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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Commemorating our dances with aggression

In his Spirituality & Health column for September, Thomas Moore looks at "Spiritual Wars," a timely reflection as we commemorate the fifth anniversary of the loss of life from the collapse of the World Trade Center. In his exploration, Moore suggests,
"The ancient Greeks honored a god, an archetypal force, if you will, that they called Ares. The Romans used the more familiar name Mars. In their psalm of praise to this deep necessity they begged the god ... to "restrain that shrill voice in my heart that provokes me to enter the chilling din of battle." They called on the god of warfare to still the urge to fight.

There is a mysterious and perverse tendency in human beings to be gross and literal in responding to any impulse. You need substance in your life, so you pile up possessions. You want to absorb the life around you, so you eat too much. You need some Dionysian joy, and you drink too much alcohol.

It's the same with violence and warfare. We have many subtle adversaries to deal with in the course of our lives: ignorance, prejudice, jealousy, ambition, arrogance. To come out of these battles with our souls intact takes courage, boldness, perseverance, and skill — the virtues of Mars ...

... Currently, America seems to be picking fights, wanting blood, finding glory in having an enemy with a foreign face. But all of this literalism, this acting-out of what should be spiritual struggle over narcissistic passions, shows how far we have to go before we truly discover the meaning of spirituality..."
A fuller excerpt from Moore’s column is available at Brian Donohue’s blog, Daily Revolution in his post for August 18, 2006. James Hillman’s book, A Terrible Love of War (2004) explores related themes. Kathleen Jenks, with the Pacifica Graduate Institute offers her notes and reactions to Hillman's presentation of his, then, work-in-progress at a 2002 conference.

In his new foreword to Satish Kumar’s reissued The Buddha and the Terrorist, Moore writes, “Terrorism is a sacrilege, and our task is to respond by restoring the holiness of life's power." Read about this foreword in an earlier post at Barque: Thomas Moore.

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