Thomas Merton and the Noonday Demon: The Camaldoli Correspondence

By Donald Grayston

The previously untold story of how the Trappist monk Thomas Merton almost became a Camaldolese hermit, based on rediscovered correspondence.

ISBN: 9780718894160


In Thomas Merton and the Noonday Demon, Donald Grayson transforms a long-neglected cache of letters found in an ancient monastery into a book that offers new insight into the author of these letters, Thomas Merton, the renowned spiritual writer. At the time of their writing, the mid-1950s, he was living as a Trappist monk, at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. Having reached an impasse in his monastic vocation he decided to leave Gethsamani for the Monastery of Camaldoli in Italy. Camaldoli at that time, bucolic and peaceful outwardly, was inwardly riven by a pre-Vatican II culture war; whereas Gethsemani, which he tried so hard to leave, became, when he was given his hermitage there in 1965, his place to recover Eden. In walking with Merton on this journey, and reading the letters he wrote and received at the time, we find ourselves asking, as he did, with so much energy and honesty, the deep questions that we may well need to answer in our own lives.

Additional information

Dimensions229 × 153 mm


Trade InformationLPOD

About the Author

Donald Grayston retired in 2004 from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver as director of its Institute for the Humanities. He is a former president of the International Thomas Merton Society.


Foreword by Douglas E. Christie

Introduction: The Roses at the Hermitage

1. The Noonday Demon: acedia
2. Thomas Merton: non finis quaerendi

     The Camaldoli Correspondence

3. The Greater acedia: What the Letters Tell Us
4. Acedia and the Will of God
5. The End of the Dream of Camaldoli
6. After the Dream
7. Solitude and Love

Index of Subjects and Names


Endorsements and Reviews

Grayston offers an excellent example of work that emerges when disciplined scholarship, seasoned experience, and refined pastoral awareness are free to converge and collaborate in the creative mind of a writer. Thomas Merton and the Noonday Demon both informs and transforms the reader with a pilgrimage that begins with the unexpected discovery of letters in a Camaldolese monastery and goes deep into the most challenging terrain of Merton’s spiritual journey … and our own.
David Joseph Belcastro, President of the International Thomas Merton Society

This book presents a thorough, engaging, and enlightening study of Merton’s major periods of instability resulting from his desire for greater solitude. … Through this marvellous piece of scholarship, the reader will gain new and fascinating insights into the life, vocation, and struggles of this great twentieth-century spiritual master.
Paul M. Pearson, Director of the Thomas Merton Center

This is a remarkable piece of scholarship, filling an important gap in the bigger picture of Thomas Merton’s life and spiritual struggle.
Larry Culliford, in Journal for the Study of Spirituality, Vol 7, No 1

A trove of new material for Merton devotees and researchers.
The America Monastic Newsletter, February 2017

This is a fascinating book which will add to the rich collection of works about the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton. … This is an original and well-researched account drawing from a rich vein of correspondence … It is one of the best books I have come across on Merton and deserves to be widely read and appreciated.
David Torevell, in Theological Book Review, Vol 27, No 2