December 24, 2010

Is Thomas Moore the Leon Russell of Spiritual Writing? ~Tom Rapsas

There’s been a lot of press recently about the musical collaboration between Elton John and Leon Russell. The result was a CD called The Union that’s received glowing reviews and is already popping up on many top-ten music lists for 2010. While I’m sure you’ve heard of Elton John, you may not be familiar with the singer-songwriter Leon Russell.

Russell put out some excellent piano-centered “swamp rock” albums in the early to mid-1970’s, but as the decades passed he became largely forgotten. He continued touring and putting out new music on his own label, but as his sales diminished he played to smaller and smaller crowds. All that changed in the past year, when Elton John plucked the now 68-year old Leon out of obscurity and put him back in the spotlight.

Now, I’m no Elton John, and this story isn’t quite as extreme—but I think that the same Leon Russell-type fate is falling upon one of our great spiritual writers, Thomas Moore. A former monk who lived in a Catholic religious order for 12 years, Moore had a blockbuster hit with one of his very first books, Care of the Soul in 1992.

What you may not know is that Moore followed up that book with 15 others. Most of these books represent different riffs on a single vital theme, the place of the soul in our everyday lives, including the role it plays in enchantment, at work and even in our sex lives. It’s heady stuff at times, but so well thought out that every word has the distinct ring of truth.

As you can probably tell I’m a huge fan of Moore’s, his writings resonate in a place deep within me. And in a world where The Secret tops the book charts for over a year, I believe his work gets nowhere near the attention it deserves. Like Leon Russell, Thomas Moore is an example of a great artist whose work has become increasingly and unjustly unnoticed.

Moore turned 70 this year and I have been reading through some of his books again. To give you a feel for his writing, I’ve pulled out passages from four of my favorite texts below, but consider this merely a few drops from a vast sea of compelling work.

I take magic seriously, as a source of effectiveness in a world that is more mysterious than our scientific achievements imply. A word, a gesture, or an image may be more powerful than a reasoned argument, a ritual or ceremony more beneficial for human continuity than any machine or technical development. Becoming a person of deeply grounded and rich imagination may be more desirable then being healthy, politically savvy or well-informed. (The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Living, 1996)

Live simply, but be complicated…simplifying the externals allows us to cultivate a rich inner and outer life. A cluttered existence may keep us busy, but busyness doesn’t mean that we are engaged in what we are doing. Usually, just the opposite….a complicated person can simplify life and in that simplicity find a sharp articulation of values. (Original Self, 2000)

Even the person well grounded and earthy may go through a long series of ordeals and over a lifetime undergo severe tests of character. Life is usually rich in the variety of sufferings and torments it concocts. The important question is not how we suffer but how we respond to it. (The Soul’s Religion, 2002)

In sex, an inner life of strong emotions and vivid fantasies meets with a real person to create a moment of exceptional intensity when life is full and reason is dim. The soul craves such excursions from literal reality, and it is no mystery that sex is so compelling and enticing. In sex, we may subliminally discover many truths about our partner, ourselves, our relationship, passion and life itself. (The Soul of Sex, 1998)

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