Thomas Merton Collection

Collection Summary

Title: Thomas Merton Collection
Call Number: MS 2016-10
Size: 2.0 linear feet (2 boxes)
Acquisition: Donated by Michael D. Heaston, 2013
Processed by: JZ, 3-2016
Restrictions: None

Literary Rights

Literary rights were not granted to Wichita State University. When permission is granted to examine the manuscripts, it is not an authorization to publish them. Manuscripts cannot be used for publication without regard for common law literary rights, copyright laws and the laws of libel. It is the responsibility of the researcher and his/her publisher, to obtain permission to publish. Scholars and students who eventually plan to have their work published are urged to make inquiry regarding overall restrictions on publication before initial research.

Content Note

This collection consists of writings by Catholic priest and Trappist monk Thomas Merton, who became well known for his publications on religion and spirituality, as well as his pacifism, social activism, and promotion of interfaith dialogue. Record types include manuscripts and correspondence on the above topics, and material related to Merton's life and the monastery where he resided and worked.


Thomas Merton was born on January 31, 1915, to Owen Merton, a New Zealand painter, and Ruth Jenkins, an American Quaker and artist. Following a childhood spent in various European and American locations, Merton entered Clare College at Cambridge University in 1933 but eventually left and enrolled at Columbia University in 1935. He majored in English while developing a deep interest in Catholicism, to which he eventually converted in 1938. Merton earned a B.A. the same year and then remained at Columbia, attaining an M.A in 1939 while also considering a vocation as a priest.

Following his attendance at a retreat held during Holy Week in April 1941 at the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani in Kentucky, Merton came to believe that the Cistercian Order (also known as the Trappists) was the most suitable path for him. In December of that year he was accepted as a candidate at the Abbey; during his training, he was also encouraged by the abbot to keep a journal in order to record his experiences. In 1948, the year before his ordination, Merton published his autobiography, Seven Storey Mountain, which narrated his journey to Christianity and the Cistercian Order. The book became an unexpected bestseller and was influential in leading many men to the priesthood.

In subsequent years Merton authored many publications on religion and spirituality, becoming noteworthy in the 1960s for his pacifist views concerning the conflict in Vietnam and his writings in support of the Civil Rights Movement. He was also a pioneer in encouraging Westerners to understand and appreciate Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Taoism, going so far himself as to meet with the Dalai Lama in 1968. While attending an interfaith conference later that year in Bangkok, Thailand, Thomas Merton died on December 10 after an accidental electrocution. His body was buried at the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani in Kentucky.

Detailed Description: Series Listing

Series 1 Box 1-Box 2 Writings. This series contains material on Christianity, Eastern religions, social issues, literary authors, and philosophy, as well as some of Merton's prayers and poems, 1940-1968. Contains two subseries.
Series 1.1 Box 1 FF 1-82, Box 2 Non-Fiction. Contains non-fiction writings; most were published during or after Merton's lifetime. Unpublished items are noted as such. Material is arranged alphabetically.
Series 1.2 Box 1 FF 83-93 Poetry. Contains manuscripts of poems. Arranged alphabetically.
Series 2 Box 1 FF 94-102, Box 2 FF 1 Other. This series contains correspondence, ephemera, and a bibliography of Merton material held in Special Collections at WSU, 1948-1991, n.d. Arranged alphabetically.

