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Book Summary: Care of the Soul – A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life

Care of the Soul (2016) offers a Jungian approach to everyday life. It’s a guide for codifying our experiences into story and myth, recognizing and accepting the soulfulness and messiness of our experiences, and seeing the sacred in the ordinariness of life.

Introduction: Experience life on a deeper level.

Caring for the soul means approaching life and its challenges differently.

Rather than considering the things that cause you distress as symptoms of a problem, caring for the soul asks you to find a new way to relate to them. It asks you to see things as they are, not as you wish they would be. It asks you to observe without judgment or prescription, and to accept what is.

In this summary to Thomas Moore’s Care of the Soul, we’ll first look at how to reframe your mindset by reframing your story about family. Then we’ll talk about the problem of psychological modernism and how everyday sacredness, myth, and ritual can help you care for your soul. Finally, we’ll describe how to live in imagination and listen to your dreams.

The sacred mother, father, and child

David just couldn’t get along with his mother. His father was out of the picture; he’d left years ago. When David went home to visit his mom every weekend, they’d argue – and she’d accuse him of being just like his dad.

In their sessions, David’s therapist asked whether he thought he was like his dad. David insisted he didn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps – which likely explained why he religiously stayed close to his mom and didn’t have any girlfriends.

Instead of using the behavior of David’s father as a way to explain David’s struggles and find a cure, the therapist helped David tell his dad’s story. It was a story of a man whose own father had set a precedent for a neurotic need to wander and create distance between himself and others. Through the storytelling, David was able to understand and accept who his dad was – for all the good and bad. And through that process, David could then see himself more clearly.

In so many therapy sessions, family is treated as a dysfunctional source of various symptoms that need to be treated. In reality, though, family is inherently dysfunctional. Caring for the soul means openly looking at family – in all its mess and devastating abuse and wonderful closeness – and seeing it not as something to be overcome, but as the raw material upon which to build a life.

To see family as a sacred source for your life, let’s look at its three primary components: the father, mother, and child. With each of these aspects, we aren’t talking about an identity – for instance, we’re not discussing your role as a mother. Instead, we’re talking about how we honor these three energies in ourselves.

The father is most aptly embodied in the tale of The Odyssey. Odysseus is a father at sea who’s trying to get back to his son and wife. In the story, we also see Telemachus, Odysseus’s son, who longs for his missing father. The most universally meaningful exploration here is the idea of the absent father. Whether it’s a dad who goes to work every day or a dad who was never there to begin with, their absence is something every child must endure.

And sometimes, it’s hard to get resolution. In David’s story, he reached out to his father and was able to learn more about him – but he wasn’t able to restore him to his rightful place in life. Instead, David had to become his own father. Ultimately, this is something we all have to do. It’s a process that requires honoring everything in us that can provide, protect, and take a stand.

Next up? The mother. She’s embodied in Greek mythology’s story of Demeter and Persephone. In this myth, Persephone is reaching for a beautiful flower when the earth suddenly cracks open. Hades, the god of the dead, captures her and takes her to the depths of the underworld. Demeter, who is the goddess of the harvest, refuses to allow anything to grow until her daughter is returned. In the end, Hades agrees to return Persephone – but he places a pomegranate seed under her tongue and says that she will always partly belong to him.

As the mother, Demeter loses her daughter to darkness and danger – and even when she gets her back, she’s altered. As a daughter, Persephone is taken by darkness and danger. This is a metaphor for the natural process of separating from parents. Understanding this myth means recognizing the mother-daughter energy in ourselves, and the eternal conflict of wanting to hold on while needing to let go.

Last, let’s look at the child, who has appeared in religious stories throughout history. Often, there’s the myth of the special or divine child – such as the Christian story of Jesus, a child born unto us. But in our modern world, we’re required to conform to prescribed systems that say we should be mature at all times. Because of this, we’ve essentially abandoned the child in us.

The power of the child lies in its vulnerability – something we typically flee from. To regain access to our child energy, we need to embrace vulnerability, fault, fear, passion, excitement, and many other feelings that often make us uncomfortable.

These ideas of fatherhood, motherhood, and childhood are ancient and woven into the tapestry of human history. Treating family as a broken thing that needs fixing is naive, and potentially harmful. Instead, it’s important to recognize the family as something sacred – that means acknowledging both the pain and the pleasure, the mistakes and the wisdom.

The process of moving your mind into this new paradigm is gradual and ongoing. But in making the shift, you’ll find any anger, anxiety, and depression slowly slipping away. You might eventually be willing to sit across from the ones who hurt you. And most importantly, you’ll be able to see yourself for who you truly are – and to love that whole being with all your heart.

