Keegan's Reviews > The Seven Storey Mountain

The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton
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Dec 15, 08

bookshelves: religion
Read in December, 2008

I've been plowing through this in my spare moments the past two weeks or so. I can see how my father and grandfather were affected by it.

If I had a different experience of Catholicism as a child, this book might have functioned as some sort of catalyst for rejoining the church. Fortunately my experiences were uneventful; tepid, even. I didn't leave Catholicism out of some reactionary experience. It was gradual. God was ground to dust throughout this decade in the millstone of my brain. My atheism is peaceful.

What Merton did do is reinvigorate a desire I have for meaningful liturgy. Merton's descriptions of his prayer experiences inspired a jealousy in me. The idea of having the truth of the universe expressed in a single catechism and of having a single ritualistic practice (The Liturgy of the Hours) accepted and undertaken with a profound passion left me feeling empty in comparison.

Zen practice deliberately leaves the resolution of all questions and problems up to oneself. It provides no external consolation (at least, I feel none). We "practice alone together." It's a religion of loneliness for me so far.

But we (I) don't decide upon a belief system based upon how peachy it makes you feel. It either correctly points to Reality with a capital R, or it doesn't. Catholicism doesn't. No matter how much making the sign of the cross and saying a prayer invigorates some childhood sense of comfort, such things have fuck all to do with truth. I just wish Zen liturgy awakened more than a calm sense of rightness.

The other, related effect of this book on me has been a newfound respect for the Christian faith.

Anyway, I'm reading his journals now. I'm curious to see his descent into eastern mysticism and his later rejection of this very autobiography.

I also curiously have a desire to read a bunch of Catholic theological texts. Shoot me now.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Cody Props for being an atheist minus the hate and anger. A touching an honest review as well. I get the liturgy thing, I'm a Protestant who found liturgy to be something I had missed my entire life without realizing it. Led me very close to the Catholic Church, but liturgical practices of some kind seem to be (to quote David Foster Wallace) "about what it means to be a fucking human being."


Kevin Great review. This book was recommended to me by a person I deeply respect. I was having serious questions about God. I was angry at God for the loss of both my parents and my dog inside of a year. The death of my dog seemed like the final slap in the face by God. I am an evangelical Protestant so I was surprised by the recommendation. I can say this book helped lead me back from rejecting God. While I have no desire to become Catholic I have a deep respect for it's traditions and liturgy.


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