Monday, December 28, 2009

Modern secularism can't satisfy spiritual cravings

In the post,"All Human Problems are Spiritual", Simple Mind Zen draws heavily from Thomas Moore's book, The Soul's Religion to suggest most tensions have spiritual dimensions.
"In matters of soul and spirit, things are not always what they might seem." Moore observes, "I have come to understand sexism and violence against women as a spiritual issue, as a failure to appreciate the feminine mysteries" which no amount of nudity, ogling, looking or voyeuristic regard will alleviate. The deepest interior, which cannot be seen, can only be sensed with the soul-heart is at issue. "Today many spiritual passions are disguised in politics, war, money, sex or athletics." Even so, most secular, enlightenment, outlets for spiritual passion are inadequate because they address merely a surface issue, meaning that recognition is viewed only indirectly, often unconsciously, so we don't often even admit they are religious. These modern, secular, indirect forms "siphon off spiritual steam, leaving unsatisfied religious needs."

This loss of recognition of the spiritual, the religious, as an attitude, a way of life, a lifestyle, leads to great degrees of loss, of illness, of alienation in modern life. Some have written of the "sick soul." Many relationships, families and marriages fail "because we now treat them as sociological constructions or psychological arrangements, partnerships, rather than as holy mysteries. As a result we continue to crave religion of the deepest kind, often in disguised form; yet so much of what we try is inadequate, "only increasing the craving and emptiness" of our deepest selves, writes Moore.
The blog suggests that with spiritual growth, we may discover paradoxes: how to combine apparent opposites into a coherent whole. This "is our challenge, and our grace."

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Moore recommends ways to live the Gospel now

Barque links to previous posts at The Night Sea Journey which often features passages by Thomas Moore. On Christmas Day, the blog quotes Writing in the Sand: Jesus and the Soul of the Gospel in the post "Merry Chrsitmas and U2". It suggests four ways, described by Moore, to live the Gospel message today:
1. Respect people not in your circle and whom society rejects;
2. Deal with demonic urges in yourself and in society: Do something about "aggression, paranoia, narcissism, greed, jealousy, and violence."
3. Be a healer;
4. Stay awake!

The blog includes, "Moore says that, 'Christ lived fully on this earth in the community of his friends and family, but he also never left contact with his heavenly father. He was shamanic, skilled at being both earthy and visionary.'"

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Resurgence Magazine reviews A Life at Work

For Resurgence’s November/December 2009 no. 257 magazine, Jordi Pigem reviews Thomas Moore’s book, A Life At Work: The Joy Of Discovering What You Were Born To Do. According to the piece, Pigem has taught at Schumacher College and the University of Barcelona.

Pigem writes,
"Moore takes the alchemical quest (which was traditionally referred to as opus – that is, 'work') as a model for "the lifelong process of getting life together and becoming a real person". This process should turn you into "a deeper, more complex, more mature person through your struggle". Many classical authors felt the presence of what in ancient Greece was called the daimon, an urge that we are born with and that pushes us in a certain direction throughout our life. Perhaps in our shifting, liquid world, we shouldn’t think of single callings that are cast in stone for one’s lifetime. And we know the task of finding our self-realisation through our work is not easy in a world that values efficiency and economic abstractions over values and callings. But often it’s not we who find a job, but rather the job finds us."
In addition to Moore’s book, Pigem recommends Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, or James Hillman’s The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling to readers keen to craft their opus.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sermons focus on friendship and hospitality

Two Unitarian Universalist Fellowship sermons delivered Sunday 6 December, 2009 mention Thomas Moore’s involvement at the UU Ministers’ Convocation 2009. Each focuses on the soul’s need for friendship and hospitality.

At the Unitarian Universalist Church of Athens and Sheshequin in Athens, Pennsylvania, Rev. Darcey Laine speaks about "The Soul of Friendship":
"A few weeks ago I had the privilege of hearing author Thomas Moore address the Convocation of UU Ministers in Canada. He was talking about how we tend and feed the soul, and suggested that the most important way we can sustain our souls is friendship."
After illustrating the value of friendship with a poem by Rumi about childhood friends, Laine continues,
As I heard Thomas Moore talk I realized how the soul hungers for such a friendship. Yet somehow as an adult I had kind of gotten the idea that responsible grown ups didn’t crave that kind of friendship, that it wouldn’t have the centrality it did when we were children. It was so affirming to hear Moore talk about the importance of Friendship not just to our "networks" or to our social life, but to our SOUL.

Moore went on to talk about Jesus’ relationship with his disciples, how he called them friend, and how he often ate and cooked and even drank wine with them. Friendship was in the fabric of Jesus’ ministry."
Laine’s sermon explores the value of friendship and the importance of comfortable intimacy among friends.

In "Soul Food", Rev. Lisa Friedman in Mankato, Minnesota says,
"At a recent conference in Ottawa, Ontario, I had the opportunity to hear Thomas Moore, author of such books as Care of the Soul and most recently Writing in the Sand: Jesus and the Soul of the Gospels. Moore makes a distinction between the spiritual needs of the spirit (or mind) and the spiritual needs of the soul. In his experience as a theologian and psycho-therapist, he finds that the human spirit likes distance, but that our souls crave intimacy. So, first and foremost, he argues that the soul needs a home – a physical body and real places to experience pleasure and beauty, pain and loss. But once it finds that home, what the soul needs more than anything is a friend."
Friedman considers how to invite friendship into one’s home and shares,
"Last, but certainly not least, after sweet words and a sitting place, it is the hospitable tradition to offer our guests refreshments. The Hindu teachings are clear that this need not be anything fancy or extravagant. Even a glass of water will suffice. But every host and hostess in all cultures knows that a shared drink, or a shared meal, however large or small, changes our relationship with one another. For Moore, the meaning found in this sharing is not spiritual, but soulful. It is not an intellectual experience to be pursued, but a visceral experience of being alive that re-enchants us with the world in which we live. It a sharing of the pleasure of taste, the joy of company, and the imagination of story and conversation that creates the intimacy which nourishes our soul. Although there are no guarantees, the evidence of human history is that the shared meal can temper us to our enemies, redeem us to our family and friends, and bring together nations and peoples in new ways. It is the foundation of families, and perhaps even the bedrock of our society."
Both sermons are available in their entirety at the linked pages.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Zen Catholicism promotes the Kingdom of God

