Poems and thoughts from men who knew Robert Moore from his time spent with us at the Minnesota Men’s Conference; carried by men who praise his memory so that the tragic events of his death not overshadow his vitality and the gift he made to us of his life.
Robert Moore at Chicago Mankind Project 2015
From John Lee
Robert Moore was one of the most intelligent, loving human beings I’ve had the privilege and honor to call friend and work with over the last twenty-five years. He and Margaret were at my wedding twenty years ago and blessed Susan and me with their presence. I’m not sure I would have married Susan without his friendship and wise council. One day he and I, like many recovering rednecks, got in the car and just started driving down North Carolina backroad just to see where they’d go, where we’d end up and what we’d end up saying to each other with no agenda in mind.
I said, “Robert, you’ve known me for a long time. I’m 44 years old and never married. Why am I so scared to marry?”
Robert paused and in Robert’s southern drawl (he makes me sound like I’m from Detroit city) said, “John I don’t think you are afraid to be married. I think you’re afraid of being divorced.” And by God he was exactly right and so I got married and got divorced and didn’t die like I thought I would.
Robert Moore would be giving a lecture at a conference, he and I and Robert Bly would be doing or just he and I, and I would take copious notes trying to get all the gold that came out of his brilliant mouth.
His work with Gillette, King Warrior Magician Lover changed my life and I bet it did yours if you’re reading this.
Over the last few weeks many old friends and colleagues have called offering their condolences for the loss of my friend and I’ve offered some back and here is what I’ve been telling men—I loved him and human beings are fragile. I’m going to remember the Robert Moore that I knew and worked with and be grateful for our friendship. I offer my condolences to you and to the families of Robert and Margaret.
~ John Lee
From Hank Murrow
In 2006 was working with long time member of the group, Scott Pengelly, when he suggested that Robert Moore would be at the Conference that fall and why don’t I join him and two friends from Eugene for the trip to Minnesota. A portion of our work together had been with King, Warrior, Magician, Lover, so it was exciting to imagine meeting Robert Moore, and have the benefit of working with him and the men of the conference. Ideas and notions expressed in his writings were truly fleshed out, gaining depth as he shared.
[At the conference in 2007] someone suggested that he offer a workshop on Dreams, Moore quickly agreed, and a hour was scheduled for just before dinner. Introductory background was offered by him; and then he asked if anyone had a dream he wanted to share. A participant offered a harrowing dream generated from his experience in Viet Nam. As Robert thanked the man for his dream, I caught his eye and offered one of my own. I spoke the dream with my eyes closed and it unreeled like a movie. When I had finished, Robert suggested that the dream was about moving towards the Center, and another participant was struck by the transit from land to air and finally into water, and the appearance of a Dolphin as a guide from the water into the air and back into water again. This work was a highlight of my time there; and the ritual path through the candlelight, and then the burning of “things we had held onto” in the fire was very moving. The entire conference, with Dr. Moore generously aiding and abetting the discussion, established a firm direction that has born much fruit for me in my work in my ceramic studio as well as in the continuing work with Dr. Pengelly.
Martín Prechtel writing in The Smell of Rain on Dust (2015) might say that our grief can be measured by the enormous praise many of us have felt for Dr. Moore’s generous work with us and the loss these two deaths represents for those who loved them. I will keep them in my heart as long as my memory holds. I will always think of Dr. Moore as my Dolphin guide.
Love to all. It’s so much more rewarding than any alternative.
~ Hank Murrow
From Scott Pengelly
I could not see. Before I met Robert Moore, I was too intoxicated in the inebriation of shame that consumed and defined my early years. I could not see the obvious toxic forces that defined me as invisible — an embarrassment, intellectually incapable.
Like the indigenous Taíno people who could not see the three ships that disgorged Christopher Columbus and first Europeans into their world, I could not see what poured into my daily life as a boy.
What I could see were men in uniform. I did not see my dad until I was two-and-a-half years old, when he returned from the South Pacific in his Navy uniform (that I would wear twenty-one years later). The men I knew who weren’t wearing U.S. Military uniforms were physicians at Marquette School of Medicine. They studied, tested, and defined the physiology for what would make it possible for men (and later women) to survive underwater using what would become known as SCUBA (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus).
