Contemplative School of the Heart
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2013 Series
Contemplative Interfaith Forum

A Sufi Reading Thomas Merton

Seminar Leader Dr Sara Sviri

Saturday 25th May 2013

10am - 4pm, North London.
Advance booking is recommended.


   Printable leaflet

I first came across the name of Thomas Merton as I was preparing for a talk at the Golden Sufi Center in Inverness, Northern California. I was going to talk about a beautiful Persian poem: The Conference of the Birds. For a long time this epic tale, in the elevating poetry and wise tales of Farid ud-Din Attar (Nishapur, Persia, 12th century), became a kind of bible to me. I was particularly taken by "The Story of Sheikh Sam'an". It's a love story. An impossible love story: an old Sufi Sheikh, for the first time in his life, falls head over heels in love with none other than a young Christian woman. What can be more impossible? It's a long poem. The longest among the didactic poems dispersed in the book. These are mostly the advice that the wise hoopoe delivers to the birds who are about to journey in search of the king of all winged creatures, the fabulous Simorgh.

As synchronicity would have it, just at the time, an article appeared in the then-current issue of Sufi magazine: an article on Thomas Merton. It was in this article that I read on Merton's belated love to a young woman, a nurse who had looked after him as he was convalescing after an operation. I was thinking: is there a similar moral here, that in order to love God you have to first experience flesh-and-blood love?

Whether I have an answer or not remains to be seen. But since that summer, long ago, I have been chasing Thomas Merton's life through reading his autobiography and dipping into his journals. There's a lot to be impressed and inspired with. I have become so close to him that sometimes I seem to be able to converse with him. I have also learnt that during the later years of his life Merton established relationships with Sufi scholars and practitioners. This means that he was aware of inherent connections. Let's try and look at these together and see what we come up with.

For more information and booking, email or telephone 020 8 451 5255.

Please bring your own lunch.






For more information, booking and directions to venue, please contact us.

The sessions begin with a period of silence at 10am and the talk at 10.15am. Donations are welcome.