New York: Farrar , Straus and Cudahy, 1957. First edition. Small octavo, original blind-stamped brown cloth, photographic endpapers, red top edge. Dust jacket unclipped and unfaded with minor wear to corners and spine ends. Near-fine. Item #857
"HE WHO HAS LEFT ALL MEN DWELLS IN THEM ALL BY THE CHARITY OF CHRIST" First edition of Thomas Merton's reflections on the spirituality of monastic solitude. This study of the branches of monasticism is characteristic of Merton's work during the late 1940's and early 1950's: "For years Merton devoted creative thought to the meaning of monastic and contemplative life" (Robert Ellsberg), largely in opposition to "the world" outside the walls of Gethsemani. Illustrated with a photographic insert of Trappist life, the work consists of a Prologue ("What is a Monk?"), followed by three sections: I. The Monastic Peace, II. The Cenobitic Life, III. The Hermit Life. The Epilogue makes plain the essential "loneliness' inherent in both the communal and hermitic classes of monasticism. "That is why it is important for the monk, above all, to be called what he is called, a monk, a solitary, a man made 'lonely' by his detachment from all things. But in the loneliness of his detachment he has a far higher vocation to charity than anyone else." However, a man "made lonely" is not a natural state for man, and for Merton the Silent Life marked a crossroad of sorts. Merton "had followed the path of absolute solitude as afar as he could go. His need for counterparts, strong even when unacknowledged, was now as strong as his longing to be elsewhere" (Paul Elie). The last decade of his life was increasingly restive, beginning with the pivotal epiphany of Merton's "Vision in Louisville" (March 1958). "But from this point on he became increasingly concerned with making connections between the monastery and the wider world" (Robert Ellsberg). Approbations. Elie. The Life You Save May be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage. Ellsberg. All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets and Witnesses for Our Time.