Barque: Thomas Moore Network

Visit Barque: Thomas Moore at

Further reflections from The Soul of Religion

If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise. — William Blake, Proverbs of Hell

"This ironic foolishness is not literal stupidity. It is something infinitely subtle […] As such it is compatible with clear thought and good judgment […] Those who have written in praise of the fool, such as Plato, Erasmus, Jung, Yeats, Blake, Dickenson, and Lao-tzu, were all brilliant minds but they were aware of an entirely different kind of intelligence." [p.xix]

Moore invites me to discover further avenues in historical figures I otherwise may not have been exposed to.
Jung came to me as a seed planted in the field of my contempt for myth, metaphor & symbol. Needless to say, that seed broke through its casing, blossomed & flowered vitally bearing the fruit and promise of decades of further revelation.
Others seeds were dropped in more fertile soil tilled by contemporary writers such as James Hollis, Stephen Mitchell, and David Whyte.
But Moore lends his own voice resounding with poetic appreciation in the halls of my mind.

"The point of spirituality is to find a way to break the boundaries of reason and ego. What we find on the other side is not wisdom but emptiness. […] On the other side of ego is air, the possibility of breathing again instead of trying to outsmart existence." [p.xix]

I can’t say with any more clarity how this passage empowers me to place hope that there is a power greater than my ego, a fresh breeze that is as open as a clear blue sky. Outsmarting existence, that’s often exactly what I’m trying to do…

"Intelligence happens when you stop trying to be smart. A sense of self appears when you no longer have a need to be somebody. Transcendence arrives when you embrace the life that is given. " [p.xx]

You must to understand, I need affirmations that I need not literalize things like foolishness and emptiness from a voice I can hear like Tom’s. After all, I carry the title by trade, “engineer” and am a recovered religious fundamentalist from my youth.

"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 room to be flexible and self-aware." [p.5]

Right. Information and even intelligence do not by themselves make the most vital ingredients for spiritual insight. They can be the tea that over fills a cup which otherwise might better be filled with emptiness so as to have that potential to be filled, an openness to discovery. And honestly, I’m giddy with the invitation of nonattachment to position and making room for flexibility.

Feeling some hope, modest freedom and a growing appreciation coming from embracing ideas of holy foolishness while soaking in vast quantities of emptiness, I catch intimations of opening frontiers, a broadening of horizons…

Views: 83


You need to be a member of Barque: Thomas Moore Network to add comments!

Join Barque: Thomas Moore Network

Comment by Rob on March 24, 2009 at 1:49pm
All one can really say is Bon Voyage. Now we know how it must be for Barque. :-)
Comment by Waking on March 24, 2009 at 1:41pm
It’s an anxious endeavor, attempting to find ethical direction on an oceanic sea of soul using the drift of a needle in a moral compass magnetized into poles from forces greater than myself with my mistakes as compnions and teachers....
You have set sail on another ocean
without star or compass
going where the argument leads
shattering the certainties of centuries.
—Janet Kalven, "Respectable Outlaw”
Comment by Rob on March 23, 2009 at 11:59am
Comment by Ian on March 22, 2009 at 11:38pm
I've always wondered why mysteries need protection. Surely mysteries such as the teachings of Jesus will always exceed even such perceptive analyses as Tom's insight into the neurosis of virtuousness. We do always run the risk of damaging our relationship to mysteries when we analyse them – we are tempted to try to fit them into theories and control them with reason. Yet the mysteries remain unharmed. So perhaps it is ourselves we are protecting from the confusions of analysis – but who is to say what is confusion and what is insight? Fire away, I say, but remain aware of the limitations of our weapons!
Comment by Thomas Moore on March 22, 2009 at 12:26pm
Well, Julianne, there are two issues here. I was talking about the sense of virtue. Call it the archetype of virtue. Like every complex, it must have its opposite, which I suppose is transgression (sin). Many people pursue the sense of being virtuous and see this as a ticket to "heaven." What they don't see is the feeling of guilt that goes along with it. Since this whole thing is a complex, a neurotic piece of emotional stuff that makes you numb and unthinking, it is dangerous. I only want to look for a deepening of virtuousness, and that brings us to your observation.

Having made moral mistakes places you deep in your imperfection where you can find your soul. But you don't want to wallow in it or justify morally bad behavior. As you say, you are more of a person for having found an ethical life deep in your imperfection. In the book I'm putting out next month about Jesus, I emphasize his idea that those who have made moral mistakes and have come to some enlightenment through them are ushered right into the kingdom, which is an image for a life of love in community, the realm of soul. He doesn't say that the virtuous get there.I don't want to explain all this, because it is a mystery. As I see it, a theologian—that's what I consider myself—is supposed to protect mysteries and unveil them only as a poet offers a glimpse of how things are and only the hint of an insight.
Comment by Julianne on March 22, 2009 at 9:20am
Tom, are you saying that making mistakes of character can help us to learn something, lead us to something new? Is it something like the Shakespeare quote, 'The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together'? When I've made big mistakes and recognized them, and have had to pay for them, sometimes I can see something new being born that couldn't have arrived without my having made the mistake.
Comment by Waking on March 22, 2009 at 4:30am
ahh silly me!...I feel...nevermind. thanks for the Catch Tom!
Comment by rachel on March 21, 2009 at 8:20am
I've been waiting to post until I thought I could sound as insightful as everyone else on this blog. Clearly profundity is not going to happen and I'm laughing at myself...the tipping point was checking my Facebook account and noticing that somehow the format had changed to halve the already limited personal interaction.
I would like to reply to Barque's question about practical daily ways to develop equanimity. For me, having a regular meeting with my physical self helps. Yoga, swimming, walking, lifting weights, bellydance...activities that more or less force me to be in the moment physically, either to breathe,because my body is not on autopilot or because I am outdoors. Another practice has been that of regularly going to a liturgical church, especially since I've begun participating rather than going when I'm moved to and critiquing what I'm getting from it. That has helped with presenting me with regular opprtunities to sit and deal with being my judgemental self, more so than in a Buddhist group in which actively practiced that openness but which because of it's self-selectedness has few of the personality types around which I find myself becoming really irriated.

I've just started Kathleen Norris' book Acedia and me in which she talks about the transmutation of the "eight bad thoughts" to the seven sins. Is that feeling of virtuousness is the previous post the antecendent to pride? I'm attracted to your idea of mistake v sin as (re) creating some shades of grey in thinking about spiritual life.
Comment by Thomas Moore on March 20, 2009 at 10:45pm
Lately I've been thinking about the feeling of virtuousness, not virtue itself, as an obstacle to the spiritual life. The most effective blocks are those that look so good we don't recognize them for what they are. It's as though being good is a ticket to spiritual insight But there is also a moral foolishness, by which we do the wrong things and make mistakes of character. In my translations of the Gospels I translate harmatia as mistake rather than sin. Some will think this is too soft, but I think sin is too hard. I recommend Oscar Wilde's De Profundis, where he deals with this matter very well. By the way, the fool persisting in his folly is first from William Blake, Proverbs of Hell, I believe.
Comment by Julianne on March 20, 2009 at 7:10am
Thanks so much for sharing these quotes. They help me right now, in this moment, to feel more expanded and peaceful. The first quote you gave,

If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

made me think of something I'd read in a book about a Korean Zen master, Seung San, who, when a disturbed individual asked him something during a teaching, replied, 'You really crazy, but not crazy enough.'

Your quotes also give me a sense of freedom, to allow whatever is happening in or around me to be whatever they are--without judging.

© 2022   Created by Barque.   Powered by

Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service