Soul Searching: The Journey of Thomas Merton

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Here is the documentary that goes to the heart of the Thomas Merton spiritual journey, shot in locations following Merton’s very footsteps. Atkinson spent years researching Merton’s work, as well as interviewing his friends, scholars and authorities on Merton’ spiritual life.


Thomas Merton ‑ Trappist monk, “believing beatnik,” brilliant author of books, essays and poetry, all rooted in his lifelong search for meaning. He is one of the most authentic and enduring voices of the 20th century, a man who truly lived the search he writes about.


The cameras in this documentary reveal life at the Abbey of Gethsemani, Merton’s home of 27 years, as well as his path through New York City, Redwoods Monastery (California) and Christ in the Desert Monastery (New Mexico). The picture that emerges from Atkinson’s study provides provocative insights into the interior landscape of one of the spiritual giants of modern times, while capturing the haunting physical beauty of the geography that both nurtured and shaped Merton.


Reviews and Comments on About Soul Searching: the Journey of Thomas Merton


“With grace and candor, Morgan Atkinson captures the diverse ‑ sometimes contradictory ‑ aspects of Thomas Merton’s personality and life in this thorough and moving portrait of the brilliant Trappist monk whose writing continues to attract and influence readers around the world.”

Dianne Aprile, author of Gethsemani, Place of Peace and Paradox


“Viewing Morgan Atkinson’s film on Thomas Merton proved to be a profoundly religious experience. It brings out so well the paradoxical character of Merton, the monk, poet, peace activist, and spiritual writer who influenced the lives of so many during his short life. Highly recommended.”

Br. Patrick Hart, monk of Gethsemani, and Merton’s last secretary


“Soul Searching is a powerful, rich and rewarding meditation on the life of Thomas Merton. It not only provides valuable insights into who Merton was and why he wrote as he did, but invites viewers to look deeply inside themselves as well, using Merton’s words and the reflections of both scholars and those who knew him personally.”

Paul Wilkes, Writer, Director, Co-Producer of the 1985 PBS documentary “Merton: A Film Biography”


“Soul Searching is a film that integrates Merton’s life and his important insights as highlighted by many people in the film who truly understand that message. It could only have been produced by someone who “gets it” — someone who is soul searching and on the journey himself. Atkinson is representing all those people whose lives have been influenced or changed by Thomas Merton, and as such, ‘Soul Searching’ is a both a work of gratitude and a gift to those who will discover Merton’s transforming vision through this film.””

Robert Toth, Executive Director The Merton Institute for Contemplative Living