Care of the Soul:
by Thomas Moore, Harper/Collins, 1992, 312 pages.
Having lived as a monk in a Catholic religious order for twelve years, and having studied widely in theology, musicology and philosophy, Thomas Moore brings a deeply-textured life experience to this book. Drawing freely from his own, as well as other traditions of spirituality, this book becomes …a guide, offering a philosophy of soulful living and techniques for dealing with everyday problems without striving for perfection…
Early on in the book, Moore makes it clear that he is not using the term “soul” in the traditional sense in which it is seen as an object of religious belief or as something to do with immortality. Rather he is referring to that entity that lies midway between understanding and unconsciousness and then goes on to suggest that its instrument is neither the mind nor the body, but imagination.
Using this understanding of soul, Moore suggests that one of the greatest maladies of our contemporary society is loss of soul. We have tended to neglect the soul, he notes. And when ignored in this way it reappears symptomatically in obsessions, addictions, violence and loss of meaning. So he insists that a renewed focus on soulful living will go a long way toward addressing some of the pressing human issues of our day.
But moving in that direction is not as simple as following a “how-to” manual with clearly marked steps. That is the case, he says, because a soulful personality is complicated, multifaceted, and shaped by both pain and pleasure, success and failure. Moving toward soulful living is not adjusting to an image of a statistically, normal person. Rather the goal is a richly elaborated life, connected to society and nature, woven into the culture of family, nation and globe.
It is clear that this is not a specifically “Christian” work, although the author readily admits that many of his perspectives are rooted firmly in the Christian tradition. At the same time it is not anti-Christian. Moore sees his work as embracing a wider perspective than only Christian, yet as readily applicable within Christian tradition as well as other faiths. In that sense this work stands clearly apart from those written by apologists of strictly Christian spirituality.
Yet I found Moore’s perspectives to be thought-provoking and enlightening. They helped me understand more clearly how much the Christian spiritual pilgrimage shares in common with the search for soulful living within many other traditions. While this book may be somewhat heavy for readers conditioned to think in clearly defined, traditional categories, it offers many useful insights for those in search of a deeper spirituality than they are experiencing at present. There is no doubt that I will return repeatedly to this book to reflect on and write about the treasures revealed on nearly every page.
If you are looking for an easy read, don’t pick up this book. If you are looking for a book that will force you to look at reality in a more expansive and meaningful way, run to the bookstore to get it.