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New Seeds of Contemplation

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One of the best-loved books by one of the great spiritual authors of our time, with a new introduction by best-selling author Sue Monk Kidd. 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."

297 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1962

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About the author

Sue Monk Kidd

53 books11.9k followers

SUE MONK KIDD was raised in the small town of Sylvester, Georgia. She graduated from Texas Christian University in 1970 and later took creative writing courses at Emory University, as well as studying at Sewanee, Bread Loaf, and other writers’ conferences. In her forties, Kidd turned her attention to writing fiction, winning the South Carolina Fellowship in Literature and the 1996 Poets & Writers Exchange Program in Fiction.

When her first novel, The Secret Life of Bees, was published by Viking in 2002, it became a genuine literary phenomenon, spending more than 2½ years on the New York Times bestseller list. It has been translated into 36 languages and sold more than 6 million copies in the U.S. and 8 million copies worldwide. Bees was named the Book Sense Paperback Book of the Year in 2004, long-listed for the 2002 Orange Prize in England, and won numerous awards. The novel was adapted into a award-winning movie and an Off-Broadway musical.

The Mermaid Chair spent 24 weeks on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list, reaching the #1 position, and spent 22 weeks on the New York Times trade paperback list. The novel won the Nation Quill Award and was made into the television movie.

The Invention of Wings, her third novel, was published in 2014 to wide critical acclaim and debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list where it remained for 9 months. It was selected for Oprah Winfrey's Bookclub 2.0 and other awards. Wings has been translated to 20+ languages.

She is also the author of several acclaimed memoirs, including The Dance of the Dissident Daughter and New York Times bestseller Traveling with Pomegranates, written with her daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor.

Her latest novel, The Book of Longings, is to be published on April 21, 2020.

Kidd lives in North Carolina with her husband.

Please visit www.suemonkkidd.com for more information. Follow Sue on Twitter & Instagram @SueMonkKidd and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/suemonkkidd

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5 stars
4,204 (50%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 434 reviews
Profile Image for Andi.
Author 20 books174 followers
April 8, 2007

For a few years, I fostered a very robust fascination with Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk who was a prolific writer. I can’t remember how I found Merton, maybe some long ago professor of mine or a reference in someone else’s book, but since I started reading him almost a decade ago, he has, more than any other writer, influenced my way of seeing the world. He was a pacifist and a political activist, at least in the sense that he spoke out boldly against things he found immoral or unethical - like the atomic bomb. He also believed wholeheartedly in the need for a writer to have space to think and be alone - what he called “silence and solitude.”
In New Seeds of Contemplation, Merton introduces his readers to the idea of contemplation as a way of life. He urges us all to dip deeper into our thoughts and to slow down from our action, to turn away from that which distracts us and to open up to that which reminds us of true reality, true creation, and true life.
If you have ever wanted a model for how to write about thought, this book is for you. Even more so, if you have ever wanted to think about how to slow down, catch your breath, and by do doing, live your life more fully, this book will capture your spirit and heart.

Profile Image for Lesa Engelthaler.
39 reviews11 followers
May 27, 2012
I have a huge crush on Merton. He is the grace my Abba gave me in the silence. I weep when I read him and sigh, and say, I feel exactly the same way...over and over again. Read him, if you doubt, if you wonder, if you wander, if you think about your faith.
Profile Image for Michael VanZandt.
70 reviews6 followers
May 11, 2009
Ok,so, let me say to begin that I think Thomas Merton is a brilliant mind. If there were a dozen more Mertons in the world, I'm convinced there would be peace on earth.

That being said, Brother Tom plunges into a book in which he attempts to lay the groundwork, or to set the vibe for one's odyssey into contemplation. Tricky thing is that you cannot really describe contemplation. Merton says so himself. The best we can do is to label it "the darkness" and say, well, it's not that, and it's not and it's not that ... you get the picture. Merton is not deterred. Bless his heart, he wants us all to become saints. Or maybe more accurately, he wants us all to want to become saints.

