The Soul's Religionby Thomas Moore
In this, companion volume to his worldwide bestseller, Care of the Soul, Thomas Moore offers a way of living in this new and confusing century. Drawing on faiths front all over tile world, as well as from his own vast well of knowledge and personal experience, Moore shows its ]low religion can be used to embrace others, rather than exclude them. He helps its/b>… See more details below
In this, companion volume to his worldwide bestseller, Care of the Soul, Thomas Moore offers a way of living in this new and confusing century. Drawing on faiths front all over tile world, as well as from his own vast well of knowledge and personal experience, Moore shows its ]low religion can be used to embrace others, rather than exclude them. He helps its become comfortable with our doubts, and reveals a, liberating truth it is in the dark corners of the soul Chat trite faith is born. Intimate and provocative, Moore writes with the compassion of a parent and the wisdom of a trite teacher.
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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
As people who like to fill our minds with facts and our lives with things, we may find it difficult to cultivate emptiness, which is both an intellectual and an emotional openness. But spiritual emptiness is not literal nothingness. It's an attitude of nonattachment in which we resist the temptation to cling to our points of view. This kind of emptiness, confident but never certain, gives us the room to be flexible and self-aware. The religions are filled with symbols for it even if they don't always put it into practice.
It was raining the day I first saw the Pantheon in Rome. My wife and I stood in the cool, damp air and marveled at the oculus or "eye" in the top of the temple 140 feet above the plain stone floor. The emperor Hadrian is responsible for the current shape of the building. It is said that he wanted the hole in the top to reveal the sky so the temple could mirror the human condition of being both exposed to the infinite universe and enclosed in its own shelter. Nathaniel Hawthorne referred to the hole in the dome as "the pathway of heaven's radiance."
When I looked up at the circular opening in the roof, I thought I saw a key to the meaning of religion: a courageous, openhearted appreciation for the mystery that surrounds, permeates, and stands at the center of our lives. Our sciences and technologies approach life as a problem to be solved. Religion goes in the opposite direction: it grants mystery its eternal validity and, rather than solving it, looks for ways to contemplate it and give it honor. While science tries to fill in all the holes in human knowledge, religion celebrates empty spaces and makes them a model and an ideal.
The oculus of the temple, focusing the divine eye that is the sky, mirrors a certain emptiness in our intelligence. Without it, all is lost, because mystery is the heart of religion. People who don't understand this essential point cover over their anxiety about meaning with beliefs that are naïve and extreme. Today, for example, caught up in the spirit of the times, people try to prove that prayer works by making scientific studies. Traditional religious societies don't need such proof. They pray no matter what. They believe not because of evidence but because of their reverence for tradition and their own spiritual insight.
Real faith is rooted in a basic ignorance about ultimate things, and religion helps us to be in relation to that mystery. This kind of ignorance can offer calm or create anxiety, depending on a person's faith. Often people fill in this emptiness by insisting that they possess the truth. The fragility of their faith is betrayed by their strident insistence on being right and by their efforts to force their views on others. They seem afraid of the very things that define religion: mystery and trust.
As I stood under the oculus of the Pantheon, for a moment I thought I could see lines extending from my eye, through the oculus of the building, and out into the sky. My own was the smallest and least significant of these eyes. I recalled the famous words of Meister Eckhart, "The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me," and Nicholas of Cusa's point that the name of God, theos in Greek, means to see, because God "looks on all things."
To be is to be seen, and to be seen is to feel the weight of existence. We need to be seen by our friends and our communities. But we also need to be seen absolutely, to know that our lives are not lived in a vacuum of meaning. We have to know that the oculus of our temple and of the sky is real and that we live in relation to an absolute eye that regards us with interest and affection. It is not impossible for a sophisticated modern man or woman to look into the sky and, in a certain manner, behold angels and a trace of divinity.
The native people who live in the Great Lakes region, where I grew up, are taught by their shamans about this oculus, which they see represented in the Pleiades constellation and in the hole at the top of the shaman's lodge. The anthropologist Thor Conway says that these people believe there is a hole in the sky, to which they give a sacred name: Behgonay Ghizig. Through the hole in the lodge and the doorway of the Pleiades the soul can take flight and communicate with the heavens. The tragedy of modern times is that we have closed off that opening with our facts and our measurements. We have no means of spiritual communication.
In their stories of emergence the Hopi pueblo people of the American Southwest tell of a similar doorway. At their first appearance, in the time of dark purple light, the people had moisture on their foreheads and a soft spot at the top of their heads. Eventually this soft spot hardened, but occasionally they can open it like a door and make themselves available to the influence of the spirit world. As they were drifting on the water looking for a livable fourth world, "not knowing what to do, the people stopped paddling, opened the doors on top of their heads, and let themselves be guided."
This story tells how we can find direction in life by emptying ourselves of intention and goals. Anyone can -- figuratively, of course -- open the door of his head and be guided. This kind of emptiness is an aspect of faith, a calm ignorance coupled with trust, neither naïve...
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