Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Religious Studies

First Advisor

Keith J. Egan

Second Advisor

Patrick W. Carey

Third Advisor

William J. Kelly

Fourth Advisor

John J. Schmitt


Who is Thomas Merton? He is the best-known Cistercian of the twentieth century and probably the most famous Trappist monk since Bernard of Clairvaux (d. 1153). Admittedly, this does not place him in very fast company, since Cistercian monks are notoriously reclusive. What sets Merton apart from the rest of his hidden brethren is the fact that his interior journey from international wastrel to American mystic is so thoroughly documented. In his autobiography and various journals he details his spiritual quest from his birth in Prades, France in 1915, through his education and conversion to Catholicism, on to his entrance into Kentucky's Gethsemani Monastery in 1941, and his life there until his death on a trip to Asia
in 1968.

Merton was born in the Old World, lived most of his life in the New World, and died in the East. Thus he bridged national and cultural differences, epitomizing the growth and decline of twentieth century spheres of intellectual influence as well as the development of global intercommunication.

In addition, Merton demonstrated through his written commentary on his own life, the required stages of Christian and human development. He progressed from sensualist camaraderie to ascetic aloofness, on to loving concern for his fellow humans, and then culminated in the realization of truth's universality. His life is a paradigm of the stages of mystical awareness.




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