Directors/Producers: Morgan Atkinson
Soul Searching: The Journey of Thomas Merton
The voice of author, social activist, poet, and monk Thomas Merton, who died suddenly at the age of 53, resonates in the recently released documentary Soul Searching: The Journey of Thomas Merton.
Award-winning filmmaker Morgan Atkinson traces Merton's spiritual path from boozy jazz clubs in New York to the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, where Merton lived in relative isolation as a Trappist monk for close to 30 years. The camera captures monastery life and the beauty of nature so influential in shaping Merton's spiritual quest.
Over time, Merton agitated for more and more solitude, all the while, paradoxically, emerging as a public figure. Merton first gained fame with his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, which described his conversion to Catholicism and his decision to take vows as a monk. He wrote: "I seek to speak to you, in some way, as your own self. Who can tell what this may mean? I myself do not know, but if you listen, things will be said that are perhaps not written in this book. And this will be due not to me but to the One who lives and speaks in both."
Soul Searching is a meditation on Merton's life as seen through the eyes of Merton's friends and Merton scholars. Their observations provide insight into his internal struggles, as he questioned his faith, discovered certainty, then questioned again, and grew into what many have called a "spiritual giant of modern times."
In his role as a public figure and social activist, Merton wrote frequently about war and the nuclear arms race until he was silenced by his superiors. They told him that he could only address issues concerning peace. His missives about war, the arms race, and peace are quoted in voiceover narration with comments from those who knew him best. This film is an intimate portrait of this courageous and prescient man.