Monday, August 3, 2009

Peace In the Post-Christian Era

"A profound writing ... more timely than tomorrow's headlines." - Daniel Ellsburg

"The book you hold in your hands was intended for publication in 1962. While Thomas Merton would be pleased that 42 years later this labor of love is at last in bookshops and libraries, it would distress him that, far from being a poignant memento of a bygone era, it remains both timely and relevant." - Jim Forest, from the Foreward to Peace In The Post Christian Era

[To Jacques Maritain, Feb, 1963] I do not want to bother you with a multitude of things of mine, but I am putting into the mail a mimeographed copy of my "unpublishable" book on "Peace in the Post Christian Era." Unpublishable because forbidden by our upright and upstanding Abbot General who does not want to leave Christian civilization without the bomb to crown its history of honor. He says that my defense of peace "fausserait le message de la vie contemplative" [would falsify the message of the contemplative life]. The fact that a monk should be concerned about this issue is thought-by "good monks"-to be scandalous. A hateful distraction, withdrawing one's mind from Baby Jesus in the Crib. Strange to say, no one seems concerned at the fact that the crib is directly under the bomb.

Thomas Merton. The Courage for Truth: Letters to Writers, Christine M. Bochen, editor (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1993): 36.

Note: "Peace in the Post-Christian Era" was at last published by Orbis Books i
n 2005.


  1. Powerful words from Merton. I am completely baffled as to what the Abbot may have meant when he said that Merton's defense of peace would falsify the message of the contemplative life.

    Beth, just as an aside, and since I have been incommunicado for a while, am thrilled to have found last week in a second-hand bookstore: "The Way of Chuang Tzu", "Mystics and Zen Masters" and "The Waters of Siloe" to add to my ever-growing Merton collection! Also got a collection of Dorothy Day's letters.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Gabrielle.

    There was a time when monks were not supposed to be "involved" in world affairs - untouched. Merton was a real pioneer in busting up this myth/delusion. Merton's experience on 4th and Walnut, when he realized that he was just another person, like the rest of us, was one of his major breakthroughs. That there really is no separate "religious" life and "secular" life - they are the same life. (I think this is what he is pointing toward with his "Post-Christian era" phrase, a phrase that makes many people uncomfortable.)

    I just love the freedom that MErton was able to live within the monastery.

    You'll love Dorothy Day. She and Merton were on the same page!



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