Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 195
The Seven Storey Mountain is an autobiography by Thomas Merton. The central theme of the book is Merton's conversion to Roman Catholicism and what he had learned over the course of his theological scholarship. The other theme of Merton's memoir is life inside a Catholic monastery during the twentieth century, which can be found in the third section of the book.
The book is formatted like Dante's Inferno, in which Merton describes his life and eventual conversion to Catholicism as if his whole life experience up to that point was a spiritual awakening process. The first section, which details his childhood, is a phase in his life Merton calls "Hell" because it was a time when God was not present. The second part of the book, "Purgatory," emphasizes the theme of discovering God.
Another theme that is examined in the book is the West's obsession with materialism and superficial desires. Merton recalls his own debauchery in England and the United States during his college years and realizes that western society created a spiritual void that was replaced by worship of money. This experience proved to be a catalyst in Merton's spiritual awakening and eventual conversion.