a book by Thomas Moore
(our site's book review)
This is a disappointing book in that rather than encouraging people to find the cause and effect truths of their lives and then deal with them, he instead advocates exploring the “mysteries of evil.” He’s right that to blame parents is to beat one’s head against the wall pointlessly, but when people don’t even acknowledge that past neglect and abuse create serious emotional and psychological problems in their lives, they’re more likely to repeat the same mistakes with their own children—since they’ve never really acknowledged such things as errors. And they’re less likely to become whole, integrated people, since their emotional pains are not connected to their causes and self-knowledge doesn’t evolve; rather, a nebulous “spiritual” search for the “mysteries of evil” leads one into an escape from truth, reality and honesty.
A nebulous 'spiritual' search for the 'mysteries of evil' leads one into an escape from truth, reality and honesty
He’s wrong—and amazingly naïve—that spiritual search should replace truth and honesty and reality, and that facing the cause-and-effect relationship between bad parenting and emotional and psychological suffering is “blaming parents.” Facing past truths can help a person to become whole, to understand himself, to forgive, and to see parents as people rather than omnipotent gods. One doesn’t end up “blaming” anyone if one achieves inner awareness. One takes responsibility for who one is and how one responded to past deprivations. What Moore should have advocated instead of a nebulous search is facing actual truths, growing from them, forgiving, taking responsibility for self and others, and then with this newfound strength of heart and character in hand, do whatever spiritual searching one’s nature feels is appropriate.
Unfortunately, by failing to do this, the author is colluding with oppressors and abusers everywhere. If Moore’s book was taken seriously, abusers would not only never be recognized or stopped, they’d be encouraged. As Edmund Burke said, all it takes for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Unfortunately, Moore’s advice (although some of his book has some good ideas) counsels good men to do nothing to discover their truths, which in turn will have the effect of letting evil triumph by not being acknowledged. How can mankind improve his lot and make life happier and more satisfying and even more spiritual if he prevents himself from recognizing truths and confronting reality so that the evils in his relationships can be corrected at least in later generations if not in the current one?
Facing inner truths and growing from them lays the groundwork for spirituality, not running from truths like Moore says
Such a book will help maintain the status quo for repressed/oppressed people, rather than helping them to achieve freedom. For those like Moore and James Hillman (Moore’s mentor, who lost faith in normal therapy and is trying to turn it into a religious art form), who seem to have lost confidence in psychology and therapy, looking for spiritual therapy to fill the gap makes logical sense. But one thing that makes even more sense is for all of us to do what we can so that our lives, relationships, lifestyles, communication habits and parenting methods are of the highest quality so that we prevent all the abuse and oppression in the first place.
Why rely upon any type of “therapy” at all when the knowledge is currently available to live life in such a way that one doesn’t leave a trail of emotional cripples in one’s wake? Why not respect the Enlightenment, which has done more for the dignity, integrity, and freedom of mankind than all other historical events combined, and believe in the progress we can have using reason and experience rather than dogma and “mystical searches for evil”? Why play a win-lose game with seeking either spirituality or truth when it’s obvious that a person will do much better in the win-win game where one pursues both?
'Man is born evil' is one of the dumbest ideas ever conjured up
Moore tries to push spirituality by getting people to believe in the mystery of evil, and he pushes for that mystery of evil by getting people to turn a blind eye to relational abuse and oppression (all of which colludes with it). Moore would do well to read a book thousands of times more insightful: Sacred Pleasure by Riane Eisler. This is the most insightful handling of spirituality to date, and it rightfully criticizes the patriarchal notion that pain and suffering are sacred and joy and pleasure are evil. She takes this foolish premise and stands it on its head, for, in truth, the reverse, as any thinking person can see, is true.
Jesus would never have bought into the worship of suffering and pain which the Church thought up
The fact that organized religions have made a big point of such nonsense for over a millenium hardly makes it true—any more than the biblical nonsense that world was created in a few days is true. A litany of dumb actions and beliefs can be made regarding the past of most organized religions. Is truth really what the latest orthodox propaganda represents? Many of the most spiritual people around believe the peace and love messages of Christ (and others) and have little patience for the worship of suffering and pain that came later—which was the Church’s idea; Jesus would never have bought into it were he alive when they conjured it up.
Worship of suffering and pain was the Church’s idea; Jesus would have rejected it had he lived longer
For, in essence, if one buys into Moore’s prescription for spirituality, one will be dealing with suffering and pain from abuse unrecognized and truth mystified, rather than transcending suffering via awareness and truth and experiencing spirituality via the natural route of oneness with mankind and the world. One could say Moore wants us to sublimate the energy of the pain and abuse from normal upbringings into spiritual exploration, which is a valid idea. But if one finds it necessary to suffer abuse in order to experience spirituality, one had better take a closer look at said spirituality.
