Thomas Merton, like C.S. Lewis and Simone Weil, has not always been best served by his most ardent admirers. It is a welcome thing that—in all these cases—we have so much ‘informal’ material to help us see them actually developing their ideas, testing out thoughts without feeling they have to take full responsibility for them. The trouble comes when those admirers, rather overwhelmed by the sheer volume of material, feel obliged to defend everything their heroes wrote, formal and informal, so that the fallible and multi-coloured humanity of the writer becomes a bit fixed and frozen.1
– Rowan Williams
I think that Thomas Merton could easily be called the greatest spiritual writer and spiritual master of the twentieth century in English speaking America. There is no other person who has had such a profound influence on those writing on spiritual topics, not only on Catholics, but non-Catholics, as Merton. The only contender would be the enormous popularity of C.S. Lewis. I think that they are very different kinds of persons who led very different kinds of lives. They both were greatly shaped by the English literary tradition, both of them were excellent writers, and both of them wrote out of very deep experience.2
— Lawrence Cunningham
C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) and Thomas Merton (1915-1968) have tended to have different followers and devotees. Many are the articles, books, conferences and societies that hold high Lewis and the Inklings (and those like MacDonald, Chesterton, Barfield and others), but such a committed tribe often know little about Thomas Merton. Many are the conferences, learned journals, books and articles that celebrate the life and writings of Thomas Merton, but many in the Merton clan often know little about Lewis and friends. This essay will, hopefully, transcend such tribalism by examining and exploring both the thematic affinities between Lewis and Merton and, equally important, the explicit references both men make, in an appreciate manner, about one another.