Monk, hermit and mystic: 7 quotes from Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton died 50 years ago today, on December 10, 1968. A prolific author, his most famous work is his spiritual autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain.

Merton CentreThomas Merton in his study.

Merton's spirituality drew not just on Christian traditions but on Eastern religions as well, though he was an orthodox Christian.

His mother died when he was six years old and he grew up with his father in the US, France and England. Before attending university at Cambridge he went on a tour of Europe, including Rome, where his attraction to Catholicism first began to grow.

He was received into the Church in 1938 and was received into the Cistercian Order as a novice at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky in 1942.

He taught and wrote widely, preaching peace, racial tolerance, and social equality. However, it is for his deep insight into the human nature and the ways of God that he is remembered. 

He died in a bizarre accident, electrocuted in Bangkok by a faulty electrical appliance.

Here are seven quotes from Thomas Merton.

1. Life is this simple: we are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and the divine is shining through it all the time. This is not just a nice story or a fable, it is true.

2. Anxiety is the mark of spiritual insecurity.

3. The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image.

4. The greatest need of our time is to clean out the enormous mass of mental and emotional rubbish that clutters our minds.

5. If our life is poured out in useless words, we will never hear anything, never become anything, and in the end, because we have said everything before we had anything to say, we shall be left speechless at the moment of our greatest decision.

6. By reading the scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet.

7. The real reason why so few men believe in God is that they have ceased to believe that even a God can love them.