The Seven Storey Mountain

by Thomas Merton

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 314

The Seven Storey Mountain is Thomas Merton's autobiography, published in 1948. Merton was a monk of the Benedictine Order who was an American who was born in France. Important quotations include:

Souls are like athletes that need opponents worthy of them, if they are to be tried and extended and pushed to the full use of their powers, and rewarded according to their capacity. (91-2)

Though Merton's book was immensely successful, Merton himself didn't receive any royalties, owing to the vow of poverty implicit in his monasticism. Of worldly success, Merton has the following to say:

The logic of worldly success rests on a fallacy: the strange error that our perfection depends on the thoughts and opinions and applause of other men! A weird life it is, indeed, to be living always in somebody else’s imagination, as if that were the only place in which one could at last become real! (362)

For Merton, communion with God is the source of happiness. Merton himself confesses to long periods of unhappiness in his own life. Merton concludes that one should not try to avoid suffering, because he who does so ends up suffering the most. The most supreme happiness comes from complete surrender to God. On this score, Merton states:

Because there is happiness only where there is coordination with the Truth, the Reality, the Act that underlies and directs all things to their essential and accidental perfections: and that is the will of God. There is only one happiness: to please Him. Only one sorrow, to be displeasing to Him, to refuse Him something, to turn away from Him, even in the slightest thing, even in thought, in a half-willed movement of appetite: in these things, and these alone, is sorrow, in so far as they imply separation, or the beginning, the possibility of separation from Him Who is our life and all our joy. (406)

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