The Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University

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Category:         Humanities
SubCategory:  Sociology

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DateAuthorTitleSourceQuotation by Merton
1958/05/29Hannah ArendtOrigins of Totalitarianism Jnl 3 ('52-'60) p. 204 The terrible insights of Hannah Arendt's Origins of Totalitarianism. Wrote notes here under the pine trees in bare feet.
1959/12/06Niall BrennanMaking of a Moron Jnl 3 ('52-'60) p. 353 Read a bit of Voillaume on the poverty of the Little Brothers. Finished Neal Breman's excellent book The Making of a Moon.
1960/04/16Erich FrommArt of Loving: an Enquiry into the Nature of Love Jnl 3 ('52-'60) p. 384 Excellent book by Scholem Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism and Traherne's Centuries, sent by Natasha Spender. Finished Fromm on love. And a little thing by Jungmann, The Sacrifice of the Church.
1962/03/02Charles Wright MillsPower Elite Jnl 4 ('60-'63) p. 206 Reading Wright Mills on the Power Elite. How can we avoid war? The Pentagon is moving the country and forming everybody's mind for war. The picture that has meaning to most people is basically military. He contends, I believe rightly, that since WWII the military have really taken over from the politicians (or taken the politicians over). The country is on a permanent military basis. This I had not realized so clearly, still thinking in terms of 1940 when I entered.
1962/08/30Joseph CampbellSymbol without Meaning Jnl 4 ('60-'63) p. 240-41 Interesting hypothesis of Joseph Campbell in Eranos Jahrbuch XXVI, p. 430 ff. That the mandala appears at end of hunting societies. Because in the primitive bushman type society the individual has in himself all he needs, he knows the whole culture, and is not a fraction of his society. Where agricultural society comes into being, the individual has a specialized function, is a fragment, and is under stress until he can "realiz" his relationship to the whole. He does this by means of symbols. This agricultural society goes back 8,000 years, while man has been on earth for 600,000 years. And we are now entering an industrial age (since 200 years!!) in which symbols of agricultural society break down. The highest concern of all mythologies and ceremonials, ethical systems etc. has been to suppress manifestations of individualism, "by compelling or persuading people to identify themselves not with their own interests, intuitions or modes of experience but with archetypes of behavior and systems of sentiment developed and maintained in the public domain." p 448 ....
1963/07/19Johan HuizingaHomo ludens : a study of the play-element in culture Ltrs: WtoF p. 166 The following are the questions, with Merton's answers: 1. Name the last three books you have read. The Platform Scripture of Hui Neng, translated by Wing Tsit Chen The Proslogion by St. Anselm of Canterbury A Different Drummer by William Melvin Kelley 2. Name the books you are reading now. Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture by John Huizinga Ratio Verae Theologiae (The Real Meaning of Theology) by Erasmus The Historian and Character by David Knowles 4. Books that have influenced you. Poetic Works of William Blake Plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas Sermons of Meister Eckhart De Doctrina Christiana, Confessions, and Sermons on Psalms of St. Augustine Rule of St. Benedict The Bhagavad-Gita The Imitation of Christ, etc. 5. Why have these books been an influence on you? These books and others like them have helped me to discover the real meaning of my life, and have made it possible for me to get out of the confusion and meaninglessness of an existence completely immersed in the needs and passivities fostered by a culture in which sales are everything. 6. Name a book everyone should read. Besides the Bible (taken for granted and not included above) and such classics as The Imitation of Christ, I would select a contemporary book which I consider to be of vital importance and which I think everyone should read at this time: The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. 7. Why this book? This is the most forceful statement about a crisis that is of immediate importance to every American, and indirectly affects the whole world today. It is something that people have to know about. The Negro has been trying to make himself heard: in this book he succeeds.
