Soul of Sex: Cultivating Life As an Act of Love

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Overview

A highly original approach from best selling author Thomas Moore, restoring sex to its rightful place in the human psyche as an experience of the soul.

In The Soul of Sex, Thomas Moore at last restores sex to its rightful place in the human psyche. Describing sex as an experience of the soul, Thomas Moore here brings out the fully human side of sex – the roles of fantasy, desire, meaning, and morality – and draws on religion, mythology art, ...

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Overview

A highly original approach from best selling author Thomas Moore, restoring sex to its rightful place in the human psyche as an experience of the soul.

In The Soul of Sex, Thomas Moore at last restores sex to its rightful place in the human psyche. Describing sex as an experience of the soul, Thomas Moore here brings out the fully human side of sex – the roles of fantasy, desire, meaning, and morality – and draws on religion, mythology art, literature, and film to show how sex is one of the most profound mysteries of life.

While finding spirituality inherent in sex, Moore also explores how spiritual values can sometimes wound our sexuality.

Blending rather than opposing spirituality and sexuality, The Soul of Sex offers a fresh, livable way of becoming more deeply sexual and loving in all areas of life.

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Editorial Reviews

Fran Shaw
...[U]ses the word "sex" to refer not only to lovemaking but also to eros, a "sacred cosmic force"...where [the soul] encounters...the infinite....Ultimately, Moore defines the erotic life as a fulllife, one which brings ...pleasure, intimacy, fulfillment, radiance....Most important in an "effort to eroticize all of life" is "the opening of the heart.
Parabola
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"Why should modern life become more sensuous and sexual?" asks Moore. He answers with a principle voiced by Freud: "We display outrageously and obsessively that which we do not fully possess or have deeply at our disposal." Moore's ensuing description of the puritanical repression behind our cultural obsession with sex offers the key to his own success. In his bestselling Care of the Soul, Moore challenged our yearning for salvation and shyness about high culture with an epicurean approach to good living that was culled from Renaissance philosophy, mythology, literature, Jung and the works of Moore's own teacher, the brilliant "archetypal" psychologist James Hillman. Moore's approach was satisfyingly "soulful" in the sense that he emphasized the wisdom and integration that can come when we accept and cultivate the desires of our bodies and imaginations instead of seeking transcendence. Here, Moore uses the same rich trove of learning to explore many facets of sex, in fantasy, in the lure of the body and in the whole range of our relationships from marriage to the workplace. Moore's points seem a bit tired at times. (Isn't there a fresher example of the spirit of sex than Marilyn Monroe? Must Moore defend plastic surgery as sometimes "soul-saving"?). Overall, however, he makes fascinating, quotable reading of the way sex naturally entwines with spirituality in chastity as in the most passionate love affair. In Moore's analysis, Jesus is epicurean in his love of life, and each of us can expand our vision of sexuality to include the energy that creates beauty and builds friendships and community.
Library Journal
As Moore explains in the opening sentence of his introduction, "This is a book about human sexuality, but it contains no information on biology, anatomy, or health, and it has little to say about techniques and relationship." Moore, a philosopher, theologian, and author of the best-selling Care of the Soul and Soul Mates, has instead crafted a philosophical essay on the importance of incorporating sensuality and sexuality into all aspects of one's life. He delves into the stories of the old classical gods and goddesses, newer legends such as Marilyn Monroe's tragic life and death, and his own at-one-time celibate life to prove his assertions. Some of his writing may shock readers; he devotes several pages to the sexuality of Jesus Christ and asserts that it might be wise to "plac[e] sex at the top of our priorities in marriage or other intimate relationships-prior to love, affection, duty, communication, parenthood, and mutual support." This is an odd book with no easy home in library-land, as it's definitely more philosophy than self-help. Academic libraries may want to consider purchasing it, as should public libraries where Moore's previous work has been well received. -- Pamela A. Matthews
Library Journal
As Moore explains in the opening sentence of his introduction, "This is a book about human sexuality, but it contains no information on biology, anatomy, or health, and it has little to say about techniques and relationship." Moore, a philosopher, theologian, and author of the best-selling Care of the Soul and Soul Mates, has instead crafted a philosophical essay on the importance of incorporating sensuality and sexuality into all aspects of one's life. He delves into the stories of the old classical gods and goddesses, newer legends such as Marilyn Monroe's tragic life and death, and his own at-one-time celibate life to prove his assertions. Some of his writing may shock readers; he devotes several pages to the sexuality of Jesus Christ and asserts that it might be wise to "plac[e] sex at the top of our priorities in marriage or other intimate relationships-prior to love, affection, duty, communication, parenthood, and mutual support." This is an odd book with no easy home in library-land, as it's definitely more philosophy than self-help. Academic libraries may want to consider purchasing it, as should public libraries where Moore's previous work has been well received. -- Pamela A. Matthews
Fran Shaw
...[U]ses the word "sex" to refer not only to lovemaking but also to eros, a "sacred cosmic force"...where [the soul] encounters...the infinite....Ultimately, Moore defines the erotic life as a fulllife, one which brings ...pleasure, intimacy, fulfillment, radiance....Most important in an "effort to eroticize all of life" is "the opening of the heart." -- Parabola
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060930950
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/28/1999
  • Series: Harper Perennial
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 213,821
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Moore was a monk in a Catholic religious order for twelve years and has degrees in theology, musicology, and philosophy. A former professor of psychology, he is the author of Care of the Soul, Soul Mates, The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life, The Education of the Heart, The Soul of Sex, and Original Self. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and two children.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Nymph of Sex

