cover image Seeking Paradise: The Spirit of the Shakers

Seeking Paradise: The Spirit of the Shakers

Thomas Merton. Orbis Books, $24 (125pp) ISBN 978-1-57075-501-9

""The peculiar grace of a Shaker chair is due to the fact that it was made by someone capable of believing that an angel might come and sit on it,"" wrote Thomas Merton in 1964, at the height of his interest in the Shakers and their spiritual arts. Merton never completed his planned book on the Shakers, but he did write two brief essays and several letters on the subject, and he spoke to his fellow Cistercian monks about what they could learn from the Shakers' quasi-monastic approach to faith and work. All of these brief reflections are included in this simple, meditative compilation on Merton and the Shakers. Merton admired the Shakers' simplicity, and the fact that their furniture, crafts and music flowed freely from a pure and holy devotion to God. Shaker creativity, he claimed, extended from a ""perfect fusion of temporal and eternal values, of spirit and matter."" Some of Merton's own black-and-white photographs of Pleasant Hill Shaker Village in Kentucky are included here.