Depression is often talked about from a biological, psychological and pathological perspective. However, there are deeper levels or more subtle layers of depression that usually remain undiscovered. Depth psychology helps us to dig deeper into the underlying, deeper causes of depression. This framework doesn’t just provide us with temporary reliefs or symptom palliation, but it will lead us to uncover the meaning and the purpose of our dark nights of the soul.
On this episode, we have explored depression from a soul-oriented perspective. Could depression be a gateway into the greater passages that our soul intends us to go through? Or as our guest- Thomas Moore- suggests in his New York times best seller book ‘care of the soul’: could depression be a gift?
About the Guest:
Thomas Moore is the author of the number one New York Times bestseller ‘Care of the Soul’. Thomas Moore has written thirty other books about bringing soul to different aspects of our lives; including our relationships and culture, deepening spirituality, humanizing medicine, finding meaningful work, and doing religion in a fresh way. He has been a psychotherapist for over forty years .In his work, Thomas Moore brings together spirituality, mythology, depth psychology and the arts.
In his youth, he was a Catholic monk and studied music composition. He has a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Syracuse University and has been a university professor for a number of years.
His work has helped many people around the world to live more meaningful and soulful lives.
You can find more information about Thomas Moore’s works on his website:
Leila: Hi and welcome to The Bright Shift Podcast. I am Leila, founder of Bright Shift and your host.
At Bright Shift, we offer online therapy, workshops and meditation sessions. You can find us at brightshift.co
Today we’re going to talk about depression but from a different angle. Joining me on this
episode is Thomas Moore.
He is the author of the number one New York Times best seller Care
of the Soul, a book that we will also talk about on this episode.
Thomas Moore has written 30 other books about bringing soul to different aspects of our lives including our relationships and culture, deepening spirituality, harmonizing medicine, finding meaningful work and doing religion in a fresh way.
He has been a psychotherapist for over 40 years. In his work, Thomas Moore brings together spirituality, mythology, depth psychology and the arts.
In his youth, he was a Catholic monk and studied music composition. He has a PhD in religious studies and was a university professor for a number of years.
His work has helped many people around the world to live more meaningful and soulful lives.
You can find more information about Thomas Moore’s works on his website
thomasmooresoul.com. The link is also in the description.
Welcome to The Bright Shift Podcast Thomas. I’m a great fan of your work and I really appreciate and admire your approach. It’s a great pleasure to have you here today.
TM: Well, thank you for having me and I look forward to us being able to explore some work that I did many years ago but soul is very active for me.
L: Me too. Throughout the years, you have beautifully explained how important it is to integrate
the concept of the soul or soulfulness into so many different areas of our lives and this is really one of my favorite topics of all times.
In your work, you have also talked about depression from the soul point of view and depression for most parts has been viewed from the clinical and pathological aspect and there has not been
much consideration of the role of the soul in it.
But in your work, we see this unique and important approach that gives us a fresh and really different way of looking at depression. So I’m very excited to hear how do you define the soul in
your work and what is the role of the soul in depression.
TM: It’s very difficult to define the soul. I’ve been asked that question for 40 years and I never feel I can answer it very well. It doesn’t mean that it’s not something that is real and important
but it’s very mysterious. So it’s hard to say exactly what it is but I can say that it is the deepest part of ourselves. It goes beyond the self, the ego, the eye that I think that most of us understand
that we have things going on in us that we don’t control and feel a little bit alien to us.
We have emotions that come into our lives that we don’t really want necessarily or that we don’t certainly control. So there are things going on in the range of our life and in an interior way that
traditionally for thousands of years have been called the soul.
So the Greek word for that soul is ‘psychi’ which is like psyche we would say today. So when
we talk about psychology, it’s like ‘psyche-ology’. What we mean is something to do with the
soul but we don’t take that seriously.
So what I’m doing is not too foreign. It’s not foreign to psychology and it’s also something that has been talked about. The souls were talked about, as I say, for 2000 years at least by philosophers, psychologists and religious people.
