No Man Is an Island

by Thomas Merton

Hardcover, 2003




No Man Is an Island is a collection of 16 essays in which Thomas Merton plumbs aspects of human spirituality. Merton treats the "basic verities on which the spiritual life depends." Essay themes include hope, conscience, sacrifice, charity, sincerity, mercy and silence. The work is threaded through with Merton's deep awareness that we are all called to "live not for ourselves but for others." The first essay, "Love Can Be Kept Only by Being Given Away," is a spiritual classic. This volume is a stimulating series of spiritual reflections which will prove helpful for all struggling to find the meaning of human existence and to live the richest, fullest and noblest life.


Barnes & Noble Books (2003), Edition: Reprint, 264 pages


½ (118 ratings; 3.9)

User reviews

LibraryThing member StephenBarkley
No Man is an Island is a reflection on the spiritual life. I'm aware that by using the word "spiritual," some assume "otherworldly." This couldn't be further from the truth. Merton has the entire person in mind—the person in relationship to God. He is concerned with our "integration in the
Show More
mystery of Christ" (xxii).

The range of topics Merton covers is broad. He deals with everything from Love to Conscience, Solitude to Vocation, Intention to Charity. You can tell by reading these chapters that he has lived out his thoughts and ideas. He drills deep into human nature as he examines every aspect of our being in the light of God.

This book makes for great spiritual reading. I found that the best way to read it was to take it in small portions. To rush would be to miss his wisdom. I found his insight beneficial especially when I saw the tendencies he described in my own life. It takes time to make these discoveries.

My only frustration with Merton is the influence of Eastern Philosophy on his work. A good example of this is his words on Asceticism:

In order to spiritualize our lives and make them pleasing to God, we must become quiet. The peace of a soul that is detached from all things and from itself is the sign that our sacrifice is truly acceptable to God. (108)

In a few places like these, he makes the spiritual life sound like something Jesus certainly didn't experience. Jesus, who cried at Lazarus' tomb, who braided a whip to drive out money changers from the temple, and who begged God to relieve him of his burden, was anything but dispassionate!

That said, this volume is abundant in material to enrich the spiritual life of any thoughtful Christ follower.
Show Less
LibraryThing member LTW
A recapitulation of his earlier work Seeds of Contemplation, this collection of sixteen essays plumbs aspects of human spirituality. Merton addresses those in search of enduring values, fulfillment, and salvation in prose that is, as always, inspiring and compassionate. “A stimulating series of
Show More
spiritual reflections which will prove helpful for all struggling the richest, fullest and noblest life” (Chicago Tribune).
Show Less
LibraryThing member antiquary
I read this with the Episcopal Church at Yale prayer group and was impressed by Merton's ability to answer
objections which were occurring to me as I read.
LibraryThing member araridan
As a person, I find Thomas Merton really interesting. About a year ago I read a 4-part biography about some key Catholic writers of the 20th century. Besides Merton, the biography also featured Flannery O'Connor, Dorothy Day, and Walker Percy and I found each of these individuals to be extremely
Show More
interesting people, especially in their interpretation of personal faith into their writing craft and their lifestyles. After reading No Man is an Island, I have to say that I enjoy reading about Merton much more than I actually enjoy his writings.

I can appreciate the way Merton talks about fairly basic tenets of Christianity, but manages to update them for the 20th century or just provide his thoughtful twist on the subject. However, the essays seem to assume that the reader is already a Christian with an understanding of broad concepts such as "faith", "love", "spiritual solitude", etc. And I guess that's fine if he just intended to reach other people of faith. As someone who has some understanding of these concepts, I could generally follow along, but found aspects of the essays vague and admit to skipping over large portions.
Show Less
LibraryThing member sfisk

Good T Merton, also read "the monastic way" by him, also good.
LibraryThing member ava-st-claire
I have been on a quest to read all Thomas Merton and No Man Is An Island stays by my bed...I think I will always be "currently reading" this one. It is such a wonderful book.
LibraryThing member tabascofromgudreads
Too abstract, too airy, too many vague references to other things that are never actually mentioned. The Bible has more than enough vagueness in itself, but that has also its own historic reasons. This was written 50 years ago and it gave me absolutely nothing that the Gospel did not already give
Show More
Come on, Catholicism is in desperate need of a sweeping reform, a fresh look at the same old truths, and it needs the oxygen of plain English talk, especially in our times. But these type of books never dare to challenge the official doctrine imposed by the Vatican, they never provide anything with a bit of any real "flavor". Tell me about scientific and historic truth as being a different thing altogether from the Gospel's theological truths. Aknowledge the elephant in the room, which is the scientific impossibility of many things you are talking about, and propose some ways for science and faith to co-exist, as they can do. Acknowledge the fact that most catholics today have absolutely no idea about the real concept of "God", as articulated by St Augustine and others. Tell me about the money that the Church owns, how about that, before exhalting poverty and telling me to devoid myself of all my material goods. Tell me about the Church's unwillingness to open her eyes to the fact that homosexual love is just a different kind of love, and it is not a "disordered emotion", like the catechism says. Tell me that faith is mainly a way to live well with yourself and with other people (like Pope Benedict dared to say in one of his books).
None of that here.
Religion is made of spiritual life, yes, but it should also be made of practical life, facts and examples. In this book there is none of that. Only grand statements, expressed in a rather cerebral and theoretical way.
Matter of tastes, but I need examples if you want me to understand what you are saying with your philosophical meanderings.
Having said that, there are some passages that I found very inspiring.
Show Less
LibraryThing member BradKautz
To begin, a confession. I only read a portion of this book. I read the Prologue, the first chapter, on Love, the first parts of the second chapter, on Hope, and a few scattered bits of the remaining fourteen chapters. I just did not have the stomach for it. I am a pastor in the Reformed tradition,
Show More
affirming the biblical truths laid out in the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dort. Merton was a Roman Catholic priest, of the mystical variety, and I couldn't make any theological sense out of what he was writing in what I read of this book. Some people may consider Merton to be a spiritual master. My impression from what I read here would be pseudo-spiritual master. About the only thing that was clear in what I read of this book is that Merton was a Universalist, although he did not clearly state that as his position, rather leaving it to be implied through the many repeated ways in which he seemed to affirm that all men and women by nature seek the love of God, a love that God freely gives to all men and women. At best, this is a heterodox position, and at worst, a heresy. It's persistent appearing was more than I could take, so I make the very rare move, for me, in not finishing this book, and finding no reason whatsoever to commend it to anyone else.
Show Less
LibraryThing member MrDickie
It took me a year and a half to read this book. I never really got into it.
LibraryThing member nmele
First published in the mid-1950s, this book of reflections will occasionally require some deciphering since the language is that of the Roman Catholic Church before Vatican II and therefore a bit outdated at times. Merton always rewards his readers, in this case with penetrating insights about such
Show More
topics as love, solitude, spiritual development and sincerity. Each chapter is on a theme including the ones just listed, and divided into shorter sections which are self-contained reflections on those themes. Not the first Merton book I would recommend, but one to read slowly, savor, ponder, and keep handy to refer to over and again.
Show Less
LibraryThing member pdever
I found it to be interesting, but also a fairly difficult book...partly because it was written for an audience of religious people (e.g., his fellow brothers), but also because it requires a deeper understanding of specific Catholic concepts like charity. I just don't have the background it
Show More
assumes. Also, making sense of non-dual concepts (if that's not already an oxymoron) is just plain difficult for a reading brain! Still and all it was worth the effort.
Show Less
Page: 0.1186 seconds