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Where Arts & Sciences Meet Humanity



David Odorisio

Thomas Merton in California:

Contemplative Christianity and

the Transformation of the Self

Thursday, May 2


Odorisio Headshot.jpeg

In May and October of 1968, Thomas Merton offered two extended conferences at Our Lady of the Redwoods Abbey, a Cistercian women’s community in Northern California. Comprising over twenty-six hours of previously unpublished material, the recently released Thomas Merton in California covers a variety of topics including ecology and consciousness, yoga and Hinduism, Native American ritual and rites of passage, Sufi spirituality, and inter-religious dialogue, along with extended discussions on prayer and the contemplative life.


With an emphasis on the transformation of the self, this presentation contextualizes Merton’s conferences within the wider scope of his contemplative thought. To Merton, “modern consciousness” is marked by a fundamental insecurity, alienation, and dis-ease. Contemplative consciousness, however, initiates a return to the Ground of Being where personal identity meets Divine reality. Drawing upon the richness of the Christian mystical tradition, Merton offers a healing path towards a renewed “mystical consciousness” that goes beyond the culturally- (and often religiously-) conditioned “false self” and opens outward into inter-religious and trans-cultural communion in the “Hidden Ground of Love.”

David M. Odorisio, PhD, is Co-Chair and Associate Core Faculty in Pacifica’s Mythological Studies graduate degree program. David is editor of four books, including:  Thomas Merton in California: The Redwoods Conferences and Letters (Liturgical Press, 2024), A New Gnosis: Comic Books, Comparative Mythology, and Depth Psychology (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022), Merton and Hinduism: The Yoga of the Heart (Fons Vitae, 2021), and co-editor of Depth Psychology and Mysticism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). He has published in Quadrant, Jung Journal, Philosophy East and West, The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, and The International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, among other peer-reviewed journals.

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