Divine Eros and Human Sexuality

We have a habit of talking about sex as merely physical, and yet nothing has more soul. Sex takes us into a world of intense passions, sensual touch, exciting fantasies, many levels of meaning, and subtle emotions. It makes the imagination come alive with fantasy, reverie, and memory Even if the sex is loveless, empty, or manipulative, still it has strong repercussions in the soul, and even bad sexual experiences leave lasting, haunting impressions.

In general, we treat the body as though it were a skeleton wrapped in muscles and stuffed with organs. When illness comes along, we go to a doctor and expect X rays, pills, or surgery. We don't talk about the way were living, strong feelings that may be related to the illness, or whether life has meaning. We separate the body, mind, and emotions as though they were properly contained in individual and unrelated compartments.

The philosophy characteristic of our culture, in which the body is treated as unrelated to our emotions, our sense of meaning, and our experiences, has deep implications for sexualiry. Not only do we deal with sexual problems mechanically, we may well approach our lovers mechanically -without the deep engagement of the soul and spirit that would give sex its depth and humanity.

Against this point of view, the eighteenth-century poet William Blake, who used his power of words to fight against the rationalistic and mechanistic thinking of his own time, made a statement that could fittingly be printed at the bottom of every page of this book:

Man has no Bodydistinct from his Soul for that calld
Body is a portion of Soul discernd by the five Senses, the
chief inlets of Soul in this age.
Unless we have lost imagination completely, when we look at the body we are seeing the soul, and when we have sex, we experience the body as a way to the most penetrating mysteries of the soul.

It may be tempting at times to imagine sex as purely physical. Then we might not have to deal with feelings, personalities, and repercussions. We may try to avoid the complexities that always appear in relationships and look for liberated sex in "free love." How pleasant it would be, we may think, to have sex without strings attached, without all the painful emotions and partings and reunions. But the soul has its own life and its own will. It won't submit to our manipulations. The attempt to have sex without implications may backfire, and through a meaningless sexual fling we may find ourselves in the biggest emotional mess of our lives.

This human body that we have been conditioned to see as a system of chemicals, pulleys, pumps, and plumbing is an expressive entity of great subtlety and nuance. This subtle body is alive, diaphanous, full of meanings, poetic, expressive in every organ and part, intimately connected to emotion and feeling, and, by no means least, beautiful. This is the body that engages in sex, a body with so much soul that any attempt to deny its layers of meaning will likely come back to haunt us.

Obviously, the body can be appropriately studied, measured, and treated at a merely chemical and physiological level. But at the same time the body is infinitely more, and to grasp its sexuality we have to go far beyond the scientific imagination. We can appeal to artists, poets, and mystical writers, and to the rites and images of religion to get a fuller picture of its sexuality and to glimpse the myriad of ways the body can be sexually expressive.

The key to going any further in this book is to set aside our habit of looking at the body and its sexuality materialistically and to realize, as fundamentally as we can, that there is no such thing as a human body without emotion and imagination. The larger part of human sexuality is inaccessible to the materialist's viewpoint. Beyond it lies a whole world of sexual meaning. By looking at the sexual myths we live out, and at our spiritual attitudes, however developed and conscious they may be, we will find the roots of our desires and the sources of our satisfactions, Here lie secrets critical to our problems and unfulfilled hopes, here a way to educate the young in their sexuality, and here the means of reconciliation between sex and morality and between the body and the spirit.

Evoking Venus



The Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, an ancient story about sex, describes what I believe is the key to keeping the "human" in human sexuality. Zeus, to the Greeks the divine governor of life, wants to make certain that immortals and humans interpenetrate. This great mystery, related in Christianity to the incarnation, addresses the human condition, in which spirituality and ordinary life go together to complete our humanity We are made up of spirit and body, with an animating soul in between, and any embodiment of spirit is an incarnation. The story begins with Zeus instilling in Aphrodite, goddess of sex, a desire for a mortal man.