Everyday sacredness, myth, and ritual

In 1923, after the death of his mother, Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung built a large stone tower on his property to live in. Then, every four years until 1935, he built an addition so that the building now has four connected parts.

Building these towers was Carl Jung’s way of caring for his soul. Both the actual work of creating them and the time he spent in retreat inside of them were strategies to literally separate himself from the modern world.

Putting distance between oneself and the world has been a human need for much of history. Now more than ever, caring for the soul requires some sort of retreat.

Why does our society exhibit so many terrible neuroses and psychoses? One idea is that we embrace the values of our modern world without critically understanding them. We tend to blindly adopt new technologies, and quickly attach ourselves to devices and conveniences. We’re also very much influenced by advertising because of social media.

What our lives are lacking is a spirituality that embraces the ordinary and mundane. The author points out that many diseases have a compulsive ritual component to them. Anorexia, for example, is an extreme deprivation of food. On a societal level, could the existence of illnesses like anorexia be a symptom of not having ways to meaningfully care for our bodies?

Fast food is another possible symptom of losing touch with the soul. The existence of fast food and the way we embrace it and take it for granted suggests that we only see food as food. That is, we’re not elevating its value as a source of life, or cherishing the lengthy ritual of dining together.

The soul can only thrive when we pause – when we sit in the moment and take our time. It requires connection to details and intimacy. There are three things you can focus on to nurture and grow your soulfulness: sacredness, ritual, and myth.

To practice everyday sacredness, you need to separate yourself from the world. This doesn’t have to be done to the extent that Jung did, with towers and months spent in isolation. Yes, you can go on a vacation to unwind and center yourself – but you can also simply take a moment to breathe deeply, go for a long walk in the woods, write in your journal, paint, listen to music, or sit in silence with some tea and your thoughts.

These activities might sound a lot like the “self-care” you’ve heard about or dabbled in already. The only difference is your outlook: now you know that practicing self-care means making space for your soul.

Myth is also important. We mythologize our lives all the time, telling stories of our past – and the pasts of our ancestors. But often, our stories are reduced to cause and effect. For instance, I don’t let others get close because my father abandoned me.

Instead of seeking causes and solutions to neurosis, caring for the soul is about sinking into the constant unraveling of meaning. A tangled web of threads begins to loosen when you tell your stories without judgment and look at them from different angles. In doing so, you can begin to see yourself more clearly – like our friend David from the previous section.

Last, you need ritual. This used to be the purview of religion. But the problem with many religions is that they enact ritual for the sake of ritual, without any direct meaning to everyday life. It’s no wonder many people have abandoned the religions of their parents – they’re just not relevant.

You can, of course, create new rituals. But resurrecting the rituals of your childhood may be a deeper, more soulful experience. Whether or not they’re related to religion, you can reshape them into something that makes sense in your life and allows your soul to flourish.

Imagination and dreams

Julia had been a model for many years, but at 29 she was looking for the next phase in life. She wanted to have a child – but she couldn’t express that longing because she was afraid of losing her job.

One night, she had a dream. It was a simple dream: In a restaurant, she was served a plate of white crepes. She used her fork to lift the crepes, and discovered two green peas.

That was it. But in her exploration of the dream, she learned many things. She considered everything in her life that might be covering up the real substance she was looking for. And as a symbol for new beginnings and growth, she questioned what the green peas translated to.

Not long after, Julia found out she was pregnant. Maybe her dream had been trying to tell her something!

This brings us to our final task: to care for the soul, we need to live in a state of imagination and listen to our dreams.

Imagination ties into taking pauses for rituals. Scarfing down a drive-through burger means experiencing just the sustenance aspect of a meal. Preparing food, plating it, setting the table, adorning it with flowers or candles, and gathering with loved ones is an act of creativity and imagination.

The more you practice, the more you’ll find you can apply creativity and imagination to even the most mundane rituals. You might take up creative pursuits as you pause to reflect. Knitting, for instance, is a wonderful way to complement your thoughts about the day.

It’s also important to approach your interpretations with imagination. Like so many of us, you might be preoccupied with fixing things so you can keep up, keep earning, keep moving. But life isn’t a thing to be fixed. Of course, that can be hard to accept when pain or shame or grief is involved. It’s natural to not want to linger in that state – to instead find a cure. Living a soulful life, though, requires bringing imagination to those moments.

One way you can listen to your soul is to pay attention to your dreams, like Julia did. Dreams are the soul’s mythology. They’re a gift whenever you have them and can remember them. And if you start paying attention to them and writing them down, you’ll find that your dreams become more and more frequent.

