The Soul's Religion: Cultivating a Profoundly Spiritual Way of Life

The Soul's Religion: Cultivating a Profoundly Spiritual Way of Life

by Thomas Moore


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The Soul's Religion: Cultivating a Profoundly Spiritual Way of Life by 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 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060930196
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/25/2003
Series: Harper Perennial
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 791,494
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.72(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

A Hole in the Sky

Now he thought,
There should be a sky over their heads,
So they can look up at it.

Seneca creation story

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...

Table of Contents

1.A Hole in the Sky5
2.The Empty Self10
3.Holy Ignorance17
4.To Believe Is to Love27
5.Unbelief Is as Important as Belief34
6.Keeping the Mysteries38
7.Faith Begins in Ordinary Trust43
8.Flying Lessons53
9.The Fortunate Fall60
10.Down and Within67
11.The Spirit of the Bottoms73
12.The Way of Disintegration83
13.Sweet Suffering90
14.Spiritual Anger97
15.Unearthing the Gold107
16.The Beauty of Imperfection115
17.Spirituality by Ordeal119
18.All Human Problems Are Spiritual124
19.The Unnameable131
20.Jesus the Imagination137
21.Taking Angels Seriously144
22.The Hidden God Is a Personal God149
23.The Romance of Religion159
24.Eternal Maiden166
25.Venerating Images172
26.Nature Spirituality181
27.Dream Practice188
28.The Sacred Irrational195
VIIA Holy Life
29.In Every Sacrifice, God Is Born207
30.Ethics: A Way to Spirit213
31.The Inner Life of Rice221
32.Sensing the Holy227
33.Religious Eroticism234
34.Crafting a Soul243
35.An Instinct for Prayer248
36.Finding a Teacher Who Knows Not to Teach255
37.Deepening the Meaning of Church263
38.Transparent Tradition270
39.Secular Holiness275
40.Eternal Life283

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