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Thomas Merton on Art and Religion in William Faulkner

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For Thomas Merton, artists mirrored many of the functions traditionally performed by religious contemplatives. In particular, the sapiential and holistic approach taken in William Faulkner’s fiction gave rise in Merton’s view to an embedded higher state of awareness that allowed one to intuitively bridge the gap between the microcosm of one’s own mental world and the macrocosm of ultimate reality. This bridge is created when the reader is drawn to plumb the depths of the psyche in order to thereby encounter the face of the creator. For Merton, the truths of the self that had been revealed by depth psychology, comparative religion, and social anthropology had brought forth a sapiential harvest, one that was present in a number of Faulkner’s novels and stories. In this way, Merton argued, Faulkner both shaped and enriched theology.

Affiliations: 1: University of British Columbia


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