Thomas Merton Series

Merton & The Tao

Cristobal Serran-Pagan y Fuentes


This fifth volume in the highly regarded Fons Vitae Thomas Merton series reveals the depth of the monk’s interests in Taoism and in particular the sage Chuang-Tzu from whose writings Merton selected, translated and presented a work that he called his personal favorite, The Way of Chuang Tzu.

Beautifully illustrated, this volume’s insightful essays by Taoist experts and sinologists Livia Kohn, Lucien Miller, Bede Bidlack, and John Wu, Jr. accompany the complete annotated correspondence between Merton and John Wu, Sr., the Chinese scholar, author, law professor and convert to Catholicism who guided Merton’s encounter with Taoism and acted as midwife to Merton’s interpretation into English of Chuang Tzu’s poetry.

Product Description

People love to go to the headwater of a great river, where it emerges as a small stream, and there jump across it. And then they can say: I jumped across the Mississippi, or the Rhone River. It may be of interest to hear about a head water of the great compilation of writing which is the Merton and Taoism volume. I mean in particular the visit of John Wu to Gethsemani in the early 1960’s.

He gave a talk in the Novitiate Conference room, attended by the Novices and some priests and members of the community. It was very wise, learned and mystical in nature. When John was finished one of the priests, who was a striver after religious things in a rather strenuous way spoke up. He asked: “How can we attain to the highest degree of contemplative awareness?” John calmly answered: “To do that you have to forget about yourself as a spiritual achiever and about getting to the highest.”

I do not know if that came from John’s study of Taoism, or from a previous conversation he had with Fr. Louis. The two may be indistinguishable – and reading the newly released volume may prove that to be true or otherwise.

Congratulations for this splendid effort and publication. Honorary bow to CRISTOBAL SARRAN-PAGAN, Johnathan Montaldo, Gray Henry, and any others who share its responsibility.

Br. Paul Quenon


Reading "The Way of Chaung Tzu", I find your pen has the magical power of portraying the spirit- a testimony to your Heaven-bred genius! From the fountain of your own mind have sprung the profound insights of Lao and Chuang! I am enjoying your new version, so simple and natural, that feel as though I were having a tete-a-tete with Chuang Tzu reincarnate!
John C. H. Wu. author of Beyond East and West and a giant in post-imperial Chinese law, in a letter to Thomas Merton.