Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Agape is an open-hearted position toward life

"Love in the Kingdom" is David Elliott’s title for Thomas Moore’s presentation of agape in Writing in the Sand: Jesus and the Soul of the Gospels. Today Elliott writes,
"Thomas Moore takes themes that we have all heard about for years and puts them into new and deeper contexts. Evolutionary Christianity is wide ranging and little discussed in church circles but agape has been with us since our earliest Sunday school days. What new is there to learn about this most basic of Christian concepts? It turns out to be quite a lot.

'Agape is an alternative to hatred, suspicion, judgement, and paranoia. It is less an emotion and more an orientation towards life. You face the world with an open heart rather than with a suspicious or punitive one . . . But the agape of the Gospels is not just a feeling; it's a stance, a position, an evaluation that generates respect.'(p. 45-46) This seems appropriate for our time. Thomas Moore uses the parable of the prodigal son to exemplify this stance but we were able to come up with powerful stories of our own that even after years still have deep meaning for us."
Elliott lists some of his group members' own reflections about agape. He concludes, "What we didn’t get to discuss much was how on the last pages of the chapter Moore mentions that this notion of agape is not just for personal or family situations but points us in the direction of global community. "'The point is to create a world community that transcends religious allegiance and nationalism.'(p. 56)." The group continues in the new year with the book's presentation of healing.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Desire indicates what the soul needs and seeks

On her blog, Unleashing, Erin Clark responds to Thomas Moore’s book, The Soul of Sex, in her post today. Clark follows Moore's quotes from the subchapter "Erotic Intelligence" with her own interpretations and reactions to his words. She includes Moore’s observation:
"Desire has its own intelligence. If we think that the mind is the best guide through life, we will make choices by gathering opinions and weighing the options. But if we follow the soul, we will understand that desire is also an indicator of what is needed and what is best. We may be confused, especially at the outset of desire, about the exact nature of our soul's longing, but over time we will become clearer about what the soul is seeking. This is a dynamic way of life rooted in deep longings that call for a response, rather than a static way based on fixed ideas about what is prudent."
Clark responds, "Foregoing prudence is a shameless rebellion that makes my skin tingle. Certainly the part of Unleashing that excites me the most. Not being held down by fixed ideas ― but allowing a wilder instinct have its say. Always learning more and more ways to do this wisely and deeply. Allowing me to have a stronger trust, which lets me have more profound intimacies in my life. I love even more being in a position to help others strengthen their own experience of trust and gain deeper, more intimate experiences of their own."

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gospel teachings celebrate pleasure and vitality

What does the Gospel story about the wedding at Cana have to do with metanoia?

This question is answered in David Elliott’s 14 December post, "Water to Wine", that describes his adult study group’s reflections on Thomas Moore’s Writing in the Sand: "Several have mentioned that they never read about so many layers of interpretation and meaning in this simple story. Thomas Moore’s personal journey from the monk’s retreat to the university to the psychotherapist’s office to the den of a famous writer and the richness of married life has not been chronicled in detail in his other books that I have read. This chapter was like a blog entry or a diary."

Elliott includes Moore’s view, "The Dionysian and the Epicurian approaches to life — affirming, subtle, and positive about pleasure and vitality — are essential aspects of Jesus’ teaching" (p. 37). Elliott then contrasts this approach with a traditional focus on hard work and virtue.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Care of the soul includes medical architecture

The New York Academy of Medicine’s Section on the History of Medicine and Public Health offers a public lecture on Monday 9 May, 2011:
On the History of Hospital Architecture in New York City
by William J. Higgins, Higgins Quasebarth & Partners, LLC

For full descriptions of other lectures, or to register to attend, visit: http://www.nyam.org/library/rare-book-room/lectures/

For more information about the Historical Collections at the New York Academy of Medicine, please visit the website:

For more information about the public lectures series sponsored by Section on the History of Medicine and Public Health, please call Arlene Shaner in the Rare Book Room at 212-822-7313 or send email to history@nyam.org.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Readers choose Moore's Writing in the Sand

Two recent blog posts recommend Thomas Moore’s Writing in the Sand: Jesus and the Soul of the Gospels. For Advent Book Blog, Heather Cardin writes, "Moore broadly re-reads the Christian Gospels, yet this is not a book solely for Christians; whatever your religious background, it’s for a spiritually-inclined, well-read person who desires deep engagement with ideas of principled and loving transformation." Cardin is a poet and author living in Saskatchewan.

Jamie Broadhurst, vice president of marketing at Raincoast Books in Vancouver B.C., chooses Writing in the Sand as one of his favourite books for 2010. Scroll down the page to read his description. Broadhurst concludes, "It's hard to read Thomas Moore and not have your own ideological or theological preconceptions blown away like, as he says, writing in the sand."

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Group talks of metanoia and baptism symbols

Thomas Moore’s book, Writing in the Sand: Jesus and the Soul of the Gospels, guides discussion of David Elliott’s adult seminar in his 6 December post, "A Radical Shift of Vision – Part 2". In his description of the meeting, Elliott writes,
"Mary Jane picked up on Nancy’s theme and talked about how so much of education particularly of young children stifles creativity. Many modern toys that blink and make sounds don’t allow for kids to build their own universe of meaning. Bill followed a similar pattern of life to Thomas Moore and took us on a journey that I wouldn’t try to duplicate. Can you remember what you said Bill that caused Jim to respond quietly "That’s profound!"

We then spent a few moments reflecting on the symbols of baptism that go along with metanoia, water and fire. Bill discussed the significance of water in a culture where water was special and a daily shower was unheard of and being washed with the soul of life caused you to see things afresh and the fire of the sun. Both are necessary for life."
Near the end of his post, Elliott includes, "We didn’t get to talk much about the "fruit" of spiritual revisioning." Perhaps this topic will be included next week. For earlier Barque coverage of the group's reflections about Moore's Writing in the Sand, see:

"Gospels: intelligent, grounded, mystical healing"
2 December 2010

"The Kingdom is empty but far from worthless"
25 November 2010

Group studies Moore's Writing in the Sand
17 November 2010

"Consider earthly concerns and spiritual vision"
6 October 2010

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Thursday, December 02, 2010

Gospels: intelligent, grounded, mystical healing

David Elliott posts his seminar group’s investigation of Thomas Moore’s Writing in the Sand: Jesus and the Soul of the Gospels in his blog entry "A Radical Shift of Vision" on 30 November 2010. Elliott suggests the "entire book is summarized on page 26":
"Change of heart (metanoia)
brings you into the kingdom (basilea)
where you discover the power of love (agape)
to heal. (therapeia)"
Elliott continues, "This is deceptively simple but goes beyond where most authors take us. Moore discusses the baptism by water and fire as the process: "your egotism has to be burned away. Your neurotic agenda, so long in the way, must vanish so you can be a conduit of healing." ... Could the Gospels be a source of "intelligent, grounded, yet mystical healing?" (p. 28) His challenge is that we have more than a more helpful understanding of Jesus or the right attitude of service as we live our lives but that "Then we would see clearly that metanoia is a change in being, not just mind and behavior. When you undergo this transformation, radically and profoundly, you become a healing presence." (p. 28) The group keeps its focus on metanoia for its next session.