Interview: Thomas Moore on Creating Soulful Relationships

Interview: Thomas Moore on Creating Soulful Relationships

This interview is the second of two with Thomas Moore for the Jung Society of Utah blog.

“How can we know ourselves by ourselves? . . . Soul needs intimate connection, not only to individuate, but simply to live. For this we need relationships of the profoundest kind through which we can realize ourselves, where self-revelation is possible, where interest in and love for soul is paramount.”
– James Hillman

“A soul mate is primarily someone with whom we have a soul connection,” according to bestselling author Thomas Moore. Although not everyone we meet is a soul mate, we can make all of our relationships more soulful.

The soul in relationship

“It’s very important in keeping your soul alive to be attached, to be close to people, to get involved in the entanglements and complexities of life, to really allow yourself to enter life in all of its mess and confusion,” Moore said. “That’s what my friend and teacher James Hillman used to say. “Soul is found in all the messes that we get ourselves into.” However, that shouldn’t provide an excuse to remain unconscious and let our relationships suffer. Moore suggested that a more mature and aware way of being in relationship is simply “through talking to each other and telling the stories of our lives to each other. That’s really important. We’re always influenced by the stories that have become part of our own personal mythology.”

What’s your story?

In fact, Moore places great value on the role personal mythology plays in relationships. “It’s a good idea to know the story we’re in and to know that we’ll never get out of it completely,” he said. “But the more we know it and the more we can tell our story, while admitting that it has some sides that are negative and difficult for us, the more we have a chance at not being so dominated by these images.”

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We can create soulful relationships through listening to one another’s stories with compassion.

Moore said that we often learn these stories from parents and other family members, through social or religious institutions, or from experiences that have deeply affected us. “When someone has had a big rejection in life, that can really affect the way they imagine their relationships in the future,” Moore said. “Someone’s belief systems may also affect their relationships. Some people think that they should only be with people who are of a certain religious or spiritual point of view, so that story influences their relating. Our history, our education, our culture, our family, our experiences all shape the way we see everything.”

It’s important to understand that those around us also have their own personal mythology. “Remembering that other people are in a story as well is the essence of a successful relationship,” Moore said. Keeping personal mythologies in mind can help us have greater empathy for others, especially when they’ve chosen to share any portion of their story with us. “It requires strength to be able to listen to another person saying things you might not want to hear and to think, ‘Well this is a human being they have their background, they have their own destiny, they have their challenges, and they have their life to live. Where we can share it, it’s wonderful,’” Moore said, while also pointing out, “but you can’t share the entire thing, really.”

Mystery, imagination, and compassion

Even when we have shared our stories, there are many things we may never understand about others. “You really are largely mysterious to yourself and the other person,” Moore said. “So when people come together, they really can never fully know themselves. Part of the job in a relationship is to allow the other person to have their mysterious fate and identity, and not demand that they be the way you would like them to be. That’s one of the biggest challenges: To honor their mystery, and also preserve your own.”

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“Love alone is not enough. Without imagination, love stales into sentiment, duty, boredom. Relationships fail not because we have stopped loving but because we first stopped imagining.” ― James Hillman

Because we are so mysterious to ourselves and others, “there is no such thing as a person as they really are,” Moore said. “They don’t exist. The reason is that we are always imagining. We see everything through imagination. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing there, it just means that we can’t perceive the world except through imagination. We’re always seeing through a story, or through images that we’ve developed.”

So while we may never completely understand our loved ones or learn their entire story, we can create soulful relationships through treating others with compassion. In relationships, Moore said, “you are there to be with [someone]. That’s what compassion means. Com- means to be with them and to feel with them. Not to feel the same, but to feel with someone. And so that compassion is a transparent way of having a conversation where you are strong and you have a great capacity to listen to what the other person has to say.”

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“When we practice loving kindness and compassion we are the first ones to profit.” ― Rumi
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Interview: Thomas Moore on Soul Mates

Interview: Thomas Moore on Soul Mates

It was wonderful to interview Thomas Moore for the Jung Society of Utah blog. He is a truly kind, intelligent, and soulful person.

 

“I found [my soul] again only through the soul of the woman.”
– C.G. Jung

Carl Jung wrote in The Red Book about coming to know his own soul through relationship with an other. According to author Thomas Moore, our deepest connections with others often teach us the most about ourselves and lead to our greatest development as individuals.

What is a soul mate?

