The Other Side of the Mountain: The Journals of Thomas Merton Volume 7:1967-1968

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9780060654863: The Other Side of the Mountain: The Journals of Thomas Merton Volume 7:1967-1968

"Last night I had a curious dream about Kanchenjunga. I was looking at the mountain and it was pure white, absolutely pure, especially the peaks that lie to the west. And I saw the pure beauty of their shape and outline, all in white. And I heard a voice saying-or got the clear idea of: 'There is another side to the mountain.'. . . This morning my quarrel with the mountain is ended . . . why get mad at a mountain? It is beautiful, chastely white in the morning sun-and right in view of the bungalow window."There is another side of Kanchenjunga and of every mountain-the side that has never been photographed and turned into postcards. That is the only side worth seeing" (November 19, 1968).

The seventh and final volume of Thomas Merton's journals finds him exploring new territory, both spiritual and geographic, in the last great journey prior to his untimely death. Traveling in the United States and the Far East, Merton enjoys a new freedom that brings with it a rich mix of solitude, spirited friendship, and interaction with monks of other traditions.

In his last days in the United States, Merton continues to follow the tumultuous events closing the 1960s, including the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy. Meanwhile, with the blessing of his new abbot, Merton travels to monasteries in New Mexico and among the redwoods of Northern California, keeping his journal all the while. In these travels, as well as on a later trip to Alaska, he gains a better understanding of his eremitical yearnings and begins to see a way to reconcile his conflicting desires for solitude and fellowship.

When Merton wins approval to participate in a meeting of monastic superiors of the Far East in Bangkok, Thailand, his life enters its most thrilling period. Arriving in Calcutta, Merton is heartbroken by the poverty of the many beggars; in New Delhi and Dharamsala, he makes contact with local Buddhists, including the Dalai Lama. Recognizing each other as kindred spirits, Merton and the Dalai Lama speak from the heart like old friends.

In Bangkok at the beginning of December 1968, awaiting the beginning of the conference, Merton pens a letter home: "I think of you all on this Feast Day and with Christmas approaching I feel homesick for Gethsemani." Tragically, Christmas Day finds Merton back home after all. Electrocuted accidentally in his Bangkok room, Merton is returned to his beloved abbey to be laid to rest in a grave overlooking the woods so familiar to him from his twenty-seven years of monastic life at Gethsemani.

Thirty years after his death, the contributions of Thomas Merton remain as vital as ever. Completing the published Journals of Thomas Merton, The Other Side of the Mountain conveys the intense spiritual exploration and powerful lessons that filled his short life.

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Review:

The Other Side of the Mountain is the seventh and final volume of Thomas Merton's journals, covering the last two years of his life. In this book, Merton finally makes peace with his ambivalent relationship to the Church: his civil rights and anti-nuclear work, his interest in Eastern spirituality, and his love for Catholic orthodoxy coalesce into a mature voice that avoids the frosty pieties to which he was often partial in his younger years. This volume takes its title from an entry made during his final travels in India and the Far East. In this entry, he relates a dream about gazing at the mountain Kanchenjunga:

I heard a voice saying--or got the clear idea of: "There is another side to the mountain." ... There is another side of Kanchenjunga and of every mountain--the side that has never been photographed and turned into postcards. That is the only side worth seeing.
The next month, Merton died from accidental electrocution in a hotel room in Bangkok. --Michael Joseph Gross

About the Author:

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) is widely regarded as one of the most influential spiritual writers of modern times. He was a Trappist monk, writer, and peace and civil rights activist. His bestselling books include The Seven-Storey Mountain, New Seeds of Contemplation, and Mystics and Zen Masters.

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