Heaven—a place where the pain will finally be ended
It may just add up to little more than wishing to head for Heaven—a place where the pain will finally be ended—rather than putting up with any more negativity. This is deathwish in disguise. Lifewish is the pursuit of happiness, joy, love, etc. Some of Moore’s followers may be better off translating their lives’ dysfunctionality into spiritual quests, to be sure. But those who base their transcendence of past negativity on a foundation of truth, honesty, reality, integrity and connectedness are on a solid footing, while those who try to transcend past negativity via a foundation based on the attempt to transmogrify/transmute their energies without awareness playing any part may find that, when all is said and done, their foundation is really a house of cards.
Transcendence without awareness is a house of cards
In an age where everyone is claiming victim status, it’s good to see Moore criticizing the victim stance. But good therapy has never sought to “blame” parents or anyone else. The idea was always that, as Plato, Christ and Freud all said: “The truth shall set thee free.” (John 8:32 [Bible], is the Bible verse with this quote). Religion has always needed devils in contradistinction to gods, which explains why the religiously inclined have always tried to insert devils and evil into the human experience of suffering due to oppression and abuse. Authoritarianism has always needed credibility for those in charge—especially the patriarchal authorities, so it has always relied upon various slight-of-hand gimmicks to get people to ignore the abuse that the authorities perpetrated on those under them. So it’s business as usual when a religiously inclined person with an excess of respect for authority (whether they deserve it or not)—a person like Moore—tries to steer us towards religious mystery rather than truth.
The religiously inclined have always tried to insert devils and evil into the human experience of suffering, which, in truth, is due to oppression and abuse, not devils
Even the venerable Freud, who did not hold orthodox religion in high esteem, copped out when it got to authoritarian, patriarchal matters. He did incalculable harm when he disbelieved his female clients that were reporting incest experiences, and when he wrote it all off as their fantasy life, and all because he needed to maintain his respect for the patriarchal authoritarian men of his times. How much later oppression and abuse was precipitated and colluded with as a result of Freud’s colossal error?
On the plus side, of course, were Freud’s discoveries about the unconscious, etc. In his therapy, a person (ideally) learned the truth, shifted much of his inner reality from unconscious to conscious, and gained a stronger and more alert and alive self that could be in the here and now rather than reliving, and being blocked by, past-oriented emotions. But this was insight psychology, not blame psychology. And Freud's way is doing it the hard way—there are better ways. Read: Feeling Good and Cognitive therapy and A Guide to Psychotherapy.
In Freud's therapy, a person (ideally) learned the truth, and shifted much of his inner reality from unconscious to conscious
In new-paradigm physics, entities are not just reductionistic objects, but are the sum of all the patterns of relationships and connections they have with other entities in their environment. A person disconnected from his inner emotional environment via repression is emotionally crippled, just like a person isolated in solitary confinement long enough is relationally crippled and liable to experience madness eventually, just like a family in an historically anomalous isolated nuclear family will suffer from its social disconnectedness in myriad ways which underscore the need for viable community and social networking. A person’s connections are not just connections, they are also his truth and essence.
Educated people do not want to or need to think of God in the sense of an authoritarian male to be obeyed out of fear
To many, especially the educated, a person’s connectedness to mankind—his oneness with man and world—is his spirituality and his alignment with God, Oneness, or the Universe. Such people do not want to or need to think of God in the sense of an authoritarian to be obeyed out of fear. This is anachronistic in the 20th and 21st centuries—such perspectives evolved before freedom and democracy were truly realized, and before the Renaissance and the Enlightenment gave mankind new insight about knowledge, reason, and authoritarianism. All thinking beings could see that a balance between secular and spiritual was healthier than authoritarian domination by churches; the Church couldn’t agree with this only because it meant a loss of power, which it was loath to relinquish, not because better minds in the Church couldn’t see the benefit of balance and reason. Since when does anyone or anything give up power without a fight?
How do you take power from a rich, powerful Church? The same way you take a banana from a 900-pound gorilla—very carefully!
Bucky Fuller said that we de-genius kids, since to him babies are born geniuses but we usually wreck them—makes them dumb, lacking in insight, full of self-negating beliefs and emotions (mind mud)
Anyway, people are born with a blank slate and a few instincts, but inadequate nurturing loads their psyches down with “stuff.” This process—which Bucky Fuller called de-geniusing, since to him babies are born geniuses but we usually wreck them—makes them dumb, lacking in insight, full of self-negating beliefs and emotions (mind mud), and unlikely to reach autonomy or self-actualization. Moore’s path leads them towards spirituality, but not towards truth, autonomy or self-actualization. By using suffering as gasoline in one’s spiritual engine, one’s soul is likely to head the right way, in Moore-think. But an environment that nurtures and produces little suffering is hardly devoid of spiritual gasoline.