I think today a lot of people think of it as a religious idea but I don’t treat it that way because I’ve studied a lot about the soul and most of the sources that interest me are from philosophy and
from – well, I don’t know, even art.
So it’s an old idea that I think is very, very rich even though it’s a little bit difficult to bring into
modern life where we like everything to be quantified and tightly defined.
L: Yes. So I would like to read this excerpt from your book Care of the Soul as it’s very much related to my next question.
“If we persist in our modern way of treating depression as an illness to be cured only mechanically and chemically, we may lose the gifts of soul that only depression can provide.”
and in the same book, there is actually a chapter called “Gifts of Depression” and this is really fascinating and interesting to me because most of the times when we approach depression, we usually want to know how we can get rid of it immediately.
But in your work, we see this new approach where depression has a message for us and we can
actually take something from it and in the same book you said, “Your symptoms are the raw
material for your soul-making. If you are having emotional problems, don’t automatically just try
to get rid of them. Look at them closely to see what your soul needs. Symptoms are painful and in need of tending and refining but they contain the essence of what you are looking for.”
So I would like to know how can we work with the symptoms?
TM: One thing we might do is look at the history of – look at people that have been important in our cultures. That when you look at their lives, you can’t separate out the good parts from the bad parts. I mean there were so many artists who were very depressed, many suicidal and many who committed suicide. Many really fine artists.
We have a couple of my favorite poets. Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton committed suicide. So their depression was intense and we know in their lives and Sexton used to give a reading of
poetry and then check in at a mental hospital to recover.
So, you know, you can’t separate that experience from her life. That’s who she is and so it’s sad and it would be nice if we could have helped her more. I always feel frustrated. I wish we could help people like that much more.
But the fact is that’s who they are. So in a way, you can’t just look for the absolutely unblemished person, the person who doesn’t have any problems, and say, “Well, that’s the kind of person we want to be our artist or the person who’s going to give us their imagination.”
We have to look at them but we also have to look at ourselves and realize, yes, my life is imperfect. I’ve gone through some bad times. Most people have gone through some pretty tough experiences in their lives and those can be seen as part of what’s going on.
So if you have this kind of a whole picture of yourself and don’t try to look for the ideal or the clean. I think the hygienic, the kind of healthy self because nobody is completely healthy. If you take that further, you might realize that these experiences were very important for the people as they developed their creative work.
In fact in the 15th century in Europe, artists were said to have been born under Saturn which was the planet for the god of depression. So people then felt that artists in particular had this weight of depression to deal with. That’s part of their calling in a way of their work. They have to deal with that. They also recognize this is not my idea.
Way back then, at least 500 or 600 years ago, they recognized that depression actually is a channel to insight. That when you are depressed in those times and the fact that you might be at least in part a depressive person, you might be more accessible. You might be able to be more open to inspiration than the person who hasn’t had that experience. One reason is that depression takes you inward and forces you in a way to be a more inward person and that’s of course what a creative person is often. They often have this intense inward life and so in moments of depression, as painful as they are, they might be able then to create in a way, develop into the kind of person who can be very creative.
L: Do you think depression is a way that sometimes the soul chooses to kind of invite us to do the inner work?
TM: Yes, I think that’s a very good way to put it. Invitation, I like that. What if you thought of depression as an invitation to do more inner work?
TM: What my colleagues and I often say is we go with the septum or go into it. You were alluding to that. So we do that because that is a way of going into that part of yourself that might be a bit wounded but is – for that reason, might be more open to explore life in a fresh way because when you’re happy, I always say – as a psychotherapist, I never had anyone call me and say, “Life is so good. I need to talk to you.”
They never put it that way. It’s always things are really going bad and so I need to see you. It’s a similar kind of feeling in yourself that when things are not going well and you’re feeling
depressed, you are motivated to do some inner work. Yeah.