Detailed Description: Box and Folder Listing

Series 1 ‒ Writings

Series 1.1 ‒ Non-Fiction

Box 1FF 1"Adaptation of the Monastic Life: Some Personal Observations" (unpublished essay), 1964
Box 1FF 2"Advent," n.d.
Box 1FF 3"The Answer of Minerva: Pacifism and Resistance in Simone Weil," 1965
Box 1FF 4"Blessed Are the Meek: The Roots of Christian Non-Violence," 1966
Box 1FF 5"Camus and the Catholic Church," 1966
Box 1FF 6"The Cell," 1966
Box 1FF 7"The Christian and the World . . . " (unpublished conference notes), 1966
Box 1FF 8"Christian Humanism," 1966
Box 1FF 9"A Christian Looks at Zen," 1966
Box 1FF 10"Christian Worship and Social Reform" (unpublished), n.d.
Box 1FF 11"Clement of Alexandria: Selections from The Protreptikos," c. 1962
Box 1FF 12The Climate of Monastic Prayer (revised edition), 1965
Box 1FF 13Cold War Letters, c. 1963
Box 1FF 14"Concerning the Collections in Bellarmine College Library," 1963
Box 1FF 15"Contemplation and Ecumenism," 1965
Box 1FF 16"The Contemplative and the Atheist," 1967
Box 1FF 17"The Council and Monasticism," 1965
Box 1FF 18"Danish Non-Violent Resistance to Hitler," n.d.
Box 1FF 19"Dialogue about the Hidden God" (translation of De Deo Abscondito by Nicholas of Cusa), n.d.
Box 1FF 20Disputed Questions (mimeograph of typescript), c. 1960
Box 1FF 21Disputed Questions (uncorrected proof),1960
Box 1FF 22"D. T. Suzuki: The Man and His Work," 1966
Box 1FF 23"Edifying Cables," 1966
Box 1FF 24"Events and Pseudo-Events: Letter to a Southern Churchman," 1966
Box 1FF 25"Examination of Conscience and Conversatio Morum," 1963
Box 1FF 26Extract from Thoughts in Solitude, n.d.
Box 1FF 27Faith and Violence (additions to paperback reprint), 1967
Box 1FF 28"Faulkner and His Critics," 1967
Box 1FF 29"For a Renewal of Eremitism in the Monastic State," 1965
Box 1FF 30"A Foreword to Marcel and Buddha," 1967
Box 1FF 31"Franciscan Eremitism," 1966
Box 1FF 32"The Hot Summer of Sixty Seven," 1967
Box 1FF 33"Introduction to Selections from the Sermons of Isaac of Stella," 1966
Box 1FF 34"An Introduction to the English Mystics," 1962
Box 1FF 35"Ishi: A Meditation," 1967
Box 1FF 36"Is the World a Problem?," 1966
Box 1FF 37"Love and Need: Is Love a Package or a Message?" 1966
Box 1FF 38"Love and Solitude," 1966
Box 1FF 39"A Martyr for Peace and Unity: Father Max Josef Metzger," c. 1960s
Box 1FF 40"Marxist Theory and Monastic Theoria," 1968
Box 1FF 41"Message to Poets," n.d.
Box 1FF 42Monastic Observances, c. 1959.
Box 1FF 43"Monastic Reform: A Memorandum," c. 1964
Box 1FF 44"The Monastic Theology of St. Aelred," 1968
Box 1FF 45"Monastic Vows: A Memorandum" (unpublished), n.d.
Box 1FF 46"The Monk in the Diaspora," 1964
Box 1FF 47"The Mystery of the Church in St. Ignatius of Antioch," n.d.
Box 1FF 48"A New Christian Consciousness?," 1967
Box 1FF 49"Note on Vatican II Pastoral Constitution: Gaudium et Spes, Article 18," c. 1964
Box 1FF 50"Notes by the Artist for an Exhibit of Drawings," n.d.
Box 1FF 51"Notes on the Earthly Paradise" (unpublished), n.d.
Box 1FF 52 "Oratio" (from Cassiodorus' De Anima, translated by Merton as "Prayer of Cassiodorus"), n.d.
Box 1FF 53"Orthodoxy and the World" (book reviews for Monastic Studies), 1965
Box 1FF 54"Passivity and Abuse of Authority," c. 1962
Box 1FF 55Prayer delivered at the Vatican Pavilion during the New York World's Fair, 1964
Box 1FF 56"Prayer for Peace," 1962
Box 1FF 57"Preface to Redeeming the Time," 1965
Box 1FF 58"Preface to the Japanese Edition of The Seven Storey Mountain," c, 1965
Box 1FF 59"Preface to The Lotus in the Sea of Fire by Thich Nhat Hanh," c. 1967
Box 1FF 60"Prophetic Ambiguities: Milton, Camus, Teilhard de Chardin," c. 1965
Box 1FF 61Review of G. M. Columbas's article on the revival of eremitism, c. 1967
Box 1FF 62Review of Gregorio Penco's article on the monastery-as-prison, c. 1966
Box 1FF 63Review of Maximino Arias's article on Benedictine monasteries, c. 1966
Box 1FF 64Review of Varieties of Unbelief by Martin E. Marty, 1965
Box 1FF 65Review of Why We Can't Wait by Dr. Martin Luther King (unpublished), c. 1964
Box 1FF 66 "A Ruler's Examination of Conscience: Some Texts from François Fenelon" (unpublished), n.d.
Box 1FF 67Seasons of Celebration (uncorrected proof), 1965
Box 1FF 68The Secular Journal of Thomas Merton (uncorrected proof), 1959
Box 1FF 69"A Sermon of Isaac of Stella," 1966
Box 1FF 70"The Shoshoneans," 1967
Box 1FF 71"Spiritual Direction," c. 1962
Box 1FF 72"The Spiritual Father in the Desert Tradition," 1966
Box 1FF 73"The Stranger: Poverty of an Anti-Hero," 1968
Box 1FF 74"Target Equals City," c. 1950s
Box 1FF 75"Terror and the Absurd: Violence and Non-Violence in Albert Camus," 1966
Box 2 A Thomas Merton Reader (uncorrected proof), 1962
Box 1FF 76"Three Saviors," 1966
Box 1FF 77 "The 'True Legendary Sound': The Poetry and Criticism of Edwin Muir," 1966
Box 1FF 78"The Universe as Epiphany: The Spirituality of Teilhard de Chardin," c. 1960
Box 1FF 79"The Way of Chuang Tzu," 1965
Box 1FF 80"Wilderness and Paradise," 1966
Box 1FF 81"Writing as Temperature," 1968
Box 1FF 82"The Zen Koan," 1965

