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New Seeds of Contemplation Paperback – March, 1972

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Editorial Reviews Review

"It can become almost a magic word," Thomas Merton says of contemplation; "or if not magic, then inspirational, which is almost as bad." With these words, Merton takes us through the reality of contemplation, which is, the author says, "life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive. It is spiritual wonder." Above all, contemplation is "awareness of the reality" of the Source, "with a certitude that goes beyond reason and beyond simple faith." As these definitions should suggest, in this 20th-century classic on the contemplative life, as in the best of Merton's work, this Trappist monk wonderfully combines a disciplined and deeply learned intellect with the lyrical passion of the poet. It is this rare combination that makes this book not only informative but also moving. Covering a diverse range of subjects ("Faith," "The Night of the Senses," "Renunciation"), it moves the reader through certain traditional "phases" of contemplation, and gives an idea of what to expect in this spiritual process (including despair and darkness). The book describes, but it also enacts. In its own prose it invites the reader to "cast our awful solemnity to the winds and join in the general dance." --Doug Thorpe


A wonderful book to help young people begin the process of learning theology from primary sources. -- Connect

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 297 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions; Revised edition (March 1972)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081120099X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811200998
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (159 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #463,051 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) is arguably the most influential American Catholic author of the twentieth century. His autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, has millions of copies and has been translated into over fifteen languages. He wrote over sixty other books and hundreds of poems and articles on topics ranging from monastic spirituality to civil rights, nonviolence, and the nuclear arms race.

After a rambunctious youth and adolescence, Merton converted to Roman Catholicism and entered the Abbey of Gethsemani, a community of monks belonging to the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (Trappists), the most ascetic Roman Catholic monastic order.

The twenty-seven years he spent in Gethsemani brought about profound changes in his self-understanding. This ongoing conversion impelled him into the political arena, where he became, according to Daniel Berrigan, the conscience of the peace movement of the 1960's. Referring to race and peace as the two most urgent issues of our time, Merton was a strong supporter of the nonviolent civil rights movement, which he called "certainly the greatest example of Christian faith in action in the social history of the United States." For his social activism Merton endured severe criticism, from Catholics and non-Catholics alike, who assailed his political writings as unbecoming of a monk.

During his last years, he became deeply interested in Asian religions, particularly Zen Buddhism, and in promoting East-West dialogue. After several meetings with Merton during the American monk's trip to the Far East in 1968, the Dali Lama praised him as having a more profound understanding of Buddhism than any other Christian he had known. It was during this trip to a conference on East-West monastic dialogue that Merton died, in Bangkok on December 10, 1968, the victim of an accidental electrocution. The date marked the twenty-seventh anniversary of his entrance to Gethsemani.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

113 of 115 people found the following review helpful By Brad Shorr on December 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
Thomas Merton wrote "Seeds of Contemplation" when he was a young, relatively inexperienced contemplative. "New Seeds" is his reworking of that text, written after twelve years of intense spiritual effort.
Among other things, "New Seeds" is a great companion piece to St. John's "Dark Night of the Soul." I struggled mightily with that book, due to the complexity of thought and of the writing itself. Merton goes through these same stages of spiritual awareness and development in language I found far easier to understand.
But "New Seeds" is not merely a reworking of "Dark Night". I can't judge the value of his insights as they would apply to a true contemplative, but I suspect he offers much. For a worldly person who seeks spiritual growth, there is no question of this book's value.
Merton's major theme is humility. Only through humility can we discover faith. Only through humility can we rid ourselves of the distractions that separate us from God. Materialism, pride, sensuality, and the like are so well accepted in our society that we seldom see on how deeply they disrupt our souls. Merton's uncompromising reflections are a cold slap in the face.
"New Seeds" is also a moving defense of mysticism. God cannot be found through reason alone. He cannot be understood by reading or thinking. In fact, He cannot be understood at all. The emptying that we must do, the shedding of our selfish skins, can only begin when we decide to relinquish our selves to His will. Again, in a materialistic society, such ideas seem absurd; Merton conveys them with a power that makes any other idea seem absurd, even to the most rational reader.
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108 of 115 people found the following review helpful By NotATameLion on March 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
"In order to become myself I must cease to be what I always thought I wanted to be, and in order to find myself I must go out of myself, and in order to live I have to die." (Chapter 7)
As the world moves into a new century, these earnest, seeking, searching, truthful words of Thomas Merton still have the power to make folks examine themselves.
"New Seeds of Contemplation" is one heck of a book. I have yet to encounter a better book on the subject of confronting our false selves--our impostors. Each chapter is absolutely loaded with food for thought; and more than thought...contemplative prayer:
"I wonder if the are twenty men alive in the world now who see things as they really are. That would mean that there were twenty men who were free, who were not dominated or even influenced by any attachment to any created thing or to their own selves or to any gift of God, even to the highest, the most supernaturally pure of His graces. I don't believe there are twenty such men alive in the world. But there must be one or two. They are the ones who are holding everything together and keeping the universe from falling apart." (Chapter 28)
The world (and eternity for that matter) will only be changed as people like those described in the passage above increasingly take their focus off the visible and seek instead the invisible, yet more real, kingdom.
"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:36)
"New Seeds of Contemplation" Is humbling to read. I've spent some time with it now (books like this demand more time than others). It will change those who are willing to interact with the author's Creator while prayerfully reading it. I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone.
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Swing King on February 29, 2004
Format: Paperback
I have a weakness for books pertaining to monastic life, regardless of whether or not that's a Christian or Buddhist source. I have always been drawn to this lifestyle. This book is a revised version of his initial text titled, "Seeds of Contemplation," which might be one of his most read out of everything he has written. Some of the best literature on the nature of self is to be found in the opening chapters of this work. In here we find stunning passages on contemplative spirituality unlike any we have ever seen in the wide variety of Christian bodies of work. There are actually 5 versions of "Seeds", but "New Seeds of Contemplation" is the only one I have read.
I am not Catholic, and I don't claim to understand everything Fr. Merton writes about in these texts. But there is certainly a common denominator here in connection to the contemplative practices of us Zen practitioners and Christian contemplatives like Merton. What I do know of this book is that it attempts to release the sleeping being within us all while waking us up from our spiritually inactive state, fostering an innate and almost numinous experience in all of our spiritual lives. In this work Merton expresses, "Every moment and every event of every man's life on earth plants something in his soul. For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of men. Most of these unnumbered seeds perish and are lost, because men are not prepared to receive them: for such seeds as these cannot spring up anywhere except in the good soil of freedom, spontaneity and love."
Wasn't that a wonderful passage? Come take a journey with Father Merton.
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