L: And speaking of symptoms, I remember in one of your interviews you mentioned that you were working with a man who had a habit of stealing and you actually worked through this habit with him and through that process, you helped him find his purpose in life. Working with the symptoms, trying to understand them is a really interesting way of working with clients.
I was wondering, are there any examples that you could give us, a client that you helped them to find their purpose through their symptoms?
TM: I had a client many, many years ago who came to me, a woman who told me she wanted to quit smoking. She said, “I don’t want any of this soul care. I don’t want that.” She said, “I’m not interested in that. I just want to stop smoking.” She said, “Can you help me with that?” and I said, “Sure,” although I knew that to do it, we would have to explore things that were more meaningful.
So the first session, I said to her. I said, “I just want to ask you. Please don’t stop smoking yet.
Keep smoking for the next week, so we can stay with this and see what it’s all about.” That kind of surprised her because she thought we would get right into saying, “How are we going to get you to stop smoking?”
TM: I felt that something like that smoking that interferes and it might be bad for your health – I mean it is bad for your health. That that would be a good place, like a doorway into that person’s larger inner life. In other words, that would be a doorway to her soul. It would be soul work even if she didn’t want it.
TM: That was fine with me if she didn’t want it. That was probably pretty good because at least there’s some resistance there, some engagement. I don’t care if it’s positive or negative.
So what I did was work with her on her smoking and one of the things we do with the symptom is we explore many stories about the symptom. So you might go back in time not to find the early roots of that symptom but to open it up, to make it more so that we can know more about what that symptom is.
Like she might talk about her parents smoking all the time and so it was just natural in her house to smoke and right away then I’m saying, “Well, does that mean that you are living your parents’ life still? Have you had a little trouble becoming yourself in relation to your parents?” because that’s the story she tells.
TM: So you see how that opens up the symptom. It’s working with the symptom but it’s not taking it literally and we’re not always trying to get rid of the symptom, not at all. Ultimately if a symptom like this is something bad for her health, we might wish that ultimately that this work will help her be free of this symptom.
But for our work in the process of working at it, we’re not going to try to – we’re not going to treat it as the enemy. We’re going to treat it as a doorway.
L: Experiencing depression or any form of suffering in general is really painful and, you know, at times unbearable. But at the same time, experiencing suffering is something that we cannot
avoid. So I would like to know your thoughts about this. How do you think we can make meaning out of suffering or how can we approach it?
TM: Well, I remember years ago when that book came out. I received quite a few letters from people who were hospitalized for depression and they told me how important it was to read that chapter about the gifts of depression because even though they understood that this is not something that easily goes away – and I know as a therapist it’s not easy because depression, it gets a hold of the therapist too when you’re working with it. At least for me it did.
That made it more difficult and it’s like being in this dark cloud and there’s not much view of being on the other side of it. Some people say that in depression, there are no images but I don’t think that’s true. There are images but they may not be what we think. Just describing what it’s like if it feels painful and miserable. That’s an image. We can work with that.
This I said in the previous example of the woman smoking. I might ask questions about like, “Well, have you known other people who are depressed?” Has that had an impact on you? Those stories, see therapy is almost all about story.
That’s far beyond imagination. So when you tell a story, you are being an artist for a moment.
You are making a story. It’s like you’re being a novelist in a way and you create this story. In it is a story. It’s not a series of facts. It’s a story.
So that lifts the symptom into the realm of imagination and at that level, we can do something because you can eventually choose maybe to live a different story or you may be free of it the more the story becomes detailed and you get to see it for what it is better.
I’m not saying by the way – notice I’m avoiding saying understand it. I’m not saying you understand it. We’re not trying to figure yourself out, figure people out and try to understand
their symptoms. It’s not that. We’re trying to add more imagination to the symptom.
The psychology that I work with, I call it now ‘soul psychology’. It’s really rooted in the imagination and so finding the narrative is part of that. It’s part of bringing this and Jung discusses this a bit too, Carl Jung, about how the feelings – he says emotions by themselves are difficult to work with.
