Friday, February 16, 2007

prayer and the law

"You realize that prayer takes us beyond the law. When you are praying you are, in a certain sense, an outlaw. There is no law between the heart and God."

from "Thomas Merton in Alaska" p. 118


  1. Beth, great quote, by chance it was the section I was reading at lunch today! By any chance have you read the book of Merton photographs by Eugene Meatyard? It's out of print but I found it on the web for about $40...worth it if it's well done...thanks again, John

  2. I haven't seen that book, John. Are the photographs ones that Meatyard took of Merton, or ones that Merton took?

    I would love to see a book collection of Merton's photographs. After so many years of reading Merton's words, I am finding that exploring his art adds a whole new depth of meaning to his words.

    There is also a photographs that he took on his Asia trip that I have seen somewhere once, but I can't find it again.

    In CONJECTURES he accounts a dream:
    "I dreamt I was lost in a great city and was walking "toward the center" without quite knowing where I was going. Suddenly I came to a dead end, but on a height, looking at a great bay, and arm of the harbor. I saw a whole section of the city spread out before me on hills covered with light snao, and realized that, though I had far to go, I knew where I was: because in this city there are two arms of the harbor and they help you to find your way, as you are always encountering them. (p,188-189)

    When John Howard Griffin's camera was returned to him from Gethsemani, after it had come back with Merton's belongings from Bangkok, he found there was still film in it. When the film was developed, Griffin discovered the scene of the dream in almost all its details, except for the snow-covered hills: it was the photograph Merton had taken looking down from his penthouse room at the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok on December 6.

  3. Beth, Luck of the Irish, but after I sent the comment I found the book on line for $12.95! It's photos by Eugene Meatyard, hopefully an interesting book...Did I mention before that I was in Chicago over Christmas and Loyola Univ. had 30 of Mertons Zen photographs on display, so my son and I went down to view them. They have a definite zen qulaity to them...wish they sold copies of them. The "dream" quote is one of favorite passages! Griffen's book "follow the ecstasy" is another book I love. A decent source for used books by/about Merton is Powells Grace, John

  4. Good for you, John! There is also a book that John Howard Griffin published of Merton's photos in 1970 - "A Hidden Wholeness". It is now out of print, but can be found used online for $30-$40. I'm hemming and humming about getting it. I'll look it up on Powells Books.

    I would like to see that collection of photos they had at Loyola. Did they have the photo that Merton took in Bangkok to go alone with the "dream" quote?

    The more I look at MErton's art, the more I think that it holds the key to Merton, even more than his writings!

  5. Beth, I've read the "Hidden Wholeness" book, just don't own it (yet)and had forgotten about it...the nice thing about Powells is you can set up an account and set it up for them to ntify you if a book they don't have comes don't have to order's not held for you, so it's a nice service. If you search their site for "Thomas Merton" it will bring up a couple of hundred books, go to the very end and there will be books they have had but not currently, just set up an account and klick "notify me". The Loyola exhibit were photos Tom had taken around the monastery...close-ups of trees, really sweet one of an old watercan on the front porch of the hermitage that I wish could be bought as a print! The Merton Socity of Chicago has a decent site that kept fairly current.


  6. John, I set up an account at Powell books and am on "NOTIFY" status for the Hidden Wholeness book. Thanks for letting me know about the site.

    In the book of art by ROger Lipsey that I am so captivated with now, there is mention of Meatyard:

    "Two friends, the photographer Ralph Eugene Meatyard and the writer Guy Davenport, were visiting Merton at the hermitage in 1967 or '68. Davenport recalls: '[Merton] made drawings for us by dipping weeds in ink and slapping them onto a sheet of typing paper. He drew a horse, very Zen in its strokes'. Through this vivid account we can see Merton at work - but only in one way, using a wonderfully offbeat technique of his own devising."

    Pretty cool, I think.

  7. Beth, good luck, the Powells account can become a nasty habit! I have about 2 dozens books on my notify list, sometimes weeks go by without a hit and then I'll get two in a week. Luckly my wife tolerates my habit...but her side of the family calls me "monkboy"! I saw athe review of the "Merton and Friends" on the other site and I think that sold me on it...I have alot of respect for Jim Forest. I couldn't find "Hidden Wholeness" listed with the Griffin books on Powells or B&N...I do own "follow the ecstasy" and the "Hermitage journals" by Griffin. Another good read is "The vision of Thomas Merton", a book of essays compiled in honor of the late Merton scholar Robert Daggy.



The Stuff of Contemplation (Joan Chittister)

Thomas Merton, Trappist, died December 10, 1968 Thomas Merton entered the Abbey of Gethsemane in Bardstown, Kentucky, at the age of twenty-s...