What I was unable to see all through my 20s and 30s, Robert Moore unveiled personally, together with the compelling clarity of his writing with his co-author, Douglas Gillette, in King, Warrior, Magician, Lover. Robert guided me to be empowered so I could see clearly.
I still see and still draw upon the insight he invited me to understand to begin to be clear about how I had survived. And he showed me that I would not fail in my attempt to become a mature and healthy man.
~ Scott Pengelly
The Time Before Death
Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive.
Jump into experience while you are alive!
Think…and think…while you are alive.
What you call “salvation” belongs to the time before death.
If you don’t break your ropes while you’re alive,
Do you think
Ghosts will do it after?
The idea that the soul will join with the ecstatic
Just because the body is rotten-
That is all fantasy.
What is found now is found then.
If you find nothing now,
You will simply end up with an apartment in the City of Death.
If you make love with the divine now, in the next life you will
Have the face of satisfied desire.
So plunge into the truth, find out who the Teacher is,
Believe in the Great Sound!
Kabir say this: When the Guest is being searched for, it is
The intensity of the longing for the Guest that does all the work.
Look at me, and you will see a slave of that intensity.
From Steve Zubo
I don’t think of this all as ended. like.
I mean he’s left this life – this MMC –
but I don’t see him as ended really –
this all goes on somehow –
I’ve walked away from terrible car wrecks –
and some didn’t —
it’s not over, not ended –
Robert Bly’s not over –
he’s walking in place – or something –
the same thing happened to my mother –
at the time, some psychic lady told me my
mother didn’t necessarily face what she came here
for – so she was kind of just – walking in place here –
and completing her life – somewhere else – like another
planet – or something. & then when she finished that
there – she’d come back – die here – & go somewhere
else – to another future & my sister & I buried her here,
next to my dad — who already moved on – say twenty years earlier,
so it goes.
it’s not over by any means.
I think Malidoma talked about this one year –
about how the braid continues with different colored thread – it’s not over
Isn’t there a William Stafford poem – where he says
“…Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop times unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.”
– and that psychic lady I went to see about my mother’s
Alzheimer’s – She said to me – well you don’t think there’s something
you can do about all this, do you? .. well I guess I did…
we both laughed.
~ Steve Zubo
From Paul Bendix
After one of Robert Moore’s talks at his last MMC [in 2007] I asked to have a private word. I told him my wife was dying and that I dreaded the coming months. He said something, I glanced away and he more or less commanded “look at me.” I did, of course. What ensued I no longer retain in detail. But I came away with the sense that he knew I had faced life challenges, would now face some more…and could do it. That and the sense that he respected me, believed in me. Whatever transpired only took a few moments. But something of those moments still resonates. Robert Moore was a healer.
I am currently volunteering with the San Francisco Jung Society, know one of the senior analysts and believe his report, that Moore had dementia.
I will assume this is true and then move on to the place that our own Robert [Bly], Jim Hillman, and all the other late Jungians seem to reach by asking a contemporary and appropriately political question: What was someone with dementia doing with a gun?
~ Paul Bendix
Laocoön and His Sons
From Thomas R. Smith
On Robert Moore
In the wake of the sad and troubling deaths of our friend and teacher Robert Moore and his wife, Dr. Margaret Shanahan, I dug out the recordings of his last Minnesota Men’s Conference teachings in September, 2007. Not fifteen minutes into his first talk he explains how in times of transition — both on more global socio-political and on personal, individual levels — we’re especially vulnerable to what he called our “compulsivities,” those behaviors, and most especially our addictions, into which we instinctively disappear in hopes of creating a new self able to cope with our changed state. Robert offered up as one of his own compulsivities a tendency to overeat and gain weight. (I suspect there were others more personal he cagily declined to share.)
That day Robert had come not to judge our compulsivities (to which many brave attendees owned up) but rather to make us aware of them, in order that we might become more conscious of the great impersonal forces battering at the old ways with which we’d become comfortable. Transition is no fun, Robert told us. Now I wonder if last month he fell victim to his own transitions; he had suffered a heart attack, which often leaves in its wake even for a fortunate survivor depression; and he had recently retired from his practice, a momentous life change for a man no matter the kind of work he’s done during his adult life. And Robert kept guns; studies tell us that merely having a gun in the home increases by 80% the statistical likelihood of suicide or gun violence.