What you have to do is find out what they’re about and you find that out by developing their stories. James Hillman wrote a beautiful book called fictions, fictions – I can’t remember it now.
Anyway, about fictions, case history as fictions and his idea is similar to Jung’s, that what we need are images, so that the symptoms we’re looking at have a background that is poetic and that that’s what we can enter into because we see the stories and the poetry of it all.
L: Yes. I would love to know more about that and it is within one of my questions. But I would like to start my next question by reading these sentences from James Hillman, which you just
mentioned his name as well, the American psychologist whom I know you are good friends with and shared a lot of ideas about different things.
He said, “One of the key diagnostic criteria of depression is feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day for at least two weeks. We have to notice the manic nature of that diagnosis, that anything which lasts more than two weeks in our culture is too long. This is a totally manic situation.” He said, “Underlying depression is an adaptation to the underlying condition of the world and depression can be an appropriate response to the world we live in,” Hillman explains.
So this idea that depression can be an appropriate response to the condition of the world is really thought-provoking and I’m curious to know, what is it about the 21st century that you think is attributing to create depression in people because according to World Health Organization, at least five percent of the world’s population is depressed.
TM: So what is depression then? I would call it loss of soul. So when I had written Care of the Soul, what I wanted to do after that was write a series of books that would explore these various themes that I brought up. So I wrote a book later called “Dark Nights of the Soul” and I use that phrase as an alternative for depression, that instead of talking about depression, the word itself is part of our – comes out of our clinical way of looking at things.
I still don’t think we can use that word without it sounding like a diagnosis rather than a way of being in the world, which Hillman is referring to there.
Anyone who lives in the 20th century and is not depressed about it is in bad shape. We need to feel depressed about so many of the things that have happened. But actually when I look at it, I see something else though. What I see is that depression that is not some disease that gets a hold of us, like measles or something that we catch, it’s not that kind of a thing.
Depression is a response to the world we live in and I think it’s a particular response to the loss of soul in our world. I mean that very concretely that a world that would have more soul would be more communal. People would be able to take care of each other and not have enemies everywhere and not be narcissistic and filled with self-interest.
But we could, as I say, be more communal. Community is a very important aspect of a soulful
life. Also we would have a good relationship to the natural world. We would value the natural
world very much and today we’re killing our planet without any sense of what we’re doing, among other things that we’re doing.
We are allowing animal species to disappear at a rapid rate. So does it mean anything to us? We don’t even know what animals are there. We don’t understand the importance of animals in our lives. We’re allowing them to disappear without worrying about it. This is all soullessness as far as I can see and when soul seeps out of your heart, you get depressed because soul is the source of your vitality and your identity.
It’s very important to have that soulful life and to live soulfully, not just – it’s not an idea. It means live in a neighborhood with other people and get along with them and live in a marriage where you can work out the difficulties. Stay with the marriage and really care for children. Have a big heart for children. That’s all soul stuff.
When that vanishes, you get depressed. So the 21st century is difficult. It’s difficult to avoid depression whether it’s the kind that is kind of expected because of the way we’re living or the kind that is like almost like an illness because of the sick society that we live in.
L: Yes, you explained some really important points there that are really helpful. You’ve also mentioned earlier that the word “psychotherapy” consists of two Greek words, the psyche which means the soul and therapy which means care. So by definition, they literally mean care of the soul.
But considering this definition of the psychotherapy, where do you think we stand today with our modern therapies and psychologies?
TM: Well, if you look at – the last thing I read was that the majority, the great majority of psychiatrists that move from talking, talk-centered therapy to dispensing medications. If that’s
the case, that’s a tremendous loss because it’s the talk that engages the soul and can lead to a deep way of loving life and seeing your own role in life and having a reason to live.
