Merton and Seven Storey Mountain

My goal for reading this year is to read slllllooooowwwwweeeerr… and repeat some books.

Repeating books: check.

Slower: ummmm.

The one book I have read multiple times… okay… a second book I have read multiple times is Seven Storey Mountain, the autobiography of Thomas Merton. This is my first read of the year. This book is very easy for me to read every year or two. This is much like a modern Confessions by Augustine. And the writing is wonderful.

Merton tells his story of coming into the monastic life after he comes to faith. As he weaves his story he also drops in marvelous insights into culture. It is amazing to me how someone describing something in the 1930s sounds so much like today.

He has a critique of all manmade social systems. So, he IS critical of capitalism… and communism. He sees their weaknesses. It’s not that one can’t live in them… but he sees the cracks.

“We live in a society whose whole policy is to excite every nerve in the human body and keep it at the highest pitch of artificial tension… to create as many new desires and synthetic passions as possible, in order to cater to them with the products our factories and printing presses and movie studios and all the rest.”

It is really hard to believe he was observing life in the 1930s with that paragraph and not our current culture.

And for communism:

“The chief weakness of Communism, is that it is, itself, only another breed of the same materialism which is the source and root of all the evils which it so clearly sees…”

The book is far more than observations on man-made systems. He looks back and sees the hand of God drawing him all along the journey. He recognizes key points where he is saved from really stupid choices and wonders about the power of prayer.

The search for God, the restlessness of his soul, the coming to faith, then to the monastic life… it’s a wonderful read.

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2 thoughts on “Merton and Seven Storey Mountain

  1. I just finished reading this. The first time I began, I couldn’t finish the book–because his writing was so deep. It was really complicated and I felt like I couldn’t relate. But as a Catholic writer, I had a much easier time reading it the second try. His book sounded a lot like my diary, especially when he spoke of writing and books…it was awesome.

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