Original Self (Book Review and Quoted Highlights)

Original Self (Book Review and Quoted Highlights)

Original Self book review and quotes, Thomas Moore

I can’t recommend this book unequivocally, since there are bits I disagree with (about daemons, personality, paganism), but I’ve sussed out here the parts I thought were interesting or in some cases even profound, to retain and share with you:

  • One important aspect of finding one’s original core is the realization that the deeper one goes into the self, the more poetic one’s language and ideas become.
  • Originally, no one is deluded.
  • Poetry and serious literature… can teach us how to sketch out a spiritual autobiography instead a resume of facts.
  • To be profoundly in synch with the seasons and the weather is an effective way to be in tune with our deeper selves.
  • When Henry David Thoreau simplified his life at Walden Pond, as his writings of that time show, his interior life became more 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 fully engaged in what we are doing..
  • A first step toward empathy might seem paradoxical: we may have to discover our own worth and have a basis for self concern. It is impossible to appreciate the complexity of others if we are not able to love ourselves, knowing our contradictions. A positive love for one’s own soul then might extend beyond oneself to include the world.
  • Defending ourselves against the stranger is a way of keeping out our own potentiality. The diminishment of our acquaintances is a diminishment of ourselves.
  • The Zen poet says: ‘The wild geese do not intend to cast their reflection. The water has no mind to receive their image.’ Things happen without any intention to make them happen. Giving up the ego satisfaction of feeling in control and at the center of the action is a pure way to simply be.
  • Feminists have rightly complained about the devastating effects of a certain kind of patriarchy that has jealously kept women out of places of influence and power and had led to extreme instances of injustice. But the justified assault on patriarchy has been indiscriminate, weakening our appreciation for the importance of fatherhood and masculinity. In spite of the oppressions of a male-dominant society, we need strong, wise, paternal guidance and protection, whether that spirit appears in institutions, in ways that men live their lives, or even in women. We should be able to distinguish between the paternal spirit, with all its benefits, and paternalism, which is a manipulative, self-serving exploitation of fatherhood.
  • Traditional societies… worship their ancestors, while we blame our insecurities on our parents and grandparents.
  • To deal with the powerful urges of the deep soul, a poetic attitude rather than a rational one is more effective.
  • In a time of emotional struggle, it might be better to listen to a special piece of music than to consult an expert, and better to draw a picture of the situation than try to figure it out. Reason is distant and has its own limited requirements for an ordered life, while the arts are intimate and can hold almost any conceivable human predicament.
  • ‘Under every deep a lower deep opens’ Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Whenever a story puts an end to a reflection and further storytelling, that story is now serving as a defense. The whole point of a good story is to give birth to other stories and to deeper reflection. Our habitual stories usually protect us from the mystery of our lives. But there is always the opportunity to take our storytelling deeper, always the chance to find the intelligence and comfort we have been seeking at a level far beneath the basement of our expectations.
  • ‘Only the shallow know themselves.’ Oscar Wilde
  • Long life is indeed a blessing, but maybe we overdo our concern for the length of our lives and give insufficient attention to the passion we bring to whatever time we have.
  • As Hildegard said so many times, holiness is green, and as Julian of Norwich reminds us, God is a mother.
  • Looking for the sweet life, we eat too much sugar. Wanting to work out the meaning of our lives, we labor too long and too hard. Wanting to live in the land of bodiless spirit, we try to lose weight.
  • The key to seeing the world’s soul, and in the process wakening one’s own, is to get over the confusion by which we think that fact is real and imagination is the illusion. It is the other way around. Fact is illusion, because every fact is part of a story and is riddled with imagination. Imagination is real because every perception of the world around us is absolutely colored by the narrative or image-filled lens through which we perceive. We are all poets and artists as we live our daily lives, whether or not we recognize this role and whether or not we believe it. It is possible to live artfully in life’s constant stream of poetry. We can be educated in the arts, and that is why the arts are primary in any soul-focused education. The poet and the artist have no place in a society that has forgotten the soul.
  • ‘Religion without sex is a rattling skeleton, and sex without religion is a mass of mush.’ Alan Watts Religion and sex are like a brother and sister who don’t want to show their love for each other and instead fight and compete. Their love may be hidden but its concealment is a further sign of its intensity.
  • The wish to be normal conceals a deeper desire: negatively, an attempt to avoid the weight of our individuality, and positively, the ideal of being fully ourselves in a community where we can belong and participate.
  • Thinking is of immense importance, and we might have a better world if we all learned how to think. But at the same time, thinking may only be a prelude to meaning.
  • Do not be a person who adds to the thoughtlessness of the time.
  • Who were we before the story of our lives?
  • The capacity for solitude is a prerequisite for intimacy with another. Part of what we long for in our wish for a soulmate is intimacy with and the expression of our own soul.
  • [He recommends] finding God through poetry and fiction, which neither wither before modern science nor conflict with the complexity of what we know now to be the self. This is a theology for a period highly influenced by technology and psychoanalysis.
  • The essence of religion is to see the sublime and the awesome in the lowliest of things.
  • We are what we read.
  • Deep trust and good humor are signs of spiritual wisdom. Heartfelt laughter is the sign that God is present.

Original Self, is this new book by Thomas Moore, the author of the the Care of the Soul, which was a blockbuster 30 years ago. In it he reflects on who we really are, and how best we can know and nourish that self. His answer is all over the lot, sometimes brilliant, other times curious, but at least invariably original.

In his own circuitous way, he justifies things I gravitate to anyway, like being outside in nature, art, poetry, inner inquiry, fiction, and travel; he would call all these things food for the soul. On this I couldn’t agree more.

I give this book of musings four stars.

I work to amplify good wherever I find it. I love color, texture, beauty, great ideas, nature, metaphor, deliciousness, genuine spirituality, and exploring new territory. I encourage authenticity, nurture creativity, champion sustainability, promote peace, and hope to foster a new renaissance where we all are free to be our most fulfilled, multifaceted, and terrific selves. Read more here.

1 Comment

  1. John gregory 1 week ago

    Thank you for this.

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