So that kind of psychotherapy and if that is true, and it must be, I think it must be true, that is really a bad sign for psychotherapy. The other thing is that I do meet some therapists – not a lot but I used to teach a lot of therapists. So that’s when I really got to know them and many are taught in ways that are, I think, too closely defined. Like they get these definitions and we have the DSM-5 which is a compilation of disorders with numbers for each of them. We have to give it.
If you’re a therapist, you have to give a number to your client’s problem, so the insurance
companies can pay you for it.
That is absurd. You know, it’s absurd to quantify or to use numbers for people. That is 1984, a novel that described this kind of a future for us. So the alternative is a therapy that is what we might call a “depth psychology” or a “depth therapy,” which is based on talk, a talk between people and I’ve published a book. One of my recent books is called “Soul Therapy” where I explore what I think therapy could be and it is of course based on not only on talk but on a
relationship and establishing – I say it’s establishing a certain level of friendship in the therapy.
Also going deep. My work as a therapist is based almost I would say 90 percent on dreams, on my dreams.
So I’ve had to prepare myself all my life, early in my life especially, to know how to deal with images and dreams, not to feel totally mystified by them but to be able to know more about images.
So when I’m given a dream, these days when I do therapy, and as I’m older, it
seems so much easier than when I was younger. What I do is I hear a dream. I ask for a dream and then as we talk about what’s going on in life, the dream just automatically and naturally
comes into the conversation.
So we have this dialogue where the dream is shaping our conversation a bit. That’s taking us deeper. We’re not interpreting the dream. That’s kind of that modernist thing of modern life also where we think we should interpret everything.
You don’t have to. You just have to be with it and get the insight from it all the time.
L: I love that approach. Why do you think dreams are so important?
TM: Well, I think the therapists are probably the only people these days who pay serious attention to dream life and here it is. We look at a human life. We are spending a third of our life in sleep, most of us, a third.
Eight hours of the day in sleep and it’s not just unconsciousness and
it’s not just recovering your strength and all of that.
We visit places. We encounter people. We encounter all kinds of interesting things. They are not like life.
They are more like fiction or like painting. They’re like the arts. So going to sleep at night, right away, we find ourselves in a place. Maybe most of the time a place you’ve never
been before and things that take place.
Well, I don’t know anyone, as I say besides therapists, who pay serious attention to this third of our life.
The dreams are there and I think that we – my sense, I’m pretty radical about it, is that our life experience is as much in a dream as it is in our waking life. What happens in dreams is very, very important to us.
We work things out. We encounter the world that we live in and our emotions during the day because our daily experience doesn’t really show us the roots of our feeling and our reactions
and our sense of meaning.
But the dreams add a great deal to that. They take it deeper and by having a conversation about your dream, you go much deeper into yourself and it’s like you live in this. You realize that we live – the poet Rilke, Rainer Maria Rilke says we live a two-tiered world. The world of living and the world of the dead. The dead meaning that dream world. It means not the life world but the dream world.
These two tiers relate to each other and they both make up the world in which we live. So that’s how I see it, that dream is essential for the world.
L: That’s right and here it comes, the million dollar question. How do we care for the soul especially if we are depressed?
TM: I think what you can do when you’re depressed for caring for your soul is to allow yourself– this is what’s true of any symptom. Allow it some time. Understand clearly. You don’t want this to be in your life forever. But give it some time. That quote from Hillman was about two weeks.
I probably would say you need more than two weeks to really get there.
I would say give yourself some time. None of you particularly like the time and say, “OK. Well,
I’m depressed then. I’m going to go to a therapist who will honor my depression, who will not
try to take it away from me, but will try to hold it and explore it with me.”
If you do that, I think that you have a good chance then of being liberated from the weight of that depression. I think it can be cured if you do that. As I say, this is an old, old idea. It’s not mine.
I’ve read about this approach in the 15th century at least. So we can do that and then you might have to deal with happiness. Happiness is not the greatest thing all the time. Some people are too happy all the – Hillman used to say that. He said the trouble with people who live here where I am in America is that we’re too happy.
I don’t know if you notice that or not but we come to America, that people seem overly cheerful sometimes.
L: I have noticed that. Yeah, or like self-help books that there’s so much emphasis on happiness, being happy, as if that’s the ultimate goal of life.
TM: Yeah, it is, or a constitution or a declaration of independence, the pursuit of happiness. So
that could be a burden as well because we need range in our emotions. We need range.
So when we’re stuck on any particular thing that gets to be stuck and it’s not moving us, the
psyche seems to like to move although moments of stillness and stuckness can be valuable.
In general the psyche seems to like to move and you’re not in the same place all the time and
your life is different because it has all these different phases. By the way, I’m not one who likes the idea of – with the midpoint of life, of having two parts of life. It seems to me that we are going through many, many phases all the time and I don’t like to think of it as a 50 percent on each side.
If we could see that, that we are moving, going through – I think there are initiations, passages all the time, passages having to deal with something emotionally or in relationship or something.
Then you get through that and then you are a deeper person because of that. You’ve come somewhere because of that. You go through these passages. So that’s a different way of looking, at life but if you think of it that way, then you don’t demand so much from yourself. I think we’re too hard on ourselves generally. As a therapist, I’m not hard on people at all. I just say, “Oh, yeah, I went through that.”
You don’t have to be treated as some great tragedy that’s happening just because you’re going through a period of depression.
L: Yes. That’s a beautiful way of looking at it. We don’t have to panic if we’re going through depression. We can start to get the help but we can be aware that there is a reason that depression
is now in our lives and there are deeper reasons for it.
I would like us to shed some light on something really interesting that I think in the psychology world it is very much less spoken off but you have time and time again talked about it in your work and that is the overexaggerated role of the developmental psychology and how we tend to associate most of our problems to our childhood and to refer to some excerpts from your book, you said, “Many of us convince ourselves that we have certain troubles in our lives because of what happened was in childhood, we take developmental psychology literally and blame our parents for everything we have become. Strongly influenced by developmental psychology, we assume we are ineluctably who we are because of the family in which we grow up. What if we thought of the family less as the determining influence by which we are formed and more as the raw material from which we can make a life?”
I was wondering if you could elaborate a little more on this topic.
TM: It’s one of my favorite topics. Not to be hard on developmental psychology. That’s not what I enjoy but I enjoy de-literalizing childhood. That is this is something I get from Carl Jung.
By the way I want to say that I am not a Jungian and not a Jungian psychologist. He’s one of the influences of my life but very, very important and I’ve studied him intensely.
For the past 25 years or so, I have lectured in many, many Jung societies and institutes. So I’m
very at home with that but I’m not a member. That’s not the only thing for me.
So just to say that, I would like to clarify a little bit.
TM: But Jung has this one of a lesser quality archetype of the child and what he says in that
essay is that when we have dream – he uses dream as a model and when we dream of our childhood, we dream of what it was like. We’re back on our childhood. He says that is not about your childhood. It’s about the archetypal child. That is the child nature of who you are at times or maybe all the time, but it comes out certain times especially and the child quality of the world in which we live is an archetype in that sense. It’s an image.
It’s not actual childhood. You say once you get into the realm of dream or even talking about
your childhood, you are talking now from where you are now and that is the child archetype.
Hillman wrote an essay that I recommend for people to read called “Abandoning the Child”. A
long essay, very easy to read, unusual for him. To read about this archetypal child where he makes that point over and over again. Let’s not confuse childhood with this eternal child. It’s like we are always a child and that child nature of who we are can come into the foreground once in a while. Then it recedes into the background.
But we may feel like a child in certain circumstances or Jung says that the child appears in our thoughts or in our dreams, especially when something new is happening in our lives. Like this
child is not our childhood. It’s this new thing that’s like a child that we’ve given birth to or that being given birth to in us.
