Robert Sardello is a practicing psychotherapist working in Jungian and Archetypal Psychology and the author of Freeing the Soul from Fear and Love and the World. In this timely and challenging work, he reclaims the virtues as magnets drawing us into deeper connection with the cosmos and the spiritual needs of others. He states: "When I speak of practicing the virtues, I do not mean learning a skill, but rather recognizing that we have to work at awakening and being present to our full humanity, awake to our experience as beings of body, soul and spirit." Sardello sees the virtues as "the work of metamorphosing ego consciousness" and making the best possible use of our emotions to become truly flourishing human beings.
The author has chosen twelve virtues that have long been part of Western spirituality: devotion, balance, faithfulness, selflessness, compassion, courtesy, equanimity, patience, truth, courage, discernment, and love. Sardello explores these aspects of the moral life and touches upon the shadow side of each of them. For instance, the virtue of selflessness lies between the excess of self-abandonment and the lack of self-centeredness. Practicing the virtues can lead to changes in soul life. For instance, selflessness can lead to catharsis. Sardello proves himself to be a skilled explorer of these inner gifts that we develop in response to the messes and miseries of a world in turmoil and agony.
We were especially impressed with his multi-dimensional treatment of courtesy which acknowledges the basic mystery of others and the soulful nature of their essential being. In a world where technique holds sway and where people do not seem to want to make time for the amenities of existence, this virtue is sorely needed. Sardello writes: "We cannot bypass the fact that courtesy honors the feminine face of the world. Thus, we can ponder how this virtue can become more extensive, where we can see manners as having to do with the manner of relating. Because courtesy is a matter of the heart, how we do something is as important as what we do; in fact, perhaps even more so. Courtesy makes our act sensuous, full of body, erotic every act is an act of making love. Without courtesy our compassion becomes sentimentalized, and without courtesy we cannot find the way to equanimity. Instead we fall into carelessness we couldn't care less which is a lack of courtesy."
In a time when military prowess is saluted by many, it is salutary to read about warriors of another type: "Virtues are for warriors of the soul; they are the weapons with which the soul can enact its battles in reaching for the spiritual realms. Without these weapons, soul is doomed to the depths, to shadeland rather than spiritland." Robert Sardello has written another illuminating work on the splendor of the soul, one that challenges us to take seriously the practical work of inner transformation along with the outer work of bringing more justice and meaning to a suffering world.