In this hardcover volume in the Shambhala Library, Thomas Merton (1915-1968) shares his enthusiasm for these fourth century monks who lived in the deserts of Egypt and Palestine. They sought "purity of heart," fought the demons of the false self, and lived upright lives attuned as best they could to the Gospel. These pioneers, as Merton calls them, have much to teach us about the inner life: "What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it all the rest are not only useless but disastrous."

Love animated these faithful souls and prayer was central to their lives. Merton compares the desert fathers to Indian Yogis and Zen Buddhist monks of China and Japan. His translations of their sayings model for contemporary Christians a life of diligent and serious spiritual practice.