As the story opens, Aphrodite goes to her temple at Cyprus, takes a bath, oils her body, and clothes herself in beautiful garments and golden jewelry, Then she finds Anchises, a young shepherd, and disguises herself as a youthful virgin. Taken aback by her beauty, Anchises suspects that she may be a goddess, but she says no, she is the daughter of the ruler of Phrygia. Hermes snatched her from her home, she says, to be the wife of Anchises and the mother of their children...

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Ch. 1 The Nymph of Sex: Divine Eros and Human Sexuality 3
Ch. 2 The Erotic Body: Beauty, Face, Hair 18
Ch. 3 Phallic and Vaginal Mysteries: Meaning and the Sex Organs 36
Ch. 4 Archetypal Patterns in Sex: Myths, Saints, and Celebrities 61
Ch. 5 Sexual Fantasy and Dream: The Role of the Erotic Imagination 85
Ch. 6 Priapus the Scarecrow: The Comic and the Vulgar in Sex 115
Ch. 7 The Mystic's Orgasm: Eros in the Spiritual Life 137
Ch. 8 Eros and Morality: Sexual Ethics and Emotional Freedom 159
Ch. 9 The Joy of Celibacy: Subtle Expressions of Sexuality 178
Ch. 10 The Marriage Bed: Creating a Marriage Through Sex 199
Ch. 11 The Mystery Lover: The Sex Life of the Soul 221
Ch. 12 The Sexuality of the World: The Erotic Life of Things 240
Ch. 13 Sublime Sex: Erotic Intelligence and Vision 264
Ch. 14 Earthly Pleasures: The Epicurean Life 279
Notes 301
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Interviews & Essays

On Tuesday, June 23, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Thomas Moore, author of THE SOUL OF SEX.


Moderator: barnesandnoble@aol was pleased to welcome Thomas Moore to our Authors@aol series. Thomas Moore is a psychotherapist with a doctorate in religion from Syracuse University. As a young man, he spent 12 years in a Catholic monastery. He is also author of CARE OF THE SOUL and SOUL MATES, among numerous other titles. His latest book is THE SOUL OF SEX.



JainBN: Mr. Moore, can't thank you enough for coming by tonight.

Thomas Moore: My pleasure!



JainBN: We've been looking forward to having you all week. The audience is all geared up....

Thomas Moore: We're ready!



Question: Were you named after either Sir Thomas More, author of UTOPIA, or Thomas Moore, the 19th-century Irish poet?

Thomas Moore: Neither. I was named after my father.



Question: Do you agree that many of our sexual difficulties as Americans stem from our repressive puritanical origins?

Thomas Moore: Only in part. People forever have had a conflict between their sexual passions and their expectations of themselves.



Question: How do you relate the soul to a sexual experience?

Thomas Moore: There can be no human experience that does not involve the soul. And sex is one of the most profound human experiences. If we have sex without soul, then our sexuality lacks humanity.



Question: What is your diagnosis of the crisis in teen sexual promiscuity today? Is there one?

Thomas Moore: There seems to be a real problem. I think it's due to our failure to initiate our young people into deep human sexuality.



Question: With sex so often portrayed as a power act -- an act of ego -- how quickly do you think your thoughts of sex as the natural, nurturing development of the individual will be incorporated into the thinking of popular culture?

Thomas Moore: They won't be. Our culture is headed in the direction of a highly technical view of human life. And this direction takes us away from values of the soul. I feel like a lone and small voice for something that is disappearing.



Question: I feel that to be present on a spiritual level during sex, one has to know and accept themselves. Do you agree? Any suggestions how to get to that level of acceptance?

Thomas Moore: The first step is to forgive ourselves for past mistakes. We all get into trouble in some way with sex. We need to understand that and allow ourselves that fundamental human experience. I think it's more important to love ourselves than to understand ourselves.



Question: Since there are so many children growing up without two parents, do you think that the next generation will become more or less committed to having lasting marriages?

Thomas Moore: I think that marriage is an elastic, flexible arrangement. I would expect that marriage may change in the future. Or, in the best of circumstances, we may be more tolerant of varied sexual arrangements.



Question: How do you feel about premarital sex? Is it good for a potential marriage or does it cause lasting problems?

Thomas Moore: It all depends on the individual. Marriage can present terrible problems for many, many people. So can a high-paying job. I don't think there's anything inherent in premarital sex that has negative consequences. I don't think it's my role to say what is good and bad, right or wrong, healthy or unhealthy.



Question: What is one of the ways you suggest that we initiate our young people into deep human sexuality?

Thomas Moore: One way would be to stop talking about sex as though it were a medical affair that is purely physical. We could encourage young people to read the great stories and to see really fine films that shed light on sexuality.



Question: Speaking from your own background in the church and in psychology, are there any objective values to the terms "morality" and "psychological health," or are they merely synonymous with "social conformity"?

Thomas Moore: Well, they have nothing to do with social conformity. That's the most superficial definition of morality that is possible. On the other hand, we have to have a very strong, deep-rooted sense of ethics about sex that is not too simple. And that takes into account the very complex struggles that are part of our sexual maturing.