1963/11/21Erich FrommArt of Loving: an Enquiry into the Nature of Love Ltrs: WtoF p. 309 Probably one of the most practical books I can recommend is Erich Fromm's The Art of Loving, which is published by Harper's. This is sensible and good. Dr. Fromm is an analyst and a friend of mine, but I don't think you will find him sticky or unpractical. Try this, anyway. It ought to be of some help, though I don't think it gets into intimate details. But it concerns the psychological problem involved in sexual love.
1964/10/29Jacques Ellultechnological society / Jacques Ellul ; transl. from the French by John Wilkinson ; with an introd. by Robert K. Merton Jnl 5 ('63-'65) p. 159 Ferry sent Jacques Ellul's book on Technology [The Technological Society, 1964], just out.... Reading Jacques Ellul's book The Technological Society. Great, full of firecrackers. A fine provocative book and one that really makes sense. Good to read while the Council is busy with Schema 13 (as it is).
1964/11/02Jacques Ellultechnological society / Jacques Ellul ; transl. from the French by John Wilkinson ; with an introd. by Robert K. Merton Jnl 5 ('63-'65) p. 161 I am going on with Ellul's prophetic and I think very sound diagnosis of the Technological Society. How few people really face the problem! It is the most portentous and apocalyptical thing of all, that we are caught in an automatic self-determining system in which man's choices have largely ceased to count. (The existentialist's freedom in a void seems to imply a despairing recognition of this plight, but it says and does nothing.)
1964/11/06Jacques Ellultechnological society / Jacques Ellul ; transl. from the French by John Wilkinson ; with an introd. by Robert K. Merton Jnl 5 ('63-'65) p. 163 I think Ellul is perhaps too pessimistic. Not unreasonably so-but one must still have hope. Perhaps the self-determining course of technology is not as inexorably headed for the end he imagines. And yet certainly it is logical. But more is involved, thank heaven, than logic. All will be brought into line to "serve the universal effort" (of continual technological development and expansion). There will be no place for the solitary! No man will be able to disengage himself from society! Should I complain of technology with this hissing, bright green light with its comforts and dangers? Or with the powerful flashlight I got at Sears that sends a bright hard pole of light probing deep into the forest?
1964/12/28Jacques Ellultechnological society / Jacques Ellul ; transl. from the French by John Wilkinson ; with an introd. by Robert K. Merton Ltrs: WtoF p. 109 In November a group of peace workers, including A. J. Muste, who is the dean of American pacifists, and some from The Catholic Worker and Jim Forest of the movement, came here for a retreat and discussion which was very successful and full of good lights. There was much discussion of a book which I had at the time just read, Jacques Ellul's great work on technology [La Technique (1954), published in English as The Technological Society (1964)]. Do you know Ellul? You must, I am sure. I admire his work and find it entirely convincing and indeed it has the stamp of prophecy which so much Christian writing on that subject seems to lack. I am very anxious to read his book on propaganda.
1965/01/17Paul GoodmanGrowing up Absurd Jnl 5 ('63-'65) p. 192 In the monastery after dinner I played Brother Antoninus' record "The Tongs of Jeopardy" to the novices and some of the juniors. It is remarkably good-meditation on the Kennedy assassination. He was talking about his ideas on this when he was here and I was very struck by them then. They cannot be summed up simply as "Jungian." A remarkable and sensitive poetic insight into the state of the American mind-better than anything else I know (for instance how much deeper say than Paul Goodman's Growing Up Absurd which I have just recently read). More than Jungian, the "Tongs" meditation is deeply Buddhist, and the Cain idea, the drive to fratricide as the great weakness in the American psyche, is most impressive and I think accurate. Illtud Evans is coming to preach the retreat and I will talk to him about it. Am tempted to review it for Blackfriars.
1965/07/17Jacques EllulPropagandes Jnl 5 ('63-'65) p. 270-71 There is no question of the deep inauthenticity of the common life in this monastery, in most religious communities, and in the Church. It is due in part to the way authority is conceived and exercised (to the great psychological and spiritual harm of many) and to the fact that this can hardly be remedied as matters stand (at least here). The "new" approach, however, seems to me to be equally inauthentic, for reasons that are more obscure. I think the relationships set up are based more on insecurities and superficial needs than on the Spirit and on faith. They do not spell authenticity. In Ellul's Propagandes there are good reasons why. What is happening is not unity in the Spirit so much as a "propaganda for integration," and the participation of which all are so proud tends to be really a concerted and determined complicity in mutual persuasion-a kind of liberal triumphalism making itself come true.
