Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Christian counsellors explore care of the soul

The American Association of Christian Counselors’ site hosts an article by David G. Benner, Ph.D., C.Psych, called
"Care of Souls: Nurturing, Supporting, Healing, and Restoration in the Church". In his introduction, Benner says, "The soul is the meeting point of the psychological and the spiritual. This means that soul care which draws on both the best insights of modern therapeutic psychology as well as the pre-modern understandings and practices of historic Christian care and nurture will never again be able to accept the artificial distinction of the psychological and spiritual. A proper understanding of the soul reunites the psychological and the spiritual and directs the activities of those who care for the souls of others in such a way that their care touches the deepest levels of people’s inner lives."

Benner observes, "The recent reemergence of interest in the soul and its care has been one of several truly surprising developments of the closing days of the 20th century. Led by Thomas Moore's multi-year best-seller, Care of the Soul, publishers, TV producers, talk-show hosts, and counselors quickly recognized the changing zeitgeist and made hasty efforts to accommodate [it]".

Benner suggests six features articulate Christian care of the soul. These quotes are from his opening remarks for each feature:
1. "Christian soul care is directed toward others, not ourselves."
2. "Christian soul care is normally provided through the medium of dialogue within the context of a relationship. As such, Christian soul care is not something we do to people. Rather it is something we do with them."
3. "Soul care dialogue does not focus on some narrow spiritual aspect of personality but addresses the whole person."
4. "Christian soul care operates within a moral context. Not only should it be associated with love, forgiveness, and grace, it should also provide an opportunity for moral inquiry into how life should be lived."
5. "Christian soul care is concerned about community, not just individuals."
6. "Finally, Christian soul care is much too important to be restricted to counselors or any other one group of people. Counseling holds an important place in the broad spectrum of soul care activities, but properly understood, soul care can never be limited to this curative or problem focus."

Benner has contributed to various book projects about Christian counselling and soul care.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Talks about healing through body, soul, spirit

Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles offers recent sermons by Rev. Frank Alton, pastor:
October 14: healing through the body,
October 21: healing through the soul,
October 28: healing through the spirit.

In this series, Alton refers to writings by Thomas Moore and James Hillman. He introduces the third sermon in this series by saying, "This morning our healing journey moves from soul to spirit. There is an important shift here, and it involves a change in direction. Thomas Moore summarizes it: "In our soulfulness, we endure the most pleasurable and the most exhausting of human experiences and emotions; in our spirituality, we reach for consciousness, awareness, and the highest values." (Thomas Moore, 231) In other words, soulfulness makes sure we are grounded in the earth, while spirituality makes sure we are connected to heaven. Both are essential in order to be whole people."

Alton then refers to chakras or energy centres within the human body and focuses on those above the heart: "The energy centers below the heart involve self esteem, money, sex, power, and connection to family and tribe. All of that seeks to be rooted in the earth. The energy centers above the heart involve love, forgiveness, self expression, intuition and wisdom, all of which seek connection with the divine. Today we are going to focus on this latter group as we focus on healing through the spirit."

Alton concludes,
"The healing of the Spirit is not a gentle healing. It involves scary change. Jesus said, "Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God." Peacemaking involves entering the fray to work for peace where there is no peace. Almost everyone wants peace. But often we seek cheap peace. We want it at no cost. We want it by ignoring or denying or escaping conflicts of which we are a part. That is not Spirit-infused peace.

Thomas Moore makes this connection clear: "The Jordan is the archetype of our willingness to live fully, to have our own work and mission, and therefore to be blessed, as the Gospel story tells, by a higher parent and a protecting spirit. The Renaissance artist Piero della Francesca painted this scene at the Jordan, showing Jesus standing straight in his full dignity, while in the background another man is about to be baptized – any of us taking our turn – has his garment almost off, lifted over his head in a posture of exquisite ordinariness. It’s an inspiring image of the willingness to step courageously into the river of existence, instead of finding ways to remain safe, dry and unaffected."
(Care of the Soul, Thomas Moore p. 243)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Care of the soul will be discussed in Mahtomedi

