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Waters Of Siloe (Harvest/HBJ Book) Paperback – October 9, 1979


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Waters Of Siloe (Harvest/HBJ Book) + The Sign of Jonas + Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (Image Classics)
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Product Details

  • Series: Harvest/HBJ Book
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (October 9, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156949547
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156949545
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #642,609 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was born in France and came to live in the United States at the age of 24. He received several awards recognizing his contribution to religious study and contemplation, including the Pax Medal in 1963, and remained a devoted spiritualist and a tireless advocate for social justice until his death in 1968. The Sign of Jonas was originally published in 1953.

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

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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By LuelCanyon on August 21, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is surely one of the warmest, most intelligent, most readable works of scholarship ever composed! The not inconsequential history of the Cistercian Order, the men and women that have peopled it like robins arriving and defining their eternal Spring, and at the same time, the sacred history of one man's soul are all found here in a text beautifully composed with order, entrancing prose, and the humility of true faith. This is my favorite Merton book, I think because it is so full of his new love! Written in 1949, "The Waters of Siloe" is rivaled only by "The Sign of Jonas" for its beauty and depth of meaning. Layers of beauty and solitude pervade every page, taking the reader into Merton's own heart, really, into the deep still water of his life as a priest and Trappist monk. Merton's astounding facility as a writer is always subordinate to the searching of his own heart, so that even while he writes like a prophet, he plays at no pretense of knowledge or superior understanding, keeping his formidable gifts focused on the object of his love and study, his Christ and the monastic vocation. Such a delicate balance only shows forth his literary genius all the more, yet leaves such a sweetness in the heart that one wants to give up all literature for the love of God, whatever one's natural inclincations, whatever one's tradition. Merton's is a rare and matchless talent, the gift of true understanding, really, and never used more wisely or more warmly than in "The Waters of Siloe". If you are a seeker who desires to know what it is to enter upon the path, to suffer and be glad, read this book. There isn't another like it.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By nivard@gateway.net on January 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
Originally published in 1949, this will probably be the most entertaining source the otherwise uninformed reader will initially have on the history of the Trappist monastic order. Written by the order's most famous champion, Merton's talents for story telling come through to make this a truly engrossing tale of heroics in the face of constant adversity by some very remarkable men over several centuries. There is a wonderful lack of religious pontificating on the part of the author, however that message is abundantly clear in the examples of the lives reported on. An especially engossing story is found in the tale of the monastery lost to the Communists during the early 1940's in China, and the death march of the captive monks. If there is any fault in the book, it is the lack of further detail expected when so much history is crowded into one volumne. An entertaining read and a worthwhile addition to any library.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Steven H. Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on August 22, 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was a Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky, as well as a best-selling writer, poet, social activist, and student of comparative religion. Tragically, he was accidentally electrocuted while in Thailand at a conference of Christian and non-Christian monks. He wrote in the Prologue to this 1949 book, "If you want to understand why the monks lead the life they do, you will have to ask, first of all, What is their aim? One purpose of this book is to answer that question and tell who the Trappists are and where they came from and what they think they are doing."

He suggests, "That is what is called the contemplative life: a life that is devoted before all else to the knowledge and love of God and to the love of other men in Him and for His sake." (Pg. 18) Later, he adds, "Contemplation and action necessarily have their part in every religious Rule. The two must always go together, because Christian perfection is nothing else but ... perfect love of God and of men." (Pg. 31)

He states, "The monk is a man who has given up everything in order to possess everything." (Pg. 39) He clarifies, however, "Let us assume that you could fill a few monasteries with men quite capable of sleeping on bare boards for five hours a night, fasting until evening every day in Lent on top of a long workday... The question is, would this regime be the best means for forming CONTEMPLATIVES? The aim of the Cistercian life is something more than mere athletic endurance." (Pg. 133)

He concludes, "For the monk has only one thing... that he can depend on: and that is not a thing, it is God. That is the key to the Cistercian life, the secret of its austerity and its penances. The monk becomes poor... But the only reason why he makes himself poor ...
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5 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Marilla J. Whitney on February 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
While agreeing with the previous reviews about the extraordinary amount of material here and Merton's ability to write narrative in a way that engages in an entertaining way, I have one problem with the book. He frames it around the premise that when Cistercians/Trappists are faithful to their carism as a contemplative order they flourish and when they are unfaithful, they decline. Simplistic enough to remind one of the similar premise of the Deuteronomic Historian, this pattern cannot truly cover all eventualities. Surely there are times when they failed though being faithful - especially the monks of Our Lady of Consolation in China. Also, his remarks about Communism here and in his lectures really reflect American thought in the late 40s and 50s to a surprising degree considering the later Merton.
The photos and monastic glossary at the end are also useful. A good book but not as rigorous intellectually as one would expect from a man of Merton's background.
Actually, the inspiring stories of the hardships faced by the new foundations in the US were enough to carry me through committing myself to solitary life in poverty in a very beat up house. When I made the comparison to a monk friend, he replied, "But they were men." Please, Father, the were COMMUNITIES of men. The book shows what such groups with God's help can accomplish. And eventually I fixed the house enough.
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