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New Seeds of Contemplation Paperback – 1972
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"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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Top Customer Reviews
A great resource to accompany this book is given to us by James Finley, a former monk at Gethsemane at the time Merton was there, and from whom he received frequent Spiritual Direction. In his talks that come to us in the series, Thomas Merton's Path to the Palace of Nowhere, Finley gives first-hand knowledge of the value of Merton's instruction as well as a comprehensive plan and purpose of using such a book like this and the scope of what it entails, like a journal of thoughts: forming a meditative exercise taken from that which is derived from reading and reflecting on Merton’s words. What he's saying is: take a year to reflect on Merton's thought. Journal it as you go. Do it again the next year or so. Compare the journals and examine your new understanding derived from another reading. Keep doing this. You can spend a life-time with it! You can continue to grow with it! I believe the substance of what he offers here is found also in his book, Merton's Palace of Nowhere. I am not sure. I have bought the book, but have not spent much time with it yet.
Similarly, I mention that in the Introduction of the book Humility Of Heart by Father Cajetan Mary da Bergamo, it talks about the advantage of using any great book for two or three years as a meditation book. The human mind can be so distracted or unstable at times and can need more time than we imagine to be able to grasp great truths and ideas and integrate them practically into our everyday lives. The suggestion that two or three years spent with the works of a great Master, digesting it fully but little by little, should not seem out of the question. And so, I apply the advice given there to this work of Merton, that "We never get a proper hold of a great spiritual doctrine until we have lived in it and been saturated by it. The soul must soak in the brine until it has become wholly impregnated with its qualities." It is a good teaching from which we can all learn. Merton has provided the brine. We must soak in it.
In the Spiritual Life, the goal is always God: God possessing us and us possessing God. This means there's a lot in our lives that must undergo scrutiny. This means that there are things that should or must be eliminated. In the process, there are things that must be gained. This has to include sanctification, the path the saints travelled. Merton tells us, "for me, to be a saint is to be myself." That is a long path for most of us. Therefore, sanctity is "finding out who I am and of discovering my true self." So, to reach the point where we seek the ultimate goal of life, means to have or find and enter a complex path which Merton calls "Integrity" and explains, "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," not much different from what Jesus tells us in the gospel, "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life?" (Mt 16:25-26). All of this takes time! We must give it the time it deserves. Merton will teach us, slowly! He will give us the principles we need to live this out. The most significant gem that I have found in this book is under the heading of "Mental Prayer." It's worth making a copy of the few pages and carrying around with us. It's food and instruction that we can never tire of receiving. It's something that, even when we are sure what he is saying there, it is worth going back to many times throughout the year.
Maybe two or three years are not enough! Maybe there are things that each of us can find in this great work that we must spend a life with! That's what Finley suggests!
This book does not compare to his book “The Seven Story Mountain.” I felt The Seven Story Mountain was an inspiring work that was easy to read, and I just loved that book and it inspired me to read this book.
But, I found the content of this book to be convoluted and difficult to follow at times. On many occasions, Merton would go on and on about a particular topic, he felt strongly about, and that became very tiresome, but keep in mind that Thomas Merton was a young writer, when he wrote this book, so that might explain why so much of this book was long winded. I also felt Merton was a bit angry or disappointed with the church’s understanding or perceptions of a contemplative life, and he had an axe to grind.
I think Thomas Merton is a true scholar and has a lot of work that is stellar, so I would encourage people to look at some of his other books.
The depth of Merton's spiritual understanding is difficult to grasp. His words are soothing as a pool of cool water. I want to swim in them for hours.
"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 soil of freedom, spontaneity and love." ~ Thomas Merton
In New Seeds of Contemplation Merton takes us to deeper levels in our spiritual walk, teaching us about faith and humility, thoughtfully helping us to find our true identity in Christ. If you are on a serious spiritual growth path, seeking a clearer understanding of your relationship to God, this is the book for you.
My feeble words fail when trying to describe the magnificence of Thomas Merton's writing. Poetic, transcending, life-changing, mesmerizing, core-cutting, astounding, incredibly perfect, a true gift from God. It leaves me almost breathless... Always wanting more.
The highest of recommendations from my bookshelf. READ THIS BOOK!