The Wisdom of the Desert: Sayings from the Desert Fathers of the Fourth Century

Front Cover
New Directions, 1961 - Philosophy - 81 pages
75 Reviews
The personal tones of the translations, the blend of reverence and humor so characteristic of him, show how deeply Merton identified with the legendary authors of these sayings and parables, the fourth-century Christian Fathers who sought solitude and contemplation in the deserts of the Near East. The hermits of Screte who turned their backs on a corrupt society remarkably like our own had much in common with the Zen masters of China and Japan, and Father Merton made his selection from them with an eye to the kind of impact produced by the Zen mondo.

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Review: The Wisdom of the Desert: Sayings from the Desert Fathers of the Fourth Century

User Review  - Mark Schlatter - Goodreads

This is a collection of very short stories and sayings by the Christian hermits assembled by Thomas Merton for his own edification. You have an introduction by Merton and then about one story or ... Read full review

Review: The Wisdom of the Desert: Sayings from the Desert Fathers of the Fourth Century

User Review  - Zbhall - Goodreads

These did not really impress me. I spread out the reading over a few days to really contemplate the message. It seems there was a bit of show-offy arrogance of these people. Maybe staying unremoved from the world and doing good works would bring everyone closer to the Kingdom of Heaven, no? Read full review

About the author (1961)

Born in France, Thomas Merton was the son of an American artist and poet and her New Zealander husband, a painter. Merton lost both parents before he had finished high school, and his younger brother was killed in World War II. Something of the ephemeral character of human endeavor marked all his works, deepening the pathos of his writings and drawing him close to Eastern, especially Buddhist, forms of monasticism. After an initial education in the United States, France, and England, he completed his undergraduate degree at Columbia University. His parents, nominally friends, had given him little religious guidance, and in 1938, he converted to Roman Catholicism. The following year he received an M.A. from Columbia University and in 1941, he entered Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky, where he remained until a short time before his death. His working life was spent as a Trappist monk. At Gethsemani, he wrote his famous autobiography, "The Seven Storey Mountain" (1948); there he labored and prayed through the days and years of a constant regimen that began with daily prayer at 2:00 a.m. As his contemplative life developed, he still maintained contact with the outside world, his many books and articles increasing steadily as the years went by. Reading them, it is hard to think of him as only a "guilty bystander," to use the title of one of his many collections of essays. He was vehement in his opposition to the Vietnam War, to the nuclear arms race, to racial oppression. Having received permission to leave his monastery, he went on a journey to confer with mystics of the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. He was accidentally electrocuted in a hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, on December 10, 1968.

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