There are moments of poetry here. There are also moments when I sat, thinking I believe that this is nearly identical to what he said two chapters ago. Yet, Merton offers us two paths -- our glorious fundamental option of faith. So there is the shadowy mask of the ego, clinging to the carousel of idols, of created things, of the material, of mammon, and then there is nothingness and emptiness -- union with God's will. Do not get me wrong when Merton describes nothingness, it actually does not sound half bad. In fact, it riles me up like a good Naomi Klein anti-corporate activist rallying cry. I do not want to downplay this aspect of Merton's work: he sees the hollowness of the American system decades ago. Only when we lose our sense of self, in the eyes of society, whomever we attach to that broad group, do we find our true identity. It is a fascinating worldview, which Merton gives a justifiably nuanced treatment.

At times, beautiful and breathtaking. Other times, I felt like skipping some pages, but did not expecting an epiphany to leap from the page. It is not burdened with dense theological terminology, but helps to be a seasoned reader of theology.
Profile Image for Hundeschlitten.
188 reviews9 followers
September 3, 2017
I acknowledge that Thomas Merton probably had a true connection to God, that he was a holy man who by all accounts walked the walk as well as talked the talk. I also acknowledge that "New Seeds of Contemplation" is an engaging explanation of some of Merton's core ideas, as well as a compelling argument for the spiritual value in leading what Merton terms a "contemplative" life (more exactly, a life in contemplation of God's will and your purpose within that will). However, nothing I've read in a long time has done as much to make me doubt components of my faith and even wonder whether I am really that much of a Christian.

In this series of short, interconnected essays, Merton takes on all comers, from over-earnest monks to the vagaries of the modern business world, and he is a compelling advocate for a life spent in earnest contemplation of God. But then come the particulars. For Merton, the beliefs of the Church, in this case the dictates and dogmas of the Roman Catholic church, are to be accepted without question, in part because we all need to follow the instructions of our spiritual leaders, even when we believe them to be wrong, and partly because God is the source of Christian dogma and tradition, thus these beliefs, at least generally speaking, must be right.

Worse, buried within this advocacy for a contemplative life lies a condescension that I found grating. According to Merton, anyone who loves the things of this world is deluded. The corporate world faces particular criticism, as do those in search of sensual pleasure. But I thought: What about the prostitutes and the tax collectors? Jesus seemed to prefer their company over all the sanctimonious priests. Why would he be on the priests' side now? And then my mind drifted towards Plutarch and his more nuanced understanding of our moral and spiritual failings. I contrasted Plutarch with other Christian thinkers, from Luther to Kierkegaard, and how almost all of them have this cocksure view of the world. Merton was just another in this long line.

I liked "New Seeds of Contemplation." It was engaging, at times vibrant and beautiful. But if it provides a map to the contemplative life, it is a narrow map, perhaps indicative of the narrowness of this vision. I found myself feeling a pagan's hunger, craving a more expansive view of life than the one Merton was offering. And I find that thought kind of scary.
Profile Image for Celia.
1,166 reviews150 followers
May 21, 2019
Thomas Merton has written many books about Contemplative Prayer. This beautiful edition is introduced by Sue Monk Kidd.

Kidd's introduction starts:

"With a stretch of time to myself, I settled at the desk and pulled New Seeds of Contemplation from my bag. In its pages I discovered Merton’s powerful evocations on the true self."

I knew from these words that not only would I be learning more about contemplation, but I would also be learning about and reflecting on my own self.

Contemplation is the act of looking at something thoughtfully for a long time.

Here are a few quotes to get you thinking about contemplation:

"To enter into the realm of contemplation one must in a certain sense die: but this death is in fact the entrance into a higher life. It is a death for the sake of life, which leaves behind all that we can know or treasure as life, as thought, as experience, as joy, as being." (1)

"Contemplation is also the response to a call: a call from Him Who has no voice, and yet Who speaks in everything that is, and Who, most of all, speaks in the depths of our own being: for we ourselves are words of His." (3)

"FOR me to be a saint means to be myself. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I am and of discovering my true self." (33)

5 stars
Profile Image for Kyle Johnson.
158 reviews22 followers
April 24, 2019
Well, I think this might have been the best (at least the most meaningful) book I've ever read, so I am not exactly sure what to say here. I will provide the caveat to that high assessment that I would not have loved or even liked this book at other points in my life for varied reasons, so keep that in mind should you choose to pick it up. Nevertheless, this becomes an immediate classic for me that I will return to many times in the future.