Series 1.2 ‒ Poetry

Box 1FF 83Early Poems, 1940-1942
Box 1FF 84"Eight Freedom Songs," c. 1964
Box 1FF 85 "First Lesson about Man," n.d.
Box 1FF 86"Grace's House," n.d.
Box 1FF 87"Le Secret," 1966
Box 1FF 88"Man the Master," 1965
Box 1FF 89"The Night of Destiny," n.d.
Box 1FF 90"Reading Translated Poets, Feb. 1," c. 1965
Box 1FF 91"Rilke's Epitaph," 1966
Box 1FF 92"Rites for the Extrusion of a Leper," 1967
Box 1FF 93"With the World in My Blood Stream," 1966

Series 2 ‒ Other

Box 1FF 94Bibliography of Thomas Merton's work in Special Collections, n.d.
Box 2FF 1Broadside in support of peace (contains Merton quotation), 1991
Box 1FF 95Correspondence from Merton to Shinzo Hamai on the anniversary of the bombing of Japan, 1962
Box 1FF 96Correspondence from Merton to unknown person on Seven Storey Mountain, 1948-1949
Box 1FF 97CV of Thomas Merton, c. 1969
Box 1FF 98"First Christmas at Gethsemani" (typed review of Merton's work), c. 1949
Box 1FF 99Letter from the Abbey of Gethsemani to the public following Merton's death, 1968
Box 1FF 100"Nuclear Warfare and Your Conscience: A Study Guide for Seniors in Catholic Schools" (contains Merton quotation), c. 1962
Box 1FF 101Program for the centennial celebration of the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, 1949
Box 1FF 102"Reading List for the Novices," n.d.