Friday, March 30, 2007

Signs of Peace

By Richard J. Hauser - America Magazine - New York, NY, U.S.A.
Vol. 196 No. 13 - April 9, 2007

For years I have stared at the five published volumes (over 2,100 pages) of Thomas Merton’s letters arranged neatly on a shelf in my Merton collection and wondered if I would ever have time to work through them.
Occasionally I opened a volume to check a reference, but the massive collection of some 10,000 letters addressed to 2,100 correspondents remained largely unread.
Reading Signs of Peace has been an enjoyable way to break into this massive collection for insight into Thomas Merton the letter writer and, additionally, to reflect through Merton’s eyes on two issues as crucial in our time as in his (1915-68).

Signs of Peace, by William Apel, a professor of religious studies at Linfield College, McMinnville, Ore., contributes significantly to the current interfaith dialogue. An excerpt from a letter to Anna Coomaraswamy catches the theme of the book:

I believe that the only really valid thing that can be accomplished in the direction of world peace and unity at this moment is the preparation of the way by the formation of men who, isolated, perhaps not accepted or understood by any “movement,” are able to unite in themselves and experience in their own lives all that is best and most true in the numerous spiritual traditions.

Merton is convinced by his own experience that religious believers who appropriate their own spiritual traditions can make bridges to other spiritual traditions and so become “signs of peace” in our world. He is emphatic that the dialogue remain on the level of experience, for only on the experiential level is communion and peace possible. When the dialogue reverts to debates over dogma and doctrine, the union is shattered.

(...)

Signs of Peace pulls together Merton’s own dialogue with correspondents in major world religions: Sufism, Hinduism-Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, Zen Buddhism.
Merton readers will be familiar with the names of his correspondents: Abdul Aziz, Amiya Chakravarty, Dona Luisa Coomaraswamy (Ananda’s widow), John Wu, Abraham Heschel, D. T. Suzuki, Thich Nhat Hanh.
Focusing on a theme common to Merton and his correspondent—love, wisdom, holiness, openness, compassion, courage, unity—each chapter explains the evolution of Merton’s relationship with his correspondent, gives pertinent quotations from the exchange of letters as well as from related Merton writings and concludes with an extended excerpt from a particularly significant Merton letter.

Apel’s book has particular significance for our world today, combating the accusation of many that religions foment violence. Apel uses Merton’s interfaith and ecumenical correspondence to illustrate that the commonality of religious experiences can make committed religious believers “signs of peace” in a world divided by antagonisms.
Committed believers will be grateful to Apel for his defense of religion, and Merton readers for this very readable one-volume synthesis of Merton’s interfaith dialogue.

(...)

Signs of Peace
The Interfaith Letters of Thomas Merton
By William Apel
Orbis Books
202p $16 (paperback)

1 comment:

Irving said...

Fascinating idea. The Dali Lama is certainly one of the signs of peace in our time, and Desmond Tutu, and others both women and men who work tirelessly for peace and the justice that comes out of it. Many are in Muslim countries, and have won the Nobel Peace prize. May Allh guide them all.

Ya Haqq!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Signs of Peace
By Richard J. Hauser - America Magazine - New York, NY, U.S.A.
Vol. 196 No. 13 - April 9, 2007

For years I have stared at the five published volumes (over 2,100 pages) of Thomas Merton’s letters arranged neatly on a shelf in my Merton collection and wondered if I would ever have time to work through them.
Occasionally I opened a volume to check a reference, but the massive collection of some 10,000 letters addressed to 2,100 correspondents remained largely unread.
Reading Signs of Peace has been an enjoyable way to break into this massive collection for insight into Thomas Merton the letter writer and, additionally, to reflect through Merton’s eyes on two issues as crucial in our time as in his (1915-68).

Signs of Peace, by William Apel, a professor of religious studies at Linfield College, McMinnville, Ore., contributes significantly to the current interfaith dialogue. An excerpt from a letter to Anna Coomaraswamy catches the theme of the book:

I believe that the only really valid thing that can be accomplished in the direction of world peace and unity at this moment is the preparation of the way by the formation of men who, isolated, perhaps not accepted or understood by any “movement,” are able to unite in themselves and experience in their own lives all that is best and most true in the numerous spiritual traditions.

Merton is convinced by his own experience that religious believers who appropriate their own spiritual traditions can make bridges to other spiritual traditions and so become “signs of peace” in our world. He is emphatic that the dialogue remain on the level of experience, for only on the experiential level is communion and peace possible. When the dialogue reverts to debates over dogma and doctrine, the union is shattered.

(...)

Signs of Peace pulls together Merton’s own dialogue with correspondents in major world religions: Sufism, Hinduism-Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, Zen Buddhism.
Merton readers will be familiar with the names of his correspondents: Abdul Aziz, Amiya Chakravarty, Dona Luisa Coomaraswamy (Ananda’s widow), John Wu, Abraham Heschel, D. T. Suzuki, Thich Nhat Hanh.
Focusing on a theme common to Merton and his correspondent—love, wisdom, holiness, openness, compassion, courage, unity—each chapter explains the evolution of Merton’s relationship with his correspondent, gives pertinent quotations from the exchange of letters as well as from related Merton writings and concludes with an extended excerpt from a particularly significant Merton letter.

Apel’s book has particular significance for our world today, combating the accusation of many that religions foment violence. Apel uses Merton’s interfaith and ecumenical correspondence to illustrate that the commonality of religious experiences can make committed religious believers “signs of peace” in a world divided by antagonisms.
Committed believers will be grateful to Apel for his defense of religion, and Merton readers for this very readable one-volume synthesis of Merton’s interfaith dialogue.

(...)

Signs of Peace
The Interfaith Letters of Thomas Merton
By William Apel
Orbis Books
202p $16 (paperback)

1 comment:

Irving said...

Fascinating idea. The Dali Lama is certainly one of the signs of peace in our time, and Desmond Tutu, and others both women and men who work tirelessly for peace and the justice that comes out of it. Many are in Muslim countries, and have won the Nobel Peace prize. May Allh guide them all.

Ya Haqq!