New Seeds of Contemplation

by Thomas Merton

Status

Available

Call number

248.34

Publication

Publisher Unknown

Description

New Seeds of Contemplation is one of Thomas Merton's most widely read and best-loved books. Christians and non-Christians alike have joined in praising it as a notable successor in the meditative tradition of St. John of the Cross,The Cloud of Unknowing, and the medieval mystics, while others have compared Merton's reflections with those of Thoreau.New Seeds of Contemplation seeks to awaken the dormant inner depths of the spirit so long neglected by Western man, to nurture a deeply contemplative and mystical dimension in our lives. For Merton, "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."… (more)

Original publication date

1961

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User reviews

LibraryThing member Priory
If you read nothing else by Merton, read this. Personal, direct, and lucid, it contains some of his most challenging insights into the struggle to find an honest relationship with God and one's fellow humans. The book takes a compelling yet thoughtful look at a wide variety of spiritual themes, but is -- like most of Merton's writings -- devoid of theorizing. A must for anyone who is ready to seriously reassess the reality and direction of his or her life. But beware: you will not emerge untouched. Reprinted over twenty times and translated into more than twelve languages.… (more)
LibraryThing member LTW
"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
The best place to begin reading TM
… (more)
LibraryThing member jd234512
Once again, Merton has written a book that includes many of his thoughts. This one takes great lengths to determine what contemplation is and what it is not. This is very helpful, because, this seems to be an area that is fairly fad-like at the time and he is very clear in saying that it is not possible to tell someone how to really into contemplation. All he is able to offer are his experiences into the way of asceticism, which may point in a direction but fortunately does not give any specific direction. He is quite wonderful and this is another example of some of his great thoughts.… (more)
LibraryThing member librken
Having tried twice to get through this since the late 90s, and having not read it for more than 2 years, and having read at least half of it, I am returning this to "To Read" because some day I WILL read it through.
LibraryThing member aegossman
Most excellent
LibraryThing member StephenBarkley
Serendipity: "the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way."
—Google Dictionary

I was listening to the Homebrewed Christianity Podcast while running, just after finishing up Merton's book. The Podcast was a question-and-answer time with the influential German theologian of the cross, Jürgen Moltmann. Moltmann's theology emphasizes the pathos of God. While the Greek philosophers envisioned a dispassionate Deity, Moltmann (in line with the Old Testament) speaks of a passionate God who is angered, loves, suffers, and even repents!

It was during this discussion that I realized what bothered me about Merton.

...

Before I get there, let me start with praise. Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk, a man dedicated to cloistered contemplation. This book is a collection of advice about contemplation. What does contemplation mean? Do you need to be isolated to be a contemplative? What sort of obstacles do contemplatives face? What is the role of spiritual experience in contemplation?

Each of the 39 chapters are full of insight into the human condition—insight only grasped by someone who has spent his life in the contemplation of God. The more I grow in the Christian life, the more Merton's observations resonate with my own experience. He is a wise spiritual director.

...

Now back to the problem. For Merton, the ideal contemplative is not a person who is passionate but one who lets feelings, even religious feelings, flow across the surface of her mind without being moved. These consolations are mere distractions:

"Many contemplatives never become great saints, never enter into close friendship with God, never find a deep participation in His immense joys, because they cling to the miserable little consolations that are given to beginners in the contemplative way" (206).

I wholeheartedly agree that experience-chasing is devastating to true Christianity. That said, if our God is passionately engaged with his creation, if he created us with passions and emotions, how could ignoring that part of our being honour God? Could this emphasis of Merton be the result of his interfaith dialogue with Buddhism adjusting his anthropological insight?

In the end, I value and will continue to read Merton. Much of this work was pure gold. However, I fear that his dispassionate view of humanity suggests a deity more like the Greeks envisioned than the Hebrew writers of scripture!
… (more)
LibraryThing member gregdehler
I picked this up in September after seeing Pope Francis's speech before Congress. As a Catholic I had some passing knowledge of Merton, but I had not read anything he had written. Seeds is a powerful book. It is not something one reads start to finish. Instead, one reads it slowly a paragraph at a time. I have spent weeks contemplating a single paragraph in this remarkable book.… (more)
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