PW: What have you been doing in the 10 years since Care of the Soul was published? Why has it taken this long to write the companion volume?
TM: That's a very good question. I have spent this time doing a lot of traveling and have written about seven or eight other books. In traveling throughout the U.S. and Europe, giving talks, teaching and speaking, I've gotten a lot of feedback on Care of the Soul. I had a sequel in mind all the way, and everything I've written since has been a direct flow from Care of the Soul. But I discovered that what people really are interested in these days is spirituality. In that sense, even though I thought there would be a companion all along, I wasn't sure just what it would be. I wrote Soul Mates about relationships and marriages and I thought that was it, but it's not as central. The notion of spirituality and religion is central. It's taken that long to be clear.
PW: What do you mean by "the soul's religion"?
TM: One way in which people normally think of religion has to do with an organization, with a certain set of beliefs, with certain moral emphases and that sort of thing. I think when we accent that side of religion, we overlook a deeper, more subtle religion, which has to do with a more fundamental, more basic, primal sense of reverence for life, for nature. It's a deep sense of community, a real personal sense of values and morality, a vision for oneself about being in this world, about raising children, about being connected to others, about death, how to deal with illness. These issues, which may or may not be dealt with in the institution, are the ground of religion. That's where the soul is.
PW: In Care of the Soul, you became one of the first authors to distinguish between spirituality and religion, yet you are not antagonistic toward religious institutions. Do you think "the soul's religion" can find a home in such institutions?
TM: Absolutely. The first thing to say is that there are many, many valid and creative ways to be religious. One of those is to follow the good old institutions. I find that there are leaders today who are trying to make connections between psychology and religion and the spiritual lives of people. They're trying to breathe new life into these institutions. I do try to build a bridge in my own life between the institution and the tradition and my own ideas and personal life. So I'm completely in favor of trying to invigorate the religious institutions.
PW: You say in The Soul's Religion that you fear our interest in spirituality is an overreaction to materialism. What other changes have you observed in the spiritual milieu?
TM: We live in a world that's very sophisticated, yet religion tends to be naïve. I think so many people have a sense of religion that they got from childhood and really don't have the opportunity to become more subtle about spirituality and religion as they grow up. In our culture especially, it's almost impossible to teach religion in schools, because of the way separation of church and state is interpreted and because of the tendency to proselytize rather than explore spiritual issues. It's a sad thing. As a result, the majority of the population have a crude notion of religion, yet there is a great hunger for a more up-to-date, intelligent, enriching, inspiring spirituality.