Merton was influenced by Orthodox ideas on Sophia, according to a new book: Sophia: The Hidden Christ of Thomas Merton
by Christopher Pramuk. Awesome. From NCR:
"I’ve been reading Merton seriously for thirty years, but after reading this I think I understand him for the first time. Over the course of his monastic life, Merton discovered Sophia -- the Wisdom of God as Christ. It helped Merton turn toward the world beyond the monastery and led him toward Sophia/Christ.
St. John named Christ as the Logos (masculine), the Word; St. Paul named Christ as Sophia (feminine), Holy Wisdom. Pramuk proposes that we too -- individually and as a church -- can reclaim the divine feminine, Sophia, the Wisdom of God. And like Merton, we can be transformed anew into Christ and be able to help one another to fullness of life, hope and peace.
The book responds to the question of Merton’s mature Christology by advancing the following thesis: it was Sophia -- the “unknown and unseen Christ” within all things -- who both centered and in many respects catalyzed Merton’s theological imagination in a period of tremendous social, political, and religious fragmentation.
Drawing intuitively from sources in the Judeo-Christian tradition as well as from non-Christian sources, and inspired especially by the Sophia tradition of Russian Orthodoxy, the Wisdom tradition became Merton’s most vivid means of expressing “a living experience of unity in Christ which far transcends all conceptual formulations.”"