Like let’s say you’re starting a new job. You might expect to have dreams of your childhood then or even – and this is more difficult for people I think. When you talk about your childhood and tell the stories of your childhood, you might think of that – I’m talking now about something that I’ve got a recording of.
This is what actually happened in childhood and this has influenced me like history would influence me directly and factually. But in our work, in archetypal psychology, we don’t look at
it that way and Jung doesn’t look at it that way. What we do, we look at it as not pertaining to the history at the literal history in the past.
But that history becomes the story of our life, our mythology and we can dip into that as in that passage you quoted from my work. We can dip into it to be refreshed by it and directed by it. But it’s not going back into actual childhood. We are reviving a sense of the child and those things that begin in us and maybe a new start with us.
So it’s a different way of looking at that. This is what Hillman called the “poetic basis of mind”.
It’s more always trying to take more in majestically and poetically, metaphorically rather than
L: So how would you work with childhood traumas?
TM: As saying that trauma, the trauma did not create the condition of the adult. It’s the trauma.
It’s the memory of the trauma and the story of the trauma that is really what is significant.
So just because a person has had a trauma doesn’t mean they’re going to be affected by life for that. It depends how you deal with it and if you have a therapist who can appreciate what I just described as the kind of archetypal child, then you have a chance of shedding that story that has been. The story is what has caused you pain all these years. It’s the remembrance, the story, memory. Hillman says memory is imagination. It’s like when we remember something, we’re really imagining it. We’re picturing it.
So that gives us the freedom to choose not to keep that story in our life forever but to tweak it, to change it and gradually be freed of the burden that has placed on us because as though we are feeling that trauma again and again.
L: That’s really empowering. It’s an empowering approach to have in therapy. Speaking of the
soul, I’m curious to know what do you think about this digital age where everything is becoming digitalized and already we know that artificial intelligence or AI is replacing many of the humans’ jobs and I think this will undoubtedly continue and I don’t think this trend will change anytime soon.
I would like to know your thoughts on how can we bring more soul into the internet, into our
lives at this age that everything is becoming digitalized.
TM: When I read about or hear about concerns about AI these days, I mean I can join that and I can say I have my concerns too. But it sounds very familiar. I heard it when television came in.
I’m in advanced age myself now. So I was around when television first appeared and people were saying that it’s going to ruin people’s lives and everyone is going to be staying at home watching television. There would be no more life.
Now that those fears don’t seem quite valid, we’ve come a long way, gone through many different types of technology and I feel myself that I like so much of the technology that we
I know for me it allows me and my wife to be in touch with our children when they’re living in other parts of the world. My daughter lives in Ireland and we live in the United States. We can sit around and talk to her and watch her and see her. It’s not the same but it’s pretty good. It’s much better than when I first went to Europe and left my family. All we could do is have very expensive telephone calls every now and then.
So this technology I think can be very soulful. It can actually contribute a great deal. But those habits are dangerous because you can become absorbed in the – like television. Like a phone or a smartphone or anything, any new technology can become obsessive. We enjoy it so much or we can do so much with it but there’s something about the screen and about being able to control so much with it, that that becomes a compulsion.
But you can have a compulsion for anything. You could be compulsive about going to church. I mean it’s not a bad thing. The thing itself doesn’t have to be bad. It’s our relationship to it.
So I think the challenge is for us, all of us always, to take the new technology and to bring it into our soulful environment and give it its place there and it won’t be obsessive and it won’t be too much.
L: So it depends on how we use it.
TM: Yes, it does, absolutely. It depends how we use it.
TM: I don’t want to lose my computer for anything. I love writing on my computer. Don’t take it away because technology is supposed to be bad for us.
I’ve been asked in my life to give talks against technology and I always say no, I won’t do it. I think it’s silly to do that. This is our world. We are developing that way. What we need to do is
to make them and use them in such a way that they contribute to the soulful life.
L: Absolutely. I’m also excited to know about your new book. I was wondering if you could share some information about it.