Question: How do you feel about the highly sexualized culture of celebrity in our society? Would you agree that celebrities serve as sexual proxies for the vicarious fantasizing of a fan base suffering from chronically low self-esteem?

Thomas Moore: That is a complicated question. In my view, celebrity is our modern form of mythology. I think that celebrities allow us to imagine what human life can be. And we do measure ourselves in relation to celebrities. I wish we had other sources of mythological thinking. But in any case, there is a great weight of responsibility on the part of celebrities because of their influence.



Question: Do you find Mediterranean Europe a good model for the U.S. in terms of its emphasis on eroticism in public life and its relative lack of moralism?

Thomas Moore: If you really mean lack of moralism and not lack of morality, I do think that many other cultures, and maybe especially the cultures in the warmer climates, could teach us how to be more relaxed and more sensuous, and those lessons could be very important to us and our sexuality.



Question: Have you considered the relationships between sex and those religions which are by and large even more puritanical than Christianity, such as traditional Islam and orthodox Judaism?

Thomas Moore: As far as I know, most religions, certainly the major religions, suffer from the dangers of becoming too moralistic. As I see it, this danger is part of the spiritual life in general. It seems to me that patriotism can become moralistic in this way, as can business and education and psychology. The issue is not so much the religious traditions as the tendency to become perfectionistic in whatever we do.



Question: What is your opinion on extramarital relations?

Thomas Moore: I have no opinion. As I said before, marriage can be brutal. And anything can be done in a way that is immoral and destructive. Any form of sexuality that is outside the accepted norm can be brutal as well and therefore immoral. But I think it can also be very moral and full of good will.



Question: The soul and sex are only part of the experience. Where does love fit into your equation?

Thomas Moore: Love is everywhere in this equation. I don't want to sentimentalize love. I think that we are a highly mental, highly controlling and controlled people. And we have yet to learn how to live from the principle of love. My book on sex is all about love. I describe sex as one of the facets of love.



Question: How can the two sexes ever come together on an intimate level, when girls still are raised to look for a Prince Charming, and boys are raised to think of themselves first?

Thomas Moore: Well, that's a strange question. Both girls and boys are raised with glowing expectations. In this society, both men and women are highly insolent to think of themselves first. I'd rather not break that question down into gender.



Question: How have people's personal attitudes towards sex changed in response to the climate of hysteria over epidemic STDs? How has the renewed taboo of promiscuity in the face of this crisis affected people's behavior in the bedroom?

Thomas Moore: I don't know the facts; I'm not a sociologist. But it often happens in the life of individuals or a society that some threat to one's physical or emotional life makes us stop and think about what we're doing. We can often make some progress because of such threats. I hope that that will be the case with our current well-founded concern about disease. But I hope that we can deepen our sexual ideas and behavior more positively without the need of threats.



Question: How do you feel about the advent of Viagra?

Thomas Moore: As with any drug, I would hope it doesn't increase our view of ourselves as collections of chemicals. But generally, I think it's great that the drug industry is helping men and couples with their sexuality.



Question: In general, do you feel that women have an easier time reaching an elevated state of sensuality?

Thomas Moore: Generally, I do think that women have a greater opportunity to experience the fullness of their sexuality compared to men. Although there are obviously many exceptions. And this is because in our society women embody the values of the soul. And men are generally encouraged to develop the values of control. In general, it would not take much for us to make a more sensuous world of good food, color, beauty, and deep pleasure. This kind of world would support both men and women as we go about the very important task of developing and enjoying the full extent of our sexuality.



JainBN: Mr. Moore, thank you. Any closing thoughts?

Thomas Moore: Thank you for the good questions! My one thought is don't do anything unless there is some real pleasure in it.



JainBN: On that note...goodnight.

Thomas Moore: Goodnight!


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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2001

    The Soul of Sex like a beautiful song

    I have read the Soul of Sex several times, and each time, I have derived some fresh insight into my life. If you love the arts, especially visual arts and literature, you will find this book enchanting. If you don't love the arts, you might find yourself becoming more interested in them after reading this book. I found it hard to plow through it, only because I wanted to stop and reflect on my life, or how I could apply the ideas and feelings evoked by reading this. Thomas Moore shows his incredible intelligence, sensitivity and comprehensive approach to life as a wonderful journey, filled with awe and learning experiences. I found the effect on myself and my outlook toward life, love, sex and sensuality quite profound, and recommend this book to anyone, especially someone who feels like his/her life is lacking in some way, as in feelings and romance in everyday life. I highly recommend it as a read-aloud book for couples. It sparks lots of ideas for writing and discussions, and is a wonderful example of positive thinking.

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    Posted January 5, 2010

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    Posted November 15, 2009

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