"Ultimately the only way that I can be myself is to become identified with Him in Whom is hidden the reason and fulfillment of my existence."
Profile Image for Amanda.
246 reviews55 followers
November 25, 2011
I have some mixed feelings about this book.

It reads like one long prayer, which is lovely. Thomas Merton clearly has a very intimate, very passionate relationship with God. And of course, there were some things that were relevant to me, and some that were not. However, sometimes when I was reading, I just felt lost. Like I was missing something. Maybe some of it was just over my head, because I don't have that kind of relationship with God. I partly wish that Merton would have used simpler language in expressing his "seeds of contemplation."

On the other hand, as the title implies, this book absolutely does its job in provoking ideas for contemplation. I especially loved the chapter called "Sentences" which, unlike the other chapters, just contained short, proverb-like expressions instead of long paragraphs on a given subject. I found these very inspiring and excellent for meditation.

I would recommend this to someone who is working on deepening his/her prayer life. I don't think I'd recommend this to a new believer.
5 reviews1 follower
January 5, 2011
If I could rate this as higher than 5 stars, I would. This is probably the most impacting and thoughtful book I have read (aside from the Bible), and I keep coming back to it over and over again for fresh insight.

Thomas Merton was both a contemplative monastic as well as a radical activist. His life of solitude and contemplation did not cause him to turn inward, but called him to look out into the world. He was an advocate of civil rights, a critic of Vietnam and nuclear proliferation, and an author and literary critic. His spiritual insight became the foundation of his public voice, knowing that only the truth found in God would be powerful enough to overcome the powers and structures of this world.

While other writings of Merton's are more outward oriented, this book contains many devotional reflections on the inward life, finding the hidden places of the Spirit where deep calls unto deep. He writes: "Every moment and every event of everyman'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." God is awakening us, bringing us into the light, and Merton, through his writings, encourages us to come alive in the Spirit.

An amazing book!
Profile Image for Greg Bae.
50 reviews9 followers
October 9, 2019
I appreciate Merton’s iconoclastic style given his position as an old school catholic priest. He comes across as wise but his judgements against religious zealots backfires and it casts his teachings in a self righteous light.

I read this as it was referenced several times in Richard Rohr’s book Falling Upwards. Ultimately that is a much more coherent and compelling narrative.

Profile Image for Stormie Steele.
Author 3 books2 followers
January 8, 2014
I began reading this book in 1996, completing it perhaps a year later. I was completely captivated! At a time in my life when my soul yearned for some sense of reason beyond my daily encounters - Thomas Merton's New Seeds of Contemplation struck a timely cord. The soul that seeks truth, no doubt will find it. To engage truth becomes one's life time endeavor. New Seeds of Contemplation is not a book that can be read without times of ardent reflection. When the soul is in a place of transitioning - that being, re-examining its core beliefs & principals for living - contemplation becomes the portal/pathway of revelation. An exceptional life altering read!!
New Seeds of Contemplation New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I began reading this book in 1996, completing it perhaps a year later. I was completely captivated! At a time in my life when my soul yearned for some sense of reason beyond my daily encounters - Thomas Merton's New Seeds of Contemplation struck a timely cord. The soul that seeks truth, no doubt will find it. To engage truth becomes one's life time endeavor. An exceptional life altering read!!

View all my reviews
Profile Image for Pat.
107 reviews1 follower
February 13, 2021
The Dao touches us with a touch that is emptiness and empties us. The Dao moves us with a simplicity that simplifies us. All variety, all complexity, all paradox, all multiplicity cease. Our mind swims in the air of an understanding, a reality that is dark and serene and includes in itself everything. Nothing more is desired. Nothing more is wanting. Our only sorrow, is sorrow be possible at all, is the awareness that we ourselves still live outside The Dao.

Did you enjoy that passage from the Dao De Jing, the classical Chinese text supposedly written by Laozi around the 4th century BC? Well what if I told you that this is actually a passage written by the modern Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, on page 227 of his book New Seeds of Contemplation but I switched out every mention of "God" with "The Dao." Here's a translation of an actual passage from the Dao De Jing:
The Dao is (like) the emptiness of a vessel; and in our employment of it we must be on our guard against all fulness. How deep and unfathomable it is, as if it were the Honoured Ancestor of all things! We should blunt our sharp points, and unravel the complications of things; we should attemper our brightness, and bring ourselves into agreement with the obscurity of others. How pure and still the Dao is, as if it would ever so continue! I do not know whose son it is. It might appear to have been before God.

The primary topic of New Seeds of Contemplation is . . . Contemplation! The first two chapters of this book "What Is Contemplation?" and "What Contemplation Is Not," do their very best to define Contemplation and dispel any misunderstandings. Unfortunately, the reader comes to learn that Contemplation is apparently quite nebulous and seemingly full of paradoxes. And so, it is almost easier to say what Contemplation is NOT rather than what it precisely IS. Contemplation
is a more profound depth of faith, a knowledge too deep to be grasped by images, in words or even in clear concepts. It can be suggested by words, by symbols but in the very moment of trying to indicate what it knows the contemplative mind takes back what it has said, and denies what it has affirmed. For in contemplation we know by "unknowning." Or, better we know beyond all knowing or "unknowing."
(Pages 1 - 2 ).

This is the point that I started to realize how heavily Thomas Merton was influenced by eastern philosophy and religion. Those last two sentences may as well be from a book about Zen Buddhism. But over the course of the book Merton weaves his method of contemplation into the Catholic tradition with extended discussions on God, Jesus, the Holy Trinity, and the Virgin Mary. So this book may simultaneously be too heretical for staunch Catholics and too religious for the "spiritual" types, both of whom would be no doubt drawn to Merton's teachings.

I personally enjoyed this book. I particularly liked how Merton dispelled the notion that to be a successful ascetic one must shut themself away from the rest of the world and engage in strict fasting and prostration. There are also many valuable lessons about ones true "self" (the "I"), humility, and conflict that I won't attempt to explain here. A reader doesn't need to be in search of any spiritual or theological lessons to get something from this book.

Here is a quote that I will likely never forget:
If you can never make up your mind what God wills for you, but are always veering from one opinion to another, from one practice to another, from one method to another, it may be an indication that you are trying to get around God's will and do your own with a quiet conscience.
. . .
You are always making resolutions and breaking them by counterresolutions. You ask your confessor and do not remember the answers. Before you finish one book, you begin another, and with every book you read you change the whole plan of your interior life.

Soon you will have no interior life at all. Your whole existence will be a patchwork of confused desires and day dreams and velleities in which you do nothing except defeat the work of grace . . . .
(Pages 260 - 61).
Profile Image for David .
1,223 reviews147 followers
March 12, 2018
Over the last few years, I have found it beneficial to include reading a bit from different spiritual masters each day. I've been reading a chapter of this book each morning, and it is absolutely fantastic. The first 2/3 of the book was a wealth of thought provoking spiritual depth. This book could easily be included in my top ten books of all time. The last 1/3 started to get away from me. I'm not sure how to explain it. Merton is writing on a different level of spiritual connection with the Divine, a level I am sure I've never experienced. I know Merton would not want his book to be read an forgotten, so I think I need to spend more time chewing on his words (and the words of scripture, and sitting in silence and other spiritual disciplines). In essence, you can't just read about contemplation without putting yourself in a place to experience it. I look forward to a time, maybe when I'm around fifty, and I pick this one up again and hopefully, with a dose of grace, the whole book hits me the way the first 2/3 did this time.
Profile Image for Lydia.
489 reviews17 followers
September 7, 2016
Merton wrote this book in 1939 at age 24, the year he was planning to become a Franciscan monk. There is a lot of wandering in the desert: this is not this and that is not this and that is not that. I wanted to count all the "not"s in the book. The book and the search is frankly above/beyond me, but it answered some questions. I found it interesting since the book went through many printings, and created a whole movement of men and women flocking to monasteries in the mid-twentieth century. I discovered that selfishness is the Original sin, that faith is an intellectual assent, and that true solitude is a complex and dangerous thing. You can almost hear him struggling to find his path in this book. The main theme is to get away from all worldliness and self promotion and to figure out how to live for others as one humanity through God. This is not a useful book for anyone actually trying to answer philosophical questions. Merton wrote over 70 books in his short life.
Profile Image for Gideon Yutzy.
201 reviews25 followers
October 14, 2022
Vacillated between profound and esoteric; when it was the latter it was still nice to take in, as a kind of soft ambience. His high emphasis on self-discipline was a salutary reminder for me, since I think I had allowed myself to become a little sloppy with it in my thought and practice. Yet even while he promotes self-discipline he by no means advocates moralism or priggishness. Merton holds firmly to both mystery and discipline which was a refreshing and welcome blend.
Profile Image for Yuri Karabatov.
Author 1 book22 followers
September 2, 2021
I often regret I'm not classically educated. When finding solutions to everyday problems rising from the workings of the mind, it's apparent that smart people like Merton have already figured out all of them, and what to do about them.