An environment that nurtures and produces little suffering produces lots more spiritual gasoline than an environment of suffering, which is more likely to produce self-pity and depression
Suffering is likely to produce self-pity and depression
The loving, genius-encouraging, creativity-encouraging environment that gives lots of choices and opportunities to learn and define oneself is virtually awash with spiritual gasoline, as it is the epitome of an inspiring environment. (Positive reinforcement is also good “gas,” as behaviorists and, later, cognitive therapists championed. And positive reinforcement abounds in a positive environment.) Moore and Hillman, having never experienced such a thing or heard about such a thing from patients are obviously at a loss to imagine such a thing. (They know what the norm is and they know that the norm has oppression, suffering, and abuse.)
Happily, however, 20th and 21st century science was/is able to imagine a good, inspiring environment. And this science learned what produces such a thing. Hundreds of very bright people did their research and then did a lot of thinking—including soul-searching—and came out with their results. And the whole they helped to create is much more than the parts they individually supplied. Hart, Gordon, Capra, Louv, Kohn, Solter, Burns, Riesman, Fromm, Steinem, the Putneys, the Tofflers, Slater, Maslow—the list goes on and on—have given us trees of great beauty. All we have to do is stand back and see the forest. Hence—this website. Hence—our novel: The Forest Through The Trees.
Many great authors have given us trees of great beauty—all we have to do is stand back and see the forest
One more word about connecting with truth: In self-talk, people engage in self-help with semi-connections or partial connections that don’t necessarily link with past oppressions, but they connect with negative emotions and beliefs that are thwarting growth and self-esteem. These are replaced with good self-talk, and this paves the way for significant personal life enhancement. Those who find the connections not deep enough or the experience lacking in necessary nurturing context may double the depth of this emotional and attitudinal realignment by going a step further and utilizing the Self-Parenting methods of John Pollard. Others may choose therapies aiming to help the client reconnect with past events and emotions in order to gain self-insight and awareness and reconnect with his/her inner self.
Many therapies are about about connecting with truth
Some may choose Transactional Analysis In Psychotherapy. Still others may be able to counsel themselves through insight and awareness processes because of exceptional inner strength and motivation. A few people were brought up so well that they have little unfinished inner work to do and their only challenge in order to have the life they most desire is to somehow find others they’re compatible with and create a network or subcommunity that inspires and never oppresses. (Think MC. See Why Register for an MC?.)
Registering for MC search and match
Connectedness (inner and outer) = aliveness. Truth really does set one free. Most people in our society are walking around with a load of guilt because the negative stuff that happened to them in childhood were all blamed on themselves by themselves and sometimes by their parents as well. They’re also full of negative beliefs about themselves that hold them back their whole life. Note that we said that not just a few, but most people are carrying self-destructive burdens. And, as a result, most people have self-esteem problems of varying degrees and types.
Most people in our society are walking around with a load of guilt because the negative stuff that happened to them in childhood were all blamed on them
Ignorant conservatives (but no truly knowledgeable ones) think self-esteem is about selfishness and narcissism. This foolishness persists because they’re usually into authoritarianism and have no stomach for confronting—in life or in their minds or emotions or beliefs—the authoritarian parents that are the source of the oppression they carry with them everywhere. Such people will be harder to reach because they believe they deserve the negativity they carry and that further deference to authority will somehow make the negativity go away as the authoritarian ghosts of their lives (including God) will somehow forgive and accept them. But it won't work since the key here is self-acceptance—others accepting them is simply Riesmanian other-directedness and it won't work.
Some people carry their oppression with them everywhere and believe that deference to authority will somehow make the negativity go away as the authoritarian ghosts of their lives (including God) will somehow forgive and accept them
Once they are reached (by the effect of being in an MC, preferably, or at least in therapy) and find out that there simply is no authority on earth or in the heavens that will be offended by their ceasing to oppress themselves internally on a daily basis, they won’t need to lose respect for authority—they’ll simply gain respect for the truth, since the one overriding fact in all this is that they are good, not bad; and they deserve good, not bad; and no one is pleased or appeased when they follow their internal oppression patterns; and substituting good self-talk for bad not only doesn’t create displeasure in authorities, it creates happiness and confidence and growth and much more in themselves, and those around them—including authority figures—find them more pleasing to be with, stronger, and more positive and human.