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Liturgical Press

Thomas Merton in California

The Redwoods Conferences and Letters

Edited and Introduced by David M. Odorisio; Foreword by Kathy DeVico, OCSO; Preface by Douglas Christie

Thomas Merton in California SEE INSIDE
Thomas Merton in California

ISBN: 9798400800313, 00313

Details: 462 pgs, 6 x 9 x 1
Publication Date: 01/03/2024
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Previously unpublished material from world-renowned Trappist monk and author, Thomas Merton, featuring the final conference talks given in the United States before his untimely death.

In May and October of 1968, Thomas Merton offered two extended conferences at Our Lady of the Redwoods Abbey, a Cistercian women’s community in Northern California. Comprising over twenty-six hours of previously unpublished material, Thomas Merton in California covers a variety of topics including ecology and consciousness, yoga and Hinduism, Native American ritual and rites of passage, Sufi spirituality, and inter-religious dialogue, along with extended discussions on prayer and the contemplative life.

The material presented in these talks reveals Merton’s wide-ranging intellectual and spiritual pursuits in the final year of his life, and fills a long-standing lacuna around Merton's visits to Redwoods Monastery, forming a necessary bridge to the Asian journey that was to come. Practical and applicable, as well as searching and inspired, Thomas Merton in California is essential for Merton readers and scholars, and all those interested in deepening their spiritual lives.

David M. Odorisio, PhD, is associate core faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute, Santa Barbara, CA. He received his MA in the History of Christian Spirituality from Saint John's University, School of Theology-Seminary, and his PhD in East-West Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies. David is editor of Merton and Hinduism: The Yoga of the Heart, and has published in numerous journals in the areas of psychology and religion, and the life and writings of Thomas Merton.

ISBN: 9798400800313, 00313

Details: 462 pgs, 6 x 9 x 1
Publication Date: 01/03/2024


"What a marvelous, unexpected gift! These series of informal talks to a cherished community of Cistercian women and later to a small group of their invited guests, along with related materials, sparkle and inspire with Thomas Merton’s characteristic insight, humor and wisdom. Expertly introduced and edited by David Odorisio, this volume presents Merton at the top of his form and fills a gap we didn’t even know existed in the literary record of the final months of his life."
Patrick F. O’Connell, Editor, Thomas Merton: Selected Essays

"This is a significant, well-annotated exhibition of the monk's nuanced massage of 1960s consciousness experiments mere months before his death in Thailand. David M. Odorisio, the astute editor of the recent magisterial Merton & Hinduism, represents a new wave of scholarly contemplatives who explore Merton’s strategic inner work to transcend himself in service and witness to the global communities of those who pray. Odorisio lays out evidence of Merton's having lost his 'self' forward through deeper inner experiences of solitude and community. Merton beacons hope that all divisions of our true and false selves will disappear at last into a universal matrix of love."
Jonathan Montaldo, Bridges to Contemplative Living with Thomas Merton

"With fresh, astute editing, Odorisio offers us a powerful entry into Merton's post-Vatican II thinking about human consciousness that reveals Merton's deep sense of play, spiritual honesty, and belief in the 'cosmic community of creatures.' These 1968 Redwood Conferences and letters to Mother Myriam Dardenne OCSO, that created an 'alleluia experience' for Merton are now, for the first time, available to contemporary readers. Promise yourself a thorough and engaging reading."
Dr. Monica Weis SSJ, Professor Emerita of English, Nazareth University

"Merton was at his best in informal settings. This newly published material provides examples: two sets of talks to monastics and two collections of letters both in his ipsissima verba. Edited with intelligence, warmth, and clear documentation, the book makes some of his last, most important teaching on prayer widely available. It is an important contribution to Merton primary sources."
Bonnie Thurston, author of Shaped By the End You Live For: Thomas Merton's Monastic Spirituality

"With Thomas Merton in California, expertly edited by David M. Odorisio, we have the mature Merton of 1968 speaking on prayer, spirituality, and interfaith dialogue, along with other areas of concern for him at that time. Merton’s previously unavailable talks to the community at Our Lady of the Redwoods from May and October 1968 will appeal to seekers everywhere as he tells the sisters, quite simply yet profoundly, 'The great thing is prayer. Prayer itself … if you want a life of prayer, the way to get it is by praying.' These talks, given just days before his departure for Asia and weeks before his untimely death, show Merton’s deep rootedness in the monastic tradition and his Catholic faith, whilst still being open to other faith traditions and becoming, as he tells the sisters, 'as good a Buddhist as I can.'"
Paul M. Pearson, Director, Thomas Merton Center

"The young man who thought of himself as a contemplative in Greenwich Village now comes full circle after decades of monastic life to the crucible of contemporary culture and thought in northern California, not only with his dear friends at Redwoods Monastery, but in his jaunts into San Francisco, jazz clubs and Beat bookstores. The conferences contained here are more like conversations that Merton initiates, and you can almost hear the restless Trappist breathless with excitement about the future, particularly his own. To read Thomas Merton in California is more like listening in, not only to his dizzyingly wide-ranging erudition but on candid descriptions of his own daily life as a solitary that do well to shatter the romantic illusions of hermit life. A profoundly intimate and fascinating glimpse into one of the greatest minds and most important voices of the twentieth century."
Cyprian Consiglio, OSB Cam, author of Prayer in the Cave of the Heart and Spirit, Soul, Body

"Here we hear Merton in his own voice—candid, uncensored, heartfelt—as he explores human consciousness through lenses of Christian, Hindu, Sufi, and Zen mysticism. We owe David M. Odorisio a debt of gratitude for his artfully crafted introduction to the landscape and spirit of Redwoods, judiciously edited transcriptions of Merton’s talks and letters, and informative yet unobtrusive annotation. This book is a treasure—informative and inspiring! It will touch reader's minds and hearts!"
Christine M. Bochen, Professor Emerita of Religious Studies at Nazareth University, Rochester, New York

"Both nostalgic and poignant, for the first time ever, Odorisio makes available the final conferences given by Merton at Redwoods monastery in the Lost Coast of California just months before his fateful journey East. Odorisio’s editing—nuanced and subtle—literally ‘holds space’ for an uncensored Merton to speak anew with a timeless relevance that is as uncanny as it is prophetic. This volume fills an essential gap on the ruminations of a mature Merton across a breadth of subjects as relevant in 1968 as they are now. The world of Merton scholarship is indebted to Odorisio for bringing these conferences to light. Simply brilliant!"
The Rev. Vincent Pizzuto, University of San Francisco, author of Contemplating Christ: The Gospels and the Interior Life

"This book, for the first time, makes those conferences available in transcription form. They are easy to read and important to digest, for Merton enthusiasts but also for anyone passionate about interfaith and interspiritual learning and discovery today."
Spirituality and Practice

"David Odorisio's thoughtful and creative editorial decisions allow the reader to imaginatively see Merton living out his Christian monastic vocation in real time, while simultaneously offering us the tools we need to trace the origins of Merton's mature and compelling vision. It is an indispensable aid to anyone with an interest in Merton."
Journal of Social Encounters

"Often while reading this work, I found myself captivated, as I have been so many times before in reading Merton's work, by the freedom, openness and spontaneity that have always characterized his best writing and which are on such vivid display here. One does not have to agree with the particular ideas he presents in this or that conference to appreciate the care and attention and sense of spiritual honesty he brings to his inquiry. Here, they are enhanced and deepened by the dialogical character of these conferences."