White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church, 328 Maple St., Mahtomedi, Minnesota is offering a 3-week Adult Learning program starting on Nov. 6 that includes discussion of Thomas Moore’s Care of the Soul. The online description for this Special Learning Experience links to a PDF excerpt from Moore’s introduction. This program continues Nov. 13 and Nov. 20 with writings by other authors.
"Experiential and thoughtful, each session will include guided imagery, reflection, sharing, and discussion of writings by Thomas Moore, [Thich] Nhat Hanh, and Vine Deloria, Jr. Leader Lisa Wersal has taught in the Dept. of Philosophy and Religious [Studies] at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire and led numerous discussion and mediation groups as part of church communities."
The church office telephone number: 651-426-2369
The church office email address: office@whitebearunitarian.org
People responsible for the Adult Education program are listed.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blogger reflects on artists' religious visions

On a blog about Christianity, Angelo Lopez comments about a passage in Thomas Moore’s column "The Romance of Religion" in the Fall 2000 issue of Spirituality and Health. Thomas Moore wrote:
"In my view, the best theologians are not necessarily the professionals, but poets and artists who reflect on God and religion. For me, D.H. Lawrence and Anne Sexton are the best, but Oscar Wilde is in the running. In his essay written from prison, 'De Profundis', he defines what to me is an important dimension of religion - the romantic style.

He sees in Christ all the essentials and accessories of the romantic temperament: Jesus made children the ideal of what people should try to become. He felt that life was fluid and full of change. To be impractical was a great thing. Morally, he was full of sympathy for human frailty. He didn't treat people as things or stereotypes. He valued the individual. He appreciated imperfection and could be close to the sinner. He was not a tedious reformer and could see the beauty in suffering."
Lopez responds to Moore's observations by saying, "When I think of what I like about Jesus, this more than anything encapsulates it. I am an artist who presents my art at a gallery in Saratoga, California, and I work in a library to pay the rent. What I find, in myself and in other artists, is that the act of creating is almost like a spiritual act. I'm not always the greatest when it comes to communicating my ideas and thoughts, but in my art I could communicate those feelings in a way both accessible and with humor." Lopez then mentions Goya when talking about a painter expressing opinions passionately through art.

At the end of his column, Moore talks about the differences between sentimentality and a romantic approach:
"I imagine that the most direct route to God is the romantic road, where ego-centered consciousness and ambition and interpretation are far less esteemed than atmosphere and sensation. A valuable kind of knowledge can come to us through the senses and through the intuitions stimulated by the accidental and nonessential.

What I'm describing is not sentimentality, which is a danger for religion in a historical period where fact and machinery are so prized. Sentimentality is a way of avoiding life by creating sugarplum fairylands. The romantic doesn't escape this life but rather enters into it with body and soul. The romantic allows life to take possession and create an individual personality that may or may not conform to the ideals or requirements of the society. Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for his nonconformity and saw his suffering as an aspect of his romanticism.

We have plenty of moral and dogmatic religion around us, and we have more than we need of sentimental piety. But I think we have yet to discover the enlivening romanticism that wakes the heart and calms aggressive impulses. Call me a romantic, but I long for religion that will take me out of this cold, mechanical world and show me the way toward spiritual delights and sensual realizations."

Free registration at Spirituality and Health allows access to Moore’s archived columns. They're listed and linked in the sidebar at Barque: Thomas Moore's Work.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Creative arts therapies mentioned at lecture

While describing her breakfast of Tofu Scramble today, Laura Muraco says she attended a recent talk by Thomas Moore and wrote on her blog, "Lately I went to a lecture given by the great Thomas Moore he is the author of Care of the Soul which after hearing his lecture I know I must read. Basically he is a brilliant psychologist who has a very spiritual and archetypal approach. One thing that was discussed were creative arts therapies. Drama Therapy was mentioned and my heart buzzed with excitement. The keystone in my passion for Theater is the gateway it provides for deep expression and loss of ego. I believe it is just such a beautiful medium to transcend perceptions that divide us from one another and ourselves. I am definitely going to do more research on this field because it really pulled my heartstrings hearing about it."

Editor's Note:
Moore has been a psychotherapist, not a psychologist.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Listener recommends Moore's set of soul tapes

On his blog, Exploring a Dancing Soul, Ken Blackham recommends Thomas Moore's set of cassette tapes Soul Life in which Moore informally talks directly to the listener about the life of soul.

In its review of the cassette set, Library Journal said, "Moore challenges our generation, like the alchemists of 500 years ago, to engage the energies of the soul for every aspect of life in need of nourishment. He forsakes the modern clinical approach involved with curing the soul and contends that there is no quick fix to our everyday problems. We cannot solve our inner struggles on a scientific or mechanical level. Caring for the soul involves some sort of spirituality. Which type depends upon each person and his or her individual gifts of the soul, Moore claims."

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