REFLECTING ON THE 2015 CILIP CONFERENCE
Written by Martin Mullin, Head of UK Acquisitions. CILIP is the Chartered […]
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The seventh and final volume of Thomas Merton's journals finds him exploring new territory, both spiritual and geographic, in the last great journey prior to his untimely death. Traveling in the United States and the Far East, Merton enjoys a new freedom that brings with it a rich mix of solitude, spirited friendship, and interaction with monks of other traditions.
In his last days in the United States, Merton continues to follow the tumultuous events closing the 1960s, including the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy. Meanwhile, with theblessing of his new abbot, Merton travels to monasteries in New Mexico and among the redwoods of Northern California, keeping his journal all the while. In these travels, as well as on a later trip to Alaska, he gains a better understanding of his eremitical yearnings and begins to see a way to reconcile his conflicting desires for solitude and fellowship.
When Merton wins approval to participate in a meeting of monastic superiors ofthe Far East in Bangkok, Thailand, his life enters its most thrilling period. Arriving in Calcutta, Merton is heartbroken by the poverty of the many beggars; in New Delhi and Dharamsala, he makes contact with local Buddhists, including the Dalai Lama. Recognizing each other as kindred spirits, Merton and the Dalai Lama speak from the heart like old friends.
In Bangkok at the beginning of December 1968, awaiting the beginning of the conference, Merton pens a letter home: "I think of you all on this Feast Day and with Christmas approaching I feel homesick for Gethsemani." Tragically, Christmas Day finds Merton back home after all. Electrocuted accidentally in his Bangkok room, Merton is returned to his beloved abbey to be laid to rest in a grave overlooking the woods so familiar to him from his twenty-seven years of monastic life at Gethsemani.
Thirty years after his death, the contributions of Thomas Merton remain as vital as ever. Completing the published Journals of Thomas Merton, "The Other Side of the Mountain conveys the intense spiritual exploration and powerful lessons that filled his short life.
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