When thinking about your dreams, resist the urge to jump to an immediate interpretation. For example, Sylvia dreamed that her friend came to her house and covered her typewriter with crayon scribbles.

Sylvia’s immediate interpretation was that she was letting her inner child destroy all of her important work. But as she explored the dream more, she found that there were many other possibilities – like maybe her soul was inviting her to free her sensual side and live life more colorfully. So bring imagination to your dreams, and leave judgment at the door.

The fundamental tenet of caring for the soul involves acceptance. Instead of trying to figure everything out, it’s about enjoying the exploration for the sake of it. Great, you might be thinking. This all sounds very beautiful and spiritual. But there are bills to be paid and promotions to attain, so why should I prioritize caring for my soul?

The short answer is, there can be consequences when you don’t. Neglecting your soul can mean missing out on important wisdom that could lead you away from danger or toward great gifts. When you ignore your imagination, the world becomes flat, flavorless, and malnourishing. Your approach to the mysteries and challenges in life, to grief and pain, might become destructive – and you may seek cures or escapes. Even your best intentions can lead you astray without a proper balance of soulfulness.

Caring for the soul isn’t something you can check off your list every day. It isn’t self-improvement. It’s the purpose of life.


Caring for the soul means looking for the sacredness in ordinary life. Through myth, we can better understand ourselves and our families. We can also make our family’s stories our own to widen the scope of our understanding and acceptance of ourselves and others.

To infuse sacredness, myth, and ritual into our everyday lives, we can create pauses that separate us from the noise of the modern world. And by nurturing our dreams and imagination, we can bring new meaning and appreciation to everyday life.

About the author

Thomas Moore is the author of the bestselling Care of the Soul and twenty other books on spirituality and depth psychology that have been translated into thirty languages. He has been practicing depth psychotherapy for thirty-five years. He lectures and gives workshops in several countries on depth spirituality, soulful medicine, and psychotherapy. He has been a monk and a university professor, and is a consultant for organizations and spiritual leaders. He has often been on television and radio, most recently on Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday.


Psychology, Personal Development, Spirituality, Mental Health, Nonfiction, Self Help, Philosophy, Religion, Inspirational, Christian, Faith, Affirmations and Inspiration, Relationships, Self-Improvement

Table of Contents


In this special twenty-fifth anniversary edition of Thomas Moore’s bestselling Care of the Soul, which includes a new introduction by the author, readers are presented with a revolutionary approach to thinking about daily life—everyday activities, events, problems, and creative opportunities—and a therapeutic lifestyle is proposed that focuses on looking more deeply into emotional problems and learning how to sense sacredness in ordinary things.

Basing his writing on the ancient model of “care of the soul”—which provided a religious context for viewing the everyday events of life—Moore brings “care of the soul” into the twenty-first century. Promising to deepen and broaden the readers’ perspectives on their life experiences, Moore draws on his own life as a therapist practicing “care of the soul,” as well as his studies of the world’s religions and his work in music and art, to create this inspirational guide that examines the connections between spirituality and the problems of individuals and society.

* * * * *

A special 25th anniversary edition of Thomas Moore’s #1 New York Times bestseller, with a new introduction by the author. More timely than ever, this classic work provides a powerful spiritual message for our troubled times.

In Care of the Soul, readers are presented with a revolutionary approach to thinking about daily life—everyday activities, events, problems, and creative opportunities—and a therapeutic lifestyle is proposed that focuses on looking more deeply into emotional problems and learning how to sense sacredness in ordinary things.

Basing his writing on the ancient model of “care of the soul”—which provided a religious context for viewing the everyday events of life—Moore brings “care of the soul” into the twenty-first century. Promising to deepen and broaden the readers’ perspectives on their life experiences, Moore draws on his own life as a therapist practicing “care of the soul,” as well as his studies of the world’s religions and his work in music and art, to create this inspirational guide that examines the connections between spirituality and the problems of individuals and society.


