THE NOTION OF THE PERSON ACCORDING TO DANIEL CLARK WALSH AND THOMAS MERTON

ROBERT IMPERATO, Fordham University

Abstract

Thomas Merton, prolific spiritual and monastic author, is well known and studied; yet the influence upon Merton's thought of his teacher from Columbia University, Daniel Clark Walsh, is not taken into account by Merton scholars. A knowledge of the teachings of Walsh on the notion of the person helps to reveal the metaphysical depths in Merton's thought and to clarify the meaning of Merton's distinctions between person, nature, and individual.^ In the Christian tradition authors concerned to refine definition of person have regarded person as a type of being. To understand a person as a type of being is to distinguish persons from other types and thereby to determine how persons fit into a hierarchy of beings. Such an approach leads to "what" a person is, not the "who" of personal existence. In contrast to such a view Merton and Walsh understand person as relationship with God and image of God. Person originates in, is guided by, and is called to union with God. This view of person expresses a religious activity on the part of the thinker that consists in linking person with God rather than the activity of categorization that locates persons within an order of being.^ Merton and Walsh employ the polarities of person versus individual, nature versus person, individuality versus uniqueness, and community versus collectivity to help to articulate their insights into the meaning of person. They use their understanding of person, image of God or deeper self to challenge ordinary individual identity based on self assertion and self differentiation. That challenge is properly understood in the context of the spiritual journey, a context in perfect harmony with Merton's Cistercian roots. This journey includes origin in God, fall into unlikeness to God and return in Christ through self-knowledge and contemplation.^ This study not only analyzes and contextualizes the thought of Merton and Walsh on the meaning of person but also indicates that person underlies and gives unity to those areas for which Merton is primarily known, namely Christian spirituality, social issues, and East/West dialog. The person is thus an interpretive key to Merton's thought. ^

Subject Area

Theology

Recommended Citation

ROBERT IMPERATO, "THE NOTION OF THE PERSON ACCORDING TO DANIEL CLARK WALSH AND THOMAS MERTON" (January 1, 1984). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI8506335.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8506335

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