“All of our relationships may be soulful to various degrees,” Moore said. “So you may have a friend that is very close to you, and you could call them a soul mate, even though they’re not a lover.” In his extensive study on the history of the soul, including what it is and how it’s been written about, Moore found that “when you look at Western history, in almost all the books, every spokesperson for soul has written about friendship as being the best model for a soulful relationship. So even if you’re lovers or spouses, the friendship dimension is probably the most soulful aspect.”

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“A soulmate is someone to whom we feel profoundly connected, as though the communicating and communing that take place between us were not the product of intentional efforts, but rather a divine grace.” – Thomas Moore

“I understand that when people use the term “soul mate” they mean something very special and specific,” Moore said. “I like the idea that people begin to think in more mystical ways about relationship when they think of soul mates. So when you think of a relationship as being destined from eternity, I think it’s really good to shroud your relationship with that.” However, Moore also noted the importance of looking beyond the mystical to face aspects of relationship which can be difficult. “That doesn’t mean that it’s not a human relationship too. If the time comes that you need to end the relationship, you have to be able to do it; you can’t stay with the romantic mysticism of the soul mate idea. So there’s a side to soul that’s very challenging and has a lot of shadow. It takes a lot of work and courage to stick with it.”

One reason for this, Moore said, is because “a soul mate is not the same as compatibility. I don’t think those two things necessarily go together. There may be all kinds of things in ordinary life where you’re not compatible at all.” Some reasons one may feel incompatible a soul mate include poor timing, or an inability to reconcile the relationship with the details of life, such as career and children. “Sometimes the conditions just aren’t right,” Moore said. However, it is often possible to work out the demands of life so that “the deeper values carry over and are stronger, so there is something in common.”

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Our soul mate relationships can help us become our most authentic selves.

This process of “maturing the relationship and getting beyond the initial attraction” is important to the experience because it contributes to the growth of the people involved. “I think we expect relationships to be easy, but the fact is that we are bringing two individuals with unique lives together and it takes a very special vision, a special way of being together where you’re not expecting the other person to be a carbon copy of you,” Moore said. “We tend to think that the other person will have the same psychological makeup we have. They don’t. They also don’t have the same destiny or the same values. And yet we can share the process. We can enjoy watching and being with the other person as they emerge into their own individual nature. And we can hope that they become more of an individual because of our relationship.”

Daimonic invitations

“When we talk about soul mates we have to understand that part of that sense of destiny is also daimonic,” Moore said. “We haven’t just rationally said, ‘There’s someone who looks like my type or looks like we could probably share a life together pretty well.’ You just get struck and you want to get to know that person. You may know nothing about them, yet still you’re drawn and you don’t know why.”

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Each person is said to have a daimon that guides their destiny, possibly drawing them into soul mate connections.

While it is necessary to sort out the details and “see if that passion can create a life or not,” Moore said “the daimonic aspect is there to bring people together and to keep a person in that place where you’re not living too rationally all the time. It’s a different way of living. You respond to the passions you feel that pass through you. You are not responsible so much as you are responsive. You respond to the invitations that are daimonic.”

Why does the daimon invite us into these soul mate connections? “The material of our psyche or soul is raw at first,” Moore said, describing the prima materia of passions and desires we might not know what to do with. “One of the purposes of relationship is to create an alchemical vessel in which that raw stuff can be cooked and sorted out. So you sort out the raw material that is in you, and in a way you’re also helping your partner sort out his or her material,” Moore said, and pointed out the difficulties this can cause. “When you have a deep soul connection like that, it’s not easy to be the partner of someone who is pursuing their own deep life, which is always changing.”

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We can be transformed through the alchemy of relationship.

However, having such a connection is “a deep, profound, dynamic, mysterious source of identity that is wonderful because it traditionally is what makes you feel alive,” Moore said. “It makes you feel an individual. Those are wonderful gifts to have. But at the same time it means that the challenges are very strong and very deep.”

The eternal in the temporal

Even though dealing with such constant change can be difficult, the process provides “a possibility of great depth and joy because if it’s really a relationship that is full of soul then, it’s very deep and there’s a lot of mystery in it,” Moore said. “If you have a relationship where you feel that you are soul mates, it is a very deep, ritualistic way of honoring the fact that there’s some connection there that is mysterious and mystical, which I think is the essence of what the soul mate idea is. Having that can give everything you do a dimension that is very profound, and gives you the sense that the eternal is part of the temporality of your relationship. That can hold you together more effectively than the temporal side.”