The Only Mind Worth Having – Thomas Merton and the Child Mind

This book has been accepted for publication in the Winter of 2016… so advance information. I’ve spent a couple of years, well actually more, thinking about this subject and presented a paper with almost the same title at the last International Thomas Merton Society Conference in 2013. But the subject continued to fascinate me and the book has been through several incarnations. It’s also doubled in length. I’m now preparing it for proper editing:

This book takes Thomas Merton’s belief that the child mind is ‘the only mind worth having’ and explores this in the context of Jesus’ challenging, paradoxical and enigmatic command to become like small children, and, how this can be understood as part of contemporary spirituality and spiritual practice. To follow Christ’s command and to become as small children in our spiritual life requires a great leap of the imagination. The book sets out to answer what it might really mean to do this when you are an adult without it becoming sentimental and mawkish, or regressive and pathological in some way.

Drawing on the experiences of Thomas Merton and others it is suggested that in some mysterious and paradoxical sense recovering a sense of childhood spirituality is the path towards spiritual maturity. The term ‘child mind’ was used by Merton who made reference to this in terms of the process of ridding oneself of what he called the false self and uncovering the buried mysticism of childhood. A few days before his death he experienced an epiphany where he wrote that he had found what he had searched for and got ‘beyond the shadow and the disguise’.

Using both psychological and spiritual insights the book explores the implications of the concept of the child mind as an awakening, an annunciation of something we can become. It is suggested that the move from childhood spirituality to being grown-up and then to a spiritual maturity through the child mind is a move from innocence to experience and then to organized innocence, or from dependence to independence to a state of being in-dependence with God.