Anthony Padovano called Thomas Merton a "symbol of the century" inasmuch as he embodied many of the changes facing Christianity during the often tumultuous and violent, but increasingly pluralistic, middle decades of the twentieth century. Merton engaged in a "total ecumenism," in which he intensely studied other religious traditions, most notably the religions of Asia, in order to better understand his own Roman Catholic tradition. This paper will trace the trajectory of Asian ideas and experiences throughout Merton's life and analyze how these experiences transformed him from a narrow-minded monk to an ecumenical mystic. An ever-present subject emerges: the coincidence of opposites, or the paradox. This theme was Merton's own understanding of not only interreligious dialogue but also his very own identity.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/gary-houchens/2/