Heretic Blood: The Spiritual Geography of Thomas Merton

Higgins, Michael

Published by Stoddart
ISBN 10: 0773731326 / ISBN 13: 9780773731325
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Synopsis: Thirty years after his death, we are finally catching up to Thomas Merton as one of the greatest spiritual figures of the twentieth century. The genius and spirituality of this unusual man could not be contained in his life as a monk but spilled over richly into his life and work as a poet, critic, rebel, sage, and even artist and photographer. Merton was aware that he had heretic blood within him, and it soon became apparent to the world. The balding French-English intellectual living as a Trappist monk at Our Lady of Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky took a vow of silence, yet corresponded with and befriended such luminaries as Joan Baez, Jacques Maritain, John Howard Griffin, Martin Luther King Jr., Erich Fromm, and Boris Pasternak. His famous autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, captured the imagination of a generation, selling more than six hundred thousand copies in its first year. Merton also took a vow of obedience, yet feuded constantly with his second abbot. As a monk he promised to remain celibate, yet he found himself passionately in love with a nurse he met while in hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. And at the end of his life, Merton, a monk within the western Roman Catholic tradition, was moving closer and closer to Eastern spirituality. This brilliant new book is the first to use recently released diary entries and correspondence by Merton and includes new insights about the recently published diary of his episode of the heart. Higgins compares Merton with William Blake, the monk's intellectual and spiritual hero, and comes to startling conclusions about the emotional and intellectual passions that drove Thomas Merton, a man and thinker for all seasons. ""Michael W. Higgins' Heretic Blood is as fresh and pertinent as when it first appeared in 1998. His penetrating exploration of Thomas Merton's lifelong spiritual companionship with poet-prophet visionary William Blake addresses the paradox of how a modern monk and an iconoclastic Romantic poet could be intimately conjoined. Higgins reveals how both contemplative artists are 'heretical' in challenging themselves and the social structures in which they found themselves to open to what Higgins calls 'a fully integrated spirituality.' Higgins' profound study is a lure to the wholeness from which all such transformative art springs."" --Susan McCaslin, author of Painter, Poet, Mountain: After Cezanne (2016) ""Every twenty or so years, a book comes along that reframes the discussion of a great writer. Such is the case with Michael W. Higgins' Heretic Blood: The Spiritual Geography of Thomas Merton, a work of dazzling style and cogent thought. In my reading, no book has ever made Merton's life-mission clearer: to repair the disunity of the world, to restore the presence of silence in everyday life, to oppose one-dimensional thought, and to pursue imaginative and spiritual wholeness."" --J. S. Porter, author of The Thomas Merton Poems and Thomas Merton: Hermit at the Heart of Things ""This is an important book on the nature of heresy. Higgins writes with elegance, lucidity, conviction, wit, allusive power, and compassion. He engages Thomas Merton and William Blake with an illuminating eye. It's a book that I refer to often when I talk about these seminal figures; and it's been a book that has informed my own explorations of heresy. The reprinting of Heretic Blood is an occasion for rejoicing. Now more people can read it and discover its many insights."" --B. W. Powe, Professor York University Michael W. Higgins is the author of four books on Thomas Merton, a celebrated radio documentary series, and numerous scholarly articles and popular columns. In addition, he has written and coauthored biographies of Emmett Cardinal Carter, Henri J. M. Nouwen, and Jean Vanier as well as works on the Jesuits, contemporary Roman Catholic life, the politics of saint-making, and religion and the media. He is currently Vice-President of Mission and Catholic Identity and Professo

Review: "Simply put," the author of this provocative study says, "Thomas Merton is the William Blake of our time." This is the "heretic blood" of the title: seeing Blake as an "arch-rebel," Higgins suggests that Merton--whose master's thesis at Columbia University was on Blake and who clearly never lost his love of Blake--takes the Romantic poet as something of a role model. "He was engaged in the same kind of spiritual and intellectual tasks," Higgins writes: "the critiquing of a dehumanizing culture; the re-visioning of human destiny; the liberating of our senses from the shackles of constrictive reason; the commingling of the imaginative arts." Academic dean and vice president of St. Jerome's University at the University of Waterloo, Higgins brings forth many references to Blake in Merton's work to support his argument. However, one need not be entirely convinced by the author's Blakean map to Merton's life to benefit from his close reading of Merton's prose, and even more from the attention he pays to his poetry, which was certainly at the center of Merton's own spiritual and artistic life--the place, in fact, where these two most deeply met. Doug Thorpe

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Book Description Soddart, Toronto, 1998. Hardcover. A new hardcover book. 308p. This history of Merton explores the seeming contradictions in his life, from his long correspondences while under a vow of silence to his romantic life while living as a celibate. Bookseller Inventory # 124041

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