ever read such a well laid out book that took me bit by bit in a logical order through a complex subject allowing me to safely arrive at the end (where if you'd tried to start me there I might have misunderstood it).

I can't highly recommend this book enough if you are interested in spirituality.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Alan H. Baldwin on June 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
Finley's book is quite a gem. As someone who has been attracted to Merton's work and yet find his writing not to my taste (except his journals) this book has been a wonderful synthesis of Merton's theme of the True Self. One gets the sense while reading that you are privy to one man's soulful, prayerful, life long passion to understand and distill Merton. My consuming self and brain wants to get through the text and yet the words and tone gently, yet persuasively nudge me to slow down and digest this wonderful bounty Finley has penned.

One can feel and sense the care that went into every word. There is so much here for the serious Christian or anyone for that matter who desires a more intimate connection with themselves and thus the divine. One of my double underlined, favorite sections from page 91:

The spiritual life must be approached with our right hand not knowing what our left hand is doing...Only with this detachment from our own progress, and only in freedom from all techniques that feed the birds of appetite, can we hope to find our true self in God. Merton writes:

"The inner self is precisely that self which cannot be tricked or manipulated by anyone, even the devil. He (the true self) is like a very shy wild animal that never appears at all whenever an alien presence is at hand, and comes out only when all is peaceful, in silence, when he is untroubled and alone. He cannot be lured by anyone or anything, because he responds to no lure except that of divine freedom."

Highly recommended and worthy of the high praise!
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Bill Groves on February 10, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I can't recommend this book enough for those interested in gaining a solid foundation from which they can build a genuine spiritual life. I have a master's degree in divinity from a Catholic seminary and wish I'd found this book a lot sooner. It's not a new book, published in 1978, but is truly timeless in the truths it so clearly reveals in such an orderly and readable manner. Thomas Merton, I'm sure, is very happy with this humble, gentle and powerful synthesis of his teaching. Basically Mr. Finley clarifies the tremendous danger of creating false images of ourselves that trap us in our spiritual growth, the goes on to help us free ourselves from these "idols". By humbly emptying ourselves of self images and meaningless self-serving, egoistic obsessions we can discover our true self rooted in and saturated by the person of Christ, our true self. I'd personally recommend accompanying this book with a practice of Centering Prayer (check out or .org).. The combination of the two could turn your spiritual life around for the better.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Cecil J. Thompson on April 1, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Merton's Palace of Nowhere is a profound text. It explains a spiritual dichotomy that clarifies the basis of some of our most serious moral and spiritual dilemmas. Many times people of good conscience wonder why they get sucked into the high demands and pressures of everyday life. We find ourselves in tireless pursuit of wealth and success as the road to happiness and fulfillment. For some, this happens and for others it doesn't. Those who reach their goals of material success and its concomitant of social prestige and self aggrandizement, sometimes, find that the high gloss and glamour is short-lived; the successes remain, but they lose their luster. The exhilaration goes away and what we thought was happiness fizzles; sadness kicks in and a longing for more sends existence into a tail spin. So we find ourselves being consumed by an appetite for "things" and outward fulfillment without feeling fulfilled. When we read this book, James Finley brings to light the spiritual dichotomy of the "self." That is, the "false self" and "true self" in Thomas Merton's spirituality. Finley lays out successfully that according to Merton it is the "false self" that constantly craves outward fulfillment and seeks happiness from external realities. This a side of ourselves incapable of turning inward. It is a "self" linked to disobedience and, according to Finley, it constitutes "the darkness that has been redeemed by Christ but which we must constantly with effort bring to his healing gaze." So we get to know this self pretty well through the beautiful and solid work James Finley does in this text. Also, he does an excellent job at exposing its foundation, which is critical! Then, Finley takes us through an explication of the "true self.Read more ›
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