1965/10/13Eric GillClothes: An Essay upon the Nature and Significance of the Natural and Artificial Integuments Worn by Men and Women Jnl 5 ('63-'65) p. 303 Reading Isaac of Stella. Disappointed in Eric Gill's book on clothes [Clothes: An Essay upon the Nature and Significance of the Natural and Artificial Integuments Worn by Men and Women, 1931]. Can't carry on with it (I was struck by it that Christmas at Fronti in Exeter thirty-three years ago). Will return it to the Hammers. Sun up. Say Prime and cut wood!
1966/04/22Robert Stephen BriffaultMothers: the Matriarchal Theory of Social Origins Ltrs: Hammer p. 234 Many thanks for the Pavese books. I am well into one of them and he is a marvelous writer. I returned Suzuki on Mysticism Christian and Buddhist. I am not et finished with Briffault, The Mothers which is marked for August 31. Could I perhaps have it a little longer? I notice that Muir's Autobiography seems to be marked for that date too, and I am still working on it.
1968/02/13Ian JarvieRevolution in Anthropology Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 55-56 I am really turned on by social anthropology and cargo cults. Jarvic's book The Revolution in Anthropology is, I think, important, though I distrust Popperites. But he very smartly shows how Cargo has found anthropologists in an impasse and thrown them into a crisis"”and their response has been a ritual methodological celebration which has, itself, the qualities of a Cargo cult. This is useful and instructive and leads somewhere! Where? I hope to discover.
1968/05/05Mary DalyChurch and the Second Sex Ltrs: WtoF p. 173-74 It took some time for Mary Daly's book [The Church and the Second Sex] to reach me. However, I am reading it now with great interest. I wish I had time to write a review of it for some publication, but unfortunately I have too many other things to do. Here's a statement, which, of course, you may quote if you wish. Mary Daly has given us a hard-hitting, highly original, and even revolutionary little book unmasking the latent anti-feminism of so much Catholic thinking and practice. The real impact of the book is not just in the area of crass and obvious discrimination, but in its "exorcism of the mystique of the eternal woman." She has brought out with relentless and sometimes infuriating clarity how this supposed idealization of woman in fact masks a mutilation of human persons"”both men and women. She writes with such passion that some readers might think she was advocating conflict and competition between the sexes: actually, she is talking about the more difficult and important work of achieving authentic partnership on a personal level. I am grateful to her for many new insights.
1968/06/05Herbert MarcuseOne-dimensional man : studies in the ideology of advanced industrial society / by Herbert Marcuse Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 125 I am about finished with Marcuse's One Dimensional Man "” a good and important book. It was sent by the Asphodel Bookshop in exchange for some copies of Monks Pond. I agree with most of it except for the idea of a future in which science absorbs all metaphysics and final causes and means become ends in themselves. It seems to be a vicious circle.
1968/06/29Vance PackardNaked Society Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 134 Also reading Vance Packard's Naked Society"”timely enough! The new crime bill now permits all kinds of bugging, wire-tapping, evidence so obtained can be used in court, etc. A big step towards a Police State. Not towards: we are in many respects already there. All these new things (bugging equipment, gasses, armored cars, etc.) will be used more and more against forces of change and dissent. And less against criminals than against dissenters.
1968/07/03Frantz FanonBlack skin, white masks / Frantz Fanon ; transl. by Charles Lam Markmann Jnl 7 ('67-'68) p. 136 Yesterday I finished Fanon's intelligent, well-written, eminently true book Black Skins, White Masks. Written earlier than the Wretched, it is more incisive, dispassionate, less angry. He still thought he could communicate with white men.