In his post, "Bring a still, calm voice, to the Garden...", Barrie Maclaurin blogs about "Zen Catholicism" as described by Thomas Moore in his book, Writing in the Sand: Jesus and the Soul of the Gospels.

After linking a moving experience in Venice with one in Kyoto, Maclaurin includes,
"In my recent, limited, readings on Zen and Christianity, I am starting to recognise a universality in their paths, their messages of love and peace, their explanations on where to find the Kingdom of God and so on. It does not matter one iota whether we are brought up as Buddhists, or Christians, or Muslims or Shintoists! All seek the same relationship with God, all seek to better Mankind and, if Zen is about thinking deeply about religion and the nature of all things (quite apart from just Man), then we can all can learn from it!

In the bustle of everyday life we never seem to find the time, or the place, to sit and be quiet, to listen to the still calm voice from within: and if we do, the noise from our own minds comes crashing in with everyday concerns and worries."
He closes with a passage from the Gospel of Thomas.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Reviewer recommends Moore's A Life at Work

Today John Morris reviews Thomas Moore’s A Life at Work: The Joy of Discoverig What You were Born to Do. After writing that he found Care of the Soul too dense to finish reading, Morris identifies key concepts used by Moore in A Life at Work:
"Fundamentally, it’s important to understand Moore’s concepts of spirit and soul. In his writing, spirit is something within us that looks forward, lives in the future and dreams big. It is the vision that lives within us and pushes us to be all we can be and do all we can do. The soul, by contrast, has roots in the past, keeps us grounded in our own history, learns from our experience and is our quiet connection to meaning. It is our soul that not only defines our deepest desires... it is our barometer for knowing when [we] are fulfilling our life’s purpose."
In his last paragraph Morris states,
"Summing up, I found the book difficult to read but worth the struggle. I suspect I’ll read it a few more times. It is almost poetic in its composition. (Which may contribute to its complexity.) The modicum of success I achieved in these initial readings in fact have inspired me to go back to another attempt of Care of the Soul."

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Saturday, December 05, 2009

Apophatic spirituality expressed as via negativa

For Sunday 29 November 2009, Rev. Ken Sawyer of the First Parish in Wayland, Massachusetts, writes a sermon, "Going Apophatic: The Spirituality of Emptying" in which he discusses Urban T. Holmes III’s book, An Analytic History of Christian Spirituality (1980). In the sermon, Sawyer mentions,
"So I was all set to return to apophatic spirituality, and then I went to a convocation of UU ministers a few weeks ago, up in Ottawa. These happen every seven years. The theme of the week was stories, and the keynote speaker, the author Thomas Moore, stressed emptiness stories as part of his focus on the via negativa, the path of negation, which is another traditional Christian term for apophatic spirituality.

Moore is all for it. He thinks the twentieth century was all about acquisition, adding things, and it did not get us where we should go, which is deeper into our own spirituality – and the way to do that is by emptying, especially for people much given to talk (maybe like the 400 UU ministers he was addressing).

Moore offered a quote from the Gospel of Thomas: "The kingdom of God is like a woman who bought a bag of seeds that dropped out of the sack by the time she got home."
Sawyer concludes his sermon with two Zen stories, including, "The nun Chiyono studied for years but was unable to find enlightenment. One moonlight night she was carrying an old pail, filled with water. She was watching the full moon reflected in this water, when the bamboo strip that held the pailstaves broke. The pail fell all apart; the water rushed out; the moon’s reflection disappeared. And Chiyono found enlightenment.
She wrote this verse:
This way and that way
I tried to keep the pail together
Hoping the weak bamboo
Would never break.
Suddenly the bottom fell out:
No more water:
No more moon in the water:
Emptiness in my hand!

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Montana gathering learns about living dreams

Prairie Mary (Mary Scriver) writes about a Thomas Moore dream lesson at a conference in Montana during 1983, "Logon '83: A Seed That Grew". At the gathering, two boys, who hadn’t paid to attend, shared a dream for interpretation. According to Scriver,
"Thomas Moore carefully and kindly guided them through free association: what snakes were there in their lives? What did the highway mean to them? As this whole new world opened up to these boys, their mouths hung open in astonishment. Others among us smiled smugly. Then the door burst open and in came the female registrar on the prod. She gave those two boys the hook -- they were outta there in a hurry -- and the class was aghast! We were all liberals, tolerant, inclusive, and so on.

So then Thomas Moore treated the occasion as if it were a dream. It DID have its surreal elements, so sudden and such a change in mood. What did we think of when we considered authority figures? What does it mean to limit a group? (There’s a whole body of scholarly comment on “fencing the Communion,” which the early Christians did -- only allowing baptized people to take the bread and wine.)

All of a sudden we realized that EVERYTHING is metaphorical, everything has both a personal history and a larger history plus relationship to old and deep patterning. And that much of the work of consciousness is bringing up some of that while maybe suppressing other elements we’re not ready to handle."
Prairie Mary is a member of Barque: Thomas Moore Forum and invites readers to consider a recent post in which she interprets Tiger Woods' accident as a dream.

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