Thomas Merton - Contemplative, Mystic, Panentheist

"What Martin Luther King was to the civil rights movement and what Henry Ford was to the automobile, Thomas Merton is to contemplative prayer. Although this prayer movement existed centuries before he came along, Merton took it out of its monastic setting and made it available to and popular with the masses. It is interesting to me that many people still think celebrity star Shirley MacLaine was the greatest influence in the New Age. But for me, hands down, Thomas Merton has influenced New Age thinking more than any person of recent decades. Merton penned one of the most classic descriptions of New Age spirituality I have ever come across. He explained:

"It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, ... now I realize what we all are .... If only they [people] could all see themselves as they really are ...I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other ... At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusions, a point of pure truth ... This little point ...is the pure glory of God in us. It is in everybody."
(quoting Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (1989 edition, 157-158)

Catholic lay monk Wayne Teasdale says this of
Thomas Merton:

"Thomas Merton was perhaps the greatest popularizer of interspirituality. He opened the door for Christians to explore other traditions, notably Taoism (Chinese witchcraft), Hinduism and Buddhism."
[Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World's Religions - Wayne Teasdale]


Wayne Teasdale , who wrote A Monk in the World, saw Thomas Merton as being one of the leading interspiritual visionaries as Merton assimilated "the major spiritual classics of the east into his Christian understanding, particularly Zen Buddhist, Hindu Vedanta, Yoga texts and Taoist classics." Wayne Teasdale also said of Merton: "He was consciously trying to relate the mystical insights of other traditions with his own Christian faith." p.181

Comment from Ray Yungen
A Christian is supposed to evangelize those from Eastern religions, present them with the gospel rather than assimilate their mystical insights. That's what the great commission was all about. That is what the crux of our opposition is all about.
As a movement, those who practice contemplative prayer, on the whole, tend to develop spiritual kinship to Eastern religions, especially Buddhism.

Thomas Keating

Database of Books Written about Merton

Thomas Merton said:
"I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity ... I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can."
(David Steindl-Rast, "Recollection of Thomas Merton's Last Days in the West" (Monastic Studies, 7:10, 1969)

"Why did Merton say that? What did he mean? The story leading to Merton's comment is a model for and recapitulation of the emergent and still emerging Buddhist—Christian interreligious dialogue, perhaps one of the more obscure yet more significant events occurring today."
By Alan Altany

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