Started to read it on a whim while I had a migraine, and the premise seemed interesting as I'm trying to deal with something similar in my own life. Don't regret picking it up as it turned out provocative, deep and—unlike many purely philosophical works—approachable, with advice I wouldn't hesitate to call practical.

Having read this book, I'm now interested in his thoughts about Eastern-style meditation.
Profile Image for Ellison Rhea.
36 reviews4 followers
August 18, 2014
In this seminal work, the semimodern sage explores the theme of contemplation while embracing the paradox that nothing definite can be said about contemplation. Sometimes essay, sometimes vignette, sometimes proverb, this deep collection of wisdom provides multiple jumping-off points for personal meditation and explorative understanding of the Divine.

I think I was a Merton fan before I ever read him. All throughout this first reading, I found myself asking, "Thomas, have you been reading my diary?" I wondered, through the first 20 pages or so, whether I was a fan or simply an egomaniac; he simply articulated my divine understandings better than I could. Finally, though, he said some things which tested my fan status-- things I didn't agree with-- and he passed; I still loved him. His view of God is truly humbling, putting man in his place of profound ignorance when it comes to 'knowing' God. It also undoes popular paradigms which make God into object. These things being understood, Merton shares the necessity of a life of detachment, and genuine exploration of one's own unique holy path within the context of church structures and historically tested disciplines. These are only inadequate and probably misleading summaries of a few of his abundant talking points, but they give a taste of some of his themes.

Still, Merton is mortal, and imperfect. For all his talk of humility, he often sounds a little too confident that he has ascertained ultimate truth. I also wonder whether Merton, living so firmly in a male world at his monastery, ever imagined that his writings would reach such a wide and diverse readership-- and if he had, whether he would've used such dishearteningly exclusive gender language, not only about God, but about humanity. As a female theologian, I had to constantly suspend my awareness that I was not his intended audience in order to enjoy and benefit from the text, which might be a prohibitively frustrating task to the gender-sensitive.

Over all, I am incredibly thankful to have crossed paths with this text. It's prepared me to ask the right questions about God and my own spiritual life, and often punched me in the gut with its poignant quotes and passages. Here are a few:

"In such a world the true 'I' remains both inarticulate and invisible, because it has altogether too much to say-- not a word of which is about itself." (8)

"There is 'no such thing' as God because God is neither a 'what' nor a 'thing' but a pure 'Who.'" (13)

"So much depends on our idea of God! Yet no idea of Him, however pure and perfect, is adequate to express Him as He really is. Our idea of God tells us more about ourselves than about Him." (15)

"Hence a saint is capable of talking about the world without any explicit reference to God, in such a way that his statement gives greater glory to God and arouses greater love of God than the observations of someone less holy, who has to strain himself to make an arbitrary connection between creatures and God through the medium of hackneyed analogies and metaphors that are so feeble that they make you think there is something the matter with religion." (24)

"The saints are what they are, not because their sanctity makes them admirable to others, but because the gift of sainthood makes it possible for them to admire everybody else." (57)

"Do not be too quick to assume your enemy is a savage just because he is your enemy. Perhaps he is your enemy because he thinks you are a savage... and perhaps if he believed you were capable of loving him, he would no longer be your enemy." (177)

