Friday, August 18, 2006

Friday Reflection: Stilling Impulse

This week, we've spent time examining the work of Eric Alterman. What Dr. A. is to political media, Thomas Moore is to western psycho-spirituality.

Moore has been a notable influence, for me and lots of other folks. His bestselling Care of the Soul series of books did more than any other art produced in the past generation to awaken Americans to the so-called New Age spirituality (I prefer the term "quantum sense"), and its healing potential. His last book, Dark Nights of the Soul, was written in the wake of 9/11 and has plenty of Moore's signature common-sense, lucid wisdom about it.

He now does a monthly column for Spirituality and Health Magazine, and it's worth the price of a subscription all by itself. I'll have more about the mag in a future post, but for today, here's an excerpt from Moore's essay for the September issue; it speaks to much of what we've written about here over the recent weeks of global war.

The ancient Greeks honored a god, an archetypal force, if you will, that they called Ares. The Romans used the more familiar name Mars. In their psalm of praise to this deep necessity they begged the "restrain that shrill voice in my heart that provokes me to enter the chilling din of battle." They called on the god of warfare to still the urge to fight.

There is a mysterious and perverse tendency in human beings to be gross and literal in responding to any impulse. You need substance in your life, so you pile up possessions. You want to absorb the life around you, so you eat too much. You need some Dionysian joy, and you drink too much alcohol.

It's the same with violence and warfare. We have many subtle adversaries to deal with in the course of our lives: ignorance, prejudice, jealousy, ambition, arrogance. To come out of these battles with our souls intact takes courage, boldness, perseverance, and skill—the virtues of Mars... confused about where the real battle takes place and what it means to win and lose. America has fought too many wars and still believes that the killing of children and their mothers and brothers is justified and even virtuous when there is an enemy to annihilate....

We think that it is weakness to avoid the actuality of bloodshed, that patriotism means having a human enemy other than ourselves. Currently, America seems to be picking fights, wanting blood, finding glory in having an enemy with a foreign face. But all of this literalism, this acting-out of what should be spiritual struggle over narcissistic passions, shows how far we have to go before we truly discover the meaning of spirituality...

Are we going to indulge our biases and the innocence we believe we have earned by our victimization? Or can we see past these blind emotions to a wiser course? Can we refine our thick prejudices and discover the art of war that applies to our souls?

This is not the time to be weak and pacifist. But a gun or a bomb is always a fetish, a substitute for spiritual force, a sign of our weakness. This is the time to be strong in spirit and refuse to be enticed into literal battles in which the loser wins and the winner loses. It's time to be visionary, thoughtful, and truly virtuous.

To preview and purchase any of Thomas Moore's outstanding work, look here. If you're in upstate New York this weekend, you can see Moore at The Omega Institute.


And if you're here in NYC this weekend, how about a trip to the Met to see the Susan Sontag exhibit?

No comments: