The Re-enchantment of Everyday Life

The Re-enchantment of Everyday Life

by Thomas Moore


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060928247
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 02/27/1997
Series: Harper Perennial
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 826,310
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.95(d)

About the Author

Thomas Moore is the author of the bestselling Care of the Soul and twenty other books on spirituality and depth psychology that have been translated into thirty languages. He has been practicing depth psychotherapy for thirty-five years. He lectures and gives workshops in several countries on depth spirituality, soulful medicine, and psychotherapy. He has been a monk and a university professor, and is a consultant for organizations and spiritual leaders. He has often been on television and radio, most recently on Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Nature Spirits

It's early summer, and the sunflowers are about seven feet high in the garden off the kitchen. I'm reminded that in the fifteenth century, Marsilio Ficino recommended that everyone turn toward the mystery of his own nature the way a sunflower turns toward the sun. In all things, even in the most recondite mysteries of the soul, nature is the first and finest of teachers.

All lessons in enchantment begin with nature: with animals that exhibit "pure soul," as Robert Sardello once remarked; with day and night, season and tide—natural rhythms; with our own instincts and sensations, our own nature, part of and reflective of the natural world around us. It's easy to speak philosophically and abstractly about being part of nature, but the important thing is to live that realization, to make local nature a concrete element in daily life. This is a necessary initial step in the re-enchantment of our individual lives, although it will take a while for society as a whole to discover that it can't survive humanely without surrendering some authority and initiative to nature.

Enchantment is to a large extent founded in the spirituality inherent in earthly nature. Religious and spiritual writers often symbolize their goal with images of light and sky that draw us upward and away from the particulars of life on earth. Our task in reenchantment is to expand our very idea of spirituality to include the lowliest of things and the most particular and familiar haunts of nature. Without romanticizing nature, we could turn to it as the major source of our spirituality—a difficult task for most of us who havebeen brought up on moral and theological abstractions.

Although nature is usually thought of as the quintessential example of the material world, paradoxically nature gives us the most fundamental opening to spirit. Mountains, rivers, and deserts, enjoying a lifetime far exceeding our own, give us a taste of eternity, and an ancient forest or gorge reminds us that our own lives are brief in comparison. In nature, we become sensitive to our mortality and to the immensity of the life that is our matrix, and both of these sensations, mortality and immensity, offer the foundation for a spiritual life.

For all our well-equipped investigations and classifications, nature remains full of mystery: The farther the physicist explores the subatomic world, the more mysterious nature appears; and the more pictures we receive from beyond our solar system, the more it inspires awe and wonder. By confronting us with irreducible mysteries that stretch our daily vision to include infinity, nature opens an inviting and guiding path toward a spiritual life.

As we approach nature as fact finders, analysts, and classifiers, we tend to lose sight of the story we are living, the myth that gives shape to our very investigations. Are we like Prometheus, hoping to steal what we can for humanity from the mysteries of life? In our voracious pursuit of information, are we like the man in the fairy tale who gobbled up his world from a pointless, ravenous hunger? Or are we St. Francis, loving nature as the immediate presence of divinity? Or the Buddha, finding in the simple presentations of nature images of the mystery that is human life?

In religious practices around the world, we find spirituality and nature going hand in hand-among the Irish monks who built their stone monasteries on windy, raw islands and steep promontories inhabited mainly by goats, among the Tibetans who developed a highly sophisticated approach to the spirit in the thin air of their mountaintop monasteries, in the tropical rain forests where nature is revered in exotic ceremony and icon, or on the American plains where earth and sky are honored as divine sources of life.

Many of us who limit spirituality to a book or a church long for something more. Traditional peoples know that nature feeds the spiritual life as nothing else can. What is required is simple proximity, contemplation, ritual, and a spirit of piety. If we can allow ourselves to be stunned by nature's beauty, complexity, simplicity, devastating power, vast dimensions, and unexpected quirkiness, then lessons in spirituality will pour into us without effort on our part. But it isn't easy to be so naive and open in an age of scientific sophistication. We want to harness nature and not be directed by it, study it and not learn from it, get it under firm control and not let it have influence over us.

Nature is not only a source of spirit; it also has soul. Spiritually, nature directs our attention toward eternity, but at the same time it contains us and creates an intimacy with our own personal lives that nurtures the soul. The individuality of a tree or rock or pool of water is another sign of nature's soul. These intriguing natural beings not only point outward toward infinity; more intimately, they also befriend us. It's easy to love groves of trees or mountain ridges, to feel related to them as though by blood, and to be secure in their familial protection.

One of the great challenges we face as we develop technology and expand scientific knowledge is to preserve nature as a source of spirituality. Recent history has proven how easy it is to lose an appreciation for the sanctity of nature and to get so caught up in the material dimensions of our science that we fall deeper into materialism and lose touch with spiritual values. Then we not only destroy nature out of the shallowness of our appreciation but also lose nature's gift of spiritual sensitivity.

Too Busy for Nature

When I fly around the country, I usually leave from Bradley Field in Hartford, Connecticut. One day, as the shuttle bus approached the airport, the driver pointed to a grassy patch between the highway and the terminal, where a groundhog had made a home, and as we drove by we saw him sitting in the middle of the field, sunning himself. Behind him were the massive engines of the airliners and the typical busyness of the airport, and the odd combination appeared to me as a visual oxymoron, a woodchuck and an airliner sharing the same world.

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Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
BraveKelso on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Disappointing in that there is little added to the self-care advice offered in Care of the Soul. Moore continues to recommend appreciation of aesthetic, personally interpreted, as a necessary way of living with dignity and happiness. He continues to offer the Renaissance neo-Platonism and mysticism of Ficino, and the mystical mythology of Jung as intellectual/aesthetic inspiration. Very Iron John.
carterchristian1 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Promises a lot, but does not grab me at once. Amazon reviewers sounded a similar view
Anonymous More than 1 year ago