TM: The new book is called the – I have it with me. It’s called “The Eloquence of Silence” and the subtitle is “Surprising Wisdom in Tales of Emptiness”. Yeah, that’s what it says and it’s
about emptiness essentially. Silence is a kind of emptiness but the book itself is mainly about emptiness. Silence is a way of being empty too.
This comes out of Eastern religions and philosophies like Zen Buddhism, the religions of India and Daoism in China. They all talk about emptiness. Sufism too has a concept to work for
emptiness. So it’s a widely accepted idea that our lives have to have a certain quality of positive emptiness and this is a very positive concept and a very simple way and I tried to make it very
clear and somewhat simple in this book.
But I don’t want to lose the subtlety of the original teachings but it’s there very practically too.
For example our schedules are just so full these days. Everyone seems to say they’re busy. That’s an indication that we need some emptying there, some emptying maybe in our time just to allow a little bit of space so that we can have time to allow things to happen and for people who are not part of our busy active life but are important to us. That’s one way.
Just clearing off your desk or your table, cleaning up your house. All of that can give you a different way of being in the world. But that’s only the physical way of doing emptiness.
Another way would be to be really clear in your conversation so that you’re not manipulating people as you talk to them. You’re not having all these thoughts. You know what it’s like to talk to somebody and you can tell that they’re thinking all these thoughts as they talk to you and they’re manipulating or they’re trying to control things or doing different things.
We might think when we’re talking to somebody, “Do they like me? Do they approve of what I’m saying? Am I coming across well?” Those kinds of thoughts need to be emptied and this is
what the teaching is, especially about their thoughts and their inner life, is emptying it.
Having purity of intention more often, of being able to speak straight to somebody without having all kinds of indirect messages coming through. That kind of emptying. Everything done
with emptiness is the goal of this book.
I’m absolutely surprised that a lot of people are being drawn to this book and to the ideas here.
L: Yes, because we all really need this concept in our lives, at this stage absolutely. It sounds
amazing and I cannot wait to read that book. As we are approaching the end of this episode, I was wondering if you would like to add anything else.
TM: Well, to me, care of the soul, going back to our original topic, care of the soul is not a burden. It’s not a burden. I think what’s so important in life is to accent the positive things. I’m teaching a course now and in that course I tell people you come to this course with our basic ideas, friendship. We’re going to be friends here. This is not school. No one is going to tell you what to do and criticize you or anything like that. This is friendship, based on friendship and pleasure.
I think this is care of the soul. We can understand that, that this is not learning to do something that we’re going to have to berate ourselves for failing at or anything like that. This is a pleasurable activity and that’s what it’s for basically. To live a more deeply pleasurable life and to find joy. This is what the great religions teach. The Upanishads who teach Anada, they call it joy. The joy of living your life, of being in tune with yourself. The deep joy that comes from that is the purpose and that’s my sense of care of the soul is try to find joy in life.
L: That’s beautiful. I hope whoever is listening to this episode definitely – if they have not read your books, they should go and read them. Thank you so much Thomas for being on this
podcast. You’re truly one of the most influential and valuable thought leaders that we all need to learn from.
TM: Thank you so much. I enjoyed talking to you and this is the way to talk about soul in a very good, easy conversation.
L: That’s right. Thank you.
I would like to end this episode by reading these beautiful passages from one of Thomas Moore’s books called “Dark Nights of the Soul”.
“Here I want to explore positive contributions of your dark nights, painful though they may be. I don’t want to romanticize them or deny they’re dangerous. I don’t even want to suggest that you can always get through them. But I do see them as opportunities to be transformed from within in ways you could never imagine. A dark night is like Dante getting sleepy wandering from his path, mindlessly sleeping into a cave. It is like Alice looking at the mirror and then going through it. It is like Odysseus being tossed by stormy ways and Tristan adrift without an ore.
You don’t choose a dark knight for yourself. It is given to you. Your job is to get close to it and
sift it for its gold.”
Thank you for being here and see you next time.