The Minnesota Men’s Conference mourns the passing of one of our principal teachers; author, theologian, Jungian analyst, professor of psychoanalysis, therapist in private practice, organizational consultant, and friend, Robert Moore.
In 1988, Robert Bly invited Robert Moore to teach at the Minnesota Men’s Conference at Camp Lake Hubert. At the time, Robert Moore was working with the archetypal material that would become the basis of his breakout book, (written with Doug Gillette,) King, Warrior, Magician, Lover. He taught at the Chicago Theological Seminary and at five more Minnesota Men’s Conferences, the last in the autumn of 2007. He also associated himself with The Mankind Project and other organizations working specifically with men. Since the 1990 publication of King, Warrior, Magician, Lover, all of Robert Moore’s books have been essential texts for anyone interested in men’s soul work. Over the years, his lectures, his one-on-one conversations, and his thoughtful presence on our teachers’ bench have been extremely meaningful to so many men in their times of crisis, camaraderie, and personal growth.
The Minnesota Men’s Conference Board heard earlier this year that he was recovering from a long ailment, and we attempted to see if Robert Moore could return and teach us, once again. He was not able to do so. We are terribly pained, confused, and at a loss for words upon hearing the circumstances of his death and the death of his wife, Dr. Margaret Shanahan, also a distinguished Jungian psychotherapist, counselor, and educator. When Robert Moore was with us, he brought integrity, vision, and a keen desire to search for truth in the male psyche. We pray for relief and peace for his soul, for the soul of his wife, and for all who knew them.
Timothy Young, President,
Minnesota Men’s Conference Board of Directors
Compounding our grief at the death of two great and caring teachers is our urgency to grasp onto something, rather than sink into incomprehension, to ascribe meaning and consequence to the acts of June 18th in Hyde Park. There is much that we do not know and may never know about our friends’ states of heart and mind. Our suspicions and faith oscillate like the profiles and vase in an optical illusion. Suddenly, we are witnessing Shakespearean tragedy. But, do we imagine we see Othello and Desdemona, or Romeo and Juliet? Our attempt to understand the motivations, constraints, and spiritual aspirations of the couple, like our judgment of their actions and fate, are subject to our own shadow projections.
What does Antonio Machado say? “A heart that is all by itself is not a heart.”
Outside what we imagine, we can’t say what was going on in the thoughts and conversations of Robert and Margaret on that morning, but we may look to some of Moore’s remarks in Facing the Dragon (2003) for clues. Robert Bly has said of that book, “Moore gives frightening answers to questions people have not even begun to ask.” And while one party to the conversation is, for us, silent, it’s possible that, in Facing the Dragon, Robert Moore has provided some of the few answers we might ever have to questions we are only now beginning to ask. Here are his words. Perhaps in your mind’s ear, you will hear his voice speaking them.
“My guess is that belief in “the other world,” the homeland, probably gives many people more courage to deal with this world, rather than giving them less courage and thus weakening them. I know that many people say it weakens us, but I have not personally seen any proof for that statement, and I do not believe it.”
* * *
“I prefer that people rediscover their imaginal mythic consciousness. Like Joseph Campbell, I suggest people get their own myths going and operating and having imaginal access, as Robert Bly (1990) says, to “the other world.” …No matter how you conceptualize it, practically speaking we still must talk to the king and queen in the other world. We need to establish contact and make this relationship an inner mythic reality.”
* * *
“Perhaps I will start asking my students and analysands, “Are you doing these things because you want to go and be with the king and queen after you get through here in this life? Or is it just because you want to be faithful to your inner king and queen?” Check in with me in a few years, and I will tell you what they said.”
* * *
“Why do we have to have a homecoming? …The answer to that is “why shouldn’t we have a homecoming myth of how we go back and reconnect with the king and the queen, of how all of us prodigal children can go home together?” …You can work with myth until you find the way that feels right for you, extending the same privilege to others, of course. Then, if you care, you can ask the theologians to deal with the myth later. If they cannot do it in a helpful way, then you do not need to waste your time with them.”
~ Robert Moore, Facing the Dragon p 194-196.
And still you may wonder. As much as I learned from Robert Moore there was always a sense that I never understood what he was talking about, with his condemnation of fifteenth level initiates, his leaping metaphor, and hundred thousand dollar words. I hear Robert’s voice echoing Machado, “with the mud of the earth, make a cup from which your brother can drink.” Robert was a magician. He was a lover, a warrior, and shyly regal too. Do we know what aspects of those archetypes were at play at the end of his life? We ask ourselves for some sort of blessing. We ask, what if I am reading into this when I say I know what has to have happened? Lao-tzu says, “To know that you do not know is the best.”
A month has now passed since the conjunction of the full moon and the summer solstice. For these four hundred days and nights our remembrance, the quality of our praise and grief, the sincerity of our prayers, assembled on this shore will fill the sails of the vessel that carries these departed souls through the bardos to the world of the ancestors.
~ Mark Gardiner
So Be It, Amen
There are people who don’t want Kierkegaard to be
a humpback, and they’re looking for a wife for Cézanne.
It’s hard for them to say, “So be it, Amen.”
When the dead dog turned up on the road, the disciples
Held their noses. Jesus walked over and said:
“What beautiful teeth!” It’s a way to say “Amen.”
If a young boy leaps over seven hurdles in a row,
And an instant later is an old man reaching for his cane,
To the swiftness of it all we have to say “Amen.”
We always want to intervene when we hear
That the badger is marrying the wrong person,
But the best thing to say at a wedding is “Amen.”
The grapes of our ruin were planted centuries
Before Caedmon ever praised the Milky Way.
“Praise God,” “Damn God” are all synonyms for “Amen.”
Women in Crete loved the young men, but when
“The Son of the Deep Waters” dies in the bath,
And they show the rose-colored water, Mary says “Amen.”