"If you have money, consider that perhaps the only reason God allowed it to fall into your hands was in order that you might find joy and perfection by giving it all away." (179)

"Before you can be a saint you have got to become human." (256)

Merton, Thomas. New Seeds of Contemplation. New York: New Directions Books, 2007.
Profile Image for Kenny Kidd.
145 reviews3 followers
March 13, 2022
And now, to finish off this monstrous marathon Goodreads catch-up, my favorite book I read for my Senior Sem for English and probably my favorite book written about the Christian faith :)

I won’t be able to do it justice by detailing the points he makes, his soulful prose, his humility, his wisdom, his universal love for all creation and desire to preserve and unify it all through love and peace, etc., so I won’t try. Rest assured though, this is a series of beautiful, beautiful reflections on the interconnectedness of all mankind, the destructiveness of tribalism, the limitations of human reasoning and need for faith and dependence on love. It appeals to my skepticism, my potential agnosticism, my universalism and my Christianity in equal measure, and Thomas Merton is an absolute gift to the universe ❤️
Profile Image for Kathleen Basi.
Author 10 books108 followers
November 3, 2014
This is a book to put on your nightstand and read slowly, a few pages at a time. And then take a break to process it, and read again. So much of what Thomas Merton talks about in this book made my heart race, because I recognized it. I hope someday I am able to experience the parts I have not--yes, even the "deserts" and "darkness" he references routinely. His grasp of the human person and resistance to God makes so much clear about the world today, especially attitudes among both self-righteous religious and anti-religious.
Profile Image for Margaret.
983 reviews6 followers
March 11, 2016
I just can't seem to get enough of Thomas Merton, this is a book not to be rushed but savored slowly. Often I found I had to re-read a passage to get the meaning and once I "got it" the lightbulb shone brightly! I wouldn't recommend this book for the new believer because it delves heavily into the inner spiritual life. The concepts and spirituality he discusses might discourage or confuse a new believer in Christ. I am a forever fan of his and I have been slowly building my personal library of his books.
Profile Image for Lisa Lewton.
Author 1 book7 followers
February 3, 2018
Glad I read this book, and would pass it along to anyone wondering about prayers and meditation. There were a couple of chapters and some parts of the book I glossed over because I am reluctant to believe it is possible to arrive at perfection as a contemplative. And this book would be a challenge to someone who gets stuck on the male gender assigned to God, but I personally did not find that inhibiting. I consider Merton to be a sage of our time, encouraging us to find God and the will of God in the quiet stillness and in our daily work and interactions.
287 reviews8 followers
February 28, 2021
"If you regard contemplation principally as a means to escape from the miseries of human life, as a withdrawal from the anguish and the suffering of this struggle for reunion with other men in the charity of Christ, you do not know what contemplation is and you will never find God in your contemplation."

One of my favorites and I’d recommend it to everyone.
Profile Image for César.
294 reviews63 followers
December 13, 2021
Un tarro de esencia mística, oleaginoso concentrado de oración contemplativa. Es duro Merton, no suaviza ni un ápice el itinerario. No es ninguna broma el camino místico: primero, la vía purgativa; después, la vía iluminativa; y, por último, la vía unitiva. Las tres explicadas con rigor y claridad, sin dejar espacio a las ambigüedades y los autoengaños.
Profile Image for Misael Galdámez.
105 reviews3 followers
June 6, 2021
I loved this book, and I want to read more Merton and contemplatives. This book pairs nicely with Schmemann's "For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy" or Robert Farrar Capon's The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection.

Though I'm far from a contemplative, I'm in the process of learning that God actually desires for me to delight in his world, and for me to see Him at work in it. This book reminded me that God created this world out of delight, that we might know Him; that the image of God is in each man; that we can encounter Christ in everyone.

“Contemplation is the highest expression of man’s intellectual and spiritual life. It is that life itself fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive. It is spiritual wonder. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being. It is gratitude for life, for awareness and for being... Contemplation is, above all, awareness of the reality of that Source [of life]. It knows that Source...”

