Care of the Soul
Care of the Soul was a No. 1 New York Times bestseller, and spent almost a year on that list. It is rare for a self-help title to have also received critical acclaim. This is a popular self-help book, but not like any you may have read. Steeped in a sense of the sacred and the profound, Moore's thesis is that modern lives lack mystery, and the success of the book would seem to indicate that most of us agree.
Inspired by myth, history and art, the book exudes with the richness of human experience. Moore's chief influences are Freud (delvings into the psychic underworld), Jung (the belief that psychology and religion are indistinguishable), James Hillman (see The Soul's Code), and the Renaissance men Ficino and Paracelsus.
Care of the soul is 'an application of poetics to everyday life', bringing imagination back into those areas of our lives that are devoid of it, and re-imagining the things we believe we already understand. Rewarding relationships, fulfilling work, personal power and peace of mind are all gifts of the soul. They are so difficult to achieve because the idea of soul does not exist for most of us, instead making itself known through physical symptoms and complaints, anguish, emptiness or a general unease.
Moore counsels us to avoid the simplistic nature of some self-help writing. There are many aspects to the self, and by accommodating its competing demands (for example, solitariness vs. social life) life expands into something fuller. We can sometimes entertain our ego; at other times be the detached sage. Both are valid, and we don't always have to be making sure life makes sense. 'The uniqueness of a person is made up of the insane and the twisted as much as it is of the rational and normal,' Moore says.
The book has four parts and 13 chapters, covering the gamut of the human condition. The themes of love, jealousy, power, violence and depression are covered in the first half alone.
In place of the 'salvation fantasy' which he believes characterises contemporary self-help, Moore tries to return us to a self-knowledge quest that can encompass our shadows and complexities. His book is modelled on the less ambitious self-help manuals of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, which offered philosophical comfort for the trials of life. Care of the Soul may stand out from today's self-help writing, but in fact continues an old and venerable tradition, which in contrast to the modern idea that we can be anything, makes us wonder what is eternal in us.
"There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky; there is one spectacle grander than the sky, that is the interior of the soul."
Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
As well as the twelve years he spent as a monk in a Catholic religious order, Moore obtained four degrees: a PhD in religious studies from Syracuse University, an MA in theology from the University of Windsor, an MA in musicology from the University of Michigan, and a BA in music and philosophy from DePaul University. He practiced as a psychotherapist from 1974 to 1990, and has been a leading exponent of the archetypal school of psychology, which seeks to reintroduce a mythic dimension to the discipline.
Other books include The Planets Within, Rituals of the Imagination, Dark Eros, Cafe of the Soul, Soul Mates and The Re-enchantment of Everyday Life,
The Book of Job, and Original Self: Living With Paradox and Uncertainty, meditations accompanied by woodblock prints. He also edited A Blue Fire, an anthology of the writings of James Hillman. More recent works include The Guru of Golf (2010) and A Religion of One's Own: A Guide to Creating a Personal Spirituality in a Secular World (2014).
Source: 50 Self-Help Classics: Your shortcut to the most important ideas on happiness and fulfilment by Tom Butler-Bowdon (London & Boston: Nicholas Brealey)