Home :: Introduction :: Background :: Project Description
Audience & Distribution :: Timeline :: Donate :: Contact :: About ICS

Project Description

Thomas MertonI wish to structure Silent Lamp as a sequence of ten distinct yet interrelated essays that will give the viewer a more immersed, experiential perspective into a subject matter that is sometimes difficult to perceive through the written word alone. These highly scripted essays will be illustrated through a number of diverse structures ranging from the use of archival films, photos and drawings, as well as through more objective scholarly interviews and anecdotal material about Merton's views on a number of subtexts of contemplation and contemplative life. There is a dearth of archival film on Merton's life due largely to his 27 years of cloistered existence.  However, a rich photographic archive exists that will be utilized stylistically much like what is found in the works of Ken Burns and Errol Morris.

Each of the Silent Lamp's essays will orbit around Merton's personal experiences with contemplation, as well as the more universal characteristics of contemplative life found in the mystics before him. Images, text, poetry, script, time, dramatic enactment and music will be interwoven with the intention of facilitating for the viewer a more direct and intuitive understanding of the nature and implications of contemplation in their own personal, spiritual and political lives. Silent Lamp focuses on Merton not as a biographical figure, but as a spiritually awakened monk within the Christian mystical/monastic lineage. Programmatically there will be an emphasis placed on cultivating a visceral sensibility of the subjective nature of contemplation by carefully choosing images and music for their inherent capacity to provoke archetypal experiences in the heart and psyche of the viewer. The fusion of images and sound in Silent Lamp will be utilized as the principal medium to reestablish in the viewer an organic sense of what Merton was attempting to communicate when addressing religious experience and human spirituality. Here the use of the term religion does not refer to a system of dogmatic beliefs and rituals.  Rather the focus is on its original meaning of "to bind," especially the lives, will and consciousness of humanity to an ultimate life giving source that is inseparable from the experiences of sacred love and wisdom. Merton suggests that contemplation is the most direct vehicle to reestablish our connection to this mystical dimension of our human identity.

The overarching approach in the Silent Lamp narrative will be to facilitate a more direct and personal remembrance of the contemplative elements of silence, stillness and the thoughtless state, through the poetry of images and sound. The narrative structure of Silent Lamp will center on Merton's ideas and experiences of contemplation, the reflections of those who knew him, as well as the perspective of others contained in the expert interviews. Silent Lamp's objective then is to create a felt sense in the viewer of those fundamental experiences that precede rational thought and are the foundation of our most primordial identity. Each of the ten proposed essays exemplifies one of the fundamental lived perspectives that can and will naturally arise out of a core contemplative consciousness as Merton described it in his own personal reflections and in the experiences of the mystics before him.

Home Introduction Background Project Description Distribution Timeline Donate Contact

Back to the Flash Site >>

Photographs copyright of the Merton Legacy Trust.
Not to be used or duplicated without written permission.
The Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University. All rights reserved.
Photograph of Merton quilt by Penny Sisto.
Not to be used or duplicated without written permission of the artist (www.pennysisto.com).