The bits in this book about the "unknowing" and "the darkness of God" are sometimes obtuse, but this book is rich nonetheless.
Profile Image for Heidi.
478 reviews23 followers
March 18, 2023
I long to embody every single word in this book, even though so much of it went over my head. I read this book too quickly, but I look forward to returning to this book time and time again, rereading passages, turning it over in my mind, allowing it to slowly teach me more about the world that I did not see at first.

Truly an incredible book for anyone who longs to live a life of deeper meaning and connection with God yet isn't sure how to get there. This book has the potential to catalyze such spiritual transformation, and it's easily one of the books that I am fortunate to have read.
Profile Image for Bryce Wilson.
Author 10 books147 followers
August 1, 2022
There is some extremely real shit.

But reading it while you're taking care of a nine month old is objectively hilarious.
67 reviews40 followers
January 23, 2021
I’ll be honest, a lot of this book went over my head. It gave me a lot to think about though.
Profile Image for Caleb Todd.
49 reviews
August 2, 2022
Merton's kind work focuses on mystical union with Christ through the way of contemplation. For me, 80% of the content flowed from illuminated scripture and encounters with God, with another 20% apparently drawn from a less scripturally-informed worldview. I see so much interior beauty and good spirit fruit in Merton's writing and it resonates with me deeply and stirs me up to respond to God's great worth. It could only be the mighty love of God that allows men who write books to be mixed bags of insight and error, yet still give them his spirit and heavenly stories to share. Great sabbath book.
Profile Image for Ruth.
195 reviews
June 23, 2017
I am listening to the audiobook version.

This book is really an answer to my prayers! It brings such light.
One thing that he shows clearly, is how solitude is really much less lonely than to be lost in the crowd.
He speaks very beautifully about love, how God is love, and how we must let love shine through us, become transparent. Yet it is not such a sweet soft book that hides darkness. On the contrary, Thomas Merton shows very clearly the distinction between loving acceptance and cowardly ignoring. And other bad things that we can mistake for love.

He shows me all my sins, not confining me to them, but showing the way out, into the freedom that I already have.
Thankfully he also writes much that I had already discovered myself, and thus affirms lots in which I felt really alone.

I keep falling asleep while listening to this, it gives me such rest. So I miss large parts of it and will start over immediately when I finish.


UPDATE: Just finished listening to this great audiobook.
In the end he got to talk about things that I think you can only understand if you've experienced them yourself. Very beautiful, but hard to grasp for me and perhaps I've completely misunderstood.

All this talk about emptiness and darkness and no longer being aware of yourself as a distinct person used to frighten me, but I am beginning to see that it is a way of describing something eternal, perhaps outside of time, so that our words become meaningless.

I also liked what he said about play in the last chapter. Puts it in perspective.

I thought the book was narrated in a good way, quiet and carefully read, so that it was easy to follow.
But I think I must buy the book also, in order to really read it, and ponder each sentence that strikes me.
Profile Image for Tamara.
31 reviews4 followers
September 28, 2014
A 20th Century Christian mystic, Thomas Merton is far and away one of my favorite authors. Although I haven't read all his books yet, New Seeds of Contemplation is in my mind his greatest work. Without a doubt a modern spiritual classic.

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!
Profile Image for Nancy Day.
218 reviews2 followers
February 4, 2013
I've been reading this book as part of my morning prayer through Advent and most of Epiphany. It's truly changed my spiritual life. I'm Episcopalian, not Roman Catholic, as Merton was, so a couple of the chapters didn't ring 100% on target for me, but even those I gained a greater appreciation for aspects of my prayer life. Merton is an amazingly precise and lyrical writer in dealing with this topic so difficult to articulate. His writing is very simple, but at the same time very dense. I'd extremely admirable.

While this book is directed toward Christians with an interest in meditative experience with God, anyone interested in metaphysical contemplation would find it useful, I think. It's not a "to-do" book on meditation, but includes some "tips" along with sort of a theoretical approach to the how, when, why, and what of contemplative meditation.

I started reading this book several years ago, and was put off my its density and the male point of view. Yes, the book was written by a monk, probably for other monks, decades ago before the feminist movement, but genderized language makes the content seem less accessible to me as a woman. However, I got over that, and am so glad I finished this book. I recommend reading it slowly, a little every day over a period of weeks.
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