The Many Storeys and Last Days of Thomas Merton

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Thomas Merton was one of the foremost spiritual thinkers of the twentieth century. Though he lived a mostly solitary existence as a Trappist monk, he had a dynamic impact on world affairs through his writing. Merton was also unique among religious leaders of his time in his embrace of Eastern mysticism, positing it as complementary to the Western sacred tradition. An outspoken proponent of the antiwar and civil rights movements, he was both hailed as a prophet and castigated for his social criticism.

This inspiring documentary focuses especially on 1968, when Merton was finally permitted to travel outside of the monastery and visit Asia. The Dalai Lama speaks of the powerful impression Merton made on him, as a “genuine practitioner,” and how he still misses his friend decades later. And we hear Merton’s description of his visit to Polonnaruwa on Sri Lanka, where, in a transformational moment, he experienced an “inner clearness”: everything is emptiness, everything is compassion; such peace, such silence. And we learn of his untimely death at age 53.

Thomas Merton wrote more than 60 books, including The Seven Storey Mountain, for which he is best known. His work continues to be widely read to this day.

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