Thomas Merton and Sufism – Lecture by Gray Henry

Gray Henry spoke in London this summer, at an event sponsored by the Temenos Academy, which offers education in philosophy and the arts in the light of the sacred traditions of the East and West. International Fellows of the Temenos Academy include: Wendell Berry, Professor Jacob Needleman and Professor William Chittick of the USA, Dr Rowam Williams , Mr Brian Keeble,  Keith Critchlow, Dr Rupert Sheldrake, and Mr Satish Kumar of the UK, and Dr Kapila Vatsyayan of India.

In his last years,  Merton was focused on kenosis- emptying himSelf of his self -spiritual poverty. This talk shows how his interest in- and lectures on- Sufism, his correspondence with  the Traditionalists like  AK Coomaraswamy, and the passages in his journals up to the time he died -reflect this universal, spiritual concern and effort. Die before you die!


A lecture by GRAY HENRY

Monday 17 July 2017 at 7.30pm The Essex Unitarian Church 112 Palace Gardens Terrace

London W8 4RT

In the chair Emma Clark

Thomas Merton was a 20th century spiritual seeker, a monk who became known throughout the world for his spiritual writings. At one point in his life, he was graced with an epiphany. The term he used to describe an aspect of this experience was ‘le point vierge’ (literally ‘the virgin point’) which he took from Louis Massignon, the Catholic scholar of Islam, with whom he corresponded. Merton defined ‘le point vierge’ as ‘the point at which I can meet God in a real and experiential contact’ .

Merton had been very drawn to Martin  Lings’  book on Shaykh Ahmad al Alawi, A Muslim Saint of  the  20th Century and invited a Shaykh from the Mostaganam Zawiyya to visit his own monastery in Trappist, Kentucky. During the two years before his death in 1968, Merton’s weekly lectures to the monastery novices were focused on Sufism. This lecture explores the influence of Sufism on Merton’s thought.

VIRGINIA GRAY HENRY is Director of the Kentucky-based publishing house Fons Vitae and is Co-Director of the Ghazali Children’s Project, a world-wide educational initiative. See more at

Enjoy the lecture!