“Thoughtful, eloquent, inspiring.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“I soulfully recommend it without reservation.” —John Bradshaw, author of Homecoming

“Care of the Soul has struck a national nerve.” — Dallas Morning News

“I soulfully recommend it without reservation.” — John Bradshaw, author of Homecoming

“The sincerity, intelligence and style — so beautifully clean — of Tom Moore’s Care of the Soul truly moved me. The book’s got strength and class and soul, and I suspect may last longer than psychology itself.” — James Hillman, author of Re-Visioning Psychology

“This book just may help you give up the futile quest for salvation and get down to the possible task of taking care of your soul. A modest, and therefore marvelous, book about the life of the spirit.” — Sam Keen, author of Fire in the Belly

“Thoughtful, eloquent, inspiring.” — Alix Madrigal, San Francisco Chronicle

“Care of the Soul has struck a national nerve.” — Colleen O’Connor, Dallas Morning News

Video and Podcast

Read an Excerpt/PDF Preview

Chapter One
Honoring Symptoms as a Voice of the Soul
Once a week people in the thousands show up for their regular appointment with a therapist. They bring problems they have talked about many times before, problems that cause them intense emotional pain and make their lives miserable. Depending on the kind of therapy employed, the problems will be analyzed, referred back to childhood and parents, or attributed to some key factor such as the failure to express anger, alcohol in the family, or childhood abuse. Whatever the approach, the aim will be health or happiness achieved by the removal of these central problems.

Care of the soul is a fundamentally different way of regarding daily fife and the quest for happiness. The emphasis may not be on problems at all. One person might care for the soul by buying or renting a good piece of land, another by selecting an appropriate school or program of study, another by painting his house or his bedroom. Care of the soul is a continuous process that concerns itself not so much with “fixing” a central flaw as with attending to the small details of everyday fife, as well as to major decisions and changes.

Care of the soul may not focus on the personality or on relationships at all, and therefore it is not psychological in the usual sense. Tending the things around us and becoming sensitive to the importance of home, daily schedule, and maybe even the clothes we wear, are ways of caring for the soul. When Marsilio Ficino wrote his self-help book, The Book of Life, five hundred years ago, he placed emphasis on carefully choosing colors, spices, oils, places towalk, countries to visit — all very concrete decisions of everyday life that day by day either support or disturb the soul. We think of the psyche, if we think about it at all, as a cousin to the brain and therefore something essentially internal. But ancient psychologists taught that our own souls are inseparable from the world’s soul, and that both are found in all the many things that make up nature and culture.

So, the first point to make about care of the soul is that it is not primarily a method of problem solving. Its goal is not to make life problem-free, but to give ordinary life the depth and value that come with soulfulness. In a way it is much more of a challenge than psychotherapy because it has to do with cultivating a richly expressive and meaningful life at home and in society. It is also a challenge because it requires imagination from each of us. In therapy we lay our problems at the feet of a professional who is supposedly trained to solve them for us. In care of the soul, we ourselves have both the task and the pleasure of organizing and shaping our lives for the good of the soul.

Getting to Know the Soul

Let us begin by looking at this phrase I have been using, “care of the soul.” The word care implies a way of responding to expressions of the soul that is not heroic and muscular. Care is what a nurse does, and “nurse” happens to be one of the early meanings of the Greek word therapeia, or therapy. We’ll see that care of the soul is in many ways a return to early notions of what therapy is. Cura, the Latin word used originally in “care of the soul” means several things: attention, devotion, husbandry, adorning the body, healing, managing, being anxious for, and worshiping the gods. It might be a good idea to keep all these meanings in mind as we try to see as concretely as possible how we might make the shift from psychotherapy as we know it today to care of the soul.

“Soul” is not a thing, but a quality or a dimension of experiencing life and ourselves. It has to do with depth, value, relatedness, heart, and personal substance. I do not use the word here as an object of religious belief or as something to do with immortality. When we say that someone or something has soul, we know what we mean, but it is difficult to specify exactly what that meaning is.

Care of the soul begins with observance of how the soul manifests itself and how it operates. We can’t care for the soul unless we are familiar with its ways. Observance is a word from ritual and religion. It means to watch out for but also to keep and honor, as in the observance of a holiday. The -serv- in observance originally referred to tending sheep. Observing the soul, we keep an eye on its sheep, on whatever is wandering and grazing — the latest addiction, a striking dream, or a troubling mood.

This definition of caring for the soul is minimalist. It has to do with modest care and not miraculous cure. But my cautious definition has practical implications for the way we deal with ourselves and with one another. For example, if I see my responsibility to myself, to a friend, or to a patient in therapy as observing and respecting what the soul presents, I won’t try to take things away in the name of health. It’s remarkable how often people think they will be better off without the things that bother them. “I need to get rid of this tendency of mine,” a person will say. “Help me get rid of these feelings of inferiority and my smoking and my bad marriage.” If, as a therapist, I did what I was told, I’d be taking things away from people all day long. But I don’t try to eradicate problems. I try not to imagine my role to be that of exterminator. Rather, I try to give what is problematical back to the person in a way that shows its necessity, even its value.

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