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Lions Roar : March 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2007 100 nese edition of his Thoughts in Solitude (1966). With their overtones of the Zen koan (“the Hearer is No-Hearer”), they reflect their author’s gravitation toward Asian culture in general and Zen in par- ticular. Merton’s embracing of the Zen tradition, which he saw as entirely com- patible with Christianity, may well have been a matter of temperament, but it also reflected his moral and philosophical out- look. In Asian culture Merton perceived the much-needed qualities of “patient waiting” and “silent wisdom.” In Zen art he found a refreshing absence of “self- display,” the Zen artist being “empty, in- visible, and incapable of being displayed.” And, most centrally, in the lives of Zen poets and philosophers he found ex- amples of a “unified existence,” in which ordinary actions such as eating and walk- ing become “philosophical acts which grasp the ultimate principles of life in life Itself and not in abstraction.” From such an existence come “the aphorisms of great Asian contemplatives or Christian saints—and the poems of Zen masters.” Though earnestly sought, a truly unified existence would elude Thomas Merton. Yet in the concept of writing as a spiritual calling, as in the image of himself as a “writing hermit,” he found ways to frame his dilemma. In 1948, in a letter to Evelyn Waugh, he recognized that writing was in some way “tied up with the whole process of [his] sanctifi- cation.” And in 1964, in a letter to Dom Jean-Baptiste Porion, he looked back on his life as writing hermit: As I reflect over the past and over God’s grace in my life there are only two things that are more or less certain to me: that I have been called to be at once a writer and a solitary. The rest is confusion and uncertainty. However tentative, this represents at least a provisional resolution. Writer and monk were of a piece, if not quite one and the same. And perhaps for Thomas Merton, as for Po-Chu-I, the general direction was not really so un- certain. Of the making of many books there would be no end. ♦ Institute of Transpersonal Psychology INSTITUTEOFTRANS PER SONALPSYCHOLOGY1 97 5 G raduate E ducation for M ind, Body, & Spirit 1069 east m eadow circle pa lo alt o, ca 94303 650.493.4430 • www.itp.edu Counselors Practitioners Organizational Leaders Research Education Business Consultants Health Services Spiritual Guidance Community Service Coaching CareerTraining Personal Growth Residential and On-line Distance learning Community openings for enrollment call today 650.493.4430 • www.itp.edu ph.d . • m.a . • one-year certificates Clinical Psychology • Transpersonal Psychology • Spiritual Psychology • Counseling • Creative Expression • Spiritual Guidance Education & Research • Indigenous Wisdom Studies • Coaching f schools & colleges