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The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton$
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Monica Weis

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780813130040

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813130040.001.0001

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Merton’s Evolving Ecological Consciousness

Merton’s Evolving Ecological Consciousness

(p.126) Chapter 6 Merton’s Evolving Ecological Consciousness
The Environmental Vision of Thomas Merton

SSJ Monica Weis

University Press of Kentucky

This chapter traces the steps of an emerging ecological consciousness—from Thomas Merton's letter to Rachel Carson in 1963 until his last published book review a few months before his death in 1968. The assortment of letters, journal entries, reading notebooks, and published book reviews written during these five years reveals Thomas Merton on the cutting edge of environmental thinking and developing what Aldo Leopold—and later Merton—called an ecological conscience. Embedded in Merton's letter to Carson are three strands of his deepening spirituality: awareness and a keen eye for the beauty and the holiness or “sacramentality” of nature, a deepening realization of kinship and harmony with nature, and a growing sense of compassion and responsibility for all creation. Although these strands have been looked at individually in a somewhat biographical way, it can also be discerned how they become part of the fabric of Merton's spirituality particularly in the last years of his life. In general, the letters and published book reviews during the last five years of his life document an evolving and more intensely felt commitment to environmental integrity—a new consciousness motivated by justice for all creatures.

Keywords:   Thomas Merton, ecological conscience, Rachel Carson, beauty, nature, kinship, harmony, compassion, responsibility, spirituality

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