In his talk Robert warned that in those charged moments of transition, when our compulsivities (and often they are multiple) kick in with a vengeance, “the wolves of despair” may circle our campfire intent on bringing us down. Did those wolves take our friend out on June 18th? We do not know, probably will never know, exactly what happened in our teacher’s house in Hyde Park, but we do know that our world and nation are in the terrifying throes of some transformation whose end we cannot see, and we know that Robert Moore had recently faced the wolves of personal transition in a physically and probably emotionally depleted state.
In the absence of certain knowledge, I will treasure the vision of Robert at his best and most stimulating, strong and steady, on fire with intellectual energy and a genuine passion for the life of the soul. At the conferences, he was always the warmest of presenters, as happy to chat on the sidelines over a cigar as to brilliantly hold forth from the stage, a man among men.
Though I am not particularly fond of theology, I will remember Robert especially for his genius for making theology exciting through his incisive and down-to-earth illuminations. At a time when many feel that the Judeo-Christian spiritual tradition holds little for them, Robert’s enthusiasm sent me back to Paul Tillich and Martin Buber, and for that I am very grateful. In part thanks to Robert, I did not throw out the baby of spiritual gold with the bath water of the religious orthodoxy in which I was raised.
That last year Robert graced the MMC with his presence, he revealed a daily practice that I consequently adopted, and have maintained more or less faithfully for the past nine years. Robert’s practice was to actively greet and thank the divine upon awakening. Avoiding too-comfortable, overly familiar terminology, he called God “the great It” or “the Presence.” In his words: “You simply speak to the Presence and you express gratitude…. I try very, very fiercely every morning to do that, because I have been fortunate to have understood what is at stake if I don’t.”
And what are the stakes? “My choice to live in the I is a choice to live in hell. A choice to live in the We is a choice to live in paradise now, as much as we will ever know of Paradise…” Here he was drawing on Martin Buber, who stresses the importance of entering into an “I/Thou” relationship with the divine. And Robert was frank about the obstacles to his practice: “…but as much as I know this and as much as I try, there are mornings that I open my eyes and something in me wants to forget It, and I will guarantee you I have a fucked-up day. … If I have made the choice to be alone during my day, my anxiety level will spike, my anxiety and depression will spike….”
I find it extremely moving that in the last minutes of his teaching at the Minnesota Men’s Conference on Saturday, September 8, 2007, this is the one piece of advice Robert Moore most wanted us to carry away from his talk: “If there’s one thing that’s probably the most important thing I could say to you to try to experiment with, it’s that. Try to make it into a habit….” None of us could have known then that it was the last thing he would ever say to us.
In the morning practice I maintain thanks to Robert, I pray for safe travels beyond this world for him and Margaret.
~ Thomas R. Smith
by Jalaluddin Rumi
You should try to hear the name the Holy One has for things.
There is something in the phrase: “The Holy One has taught
We name everything according to the number of legs it has;
the other one names it according to what it has inside.
Moses waved his stick; he thought it was a “rod,”
but inside its name was “dragonish snake.”
We thought the name of Umar was “agitator against God,”
but in eternity his name is “the one who believes.”
No one knows our name until our last breath goes out.
(tr. Robert Bly)
by Thomas R. Smith
While she fell her brief yet
unimaginably far trajectory,
our hearts felt less unaccompanied.
She lessened loneliness, ennobled
back yards, poured out
over clotheslines and garages
her pouch of misty diamonds.
Nights we drove out among
the newly plowed fields where,
uneclipsed by city lights, she
stood still while the earth turned.
She kissed our eyes
like a ghost, rustling her pearly
train down the shadowy aisle
with her groom beside her,
Bride of Nothingness who never
reaches the altar. And toward
what marriage, what darkness or light,
did she pull those souls
in their terrible mansion,
perhaps little different from us
but in the degree of their hunger?
Her face, unreadable beneath white
veils, mirrored something vast
inside each person, solitary, remote.
What forgotten grandeur did she embody
so compellingly that now we’re left
disappointed with ordinary heavens?
Reclaim Your Inner Throne:
New Ways with Blades:
The Time Before Death by Kabir: